Steinberg Cubase 6 review

21 Mar 2011

An ambitious update with big improvements for editing live recordings and boosting the quality of MIDI performances

Price when reviewed 
466
5

Of all the major music-production software we’ve tested, Cubase is the one we use for our own musical projects. We tried switching to Ableton Live but the fling didn’t last – while it's a powerful compositional aide that’s packed with inspiring features, it can’t compete with Cubase for recording and editing live performances.

For Cubase 6, Steinberg has played to the software’s strengths. The new features read like our personal wish list, speeding up common, laborious tasks and boosting the quality of recordings.

One such timesaver is tempo detection. Recording to a click track makes subsequent editing easier, but it can be prohibitive for musicians and removes the subtle tempo changes that breathe life into a performance. With Cubase 6, it’s now possible to record without a click track, and then automatically map the project’s tempo to the recording.

Steinberg Cubase 6

It wasn’t perfect in our tests, struggling with dramatic changes, but fixing these sections manually was far quicker than the fully manual approach we’ve resorted to in the past.

Cubase 6 also takes the graft out of tidying up sloppy timing in instrumental performances. This previously involved slicing either side of the offending note, adjusting its timing and creating crossfades for seamless transitions.

Cubase now does it all automatically, and can even identify and fix notes that are out of time by a prescribed amount, leaving others untouched. Best of all, it knows to treat multi-mic recordings such as drum kits as a single unit, avoiding any risk of synchronisation and phase problems.

These automatic edits needed to be auditioned carefully to make sure they were successful, but most were. Accessing this feature is far from intuitive, though, to the extent that most users will probably never find it.

It’s also of limited use in conjunction with the automatic tempo detection, which adds tempo changes per beat and therefore assumes the recording is always perfectly in time. An option to generate tempo changes per bar would be more useful.

Steinberg Cubase 6

Cubase 6’s beat detection can be put to various other uses, including audio-to-MIDI conversion. Bolstering acoustic drum recordings with samples is a great way to beef them up or send them into experimental territory, and now it couldn’t be easier.

The trigger is based on volume and timing (to avoid double-triggers) but not frequency, so sadly it can’t distinguish between kick and snare drums in a stereo mix. It worked perfectly for multi-mic drum recordings, although using it in conjunction with the audio quantize function described above was clumsy.

Details

Price ex VAT £388
Price inc VAT £466
Overall rating 5
Ease of Use rating 4
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 5
Software subcategory Audio production software

Operating system support

Operating system Windows Vista supported? no
Operating system Windows XP supported? no
Operating system Linux supported? no
Operating system Mac OS X supported? yes
Other operating system support none