Review of Cubase SX by TweakHeadz Lab
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A Logical Look
at Cubase SX

Making the decision:  SX, Sonar, Mac-Logic

By Tweak
Pros
  • Great Audio Sequencing Features and excellent sound
  • Offline Audio Processing Rocks!
  • Solid Rewire implementation with the Ableton Live and  Reason

Cons

  • Time consuming and tedious MIDI patch management system
  • Bugs due to the program's newness
Update: 1/2005: SX3 is better than ever. Works well in Mac OS X. The MIDI patch manager is improved.

July 1, 2002 is a day that will forever be etched in the minds of those using Logic Audio on the PC platform.  I call it "Black Monday", due to the the intense reaction to Emagic's announcement that as of Sept 30, Logic will cease its development on the PC platform and become a Mac only application.  The news hit PC users hard.  I don't need to dwell on how disappointing this was to many, including myself, having been making music on Logic and its precursors since 1988.  Emagic, now owned by Apple, presented only one option.  Leave the PC platform and buy a Mac. 
 

It took me about a half second to realize what a loss that would be.  Not that I feel any loyalty to PCs or Microsoft, mind you.  But I have always felt loyal to Emagic, the friendly little company that has helped me translate dreams to music.  Now I am in a most perplexing dilemma.  If I keep my "musical friend" (Logic)  I will lose SoundForge, Acid, Vegas Video and will have to port tons of material to the Mac.  I might have to apply for crossgrades to my soft synths and plugins like the Pro 52, Battery, FM7, Kontakt, and the Waves native Gold set.  I'll be out 3-5 grand for a new Mac system and will lose untold hours, days, maybe a month making the switch.  So I have to make a choice.  Keep my best friend and lose the neighborhood, or stay in the neighborhood and lose the friend.  Neither choice is ideal.  Either way I lose something.  Not exactly the best motivation for buying new gear.
 

Click to enlarge

Logic 5.3, the last release for the PC, will be good for a while, maybe a long while.  But inevitably as PCs move onward the day will arrive when it no longer will work so well. Probably before that happens, Mac Logic and other sequencers will be breaking new ground with features everyone wants. You don't have to decide now, or even by Sept 30.  Rather wait till you are ready to upgrade your computer, and decide then. The choice will be between staying on the PC, and going either to Cubase SX or Sonar, or giving up the PC and going Mac to run an upgraded and hopefully better Logic Audio.
 

Steinberg Software and Hardware
 Steinberg Cubase 4 Recording Software (Macintosh and Windows)
Cubase 4 represents the cutting edge in digital audio workstations. Designed for professionals from the ground up, Cubase converges extraordinary sound quality, intuitive handling and a vast range of highly advanced audio and MIDI tools for composition, recording, editing and mixing.
 Tweak: Here it is, Steinberg's flagship sequencer

Steinberg Cubase Studio Recording Software (Macintosh and Windows)
Cubase Studio 4 is a new workstation tailored to project studios and creative musicians. Based on the same core technologies as Steinberg's Cubase 4 Advanced Music Production System, the streamlined Cubase Studio 4 offers professional tools for composition, recording, editging and mixing at an extremely attractive price.

Steinberg WaveLab Essential Mastering Software (Windows)
WaveLab Essential 6 offers a high-value suite of audio editing tools tailored to the needs of musicians, smaller recording environments and podcast authors. Introducing a new level of functionality at a very low price point, the completely redesigned WaveLab Essential 6 provides a full complement of streamlined editing and CD/DVD burning capabilities.

Steinberg WaveLab Audio Editing and Mastering Software (Windows)
WaveLab 6 is the all-in-one solution for professional mastering, high resolution multi-channel audio editing, audio restoration, sample design and radio broadcast work right through to complete CD/DVD-A production. Already a standard application for digital audio editing and processing due to its outstanding flexibility and pristine audio quality, WaveLab is used worldwide by top professionals and audio enthusiasts alike.


Steinberg Sequel Music Creation and Performance Software (Macintosh and Windows)
Sequel is an affordable and easy-to-use music studio designed for first-time computer music enthusiasts. Combining intuitive tools to record, edit, mix and perform music with great-sounding loops, instruments and effects, Sequel is the perfect first step into music production and performance.

Steinberg Nuendo Recording Software (Macintosh and Windows)
Delivering a next-generation audio production environment for audio post, studio production and live recording, Nuendo 4 empowers audio professionals by elevating creativity and productivity to new heights

Steinberg Key License Control Device
Steinberg Key The Steinberg Key unlocks Steinberg's world of professional audio tools. Required to run any of Steinberg's new VST instruments released after 1st January 2005, Steinberg Key also offers additional movies and PDF documents on CD-ROM that provide in-depth information for further research on Steinberg products. Steinberg Key also enables users to run full featured demos of Steinberg applications. Required for all Steinberg VST instruments.


Steinberg Groove Agent Virtual Drummer (Macintosh and Windows)
Groove Agent 3 is the third incarnation of Steinberg‚€™s phenomenally successful Groove Agent virtual drummer VST instrument, and is a major step up from previous versions. Groove Agent 3 combines a huge library of drum and percussion sounds with a range of player technologies to give you dynamic, ready-to-go drums, beats, rhythms and percussion in only a few mouse clicks.

Steinberg HALion Player Virtual Studio Instrument
Tailored to newcomers to virtual sampling, HALion Player puts many of the next-generation technologies available on the HALion sampling platform behind a sleek, no-frills interface. HALion Player is the perfect choice for any User searching for a stable, easy to use and affordable sample content playback module for VST, DXi2, AU and any Rewire environment.

Steinberg HALion Digital Sampler (Macintosh And Windows)
HALion 3 is the latest version of Steinberg's award-winning software sampler. Over 50 new features in HALion 3 include 27 added effects, new sound management tools and RAMSave technology. The sleek new user interface and expanded routing functions add even more flexibility to the HALion experience.
Rewire Applications that work with Cubase SX
 Ableton LIVE 24-Bit Recording Software (Macintosh and Windows) Live is an audio sequencer that you can play like an instrument. Whether on its own or with other musicians or DJs, live on stage or when remixing in the studio, all you need is Live and a Mac or PC.  Tweak:  The LIVE is a loop sequencer that works inside Cubase SX.  If you have lots of audio loops, check it out.

Propellerhead Reason (Macintosh and Windows)

We are here today to look at Cubase SX, to see how it fares as a sequencer of choice, comparing it to Logic Audio.  As I put the final touches on this article I've had SX on my computer for 4 weeks, have made music with it, and have walked up the hill of it's learning curve.  Fortunately for you, I paid full price for this program, and as a result, I am not bound by any NDA with Steinberg. So you get the straight truth.  Of course, it's possible I am wrong on a few things as I am just starting to learn SX. 
 

Cubase SX is a new application.  While there are many similarities to Cubase VST 5, this is no mere update.  The code has been rewritten, borrowing from Nuendo for its audio capabilities.  SX is without doubt the best, friendliest, most powerful Cubase ever.  I really believe that and congratulate the Steinberg programmers on a great job. This program is going to make a lot of music. It has the power to control any type of audio production with features that allow one to work efficiently at a high level of sound quality and go as deep into effects as one wants to go.  I'm going to get critcal later on, but keep what I just said in perspective, OK?
 

New Audio Engine

What struck me immediately and positively was how far Steinberg has come with its audio engine.  For those new to this game, the most serious problem with all audio and midi sequencers is the drain on the CPU when syncing to midi with soft synths and audio tracks, especially when they are heavily effected with plugins.  With Cubase SX, Steinberg met this issue head on with offline audio processing.  Here's what that is about.  In most sequencers, one adds plugins to audio tracks and they sit there in the mixer taking up CPU power when in use.  Even if you have a fast, modern computer if you use big plugin synths like Reaktor, and add audio tracks of vocals, guitars, etc., all is fine till you start adding plugins.  A few hi quality reverbs and and pitch shifters and you suddenly find your CPU usage is rising like the thermometer here at noon in Texas. You keep going and the audio starts sounding stressed, then the dreaded click and pops show their ugliest face like zits all over your audio.
 

When it is time to "bounce" (render, mixdown, or re-record with effects) typical programs do this in real time, or "online".  They process the outgoing audio going through plugins and make a new recording in 1:1 real time.  A 60 second set of tracks will take a full minute to bounce. If your CPU is already stressed out, it might not get through the bounce without blemishes creeping in.  What makes SX revolutionary is that this process can be handled  "offline".  Lets say, for example, you want to add compression, tube saturation, and reverb to a dry snare track that is 60 seconds long. The standard way of working was to load these plugs in your mixer strip and then mix that channel down in real time.   In SX, however, you do this is the audio editor.  You call up the plugins from a menu and render the track. Each plugin takes about 3-5 seconds to render--its blazingly fast.  Because the program does not have any memory resident plugins in the mixer, all that CPU power is freed. And the renderings completely undo-able, in any order.  For the above example, I could remove the tube saturation effect without undoing the reverb.  
 

So, In SX you don't have to process sounds in the mixer. Lets delve a little deeper into what is going on  in the audio editor.  Every audio clip (or .WAV file) has an offline process history, a list of every edit you made to the clip. The way the program does this is to make a copy of the original source file, called a clip. The original file is still there in the background,  Even days later, as you get ready for the mix and decide you should have never added tube saturation to the snare, you can still go back any remove processes you did to the clip. Kill all the processes and your dry snare track is back. This is great and it works well.  This is fantastic for optimizing your audio tracks.  Working this way, you might be able not have to use memory resident plugins in the Mixer at all. The result?  You can use more tracks and more effects with less CPU power. Even an underpowered computer could get full sounding effects like giant reverberant caverns, totally strange vocodes, bizarre pitch shifts and trendy vocal autotunes without using any CPU power.  Neither Logic nor Sonar has this feature as of yet. It is definitely a main attraction of SX and it is right on target.  Use this feature and kiss those ugly CPU too slow messages goodbye. Free your audio to go where you want it to go. Is this the future?  Yes, friends, it is. And it's here now. 
 

The audio editor in SX is strong, feature packed, and is a welcome change after years of dealing with Emagic's idiosyncratic audio editor. In addition to offline processing, you will find that scrubbing is well implemented and solid.  There's some nice audio tools, like envelope, gate, phase reverse, and all the usual stuff you'd expect like time stretch, pitch, fade, gain, normalize, DC Offset. swap channels etc.  There is also a spectrum analyzer.  People using audio loops will like the recycle like functions that allow you to slice the loop with hitpoints.  This gives you great time stretch abilities.  As with Logic, you can drag and drop audio files from any Windows file selector on to the arrange window's grid. 
 

The Mixer in SX is an eyeful to look at.  It has different modes for viewing EQs (both with knobs and with sliders), viewing plugins, and viewing busses.  Like Logic's track mixer, you can choose which types of tracks you want to display.  Mixer automation is easy enough. Do it in the arrange, or do it in the mixer or in the key editor. Not quite the massive underground tweak machine Logic Audio 5 is though.  However, there is a nicety: You also get to choose between a "wide" or "narrow" view for each track.  Good thing, with my softsynths and all the busses I like to have, the mixer gets big fast.  Not too much difference in functionality compared to Logic, just a bit prettier. But it does sound different.  The way the faders interact with the sound is smooth and dare I say, pleasing.
 

Supplied Soft Synths.  With Cubase SX you get the lm-7 drum machine, the a1 synth and the vb1 virtual bass. The a1 Analog Synth Unit is really quite nice to use.  The filter not only has the usual frequency cutoff and resonance, but a cutoff mod too, allowing lfos to control the filter reminiscent of some old analog mono synths. The vb1 is a virtual bass guitar with an adjustable pickup and pick.  Sounds clean and FM like and it will be useful.  The lm-7 drum machine comes with 3 kits, a 909, a percussion set, and one called "compressor" which sound like a typical clean kit. The drums all sound great and are tunable, but the kit is more of a teaser, I think, so you buy their full out LM kit.  You only get two hats and two toms. Kind makes Steinberg look a bit stingy if you ask me.  C'mon now. Don't include half baked stuff in a premium seq. Sort of like eating a meal with a few teeth missing. Ok, it's not that big of a deal.  The LM-7 is not going to rival an outstanding drum plugin like Battery, but for a silly simple drum track its fine.   You could do a whole song with just these 3 instruments.  A good scratchpad on a laptop, methinks.
 

Working with other SoftSynths and Samplers and audio applications  Not surprising, Steinberg absolutely shines like the sun itself here. Cubase SX works great with multiple output VST instruments like Kontakt and Battery.  The Pro 52, FM7 also work great.  No lag, great latency specs if your soundcard has good drivers.  SX is at home with other software from other companies.  Forward 21st century thinking here. ReCycle is working great (as it has in the past). Thumbs up to Steinberg on developing these cooperative relationships. If more companies did this, we'd have a much easier time building our studio environments. I applaud. Proprietary thinking is a dead selfish concept lingering from the 90's, IMO.
 

Ergonomical Issues

Other SX friendly Applications

Native Instruments Reaktor   Tweak proclaims: Is it cool? Oh, dudes, you just don't know what you are missing! I'm gonna tell you the secret one time, ok, so listen up! This is the holy grail of synthesis.  Read up at the Native Instruments site.   Doing industrial, rave, dance? You can't afford to miss this one!  

 Native Instruments Pro-53 (Macintosh And Windows) The Native Instruments Pro-52 carries on the tradition from the legendary days of vintage cult synthesizers. This virtual instrument for Macintosh and Windows platform combines the sonic properties of the unique originals with the practical requirements of the present day. Tweak: The 53 is great!  BTW, if you have the '52, a free update awaits you at NI.  Do it.

  Propellerhead ReCycle (Macintosh and Windows)  Loopists, groovists, samplists! A new world is about to open up before your very ears! New and improved ReCycle 2.0 solves all your groove related problems — and lets you get truly creative in the process. Tweak:  You can import rx2 files directly into SX in the file menu.

Spectrasonics:
Atmosphere
Trilogy
Stylus RMX

Native Instruments Absynth (Macintosh and Windows) 

Native Instruments Battery Sampling Software Tweak: Battery is a great drum sampler plugin.  I like it and use it in nearly every song.  It goes way beyond your typical synthesizer drum kit, and it can load sampled kits from some sample cd roms and improve upon them

What People Are Saying about SX

Cubase.net  Online forum for Cubase Users with news, tips, online studios, user forums

Company reps, including the CEO post there too.  So its a good place to look for "official" statements. Nice!

What people are saying in the ewsGroups

 

Using Cubase SX has many similarities to other sequencers so the basics are not hard to grasp. The issues rise to the surface when you want to do something you are used to doing but can't find the command.  The mere act of finding the tools is the biggest issue for any product like this. Are they where they need to be? Why is there no "view" menu in SX, like nearly every standard windows application has?   If you used another sequencer, you might find the terminology is different.  SX does not score badly here. Some things are a true delight, like the improved "track inspector" and collapsible adaptive mixer.  Other things are confusing.  Like quantize, which has several menu items, all over the place. It takes some experimentation to figure out which one actually alters the notes! Experienced Cubase users are probably laughing, but I am certain I will not be the only one having a hard time here. 
 

It's always the little things that make using another program aggravating.  For example in Logic, when recording, you mess up a take you just hit record again and the track is deleted, the cursor goes back to where you started, and record starts again. That's one of the things that makes Logic a joy to work with.  In SX, you have to highlight the file you just botched, hit delete, stop, re-enable the track (sometimes) reset the cursor if it strayed from the cycle area and press record again.  That's a lot of work--unless there is something I haven't learned yet. I am also bugged by the way patch lists come up, in a fixed window, unmovable.  I like for full menus of 128 sounds to come up, with a bank button to shuttle through thousands of  names easily. 
 

The Short List of Features
  • Unlimited Undo and Redo & Offline Process History
  • Sample Accurate Automation
  • Adaptive Track Mixer
  • Virtual Instruments & VST Effects
  • MIDI Plug-ins
  • VST System Link
  •  Professional Score Layouts

Right click context menus.  Finally, Cubase fully joins the Windows platform with the implementation of these menus that pop up when you right click the mouse.   Wherever you are in the program, simply right click the mouse to see some options. This is a real time saver and does much to enhance the SX graphic user interface. If they clean these up a bit at Steinberg, (sometimes the items are too redundant) this will help users. 
 

There is an excellent "key editor" on SX.  Logic users will call this the Matrix Editor, and in SX, it kicks royally.   The right click menus are well implemented here, but come at a cost.  In Logic, you can define the right mouse button to draw notes and the left to erase them, for example.  In SX you have to change functions with a right click.  You can also forget about double clicking a note to open up an event editor, or double clicking on a blank space to see all tracks in the editor (I truly loved that about Logic).  However, you get some stuff you never had before too.  You can set up as multiple "controller lanes" under the key editor for velocity, AT, CCs, whatever.  In Logic these functions are handled at the automation level which is, IMO, more powerful.
 

Another editor is the List editor, which in a addition to having text and numbers, has note length, pitch and velocity drawn in graphical bars. But these are a bit redundant with other editors.  I'd rather have a simple list. If I want velocity bars, I'll call up the key editor.  I also have trouble with the font and all the zeros in the list. Like 0008.01.01.000.  8.01.01 Looks so much more friendly to me. Ok, I am picking nits.  I know that. So let me end on a positive.  SX's Marker system is really pretty cool. I like how I can jump to sections in one click.  This seems to be a better way to work than using Cycle by itself.  Why?  You have to grab both ends, one at a time, to define a cycle, rather than just painting a new one on the time ruler with a single swoop of the mouse.
 

MIDI patch management

Not all is well with some setup chores in Cubase SX. In fact, in terms of MIDI patch management, Cubase SX is positively troubled.  Having spent untold hours typing in patch names--1000s of names--imagine my chagrin after a crash that they were all gone! This happened even though I saved every 15 minutes and had Auto-save on as well. Sorry, folks, this part of the program is tedious, buggy and not as well documented as it could be, IMHO! If I sound annoyed, it's because I just had this happen twice today, each time losing HOURS of work that cannot be retrieved. I have since learned one has to store a backup of the MIDI system using the "export command"  Advanced Logic Power Users with big rigs that cross the divide, beware!  I really miss the  MIDI and patch management features of Logic and SoundDiver.  First, there is no AutoLink between SoundDiver and SX.  Something I've always taken for granted in Logic is proving its value in its absence.  Hey, I program synths and samplers and I expect an easy way to get patch names of my ever changing synth and sampler banks into my chosen sequencer.  On SX, it can be done, but it sure is not simple or fast.  First, I tried cut name lists out of Logic and paste them into SX's  MIDI Device Manager. Unfortunately you have to do this, one name at a time, unless there is some secret format I don't know about. (Someone tell me if there is some hit-two-returns-between-each name secret format, OK?) 
 

Discuss this Article
Studio Central Cubase SX Topic

Fortunately, SX comes with a few scripts for the more difficult synths like the Triton and Proteus 2000 and has scripts for devices that uses unusual commands to do bank select, like the TG77 (the script supplied for the TG, BTW, does not change banks on my TG), etc.   But! If you have expansion boards installed expect that you will still be typing in hundreds, maybe thousands of names. A Maxed out Proteus 2000 has about 2500 names; a maxed out Triton Rack has around 1800 or so. To add to this insanity, you can MOVE names within and instrument but not copy them between instruments.  Argh. Do you really want to dial up patches from the front panel?  I don't.  The SX CD rom comes with a program called Scriptmaker.  Unfortunately, it's just as hard, maybe harder than using the MIDI device manager and there are no simple, clear instructions.  Well, OK, there are instructions but they read like they were written on Mars.  Am I going to write a script for all of my synths and my hundreds of sampler banks? I tried several times and failed.   I did get 50% of the names in though the device manager. Then a crash ate them. Grrrowlll. It is one thing to have time consuming patch management system. Sonar's is just as bad, maybe worse. But it is a far worse thing to have a time consuming patch management system that loses it's memory. I think what is going on is that the MIDI device manager only writes to disk when the program terminates properly. So if that is true, the work around is to shut down SX after you mess with MIDI patches, then reopen.  Learned that one a bit too late. It does not save these settings when you save a song. So if SX crashes, any changes you made to your patch system since you 1st booted are gone.    Might not be so important to people running softsynths or just a few generic synths, but for me, a "classic midiphile", it could force me to give up on SX prematurely..
 

Audio Plugins in SX I


Bitcrusher
DaTube
De-Esser
Dynamics
Effects Plug-Ins
QuadraFuzz
Reverb A
Ringmodulator
Rotary
StepFilter
Symphonic
Vocoder

Virtual Instruments

A1
LM-7
VB-1
 

MIDI Effects Plug-Ins

Arpache 5
AutoPan
Chorder
Compressor
Control
Density
Micro Tuner
MIDI-Echo
Note 2 CC
Quantizer
Step Designer
Track Control
Track FX
Transformer

There are some positive things I have to say about the MIDI device scheme.  The patch selector references the names you typed into the MIDI device manager. You can add folders to each instruments profile.  This is cool for devices that might use a different set of sounds for each song, like a sampler. The selector is reminiscent of Sonar's.  It has a nice ability to filter patches by keyword, like "bass", something Logic does not have. But it cannot look through all your instrument profiles looking for basses like Sonar can; SX's search is restricted to one instrument only. I also like the way the patch management scheme allows you to define bank select.  While this area will be treacherous for newbies that do not understand bank select, once one gets up to speed you realize that even the most arcane bank schemes can be duplicated. 
 

An item Logicians are sure to miss is the environment.  In Logic it was so easy to define a multi instrument, turn channels on and off, and select the instrument of choice from you resulting customized list which showed every active midi channel in your rig, sort of like a smorgasborg of every resource you have at your avail.  Forget that, dudes; it isn't in SX.  You will have to remember which channels your synths are on if you have more than one synth on a midi port.  (Note: Version 1.0.2 provides a workaround for this by allowing you to assign channels not in use to empty banks which is a little better)
 

MIDI Plugins
 

But as usual, in sequencers, as in life, when you lose some, you also win some. There are some new midi functions logic does not have, mainly MIDI plugins.  Some of these are truly excellent like the Chorder (sort of like the chord memorizer in Logic, but easier, and this more likely to be used) and the Arpache 5, a versatile arpeggiator with customizable presets that works!, There's the expected midi echo, a quantizer, and, my fave, a really cool step sequencer called Step Designer.  You can input notes with the mouse, like in Reason's Matrix, and then add controllers, randomize (!) and add swing to the result. Then you can save these presets for use in other songs. Truly awesome stuff!  Rounding out the midi plugin is one called Track FX which can alter the scale to one of the many exotic scales preset. I'll be using that!  Oddly, the transformer in Cubase looks very much like the one in Logic. You'll feel at home.
 

Bugs in SX.  The version 1.0.2 is now available and if you have SX, don't waste more time, go get it now. Cubase SX had plenty of bugs in Version 1.0.1. More than a release should have, IMO. I am ran into some double speed bugs.  Hitting stop fixes these, but it is kind of strange to suddenly hear it all twice as fast (heh, reminds me of Notator)  I've had a few crashes where Cubase just disappears. Be careful about changing audio driver settings.  No warning, no alert, just "poof" its gone.  Windows does not even ask you to send a report to Microsoft. Is that a feature? (Hmm, could be, some people I know would pay for that). No, I don't think so. Under 1.0.1 it seemed that all was not well with Waves plugins and Cubase SX.  Thankfully, this is better in 1.02, in fact they come up rather quick now.  Seems like the waveshell sometimes takes a few tries to initialize, but it doesn't slow stuff down. Plugins that caused a crash for me in 1.0.2 were Pi-Warp, and the Prosoniq Voxciter, also Opcode's Vocode (but that one is so old what can one expect). The Sonic Foundry plugins are working great. I'm going to love using all my SoundForge and Vegas Plugins in the SX audio editor. There is really no need to run to an external audio editor with all this power.  Serious Bug: watch out for screensets.  Don't switch them real fast, one after the other, it's crash city on my dual monitor system. That one is really nasty.  It's a little surprising that Steinberg released 1.0.2 with this one.  But in 1.0.2 update and things are better--no more issues with Waves and the midi device system now allows channels to be turned off.  Finally, if you have lots of midi synths defined in your rig, the program takes a loooonng time to load--about 90-120 seconds here. Definitely turning me into a caffeine addict.  It's all the MIDI scripts that slow it down.
 

<


Time Out!  What is ReWire?

Rewire was developed by Steinberg and Propellerheads software.  It is a method of transferring audio data in real time from one application to another.  Imagine a big cable stretching from one program to another.  That is essentially what ReWire is.  ReWire allows up to 64 channels of audio at practically any sample rate.  When 2 applications are "rewired" their transports are synchronized.  The audio data from the "slave" rewire application will play through the "Master" rewire application, and the audio can be further processed with plugins then mixed down to audio tracks or master wav files.

Cubase SX uses ReWire2 which improves over the previous Rewire by allowing you to trigger events in the slave from the master.  For example, you can play Reason's Subtractor synth from MIDI tracks in SX, including real time controllers

 

ReWire

 

Rewire Issues and Successes  I was hoping SX could do a better rewire than Logic.  Guess what.  It can.  Things are still a little rough around the edges.  Cubase goes to Reason's tempo sometimes when you start out (it's supposed to be the other way?).  Sometimes audio cuts out in SX when you touch a reason screen. Rebooting fixes that. If  the secondary rewire application crashes, Cubase doesn't know about it and you can't exit unless you forcibly kill it with the Windows task manager.  But it is much better than 1.01 where I had a situation where the SX mixer popped out bass plosives while the rest of the reason track sounded "tinny".   In version 1.02 Reason comes up after about 10-15 seconds.  Big improvement over 1.0.1.  One very COOL thing about using Reason in SX is that you CAN play the Reason synths and drums and Dr Rex right from the MIDI keyboard in SX. That's ReWire 2 talkin'.  Latency?  It's FINE! I've been trippin' out dialing up Subtractor patches, playing them, quantizing and effecting in SX. Reason Lovers, take note.
 

More Good news on the Rewire front is that the Ableton Live is working well with SX.  The Loops are locking tight to tempo and there is just a little "operational lag" with mouse moves and screen updates. So cool, there are 12 stereo busses in the Live which correspond to 12 busses in SX's mixer.  Assign those to all your audio outs and you can get a killer mix.  I'll be playing with that setup again!  This gives SX the powers that Sonar users have with loops.  The only glitch is entirely Ableton's fault, the program insists on being on the left video monitor in a 2 monitor system.  But that's no biggie.  I give SX/Live 2 thumbs up.
 

Also, I'm happy to confirm SX mixes down audio from Reason and the Ableton live through the Rewire channels perfectly. You can solo tracks that you want recorded in the respective applications and the audio file is created in real time and placed right at the locators in SX when finished. Wow!  It will mix both at once, separately, all tracks, just one track anyway you want. As close to perfection as one might want.  I previously wrote that I could not figure out how to "bounce" Reason tracks into SX.  In SX this process isn't called bouncing.   The procedure here is in the File menu under Export in a sub menu called Audio Mixdown. In Logic, Mixdown is the combining "merging" of audio tracks without effects.  In Cubase, that is the definition of Bounce.  And Vice versa. So! Now that I have my head on straight with the SX lingo, the audio is flowing into SX by Rewire like oil in a pipeline.
 

 

Other sequencers reviewed by Rich the TweakMeister:

Review of Sonar

Review of Logic

Back to Sequencer City!

The Going Mac Page

Summing Up
 

Ok, lets start to wrap it up. 

Manual? My boxed full copy of SX came with a USB copy protection key, a registration card and a getting started book.  There is a manual in a .PDF, but I wanted a real manual. The  program's help files are pretty good as far as these things go.  Clear writing, complete index. The help, helps!

The Sound.  Oh yes, sequencers today have "a sound" independent of the audio hardware used. Of course, this is rather a subjective area, like mics and monitors.  But I am happy to report that, for me, Cubase SX sounds excellent, warm and fluid. The EQs bite hard if you want them to and the effects are good sounding and interesting. Headroom is good with audio tracks.  There is something different going on here.  It seems like tracks did not burst into the red as quick as they do in Logic. I found I could be more radical, always nice.  However this was achieved, I like it.
 

As you have probably figured out, there is no promised land in terms of sequencers. There never was, and maybe there never will be. Perhaps one thing that we can learn is to forget brand loyalty.  Use the right tool for the job.  Insist that manufacturers develop tools that work with other tools.  Vote with your wallet.  If you are working on heavy audio projects that requires use of softsynths and rewire, Cubase SX is the best it gets. If you have a large MIDI studio you might want to keep Logic around as long as you can, or go Mac.   If you are moving from Logic to SX, you'll find you lose some things that were important to you and gain some things you didn't have before.  Overall, a fair trade off, depending on your uses.  The main gain, again, a revolutionary approach to digital audio.
 

I'm almost done setting up SX for my studio.  I now have all my gear channelized and have various templates for the different styles of work i do.  The learning curve is just about over; it was no picnic, but it never is for any professional sequencer.  After 4 weeks using SX, the fun is coming in and the headache subsiding.  But don't let my critical comments mislead you.  This is a fine sequencer, in terms of audio, the best we have seen yet on the PC platform

 

Best Regards,
Rich the Tweak

 

 

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Review of Cubase 5
Logic Studio 9
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Logic Studio 8
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Vintage Sequencers
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Using Notebooks as your DAW
Which Sequencer is Best?
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