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Review of Cubase SX 3
PC and Mac versions compared, with a rundown of new features
Cubase continues on with its tradition
sequencers with SX3. Feature wise, and in many other categories, Cubase is
the leader in sequencer technology, followed by Logic and Sonar in many
important areas. Don't get me wrong here. It does not mean Cubase is the
"best" sequencer available. All the main sequencers today are rich in features and
have been for a long time. What Cubase has going for it, in my opinion, is
the ability to break new ground, develop innovative code that allows us new
abilities to make our music and enjoy the process. Am I impressed?
You bet. Now that they fixed some of the most troublesome issues with the
release of 3.02, I am quite happy with it.
Cubase retains its glory as the most graphically rich sequencer. The interface is absolutely stunning and offers many way for a user to change the way it looks at you while you are working on a song. And if you don't like it, you can edit the look more extensively than any other sequencer, even down to the colors of the peak meters. Also, Cubase SX3 continues to bring in new features and replace those lost in the transition from Cubase VST to SX. Now that's all water under the bridge, and its time to enjoy cubase SX maturing capabilities.
Lets talk a bit about the new features
in Cubase SX.
Audio Warp Cubase's audio editor is
quite interesting, particularly for those who like to manipulate audio. Years ahead of cakewalk and
logic with its process history.. And now, even sophisticated stand alone editors like Sound Forge, Peak,
and Apples new Soundtrack Pro cannot touch audio warp. Its also
incredibly easy to use. You just open an audio file, set some hit points
and drag their markers and you can speedup, slow down, to the granular level
if you want. And it can all be done in real-time, that is, while the
file is playing. There is no tweak-preview-tweak-preview as in other
editors, You just tweak, see and hear the results right as you move the
mouse. I have got to say, the Cubase audio editor is the best there is
among all the sequencers I have tried. Sonar doesn't have a full-fledged
Logic's is umm "vintage" and still can't render effects.
Intuitive Play order. This feature is a
dream for arrangers. Slice up your song into verses, chorus, breaks, and
reorder them easily to find out the most effective order. In other
sequencers you have to rearrange all the blocks on the screen, and re-arrange
them back if you don't like your new order. Here you can experiment all
day till you find the best arrangement, and if you can't find one, your
original is still there.
Inplace editor. The inplace editor happens right on the arrangement screen within the lanes of each track. its great for fixing a note when you don't want to open up one of the other editors. Its a great feature, that I first saw about in Tracktion. Not a critical feature, (you are only a double click away from the more powerful Key (piano roll) Editor) but a nice one.
MIDI device Maps. I tried for an
afternoon to get some of these setup in Cubase SX 3.0.0 and found it
incredibly buggy. I have not yet tried in 3.02. The idea here is
to build devices (knobs, faders, controllers) that are tailored to the midi
instruments you have. Every time you call up the instrument on a track
the devices are there waiting for you. Its a minor nicety as there are
plenty of other ways to get controller data on your tracks. I am
also finding the MIDI device manager much easier to work with. Script
building seems easier now. (The trick is to build the patchname script in
Excel then cut an paste to a Text file). The application boots much
faster now. Cubase SX 1.0 would crawl through MIDI device initialization.
Those with a large MIDI rig will definitely see the improvement.
User definable workspaces-- A big improvement
here. You can setup your screen(s) and save the workspace, then recall them
from a menu. I really like that these are in a menu and can be
organized. I think SX3 has finally caught up to logic's screenset idea
and taken it one step further.
There's more new features, You can see the "official" top ten new features over on the left. like an improved track freeze which lets you freeze with or without inserts on both audio tracks and VSTi's. This is helpful because you can still mess with processors after the track is frozen, which can save a bit of time.
PC or Mac OSX?
Steinberg has the only full featured cross
platform sequencer solution right now. On a PC SX is blazing fast and
with the 3.02 update applied, its stability is good. It almost feels too
fast. With my own setup
using an emu 1820M it works well. Emulator X, which can be a touchy
software sampler, also works well with no glitches. My experience was
not as good using the earlier emu 1.6 drivers in 3.00 as a bug in emulator X
would "poof" Cubase but the Emu 1.7 drivers appears to solve it.
Regarding the look of the program, I like
Cubase SX on OSX a little better. This may have nothing to do with
Cubase itself, but with OSX, where the dialog boxes, menus, scroll bars, etc,
all work in the standard Mac way. Also for some reason colors seem more
vibrant in OSX even using the same monitors i use for the PC. But that's
where the favorable comparison ends for me. I find its overall
performance slightly less robust on my Mac G5 (dual) 1.8 as on my AMD 3400+.
I am now running SX3 3.02 under Mac OS 10.4.2 (Tiger). There is
considerable graphic improvement over 10.3x, which could get really slow.
The pain is gone now, but its still graphically slower than on a PC. Though i
have not used Cubase enough to compare performance with LogicPro, my
impression is they are about the same, performance wise. Also, compared to Logic Pro, you'll notice all your
VST and VSTi's are back at work. There's no audio units here and no
audio unit evaluator watching over your plugs.
In the balance, my opinion is that Cubase SX is
better on a PC, but not by much. Not enough to dissuade a die hard Mac
user not to use it.
Now that the application is at 3.02, its way safe to upgrade. And worth it, in my ever humble opinion.
May your music shine
Want to discuss? Go to the Cubase topic at studio-central
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