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Cubase Essential 5 review ('mazin ya'll)

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Joined: 26 Mar 2008
Posts: 7439
Location: MD

PostPosted: Wed Feb 09, 2011 9:54 pm    Post subject: Cubase Essential 5 review ('mazin ya'll) Reply with quote

I am completely blown away by this program right now. With a student discount I got it brand new, in the box, for $75. It's probably one the best $75 I've ever spent. I seriously can not believe all the crap they give you for $75. And it's not dumbed down like garage band or anything, this is like in depth functionality here. More in depth than I'll probably ever use in some cases. I keep trying to figure out what sucks about it but really I can't find anything. This is a DAW truly made for a home studio and IMO it completely blows everything else in it's price range out of the water.

If you're like me, when faced with the above kind of boundless praise you might be a bit suspicious so let me just first off just lay out the actual differences between this program and the full version of cubase. Again, this is not a dumbed down garage band like program, this is basically just cubase 5 ($599) with some limitations put on some of the track counts and things of that nature. That's it. Otherwise as far as I can tell almost everything is the same level of functionality as cubase 5. All the awesome midi functions, etc. Here is a chart that compares most of the basic limitations of all the versions:

So unless you have some big ass 64+ track console or control surface which most home studios do not have I can not see the need for anything beyond cubase essential. Or if you're trying to do audio post production for a hollywood film or something and need half a bazillion tracks, yeah, you might want to the full version. Otherwise I think this is gonna be fine for most people. Almost every hit record you've ever heard was probably recorded with smaller track/channel counts than this.

Now the cool stuff. First off, the primary reason you're interested in this is probably for recording things, right, so I'm happy to inform you that this has everything you need in that dept. The audio tracks let you easily edit the audio, and automate anything. Before I got this my experience had been with pro tools 7/8 and it took me maybe 20 minutes to figure it out. Also, MIDI can be recorded and edited similarly. You can also create MIDI parts with the included sequencers. So that's all really cool. Like I would pay $75 just for that and honestly that's all I thought I was getting, but now what really is blowin me away, check out the rest of this stuff that comes with it as well:

18 MIDI tools
- These are all the same MIDI plugins that come with the full version of cubase 5. INSANELY powerful tools. Two sequencers, two arpeggiators, MIDI echo, etc., etc., etc. Full list:

Arpache 5 - A typical arpeggiator accepts a chord (a group of MIDI
notes) as input, and plays back each note in the chord separately,
with the playback order and speed set by the user.
The Arpache 5 arpeggiator does just that, and more.

Arpache SX - This is an even more versatile and advanced arpeggiator,
capable of creating anything from traditional arpeggios to
complex, sequencer-like patterns. The Arpache SX has
two different modes: Classic and Sequence.

Auto LFO - This plug-in works like an LFO in a synthesizer, allowing you
to send out continuously changing MIDI controller messages.
One typical use for this is automatic MIDI panning,
but you can select any MIDI continuous controller event

Beat Designer - The Beat Designer is a MIDI pattern sequencer that allows
you to create your own drum parts or “patterns” for a
project. With the Beat Designer, you can quickly and easily
set up the drums for a project, by experimenting and
creating new drum sequences from scratch.

Chorder - The Chorder is a MIDI chord processor, allowing you to assign
complete chords to single keys in a multitude of variations.
These can then be played back live or using recorded
notes on a MIDI track.

Compressor - This MIDI compressor is used for evening out or expanding
differences in velocity. Though the result is similar to what
you get with the Velocity Compression track parameter, the
Compress plug-in presents the controls in a manner more
like regular audio compressors.

Context Gate - The Context Gate allows for selective triggering/filtering
of MIDI data. It features two modes: in Poly Mode the
Context Gate recognizes certain chords that are played
and in Mono Mode only certain MIDI notes are let through.
These modes can be used for context selective control of
MIDI devices and are, for example, very useful in certain
live scenarios.

Density - This generic control panel affects the “density” of the notes
being played from (or thru) the track. When this is set to
100%, the notes are not affected. Lowering the Density
setting below 100% will randomly filter out or “mute” notes.
Raising the setting above 100% will instead randomly add
notes that have been played before.

Micro Tuner - basically allows you to assign any kind of alternate micro tuning setup to MIDI.

MIDI Control
- basically allows you to control and/or automate any MIDI controllers (expression pedals, etc.) through cubase

- This is an advanced MIDI Echo, which will generate additional
echoing notes based on the MIDI notes it receives.
It creates effects similar to a digital delay, but also features
MIDI pitch shifting and much more.

MIDI Modifiers
- This plug-in is essentially a duplicate of the MIDI Modifiers
section in the Inspector. This can be useful, for example, if
you need extra Random or Range settings.

MIDI Monitor - basically for viewing all MIDI data being transmitted for troubleshooting.

Note to CC - This effect will generate a MIDI continuous controller
event for each incoming MIDI note.

Quantizer - basically for changing the quantizing or "swing" any time during a song.

Step Designer - The Step Designer is a MIDI pattern sequencer that sends
out MIDI notes and additional controller data according to
the pattern you set up. It does not make use of the incoming
MIDI, other than automation data (such as recorded
pattern changes).

Track Control
- The Track Control effect contains three ready-made control
panels for adjusting parameters on a GS or XG compatible
MIDI device. The Roland GS and Yamaha XG protocols are
extensions of the General MIDI standard, allowing for more
sounds and better control of various instrument settings. If
your instrument is compatible with GS or XG, the Track
Controls effect allows you to adjust sounds and effects in
your instrument from within Cubase Essential.

Transformer - With the Transformer you can perform very powerful MIDI
processing on the fly, without affecting the actual MIDI
events on the track. seriously in depth plug-in that is way beyond the scope of this review.

An example of how you might use these, in a context that people on a guitar forum might be interested in: if you have that Sonuus G2M guitar to MIDI converter you can plug it into your MIDI interface on your computer, which then connects to cubase. You can then play a note on your guitar, which you can send to the Chorder which will turn it into a chord, which you can send to the Arpache 5 which can turn the chord into an arpeggio. You can then use that MIDI arpeggio to trigger any synth or device, including the bundled soft-synths. So by playing a single note on your guitar you can get a synth arpeggio. Tell me that is not fucking cool.

"HALionOne" Synth Sound Module - Yamaha owns Steinberg so all the sounds here are from Yamahas top-of-the-line Motif synth workstations. That's right, bundled with this $75 program is basically the sound module from a $3000 synthesizer. Classic to modern sounds including several drum kits. To give you an idea of the scope of the patches here is the selection screen:


An example of how guitar players might find this useful would be the fact that there are several drum kits for you to use to make baking tracks. Also the beat designer MIDI plug-in (see above) has a bunch of preset rhythms that you can use as building blocks. I'm looking into the fact if you can download more presets that other folks have made, which I assume you can.

"Prologue" Analog Modeling Synth - Do an microKorg, etc. This is the same synth included in the full version.

33 steinberg VST plug-ins - included are 33 of the 58 VST plug-ins that come with the full version of cubase. so you automatically get a decent EQ, compressor, and other effects processors. There's an amp sim too if you're into that kinda thing. For most people these will cover everything you need to do, but there is definitely room to upgrade IMO. I still have to really give the reverb a good test and I'll admit I'm a bit skeptical because I've used a lot of shitty reverb plug-ins in the past. It might be decent though. I'll see.

To sum up, I think this program is useful for everything from a songwriting tool to the ability to create fully professional polished recordings. For people that can't get a student discount it's $150. Still totally worth it at that price but there are probably plenty of ways you can finagle your way into getting the discount.
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