Cakewalk Kinetic 2 - EMusician

Cakewalk Kinetic 2

“It’s not what you think . . . really . . . I can explain. . . .”Aside from being a staple in any romance movie or soap opera, that line also applies to Kinetic 2. No, EQ hasn’t changed its focus to consumer-oriented software. Sure, in theory that’s what Kinetic 2 is all about; but play with it for a little bit, and you’ll find the Secret Hidden Application that’s of interest to far more than consumers.
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Kinetic 2 is a Windows-only application that some people have referred to as “Reason lite.” Going from foundation to finished tune, you first create or load “parts” (like drums, bass, pad, etc.). These are Kinetic 2’s individual loops. Up to 16 parts make up a “groove.” There are 64 total grooves in a song, and there’s a cute little grid for picking the groove you want to play at any given moment. At the highest level, there’s a song track where you can string these grooves into a sequence.

Parts can be soft instruments triggered by MIDI, or WAV files. If acidized, the WAV files will stretch with tempo. Instrument-wise, Kinetic 2 includes the Psyn II (sophisticated, highly editable virtual analog synth), Roland GrooveSynth (lots of different sounds with decent editability), and the DropZone drag-and-drop sampler. For effects, you have the Alias Factor lo-fi processor, PowerStrip (yet another incarnation of Cakewalk’s X-Y processor), HF Exciter, ModFilter, Chorus/Flanger, Para Q (EQ), Classic Phaser, Compressor/Gate, Tempo Delay, and Reverb. Many of these are borrowed from Project5.

But before going any further, let’s look at the real reason why we’re here.


One cool thing about Kinetic 2 is it’s a perfect laptop program. There’s even a “grid” controller that lets you tap out rhythms or melodies using your QWERTY keys. But what’s really special about Kinetic 2 is that it can be a ReWire client.

When you’re dealing with software DAWs, like Sonar, Cubase, Digital Performer, Logic, etc., you never really forget that they’re based on the linear recording paradigm. A few programs have broken out of that mold, such as Acid, Live, and Project5. Even so, they’re still designed to record music rather than be songwriting tools (although they can provide that function quite well).

Kinetic 2 makes no apologies for it’s raison d’être: As it says on the manual’s cover, “Produce Your Own Beats.” But what I’m finding is that it makes a great companion to more traditional host programs. When rewired into the host, I can come up with a slamming rhythm track within seconds that puts click tracks and metronomes to shame — and makes far more inspiring noises. And of course, one thing Kinetic 2 can’t do is audio overdubs: vocals, guitars, etc. So after getting the groove together, it’s a simple matter to switch over to the host, add some ear candy, and — done.

In some ways, I’m seeing Kinetic 2 more as a sound library. It sort of fits in the slot between eJay’s “sound-library-plus-sequencer” approach and something like Reason or Project5, in the sense that it produces canned beats, but ones that you can modify to a great extent if you want.

So the bottom line is these days, I’ll use Kinetic 2 while I’m on the road to cook up some nice beats, then rewire them into my host when I get home and do the overdubs. But I’ve also used Kinetic 2 to come up with some cool tunes when chilling back at the hotel — it sure beats watching yet another rerun of Back to the Future III on HBO. Sometimes those tunes even turn into something.

And when I’m home, Kinetic 2 has served as a great “idea kickstarter.” Sure, it’s a program in its own right, but I suspect the EQ crowd will see it as a writing module you can rewire into your host of choice.


I suppose I should also talk about its intended application. Okay. The MIDI editing is excellent and simple — it reminds me a lot of the way Live does MIDI, which in turn reminds me a lot of how Project5 does MIDI. You can use a standard piano roll grid, or more of a step sequencer approach, and automation (of the mixer, parts, or even the song arrangement) is drop-dead simple as well.

The key to Kinetic 2’s speed is the browser that appears when you want to load or create a part. You specify the type of sound generator you want to use (audio loops or various broad categories like drums, pads, bass, etc.), then a particular style of music, which then reveals a selection of possible patterns or loops. If you choose a MIDI device, you can then use the browser that shows an instrument, style, and device chain. Device chain? Yes, you can save combinations of instruments and effects. Without the browser, Kinetic 2 wouldn’t be the high-speed groove generator it is.

Given the price, I didn’t expect Kinetic 2 to offer as many sound-warping features as it does. The mixer for the various parts in each groove includes two aux sends and a master effects chain slot, so yes, you can slam a compressor in the output to beef up the sound a bit. There’s even a “MIDI learn” function so you can use an external control surface, but in an inexplicable faux pas, the mixer channel solo buttons can’t be controlled via MIDI. Huh? If you want to do a breakbeat kinda thing, you need to create a separate groove with just that channel, and trigger it (which can be instantly, at the next measure, or at the end of the current groove).

Bottom line: I’ve found Kinetic 2 to be surprisingly useful, and if you have a penchant for grooves, you might too.

Product type: Beats/groove creation program that’s also a great “host accessory.”

Target market: DJ/groove musicians, but it’s more versatile than just that

Strengths: Rewires into hosts. Nice. selection of content. Put grooves together really fast. Surprisingly sophisticated editing functions and feature set for this type of program. Useful selection of instruments and effects. Hosts third-party VST and DX instruments/effects.

Limitations: Can’t control mixer solo buttons via MIDI. Instruments aren’t VST, so you can’t use them in other programs.

Price: $99