Steinberg Nuendo 5 DAW Software Review

Oct 25, 2010 6:03 PM, By Chuck Ainlay



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Nuendo 5’s Mixer features the new Waveform view.

Nuendo 5’s Mixer features the new Waveform view.

I started using Nuendo about 11 years ago, back when state-of-the-art, tape-based digital recording systems like Sony’s PCM-3348 seemingly became obsolete overnight. You had a choice: Use Pro Tools, or die the slow, painful death of becoming an irrelevant recording engineer. There were other DAW options at the time, but computers were slow and not very powerful, so host-based DAWs struggled. Pro Tools offered a complete, proprietary system of software, hardware interfaces and DSP cards that made up for the deficiencies of the computer. There seemed to be little concern about how it sounded, as everyone just bought into the idea that it was digital, so it must be perfect. To me, Digi’s 888 converter was far from perfect, and I was in search of something better.


Video: Nuendo 5

I heard a demo of Nuendo 1.5 and sonically I was blown away. Everybody wants great sound, right? Well, Nuendo 1.5 had its share of problems, like crashing in the middle of a great take while tracking, but because I always seem to support the underdog, I stuck with Steinberg. Here we are all these years later with the release of Nuendo 5, which is solid and loaded with great new features.

I should say up front that Nuendo 5 caters to the desires of post users, and the post engineer will find many new benefits. A post engineer I’m not, although I’ve found many features like direct busing useful for music production. I’ll touch briefly on Nuendo’s post functions, but will mostly restrict this review to features for studio recording.

Steinberg has always been 100-percent committed to backward compatibility, and V. 5 is no exception. I can still open one of my V. 1 projects in 5 without issues. In fact, I can still use all of the same plug-ins and hardware interfaces that I purchased all those years ago. Installation on my dual-core PC running AMD’s latest 12-core chips (a total of 24 cores) was no problem. My entire plug-in, preference and template sets were automatically brought over.

Reassuringly, I didn’t have to uninstall V. 4 to install V. 5, but I haven’t looked back since doing so. All the great features like Lanes, Folder tracks, unlimited levels of undo, volume handles on each region, drawing volume curves directly on the region and the grooviest of all Zoom approaches have been retained. Many of these features have been copied by the competition.

Version 5 uses a brand-new mix engine. I initially thought this might mean sonic improvement (how could it though?), but what it really means is a lower CPU drain due to better optimization of the multicore processors. There’s a new Native Video engine that works with the new Scrubbing engine for super-smooth functionality while editing. Once you get going, V. 5 is immediately familiar to the V. 4 user and the learning curve is minimal. The most obvious change is a new easy-on-the-eyes look, with softer graphics and fonts that are less “childish”-looking. It’s so similar that I foolishly jumped right into a full-on Nashville tracking session; fortunately, there were no hiccups and no one was the wiser.

Nuendo has always come packaged with a complete plug-in suite and a mixer with highly useful EQ on every channel. Nuendo 5 adds a few new, high-quality VST 3 plug-ins. Most impressive is the new convolution reverb called REVerence. Its presets have all the expected IRs, including Halls, Rooms, Small Rooms and Plates. You can also import your favorite IRs and use them with this interface. Pitch Driver, another new plug-in, is a type of harmony processor with a width control, and last is Pitch Correct, a plug-in that’s similar to Auto-Tune. It has an additional Formant function that can maintain the integrity of the human voice through pitch change or manually be exaggerated to make an older person sound younger, a female voice sound male, or vice versa.

In addition to Pitch Correct there’s also a tuning function called VariAudio. It’s unbelievably easy to use: Double-click on the file region, click on the Pitch & Warp tab under VariAudio, and Nuendo automatically analyzes the track’s pitch. This is very similar to the Celemony Melodyne approach. Each segment can then be highlighted and adjusted with two variable sliders, one for quantizing the pitch and the other for straightening. A judicious amount of either or both can correct pitch discrepancies without dehumanizing and leaving the blue notes intact. And as VariAudio is part of the program, auditioning can occur in solo or within the mix.

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