With its new digital audio sequencer, Kinetic ($119), Cakewalk has set foot squarely in the land of the prosumer in terms of price but don't let that
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Cakewalk Kinetic has a three-part workspace: Groove Picker and Groove Mixer (top), Pattern Browser and Pattern Editor (middle), and Song Arranger (bottom).

With its new digital audio sequencer, Kinetic ($119), Cakewalk has set foot squarely in the land of the prosumer in terms of price — but don't let that fool you. Kinetic is designed for musicians of all skill levels — from beginner to professional DJ — and its low cost and high functionality are sure to make it a winner among groove creators of all persuasions.

Kinetic runs under Windows XP and 2000, and its minimum system requirements are an 800 MHz processor with 256 MB of RAM. I tested Kinetic on a Pentium 4/2.1 GHz machine with 512 MB of RAM, and it ran flawlessly, using only 30 percent of my CPU at full tilt.

Forces in Motion

Kinetic is structured logically: the hierarchy, from the top down, is Song, Groove, Part, Pattern, and Patches/audio loops. A Song consists of as many as 64 Grooves arranged in a sequence, but only one Groove can play at a time. A Groove can be made up of 16 simultaneous Parts that repeat at a specified interval (all 64 Grooves will use the same 16 Parts). A Part consists of a Pattern and a synth patch or audio loop.

To create a Song, open a new project file and create the Parts, one by one, by assigning them a Pattern and Patch or audio loop. Part parameters, such as volume, pan, and patch settings, can be automated. Next, create the Grooves by assigning the desired Parts, and build the Song by sequencing the Grooves (for example, Groove A1 for four bars, followed by A2 for four bars, and A4 for eight bars). To test the Parts, Grooves, or Song at any point in this process, press the Play button.

Kinetic comes with a generous selection of Groove building blocks. More than 300 Patterns and Acid-format audio loops, in more than 30 styles, are included, covering genres such as house, drum and bass, hip-hop, industrial, jazz, lounge, techno, tribal, and trance, among others. You can import loops and create new patterns. In addition, there are 500 patches using sounds from vintage Roland instruments (SH-101, TR-606, TR-808, and TR-909) as well as Cakewalk's PSYN virtual-analog synth.

Kinetic has a handful of Cakewalk Project5 effects, including filter, chorus, exciter, reverb, and flanger. You can use DirectX and VST effects (if you have a VST adapter) as well as ReWire to connect Kinetic to ReWire-capable sequencers, such as Cakewalk Sonar and Project5, and Steinberg Cubase. Additionally, you can export your Kinetic Grooves and Songs as WAV or MP3 files.

The best thing about Kinetic is its simplicity. Once you get the hang of the hierarchical structure and graphical interface, it's easy to create and hone your beats: everything is available within a few mouse-clicks. In less than an hour, I created this 2-minute song from scratch, using built-in Kinetic Patterns and Patches (see Web Clip 1).

Hokey, Not Pokey

My biggest gripes about Kinetic result from Cakewalk's savvy decision to limit Kinetic's scope and keep it fast, cheap, and easy to use. For example, you can't exceed 16 Parts per Groove; you can use VST effects, but not VST instruments; you can't record audio; and when you start playing a Groove, you can play it only from the first bar, which limits groove-to-groove sequencing. And there is one potential hidden cost: the built-in MP3 encoder is time-limited trialware, requiring you to pay $19 extra to unlock it.

What bugs me most, however, is that its built-in Patterns are, for the most part, uninspired and somewhat trite. Fortunately, you can modify the Patterns or build your own.

Beat It

Overall, Kinetic is a powerful and flexible beat-creation tool. Beginners will have a great time mixing the included elements into catchy grooves and exporting them into audio files to share with friends. Experienced users can take the program to the next level by creating their own patterns, using custom audio loops, automating parameters, and running the program with an external sequencer. Kinetic is a program that offers something for everyone.

Overall EM Rating (1 through 5): 4.5
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