Version 3 of this popular Audio/MIDI software looks set to win many new converts, judging by the raft of new features offered. Steinberg has significantly improved the user-interface – adding extra functions to Project and Editing windows and simplifying several areas such as the Device Setup. Cubase SX is still complex software that will take newcomers time to get used to, but this is equally true of all its competitors.
SX3 has several advantages over Logic Pro, not least of which is its more-logical user-interface and the excellent manuals. It also provides full plug-in delay compensation throughout the audio path. You can ‘freeze’ plug-ins on each track using the Freeze button in the Inspector. This bounces the track’s audio to disk with the effects applied, then plays this new audio instead of processing the original – freeing up processor power. You can also freeze VST instruments and their effects.
Even with the fastest CPU, you eventually reach the point where you can’t insert any more plug-ins, or the sound from the virtual instruments starts to break up. There’s also the question of how much RAM is being used. To sort this, SX3’s Freeze dialog has an Unload Instrument When Frozen option that unloads the frozen VSTInstrument from the computer’s memory – neat!
One of my favourite new features lets you move everything selected in the Project window via the left/right locators, including Tempo Track events. SX3 also features an Edit-in-place function for editing MIDI parts directly in the Project window, as in Pro Tools.
SX3 also has Audio Warp pitch-control and time-stretch features. Use the Audio Tempo Definition tool to calculate the tempo of audio loops you want to work with, then enter Musical Mode. The audio then follows the project tempo using real-time time-stretching, just like GarageBand. Using the new Warp Tabs, any performance recorded live with natural tempo variations can be adapted to a specific, exact tempo.
If you’re looking to buy a top-notch Audio/MIDI sequencer, Cubase SX3 has all the features that most users want and just added several that pro users need. For existing Cubase users, it’s a no-brainer.