Steinberg turn the dial up to 11 with a stonking new version of Cubase.
While death and taxes may still be the trump cards in the game of certainty, the inevitability of a tempting upgrade to your favourite music production software can’t come far behind. For many years, Steinberg have been very consistent on this front, with annual upgrades to Cubase released towards the year end. Cubase 11 — in Pro, Artist and Elements versions — is therefore now with us.
These regular annual upgrade cycles bring out different responses in users. Those happy with their current version can, of course, choose to stick but, when presented with a long list of improvements and new features, the temptation to twist can be high. So, just what are Steinberg adding in Cubase 11 that might entice existing users to upgrade, or tempt potential new users to take the plunge?
The current DAW/sequencer marketplace includes many excellent choices, and Cubase is undoubtedly one of the ‘giants’ amongst this product group, with a long history, a large user base, and a comprehensive feature set. While v11 brings all sorts of worthwhile new developments, if you are part of that large user‑base and Cubase helps put food on your table, you can breathe easy; moving from any recent (10 or 10.5, for example) version to Cubase 11 is a smooth and painless transition.
That said, on paper, for users of the Pro version, the list of ‘new and improved’ in this upgrade is impressive. And while not all of these new features trickle down to the Artist and Elements versions, in both cases, there are some nice surprises. For example, Elements now includes side‑chaining options and Artist now includes support for VariAudio 3, ARA2 and unlimited audio, MIDI or instrument tracks. So, what’s new? Let’s dig in...
While there is truth in the old adage that if it sounds right, it is right, a visual representation of your audio can offer all sorts of helpful insights. Acquiring top‑notch audio visualisation skills might, therefore, come a close second to ‘golden ears’ on your list of desirable superpowers as a budding mixing or mastering superhero. Cubase 11’s new SuperVision plug‑in provides an excellent starting point in that regard.
SuperVision is a single plug‑in, which can be placed as an insert anywhere it’s required to visualise your audio signals, but is actually an assemblage of modules that the user can configure and customise. The 18 available modules fall into a number of categories: Signal, Spectral Domain, Phase, Spatial Domain, Waveform and Other. Many of these are relatively straightforward, such as the Level module within the Signal category, or the Spectrum Bar (a frequency‑based histogram) within the Spectral Domain category. However, the range of options is impressive and a few of the modules are worth further comment.
For example, the Signal category includes a well‑featured Loudness module that follows the EBU R128 reference. The module displays true peak, integrated loudness, short‑term loudness, momentary maximum and loudness range and, amongst other configurable options, is switchable between LU or LUFS units. In the post‑loudness‑wars world of streaming, whatever your specific loudness target, SuperVision’s Loudness module will assist you in hitting it.
Alongside the very useful, but fairly conventional, Spectrum Curve (which, interestingly, does offer a masking feature that can compare a main signal with that of a side‑chain input) and Spectrum Bar, the Spectral Domain modules also include Spectrum Intensity, Spectrogram and Chromograph options. The latter provides an intriguing display which shows the energy of your audio based upon the 12 half‑steps of the equal‑tempered scale.
The Phase modules provide various ways to visualise the correlation between the left and right sides of a stereo signal. The Phasescope, Panorama and Correlation modules are familiar, but I particularly liked the Multipanorama module. This is frequency‑based and particularly useful for checking out just how ‘stereo’ your low end is. It could make a good companion to the new spatial imaging plug‑in described below. The Spatial Domain modules — Surround and Ambisonics — offer useful level and channel correlation visualisation for those working in multichannel formats also.
With the ability to fully customise the choice, position and size of up to nine modules within a single instance of SuperVision, and to save your own layout presets, this is a powerful and flexible visualisation system. While they do differ in many details, an obvious comparison would be with iZotope’s powerful Insight 2, which also provides a modular visualisation system. Purchased individually, Insight is priced at $199. SuperVision now provides a very credible alternative for Cubase Pro and Artist users, who’ll get it with the Cubase 11 upgrade.
Cubase 11 delivers three notable plug‑in developments. For Pro users only, Frequency, the most powerful of the stock EQ plug‑ins, has been enhanced to Frequency 2. New to both Pro and Artist is Imager, a multiband stereo imaging plug‑in. And new to Pro, Artist and Elements is Squasher, a three‑band dynamics processor that combines both downwards compression of peaks and upwards compression of quieter parts of your signal.
Frequency 2 adds dynamic EQ...