New Gear/New Toy Review: Steinberg Cubase Pro 10

Along with Cubase Pro 10, Steinberg also released Cubase Artist 10 and Cubase Elements 10--they all combine great audio quality with powerful MIDI tools for recording, editing and mixing music. Producer/songwriter David Gamson, a long-time Cubase/Nuendo user put a critical eye on Cubase Pro 10 for Music Connection's New Toys.

The first big upgrade in Cubase Pro 10 is VariAudio 3 with its myriad of "smart controls" for tweaking audio with more precision and in unique and creative ways. David says: "I used it to tune vocals that I would normally use Melodyne. But I was pleasantly surprised how quickly and intuitively the new controls worked. It is a huge improvement over the last version--it is more convenient and faster to do vocal tuning and compilation without going outside of Cubase."

The new MixConsole Snapshots feature allows the storage and instant recall of all the settings of the mixer channel strip controls including pre-amp, filters/gain/phase, inserts, EQs, sends, pan, and volume. You may store the entire mixer or any selected channels in Snapshots. You may try out completely different processing chains on tracks or group of tracks with a single click! During a mix, flipping between completely different processing on in a drum chain is possible.

Volume automation written to a track takes precedence over the Snapshot's volume position. If automation on a plug-in is in one snapshot but not in another, all the automation will be lost when you flip back and forth.

Cubase Pro 10 now has Audio Alignment built-in--a similar tool to Synchro Arts' VocAlign or Revoice Pro 4 software. It does not align pitch like Revoice Pro but it does align timing using one track as a reference with other track(s) conforming to it. David continues with: "I tried it on a stack of four unison backing vocals. First I tuned and time-corrected all the vocal tracks using VariAudio. Next I used the first track as reference and time-corrected the other three tracks together at the same time using Audio Alignment." Audio Alignment will also quickly tighten up double-tracked guitars and is a huge time saver.

Cubase Pro 10 makes setting up side-chains much easier. A new button in the VST3 plug-in GUI allows you to add side chain inputs from any track in the session directly from within the plug-in. There is no more need to set up bus paths from one track as a send to the side-chain input of another channel's plug-in. You now can see within the plug-in what is feeding its sidechain--that's all new and very useful.

Splitting the arrange page into multiple zones was introduced in earlier versions and David comments: "When the Right Zone Media Browser was initially introduced I was not sure it deserved so much valuable screen real estate but it has developed into an indispensable part of my workflow. Now control room access, samples, presets, metering, and plug-ins are all conveniently and quickly accessible. You can now see a list of your installed plug-ins in the Right Zone and simply drag any of them onto a track and it will insert into the next available slot on that track There is now a search window at the top of the zone--simply type in the name of the plug you're looking and up it comes."

The channel strip has also been redesigned in Cubase Pro 10--it looks better and the user interface functionality is improved. Modules can easily be dragged left and right to change the signal flow. You may freely drag any of the processor modules including: gate, compressor, EQ, de-esser, envelope shaper, three different saturators, and three different limiters around the strip. The entire strip may be placed before the channel inserts or after.

The three compressors available, standard, tube, and vintage all sound excellent and have side chain capability. The compressor GUI is expandable to show more parameters and the EQ works and looks similar to DMG's Equilibrium or FabFilter's Pro•Q2.

David says: "If you are a Cubase user, this update is a no brainer upgrade." Highly recommended! Cubase Pro 10 sells for $559 as download.