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Steinberg Cubase Artist 8 review

Ben Pitt
15 Feb 2015
Expert Reviews Best Buy Logo
Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
244
inc VAT

With a massive performance boost and lots of new tricks and toys, Cubase Artist 8 is a superb update

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Specifications

OS Support: Windows 7/8/8.1, Mac OS X 10.9/10.10, Minimum CPU: Intel Core or AMD dual core, Minimum GPU: DirectX 10, Minimum RAM: 4GB (8GB recommended), Hard disk space: 15GB

Cubase Artist is the mid-price edition of Steinberg’s professional music-production software, sitting between Cubase Elements and the flagship version, now known as Cubase Pro, which has also moved on to version 8.

Steinberg claims to have completely rebuilt the engine to make it faster and more fluid, and this has big ramifications. Recording software typically uses dozens or even hundreds of effects modules, virtual instruments and mixer channels in real time. It’s a big nuisance when the computer’s hardware resources are exceeded and glitches appear during playback, but it’s a much bigger problem when they appear while recording. In the past this has forced us to spend lots of time carefully managing resources, bouncing down processor-intensive tracks and sometimes the entire project in order to ensure glitch-free recording of additional tracks.

Cubase 8 is not only more efficient but also more resilient to the occasional glitch, where a burst of activity from a virtual instrument might cause a spike in processing demands. Projects with lots of plug-ins that suffered from frequent glitches in version 7.5 played back smoothly in version 8, and we were able to add lots more plug-ins before glitches reappeared. We’d expect to experience this when upgrading to a brand new PC – upgrading to Cubase 8 is a good deal cheaper. This improved resilience means less time is spent troubleshooting, leaving more time to get on with making music.

^ The docked panel for VST instruments means Cubase fits more neatly onto screens

The other new features seem inconsequential in comparison, but we’ll have them all the same. A Render In Place command makes it much easier to transfer projects to other software or people, with a choice of including the raw recordings, with insert effects in place or with all mixer settings. A new docked panel on the right of the screen can show either the active virtual instruments or the MediaBay asset manager. When using a second monitor for the mixer, Cubase’s interface finally feels like it fits without multiple windows competing for screen space. It’s also easier to save and recall layouts of windows via its new Workspaces menu.

VST plug-ins are now better organised, with the ability to group them by effects type or publisher and to create custom lists. This is perfect for creating groups of plug-ins for specific purposes, and for hiding old ones you rarely use but don’t want to uninstall because they’re needed by old projects.

^ The Acoustic Agent sound library delivers new levels of realism to Cubase’s virtual drum kits

The bundled plug-ins are better than ever. Groove Agent SE 4 is a sophisticated sample-based drum module originally introduced in Cubase 7.5, but now includes additional sample content. In Accoustic Agent, each drum is built up of dozens of samples, captured at different volumes and mic positions. The relative volume of overhead and room microphones can be adjusted for each part of the drum kit, and it’s even possible to vary the amount of bleed from one virtual drum mic to another. Another control defines how much the hi-hat opens and closes by. It normally varies from a tight tick to a splashy rattle, but limiting the range can push the bias towards one extreme or the other. This feels much closer to recording with a live drum kit than a drum machine. Mixing facilities are built into the plug-in, but enabling multiple outputs in the VST Instruments Rack means you can take full advantage of Cubase’s main mixer for each virtual drum microphone.

VST Bass Amp does for bass guitars what the existing VST Amp Rack goes for electric guitars. There's an array of amps, cabinets, effects and mic positions to produce a wide range of bass guitar sounds from a live recording. Quadrafuzz V2 is a reboot of an old favourite, with four frequency bands each with their own distortion, gate and delay effects. It’s easy to turn sounds in to an unpleasant mush, but after a while we were getting some delightfully gritty tones from it. It's particularly useful for sounds that don't ordinarily lend themselves to distortion, such as strings and piano. The Multiband Compressor, DeEsser and Tuner effects have been updated, too, with similar controls to before but improved processing quality.

^ VST Bass Amp offers a choice of amps, cabinets, effects, microphones and even mic positions for that perfect bass tone

At £244, Cubase Artist is within reach of keen amateurs who may not be able to justify paying £448 for Cubase Pro. Upgrades start at £41, and there are discounts for university students. Some previous Cubase updates saved all the best new features for the priciest version, but that’s not the case this time around. With support for 64 audio and 128 MIDI tracks, plus the vast majority of Cubase Pro's sublime recording, editing and mixing tools, it’s an excellent investment for musicians who aspire to the highest standards. The learning curve could certainly be shallower but the view from the top is worth the trip.

System requirements
OS SupportWindows 7/8/8.1, Mac OS X 10.9/10.10
Minimum CPUIntel Core or AMD dual core
Minimum GPUDirectX 10
Minimum RAM4GB (8GB recommended)
Hard disk space15GB
Buying information
Price including VAT£244
Supplierwww.steinberg.net
Detailswww.steinberg.net
Product code45550

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