Steinberg Cubase 5 review

£499
Price when reviewed

Cubase is 20 years old this year, so it’s strange to think that it has only reached version 5. In fact, Steinberg rebooted the brand in 2002 when Cubase VST 5 turned into Cubase SX. Its two-year turnover is slow, though, and a lot has happened in the two years since version 4 was launched.

Steinberg has responded with a swathe of inspired new features, many of which will have a big impact on the creative process. Pick of the bunch is VariAudio, a vocal pitch-correction editor in the style of AutoTune. This type of effect has a mixed reputation: it’s blamed for letting poor vocalists off the hook but it’s so widely used now that few singers can live without it. VariAudio displays a line representing pitch, bound in a succession of boxes, one for each note. This division into discrete notes is the key to VariAudio’s power, allowing problem notes to be fixed without interfering with adjacent ones.

It’s easy to retain pitch inflections while retuning, or to deliberately iron them out. Add the ability to drag notes around the screen to change their pitch, timing and duration, and VariAudio eclipses Cakewalk Sonar‘s V-Vocal for surgical vocal editing. Meanwhile, a new Pitch Correct effect takes a more conservative approach, processing in real-time to a preset scale.

REVerence is a new convolution-based reverb effect. Convolution uses acoustic responses recorded in real spaces to simulate reverberation authentically. There’s a strong library of responses provided, captured in locations such as studios, churches, ballrooms and tunnels, and the ability to manipulate them is greater than usual. However, there’s a problem. Convolution reverb became widely available in 2004 and has been bundled with Sonar since 2005. We can’t imagine there are many Cubase users who haven’t already invested in a third-party convolution plug-in. REVerence is welcome but its arrival is simply too late.

Another late but this time worthy arrival is experimental loop-mangling courtesy of LoopMash and Groove Agent ONE. LoopMash takes a series of loops, chops them up into individual hits and creates hybrids out of them. Sometimes it sounds fresh and exciting, but mostly it’s more like a random succession of trendy noises. The highly graphical interface invites the user to interact intuitively rather than prescriptively, but so far our experience has mostly involved poking the controls in a bemused fashion. Even so, we think we might grow to like LoopMash.

Groove Agent ONE charts more familiar territory. It’s a drum sampler with a solid collection of acoustic and electronic kits plus reasonable scope to customise them. Best of all, any audio loop can be chopped up into individual hits, arranged across the MIDI keyboard and exported as a MIDI phrase, thereby creating an instant drum machine from a loop. It’s not a new idea but it’s great to have it fully integrated into Cubase.

Channel Batch Export simplifies the procedure of exporting a mix as a series of WAV files for import into another application. Even fellow Cubase 5 users are unlikely to be able to share projects due to the ubiquity of third-party plug-ins, so it’s good to see Steinberg focussing on it. The only hitch is that audio may be clipped when exporting in this way – some kind of clipping alert would be welcome.

Elsewhere, the Tempo Track is finally integrated into the arrange window, which saves a lot of bother when restructuring tracks with tempo changes. Cubase has also consolidated conflicts when MIDI controller data and automation data is assigned to the same parameter, with both now working in tandem.

Details

Software subcategoryAudio production software

Requirements

Processor requirement2GHz Pentium or equivalent

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported?yes
Operating system Windows XP supported?yes
Operating system Linux supported?no
Operating system Mac OS X supported?yes

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