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Cubase 3.0 (part 1)

Yes I admit it. I think Cubase is great and I don’t mind if Steinberg do pinch great chunks of my articles to use in their adverts! Maybe they’ll also say that I don’t think that Cubase is absolutely perfect yet, even at the new Version 3.0 level...



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es I admit it. I think Cubase is great and I don’t mind if Steinberg do pinch great chunks of my articles to use in their adverts! Maybe they’ll also say that I don’t think that Cubase is absolutely perfect yet, even at the new Version 3.0 level but for state of the art sequencing of mainstream music on current hardware it would be difficult to beat. Other sequencers I have tried have all had their strong points and have the edge on Cubase in certain areas, but Cubase’s visual display provides such a strong link between the sounds you hear and the MIDI data held in the computer’s RAM that sequencing can be almost as intuitive as improvising on the keyboard. The visual display, by the way, isn’t unique to Cubase. In the professional world, digital audio hard disk editors usually have displays involving moving segments of some kind so that you can see the audio as well as hear it. At these higher price levels, faster computing hardware is available and the segments scroll past a fixed cursor rather than the reverse as in Cubase. This is better because there isn’t a gap when the cursor reaches the edge and the screen has to be redrawn, but when I remarked in an earlier article about Cubase being a link with the future of audio, this is what I was referring to. Sequencers which employ lists rather than graphics, although their ultimate power may be equal to or even greater than Cubase, are limited because if you can’t get at that power easily then it is bound to be largely wasted.

The personal computer software industry is now becoming mature in that a pattern of software release and update has developed that most users can understand and are prepared to accept. (I use ‘accept’ as a polite alternative to ‘put up with’!). Usually a software house comes up with a good idea and issues it in Version 1 form. Buyers realise what a good idea it is and that it would be useful to have such a system assisting them in their business, but when they take the plunge and buy a copy they find that the software doesn’t do several important things that they expected it to, and that it crashes frequently. By the time Version 2 arrives, there has been sufficient feedback between the users and the software house that the software is now an asset to the business rather than a costly white elephant, and when Version 3 appears a couple of years later it is fully functioning and bug free, and performs every task that could possibly be required of it to absolute perfection. (Later versions will add features that no-one could possibly understand or use and complicate things so much that the software house is forced to develop a totally new product and start the cycle all over again!).

In contrast to the pattern outlined above (which covers software of all types, not just music software), Cubase has been usable from the start. Version 1.0 had all the elements in place and, although it was readily apparent that there was a lot of room for fine tuning, you could create serious music with it. Version 3 really does bring the concept fully to fruition and it’s difficult to see how further large scale improvements could be made within the limitations of currently popular hardware. Don’t expect there to be vast differences or improvements. Most of the differences between Version 2 and Version 3 are detail differences, not major changes. And fortunately they don’t seem to get in the way of the Cubase interface at all. It’s not unknown for the latest release of a piece of software to be harder to use than the version it replaced, or to have added unwanted irritations.

Now that you have a fair idea of what I think of this new version of Cubase, let me launch into the reasoning behind my opinions. Let’s start with a couple points...

By David Mellor Thursday January 1, 2004

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