Opening Cubase 7 for the first time was actually quite a shock! There have been a lot of GUI improvements and as a long time user, who also happened to skip version 6 altogether, it took a while to get used to the new layout. My initial impression was how intensely complicated Cubase has become and that it isn’t necessarily a criticism to say so.
Having years of experience with the platform allowed me to find my bearings fairly quickly and to appreciate some of the additions to Cubase’s already fat arsenal of audio and midi tools. Although, I couldn’t help thinking that a completely green user might end up with a monobrow from staring at the screen.
Great new features
The interface has some great new features that make it easier to keep your project organised. Things like track icons and full drag and drop support for channel elements definitely help to speed up the workflow. Other useful bits include A/B function on all channels and a global bypass for effects.
Under the hood Steinberg are touting the new ASIO-Guard system, designed to help prevent dropouts. Everything seems to run smoothly so far on the machine I’ve run Cubase 5 on for years.
There are far too many new features to cover them all, so I’ll look in detail at the ones that stood out for me.
MixConsole is a complete overhaul of the classic mixer found in previous Cubase versions. Whereas the old mixer always seemed like just another way of viewing the current project, MixConsole adds some very useful features indeed.
The visibility/zone column allows you to control which tracks you see in the console window, a feature borrowed from Protools, but quite cleverly implemented in Cubase 7.
Almost every aspect of the current project is accessible from MixConsole and the layout is clean and well designed. Switching between inserts, sends, EQ and routing is seamless.
A lot of thought has gone into this layout. It is now far simpler to see what’s going on with the current project, and mix decisions can be quickly implemented without having to move back and forth between MixConsole and the project window.
A particularly handy feature is the Equalizer Curve, which lets you alter a channel’s EQ without having to leave the MixConsole view.
The new Channel Strip feature is available in MixConsole and channel view, and it means that every channel is now ‘ready to go’ with compression, noise gating, limiting, saturation etc. built in, and I’m honestly somewhat conflicted about this new feature.
What I’ve always loved about Cubase is the simple integration of 3rd party VST plug-ins. Cubase’s bundled plug-ins were always available in and among my 3rd party plug-ins but with Channel Strip, it seems Steinberg are pushing their own plug-ins a little too hard.
In all fairness, the Channel Strip will most likely prove its worth in the long run, especially in projects where track counts are high, CPU usage is peaking and options are few.
All in all, MixConsole is an astoundingly useful upgrade.
VariAudio was one of my favourite new features introduced in version 5, and version 7 sees a long awaited update in VariAudio 2.0. Many of the problems that made VariAudio a tad fiddly have been dealt with, including improved note detection.
What I’ve always liked about VariAudio is it’s versatility, able to handle everything from basic, true sounding pitch correction all the way up to mangled, forced correction effects.
Most importantly, VariAudio 2.0 now integrates with Cubase 7’s Chord Track, which effectively works as a melodic/pitch specific quantize for your current project.
Chord Track works by either detecting the chords based on available midi info in the project or allowing the user to input the chord changes manually. With Chord Track enabled, the melodic content of the project can be effectively locked to those chords.
I can see how useful something like this might be, although it runs counter to how I usefully compose and produce. For instance, VariAudio 2.0 can use the information in Chord Track to produce harmonies from existing vocal or instrument parts. The results are quite android sounding as Cubase attempts to squeeze the audio into a different key, but with a bit of tweaking this could prove to be a very useful tool.
VST Connect SE
Another feature worth mentioning is VST Connect SE, allowing users to collaborate on projects over the web. Video and audio support make it an exciting prospect, one I hope to test out fully soon.
As part of Steinberg’s attempt to create a more engaged Cubase online community, Steinberg Hub opens as the default screen when launching Cubase 7. Here, you’ll find news, tutorials, downloads and user forums making interaction with the company far simpler. Hopefully this is a sign of the new Steinberg, and better tech support.
Cubase 7 is an excellent upgrade packed with useful new features and tools, and though it may seem unwieldy to the uninitiated, it is built with Cubase users in mind. Many of the previous workflow issues have been streamlined and tools that kind-of worked have been updated and improved. After almost 7 years as a Cubase user, Steinberg continues to surprise me by including features that I actually need.
- Paul Rez is a multi award winning composer and producer originally from South Africa, now living and working in London, UK. As a producer, Paul has worked with renowned artists such as Lana Del Rey, Scratch (The Roots), Bryn Christopher and Cofield Mundi, and is currently producing hotly tipped newcomers for 2013 including 2ForJoy and Vuvuvultures.
As a composer, Paul has collaborated with global brands including MTV, National Geographic, Discovery Channel and Ford producing bespoke compositions for short films, documentaries and adverts. In addition, Paul is an accomplished sound designer, recently releasing the highly acclaimed Analogue Witchcraft sample collection in collaboration with Samplephonics.
Paul Rez (Ressel) Portfolio
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