Steinberg Cubase 5 Advanced Production System Review

Feb 1, 2010 12:00 PM, By Jason Blum

New Plug-Ins, 64-Bit Operation, Advanced Live and Studio Tools

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REVerence is a new convolution plug-in that’s straightforward.

REVerence is a new convolution plug-in that’s straightforward.

Reverence

Convolution reverbs are nothing new, but Cubase has always been light on good reverbs, so the new REVerence plug-in is a welcome addition. REVerence includes more than 70 impulses that cover a wide assortment of sonic spaces, including genuine real-world locations and sampled rack gear.

REVerence's controls are, as with most convolution reverbs, less flexible than a standard reverb plug-in. Five parameters — including early reflections, pre-delay and size — are the only real adjustments available, although a 3-band EQ provides additional tonal shaping. Limited controls notwithstanding, REVerence produces outstanding results on par with any third-party convolution reverb, and the beautiful GUI makes switching presets quick and easy — very much like working with rack gear and far simpler than working with some other convolution plug-ins. The ability to import additional impulses makes REVerence a long-term keeper with plenty of potential for expansion and exploration.

Forward Thinking

Sixty-four-bit operating systems are steadily gaining market share, and large, multi-gigabyte, high-sample-rate libraries are demanding more of the increased memory space offered by these systems every day. Though it's unlikely that desktop computers offering the maximum 1 TB of memory that 64-bit operating systems offer will arrive anytime soon, Cubase 5 is nonetheless fully capable of using as much RAM as you can stuff into your PC, and if you're transitioning to 64-bit platforms, you'll enjoy complete backward compatibility with older 32-bit VST plug-ins. This means that studios heavily invested in legacy plug-ins won't be left with an arsenal of outdated tools. In relation to this, after talking with some Cubase 5 users who have moved to 64-bit, I heard about and then confirmed an issue in using Cubase's 32- to 64-bit wrapper for older VST plug-ins. However, this issue can be fixed by purchasing a third-party wrapper called JBridge, which is in some cases more reliable than Cubase's built-in wrapper.

Apple's OS X platform is still getting up to speed with native 64-bit capability, and as a result Cubase for Mac is still a 32-bit application. But Steinberg is slowly laying the groundwork for the 64-bit push by porting Cubase's underlying framework to the new Cocoa programming system. It won't impact the end-user experience anytime soon, and although compatible hardware is not yet available, Steinberg is planning for the inevitable transition.

Export Enhancements

One of the least conspicuous but most useful workflow updates I enjoyed in Cubase 5 is the channel batch-export facility in the Audio Mixdown menu. With little fanfare, Cubase 5 has quietly simplified creating track stems into a simple point-and-click procedure that can be done in minutes with what once took hours. The Track Export dialog now displays an explorer-style tree of tracks in the current project and a checkbox to select Channel Batch Export.

Batch exporting allows some or all of the project's discrete channels — including group, effects and ReWire tracks — to be exported to individual files in one fell swoop. All of the standard export dialog options, such as BWF tagging, channel splitting and project-import features, are still available in this mode. This will make life easier for anyone tasked with creating audio stems.

A True Value

Cubase 5 isn't a revolutionary upgrade. Instead, it's focused on adding extra value to a proven platform. The new version leans heavily on a batch of new plug-ins that often duplicate functions currently provided by third-party plug-ins, so if you have an overlapping stable of VST tools, you might not realize the same benefit in upgrading as someone who relies purely on Cubase's bundled plug-ins.

There aren't any absolute “must-haves” in Cubase 5's arsenal, but for many users there are compelling reasons to consider the upgrade: The addition of Vari-Audio is an outstanding feature that largely does away with the need for third-party tuning plug-ins; the REVerence convolution reverb is a top-notch addition to Cubase's reverbs; and the new rhythm plug-ins are an absolute blast to work with and make wonderful starting points for musical explorations.

Combine these features with numerous workflow optimizations, native 64-bit PC support and the wonderfully convenient Channel Batch Export, and you have a package that adds solid value and improves this DAW's already impressive game.


Jason Blum's current endeavors are focused on commercial mixing and mastering in his Los Angeles studio.






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