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Page 2: Steinberg Cubase Pro 10.5

Advanced Music Production Software By Mark Wherry
Published January 2020

She's Like A Rainbow

MixConsole windows are more colourful in Cubase 10.5: it's now possible to add a background colour to channel strips in the same way you've been able to with track headers on the Project window for some time. This invariably makes the channels look a bit like those on Pro Tools' mixer, which has enjoyed this ability for over a decade, but it is a welcome method of making MixConsole windows in Cubase a little easier to navigate, avoiding a sea of blue-grey on your display.

Speaking of colour, the default background colours for active send slots has changed. Previously, active post-fader sends had a light, cyan-green complexion, where active pre-fader sends adopted a darkish-blue hue. I didn't have a problem with this, to be honest, especially as you could modify these colours in the Preferences. But now, post- and pre-fade send slots are orange and light blue respectively, and the default palette for similar controls has been made generally brighter.

The EQ display in Cubase Pro 10.5 can now superimpose the EQ curve from Reference and Secondary EQs in the Channel Settings window.The EQ display in Cubase Pro 10.5 can now superimpose the EQ curve from Reference and Secondary EQs in the Channel Settings window.

Aside from colour, you'll discover some improvements in the way the built-in EQ is used and displayed in the Channel Settings window. Firstly, there's now a more-obvious settings button where the visibility of EQ controls can be switched separately to their appearance as sliders or knobs. More significantly, there are some enhancements concerning the useful FFT that can be shown behind the curve in the EQ Display area. This can now display either the signal before the EQ processing or a post-EQ, peak-hold curve, with variable transparency.

Cubase Pro 10.5 also provides a new a Comparison Curve that, when enabled, shows two spectral curves overlaid within a single EQ Display: the Reference Channel in blue and a Comparison Channel in orange. The Reference Channel is the selected track/channel (or the one from which the Channel Settings window was opened), while the Comparison Channel (including the master output) can be selected from a pop-up menu. The focus of the Reference and Comparison Channels can be toggled to determine the EQ curve being edited, and, usefully, these Select buttons also offer duplicate Solo buttons.

This feature is clearly designed to make it easier to EQ one track/channel against another, although no doubt some will find less-obvious use cases for employing it. Now, how about adding a secondary Comparison Channel?

Macro Bionic

As always, supplementing the headline features of a new release are a number of less glamourous-sounding improvements scattered throughout the update, and it's these that often turn out to be the most useful. In the case of Cubase 10.5, this includes enhanced graphical performance, and simple tweaks like the ability to name folder tracks when adding them from the Add Track windows.

There are also welcome and overdue improvements to the way Macros are created in the Key Commands window, in Cubase Pro and Artist 10.5. This window and its functionality haven't changed since Cubase SX was released back in 2002, and although the changes aren't perhaps earth-shattering, it's nice to see somebody at Steinberg still cares.

Working with Macros has been made easier with new, sensibly grouped buttons.Working with Macros has been made easier with new, sensibly grouped buttons.The Macros section of the Key Commands window used to be fixed at 10 rows of text, even though the window itself was resizable. A new divider control between the Key Commands and Macros views now allows this to be varied. Better still, there are now additional buttons grouped between actions that apply to Macros and those that apply to Commands within Macros, replacing the three confusingly general-purpose buttons of the past. The Macros group consists of New and Delete buttons, along with a new and extremely handy Duplicate button. Previously, if you wanted to create a Macro based upon another, you had to start from scratch, creating a new Macro and adding the required Commands all over again. Not any more!

The Commands group offers four buttons, the first two allowing you to Add and Remove Commands in a Macro and the second pair making it possible to move the position of a selected Command up and down in the list of Commands within a given Macro. Managing the order of Commands used to be a real pain, and you'd often have to delete Commands ahead of where you wanted to add the new one before adding them back again.

Multi-tasking

Another Pro- and Artist-only improvement is the ability to combine the Object and Range Selection tools in the Project window such that they're both active simultaneously, without having to switch between the two. This Combine Selection Tools mode is toggled and indicated via a new button added to the left of the Select tool button, and is usable so long as a track is set to at least a height of two rows. Now, when you hover the mouse in the upper half of a track, Part or Event in the Event Display, the Range Selection tool is employed, whereas if you click in the lower half the Object Selection tool is used instead.

The Glue tool is also now quicker to work with, featuring its own dedicated Edit command. Previously, if you had two adjacent MIDI parts you wanted to merge into one, you'd have to select the Glue tool and click on the first part before reselecting the previous tool. Now, you can simply select the first part and choose the Glue command from the Edit menu (or, better still, assign a key command) and the two parts are merged without any need to switch tools. You can also, as would seem logical, select multiple consecutive parts and use the command to merge them all, just as you could and still can with the Glue tool.

When it comes to offline audio processing, Cubase Pro 10.5 borrows from Nuendo in that you can now set whether audio is normalised using Peak Normalization, where the level is set in dB, or the new Loudness Normalization, where the level is set in LUFS (Loudness Units Full Scale). This complements the loudness master meter inherited from Nuendo 6 in Cubase 8, and is useful if you need to normalise a piece of audio to broadcast standards.

The Safe Start Mode option, accessed by holding down the Ctrl, Shift and Alt/Option keys just after starting Cubase, has been made easier to understand. For example, you now choose using radio buttons whether to start Cubase with your existing preferences, to temporarily disable them and run with the defaults, or to delete the current preferences and begin afresh, before clicking the OK (or Cancel) button to proceed, rather than these options being available as separate buttons. This is to accommodate a new feature allowing you to choose whether third-party plug-ins should be deactivated when starting Cubase, which could be helpful when troubleshooting (or if you forgot your iLok).

Finally, closing the Active Project will no longer automatically activate any other loaded (and thus deactivated) Project automatically. This is actually quite a big deal when you have multiple large Projects open at the same time, such as different versions of the same piece, for example. If they contained a complicated MixConsole configuration with a high track count and many effects and instruments, you used to spend minutes in order to wait for what was previously the wrong Project to activate before moving on.

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