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What can you say about a company that discards the 500-page manual that graced a fairly complex MIDI application, and then “upgrades” it with 60 pages of PDF-format quick-start material and inadequate online help? While you may praise Cakewalk for its efforts to save trees, you can just as easily denounce it for making its mid-price MIDI sequencer, Metro 5.0, more difficult to use than is necessary.
The lack of documentation, and an interface that buries common commands in dialogue boxes, mars an OK MIDI sequencer. Metro’s features compare well with those of more expensive competitors – it records countless MIDI tracks and up to 64 tracks of digital audio. It supports ASIO (Steinberg’s Audio Stream Input/Output)-compatible audio cards, as well as Adobe Premiere-compatible and Steinberg’s VST-compatible effects plug-ins. Metro 5.0 also offers such common features as mix automation, groove quantize, audio scrubbing, and audio cross-fades.
Of course, you shouldn’t expect miracles from a sequencer that costs hundreds of pounds less than the competition. Not surprisingly, once you begin to explore Metro’s features you discover they lack depth. For example, Metro’s effects plug-ins, such as reverb, delay, and chorus, are of questionable quality. The mixing console within the Instruments window doesn’t let you assign a name to a fader, or switch effects on and off. Nor can you loop or change the pitch of audio files, or easily view single tracks in the Notation window.
Even though Metro lacks some features, it can do much more than record MIDI and audio data.
The program gives you some useful musical goodies – for example, you can record multiple takes without having to stop and start the sequence. Using Multiple Take Mode, you select an area of a sequence, determine how many takes you wish to record, and start recording. As you finish each pass, Metro returns to the beginning of the selected section and starts recording your next take in a new track. A unique Note Spray tool lets you add semi-random MIDI data to a track – for instance, notes constrained to a particular scale.
Metro 5.0 is a good sequencer for those on a budget, offering a competent – though occasionally shallow – set of features. Regrettably, some users may never discover these features due to the lack of proper documentation and an unintuitive interface.