Submitted by thewhippinpost on Tue, 11/07/2006 - 19:03.
Cubase SX 3 overview

What lies inside the new Cubase SX3, and more importantly, what does it all mean for us musicians? Here's a quick look...

New Cubase Tools and Tricks

So Steinberg have just released Cubase SX3, version 3 of their power-brand of audio and MIDI compositional studio suites.

Let's dig in...

Steinberg have added over 70 new functions (don't expect to read about them all here!) in this episode of Cubase and, as ever with each new release, we can expect to learn new concepts and techniques as well as banish some old tedious ones.

From the screenshots, one of the first "advances" that screams, "about time!", is Sonic Foundry's ACID-like pattern-based arrangement interface in the Project Window (that's a geeky mouthful isn't it... just look at the screenshot in other words!).

Cubase SX3 project window showing new paint-on track and envelope-drawing features

Now that is welcome and long overdue!

Plus, if you look carefully at the largest green track channel, you'll see that now we can draw the various parameter envelopes directly over the part - At last!

Now we can easily and accurately setup our envelopes without needing to open-up sub-track folders, making best-guess judgements on where to start (and finish) those fiddly panning/volume adjustments (unless, of course, you have a steady mouse-hand to hold those automation curve-points whilst your eye looks to its position/value on the info line display!).

Audio Warp

Speaking of ACID, Cubase now introduces us to its Audio Warp tool which offers, 'Realtime Time Stretching and Pitch Shifting' and also supports the ACID file format meaning a loop will automatically adjust to the project tempo setting (including any tempo changes in your song)... another, "about time" award!

Intuitive Play Order Track

(Yes, you can always rely on Steinberg to dream up tricky-sounding tool names!)

Basically, this allows you to "discover" what other cool little ditties you might have hidden within your (pattern-based) creations - without even knowing it! - or you might be wondering on the best arrangement for the various sections of your masterpiece. This tool will take those different song sections and mess them around so you can hear the differences and judge which arrangement works best, then you can "paste" the best one to the project ready for mixing and mastering

Inplace Editor

This is cool... it enables us to make quick MIDI edits in context with other MIDI/audio events... from the project window!

Because we can make them in the project window rather than the part's own editor window, it means we can see the accompanying instrumentation in the above and below channels too - This simple idea will no doubt slash away hours of troubleshooting, especially when trying to make those MIDI edits that rely heavily on other audio samples for instance.

The Cubase SX3 Inplace Editor

What else is there?

Virtual Desktops

Well, we also get Virtual Desktops - This means we can have several different "studio" setups depending on whether we're in making-music mode, mixing mode or mastering for instance. You can optimally configure each "desktop" for your specific needs and then switch between them with a key command.

I can imagine, for those multi-genre musicians amongst us, that this will lead to "Hip-Hop" desktops, "Drum 'n' Bass" desktops and/or "Techno" desktops etc... each loosely configured for each genre; EG... a D'n'B desktop with typical D'n'B mixer, effects, instrument tracks, synth settings etc...

At the time of writing, it's not known whether the virtual desktop settings can be exported in order to be sent-on to the studio or other musicians for example, but I daresay this is either a reality or at least in the pipeline and as such, I can see virtual desktops becomming a useful time-saving feature.

Hardware Effects as VST Plug-ins?

Well, very nearly! The External Effects FX Plug-ins allows you to route, and control hardware effects parameters from within the VST mixing environment just like it was a software plug-in... with automatic latency compensation... cool! However, it remains to be seen whether the hardware itself must support VST to take advantage of these features. But even so, history shows us that where Steinberg go, others follow (Is that your wallet leggin it out the door?!).

Other stuff to mention is that SX3 supports '... a 64-bit operating system, and supports up to 4GB of RAM when used with a 64-bit operating system such as the upcoming Microsoft Windows XP 64-bit Edition and appropriate 64-bit processors such as the AMD Opteron.', (Steinberg).

What's (carefully?) not mentioned is whether Cubase SX3 actually utilises 64-bit processing! Nevertheless, it won't be long as they're obviously preparing for its reality. The increase in RAM support is always welcome.

Studio Connections

Steinberg have been working with Yamaha's Studio Manager 2 software which acts as a "middleman" between the sequencer and hardware providing an interface for editing the components. Steinberg say, 'Each editor component can be opened like a Plug-in from within Cubase SX3. Entire studio setups are saved and recalled with the project. Supported hardware currently includes Yamaha's DM2000, 01x and 02r96 mixers, as well as the Motif ES synthesizer and SPX2000 signal processor.'

So, (from this brief overview) we can see that there's something for both hardware and software music-makers.

You can buy Cubase SX3 at a bargain price now, or simply learn more over at zZounds

TheWhippinpost Thinks Aloud... Warning!

Of particular note, it's good to see Steinberg incorporating some of the better features found in other music software out there (though probably not good news to those respective software-makers).

I've always been puzzled why, when an obvious and better way of working has been found, that software-makers either pretend it's not real, or take so long to rethink their own product. I still find it amazing that other, not so well known sequencers (some free and built by hobbyists!) dating back years have some really nifty tools between them, that, if rolled into one sequencing package (even today), would give us a huge step forward again. Most of these tools are not "big" ideas, they're just simple little utility add-ons that wouldn't take much to implement but would make life so much easier.

This is not just Steinberg, it's prevalent in all the leading music software out there. It comes to something when I have to dig out one of the cheaper, or worse still, free sequencers (that I've picked up from a magazine cover say), to carry out a frequent and tedious chore, only to return to the professional package to carry on again!

Rant over... It's not all that bad. Without doubt Cubase is "up there" as one of the leading audio and MIDI music-making software packages around. It's there because, at the end of the day, it enables us to do most things within the one environment. Once you "progress" beyond the "low" and "middle-end" range of sequencers (where digging out that "other" sequencer for its toolset is even more frequent) Cubase quickly becomes indispensible as a creative and technical manipulator. Where it might miss out on some things (which might be just my own peculiar wants), it has too many others to even think about abandoning it... indeed, some would say that to do so would be a brave act! I'm looking forward to Cubase SX3 and you can be sure that TheWhippinpost will be writing more articles and tutorials about it soon.

You can buy Cubase SX3 now.