Steinberg Cubase Elements 6 review
More limited than the software it replaces, but still an excellent starting place for ambitious musicians on a budget
Review Date: 7 Jun 2011
Reviewed By: Ben Pitt
Price when reviewed: £67 (£80 inc VAT)
Features & Design
Value for Money
Ease of Use
For those in the business of designing low-cost creative software, taking a professional application and stripping out some advanced features is often a recipe for success. However, striking the right balance between features and price can be difficult.
For Steinberg, this challenge seems to be taking its toll. As the full-price version of Cubase 6 goes from strength to strength, version 6 marks yet another rebranding of the entry-level version, now going by the name, Cubase Elements.
It's a little cheaper than Cubase Essentials 5, which it ostensibly replaces. However, there's no discounted upgrade for existing users – hardly surprising when you consider that, in some respects, moving from Essentials 5 to Elements 6 constitutes a downgrade. Many of the maximum track counts have decreased: audio tracks from 64 to 48, MIDI tracks from unlimited to 64, group channels from 256 to 16 and physical inputs from 32 to 24. We were able to open projects created in Essentials 5 but any elements that exceeded these thresholds could not be modified.
Cubase Essential users will need to upgrade to the mid-price Cubase Artist 6 in order to avoid these limitations. At least this upgrade is reasonably priced at £85. To add further confusion, buying Cubase Elements plus an upgrade to Cubase Artist costs £85 less than buying Cubase Artist outright. Those who want the flagship Cubase 6 can save £130 through an elaborate string of upgrade deals.
While Cubase Elements is a non-starter for existing users, there's plenty here to tempt people who are looking to move beyond consumer-orientated recording software.
The interface is fundamentally identical to the full version of Cubase, with smart graphics and responsive navigation controls that zoom from a project overview to sample-level editing in a fraction of a second. The core recording, editing and mixing tools are well specified and refined, with sophisticated MIDI quantising, variable time signatures and tempos, plus lots of smart design flourishes that help users keep on top of complex projects.
Whilst I agree with everything Ben says in his excellent review. He seems to have not mentioned the fact that all versions of Cubase 6 can only be run on Windows 7 (although I've seen an entry in a Cubase forum that claims that they have successfully run it on XP). I am an essential 5 user and as Ben says elements 6 would be a downgrade for me. The upgrade path for me would be Artist 6 which is reasonably priced but with only a few advantages over essential 5 combined with the added cost of a windows upgrade from XP I won't be making any changes for the forseeable future.
By Ray_W on 28 Jun 2011
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