Cubase Pro 9 review

The professional DAW software Cubase is in its ninth round and brings some innovations that were at the top of the wish lists for many users. This includes a sampler function, an undo history for the mixer, and a new, flexible equalizer, which are now part of the standard equipment of the large Pro version.

Everyone has to decide for themselves whether the update is worthwhile. With our test we want to offer a little help for this decision.


Elements is also updated

As usual, Cubase is available in the three expansion levels Elements, Artist and Pro, which in this order offer an ever-increasing range of functions and are of course also more expensive. Cubase Artist and Cubase Pro are updated to the new version number every two years in December, but Cubase Elements users still had to wait a few months. The good news for all of these users is: This is no longer the case! The update to Cubase Elements 9 was also released in one go with the larger versions

The copy protection still runs via the eLicenser, a copy protection plug that has to be plugged into a USB port of the computer to operate Cubase and is included when purchasing the full version. The small Cubase Elements, on the other hand, can also be used with the Soft-eLicenser – without a dongle. A general feature of Cubase and its various expansion stages is the ability to open project files that were created with a larger version in smaller or older versions. A song that was created with Cubase Pro 9 could be opened in Cubase Elements 8 without any problems, but the real-time edits that were implemented with the advanced features of the newer Pro version (e.g. VariAudio) were of course lost.

From now on only 64 bit

Steinberg moves with the times and makes a clear decision: Cubase version 9 and higher is only available as a 64-bit application. This means, on the one hand, that the software no longer runs under 32-bit operating systems and, on the other hand, that 32-bit plug-ins can no longer be used. 

Steinberg is also saying goodbye to the VST Bridge, which was previously responsible for providing effects and sound generators in the old format – and in this case, the farewell is probably not too painful, because the module has earned its not so excellent reputation . The plug-in bridge was rightly accused of a certain instability paired with an increased hunger for resources, which is why many users switched to alternatives such as the jBridge. This should supposedly still run in the latest version and under Windows. However, I have not tested this, and Steinberg expressly distances himself from third-party bridges. Since most of the reasonably up-to-date plug-ins are now available in the new format, the need for such a function has drastically decreased anyway.

A guard for the plug-in folder

If we are already on the subject of “Plug-Ins and Stability”, it makes sense to take a look at the Sentinel plug-in before starting the big changes. Cubase’s 9th version contains the plug-in folder when the program starts searched for black sheep. Is Steinberg now using poise state methods? No, that’s not the point! The job of this little guard is to identify plug-ins that could pose a potential problem for Cubase stability and cause crashes

If such a plug-in is recognized, the Sentinel places it on a blacklist so that it is initially no longer available. This blacklist can, however, be edited directly from Cubase, and those who are willing to take risks can whitelist the problem children again in the associated dialog and thus continue to use them. This is certainly not a revolutionary new feature, but in principle it is of course a good thing to know in advance that a plug-in could step out of line.

Before we really start with the big innovations, as a Windows user I would like to express my uninhibited pleasure that Cubase now offers plug & play support for USB devices. For all Mac users: That’s right, under Windows you actually had to restart Cubase after connecting a USB controller or comparable hardware in order to use it. And for all Windows users: Right, you no longer have to!


Anything but a low blow: The Lower Zone 

The trend towards large screens and 4K resolutions is spreading and gradually replacing the previously common setups of two or more monitors, one of which was often reserved for the project window and one for the mixer. Steinberg reacts to this with the new Lower Zone of the project window, in which, among other things, the mixer has its own official area. Sure, this was previously possible with a corresponding arrangement of the individual windows, but it is now much more convenient, and all editors (e.g. key or sample editor) and the chord pads are now in this freely scalable area by default displayed. The direction not only taken by Steinberg is clear: Get rid of the many windows!

In my opinion, the Lower Zone is not always the first choice for use on laptops, as there is usually a lack of space here anyway. But of course the new area can be hidden just like all other secondary areas.

Long awaited by many: a sampler function

One of the great general criticisms of Cubase for years has been that even the largest expansion stage does not contain a sampler with which you can distribute your own audio snippets on a keyboard in order to control them via midi. This has now changed, and Steinberg has taken a somewhat unusual path here. Most users would have expected a new plug-in for organizing and playing samples. Cubase 9, on the other hand, implements this functionality using a new type of track: the sampler track.

Just like the Lower Zone, the entire feature is available in all versions down to Elements. However, one should not expect too deep functions here. The sampler track works exclusively with a single sample per instance, and more complex functions such as the use of multisamples or velocity layers are reserved for specialists such as Steinberg HALion 5 or Native Instruments Kontakt 5.

 new EQ with linear phase and M / S processing

What was clearly missing in Cubase so far was a “normal” equalizer that allows frequency processing to be implemented without the phase shifts and artifacts that usually come with it. Although the Voxengo CurveEQ, which has been included in the large version since Cubase 7, is a linear phase EQ, its concept of a bird of paradise makes it difficult to use for everyday applications.

The new plug-in in Cubase Pro 9 called Frequency, on the other hand, is somewhat more conventional and offers, in addition to its standard mode, the aforementioned linear phase function – and even mid / side processing is possible! This means that the frequency manipulator, equipped with a generous eight bands, will feel very comfortable not only on individual tracks, but also on group channels and the mix bus. Many users will probably also be happy about the auto-list function, which can be used to listen to selected frequency bands in solo. A great plug-in!

An undo function for the mixer!

It’s hard to believe, but it’s really there! There are probably only a few other feature requests to Steinberg that have been issued in recent years with a comparable urgency as an undo function for the mixer!

It should be emphasized that this history is created separately from the general history of the project window and runs in parallel! This function is reserved for users of Cubase Artist and Cubase Pro. Cubase pro 9 activation code free

You know it: A mix is ​​on its way and slowly starts to sound really good, you get euphoric, turn the monitors a little louder and don’t notice that after several hours of work you haven’t actually heard anything – and destroy in a few moments the painstakingly created balance. With the new undo history, which is located on the left side of the MixConsole, you can now jump back to any point in a mix and start again. Complete mixer snapshots that could be used to directly compare different mixes do not yet exist, but the feature is still really great and will ensure that many annoying moments no longer arise.

Other new features

With the really big innovations, that was it. Of course, Cubase version 9 has a few other new or revised features on board. The Maximizer and the Autopan plug-in have been improved under the hood, and Steinberg has also given some other effects from the Dynamics area a new user interface. The virtual-analog synthesizer Retrologue 2 can now be fed with a sidechain signal, thus opening up new possibilities for creative sound design, and in principle, thanks to the new audio-ins, this is also possible with other VST instruments as long as they are on based on the VST3 standard.

Also interesting: Instead of just one single marker track per project in the past, up to ten such tracks can now be created in order to name the material separately on individual tracks or groups. Above all, the point that markers can now be used to represent the locators in order to export several areas of a project at the same time can prove to be extremely time-saving in corresponding projects. For Cubase 9.5 I would also like the simultaneous export of WAV and Mp3 files! 

Last but not least, Steinberg’s Production Groove Essentials includes around 400 drum loops and presets for the Groove Agent SE4. The sounds are quite useful for quick layouts, but to my ears the sound seems a bit like the automatic accompaniment of a keyboard from the lower middle class. But good – the stock samples of a DAW do not have to belong to the highest quality that the market has to offer.

Conclusion(4.5 / 5)

The step to version 9 gives Cubase some really remarkable features. The lower zone in the project window will especially please users with a single high-resolution screen, but it is also not imposing, and if you want, everything can be displayed as usual via individual windows. Working with the sampler track feels pleasantly fresh and intuitive thanks to the concept without a separate plug-in, and the new equalizer is a real all-purpose weapon. My personal highlight is still the mix history, with which not only can accidental mouse clicks be corrected, but also generally larger experimental excursions while mixing without having to save the project under a new name beforehand.

Some users who have been relying on an arsenal of plug-ins for years that are no longer updated by the manufacturer could of course be prevented from updating by the new limitation to 64 bits. Here it is important to decide whether the outdated effects justify sticking to the outdated system architecture. Even if this is probably not one of the most extensive Cubase updates overall, the move to the new version is definitely worthwhile in my opinion.