I switched over to Cubase VST 3.52
to record my midi, using Performer 5.5 until that moment. It is not
that Performer is a bad midi package (in the contrary), but this new
Cubase has something that Performer does not: the combination of midi,
audio and audio-effects in one and the same program.
VST stands for Virtual Studio Technology. And that is exactly what this Cubase is: a complete virtual studio in your Mac (and Windows machine, as there is an identical version for Bill Gates toy too). All major functionality in one software package: from recording the first midi note up to the mix down of the final product in 44 kHz audio. Without leaving Cubase, you can hard disk record your midi to digital audio. The whole arrangement directly to one stereo track, or per midi instrument to separate audio tracks. It is the kind of Mac you have, that defines the number of audio tracks you can have. Midi is endless, as it hardly takes any processor power compared to the audio part. Audio as usual puts heavy demands on your Mac, as we will see later on in this review.
The machine we tested Cubase on, is a PowerMac 6100/66, on of the very first PowerMacs ever. Basically that is all this Cubase needs: a PowerMac with standard 16 kHz stereo in and out. Steinberg says a 6100/66 will do for basis performance, but recommends a 7200/90 or higher for enhanced performance. System 7.5 or higher is a must and a 2nd-level cache is required. On a Mac without 2nd level cache, you won't be able to record, but still are able to play audio. On this platform, Cubase will bring you destructive and nondestructive audio editing, plus realtime DSP (digital sound processing). You can effect the incoming audio with e.g. an EQ (equalizer) before it hits the hard disk. Cubase also cooperates with most audio hardware.
On earlier PowerMacs and the "lighter" more recent types: midi: no problems. Audio: on my 6100/66 up to 6-8 tracks, without the effect section. With the effect section activated, this good old 6100/66 hardly manages 2 tracks, but still can do some basic plug-in effect work, one or two at a time. Real time processing of incoming audio (DSP) on a 6100/66: forget it. For this, you will need the later PowerMacs or -even better- a G3 if you wanna do more effects at the same time. On a G3, you will get up to 32 tracks.
When it comes to the more heavy plug-ins on slower Macs, the music stops. The processor gets overloaded and "good old Betsy 6100" (I give all my Macs a name like most Mac-users seem to do) protests loudly and the audio hicks.
Oh yes: another very important requirement, no matter what Mac you use. You will need a lot of hard disk space, as digital audio at 44 kHz takes up 10 Mb of storage per minute stereo. At separate 2 gigabyte hard disk (never record on the hard disk where system and software are stored) is no luxury. And if you buy such a big guy, buy a speedy one. This increases the number of audio-tracks you will get.
This is about all technical stuff I will give you here. We are Mac users, remember: don't wanna fight around with too much tech. Just wanna be creative! By the way: in the box, two extra CD's come to you with info. One of these CD's contains an excellent interactive presentation of Cubase VST's main functions and possibilities. Just by looking at this presentation, I got to know a lot about this software and how to work with it. It made me fire up within a few hours.
Sounds nice? OK. Let's have a global look at Cubase VST's main functionality. Is it really that easy to work with?
Within a few hours, you get good
grip of the basic functions of Cubase. The arrange window is easy
to understand when it comes to straight forward recording, arranging
and playing your midi production. Changing basic parameters like volume,
attack or pitch-shift, is a peace of cake. Basic editing individual
notes in the "piano roll-like" edit window or the "list"-view is as
easy as well. The user interface is very nice and clearly designed
in tech-looking colors.
The number of midi-tracks you record on is practically only limited by the RAM in your Mac. Let's face it: did you ever need 128 tracks? Perhaps a little more tech here: while working with Cubase, your screen gets filled with a lot of windows. A 17" screen might be a good idea...
Working the audio in Cubase is smooth when arranging. In fact, it works the very same way as with midi. In the arrange window, you can position blocks of audio like you would arrange blocks with midi info. Arranging your music is more or less like drawing a painting in Photoshop. You drag around, mix and match, just as long as you need till it sounds the way you want. A whole load of additional functions can help you to fine tune your arrangement.
Audio in the Cubase environment is kept in the Pool. Let's say a drawer, where all audio is stored. In fact, the Pool contains pointers to the actual audio files that are on your (separate!) audio hard disk. When you start recording the first audio track, Cubase lets you determine where you ant the audio files to be stored.
From the Pool, you can drag the audio directly into the arrange screen. Once the audio is there, a complete effect section can be activated to post produce the audio.
Try before you buy? There are several CD's around with trial versions of almost all Cubase products, including VST. Your local dealer probably will have one. Or get connected to the Steinberg site to find out more.
Also read the online review of Prosoniq's VST plug-ins for Cubase VST (see Index page). When using a 6100/66 or the like, some of the plugs won't work, others (the lighter ones) will. As of a 9500 and higher all plugs work fine. In the horsepower G3's you really blast off at high speed level.
All reviews in AudioMac.net are written by Peter J. Bloemendaal. All rights reserved.
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