The Cubase 6 interface has been overhauled again, and I’m very pleased with what Steinberg have done with it. It is looking extremely ‘polished’ and professional now. It’s still customizable since version 5.5, which may seem trivial to some but being able to personalize my work environment makes a big difference to me and I think it’s something other developers are missing out on. A number of windows have been added or modified including the Media Bay of which a ‘mini’ version is now available and I found this to be very handy.
One area where Cubase has always scored highly was its ability to quickly manipulate audio and beats and mold them to your every need with the least amount of effort possible, and streamlining this process definitely seems to be the focus of this update. Steinberg have added and refined a number of tools in this category. Firstly, the new hit point detection algorithm is great. The concept of having a visible threshold that you can adjust to trigger on peaks makes far more sense than the old sensitivity slider. There’s a wealth of export options now as well. Besides ‘create slices’, you can now export hit points to midi, groove or time warp markers. Cubase will now also map the project tempo based on hitpoints in an audio track which is fantastic for when working with live recorded audio.
These updates will be a very welcome addition especially for live musicians and engineers working with actual bands and audio content. The new ‘lanes’ function makes compositing recorded takes an absolute pleasure, and it’s not limited to tracking live vocals and instruments. I very quickly managed to drop a number of electronic loops into the lanes and start mixing and matching drum sounds to create new variations. Folder tracks now have a group edit switch which allows you to group a number of audio takes together and edit them as a single entity. Very useful when you’re working with multiple takes of… let’s say a guitar track where you’re recording multiple mic’s and amps. Group edit allows you to cut, move and process the audio any way you like simultaneously, all the while maintaining phase as well. Perfect for composite drum tracks.
Cubase has never astounded me with their range of bundled plugins. They did arrive at a decent and conclusive feature set in Cubase 5, but not much has changed since then which is not a big surprise. They have updated Loopmash to version 2, although I still fail to see the point of this plugin. Some people will love it, I’ve always been happier doing what it does manually on audio channels anyway. Loopmash and their MPC style drum sampler, Groove Agent, are now fully ‘drag and drop’ compatible and you can move audio files onto loop slots and drum pads from virtually anywhere now.
One thing I would have loved to have seen though is an Ableton Live style ‘convert to sampler‘ function whereby you could, instead of exporting the sliced hitpoints to the arrange page, have them automatically loaded into the drum sampler and an accompanying MIDI file placed in a track for you. I felt this was a bit of a missed opportunity.
Amp Rack has been updated as well with a new interface akin to Waves GTR Studio or Guitar Rig. It sounds good and will be a welcome addition to all the guitarists out there, but it doesn’t really break any boundaries though. I was rather impressed by the wealth of sounds on offer in Halion Sonic SE. They’re of a pretty decent quality and designed by the same team responsible for Yamaha’s workstation keyboards such as the Motif series. They’re bread and butter sounds, but considering the quality and the fact that they’re bundled with Cubase, they’re a pretty good deal. The software also ships with a 60 day demo of the full version of Halion Sonic which may be worth checking out as well.
Other features Steinberg have improved on is their automation which now includes a ‘scaling’ function for smoothing out or ‘sculpting’ your automation data when you have multiple handles selected. It’s a great addition and makes working with recorded controller movements far more manageable. Steinberg’s revolutionary VST Expressions technology has also been given an overhaul. Expressions was designed to make key switching and the editing of specialized control data such as tremolo, staccato, legato and so forth more accessible when working with large orchestral sample libraries such as VSL and East West’s Symphonic Orchestra.
What’s remarkable about this update is VST Expressions can now be applied per note, right from the midi matrix editor, which obviously gives you an enormous amount of control over subtle nuances needed to produce believable performance in MIDI. The only problem is that VST3 plugins are required for this and obviously would have to be VST Expression capable. It’s still early days, so whether developers such as East West, Native Instruments and Vienna jump on the bandwagon is yet to be seen, although Expressions is so intuitive I can’t see why they wouldn’t. At present, Halion Sonic full and SE, as well as Halion Symphonic Orchestra are fully compatible out the box.
Overall I was pretty impressed by Cubase 6. The release seemed nice and stable compared to what previous versions of Cubase were at launch although I was disappointed to see some of the bugs in Media Bay are still present from version 4. It caused a few crashes when scanning my media library, but after some tweaking it was functioning perfectly.
While I wasn’t overwhelmed by tons of new features, I did get the feeling that Steinberg have really taken the time to think about where they’re taking Cubase. There’s a real sense of refinement about this latest installment, showing that the DAW has the same pedigree that Pro Tools has always boasted. Mac users will be thrilled to know that Cubase 6 is now fully 64 bit compatible as well. I think Steinberg’s partnership with Yamaha has done wonders for them, and coupled with their hardware interfaces, controllers and plugins like the upcoming Rupert Neve Portico VST’s, Cubase is becoming a force to be reckoned with. I’ll definitely be ordering my copy soon!
Cubase 6: R 5995.00
Cubase Artist 6: R 2995.00
Supplier: Tuerk Music Technologies
Tel: 011-792 8402
About the author:
Better known as Protoculture, Nate is a highly successful dance music producer who has played in every corner of the globe from Mexico to Japan, Brazil, Australia, Europe… the list goes on. The last year has seen a new direction for Protoculture, with collaborations with Max Graham, releases under Armada Records, and support from Dj’s such as Armin van Buuren, Markus Schulz, Christopher Laurence and John 00 Flemming. In March he will tour South Africa with Armin Van Buuren for the ASOT 500 Tour.
Written By : Nate Raubenheimer