I know nothing about Sonar. Cubase can be complicated because it does so much. Cubase 7 is really cool but it can be a bunny hole for time, but then anything fun is.
I am an active Cubase 6 user. I do not have any experience on Cubase 7 but have viewed the demos and am considering purchasing it. The GUI is different than 6 or 6.5. I have recorded on Pro Tools and actively use Cubase. Most of the DAWS I have seen do basically the same functions - they record, edit, mix, midi (some better than others) and light mastering. What is different is the work flow. I have downloaded the demo for Sonar before and did not like it because the work flow was different from Cubase. When I first learned Cubase I began with Cubase LE. Then went to Cubase 5. When I went to 5 I watched the DVD on how to use it, watched it again and took notes, then studied my notes while actually using Cubase to help with the learning curve. Most all of the DAWS I have actually used (or was recorded on with an engineer) have a learning curve. I like Cubase 6 (and 5) because I am familiar with the work flow of the DAW and it makes sense to me. I have made recordings from my home studio which were "radio ready" and have gotten play on the radio and XM. Remember that DAWS are tools that you have to learn to be comfortable with. Cubase 6 can clog a CPU if you put too many effects on separate channels. You need to use an FX group channel. Cubase 6 takes MIDI fairly well. I usually record drums on midi with a trigger and then edit to fit my song. Editing MIDI is fairly straight forward. You can convert audio files to MIDI. This is great for editing or changing note values. You can print scores with music notation, although this does require a bit more studying on how to make it user friendly with the end product. I primarily use the stock drum sounds for midi and then spend several hours "tweeking" the drum tracks to make them sound real. You can dissolve the midi drum tracks to edit each drum part on a separate "lane" or track.
I have heard that some DAWS have better algorithms for making their DAW sound more real on audio recordings. I honestly can't tell any difference. But, I am not spending hours A/B'ing tracks from different DAWS just to find the answer to that. My suggestion is to look at the work flow of Sonar and Cubase and figure out which one makes sense to you. Buy it, then get all the training DVD's you can (youtube is filled with this stuff) and go to school to learn your DAW.
I agree with a couple of the comments emphasizing how much of a personal choice it is to determine which DAW works best for you. Part of the decision could be influenced by what type of equipment you will be using with it. For example, with keyboards\synths, you might want to check to see if either or both options have the instrument definitions to help them integrate smoothly and intuitively together. The next thing would be to determine how far up you need to scale (version\price point) to get the features that you want now, or will need in the future. I think the cheapest versions of both Sonar and Cubase are fairly limited if you intend to do complex projects involving a high number of midi\audio tracks. So budget for what you can afford, but if you're just gonna be recording a synth, live guitar, and add a couple of vocal tracks per song, you might not need Sonar's\Cubase's most expensive flagship edition. MANY years ago, I started using Cubase (PC) as my step up from "Tiger Cub" software on an Atari 1040ST. Back then, there was also a fairly intimidating learning curve (as there weren't so many online communities to socialize on). I came to love Cubase, but I guess a year or two later, I got turned on to Cakewalk Pro Audio (today, known as Sonar), and I just liked the GUI and all better. I think a the time, Cakewalk was also (in my opinion) a much better working product for ME. I stayed with Sonar (newer versions) from maybe 93\94 until 09 - and I stopped doing music (life, kids, work, etc)! Now, just putting my home studio back together (with all new equipment), I tried the free version of Cubase that came with my new Montage (upgraded to Elements for $49), but also wanted to give my old familiar Sonar a shot as well. As I re-traced and tried to fast track my learning curve, I honestly found them both fairly straightforward at a basic level. I do think I have to give Sonar the edge (still), as the interface essentials don't seem to have changed all that much. What may also be important is to determine if you have friends\colleagues who also do music and want to do any collaborations at some point. If you're new and haven't formed any preferences yet, then go with the one that "more" of your friends are using. That'll make it easier to hook up and do "stuff" together later... One thing that I do love about Sonar (not even sure if Cubase can also do this), is that you can export your mix-down straight to SoundCloud, where I have some of my music posted. One FYI about Sonar is that you will need to purchase a separate $10 MP3 Encoder license (at least with the latest version of Sonar Pro that I purchased) before you can dump your mix to an MP3 file. That shouldn't be a big deal for most, but just so you don't have to waste a half hour going online to buy\download\install in the middle of your session before you can create the MP3... :-)
Hope I didn't ramble on too much with this!
It's a 3+ year old thread, but I suppose the question is still valid...
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