Today Avid released Sibelius 8.0, or what is being called the “next generation” or “new Sibelius”. Various license plans are available for purchase, and a 30-day trial is available. A full review follows.
When it comes to software updates, what’s in a version number? There are updates to desktop browsers and mobile apps, which most people don’t concern themselves with (Quick: which version of Facebook is your smartphone running?).
Operating system versions are equally curious. Technically speaking, desktop Macs are still running version 10 (OS X), meaning that students will be writing their college application essays on the OS that was born at the same time they were. On the PC side, maybe Microsoft saw an opportunity to catch up to Apple in version numbering, or maybe they were just in a hurry when they breezed past 9 on their way to Windows 10.
In the world of music notation applications, each numerical update has historically represented significant new features and a new file format. The recently released MuseScore 2 came five years after version 1, and its myriad new features are true to what one would expect after such a long period and a doubling of the version number. Finale released yearly updates for over a decade corresponding to the next year following the release, until abandoning that plan with Finale 2014. Like new car models that follow a similar schedule, each update offered up a few new important features but, owing to the short development cycle, progress was more incremental.
Sibelius users have generally come to expect major new features and engraving improvements once every two years. Devoted users still have their favorite versions, recalling the highlights and quirks of each one like the personality traits of close friends. After all, some of us spend more time with Sibelius than with anything, or anyone else!
Each major release brought with it a bevy of changes. Sibelius 6 introduced a whirlwind of upgrades in 2009 including Magnetic Layout, Versions, playback upgrades, ReWire support, not to mention vastly improved engraving features with slurs, articulations and chord symbols seeing marked improvement. The 2011 release of Sibelius 7, love it or hate it, was equally significant, not only with its change to the Ribbon interface but with a complete 64-bit rewrite and impressive advances in type and typography features, a brand new heavy-duty sound library, and a number of other things.
So when Avid announced Sibelius 7.5 early last year, it was a break from the reliable release cycle stretching back to 1999. Not only was the release more than 6 months later than usual, it was a more incremental evolution of the software. Since the well-known corporate and personnel changes within Avid in 2012 left many wondering if there was any future at all for Sibelius, even a modest release such at 7.5 was a welcome sign, and understandable given the circumstances. The version number seemed to be an acknowledgment that users should not expect an upgrade worthy of being called “Sibelius 8”. Appropriately priced at $50 US, once the 7.5.1 maintenance update came out in July last year, it has proved to be a solid upgrade.
One had to wonder, though, if the “.5” release was a temporarily hiccup owing to unique circumstances, or a harbinger of things to come. Would Sibelius 8 return to the pattern of impressive new features and notation improvements? Or would future updates take a more of incremental approach? And if the latter, how will Avid charge for such updates?
Avid answered those questions in April of this year, with the announcement of “the new Sibelius” along with new licensing options that included both perpetual and renewable licenses. We’ve already covered that announcement, and in May, senior product manager Sam Butler posted FAQs to further address questions and concerns about the new plans.
While those FAQs and license plans are important to understanding Avid’s new strategy, they have been widely discussed already and we won’t spend more space dissecting them here. Briefly, though (all prices USD):
- If you already own Sibelius (any version), the annual fee for a perpetual license is $89 which includes one year of updates
- If you’re new to Sibelius, you can pay $689 for a perpetual license which includes one year of updates, and $89 per year thereafter to keep it current with updates
- Whether you’re new to Sibelius or not, you have an alternative option of paying $20 per month for a renewable license ($240 per year)
- Educational discounts, as well as crossgrade discounts from competitive products are available
- With a perpetual license, the software will continue to work even if you stop paying for updates for as long as your operating system will support it — you just won’t be eligible for any further updates
- With a renewable license, the software will stop working at the end of your renewable license term
- All previous versions of Sibelius will continue to work just as they do now; current licenses are unaffected by whether or not you update
Even though the “new Sibelius“, released today, bears the version number 8.0 under the hood, it’s clear why Avid is keen to avoid using it: Sibelius 8 is the thinnest release ever for a Sibelius product that turns the left-most column on the odometer.