Cubase by Steinberg: DAW / MIDI Sequencer Hybrid

Launched more than 20 years ago, Cubase software by Steinberg began as a pure MIDI sequencer. Since then, although Steinberg has added and enhanced the program’s audio recording capabilities, it is its strength as a MIDI-based sequencer and the accompanying plethora of virtual instruments that lends Cubase its power.

Or, as one message board user put it:

Cubase: MIDI at its best
Protools: MIDI at its worst

Dominating the virtual instruments landscape

Of course, Pro Tools, Sonar, and other leading DAW applications offer MIDI sequencing and virtual instruments as well; it’s just that none of them do it as elegantly as Cubase. Which is understandable, since not only did Cubase come from a purely sequencing standpoint, but Steinberg as a company is focused on digital instruments.

Thus, while other companies rush to catch up in this department, Cubase keeps expanding its capabilities. Current upgrades include four new synthesizers (Mystic, Pologue, Spector, and HALion One), and enhanced tools for beat generation and loop manipulation.

Artists from the electronic landscape (like Kraftwerk) and producers such as Darryl Pearson (Madonna, Justin Timberlake, Chris Cornell, etc.) are devotees, as is the multi-talented artist Timbaland, who uses Cubase extensively.

Expanding the audio recording functions

Just as other programs are working to grow their MIDI-sequencing offerings, Cubase has aggressively moved into the audio recording world. Most recently, pitch correction and other vocal editing tools have been added. Not surprisingly, the “VariAudio” pitch editor offers MIDI-pitch data style editing for real-time audio.

Boasting user-friendly features

Engineers, producers, and musicians who have used multiple DAWs point to Cubase’s ease-of-use as a major benefit, citing the program’s superior work-flow setup. This is augmented by Steinberg’s substantial support documents, which, in the computer world, can be essential.

Like Pro Tools, Cubase can be run on a Macintosh or PC. While most Pro Tools systems are run on Macs, however, Cubase is more often used with PCs.

Offering an affordable solution

Another advantage Cubase has over the DAW juggernaut is cost. Not only is Cubase software substantially more affordable, but it tends to run well on relatively inexpensive PCs — machines on which other DAW systems would get bogged down.

In addition, there are literally hundreds of VST plug-ins offered by third party developers for Cubase, which, in addition to the program’s formidable onboard arsenal, gives the user a stunning array of virtual sounds.

Final thoughts

Each DAW program has its strengths and weaknesses. If your focus is on looping, programming, sequences and virtual synth tones, Cubase is definitely for you. And, though it doesn’t have the widespread penetration into the recording studio world that Pro Tools does, some users do their initial sequencing on Cubase, then take the tracks into a Pro Tools-equipped studio for final enhancement and mixing.