This month finally saw the release of Cubase SX/SL 3.1, the highly-anticipated free update for v3 users that contains many interesting new features, such as a facility that allows hardware synths to be better integrated into Cubase SX, so that they can be used in the same way as VST Instruments. This feature was discussed in August's Cubase Notes, and after that column was published someone asked on the SOS Forum what the new external instrument integration would mean for Gigastudio, saying that they assumed one would continue to use this application with Cubase via Rewire.
This is absolutely correct if you're running Gigastudio on the same computer as Cubase: Rewire is the most practical way to integrate Gigastudio into Cubase. There are some interesting alternatives if you're running Gigastudio on a second machine, however, because in this case you could set up Gigastudio as an External Instrument in Cubase SX — or eight External Instruments if you want to address all of Gigastudio 3's available ports. However, a better option for those wishing to integrate Gigastudio into Cubase and have it run in the same way as a VST instrument is to consider FX-Max's Giga Teleport (www.fx-max.com/gt/), which enables you to run a VST instrument-based client in Cubase that communicates to your Gigastudio machine via a network.
The Giga Teleport VST instrument streams MIDI data from Cubase to Gigastudio, and receives audio data from Gigastudio that is piped straight into the Cubase mixer. The best thing is that, since all the connections are Ethernet-based, you won't need to purchase a MIDI interface or an audio card for your Gigastudio computer. In this configuration, Giga Teleport costs just $119.
Further to September's column, in which we were discussing Preferences, there are some great new options in 3.1, such as the new cross-hair feature, which can be configured from the Editing Tools page in the Preferences window. Once the feature is enabled, dragging objects in the Project or an editor window causes Cubase to draw horizontal and vertical lines from the object itself to the edges of the Event Display, to help you line up the object you're dragging. This makes it much easier to see which track an event is on when you're dragging in the Project window, for example, or lining up an object against the time ruler.
The appearance of the cross-hair can be configured by setting the colour used for the main line. I found that a bright colour, such as red, is most helpful. You can also define whether it should be dotted, and the mask colour and width. (The mask is the area that surrounds the main cross-hair line.)
One particularly interesting under-the-bonnet change in Cubase SX/SL 3.1 is improved multi-processing support, so that audio processing can now be distributed across more than two processors: particularly handy for running a dual-processor system based on dual-core chips. This gives four processor cores with which to run plug-in effects and instruments, and means that the system can internally calculate the processing of up to four tasks simultaneously. For those already used to running dual-processor machines, early reports are that dual-processor, dual-core systems give you almost double that processing power.
If you want to buy a dual-processor, dual-core system right now, your choice is limited to AMD's dual-core Opteron chips, which do seem to be giving great performance. Both AMD and Intel are shipping single-processor, dual-core chips, such as the Athlon 64 X2 and Pentium D, and Intel have already announced their plans for dual-core Xeons (which will be capable of multi-processing). While few musically-orientated suppliers are yet dealing with dual-core Opteron systems at present, larger manufacturers, such as HP, are already shipping suitable workstations. Although I haven't tried the dual-core models yet, I used some older single-core, dual-processor Opteron HP XW9300 workstations running Cubase SX 3 recently with great success, in conjunction with RME Hammerfall DSP 9652 cards.
SE 3 Stands Alone
Steinberg released Cubase SE 3 last month as part of the Studio Case 2 bundle and has now announced that this baby version of Cubase will be available to purchase separately in October (without the SE versions of Steinberg's popular plug-ins included in the Studio Case bundle).
Available for both Mac and Windows platforms, Cubase SE 3 offers 48 audio tracks, unlimited MIDI tracks and a video track, 16 VST Instrument slots, five insert effects and eight send effects per channel, plus Rewire 2 and VST System Link support.