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.