Integration with this hardware is Steinberg’s current pitch, with DSP in a FireWire audio interface and controller integration with point-and-click access to parameters.

Cubase 4.5 is here, with CC121 controller and MR816 audio I/O hardware integration, some new sample content, and a mysterious new “media management” format called VST Sound. It is nice to see the hardware/software integration we’ve been clamoring for. But will developers actually start supporting VST Sound and VST3? Will I manage to find a way to get excited about Cubase? We can only wonder… and it’s time for some Steinberg advocates to speak up.

Cubase 4.5 was released last week as a free update for 4.x users. The main story is that it integrates with the CC121 hardware controller. You may recall the CC121 as the hardware controller I just didn’t get, because it requires mousing over the parameter you want to control so you can tweak it with the hardware knob. Well, now here’s a rather lame marketing video from Steinberg, which doesn’t help. (Video via AudioPorn Central. Not sure why companies insist on making things like this, but they do.)

Help! Our band is caught in THX 1138! Hint to Steinberg: this is what a marketing video should look like. Okay, maybe you didn’t want to dump paint on your CC121.

Lest Steinberg think I’m just picking on them, I guess I feel this way: if I have a control surface, I’d want it to do more. Control over a single parameter is something you already get with the mouse (and here, you have to point with the mouse to get control with the knob anyway). Conversely, the mouse + knob arrangement might work, but then I’d want the controller to be much smaller, so I could do my knob tweaking with one hand and mousing with another. Then again, I find a given piece of gear probably makes sense to someone, somewhere, so if you’re that someone, do speak up.

Computer Music magazine unboxes one of these units. CM also talks to the creators about their prototyping process.

The Yamaha FireWire interface has onboard DSP-based reverb and channel strip, though we’ve seen that idea of combining a little DSP with audio interfaces from others (like Focusrite, TC Electronic). What’s really peculiar here is that Cubase, the most iconic native DAW, is here touting integration with hardware DSP for effects — normally Pro Tools’ bag. I don’t think that a single reverb and channel strip plug-in is really going to impress anyone, and it’s not clear why else we need “integration” with an audio interface, given how well everything else works. The whole appeal of systems like Cubase, and its competitors Logic, Live, SONAR, and the rest, is the ability to use whatever plug-ins and hardware you like. So it seems Steinberg is getting a bit off message here — but then, maybe it’s just about selling you some extra gear, which I suppose is fine.

Also in Cubase 4.5 — and perhaps more important to Cubase users if you’re as lukewarm on the CC121 as I am:

  • 1.6GB of content, including Yamaha’s S90ES Grand, Sonic Reality instrument, Big Fish audio loops
  • More VST3 support, with support for VSTsound, which appears to be a media metadata/management standard for VST
  • Sequel 2 compatibility (Steinberg’s entry-level GarageBand killer for Mac and Windows)

If you missed 4.1, that was actually arguably a bigger update, with VST3 sidechaining (’bout time), global transpose track, music XML support (the interchange format for notation software), and free routing.

I have to admit a bias: Cubase is one of those things I could never get excited about. Music tools are personal, and some just don’t hit you on the right wavelength; Cubase is one of those for me, and the fact that most of the circle of people I know feel the same way means I don’t really have anyone else to explain to me what the appeal is. If you’re out there, let us know; heck, you’re welcome to a Cubase Column for CDM if you like. But anyone who’s telling you they can appreciate all DAWs equally is probably lying.

Things are worse these days, as what we hear from a lot of readers is that newer, more lightweight hosts like Reaper can easily steal Cubase’s thunder in people’s actual work.

The one element of this that does seem to have some potential is the idea of embedding metadata and media management into VST. That’s a bit like what NI has done with its KoreSound format, but with the potential to appeal to all VST developers and not just NI and their soundware providers. The only problem is, I haven’t seen much support for VST3, and I couldn’t even find documentation of what VST Sound is on Steinberg’s developer site. If Steinberg wants anyone to adopt this, they need to dramatically improve developer relations and go out and actually communicate and evangelize this stuff. Developers, if you’ve managed to sort out what this is or plan to use it, let us know.

  • Cubase is a really good piece of software. I am attending a 2 year Music Prod. and Sound Eng. course at Point Blank Music College in London,UK and because there were no spots left for me to take the Logic course, I had to take Cubase. I find myself really loving it. It's not that hard to use once u find the shortcuts and explore the software. It has a few glitches but most of them were fixed with the new update. I think it has had a lot to suffer cause nobody's cracked it yet [for Mac anyway]. I baught it and I mainly use it with NI's Komplete and Ueberschall VSTs and it works great.

  • Well, I should qualify, too — I think Cubase is solid, whether or not I'm excited by it. The big issue I have with it is I could never get comfortable with Cubase creatively, but then, this is personal … and if you're using these tools creatively, you *ought* to have a bias.

    I think DP, Cubase, SONAR, Logic, and Pro Tools are all really solid and mature DAWs; that goes without question.

    I'd be curious to know what sets Cubase apart for people who do use it and love it, truly.

  • Cynic

    Steinberg Marketing truly is an oxymoron, or the gift that keeps on giving, depending on how you look at it. After the classic "All For You" video for Cubase 4, along with the name Sequel, who would have imagined this little gem coming along? And if you wait for the line at 2:08, you might just fall off your chair. Looks like Wild Stallions are big fans of the eight six—teen! And to think people wonder why Digidesign is successful…

  • Well, they are actually singing the model number. (One to one.) That's … different.

  • dead_red_eyes

    Wow, that song made me want to stick pencils in my ears. That or put a gun in my mouth.

  • Oh God I think I'm numb

    That song is seriously no fun

    I think I've got to run

    Because they're singing about model one

    Maybe George Lucas also wrote the lyrics to this "song," hence the THX-1138 vibe…

  • cb

    Like @acidodomingo, I started using Cubase (on Mac OS7) back in the early-mid-'90s, developed a lot of proficiency in it, and remained familiar with it and loyal to it. Like many others, I'm reconsidering, especially as I'm soon to rebuild my studio and DAW/workstation after a (long and painful) year without a studio. I tried an earlier version of Reaper briefly and need to check it out again. I've also used and liked things about Ableton, Reason, and Acid, most notably the simpler, streamlined workflows they have.

  • thx1138 <3

  • "Take four red capsules. In ten minutes, take two more. Help is on the way!"

  • acidodomingo

    In ancient times Cubase was the most intuitive sequencer. And it is still intuitive, just less so, as it has grown wildly since then. But anyway, that was my reason to use it. Also, there was no Ableton Live. It also seems to be the most sane choice for ppl who are more into arranging and recording (instead of dubbing and triggering) and won’t afford a mac. I just dropped it, though, after about 12 years.

    Audio-interfaces with DSP are quite handy for recording. The only DAW allowing (almost) latency-free monitoring with effects is protools. That is the one most important argument for protools imho. So, if they got it right, the DSP-based channelstrip is a major feature.

    Well, anyway, the nice ppl at the borg have serious problems with management, and having a marketing manager whose qualification seems to be photography (and producing lots of hot air) won’t help.

  • TheCragon

    there’s no way this is a serious marketing video!

  • TheCragon

    oh by the way: i’m using cubase to record rock bands and when i think about it i really don’t know why. i would never use it for my own (electronic) music. in fact i only tried this 2 or 3 times. fruity loops is one million times more fun for me.

  • max

    I don’t know if I qualify as a Cubase fan but I’m using it since the beginning of the 90s and I tend to come back to it. I need a lot of different tools regularily – especially a good audio editor, clever MIDI data manipulation, and a build-in notation editor. Cubase combines this in one place. None of the fancy alternatives – Reason, Fruity Loops, Ableton Live, Reaper, energyXT, to name some – offers all of them, and I’ve never felt inclined to try another equally bloated DAW like Sonar. It’s true that Cubase lacks a fan-appeal – but for me it works.

  • In fairness, hideous marketing videos aside, I think terms like “bloated” probably get thrown around too much. Cubase and others of its generation do what they do because some of their users said, hey, I want to do x and y!

    The question is, how well do they do what they do — for your own needs and preferences. I certainly wouldn’t count out Cubase on that; it’s an exceptionally mature program and has always been at the leading edge for things like VST implementation (not surprisingly) and MIDI features. It is worth having another look at Reaper, though, in that it seems very feature complete and undergoing constant improvements. I think Reaper is probably doing a better job of addressing things like how MIDI functionality works in its updates, which for a lot of us is more important than features designed to get us to buy more hardware. (Sorry, but it’s true — my existing controllers and audio interface “integrate” just find, thank you!)

  • I will never, ever cease to be amazed at how stupid audio companies think their customers are, not how aweful their promos are.

    You seen the one for Camel Audio's new Alchemy?

    It's entertaining in it's own right – the only one I can think of!

    I am still unholy pissed that Steinberg is who owns the plug-in standard most of the world uses, and they certainly don't need to be the ones controlling metadata! God, I hope they didn't steal my VST categorization metadata idea. I swear to Lotan that I'll rip their uptight asses right off their pale legs.

    Try this on for size for DAW innovation:

  • steroids

    Well I´m using Cubase since years and it never let me down. Current C4 is rocksolid stable on my dedicated system. I love its workflow and ease of use, i never et in the way.

    After I´ve seen the protools level integration of the hardware with Cubase I'm really ready to upgrade my audio hardware! You CAN'T compare these interfaces with a FF800 or MOTU or anything else. The integration with Cubase will be really key here.

  • steve

    I started on Cubase SL2 about 3 years ago, and a year ago upraded to Cubase Studio 4. At first i had alot of problems. But over time, and with updates, it is now stable. I have gotten to know it more and more over time, and the more I use it, the more i love it. I have used Logic a fair bit as well and HATE it!!! It is honestly the most illogical program I have ever used. But I have friends who love it, and it makes sense to them. I think certain programs are just for certain minds. Cubase is for me. And as far as the new hardware goes, I couldn't care less about the inputs, but I am VERY excited about the control surface. It will save me time and focus me more on being creative and not screwing around with the mouse as much. You can disagree and bash Cubase if you want, but for me, it's great!

  • steve

    and yes, that is the most horrific promo video i've ever seen. just brutal!

  • Louis

    I'm a Cubase user for 9 years now adn I really like it very much. In my studio it works fine, and –honestly I need to have a stable system that works. During my SAE studies I had to use Logic for a while and for me it was horrible!!! Just the same cumbersome as other cheap rubbish stuff like Reaper, FL etc. I use Cubase with my MacPro for music production and I love it.

    Will have a look at the new hardware soon ((seems to be very exciting for music guys….yeah đŸ™‚

  • paco


    this video isn´t awesome or even attractive. I don´t understand why they can´t make anything what is more contemporary.

    I like cubase, but other companies are much more qualified in giving their customer a feeling of contentment.

  • musiman

    I´ve senn a new video on Steinberg´s site. Thery you get more info on the new hardware. I think I´ll buy a CC121 because in my opinion in will speed up my workflow very much. Maybe you should take a look at the video too.

  • Clyde

    Cubase does everything required to make good music, and some more. True for a lot DAW's – the only real question does the user know how to work with modern software tools, including work-around of quirks. As an example – take MS Word – the most used word processor program, now count the people within your office that can give you an accurate description of its strengths and weaknesses…