1. The Price Point
Steinberg has set their prices roughly around what you’d expect to pay for a DAW in Cubase’s class, however, they’ve also established three different versions to keep everybody happy.
Cubase Elements 9, you’ve probably already guessed, is Steinberg’s entry level model and is going to run $99. It comes with enough options to keep those bands and singer/songwriters who are just trying create happy. It comes with enough plug-ins, mixing and editing options to create fully produced recordings, but falls short in the areas of inputs (limited to 24) and recording/editing, when compared to its more superior counterparts.
The mid-level choice in their lineup is Cubase Artist 9. The user’s needs are better met with Artist 9 than Elements, while remaining at an affordable price without sacrificing necessary functions, controls and plug-ins necessary to create fully polished and produced tracks. You can expect to pay $329.99, three-times as steep cost-wise compared to Elements 9, but much more powerful. With Artist 9 comes advanced options in editing, processing and mixing, some you would find in Pro version, which leads me to the namesake of this article…
Cubase Pro 9, Steinberg’s most complex DAW comes at a pretty standard price of $579.99, a pretty standard price if you take into consideration ProTools 12, its greatest rival/ industry leader, is twenty bucks more. If you’re on the fence about your decision to buy, or if you’re just perusing DAWs, peruse on with a free 30 day trial.
In the same way Avid requires an iLok usb device to be used in conjunction with ProTools for anti-piracy reasons, so does Steinberg with their own device called a USB-eLicenser. The Pro 9 version includes the eLicenser with purchase, however you will need to buy one if you decide to go with Artist 9 or Elements 9 and they go for $27.99 when you purchase directly from the Steinberg website.
2. Capabilities and Features
Though Cubase has long been a stalwart for recording, pre and post production, it really shines as an immense tool for composing. Historically, Cubase has been known for its strong traits in MIDI production and this may be a solid clue as to why the four-time Grammy award winning composer Hans Zimmer uses it. Aside from composition, Pro 9 is a force to be reckoned with, showboating beautifully designed processes for completing a song start to finish.
Some key things you should know about this DAW:
- Allows up to 256 physical inputs/outputs
- Unlimited audio, MIDI and instrument tracks
- MixConsole provides a professional mixing experience offering an integrated high-end channel strip, VCA faders, Loudness meter and Wave meters
- Over 90 top-tier audio and VST effects processors for saturation, reverb, EQ, compression, amp and bass modeling and more
- VariAudio a processor designed for MIDI style note editing of monophonic tracks that takes care of automatic voicing harmonization and auto-tuning effects
Chord Track, Chord Pads and Chord Assistant-intelligent compositional tools used for improvisational creation of advanced voicings and harmonic progressions
- VST Connect and Transit Cloud provide a gathering space for Cubase users all over the planet to meet, collaborate and share files
Professional quality editing, mixing and mastering capabilities
- Available on 64-Bit Windows 7 or higher, Mac OS X 10.11 El Capitan / macOS 10.12 Sierra and even iOS!
3. What Sets It Apart
The fact that this program is like a god amongst DAWs, where composing capabilities are concerned, would seem like enough to set it apart, however, there is something even sweeter about Cubase Pro 9. If you decided to go with Pro 9 over any other DAW, Cubasis LE 2 (the lite version), an extension of Cubase, is available for iOS and is FREE to download in the App store!! Yea, you read that correctly, you can start creating projects away from your studio, capturing ideas on the fly, with your iPad! When you’re ready to start working from your computer, Cubasis LE 2 easily exports sessions between Elements, Artist, and Pro, versions 8 and higher. I know I know, you’re probably thinking, but this is a completely different program! While it technically is, it offers itself as more of a conduit between mobility and the usual static work in studio. LE 2 is the stripped down variation available, nonetheless, allows:
- Recording of 4 audio and 4 MIDI tracks
- 2 physical assignable inputs
- 16-bit I/O audio resolution
- iOs 32 and 64 bit supported
- MicroSonic houses 25 virtual instruments based on HALion Sonic and Allen Morgan drum kits
- Sample and Key editors
- MIDI Auto Quantize and MIDI over Bluetooth LE support
- Audio Mixdown and MIDI export
- iTunes music library audio can be imported
If Cubasis LE 2 doesn’t offer as much as you’d like and were willing to splurge just a bit more, you can buy Cubasis 2, which comes loaded with recording options. For a pretty nominal price, of $49.99, the doors are opened to far more options, in addition to those included in LE 2:
- Record an unlimited amount of MIDI and audio tracks
- 24 assignable physical inputs and outputs
- Up to 24-bit I/O audio resolution
- Extended MicroSonic with 120 virtual instrument sounds
- MiniSampler for creating your own samples
- Automation, Audio Mixdown and MIDI export
- Real-time time stretching easily matches audio loops to your songs tempo
- Pitch Shift format correction
- A studio-grade channel strip
- Loaded with MicroSonic Tape Instruments for recreating sounds from 1960’s
With its extensive abilities for composing, editing mixing, mastering, not to mention the freeing abilities to work on a project from your iPad anywhere you want, it seems fair to say Cubase Pro 9 is ahead of it’s peers in many ways. The value of this program far surpasses its listed price and is one interface everyone should try the trial version of before passing over in their quest to find an ideal audio workstation.