Ever since Apple’s Logic Pro bundled a huge library of synthesizers and effects into a DAW, its competitors have been gradually adding more instruments and sound processors. Even without Logic, the step is a pretty obvious one: there are only so many DAW features you can add from year to year to try to compel people to upgrade, so bundling extra sound toys is the other alternative.

Cubase SX4 hasn’t been officially announced, but while I was vacationing this weekend some SX4 screenshots were leaked online. Music thing has the story with convenient links to the images. Tom says the knobs look like Ableton, because he sees some two-dimensional knobs. (Here’s a tip: those knobs look more like Max/MSP, which in turn may have inspired Ableton to opt for 2D controls.)

Mostly, though, SX4 looks inspired by Logic Pro. Internal audio mixing is remiscent of Logic’s Environment, though it may be easier to use. The interface for Prologue looks just like the ES2 to me, and the visual style resembles instruments like Sculpture, sometimes approaching a direct rip-off. (Then again, sometimes software looks alike because UI services are outsourced to third parties; I don’t know whether that’s happened here or not.) The synthesizers themselves look interesting, with some spectral processing and synthesis options. I don’t imagine it’ll make you switch to SX4, but it could keep Cubase loyalists from switching to something else.

It’s just a glimpse, of course — it’s funny watching Cubase users pre-judge the entire SX4 upgrade based on some leaked, unofficial screen shots. I’d say take them as a small taste, and wait for the official stuff. Don’t expect the competition to stay still, either; aside from the imminent Ableton Live 6, I would expect Logic Pro to get a large update some time soon. Stay tuned.

  • noisegeek

    A number of the synths look like the specialized synth "pages" from VirSyn's Tera 3, but with some graphic alterations to put them more in line with the overall "Cubase look". Wouldn't be to suprising given the prior relationship between Steinberg and Virsyn (D'cota).

  • Ah, I forgot that Steinberg had worked with D'cota. I agree, absolutely — functionally, these work a lot like VirSyn Tera 3. I still see some visual cues from Logic, but then again, a lot of makers are doing similar things with interfaces. To me, Ableton really remains the one developer that's truly unique in their approach — whether you like it or not. As for everyone else, it's nice to have things look pretty; big question is how well it works. The spectral/additive stuff could be really nice — I don't see it convincing me to switch to Cubase, but for Cubase loyalists, it could make people very happy indeed.

  • I'm just wondering about performance. I was a longtime Cubase user but they lost me with the SX fiasco.

    Mostly just curious, but I don't see me switching from Logic and DP. I don't have confidence that they can deliver a product that works in a timely fashion.


  • I think the experience with SX3 was fairly positive; it didn't have the issues of the first build of SX. The code base is much more stable now.

    I'm personally curious to see what happens with the next version of Logic Pro. I don't see any major migrations from one DAW to another, certainly not among DP, Logic, Cubase/Nuendo, SONAR, and Pro Tools. It's mostly about satisfying the current user bases.

    I still spend most of my time in Logic + Live, at least DAW-wise, and I know I'm not alone there.

  • Valis

    Sx4 does seem a tad cleaner judging from the screenshots of the overall UI, with the rounded corner eye candy slimmed down a lot. The Synths look too generic imo, one nice thing about Logic is that although there's a lot of similarity in terms of UI each synth still has a distinctive look.

    Logic + Live here, although I must confess I'm running the PC versions still due to the dearth of PC-based licensing for my graphics applications. Conroe/Merom will finally get me to upgrade to the current version of Logic sometime this winter (Mac or Macbook pro).

  • kokorozashi

    One reason these interfaces often look similar is that there are only so many ways to depict a knob. When you also factor in gear fashion — in my youth, everything was wood-grained, then became silver, and then black, and then I stopped paying attention to fashion — similarities no longer seem pregnant with meaning. I expect the biggest influence on interface lately has been processor speed and memory availability. Suddenly it seems reasonable to use lots of 24-bit pixels, so we get photo-realism, and Live seems iconoclastic. I guess my only point here is that this stuff is less mysterious and conspiratorial than it may seem.

  • Yes, I agree — but this is an unusual exception. The layout of these instruments to me looks nearly identical to some from Logic — using non-typical layouts — and specifically, the colored ring around a silver knob with an oval background is directly out of Sculpture:


    You have to admit the Sculpture / Prologue similarity is uncanny. But, as I said, it's possible it was outsourced, as well — or it's just a matter of "sincerest flattery", since it's a totally different instrument. I couldn't help but observe it, even though ultimately it's more about sound and function.

  • kokorozashi

    I must admit I missed the homage to the colored ring around Sculpture's buttons until you rubbed my nose in it. I'd be inclined toward the "sincerest flattery" theory before I hypothesized outsourcing, which would violate the laws of physics in Steve Job's personal universe.

  • zook

    i am a cubase power user. I agree the screenshots are not really exiting!certain features u can guess from the shots which sound intrestng!

    the aping thing about aping the abeltona and logic look aint really cool.. one good thing of makng the the DAW 2Dish look might be the dsp (just guessing)

    and afterall it is the features that matter, the look follows

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  • KC

    SX fiasco? You are all high on something. Since the whole SX series, Cubase has pushed audio editing features further than anyone. I recently wanted to see what all the hype with Logic was..and that's exactly what it is…hype. While the bundled plug-ins are nice…it lacks HEAVILY in its editing functions. I question how many people are actually digging deep into Cubase. Many seem to be lazy and base their observations on apperance and surface features.

  • Rozling

    I'm thinking that the fiasco mentioned by G-dub is more to do with the whole issue of SX3's USB dongles having a negative effect on performance. Probably way off though. I'm so high right now

  • Music Soul

    Nice Steinberg ^_^

  • micky

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