Stein­berg Cubase Pro 9

£468

Future Music - - CONTENTS -

Cubase is the lat­est of the big DAWs to get a ma­jor up­date. Bruce Aisher gets cre­ative

De­cem­ber, the month of Christ­mas cheer and Cubase up­dates. Stein­berg have hit an an­nual rhyth­mic stride with their ma­jor (and half-step) up­dates to this lon­grun­ning DAW. So it was, with a buzzing crescendo on the fo­rums, that Cubase Pro 9 hit the streets on 7th De­cem­ber last year.

Be­ing one of the big in­cre­ments there is al­ways some trep­i­da­tion as to what might be in store – soft­ware up­dates in­evitably be­ing a mix­ture of brand-new fea­tures, tweaks to the ex­ist­ing look, feel and func­tion­al­ity, and some­times the re­tire­ment of fea­tures. The modern DAW now, nec­es­sar­ily, has to cater for a wide range of users, and it is very hard to please all the peo­ple all of the time. One im­por­tant omis­sion, for some at least, may be the fact that Cubase is now 64-bit only as far as plug-ins are con­cerned. In re­al­ity, this should cause no ma­jor headaches if you use jBridge to pro­vide 32-bit sup­port. This third-party ap­pli­ca­tion still does an ad­mirable job, and has even un­der­gone a speedy up­date to ad­dress cer­tain C9 is­sues.

In broad terms, Cubase 9 does not look sub­stan­tially dif­fer­ent from its pre­de­ces­sor. The dark look and feel of the pro­ject and editor win­dows re­mains, along­side the now well-es­tab­lished and re­con­fig­urable MixCon­sole. The key new aes­thetic fea­ture, from a Stein­berg per­spec­tive at least, is the ‘Lower Zone’. Tak­ing its queue from some­thing very sim­i­lar in Ap­ple’s Logic Pro X, this utilises the lower por­tion of the pro­ject win­dow as a func­tion-de­pen­dent mix and edit en­vi­ron­ment. This sits along­side the multi-win­dow ap­proach of old – so is an op­tional ex­tra – but does make quick tweaks eas­ier. More on this in a bit.

In ver­sion 9 Cubase fi­nally has a ded­i­cated, and easy to use, sam­pler in the form of Sam­pler Track. Although Groove Agent SE did pro­vide some quite com­pre­hen­sive sam­pling func­tion­al­ity it could be fid­dly to use and was not in­te­grated into the over­all pro­ject work­flow. I have al­ways been a big fan of the way Logic ties its EXS-24 sam­pler into the broader fea­tures of the DAW. Hope­fully this is the start of an equally beau­ti­ful friend­ship in Cubase.

The third of the big new fea­tures is MixCon­sole His­tory, which adds full undo/redo func­tion­al­ity to all mixer tweaks, in­clud­ing changes to third-party plug-ins. Not only that, but a fully time-stamped his­tory list keeps track of all changes. This will fi­nally ban­ish the ‘oops, I didn’t mean to move that’ mo­ments that re­quired re-load­ing an old pro­ject to re­turn to the pre­vi­ous (and hope­fully cor­rect) set­tings. It also al­lows for a more com­par­a­tive ap­proach when ap­ply­ing pro­cess­ing and ad­just­ing the mix. Even be­ing able to see what you did, and when, is in­cred­i­bly use­ful. MixCon­sole His­tory isn’t

glam­orous, but it is cer­tainly an im­por­tant ad­di­tion.

Be­sides cos­metic up­dates to Brick­wall Lim­iter and a few oth­ers, the main plug-in news is that Cubase 9 brings with it a new EQ plug-in and fea­ture-boosted Max­i­mizer and Au­topan ef­fects. In a world swamped with EQ plug-ins you may ques­tion the rel­e­vance of an­other EQ in Cubase, es­pe­cially when it sits along­side – rather than re­places – the reg­u­lar chan­nel EQ. How­ever, Fre­quency, as it is called, brings a Lin­ear Phase mode and Mid/Side pro­cess­ing to the party. These are both worth­while ad­di­tions, es­pe­cially when you can turn each on or off in­di­vid­u­ally for each of its eight bands. Me­ter­ing is clear, and the key­board over­lay show­ing MIDI notes against fre­quency is sur­pris­ingly help­ful.

The orig­i­nal Au­topan was al­ways rather ba­sic. The new im­proved ver­sion al­lows you to cre­ate cus­tom curves with an ad­justable phase off­set when tempo-sync’d. Press the link but­ton, and it turns into a chop­per that can read­ily cre­ate de­cent sidechain style pump­ing. Max­i­mizer now fea­tures Modern mode, in ad­di­tion to the orig­i­nal (now la­belled Clas­sic). This de­liv­ers a po­ten­tially more fi­nessed ap­proach to bring­ing up the av­er­age level in a mix, as well as ex­tra con­trol over the re­cov­ery time and shape.

In­ci­den­tally, au­dio can now be routed into VST 3 in­stru­ments that sup­port sidechain­ing. In Retro­logue for ex­am­ple, press­ing the sidechain but­ton adds an in­put level con­trol in the Os­cil­la­tor Mix sec­tion. This ex­ter­nal au­dio can then be pro­cessed through the synth’s fil­ter and ef­fects as if it was an ad­di­tional os­cil­la­tor source (so you’ll need to trig­ger the amp en­ve­lope to hear any­thing).

How low can you go?

Let’s re­turn to the new Lower Zone. This is per­haps a nat­u­ral ex­ten­sion of Stein­berg’s ear­lier ef­forts to draw more key fea­tures into the Pro­ject

MixCon­sole His­tory will fi­nally ban­ish the ‘oops’ mo­ments that re­quired re-load­ing an old pro­ject

win­dow, in­clud­ing a fixed Trans­port Bar at the bot­tom of the main win­dow. Three new but­tons open and close the left, right and lower zones – though you may want to edit their cur­rent three-but­ton key­board short­cuts. With the Lower Zone open you can then use tabs to switch be­tween view­ing small (but re­siz­able) ver­sions of the MixCon­sole, Editor, Chord Pads and Sam­pler Con­trol. The MixCon­sole has but­tons for quickly view­ing faders, in­serts or sends. The Editor win­dow is track spe­cific, mean­ing that for MIDI it will be the Key or Drum Editor (no List Editor) and au­dio tracks will use the Au­dio Part or Au­dio Sam­ple editor. Double-click on an event and the rel­e­vant editor will ap­pear in the Lower Zone. You can also switch the Left Zone to show the rel­e­vant editor’s In­spec­tor. It’s use­ful too to be able to syn­chro­nise the editor’s cur­sor with that of the pro­ject. The Lower Zone, I sus­pect, will be used more for MIDI and au­dio edit­ing than for mix­ing, though lap­top users will wel­come most as­pects of this new fea­ture.

An­other use­ful new fea­ture is the abil­ity to cre­ate mul­ti­ple Marker Tracks. This is of in­ter­est when us­ing Cubase for sound de­sign or mu­sic to pic­ture, but also fa­cil­i­tates eas­ier song map­ping and cor­rec­tion tag­ging. Mark­ers can now be used to set mul­ti­ple au­dio ranges for ex­port­ing mixes or stems in one hit.

Col­lab­o­ra­tive tools get a pol­ish, with the frus­trat­ing VST Con­nect SE lo­gin process nicely sim­pli­fied and VST Tran­sit now supporting third-party plug-ins.

With the move to a solely 64-bit third-party in­te­gra­tion, the new Plug-in Sen­tinel black­lists ‘prob­lem­atic’ plug-ins be­fore they can cause prob­lems. Tak­ing plug-ins off this black­list is now done from the com­fort of Cubase – rather than the XML file edit­ing fun of old.

For those who lust af­ter more me­dia con­tent, C9 also comes with Pro­duc­tion Grooves for Groove Agent and Calei­do­scope for Sam­pler Track.

Cloud 9?

I would like Stein­berg to have ad­dressed the long-stand­ing short­com­ings of MixCon­sole’s full scal­a­bil­ity (still there in both full and Lower Zone modes). Be­ing able to zoom ver­ti­cally and hor­i­zon­tally as well as re­siz­ing faders is use­ful, but not when some set­tings end up with blank grey boxes (where but­tons such as Solo and Mute are sup­posed to be). In many re­spects it would be bet­ter if there was less flex­i­bil­ity here, or at least a se­ries of de­fault zoom set­tings that re­set what can, at times, be a vis­ual mess. Global pre­sets for sav­ing mix lay­outs would also be very wel­come, es­pe­cially when us­ing all three MixCon­sole win­dows. How­ever, the new MixCon­sole His­tory is ex­cel­lent. It’s not par­tic­u­larly sexy, but is most def­i­nitely use­ful.

In terms of the way I work, the Sam­pler Track is the most in­ter­est­ing cre­ative fea­ture on of­fer here. Is it worth the £80 up­grade fee? Yes – given the de­gree of in­te­gra­tion it has with the over­all DAW work­flow. The Lower Zone is also use­ful – and for some will be their de­fault way of mix­ing and edit­ing – but for me, as a multi-mon­i­tor devo­tee, it has yet to prove its full worth.

All told, this up­date is broadly solid, if not ground-break­ing – and in many re­spects that could be ar­gued as a good thing.

CON­TACT KEY FEA­TURES

WHO: Stein­berg TEL: +49 (0)4042 236115 WEB: www.stein­berg.net Ad­vanced Mu­sic Pro­duc­tion Sys­tem, Mac OS X (OS X 10.11/macOS Sierra) or Win­dows (64-bit Win­dows 7 and above), 64-bit In­tel or AMD multi-core pro­ces­sor (In­tel i5 or faster rec­om­mended), 4GB RAM (8GB or more rec­om­mended), 18GB free HD space, Graph­ics card with DirectX 10 and WDDM 1.1 sup­port (Win­dows only), USB port for USB-eLi­censer

Au­topan Not the most glam­orous of new ad­di­tions, but one that does its job very well. A cleaner in­ter­face, more pa­ram­e­ters and with a neat side­line in chop/gate ef­fects and sidechain style com­pres­sion.

MixCon­sole His­tory A hal­lelu­jah mo­ment. Ev­ery tweak in MixCon­sole is now tracked (in­clud­ing non-Stein­berg plug-ins) and time-stamped. Great for com­par­ing mixes, road-test­ing dif­fer­ent set­tings and re­cov­er­ing from ac­ci­den­tal knob tweaks and cock-ups.

Sam­pler Track A sim­ple drag and drop sam­pler has been miss­ing from Cubase, and with ver­sion 9 we get one linked to many ar­eas of the Cubase en­vi­ron­ment. Each Sam­pler Track can only host one sam­ple at a time, but it is both fun and use­ful.

Lower Zone This new area of the Pro­ject win­dow is linked to what­ever you are edit­ing. Click on au­dio, you’ll get an Au­dio Editor. Click on MIDI and it will be the Key or Drum Editor. It will also squeeze in a MixCon­sole win­dow.

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