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NAMM 2011: Cubase 6

Steinberg's DAW gets major update

In addition to the new features and, of course, the obligatory eye-candy (the mixer, for example, looks much more Nuendo-like, and you can customise the user interface more than before), Cubase 6 incorporates a number of under-the-hood tweaks that have important implications for potential upgraders with regard to system compatibility. Most notably, Cubase 6 can now be installed as a native 64-bit application on OS X v10.6, vastly increasing the amount of RAM that it can address. Cubase 6 ships with 32-bit and 64-bit installers for both OS X and Windows, but users of Windows XP should be aware that their operating system isn’t explicitly supported — though some users have apparently had success installing and running the DAW on XP.<strong>Cubase 6's new UI</strong>

Onto the more exciting new features, then, of which Track Edit Groups is certainly one. This allows you to link multiple audio events, like multi-tracked drums, for example, such that they behave as one clip and can be edited together. More new features that are sure to delight people who work with drum performances include a new audio quantizing tool: with a Track Edit Group created, this tool will chop up all the audio clips in that group, and then shift the transients therein, such that they are not only in time with your project, but in phase with all the other audio in that Edit Group. The transient detection algorithm used to achieve this can, of course, also be applied to single tracks, and it can be filtered to best cope with the material you have recorded.

Drum replacement is now much easier, thanks to a new Hitpoint-to-MIDI function, which analyses a selection of audio, and then creates a new MIDI track with a single MIDI note for every hitpoint it has detected in your selection.

Cubase 6 also has the ability to automatically determine the tempo of, and generate a tempo map for, audio in your project, even if it wasn’t recorded with a click track. The tempo map created can then be used to tighten up wayward notes without killing the feel of the performance.

The act of comping has been made easier, with a concept that Steinberg call Lane Track. When recording multiple takes of a part, Cubase will create a new Lane within the Track you are recording to, whereafter you can cherry-pick the best parts of each take, and Cubase will create a master take comprising your selections.

So, plenty on offer for those who do lots of recording, but what about people who work mostly with MIDI? Well, Steinberg have updated the VST protocol to version 3.5, and with this update comes a range of new features designed to make MIDI performances more realistic, including Note Expression. When you double-click on a note in the piano-roll editor, a Note Expression window will pop up, into which you can draw automation data. The interesting thing about applying automation in this way, compared with using traditional automation lanes, is that the automation applies only to that note, even when other notes are sounding simultaneously for the same instrument. Additionally, when you move that note, the Note Expression data associated with it also moves.

<strong>The all-new VST Expression</strong>The VST Expression system, which first made an appearance in Cubase 5, has also been overhauled. When using VST 3.5 instruments, this tool lets you apply articulations — piano, forté, crescendo, etc — from within the Key Editor, and not just the Score Editor, thanks to a new Articulations/Dynamics lane. A Dynamics Mapping feature facilitates fine control of up to three parameters within the Articulations/Dynamics lane, including velocity, volume and one freely assignable CC number, which should be useful for people who compose using software instruments, but need to print off scores for real-life musicians to play.

In addition to these workflow enhancements, Cubase 6 also incorporates a selection of new plug-ins and instruments. Halion Sonic SE, a cut-down version of Halion Sonic, is among these. This virtual sound module features over 900 “production-ready” sounds, which, though not quite as tweakable as those on the full version, still offer plenty of controllable parameters.

Steinberg note that Halion Sonic SE replaces the previously included Halion One soft-sampler — but happily, they’ve taken all the sounds that Halion One came with and incorporated them into Halion Sonic SE, which should make it a great go-to source for ‘bread and butter’ sounds.

Steinberg have also seen fit to include a 60-day trial of Halion Symphonic Orchestra VST Sound Instrument Set, for those who wish to dabble in orchestral composition. People who already have a licence for Halion Symphonic Orchestra will be able to unlock the Sound Instrument Set straight away, while Cubase 6 customers who decide that they can’t live without the bundled instrument after the 60-day trial will be eligible for a “very special” discount.

LoopMash, the beat-creation tool that we first saw in Cubase 5, has been updated to version 2. There are 20 new effects available, all of which are MIDI-controllable, and the number of scenes has doubled to 24. Drag-and-drop functionality has also been significantly enhanced, with slices freely moveable between LoopMash and Groove Agent One.

A suite of guitar and bass amp plug-ins now comes with Cubase 6, and these model amps, cabinets, effects and microphones, which can be mixed and matched to suit your tone.

And finally, the MediaBay has been overhauled, and now includes a mini browser that displays all the most pertinent information at a glance. What’s more, you can now store MediaBay files on external USB drives, so you could bring your entire collection of loops and samples to another computer and use them straight away — without any further indexing!

The full version of Cubase 6 costs £508, though if you have either version 4 or 5, you can upgrade to Cubase 6 for just £126. Owners of Cubase Studio 4 or 5 can upgrade to Cubase 6 for £168, while a licence for Cubase Essential 4 or 5, or Cubase Sequel 2, entitles you to an upgrade price of £422. Cubase Artist 6, a cut-down version of Steinberg’s latest DAW, carries a price of £253. While this dispenses with some of the new features, such as Track Edit Groups and Note Expression, it still comes with all the full version’s soft-synths and plug-in effects. For more information, check out the Steinberg web site.

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