Cubase 8.5 by Steinberg

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Cubase 8.5 brings a whole host of user friendly solutions that can drastically improve our workflow, making it an ideal DAW for any musical genre – from dance to ambient to metal.


by A. Arsov, March 2016


For a more than reasonable fee, $49 USD to be precise, we get a nice number of improvements with this new version of Cubase. Why have they decided to charge for this half version? Not so sure, but I presume the main reason could be the arrival of some functions that really make a difference, those things that have been on users’ wish lists for a long, long time, making it more user-friendly and improving the work-flow. So, no matter if you are a novice or a pro, some of the new solutions will help you reach your goal easier and faster. For me, every spared minute in Cubase means one minute more with my family.

Enough Thoughts, Let’s Go Into The Details

A new track can be routed to any output, also a group track can finally be placed under the group of tracks. It looks like a small improvement, but in a working process it means a lot. In the past I spent way too much time routing everything around and dragging group tracks toward the tracks they are grouped to. The next cool feature is the ability to import tracks from other Cubase projects without opening those projects. Select the tracks you want and they will be imported. Not something you will need everyday, but trust me, when you do, you will be thankful for this one.

Something that I’ve been waiting for for a long time is new punch in, punch out locators independent from the left and right locators, allowing you to re-record just one specific part of a whole phrase that is set in a loop. I’m not a perfect instrumentalist, so this is the perfect solution for me.

In the upper right corner we can find an option called Divide Track List. This one will add additional space at the bottom where you can drag any track that you want to have always on top, like the Marker track for example. So now, no matter what you’ll do in the arranger window, you will always know where you are. Nice one, Steinberg.

After many years the cursor is finally locked to position when you are changing tempo in the transport bar. It was a bit funny in a past, hunting the cursor around whenever I had to change the tempo, trying to find the best one for that song.

An addition, worth all the upgrade money, is a duplicate hot spot at the side of any event or loop. Simply press at the hot spot and drag left or right and the event will be duplicated – as it can be in many others DAWs. There are no more Dance oriented and Rock oriented DAWs in the new era. Truth be told, I can’t remember the last time I recorded a guitar line in one take for a whole song. I presume it was in a mid 90’s.

The next big thing is the ability to add notes without changing to the pencil mode. Double click will add new note. Click on a note, hold the mouse button and drag mouse up and down and velocity will follow for that note. With those two, life become quite a bit easier. I missed that feature in previous versions of Cubase.

Not so bad additions are the so-called edge selectors, selecting a drop down menu with the option to show or hide additional editors and views that are available on that side of the window.

The new Mediabay window, placed alongside the VST Instrument window on the right, is a great new feature, allowing us to browse, add or replace elements in the arrangement with just one click. In combination with Chord pads this could be quite a cool combination for those days when lacking inspiration. Actually this new Mediabay placement could easily be the best addition in this upgrade if Steinberg hadn’t limited preview to Steinberg approved content only. So we can only preview presets from VST instruments that already come with Cubase, also previewing only MIDI and audio loops that come with Cubase or those you bought from Steinberg. I tried to implement my enormous quantity of drum loops that I have on my disk, but after few days I gave up. Neither I, nor my dear friend, Google search, couldn’t break this barrier. Hope that Steinberg will fix that in some future upgrade. Some “Add directory – choose icon” option in this new Mediabay window could make this update quite unbeatable.

And More and More

Of course there are quite a few other improvements that influence work-flow, like Profile Manager, allowing audio engineers in big studios to make their own Cubase profile, starting a working day with their own preferences. Or maybe we should also mention the new option to group your own set of favorite effects that you can set as effects groups that will be shown when you open the effects browser in the Insert window for a channel. If you have endless quantities of various plug-ins this could be an ideal solution to limit yourself only to your favorite ones without spending ages trying to find your beloved “EQ / Compressor” among a million others. Also, drum view has been improved in several ways, adding an option to switch to normal note view for taming some hits, or selecting the view which will show only note lines for hits that are already used in that particular track.

VST Cloud has become even fancier, bringing a number of new capabilities that can really improve your cooperation with anyone around the globe. The Steinberg cloud community gets bigger and bigger, so if you are interested in cooperation, prepare your material and give the Steinberg cloud a try.

With this issue of Cubase we also get a version of the renowned Retrologue, hitting the number “2” and offering a wide variety of sounds, becoming one of those third-party-like synthesizers, worth money on its own.  It;s not just one of those synths that developers put in their DAW just to fill in the gaps, explaining to customers that their DAW contains all necessary tools. It brings 700 quite unique sounds and most of them are really useful. Lately I’ve been working with just a few synths, using mostly sound libraries, but this one will definitely find its place between the chosen ones.


Yes, It Is

Cubase 8.5 brings some cool improvements that definitely make a difference, and the upgrade price is more than fair. So, if you haven’t done it yet, now is the time. If you are not a Cubase user then I should say that all the additions I’ve mentioned in this article are just the tip of the iceberg. Cubase 8.5 is already my main and my favourite DAW, and with these new improvements it could easily happen that it becomes the only one I will use in the future. I like trying new DAWs, making songs in new environments, but when it comes to real work, having a DAW that offers everything you need, including up-to-date tools for all genres and working habits, then I’m back to Cubase. Home will always stay a home.


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