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Cubase SX 3

A comprehensive program that's hitting its stride By Frank Moldstad

Cubase SX 3 is a native music production system that runs on both Macs and PCs and has a powerful toolset for any audio occasion, from recording and editing to looping and virtual instrument hosting. It also has some unique functions, including some of the 70 new features introduced in version 3.

I installed Cubase SX 3 on a Windows XP machine with 1 GB of RAM and an Intel P4 on an ASUS motherboard (plus a free USB slot for the Cubase dongle). I stacked about a dozen instances of the included soft synths and four audio tracks with no performance problems, even as I was changing effects and soft synth patches during playback. The powerful floating 32-bit internal audio engine that Cubase shares with Nuendo offloads much of the CPU stress by processing the audio offline when you select a plugin, making a major difference as you increase the track count.

Having used Cubase SX version 1, I was familiar with the program's basic functionality and was able to get around version 3 easily. The already sharp interface looks the same, but what's under the hood has been incrementally upgraded with some very good workflow and editing tools. For instance, those who work with MIDI will find the Inplace MIDI editing feature very useful. Before, you had to open a separate window to edit MIDI notes and parameters. Now you can select Edit in Place from the drop down MIDI menu (or hit Ctl+Shift+I) and the MIDI key menu opens up right in the track, including a mini keyboard for sound previews. This lets you edit MIDI events in the context of all other MIDI and Audio tracks in a project, instead of edting in a vacuum. For in-depth editing, the separate larger Key window is still available to zoom in on events in greater detail.


Edit in Place lets you perform MIDI event editing in the main window.

Another new feature that grabbed my attention was the ability to integrate outboard effects and processing boxes as transparently as plugins. This is a great workflow aid -- Cubase SX 3 can be set up to recognize outboard processors and list them in the same VST window with plugins. You can even adjust automatic delay compensation for external devices. What this feature can't do is allow you to scroll through the presets of an external processor from your computer, although you do get a small window with slider controls for Delay and Send/Return Gain. A small button on the external plugin interface measures an effect loop's delay, and then applies any needed compensation. When I clicked this, Cubase determined no delay compensation was necessary for a Lexicon 550 reverb unit.

External effects box control panel
This feature does require you to manually create the external effects inputs and outputs every time you open a new project -- there's no way to save them. Even so, it's worthwhile to set up the effects manually in order to have the convenience of having all effects routing at your fingertips while mixing in the box. And it's a good step toward tearing down walls between virtual devices and hardware.

More advanced functionality of this type is available through Studio Connections, a protocol that Steinberg was working on with Yamaha even before Yamaha purchased Steinberg earlier this year. Studio Connections makes every aspect of a session recallable, from external mixer and processor settings to DAW software settings. With the release of Cubase SX 3, this can be done with Yamaha's Studio Manager version 2.0 and a Yamaha DM 2000, DM 1000, 02R96, 01V96 or SPX 2000 mixer. The Studio Connections effort has been ongoing for three years, with the goal being the development of technologies and protocols for the integration of hardware into the DAW environment. In the future, other hardware and software developers may include the Studio Connections protocol in their products. (For more information, see our interview with Yamaha's Athan Billias here.)

Studio Manager version 2.0 mirroring interface of a Yamaha DM 2000 mixer in Cubase.

 

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Related Keywords:Cubase SX 3, music production, recording, editing, looping, virtual instrument, Nuendo


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