With impressive new automation features and free mixer routing, have Steinberg taken their flagship audio application to the top of the class?
About seven and a half years ago I found myself standing at a Steinberg exhibition booth watching a demonstration of Nuendo 1.0. It was pretty impressive. Here was a modern audio application with features that competitors could only dream about at the time, such as sophisticated multiple undo and surround support, running without the aid of any additional hardware. And so I found myself pondering whether Steinberg would be able to make a significant dent in an industry that was, at the time, being taken over by Digidesign’s Pro Tools.
The Nuendo revolution never quite happened, though. Hindered by subsequent changes in Steinberg’s ownership and management, Nuendo’s original focus towards pro audio and post-production became somewhat diluted with the release of Cubase SX (which was built on the foundations of Nuendo) and Nuendo 2, which then included all of Cubase SX’s functionality. Few really understood where the line was drawn between Cubase for music and Nuendo for post-production, and most people couldn’t even see a line in the first place.
With Nuendo 3, Steinberg really made an effort to add features to the application that would appeal to the post-production market, such as AAF support for interoperability with other audio workstations, support for playing back video via dedicated hardware, and compatibility with tools such as Gallery’s ADR Studio. Nuendo 3.1 added features for audio pull-up and pull-down, and Nuendo 3.2 introduced the Control Room, which provided comprehensive monitoring and talkback facilities without the need for an external mixer.
Nuendo 4 incorporates nearly all of the features from Cubase 4, and perhaps the most significant of these new features for Nuendo users will be the Media Bay, which provides a comprehensive way of databasing and cataloguing audio assets. For more information about the features that have been inherited from Cubase 4, be sure to read Sam Inglis’s review in last December’s SOS (www.soundonsound.com/sos/dec06/articles/cubase4.htm).
Pain In The NEK
It’s customary to start a review of a new upgrade by looking at the features that have been added, but in this case we need to take a moment to discuss features that have been removed. As mentioned in the introduction, Steinberg originally added full, Cubase-level MIDI functionality to Nuendo in version 2; but in version 4 the company have decided to take out the Drum and Score editors, and to not include the four new VST Instruments supplied with Cubase 4. These features are still available to Nuendo users, but only if they buy an optional Nuendo Expansion Kit (NEK) on top of the basic upgrade.
The Nuendo Expansion Kit is a separate boxed product and comes with a manual, DVD, and Syncrosoft activation code that enables you to download the licence for the NEK to your Syncrosoft dongle. Once Nuendo detects an NEK licence it will reveal the Score and Drum editors, and running the installer on the DVD will add the Halion One, Prologue, Spector and Mystic VST Instruments to your system. (A side note about the Score editor in Nuendo 4 is that you can now import and export MusicXML files, which is pretty neat, as it provides a way to share data with other score-writing applications, keeping symbols and other articulation markings intact.)
After raising the cost of Nuendo to £1450$1999 with version 3, Steinberg have now lowered that price to £1250$1799 for version 4, with the NEK costing an additional £200$299. For existing Nuendo users, Steinberg offer two choices of upgrades to Nuendo 4: one with the NEK for £270$399, and one without for £170$249. As many users have pointed out, it seems slightly odd that an upgrade removes features you already paid for unless you pay another £100$150 to get those features back again. However, Steinberg’s rather amusing position (as presented by moderators on Nuendo’s official forum) was that the upgrade price for Nuendo 3 users upgrading to version 4 was £270$399, but you could opt to pay less if you didn’t need certain features. Um, right.
I have to say that I really don’t understand what Steinberg hope to achieve by introducing the NEK. While the motive is presumably to further distinguish Nuendo’s post-production abilities from Cubase’s music creation heritage, it seems a bit clumsy to do this now by removing features that have been part of Nuendo for over four years. I think that Nuendo is sufficiently well-known at this point that a post-production professional is not going to overlook the program just because it also comes with score and drum editing features.
It’s somewhat perverse that, even though Nuendo is more expensive than Cubase, you still need to spend more money to get the functionality included with the less expensive application. Arguably this has always been Steinberg’s problem in separating Cubase and Nuendo — the company sees both products as flagship products for different markets, even though they’re the same application at heart. The funny thing is that, as you’ll see from the rest of the review, Steinberg are actually doing a great job of tailoring Nuendo to suit the needs of the post-production professional, without needing to confuse the issue further.
Waiting For A Bus
For some time, one of the biggest criticisms of Nuendo’s mixer has been the lack of flexible bussing, and specifically, of a way to route the output of a Group to the input of an audio track. This is important because mixers, especially in post-production, will need to deliver mixes as stems, where a stem is basically a submix of a number of related audio tracks. For example, when music is delivered to a dub stage for mixing into a film, a mix is normally separated into a number of stems for groups of instruments like strings, brass, percussion and synths. If all the stems are played together at 0dB, this will be the mix as the music mixer intended it; but often the dubbing mixer will need finer control over certain sounds to help the music sit better with the dialogue and effects, and this is where having the mix as a number of stems rather than as one audio file comes in handy.
In previous versions of Nuendo, stems would have to be recorded one at a time by using Nuendo’s Export Audio Mixdown command, which was incredibly frustrating. And while you could fake the idea of record busses by looping a number of outputs on your audio hardware to inputs, this could be a limiting approach and also threw up a bucketload of offset issues. But now, finally, in Nuendo 4, group and FX channels can be used as inputs to audio tracks.
FX channels are effectively the same as group channels, except for the fact that you can choose to add an insert effect automatically when you create an FX channel, and these channels are visually grouped together separately from group channels. Like many Nuendo (and Cubase) users, I wonder why we need both, and whether life wouldn’t be simpler with fewer different types of mixer objects. On the other hand, I can see that some users may find the distinction helpful in separating FX channels for effects and group channels for submixing, even though it becomes less clear when you start putting inserts on your groups as well, such as when submixing drums.
If you’re used to working in Pro Tools, routing audio in Nuendo’s mixer is a little bit different, because the separate functionality of buses and auxiliary inputs in Pro Tools is combined into single objects in Nuendo, which are group channels. This means if you want to record the output of an audio track to another audio track, you route the first track to a group and then set that group as the input for the other audio track. However, at this point, you end up with the same signal coming out of the group and the audio track, so if you’re just using groups to bus audio between audio tracks, it can be a good idea to set the output of the group to ‘No Bus’.
The new routing capabilities in Nuendo 4 go well beyond just being able to route groups to audio tracks, though. As before, VST Instrument and Rewire channels can also be routed to groups, along with sends and the new ‘instrument’ channels, but groups themselves can now be routed via an output or a send to any other group in the mixer, as opposed to only groups to the right of that group in the mixer (as in the previous version). And it’s also now possible for groups to be routed to FX channels and vice versa, or for audio tracks to be routed directly to an FX channel, making groups and FX channels even more interchangeable.
The only slight limitation with the new routing features is that when you select a group (or FX channel) to be the input of an audio track, the group you select must be of the same channel configuration as the audio track. A consequence of this is that you can’t have individual channels from a 5.1 group as the inputs to a stereo audio track. When using Input channels as the input to an audio track, you would normally create a ‘child bus’ for an input that has a different channel configuration to the audio track. But while Nuendo does indeed still allow you to create child buses for group channels, you can’t route the stereo child bus of a 5.1 group as the input of an audio track, which you can do in Pro Tools.
Despite this one limitation, Nuendo users will be (or should be, at least) having parties in the street for the new routing flexibility, which is a huge improvement over previous versions and adds a crucial ability to the application that had been noticeably absent for some time. Now, if only you could route a channel to multiple outputs without having to use sends...
Another area of Nuendo’s mixer that’s been somewhat lacking is the automation functionality, and for version 4 Steinberg have clearly put a significant amount of effort into understanding the automation features required by post–production professionals. This task has perhaps been aided by Steinberg’s relationship with Euphonix, and Nuendo 4 now offers automation features similar to high–end mixing consoles such as Euphonix’s System 5 series. These will be of particular benefit to those using one of Euphonix’s control surfaces, such as the MC or System 5 MC.
To begin with, all of the controls for accessing Nuendo’s automation features, such as the Return Time parameter, previously on the Project window’s toolbar, and the Automation Reduction Level preference, have been placed into the new Automation panel. Like the Transport panel, the Automation panel can be customised so you can set which categories of controls you want to see. But its design is quite different and seems almost tactile, with a large number of cleanly laid-out and well-sized buttons that give a clear indication as to the status of the automation controls. In fact, this panel seems crying out to be used in conjunction with a touchscreen.
Previously, when you chose a mode for writing automation data, such as Touch or Auto-Latch, that mode would be global so the data created when you adjusted the controls of any track would be written using the same automation mode. In Nuendo 4, there’s still a global automation control, but an additional track Automation Mode parameter has been added to the General section of each track, allowing you to set an independent automation mode for each track.
In Nuendo 3, enabling automation on a track would arm all controls on that track for automation. So if you were riding a volume fader in an automation pass and you suddenly wanted to trim the reverb send level on that track, both the volume and send level would generate automation data. To solve this, Nuendo 4’s Automation panel includes the ability to suspend certain types of automation from being written when a track is armed for an automation pass, and a duplicate set of suspend controls let you suspend certain types of automation from being read back as well.
Another problem with the automation in previous versions of Nuendo was that, although you could edit the data quite easily, there weren’t any tools to help you achieve certain tasks quickly with the faders, which is of particular concern to those who use control surfaces. A good example, which is mentioned in Nuendo’s well-presented manual, is where you start recording a pass of automation and you want the value of the fader at the end of your pass to be written to the end of the Project, rather than having to keep the fader held down with the transport running, or using the mouse to make the edit manually afterwards.
To this end, Nuendo now offers a number of Fill options, of which Fill To End would aid the situation just described. Before (or during) the automation pass you enable the To End button in the Automation panel, and when you release the control you’re automating, the current value of that control as it’s released will be written to the end of the Project. Likewise, Fill To Start and Fill To Punch write the current value of a control being automated to either the start of the Project or the point at which you started the transport rolling for that pass, while Fill Loop writes the current value when the control being automated is released to the current loop region. Finally, Fill Gaps does exactly was it says — see the ‘Virgin Territories’ box for an explanation of how you could end up with gaps in the automation.
A nice touch with the Fill commands is that clicking a command once enables it for the current or next automation pass, and the command automatically disables itself after you press stop, just like Nuendo’s Punch In command. However, if you click the command again when it’s already enabled, a lock icon appears by that command, and it will remain permanently engaged no matter how many times you start and stop the transport, until you click the button again to disable the command.
In addition to the common Read and Write Automation functions, Nuendo 4 adds a new Preview mode as well, and automation tracks have an additional ‘P’ button to activate Preview mode, alongside the familiar ‘R’ and ‘W’ buttons. When Preview mode is enabled in the Automation panel, you can enable individual controls for a Preview pass by either touching the control or enabling the Preview button on the automation track for that control. While you can enable Preview mode while the transport is running or not, once a control is armed for Preview and the transport’s running, you’ll be able to try out an automation pass with that control without deleting any of the existing automation for that control — hence, Preview mode.
However, Preview mode allows you to do much more than simply preview an automation pass. Once Preview mode is active, three additional commands become available in the Automation panel: Suspend, Punch and Punch on Play. The Preview Suspend command allows you to toggle between the current Preview position of an automation control and the original automation data that already exists for that control, which is, as you can imagine, incredibly useful. Punch lets you punch in and start replacing the existing automation from the current transport position, at which point Preview mode will become inactive.
When you punch in from Preview mode, Nuendo will store the values of all the controls that were enabled in Preview mode as an entry in the Punch Log, which is part of the Automation panel. The Punch Log is set to store 10 entries by default, although this value can be increased to 100 if you wish. And once your last entry in the Punch Log has been created, Nuendo will start overwriting the entries at the beginning of the log. Once a punch entry has been added to the log, you can recall it by clicking the Load button, and by enabling Punch on Play, the stored values for all controls in that punch will be written as automation the next time the transport starts playing, which is pretty neat.
Preview mode is pretty powerful, but one area that can become frustrating is having to manually enable every single control you want to include in a Preview pass. To help with this there’s a Touch Collect Assistant, which can be enabled via the Touch Assist button on the Automation panel, and groups a channel’s controls so that touching one control enables all controls within a given group. For example, touching a control from a channel’s EQ with Touch Assist enabled activates Preview mode for all the controls of that channel’s EQ. One thing that would be nice, though, is a way of enabling all controls on the mixer for Preview mode with a single command, which would also make it easier to work with snapshots of the entire mixer.
Overall, the new automation features in Nuendo 4 are quite impressive. Other than making it easier to do snapshot automation, Steinberg have addressed almost every conceivable weakness with Nuendo’s original automation features. It perhaps goes without saying that a control surface will help you to get the most out of the new automation functionality, and assigning key commands (or any customisable buttons on your surface) to all of the new controls in the Automation panel is going to be essential.
A Logical Project?
While the new routing and automation features are tremendously useful, possibly my favourite feature in Nuendo 4 is the new Project Logical Editor, which enables you to manipulate objects in the Project window based on certain conditions. The Project Logical Editor looks like and works in exactly the same way as the Logical Editor, which is used for processing MIDI events, although these two editors work completely independently of each other.
The basic premise of the Project Logical Editor is that you can set a condition, and any object that matches this condition on the Project window can either be selected, deleted, or transformed according to the action you specify. The real power of the Project Logical Editor comes from the fact you can manipulate tracks, parts and events for almost every type of data: audio, MIDI, automation, marker, transpose and Arranger types are all supported. The only absent types I could think of that are part of a Project are Tempo and Signature events, although admittedly you can’t actually display these on the Project window (a shame, since the ability to work with tempo and time signatures alongside other tracks is particularly helpful in applications like Pro Tools and Logic).
As you can imagine, the potential of the Project Logical Editor is quite open-ended, but Steinberg supply a set of presets to give you a taste for what’s possible. There’s a handy ‘Delete Volume Automation’ preset, for example, which demonstrates how you can delete an automation track based on its name. This works by saying ‘Find an object whose Media Type is Automation, where the Container Type is a Track and the name contains Volume.’ For automation this is particularly useful, since it means you could delete or manipulate any type of automation track in this way, whether it’s a common parameter like Volume or some more obscure control from a plug-in.
However, I did find that the ‘name contains’ parameter didn’t always correctly find tracks containing the given string of characters in their names. For example, say you wanted to delete all the automation tracks for the plug-in ModMachine. The Automation tracks are usually labelled something like ‘Ins.:1:ModMachine:Delay1 - Sync Note,’ but searching for ‘name contains ModMachine’ would not delete the track, whereas being more specific, using ‘name contains Sync Note’, would. Also, as you type in longer search strings as parameters in the Project Logical Editor, the text gradually gets smaller until there isn’t enough space, at which point the characters start being superimposed on top of each other.
As with the original Logical Editor, presets for the Project Logical Editor also show up in the key commands window, which offers two benefits. Firstly, you can of course assign key commands to your Project Logical Editor presets; but secondly, and far more interestingly, you can create macros that combine these presets with other Nuendo commands. For example, say you wanted to record all of your stems within a Project. Using the Project Logical Editor, you could create presets that disabled record on all the tracks in your Project, another to record arm on all tracks that had a certain string in the name (which would be used to identify those tracks as stems), and finally, one that deleted the stem identification string from the audio events that had been recorded. By combining all these presets into a macro and adding the Record command before the final preset, you would have a very powerful way of recording stems by using just one command, which could itself be assigned to a key command or a control surface.
The Project Logical Editor is a uniquely powerful feature that will easily enable professional users to create more efficient workflows, and probably cause a degree of envy amongst Pro Tools users. There are a few rough edges, maybe the user interface could be a little bit more friendly, and, like a dictator, once you get the hang of it you’ll always be wanting more power. But overall, the Project Logical Editor is terrifically handy.
Last But Not Least
Although Nuendo 4 would be fairly compelling if it only contained the core new features we’ve just discussed, there are also tens of smaller tweaks, improvements and new features. Many of these features, along with the Project Logical Editor, are also part of the recently released Cubase 4.1 update, and despite Steinberg’s marketing describing Nuendo as version 4, the actual shipping version is 4.1, which is presumably for consistency.
To begin with, there’s a new section in the Inspector called Quick Controls, where you can assign any track parameter that can be automated (including all plug-in parameters) to one of eight customisable sliders. This is a great way of making your most commonly used parameters more accessible, and a new Quick Controls device in the Device Setup window lets you assign MIDI commands to remotely control the eight Quick Controls on the currently selected track.
Each track has its own set of Quick Controls, although I was slightly surprised that there’s no way to create a preset of a set of Quick Control assignments. On the plus side, the Quick Controls are at least part of a track preset, but I can definitely see situations where I might want to add the same Quick Controls to a track without having to apply an entire track preset.
The Sample Editor also sees some improvement in Nuendo 4, with a slightly redesigned user interface that now incorporates an Inspector. The Sample Editor’s Inspector consolidates many of the commands you would need to access in the Sample Editor into one location, and includes many of the definition features for hitpoints and so on that used to be on the window’s toolbar. I’m not sure if I’m crazy about this change, because the Inspector cuts into the width of the window, meaning that there’s marginally less space for the sample data to be displayed, especially if you have the Region list displayed as well, on the opposite side of the window. On the other hand, it does make Nuendo’s editors more consistent, particularly now the Score editor also incorporates an Inspector, as in Cubase 4.
On the Project window, the Play Order track is now known as the Arrange track, and a new Transpose track has also been added that allows you to create Transpose parts that globally transpose both MIDI and audio data over a given range.
In the category of ‘small but incredibly useful’ improvements, there’s a new preference that makes the fade handles for audio events always display at the top of the event, rather than on the same level as the event volume handle. This makes it much easier to make fade adjustments when the event volume is fairly low and the fade handles would otherwise be masked by the event start and end handles. Another related new preference allows you adjust the fade handles by using the mouse wheel, which is also handy.
Mac users might get a kick out of the fact that the buttons on the Apple Remote can now be used to trigger any command in Nuendo, and both Mac and Windows users will benefit from improved Quicktime 7 support. MPEG1, MPEG4 and H264 codecs are now supported, and Nuendo’s Replace Audio in Video File command is now compatible with all Quicktime audio formats.
An incredibly welcome change when loading Projects is that, if you already have a Project open and you start to open another, Nuendo will ask you whether you want to activate that Project or not. This is an absolute Godsend for people who work with large and complicated Projects that can take several minutes to activate. Previously, if you wanted to drag and drop some data from another Project you would have to open it, wait for it to activate, drag and drop the data, and then close and reactivate the first Project.
Nuendo 4 is a significant release that addresses many long-term issues with the routing and automation functionality in the mixer, while adding other new and innovative features as well. Although Steinberg’s focus is clearly post-production, Nuendo’s new features should also appeal to a broader range of users, particularly those who wouldn’t mind having advanced automation features inspired by high-end mixing consoles. The company’s marketing stresses how Nuendo 4 will help deadlines be met, and while this is a hard concept to quantify, there’s no doubt that there are many features — notably the Project Logical Editor — that will help improve and, in some cases create, efficient working practices.
MIDI (or, rather, music creation) features seem to come in and out of Nuendo like a ratcatcher’s elbow, and I think separating a few of the lesser-used editors into the Nuendo Expansion Kit will end up annoying more people than it attracts to Nuendo. The concept of ‘buy only the features you need’ didn’t work for music and audio software developers in the mid-’90s, and I can’t see it working any better now.
However, despite the confusion with the NEK, in many ways Nuendo 4 is really two versions worth of upgrades, if you count all the features included from Cubase 4, along with the features outlined in this review. And while Cubase 4 received some criticism for offering features that users had never asked for, Nuendo 4’s core improvements seem centred around requests that have been made by users, and particularly by those professionals who are now relying on Nuendo for their day-to-day work.
It’s funny to think that it’s been 10 years since Steinberg first announced Nuendo as a high-end solution for audio post–production on Silicon Graphics workstations. And while Silicon Graphics are no longer in the workstation business, Nuendo finally seems like it’s in a position to handle a demanding professional workload without any compromises.
Virgin Territories Take Automation Further
An extremely useful improvement in Nuendo 4’s automation functionality is the support for virgin territories. And before there’s too much sniggering at the back, virgin in this context refers to areas of a track that are untouched by automation. In previous versions of Nuendo there was always a constant automation line, which was a continuation of the last automation event on that track, and if there weren’t any automation events on a track, an initial value would be used instead. This is still the default way for automation to be handled in Nuendo 4, but the new virgin territory mode allows for empty ‘virgin’ space on an automation track where there can be gaps between automation events.
The great thing about virgin territories is that you can have a track enabled to read automation, but retain the ability to freely move controls on that track where there are gaps in the automation, without those controls jumping back to the value of the last automation event.
The ability to have gaps between events in Nuendo’s automation tracks is made possible via a new Terminator setting in automation events.This setting can be seen in the Event Infoline when you have an automation event selected. When an event has the Terminator setting enabled, the automation line will be terminated with that event and a gap will be created until the next automation event occurs on that automation track.
If you later decide to fill in some of the gaps you’ve left in the automation, Nuendo offers a couple of commands to help out, including the Fill Gaps command mentioned elsewhere in this article. This allows you to fill all gaps in the automation before the point you stop with the last value recorded in that automation pass for a given control. There’s also a couple of handy commands in the Automation panel’s Functions pop-up menu, such as ‘Fill Gaps on Selected tracks’ and ‘Fill Gaps with Current Value (Selected tracks)’ which basically do what they say on the tin.
VST 3 In Nuendo 4
Nuendo 4 supports Steinberg’s latest incarnation of the VST specification for plug-in effects and instruments, VST 3. Cubase 4 was the first host application to support VST 3 plug-ins, and even though it was released over a year ago, until recently Steinberg have remained quiet on the subject of opening up VST 3 to third-party developers. This was somewhat surprising, since the freely available nature of VST was arguably the reason it became so popular in the first place. However, just before Nuendo 4 was announced, Steinberg revealed more information about VST 3, stating that a public Software Developers’ Kit (SDK) that will allow other developers to support the format will be available in January 2008.
VST 3 is actually a complete rewrite of the original VST protocol and has a number of advantages, such as sample-accurate automation, the ability for plug-ins to dynamically allocate their input and output configurations, and support for side-chaining. Although Cubase 4 supported VST 3, Nuendo 4 is actually the first application to support VST 3 side-chaining (followed by Cubase 4.1), but the way it works is slightly different than in other audio workstations.
If you want to use a side-chain input to the VST 3 Compressor plug-in supplied with Nuendo, for example, you would first enable the Activate Side-chain button on the plug-in’s toolbar. Now, instead of being able to select an audio channel or bus to use for the side-chain input, as in Pro Tools or Logic, the side–chain input to the plug-in actually shows up as another output destination to which audio-based channels can be routed on Nuendo’s mixer. So if you want to use an audio track as a side-chain input to the compressor, you’ll need to either set the side–chain input as that track’s output, or use a send on that track routed to the side-chain input.
While this is a little bit more cumbersome than other approaches to side-chaining, it does offer one key benefit: it’s possible to use the multiple audio sources simultaneously for a single side-chain input, without having to create any additional group channels or set up any other routing.
Developers face quite a challenge these days in keeping up with support for the latest operating systems, not to mention the added complication of building native 64-bit applications to satisfy those users who wish to take advantage of more memory. On the Windows side, developers have 32-bit and 64-bit versions of both Window XP and Windows Vista to wrestle with, whereas on the Mac there’s the Power PC and Intel variants of Tiger, not to mention the new Mac OS X Leopard that’s also capable of running fully 64-bit applications as well. So companies like Steinberg, who develop software for both platforms, have definitely got their work cut out.
On the Windows side, Nuendo 4 supports the 32-bit versions of Windows XP with Service Pack 2 and Windows Vista. While the 32-bit version of Nuendo will also run on 64-bit Windows, Steinberg additionally supply a 64-bit Nuendo 4 preview version for users who have the 64-bit version of Windows Vista; unfortunately the 64-bit version of Windows XP is unsupported.
For Mac users, Nuendo 4 requires Mac OS 10.4, as it’s the first version of Nuendo that’s a Universal Binary, so it finally runs natively on the latest Intel Mac hardware. Since Nuendo was released prior to Leopard, there’s no 64-bit version of Nuendo for the Mac right now, although I’m sure that Steinberg will have a release in the not too distant future.
One of the big problems in running an application like Nuendo on a new architecture, whether it’s a 64-bit Windows or Intel Mac, is that plug-ins from your previous architecture will no longer run. For technical reasons beyond the scope of this article, a 64-bit application won’t be able to use 32-bit plug-ins directly, just as an Intel Mac application won’t be able to use PowerPC plug-ins. Since the Intel Mac transition is pretty much complete these days, this has become less of an issue for Mac users. However, there are still very few 64-bit Windows plug-ins available that can work directly with Nuendo 4.
The good news is that Steinberg have introduced a VST Plug-in Bridge feature, similar to the BitBridge feature in the 64-bit version of Cakewalk’s Sonar, that not only enables Windows users to run 32-bit plug-ins in 64-bit Nuendo, but means that Mac users can run Power PC plug-ins in the Mac Intel-native version of Nuendo. Since I just said it was impossible to do this, you might be wondering how Steinberg have managed to achieve it and the trick is that there’s a ‘hidden’ program called VST Bridge that runs alongside Nuendo, either as a 32-bit application on Windows, or as a Power PC application under Rosetta on the Mac.
Thanks to VST Bridge, Nuendo can read otherwise incompatible plug-ins, and you’ll notice in the SDK column of the Nuendo’s Plug-in Information window that such plug-ins are described in brackets as being either ‘win32’ or ‘ppc’. If you decide to use a 32-bit plug-in via 64-bit Nuendo, or a Power PC plug-in on an Intel computer, VST Bridge will actually load that plug-in in the background and Nuendo will stream the audio data via VST Bridge as necessary.
This approach works surprisingly well, although there is a performance penalty to be paid when running a plug-in with such a technique, especially on Intel Macs, where the Power PC code has to be translated for another processor architecture. You’ll also notice one or two user-interface quirks, especially on the Mac, since VST Bridge is also running the user interface and placing the view inside Nuendo to make it look just like a normal plug-in.
To run Nuendo 4, Steinberg recommend that Windows users will need a system with at least a 2GHz AMD or Intel processor, while Mac users should consider a 1GHz Power Mac G4 or an Intel-based Mac with a 1.5GHz Core Solo the bare minimum. You’ll need at least 1GB memory, along with a DVD drive to install the program and a spare USB port for the Syncrosoft dongle.
In terms of audio hardware, Nuendo is compatible with any Core Audio device on the Mac (including the built-in audio ports), while on Windows Steinberg recommend an audio device with ASIO support for low–latency performance. NEK users will need to be connected to the Internet to download the licence to the Syncrosft dongle, although you don’t have to do this on the computer that’s actually running Nuendo. See the ‘Platform Support’ box for information about the operating system requirements.
- Extensive new automation features will facilitate professional post-production work.
- The Flexible new routing capabilities in Nuendo’s mixer finally make it easy to record the outputs of Groups to audio tracks, and more besides.
- The Project Logical Editor is a powerful way to simplify potentially tedious tasks, especially when combined with macros.
- The Nuendo Expansion Kit philosophy seems a little ‘arse about face’.
- Tempo and Time Signature events still have to be edited in a dedicated window rather than on the Project window.
Nuendo 4 is a significant update to Steinberg’s post-oriented audio workstation, adding important improvements to both the mixer and the general workflow.
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