Steinberg Cubase Elements 7 review
Cubase elements is a cut-price version of the iconic Cubase digital audio workstation (DAW). Whereas many sub-£100 recording packages simplify the production process to make it more accessible to casual users, Cubase Elements is essentially the same as the full version of Cubase, but with various limitations, such as the number of tracks available and the lack of some ancillary modules.
This makes Cubase Elements unsuitable for non-technical musicians taking their first steps in recording, or those who want to use lots of instruments. However, it's a great choice for serious musicians who can't afford the cost of the full version or those who just want to record performances then edit and mix them to a high standard.
This is truer than ever thanks to some big improvements to Cubase Elements 7's mix capabilities. The new, gargantuan MixConsole is taken straight from Cubase 7. In Cubase Elements 6, most mixer settings were only accessible one channel at a time in the Channel Settings window, but now it’s possible to see all volume, EQ, insert, send and routing settings at once.
The MixConsole also includes the new Channel Strip, which is a set of five effects that are hard-wired into each channel. They resemble the compressors and gates that are found on high-end hardware mixers, but also include a limiter, tape or tube saturation and an envelope shaper. Together with the capable EQ on each channel, it’s a potent combination for creating punchy, glossy mixes.
It’s a huge amount to fit into the MixConsole, though. We’ve been using Cubase for years and we found it a little unwieldy to navigate. New users may take one look at the MixConsole and revert straight back to the more palatable Channel Settings window.
Cubase Elements 7 has three new insert effects, too. DJ-EQ and MorphFilter are simple EQ-based effects with an emphasis on hands-on control. VST Amp Rack is a suite of guitar pedals, amps and speaker cabinets. It sounds great and is a generous addition to this entry-level version. The sample-playback instrument has 350 new high-quality sounds, but there are no new instruments.
This version restricts you to 48 audio tracks, 24 virtual instruments, 16 group channels and eight effects sends, but these are more than enough for all but the biggest musical productions. Even so, there are some superb virtual instruments and effects in the full version of Cubase and the mid-price Cubase Artist that make them worth the extra cost.
Cubase Elements is odd because, in one respect, it's entirely inappropriate for its intended audience. First-time users are presented with a bewildering array of features, and there’s not much help for those who aren’t familiar with the conventions of studio production. Still, it’s possible to ignore the more complex features and just get on with recording.
If, however, you want a bargain DAW with lots of high-quality features, you should buy Cubase Elements 7 now.
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