At last, a credible rival for Digidesign’s Pro Tools emerges in the form of Steinberg’s flagship media production system, Nuendo. Introduced three years ago, Nuendo supported the 96kHz sampling rate important for DVD and had good surround-sound capabilities, which won it acceptance by leading engineers and producers working in surround formats. Nuendo 2.0 has now been redesigned for use by professionals working in all genres of the audio industry, whether post-production, broadcast, music production and composition, surround, game sound or multimedia.
My overall impressions are that it’s solid, reliable, and professional. The programmers have been busy refining the user-interface as well as keeping up with all the latest technical features.
And whoever thought of putting large bargraph-style meters as an option above the mixer channel strips deserves an award. The graphic-design elements have also been refined so that, compared with Cubase SX, Nuendo looks even more sophisticated, less garish, and more restful on the eye – making it easier to work with for extended periods. Logic Audio looks clumsy in comparison. I even prefer Nuendo 2.0’s look to Pro Tools 6.
Nuendo is designed for working in surround formats, with an advanced multi-channel architecture through the entire signal path. Every input, audio track, effect return, group and output now offers up to 12 discrete channels, ready for full-scale 5.1, 7.1, or even 10.2 productions.
Several input and output busses can be used at the same time – mono, stereo or any of a wide range of surround formats – and any track can be routed to and from any of these buses.
Nuendo’s 32-bit floating-point mixer has been completely re-engineered. It now features plug-in delay compensation and proper effects returns, as well as phase reverse and input gain change on each channel – and you can record with plug-in effects directly to disk using the new input busses. Nuendo can import Cubase SX projects and supports Steinberg’s VST System Link, which lets you hook up other Macs or PCs running Nuendo or Cubase SX to extend your primary Nuendo system.
Another of Nuendo 2.0’s many advantages is its support for all major file and exchange formats. It works with sample rates from 32kHz up to 192kHz at 16-, 24- or 32-bit resolution in Wave, Broadcast Wave, AIFF or Wave64 format, mono or stereo, split or interleaved multi-channel file formats. The AES31 interchange format takes information about the positions of events, fades and so forth, and uses Broadcast Wave as the default audio format. Open Media Framework Interchange, often referred to simply as OMF, also allows interchange of audio files between workstations, complete with the edits. The OMF format is also supported by Pro Tools, Digital Performer and Sonar – but not by Cubase SX. For post-production studios, Nuendo supports the OpenTL file interchange format, which lets you swap audio projects between Nuendo and Tascam hard disk recorders complete with all the edits. You can also transfer audio files and their associated edits from Adobe Premiere to Nuendo by creating a Generic EDL file in Premiere and importing this into Nuendo.
So how does Nuendo differ from Cubase SX? In many ways it is closer to Cubase SX than previous versions as it now incorporates all the MIDI features, including the Score editing, from Cubase SX. But Nuendo is much better for surround and for working to picture – with its more advanced Mixer and Sony 9-pin control. Nuendo 2.0 has a better selection of plug-ins than Cubase SX, including a suite of audio-restoration tools and a suite of surround processors, plus tools such as a multi-scope and a test tone generator. You can use Nuendo’s Process sub-menu to apply a range of digital signal processes to your audio, such as the Acoustic Stamp, which lets you convolve the selected audio with an impulse response file of your choice. Nuendo features Batch processing so that you can process files offline more efficiently.
You can customize Nuendo’s interface to include only the features you actually want to use. If you don’t need the MIDI menu, for example, you can just hide this completely. And if you never use the Beat Calculator, you can remove just this item from the Project menu.
Like Cubase SX, Nuendo comes with three basic software instruments to get you started – the LM-7 drum-machine, the VB-1 bass synthesizer and the A-1 polyphonic synthesizer. Nuendo also has ReWire 2 support, so you can easily use compatible apps such as Reason with Nuendo and have the audio outputs from the program automatically appear as inputs to Nuendo mixer channels. You can also route MIDI in Nuendo to ReWire 2-compatible software synthesizers, such as the various devices in Reason.
Nuendo is primarily intended for post-production audio for film, television, video and DVD. But now that it incorporates all of Cubase SX’s MIDI and Score Edit features, Nuendo makes a great choice for music production – composing, arranging, recording, editing and mixing.
Professional project studios, whether working on multimedia projects, interactive CD/DVDs, games, sound design, Web audio, radio drama, commercials or jingles will also find Nuendo 2.0 eminently suitable to use as the heart of their media-production system. One of the advantages of its high level of customization is that Nuendo can be configured to suit the type of work you are doing to a much larger extent than any of its competitors. And Nuendo is better equipped to exchange projects with systems by other manufacturers than most competing audio workstations.