Sonic LAB: Cubase Pro 11 - In Use

Gaz Williams takes it for a spin      04/02/21

Cubase Pro 11 came out back in November and we have spent some quality time with it exploring the many new features.  Incidentally, it's actually the 16th version of Cubase due to an SX reboot after Cubase 5 VST.

Cubase now comes in three varieties: Pro, Artist and Elements. For this review we focus on the Pro edition. For a comparison between versions, please head to Steinberg's website for a comprehensive list.

Apart from the main highlights listed there also some important under the hood changes that improve the graphical performance with Windows 10 variable DPI and Apple Metal acceleration.

Part 1:  Score editor improvements 0:13
The score editor gains some new font options brought over from Steinberg's standalone score editor Dorico. More significantly is the score editor note overlay that allows for a more piano roll approach to score editing.

Part 2:  Key editor improvements 1:11
Perhaps the most significant part of the Cubase 11 update is the improvements to the key editor. This is perhaps the oldest part of Cubase being part of the original release back in 1989! The pitch bend editor can now be snapped to a pitch grid plus all modifier lanes benefit from Bézier curve editing. Being able to view global tracks such as tempo track, chord track and marker tracks can now be toggled on within the key editor, seemingly a simple addition, hugely improves the editing workflow.

Part 3:  Scale assistant 3:27
Scale assistant makes it simple keeping your piano roll editing locked into selected scales or the chord track.  Incoming live notes can be locked into key directly in the editor.

Part 4:  The new plug ins 6:42
The new plugins are mostly focused on mastering and finalising mixes.

Frequency 2 takes this high quality mastering grade eq and significantly enhances it with all eight bands fully dynamic and taking advantage of the new multiple sidechain buses now available. 

Imager is a multi band stereo enhancer useful also for mastering but by enabling live mode it can transform it into a creative and experimental plugin with smoother movement using automation.

Squasher is a multi band dynamic processor that can also utilise multiple side chains. It's ability to act as a compressor and expander simultaneously is unique and can drastically reduce dynamic range with professional and exciting results. Can be used on individual tracks or full mixes. 

Part 5:  Multiple side chains 11:04
Up to eight sidechain signal paths are available to certain plugins which can allow for various creative or corrective approaches to mixing. Each sidechain can also be fed from multiple sources allowing for one of the most comprehensive implementations of sidechaining yet seen in a DAW.

Part 6:  Supervision 13:35
This new visual plugin can be configured in multiple ways to display all kinds of metering. Stereo and phase information, various forms of loudness metering plus VU meters and spectra graphs are available with very deep customisable options. Several presets are included which focus on different use case examples such as mixing, mastering and surround sound work.

Part 7:  Spectralayers One and vocal unmix 14:43
Spectralayers is a standalone application also published by Steinberg currently on version 7. Cubase 11 sees the inclusion of the cut back version Spectralayers One. Ostensibly a wave editor that allows for surgical and forensic editing. Probably the feature that will be used the most is the vocal unmix feature. This allows for the extraction of vocals from a mix down. It's ability to extract reverb tails associated with the vocals make this process even more impressive and useful.

Part 8:  Sampler track improvements and new sounds 18:44
Six large and varied new sample libraries are included with Pro 11. Ranging from EDM to the more abstract, these samples will certainly benefit from the improvements to the sampler track. Originally included with Cubase 9, the Sampler track has now gained significant enhancements. Mono legato mode, 2 global LFOs plus the all important slice functionality are all well implemented in a clear and concise way. A nice feature is being able to transfer any Sampler track content directly to the included Groove Agent SE or Padshop to be saved as instruments for future use.

Part 9:  Export queue 22:58
As the Pro title suggests, Cubase continues to add real world benefits to professionals working in a variety of fields. For instance the new export queue allows for several rendering jobs to be completed simultaneously. This has benefits for all users but especially those working in soundtrack, foley or game design. Being able to create multiple variations, stems and sections in multiple file formats in one render operation is a huge time saver. All jobs in the render queue are fully editable and can be updated as the project evolves.

So in summary there are plenty of new features to explore that increase Cubase's ability to be both a creative hub and editing platform.  Out of all the new stuff, the significant editing enhancements in the venerable key editor will surely be hugely appreciated especially by those who have traveled along on the 30 plus year journey.

The pricing will depend on what version you have. A full version of Cubase Pro 11 costs £499 whereas an upgrade from v10.5 will cost £85. All other upgrades fall in between. Head over to www.Steinberg.net for the full information.


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