Steinberg Cubase 6 Review

Jul 1, 2011 9:00 AM, By Troy "atom" Frank



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Cubase 6 features a redesigned GUI with mouse roll-overs presenting parameters instantly.

Cubase 6 features a redesigned GUI with mouse roll-overs presenting parameters instantly.

At first glance, Cubase 6 looks and feels different, but not too different. It has a more transparent, cleaner look, and you have additional options to customize the appearance of the controls and meters. That’s all for the good, but alone it’s not enough to ask users to upgrade. Today’s DAW owner wants more features, more power and more interoperability, and Cubase 6 delivers.

I immediately liked the fact that when I moved my mouse over the parts (regions), they became active instantly. No more clicking first, then doing part-based editing: Rolling your mouse around a part highlights your edit options. I can’t speak highly enough about this instant gratification. There also is a quick-control window that gives direct access to about every track parameter you might need, and it’s become much easier to directly access MIDI Learn with VST3 plug-ins.

The big kick is not only the interfacing, but also the addition of extensive drum-editing features. Steinberg has worked hard at improving transient detection, allowing for better and more accurate drum editing. With this comes edit grouping to keep your live drums in phase—something that has been missing for far too long in Cubase. In addition, Cubase 6 adds easier vocal comping, a slew of guitar amp simulations and one of the most impressive MIDI features I’ve ever seen: VST Expression, which allows different MIDI articulations on individual notes.

Cubase 6 now has the tools necessary for improving drum performances and sounds. It has a new “phase-accurate” drum-editing workflow that incorporates several new features. Pro Tools users will find all of this familiar, and maybe that’s the intention.

When working with drums, grouping a live kit into an edit group keeps all of the drums in phase. This is easily accomplished in Cubase 6. You simply make a Track folder, select all of your drum tracks and drop them in. Better yet, select the drums, right-click and select “move selected tracks to new folder.” On your folder track, you now have a new button for making the tracks in the folder an edit group. Any editing done to the tracks will be applied to all the tracks in the folder and keep them phase-accurate.

Now that we have an edit group, let’s test out the new multitrack drum-quantize feature. The panel is very intuitive and easy to use. Enabling hit points on at least one track allows Cubase 6 to use this as a reference. This also gives users the ability to apply varying quantized “strengths” to multiple tracks.

On a song I used for testing, it worked best to move my kick, snare and hi-hat to the top of the group. Adding hit points was simple and streamlined, with great graphics, making it easy to set a threshold for detection of transients and away from drum bleed. As the kick, snare and hi-hat are the most solid beat indicators in this song, I applied hit points to them. Once this was done, the rest was easy. The top section of multitrack quantize has “slice rule,” whereby you can set the strength/detection priority to tracks. So when you quantize, Cubase looks at those tracks as a starting point for all of the slices created in the grouped tracks. (This is similar to generating beat triggers in Pro Tools’ Beat Detective.)

Next I selected Slice (region separate), which cuts the parts into smaller parts from the hit points. Quantize (region conform), which has several user options, will move these new parts and line them up to the grid. Of course, doing this will leave gaps in-between some, if not all of your parts. To compensate for that, your final step is to Crossfade (edit smooth), eliminating the gaps and chances of pops and clicks that happen when cutting parts.

It worked great, though it already feels like old-school technology, especially once you have worked with the likes of Elastic Audio. (Cubase 6 has new algorithms for its Elastique audio.) The problem is that you still need to work in song sections. Be very careful with drum fills and especially cymbals. Once you chop room tone, decay or cymbals, etc., this older way of cutting regions just doesn’t work. To get the best results, I broke the song into song form, separating each section into its own set of parts, including drum fills, and dealt with each section individually with different quantize settings, then dragged out any parts that were being cut off too soon.

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