Oct 12, 2009 (Updated Oct 12, 2009)
Review by Dr.P
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:This is an excellent piece of music production software.
The Bottom Line: This is a great piece of music production software, and it sells for a very reasonable price.
Recommend this product?
I have been a user of Cubase 4 for the last couple of years, and I am now delighted to say that I have just upgraded myself to Cubase 5. There are certainly many very good competitors to Cubase 5, such as Pro Tools, Cakewalk, and Apple's Logic Pro 9 to name just a few of the most popular. I could have easily purchased one of these other brands, but personally, I prefer Cubase 5. Cubase 5 has a list price of $599.99, but it can easily be found selling at a discount for $499.99. I believe that it is well worth the price. If you are an educator, work for a school, or are a registered student, you can also purchase Cubase 5 at an even lower price from any number of sources and retailers that supply educational software and other educational aids and materials. Read on and see if Cubase 5 sounds like something that you might be interested in the next time you may be considering a purchase of music production software.
Cubase 5 is a fairly advanced music production software package. Cubase also has a less expensive version, which has some limitations and less features, which is called Cubase Studio 5, but I have not worked with that version, and so I am not in a position to comment fully on it. However, after comparing what Cubase 5 does side by side with the box that Cubase Studio 5 comes in, I would certainly recommend Cubase 5 over Cubase Studio 5. There is however a price difference, as Cubase Studio 5 costs about $200 Dollars less. However, I strongly believe that it is worth the extra money to get the complete version of Cubase 5.
Some of you who are reading this are probably wondering why I chose to go with Cubase 5 instead of Protools, when many tout Protools as being the industry standard. Simply put, there were three major considerations. Firstly, I like Cubase 5 better than Protools. I have used previous versions of Cakewalk as well, and once again I prefer Cubase. Actually, from what I can see Cubase 5 has some of the best features of the latest versions of Protools, Logic, and Cakewalk Sonar, and it has it all in one package. Another second important consideration is that I like to use midi, especially midi keyboards. I happen to also like Yamaha Keyboards, and Yamaha owns Steinberg, which is the manufacturer of Cubase, and as such Yamaha midi keyboards and Cubase 5 speak the same language. By that, I mean that they go together and work together seamlessly, and without any of the problems that one might typically encounter when trying to interface or mix different types of hardware or plug-ins with music production software. This is very important to me, as I do not consider myself to be a techie, and trouble shooting various problems with getting different hardware or software to work together is something that can be quite daunting and very time consuming. There are few things more frustrating than trying to use different pieces of equipment or different plug-ins, and then finding that they are not communicating with each other perfectly. The third and final consideration effecting my decision to go with Cubase 5 came down to dollars and cents. It seems that every recording interface, plug in, and related piece of equipment that would work with Protools just seems to cost at least twice as much as it would have cost for Cubase, and being a man with a family, and hungry mouths to feed, this was a consideration. I also consulted with some friends who were still quite active in the professional recording business, and they echoed that Cubase 5 was a very reasonable alternative to Protools, and they all echoed the same thing regarding the relatively high expense of having to use other musical devices, interfaces, and software plug-ins that would be compatible with Protools. Thus, the cost saving regarding other equipment and additional plug-ins was a consideration.
I run Cubase 5 on a Rain Recording Computer. If you would like to read my review on the Rain Recording Computer I use, just click on the link below.
RAIN RECORDING ELEMENT COMPUTER
Some of you may also be wondering why I chose to go the PC route with Cubase rather than go with Apple and Apple Logic Pro 9. There are a few reasons. One is the cost was substantially more for the type of set up that I wanted, especially for an oversized monitor, which I highly recommend for home recording. Secondly if you have ever had a problem with a PC, there is always a repair shop nearby. That is not the case with an Apple. Even I can do some simple repairs on a PC, or upgrade memory, etc. Try taking apart an Apple, working on it yourself, and then trying to put it back together. I assure you that when you are done putting the computer back together that you will have some screws left over. If you are an Apple user, don't worry, Cubase 5 is perfectly compatible.
Before I get into discussing what Cubase 5 can do, I should at least briefly discuss some of the computer system requirements for it to operate smoothly. If you have a PC you are going to need a minimum of a Pentium 2 GHz CPU (Dual core CPU recommended), 1024 MB RAM, and 4 GB of free HD space. MAC users will require a minimum of a PowerPC G5 (Intel Core Duo CPU recommended), 1024 MB RAM, and 4GB of HD space. Remember these are the bare minimums required to operate Cubase 5. I would strongly recommend using a computer with as much power as you can, such as the Rain Recording Music Computer that I use, as I can attest that my home recording system works very well. A word of caution here for people who have a home based recording studio. If you are really serious about making good home recordings, please do not consider using the same computer that you use to E-mail you friends with or go on Facebook with, or write your term papers on for school. Use a different computer for these things. These other uses also make your computer more subject to viruses, and the last thing you want to do is have your computer infected by some bug that is going to either slow your computer down, or even worse, potentially ruin the recordings that you may have spent months working on. Further, the more programs that are loaded on to your computer, and the more extraneous tasks that you have your computer doing, the less efficient it will be for recording purposes. Remember, a typical computer used for home use will invariably have a lot of other programs that are operating in the background (i.e., antivirus, etc.) and these both use up memory as well as slowing down your computer. If you can afford to, use a cheap computer for those other things, and dedicate a good computer for your recording purposes. If you do not follow these above mentioned suggestions, you may have problems running Cubase 5 efficiently, and erroneously think the problem is with Cubase 5. Remember Cubase 5 is not a toy. It is a professional, sophisticated music production software application, and it can be temperamental at times.
Well what does Cubase 5 do, and how easy is it to work? As regards what Cubase 5 can do, I have been using it for about a month and I still have not mastered all that this computer music production software is capable of. Yes it is similar to Cubase 4, which I am familiar with, but there are new and improved features that I am still learning how to use well. Just as with Cubase 4, there are various types of built in effects, such as EQ, a doubler, flanger, various echoes, delays, etc. These built in features save both time and money. One does not have to go out and immediately purchase various plug-ins to make decent sounding recordings, because the ones that come with Cubase 5 sound pretty darn good. Are there better sounding ones to choose from that can be added? Well of course there are, but having these sounds and features built in saves a lot of money, and they obviously work seamlessly because they are built in. I have used the built in amp simulation feature a number of times, and I was really quite impressed with the results, especially after tweaking the sound. However, I must also confess that I very much also like using other outboard devices such as a Vox Tonelab LE with Cubase 5. If you do not like the sound of the amp simulations that come with Cubase 5, you can always add a plug in like Amplitube, ReValver, or Native Instruments Guitar Rig at a later date, which I may do in the near future. I must say however, that some of the amp simulations that are built in to Cubase 5 are really good. Also keep in mind that if you record an instrument like an electric guitar, you can lay the track down dry, and use whatever plug-in you may want to use at a later date to enhance the sound, such as during mix down. As an aside, I would like to mention that I recently recorded a guitar track at a friend's home studio using ReValver, which is one of the plug-ins that he owns, and I must confess, the sound on the guitar was exceptional, but I'll save my comments about ReValver for another review when I become more familiar with it.
The feature of Cubase 5 which I find incredibly useful is the ability to analyze a recording track by track, bar by bar, and tweak each instrument or sound until it is just right. For a person who is only marginally talented like myself, this is a Godsend. I especially like this feature for making my voice sound acceptable when singing. I recently laid down a very difficult to play (at least for me anyway) guitar track. When I listened back the next day with a clear head, I realized that it was not perfectly in tune, and that made my vocals sound sharp. Rather than redo the whole track, I simple used the pitch correction feature that is built in to Cubase 5, and with a bit of tweaking, my guitar thankfully sounded in tune. It is also great with working with vocal tracks. Let's say for example that you have had someone lay down some vocals, and as you are analyzing the track during mix down, you happen to notice that the singer goes flat at the end of a verse. You don't need to redo the track. You can just correct the pitch of the vocal. Or let's say that you notice that the kick drum is just not as pronounced on one of the cymbal crashes as you would like. You can raise that one beat, at that split second, and then lower it back to where it should be for the rest of the track. Let's also say that you have another 200 or so little issues such as this. You can automate the mix down so that each and every subtlety of the recording is highlighted or enhanced just the way you like it. A number of these features that I just described were available on Cubase 4, but they are more sophisticated on Cubase 5, and which I am still just beginning to learn to use.
Some of the best new features of Cubase 5 are that the ability to use pitch correction is better, more realistic, and natural sounding than it was in Cubase 4. This is very important for a person who does not sing well like myself, as what good is it for a vocal track to be on pitch, if it sounds like the Mayor of Munchkin City sang the lead, and the Lollipop Guild did the backing vocals. The VariAudio feature permits complete control over the vocals, and it can automatically correct the intonation of a vocal line by quantizing the pitch. There is also a Pitch Correct VST3 plug in, which can detect the pitch of a note and then instantly corrects it to match the notes of a predetermined scale, including major, minor, chromatic, and anything else that the user can customize. With these pitch correction features, I actually can sound like I know how to sing. The ability to do loops is also easier, and more importantly better. I have made some recordings using drum loops that had one of my drummer friends upset with me, because when he heard the recording, he was sure that I had chosen to use another drummer instead of him. The drum track really sounded that real.
O.K, is Cubase 5 really set up for intuitive use, and is it reliable and easy to use? Do not believe the hype that seems to be everywhere or the advertisements, as it is far from easy to get really good at using this thing. Yes, one can get started using Cubase 5 fairly quickly, but to really learn how to get all of the benefits out of this incredible music production software, is going to take you months. I found Cubase 4 quite difficult to learn, and I must confess I never felt that I mastered it, even after using it for 18 months. However, I must again state that I am not a techie, and perhaps a good deal of the problem was due to my limitations. Cubase 5 has even more features, and thus in order to get the full benefit of all that it can do, one must READ THE MANUAL more than once. Fortunately there is a quick start guide that is very helpful. One can also look at some PDF files that explain how to get maximum use out of the effects and virtual instruments, and the installation DVD also has many helpful suggestions for getting started using Cubase 5 fairly quickly. I must say however, that Cubase 5 seems easier to learn, is more intuitive, and is laid out more simply than Cubase 4 was, well at least to my thinking. One of my children, who also happens to be a musician, has been able to greatly surpass my abilities in using Cubase 5, especially the editing features, and he finds it very intuitive and easy to use. There are also some DVD tutorials that are available that one can purchase separately that greatly speed up the learning curve.
Cubase 5 offers complete compatibility with 64-bit operating systems, as well as 32-bit systems. Even though Cubase 4 was supposed to do this, it did not do it very well, at least in my opinion. One of the greatest things about a 64 bit operating system is that it permits a user to employ more than 4 GB of Ram. I am not a computer techie, but most 32-bit operating systems do not permit much more than about 3.5 GB of Ram to be used, and in some cases it is less. With a 64 bit operating system, one can theoretically use 128 GB of ram, which is of course not yet possible with a conventional computer, but I have seen some that do use 12 GB of ram. That is an incredible amount of memory. My current Rain Music Computer has 4 GB, but I intend to upgrade to a 64-bit operating system and move up to 8 GB of ram in the future. Why am I waiting? The answer is that not every plug in or device will work with a 64-bit system yet, and I don't need to get more frustrated with these machines than I already am. I am a musician, not a techie, and the two are not always synonymous.
I would have to say that the best features of Cubase 5 have to be the editing capabilities that it possesses, including pitch correction and tempo changing, and the various built in plug-ins that come with it. A weakness is that some of the built in synthesizer sounds do not seem all that useful, and some are simply awful. However, some are acceptable, and those are the ones that I use. In order to learn how to use Cubase 5 more quickly, one can purchase some instructional DVD's or simply go to the Internet. There are some helpful souls out there who have shared their insights on how to do various things on Cubase 5, and they have posted their video's on the Web. There are also Cubase 5 Forums where one can post questions, and other more knowledgeable people are only too glad to be of help by providing insightful answers. I am glad that I had 18 months of experience with Cubase 4 before I ventured to start using Cubase 5, as much of this experience transferred over to my use of Cubase 5.
The bottom line for me is this. I like Cubase 5, and I am glad I upgraded from Cubase 4. As with Cubase 4, I only wish that I was a smarter and quicker learner, but on the other hand Cubase 5 seems to be easier to learn how to use than Cubase 4 was when I first began to use it. I only wish that it came with a talent plug-in so I could sound a bit better.
Well I would like to thank you for taking the time to read my review, but now if you will excuse me, I must get back to my practicing.
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