the level of your VCA group, the individual track faders move down and therefore the post fader sends to your eﬀects chains will be proportionally reduced. I’m sorry to have laboured the point and I’m sure many audio grandmothers are throwing their eggs out of the basket by now, while others are thinking, ‘Ah but I can achieve that eﬀect by dedicating drum processing and sending it to the same group or by using channel link.’ Welcome to the world of cat skinning (don’t try that at home!), but a VCA is quicker and remember, of course, competition is the name of the game and VCA implementations are available in other high-end software, so it is only ﬁtting that Cubase joins the party. Nuendo will get VCAs (and possibly a more powerful implementation) when version 7 arrives later this year. And, being super ﬂexible, Cubase Pro 8 allows you to ‘VCA’ more than just gain. Pan, EQ, dynamics, sends, inserts, routing and even automation can all be included in the VCA group. So you have automation on your snare and toms and kick tracks but you also want to apply automation to the drum mix as a whole – the VCA lets you do that. And suppose you have a drum VCA and a ‘glock and marimba’ VCA you can then nest them inside a ‘master’ percussion VCA. So ﬂexible, but enough VCA already.
Frank Simmerlein, Steinberg’s director of marketing, talks to Adam Savage about the latest version of the software, and what it offers both new and experienced users. There have been a lot of Cubase enhancements over the years and this is a pretty big one. Is this up there with the most signiﬁcant updates you’ve made perhaps? Each iteration of Cubase has had its wealth of new features. I believe that maintaining a good balance between improvements to existing features and adding new capabilities makes all the diﬀerence. From that perspective all versions of Cubase released in the past 25 years are equally signiﬁcant. How important was existing customer feedback when it came to deciding what the new version would oﬀer? Actually, customer feedback had top priority. We’ve always had an ear for our users but this time it had the utmost priority when it came to enhancements and new features. We hosted surveys, monitored community channels closely and collaborated with producers and musicians working with Cubase. And the result is a wellreceived Cubase Pro 8. What about newcomers to the software? Are you conﬁdent they will also be able to ﬁnd their way around the software easily? Cubase is a professional DAW with an extensive feature set. Our approach to implementing new tools and technologies always keeps the user in mind but admittedly newcomers will have to prepare themselves for a long learning curve. If Pro is too overwhelming I propose going with one of the smaller packages – Cubase Artist or Elements.
What sort of response have you had from users so far? The feedback we’ve been getting from users has been very positive. And this reﬂects the fact that we have been carefully listening to the requests of our customer base. A big thanks goes out to all Cubase users. Why should audio professionals pick Cubase over all the other DAW options available to them? This question has to go to all the pro users running Cubase in their studios. I’m sure they’ll have the best answer for you.
New Features Quickly backing this thing up. As someone said about Cubase 7.x – ‘the only thing missing is render in-place’. Well the Steinberg feature fairy was listening and Pro 8 has a render in-place function. You can render tracks, or events, MIDI parts or range selections. There are options for how much of the signal path (processing) you want to include. Rendering some mono keys into stereo was straightforward and on completion you have the option of a nice shiny new stereo track. However there’s no render to mono – but there are workarounds, of course. One of my favourite new features is ‘wave meters’ in the mixer. This turns your meter bridge (which normally hides in the ‘Set Up Window Layout’ button top left of your screen) into a set of live scrolling audio meters – only for audio tracks though. It looks fantastic and maybe having ‘lookahead’ built into the mixer will be a boon for those mixing against the clock who don’t have the screen space for the project screen as well as the mixer. Actually having audio wave forms directly above the mixer channel is not just cute
but more importantly will impress the client no end. Sometimes that is the deﬁnition of ‘Pro’. Alongside these new features there are two other areas Steinberg has been working on, the ﬁrst is the most visible – new instruments and eﬀects and the chord pad feature. The second is the stuﬀ that is more mundane or hidden from view – window management and the audio engine performance. To assess the import of these I spoke to Mal Pope and Andrew Griﬃths, the musical powerhouses behind Jack to a King, the story of Swansea City football club, which is currently tearing up the DVD charts. Football fans have come across it I’m sure. Both Andrew and Mal are longtime Cubase users, with track records dating back to the Atari days. For Andrew it is deﬁnitely the lower key stuﬀ that gets the plaudits, he’s using a three-monitor setup with a touchscreen to mix on and the window management in version 8 is something that makes his day-to-day workﬂow that bit easier and quicker. Similarly, VCAs speed up the daily business of mixing drums. Mal
and I focused on the new audio engine, discussing the importance of squeezing every bit of power and speed out of your setup. Two votes for Pro 8. Funnily enough the new instruments and eﬀects here might be less attractive simply because most long-term or Pro users already have racks and racks of plug-ins and banks of instruments to call on. The new chord pad feature, however, did remind me of a great story. Andy Partridge of XTC fame once recounted that his search for chords on the piano was very labour intensive – not being a reader of music, in order to remember a chord shape he liked, he would draw round his hand on a piece of cardboard and cut out the chord shape. Andy, with Cubase Pro 8 your cardboard-cutting days are over, because even if you don’t have a degree in composition then the new chord pads will hold your hand, cardboard or otherwise, making musical life that little bit easier. And, of course, if you are starting from scratch the new instruments and eﬀects are nice to have. So does Cubase justify the Pro tag or is Mr Washington going to come round with
his shotgun and rocket launcher? I think Steinberg can sleep easy in their beds New pro features like VCAs are welcome and the honing of the underlying audio engine and the tweaks to the workﬂow are keeping the professional user base more than happy. Match Pro 8 with some top class hardware like the Prism Sound Lyra and you have a high-grade audio system capable of really professional results. Denzel says yes to Cubase Pro 8 and he, after all, is a true pro.
Key Features VCA faders for complex mixing and automation workflows Render in-place Plug-in manager to arrange, sort and group effects and instruments New Virtual Bass Amp, Quadrafuzz v2, Multiband Expander, Multiband Envelope Shaper effects RRP: £448 www.steinberg.net February 2015