Hands-On Review:Cubase 4 and Cubase Studio 4
Advanced music production 4 you
By Derek Freeson
Cubase 4 and Cubase Studio 4 are the latest forms of Steinberg’s MIDI and audio recording software, targeting respectively the studio pro and the home studio enthusiast. Cubase has been effectively rebuilt from the ground up to offer the diverse functions that today’s elite musicians, composers, and producers want, all for an astounding price, considering everything you get. And those familiar with Cubase will find the intuitive ease-of-use and solid functionality of the past is happily still intact.
Impressive new features include the SoundFrame universal sound manager, an enhanced workflow process, four new virtual instruments, versatile ACID—compatible loop—and pattern-based composition, dozens of plug-ins, realtime pitch-shifting, and versatile mixing power with Control Room.
SoundFrame manages any sound from any source with the MediaBay database, combining Track Presets, Instrument Tracks, Track Templates, and all the new VST3 presets. With SoundFrame you can preview and customize sounds before loading, mix and replace sounds easily, and quickly substitute sounds from imported projects. You can also organize and combine VST effects. For example many of the Track Templates in Cubase 4 use multieffects chains to produce killer guitar sounds reminiscent of big guitar racks.
Cubase Studio 4 is fully surround sound-capable, making it a natural for video and soundtrack work. Another striking new feature is the integration of external synthesizer and effects gear with the Studio Connections "Total Recall and Audio" standard, turning your external gear, in effect, into a software plug-in. Cubase 4 lets you treat your outboard gear like a VST plug-in—just upload your synth or effects processor to the VST instruments rack, adjust the levels, patch it to the desired plug-ins, and you’re ready to play and record.
The Control Room adds power and versatility to the mixer section. Now you can connect multiple sets of control room monitors and input external sources such as CD, DVD, or DAT, or an iPod to your hardware interface, then switch among them using a Control Room panel.
Control Room also gives you a talkback channel, independent headphone channels, and offers up to four different monitor mixes for real studio functionality.
The intuitive Play Order Track function gives you creative control over Cubase’s pattern-based arranging. You can divide your song into sections, and then shuffle and reshuffle the sections. It also allows you to compare alternate versions of tunes before you commit to a final arrangement.
Plug-ins by the dozen
Cubase 4 comes with a hefty collection of 33 new VST3 audio effects plug-ins, including vintage and multiband compression, voice doubling, a guitar amp modeler, and many more. These are in addition to 17 original Cubase SX effects that have been newly updated.
Also included are four formidable new instruments. HALion One features hundreds of acoustic orchestral instruments and includes waveforms from the Yamaha MOTIF. Prologue is a polyphonic subtractive synthesizer with filters and complex modulation effects. Spector specializes in spectrum filter synthesis for unusual, rich sonic textures. Mystic morphs physical modeling with comb filtering to generate a vast palette of aural colors.
Extended Audio Warp allows realtime time stretching and pitch shifting, and includes ACID file support. Imported loops automatically adopt a project’s tempo, audio files follow tempo changes, and you can listen to the effects of these changes while your track plays in real time.
User-definable workspaces let you organize your desktop with the functionality and look that you prefer. You can switch workspaces at will, as though you are working on different computers and monitors. An extended freeze function lets you make the most of your CPU’s power by freezing unused plug-ins and audio tracks—quite helpful when working with large plug-ins and samples. Even better, the new VST3 architecture only uses your CPU when there is an audio signal present, automatically saving tons of CPU power.
The music notation capabilities have been greatly enhanced, keeping all Cubase’s earlier features while adding new ones. Usability and workflow improvements are notably improved; the score menu is more compact and better organized; the symbol palettes have their own "inspector" tab displaying critical information at a glance; numerous dialog boxes have been combined for a sleeker, less cluttered workspace; drum settings are now incorporated into the main Drum Map Setup.
If you own any current Yamaha synth gear, you’ll be able to take advantage of the Studio Connections "Total Recall" support, integrating your software and hardware for a total visual studio. Open a project with Total Recall and you can re-create an entire studio setup in seconds.
Complete MIDI and audio recording, synthesis, editing, mixing, and sophisticated effects—Cubase 4 does it all very well. Created to work in sync with the processes that professional musicians, composers, and producers use when creating music, this latest version works more intuitively, efficiently, and conveniently than ever before. Cubase 4 and Studio 4 come loaded with many enhancements and extras that also give them extraordinary value. It’s a lot of audio firepower and it comes at a price that’ll make you smile.
Features & Specs
Cubase 4 & Cubase Studio 4 include
- Redesigned user interface
- Unlimited MIDI & audio tracks
- 33 new VST3 audio effects plug-ins
- Soundframe Universal Sound Manager
- Control Room enhanced mixing control
- Score Editor with setting dialog box
- Instrument Tracks
- Drag & Drop Insert effects
- Advanced Audiowarp realtime transpose
- Intuitive MIDI and audio hardware setup
- Windows/OSX compatible
Cubase 4 also includes
- 5.1 Surround with multichannel audio path
- Full Media Bay media management
- 20 additional VST3 plug-ins
- New channel EQ
- 128 additional inputs & outputs
- 2 additional mixer views
- External mixer effects