Test: Steinberg Cubase Pro 9

With the reliability of a clockwork, Steinberg brings a new, large version of its sequencer flagship Cubase Pro onto the market every two years. Version 9 has now been reached. Here you can find out what the new Cubase has in stock and whether an upgrade is worthwhile. 

Highlights of Cubase 9 are the new, comfortable one-window operation, which is made possible by the so-called “Lower Zone” in the main window, the sampler with its own track and matching library “Caleidoscope”, a new eight-band equalizer with MS processing and Audio inputs for VST3 instruments. But that’s not all cubase 9 activation code free
At the same time as Cubase Pro 9, the slimmed-down version Cubase Artist 9, which is aimed at musicians and songwriters, as well as Cubase Elements 9 for beginners. 

history

When Steinberg released the 24-track MIDI sequencer Twenty Four for the Atari ST in the mid-eighties, the young German development team led by Karl Steinberg, Werner Kracht and Manfred Rürup triggered a revolution in music production: Suddenly, MIDI-capable synthesizers were possible and synchronize rhythm machines and create extensive compositions using editable MIDI sequences. To do this, you previously needed a 24-track tape machine and musicians with a fixed timing.
But nobody would have expected at the time the extent to which the capabilities of the sequencer software would increase, driven by the unbridled creativity of the developers and increasingly powerful computers. In 1989 the development of Cubase began, with which arrangements were visualized over time on the screen for the first time. This was followed by Steinberg’s VST interface for integrating digital audio software and the ASIO audio engine (both in 1996), which to this day have played the role of an industry standard. Since the late nineties, the recording studio’s MIDI computers have gradually been turned into audio workstations. Thanks to VST, third-party providers were able to develop virtual effects and instruments that are now increasingly competing with expensive hardware and constantly opening up new possibilities.

scope

Cubase Pro 9 offers almost any number of audio and MIDI tracks and support for 5.1 surround until the processors pull the rip cord, supplemented by a virtual control room for headphone mixes and the switching of monitor systems. The mixer with a large number of channel presets can be largely configured to meet individual requirements. Cubase Pro 9 offers more than 80 effects for sound shaping, mixing and mastering. In addition, there are instruments that range from full virtual-analog synthesizers such as Retrologue to contemporary drums (Groove Agent SE), crazy sequences made of loop mesh and experimental surfaces from Padshop. The AudioWarp function has long made it possible to quantize audio tracks, while VariAudio 2 is used for extensive post-processing of vocals.

Cubase Pro 9 Lower Zone
The new Lower Zone enables Cubase Pro 9 to work in a window.

New in Cubase Pro 9

With the new Cubase versions, Steinberg not only surprised many with innovative new features, but also repeatedly considered the wishes of the users. This is also the case this time. Version 9 counteracts, among other things, the frequently voiced criticism that Cubase, as a “dinosaur”, is hardly manageable for beginners.

One-window layout

Cubase Pro 9 does indeed look slimmer without throwing important functions or detailed editing overboard. The new one-window layout, which has also found its way into Cubase Artist 9 and Cubase Elements 9, is decisive for the faster workflow. With just a few clicks of the mouse, you can quickly access the mixer or the editors within the project window, which are displayed in a scalable manner in the newly created lower area. If you want to edit an audio or MIDI track, you no longer have to switch to the respective editor, which then covers the main window, but open it by clicking on the track pattern. The chord pads, which can be assigned chords, and the new sampler can also be opened in the Lower Zone.

History

The new history concerns operations in the mixer and is located there in the form of a column with the entries for all work steps, such as parameter changes of the effects involved, fader positions, moving or loading plug-ins. So it is not only possible in a simple way to restore previous processing stages if one has moved in the wrong direction. Alternative machining processes can also be compared with one another on the fly.

Cubase Pro 9 Mix Console
The Mix Console now has a history that provides information about the processing progress and can undo old work steps.

New and enhanced Cubase effects

A brand new eight-band equalizer can be found under the name “Frequency”. Each of the fully parametric bands with a possible deviation of up to 30 dB has four to nine different filter types, a linear-phase operating mode and, in addition to conventional stereo operation, can also be used in MS mode, i.e. for separate processing of mid and side signals. This makes it possible, for example, to make a bass drum more powerful and fuller in the stereo center, to work out the attack of a snare or to make the solo vocals brighter and more transparent without unintentionally influencing the bass of the synthesizer surfaces or the cymbals of the drums in the side channel. Conversely, the spatial information or effects that are primarily found in the side channel, can be emphasized or weakened and their timbre can be influenced without changing the central instruments and the vocals. A real-time display of the frequency curve and solo functions for the individual bands facilitate analytical processing. A keyboard in the lower line shows the assignment of notes to physical frequencies.
Frequency is an all-rounder that sounds musical without giving the signal its own special coloring. It is also suitable for difficult mastering tasks, such as narrow-band filtering out of interference signals or attenuating dominant resonances. Other effects have been revised for Cubase 9 and some of them have new functions. While the compressor, brickwall limiter, expander, envelope shaper and gate have been designed graphically more generously and modernly with the same functionality, the mini plug-in AutoPan has become a full-blown panner, where you can draw any course using anchor points and can start effective journeys through the stereo panorama.
The Maximizer has also been redesigned and expanded: to increase the loudness, a new algorithm called “New Modern Mode” is now available in addition to the Classic operating mode, which is specially designed for contemporary rock / pop and dance productions. With New Modern an astonishing increase in loudness is achieved without loss of transparency or the impression of a signal that has been thrown flat. Especially transients and details in the higher frequency range are retained. The Maximizer now also offers more precise level displays for input and output and level reduction.

Cubase Pro 9 Auto Pan
Some of the included effects have been visually enhanced and – for example in the case of AutoPan – equipped with new functions.

Sampler

In the new sampler, you can drag your own audio clips, audio events from the media bay or audio patterns directly from project tracks. In the Sampler Control window in the Lower Zone, an audio clip is dragged onto the keyboard (multisamples are not possible), transposed if necessary, given a start and end point or played as a loop – forwards, alternately or backwards. Via audio warp, the sampler has time stretching, a synchronization of beats and loops to the song tempo and a formant transposition. Samples can be assigned to an original key (root key), played legato or with portamento, arranged in a panorama and modeled with a resonance-capable multimode filter with upstream saturation / distortion and its own envelope curve with many anchor points. Parameter changes can be recorded as animation. The sampler is played via its own MIDI track (sampler track). With easy-to-use and effective means, you can also create highly distorted audio clips in no time at all, which you can even transfer directly to Groove Agent SE or HALion for further processing using the transfer button.
Also included is a well-stocked sample library, Caleidoscope, which lives up to its name: what is on offer here is colorful, inspiring and refreshing. So you come across atmospheres and textures, effect sounds and filter paintings of all colors and moods, plus angelic choirs floating through the universe.
Tonal material is available in the form of marked chords and can also be transferred directly from the Cubase Sound Browser to Groove Agent 4 SE via drag and drop. There are also ready-made patches for the sampler. The Caleidoscope-Library aims at film and game scoring, ambient and can also enrich modern club / dance projects with splashes of color and listening effects.

Production grooves

In line with the versatility of Caleidoscope, Steinberg Cubase Pro 9 has donated more than 400 new drum grooves, which cover all common genres from country to rock, pop and disco to dark ambient and trap and are intended for the integrated Groove Agent 4 SE. What distinguishes these grooves is a superb microtiming and a pointed dynamic. So it really grooves – not a lifeless machine beat.

Cubase Pro 9 Frequency
The new eight-band frequency equalizer enables MS processing.

Audio-in for VST3 instruments

Instruments in VST3 format that have a sidechain path, such as the subtractive synthesizer Retrologue, can now be fed with audio material as alternative sound sources to the oscillators. For example, EDM beats with tempo-synchronized LFO-modulated filters can be alienated and polyrhythmic sequences can be implemented using the internal sequencer from Retrologue. New worlds of sound will open up here if third-party suppliers of potent synthesizers incorporate this option into their next updates.

Marker tracks

Cubase Pro 9 now offers up to ten marker tracks with which areas can be defined within projects and these can be exported as group mixes. So you can easily create stems for remixes.

Cubase Pro 9 blacklist
32-bit and stability-threatening third-party plug-ins are now on a blacklist.

Ballast thrown overboard

Cubase should now be run as a 64-bit host in (almost) all studios. Steinberg is therefore finally abolishing 32-bit compatibility with Cubase Pro 9 in order to maximize the stability of the program. When the program starts, the new scanner plug-in Sentinel checks all plug-ins in the paths specified by the manufacturer. If plug-ins are stored elsewhere, these must be entered manually using the plug-in manager.
32-bit plug-ins appear on a blacklist and are no longer loaded. 64-bit plug-ins that Sentinel identifies as problematic also appear here. Some VST2 plug-ins from iZotope and Vienna Symphonic Library actually landed on our test system. Fortunately, these were all available in VST3 variants. 

Collaboration through the cloud

VST Connect SE 4 (Cubase Pro 9 only cubase pro 9 activation code free) allows joint recording sessions across continents – provided you have a fast internet connection. Projects can be exchanged using VST Transit, whereby VST3 plug-ins from third-party providers are now also taken into account.

Conclusion

There were no big sensations in this Cubase update. However, the numerous small innovations also prove to be ingenious. Thanks to Sentinel, Cubase has become much more stable as problematic plug-ins from third-party providers are now filtered out. The departure from 32-bit is also a logical step into the world of modern computers and operating systems.
Setting up the Lower Zone speeds up work significantly and provides an overview, even if you are only working with one monitor. The history is an enormous help when mixing, with which you can still make a comparison to the starting point and every single intermediate step even after extensive changes to the sound design. The full-blown Equalizer Frequency with eight bands and MS processing proves to be an excellent sounding, effective tool for mixing and mastering.
The sampler invites you to sound experiments and is very easy to use. With Caleidoscope, film music composers and dance / club artists can look forward to a library full of sound painting effect sounds, while the new production grooves for Groove Agent 4 SE deliver lively and production-ready beats for all common genres. Cubase Pro 9 successfully defends its position among the top sequencers with this update. Both the update and the full version are offered at a reasonable price.

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