Rubik's Revenge - A Look at Steinberg Cubase

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A brief look at Steinberg's Cubase and what sets it apart of the competition.

Hi Folks. Thought I'd give you a brief introduction to Steinberg's Cubase. I've been using the program for a while now, and I really like it. As you know, most of the popular audio programs/sequencers handle recording audio and manipulating MIDI information. I'm going to focus on some of the unique things that I think really makes Cubase stand out. And some of the things I just plain like.

Many people, after becoming familiar with the computer,start working around the mouse. This seems especially true if you work on a computer for a living. Not only does Cubase have many of these keystroke shortcuts, but it allows you to program your favorites (or all of 'em) to keys you designate. All of the transport functions(y'know, stop, record etc.) are on the numerical keypad as well, with "stop" occupying the spacer bar as well. This is especially handy when recording overly noisy sources, such as a guitar or bass with single coil pickups, or maybe a transformerless mic. This allows you to turn off your computer monitor while tracking, thus eliminating a huge source of electronic pollution.

While we're on customization, you can make it look real pretty to. Anything from wallpaper off the net, to changing the track colors for instruments, changing the physical height of tracks based on importance to you, even colors based on velocity.

The next feature I'd like to mention, is virtual instruments. I'll be the first to admit I'm one of those guys that belive you need different instruments and amps to get different sounds. So far, most modeling to my ears has come close, but not close enough. That all changed with Steinberg's virtual instruments. I use the LM4 whenever I need a drum machine. The wizoo kits are sampled at 24 bits, plus other kits available, that hit your RAM a little more gently. I recently had an old friend over (drummer in a band I was in) and he couldn't believe it was a drum machine until I pulled up the interface, and let him play around with it. This is a drummer with studio recording experience. 'Nuff said.

Other VST instruments include a minimoog, a Waldorf (the synth sounds on Rush's "Moving Pictures"), Another drum machine that sounds like the Lynn, and the two standouts to my ears, a Prophet 5 and a Hammond organ. These two are really jaw dropping, and you can even run other VST instruments through the organ's Leslie.

Steinberg just came out with a software sampler, and not only does this have great sounds, but it also imports samples from Akai, Emu and just added, Gigasampler, as well as wav and aiff files. Neato.

I'm sure if any of you read my sound card advice, you know I'm always harping on getting a set of S/PDIFs, to run your sounds out to an outboard reverb. Couldn't be easier in Cubase. You can either run the sounds out of a bus (as many buses as your sound card has outs), or you can route your effect sends out to your S/PDIFs, or, analog outs, for that matter. This would give you a reverb send just like on a board, in your computer. On the topic of effects,the included ones are quite good. Many feel that Magneto is about the best emulation of tape saturation, and I agree. The new EQ is wonderful sounding, and the new reverb is a big improvement. The compressors, echos and the like are all included to get you tracking. Of course, Cubase also supports third party plug ins, in the usual formats. If you can get your favorite plug in VST format however, it will use less juice from your computer.

The other sound quality feature I'd like to mention is the 32 bit recording. This works with most 24 bit sound cards, and sounds great. It was one of those "great revelation" moments for me. While in 32 bit mode, it is the closest I've heard recorded music to sounding live. Makes you hate to dither to burn. Oh, and when you do have to dither, VST32 comes with apogee dithering. Considered the best in the biz, and formerly a separate program that went for about a grand.

In closing, I 'd just like to say that the sound quality is just plain great. I've heard from a couple of people who have used Cakewalk as well, and they say it just sounds better. I've also heard that Cubase is difficult. I didn't have any major problems, and the support is great. Besides a user website at, you can call the company and get live answers to your questions. They were quite patient with me as well as solving my problems when I took advantage of this. If your looking at software, you owe it to yourself and to your recordings to audition Steinberg's Cubase. Keep your levels at -1, and good luck. George.

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