First Impressions – The first impression of Cubase is … fresh! Clearly Steinberg has given Cubase 5 a little spot of new paint. The overal layout is slightly darker which is more soothing on the eyes. But there is more that meets the eyes. As we attended the MusikMesse last year, Steinberg had explained the work they had done ‘under the hood’. They had rewritten much of the code for the visuals in Cubase which makes it more stable, plus they had done a lot of work on the audio engine and other processes that run in the background.
With a new version there are, of course, new features and plugins too. However, next to Logic (for example) Cubase still runs behind in the amount of plugins and instruments you get with the basic install. Nonetheless we want to go a bit deeper into these new features of Cubase 5. Here is our selection:
Beat Creation and Loop Mangling
The name says it all. These are a few new and some updated plugins for drums and beats. We start with a update of Groove Agent, called Groove Agent One (Groove Agent 3’s little brother). We really like this plugin. It was real easy to use plus you’ll get a huge amount of drum kits. But next to these drum kits you can setup your own kits with the samples from Steinberg or samples from your own collection.
And then there is LoopMash (you have to look for it, in the VSTi list beneath the synths). It is a beatslicer. You get 8 audio lanes in which you can drag your loops. LoopMash chops your loop into slices which you can then process and ‘mangle’. Very nice is the feature that Cubase automatically adjusts the tempo of the loop to your song/project tempo. Very useful! LoopMash lets you change the sequence of the slices in any which way, so you can rearrange a loop completely. This way you’ll get a complete different loop. It would have been even more great if you would be able to dedicate the slices to your (midi) keyboard. We think a missed chance for an even better plugin!
Another new plugin in the “Beat Creation” section is the Beatdesigner. Again quite selfexplanatory, it is a tool to design beats with. We find this function already with every Midi channel when you create a drum map. So … well, a bit redundant we think. On the other hand, if you are suffering a bit of lack of inspiration, Beatdesigner does have a lot of presets of drumpatterns for you to try out.
And now for something completely different
VariAudio. Wow! If you work a lot with vocals this is a really cool tool. It is an audiotool that lets you correct the pitch of vocals (or instruments). A comparison with Melodyne DNA or AutoTune is quickly made. Load your vocalsample/audiotrack into VariAudio and with just one ‘click’ Cubase calculates the pitch for every word/phrase. And here is where the FUN starts! Now you can adjust the pitch of every part of the vocal track. So if your singer just missed his or her pitch slightly, you can easily correct this. Of course not indefinately, because if the correction is too much it will sound digitally.
Something during our test VariAudio performed very well in, was the removal of inconvenient vibrato on vocals with Straighten Pitch. Especially with different backing vocals it is very hard to get the vibrato in sync.
Another feature in VariAudio is the PitchCorrect VST3 plugin. This plugin automatically pitches your vocals. Furthermore this tool enables you to tranpose your vocals easily.
REVerence is a fantastic new reverb effect plugin. This plugin contains several reverb models of studios, churches and concert halls. The result is a stunning natural sounding reverb. You can also add your own reverb models if necessary. REVerence does need its fair share of your CPU however. As we tested Cubase 5 on a quadcore computer there were no problems in running this plugin. The plugin has all the obligatory and necessary functions you would expect of a good reverb effect.
Cubase 5 gives you more control on your automation in your music project. With the new Automation Panel you can get a overview of the used automation in your project. It lets you monitor and change your automation (read and write) per track.
Another function is that you can place your keyeditor (per track) in your arranger field. So without changing screens/views, you can make changes in your midi tracks. Ideal for those who still work with just one monitorscreen.
Is that all on Cubase 5? No, there is lots more but the new features, functions and plugins mentioned above are the for us the most important ones.
It is clear to us that Steinberg has turned a new leaf with this Cubase update. As seasoned Cubase users through the years we think this version is a real improvement and with the new features it only got better. Are there no weaknesses? Probably, but you will find these more on a personal level. One user will find a new plugin very useful, where the other one doesn’t see the purpose of. But again, in the end we can say we were very pleased with version 5 of Cubase.