BandLab Will Discontinue FREE Cakewalk DAW, Sonar Returning


Bandlab has announced that they will discontinue the free Cakewalk digital audio workstation, replacing it with Cakewalk Next and a new version of Sonar.

Good things always come to an end, or so the saying goes. Unfortunately, it seems that we will soon need to remove Cakewalk from our list of free DAWs.

BandLab announced it will end support for the free Cakewalk DAW in favor of a new pricing structure. While users who have downloaded Cakewalk will be able to use it indefinitely, it will have zero product support going forward.

Instead, BandLab will debut Cakewalk Next (which will be a paid product, according to our sources) and bring back Sonar.

Details aren’t available on what the new version of Sonar will be capable of or even when to fully expect it. Cakewalk Next is available for beta testing for Windows and Mac users alike, however.

This decision comes as a bit of a shock, especially given the rocky circumstances which led to BandLab acquiring Cakewalk in the first place. BandLab assures the pricing structure for both will be competitive and meant to address the needs of producers.

Where this leaves things is rather murky, however.

You certainly can keep using Cakewalk as it stands right now, but there aren’t many options available for free. Cakewalk had the advantage of being a feature-rich and mature DAW with the added bonus of a minimal price tag.

The plus side is I can wistfully hope we’ll see new versions of the legendary Rapture and Z3ta synthesizer plugins. Still, it is always a bit disappointing for developments like this to occur.

BandLab has been rather steady in its support of Cakewalk. Hopefully, Cakewalk Next and Sonar will be able to successfully iterate upon the last five years of development put into the platform.

If priced competitively, it could very well find a niche among users, as any DAW typically does. Given the somewhat cluttered landscape of feature-rich DAWs, it must make quite a splash.

I’m curious to see where this goes, as I’m sure most music producers are, especially those using the free version of Cakewalk. While I mourn the loss of freely available software for music producers of all social strata, I’m trying to see the silver lining behind it.

You can find more details regarding the announcement readily on BandLab’s landing page for Cakewalk. If you’ve got it currently installed, you might want to figure out a way to back up the installers, just in case.

Visit: Cakewalk (Explore Cakewalk Next & Cakewalk Sonar – Coming Soon!)


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Liam is a producer, mixing engineer, and compressor aficionado. When not mixing, he can be found pretending to play guitar, as he has been doing for the last 20 years.


  1. Z3ta+ was one of the first waveshaping vst synths I came across back in the day. Total gamechanger for EDM. Would love its resurrection for sho’. and maybe Dune 1, though that’s probably never.

  2. Would love to see the resurrection of z3ta+. Hopefully they won’t turn it into a new upgraded mess like how Synapse Audio did with Dune. They totally ruined Dune 1. More isn’t always better in my opinion.

  3. Cakewalk is an enigma. I have spent a bit of money with them over the 10-15 last years on their plugins and also staying updated with Cakewalk when it was a paid DAW back in the day. This news make me think twice again about using any of their products, either paid or free.
    Sad for those who have come to rely on BandLab as a free DAW, better move to Tracktion

    • Michal Ochedowski


      Tracktion always had both free and paid products on offer, so maybe they will maintain this model for longer or even indefinitely.

      I’m confused about this statement from Cakewalk’s help section:

    • You’ve absolutely spent nothing with Bandlab over the last few years.
      It was Gibson who took your cash and ran.

  4. Another bump in the Cakewalk road. Hawf. If they wanted to make a buck, resurrecting the entire synth line would have been a better solution than once again touching at the DAW in drastic ways. Ah, well, guess we’ll see.

    • Exactly. They could have monetized vsts, extra features, premium support, instrument definitions, etc.

      Now, after having the software for free, taking it away is like taking a plate of food from the hands of hungry people.
      Never saw this coming. Big slap for people who cannot afford it. Thanks anyway for the time it was free, for the amazing support provided, and moreover for allowing us to still keep the last free version and use it (hopefully with no expiration date).

  5. They say they will keep the same award winning UI and, same workflow. While it may have been an award winning UI 15 years ago right now Ableton Live and Bitwig have the fastest workflows and clean, well organized UI’s. Including zooming, switching between midi editor and track view, routing, etc. In 2023 It’s just a pain to navigate through Cakewak by Bandlab, don’t get me wrong, for a free DAW it’s beyond great with features that even some paid DAWs do not have, but $$$ for it…

  6. Used CW since W98. The free version of recent years has been really good. I suppose they had to charge for it at some point. I wish they had a Mac version – CW on an M1 or M2 chip.. I’d seriously consider that. Interested to see what “Next” is all about and if it will be standalone.

  7. Sad news but at least we can still continue to use the free one without support.
    I don’t think a back up installer will do any good because Cakewalk needs to be activate by Bandlab to work, it might end up losing what we already have for free.

  8. Michael Jackson


    I still have all my old cakewalk products on my workstation (Dimension Pro, Z3ta+, Rapture 1.22, and I still have Sonar X2 somewhere on an external drive but I am not using it).

    I got Rapture Session through computer music magazine for free 2 weeks before Gibson closed the door on Cakewalk. I really hope they bring it back. Far better than the older version.

  9. This could be a bittersweet ending of free cakewalk…

    it is just temporary until 5 years or so.

    now free DAW(s) with good or complete package is kind of rare right now even at the past; little to nothing, that’s ok for me I guess, it is hard to swallow but I accept that fate…

  10. Cakewalk was a fully featured DAW but it was outdated a while ago. Things like the TH3, the instruments and no new functions in the last 5 years. While other DAW’s have worked on midi, sidechaining and everything else. For me in the last 5 years Cakewalk was like an ill patient who was still to strong to die but never had a chance to recover.
    That said, it was still the best “first” DAW you could wish for.

  11. At least there is an Ardour for $1+ and a Tracktion Waveform free. It may be for the best if there is investment from users in Cakewalk. Of course, if it’s in the low budget segment.

  12. Oh well, I got a lot of good free years which I’m grateful for. I think they’ve earned my gratitude, and I’ll give them a hearing when there’s more info. Seems like the paid DAW market is a tough one, with all kinds of second tier ones not prospering, like MOTU, Reason, Samplitude, Tracktion, Mixcraft, Luna, – I don’t see why Cakewalk wants to get themselves on that list – these investors don’t seem that smart. Especially if Behringer comes through with the free DAW they’ve been promising – what’s a Behringer promise worth though?

  13. Carlos E. Flores


    I have a paid version of Sonar.

    What will happend in this case?

    A discount to upgrade? upgrade for free?

    None of the above?

  14. Phil Huston


    The naming schemes smack directly of Magix, Acid Next, Next Suite, etc. Bandlab is obviously looking for a distribution increase through a one-off pay or portal rent scheme. The whole portal thing is becoming a real pain in the ass. I wonder when we’re all going to go find our spines again and say “Enough. I bought it, it’s mine and I don’t need it to phone home every time I use it!” Even the free stuff has a captive eco system. Labs, Soundpaint, etc. Even the freebies that come with Arturia hardware phone home every day. I say Cakewalk can have that cluttered GUI and dodgy two step loop stretching as, like Studio one, they want to charge for marginal improvements and ten year old plugs and a loop library that’s a 90s time capsule. So…2there are talented people out there and the SDKs are mature, let’s see if anyone has a better idea in the pipeline.

    • Kevin Lawrence


      Well Said. I take it personally when software companies betray us. Yes, Gibson did it. Now BandLab is doing it.I had been a die hard Cakewalk user (since it first arrived in the Jurassic age. I no longer trust that there will be a steady, reliable hand on the cakewalk tiller. I am looking around, something I never felt I had to do previously..

  15. Jim Waterman


    Hmm – gets expensive paying a bunch of former Cakewalk coders. They did a great job with the improvements and continued bug fixes, runs very nicely now. I too was a former Cakewalk/Sonar user since Win 9x. Reading between the lines, I can see ‘Next’ having a free option, a stripped down and simplified CbB, and Sonar being the next release of Cakewalk by Bandlab. Was very happy to have continuation since I have hundreds of mixes on Sonar, but my old X3 version still runs. Thanks BandLab for 5 years of free support, seemed unlikely that it was supportable forever. Please do not replace with a cloud based version.

  16. will be interesting to see how this plays out. Hopefully not a “subscription” price. We all know how THAT played out… never again.

    And probably no chance in hell but I wish they would bring back P5! Now that was a cool little program.

  17. I won’t pay for it.. it was hardly worth paying for when it was sonar.. its why i basically stopped using it i knew one day they’d get greedy and if we’re talking about paid DAWs there are far better options its only change was ever to be free and let the community make it into something. now it will die again in a paid model

  18. Something about this was suspected, before there were monthly updates and they stopped delivering them months ago. Now, it’s been a while since with the latest version I’m suffering from unexpected shutdowns, at least once a day, does it only happen to me?

  19. I’ve been using Cakewalk for my last tunes, and I’m quite content with it. Hopefully it will keep on working and not suddenly be broken. As the support discontinues, reinstalling the software could become a problem?

  20. I’ve been a long time CW/Sonar user (Since Sonar 7). It’s not the only DAW I own, but it is the only DAW I’ve really used. I own Ableton, Reaper and Studio 1 but Sonar is the DAW that fits my mindset recording, mixing and mastering. The Bandlab version is quite good, they’ve done an amazing job killing some long-standing bugs. I don’t mind them giving the paid model a try again for Sonar, if the product is worth it I will pay for it. I hope CW does well with it, it deserves some love. Their other new product, Next, is completely new and reportedly it will run on both Mac and PC. I’ve very interested in where they go with this one. Best of luck to Cake and Bandlab.

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