The last-minute announcement of Cubase 7.5 was a nice surprise from Steinberg at the end of 2013. But can a point release offer enough to pry more of that hard-earned dough from our pockets?
"It's actually the less obvious tweaks and additions that are the real headlines here"
Surprisingly for a point upgrade (even a paid one), Cubase 7.5 comes armed with new instruments and effects designed to appeal to those new to the world of desktop recording, as well as the more experienced. However, it's actually the less obvious tweaks and additions that are the real headlines here, as they represent truly significant improvements to Cubase's long-standing core workflow.
The new Re-record mode is a perfect example. With this active, you can hit the record button again during a recording to instantly start the recording over from the original position, count-in and metronome included (assuming you have them set up).
It seems like a fairly throwaway addition until you use it, after which you'll wonder how you ever got along without it before, particularly if you're engineering your own recording sessions - it saves a great deal of frustration and repeated hammering of the stop/delete/record keys.
Although the record button on Steinberg's iOS remote controller Cubase iC Pro doesn't currently change its appearance to indicate that re-record mode is active, you get the same result when controlling Cubase from the app nonetheless.
Also new to v7.5, track visibility management works in a similar way to the mixer's channel visibility management, allowing you to show or hide any tracks in the Arrangement view that you may or may not need to see at any given time.
Again, it seems insignificant, but it'll soon become a workflow essential for those working with large projects, doing a lot of rendering but wishing to retain access to MIDI clips, or working with remixes. The View Agents help you get the most out of the feature, giving specific commands for showing or hiding tracks based on various criteria - inverting the view status of all MIDI tracks, for example.
One of the most potentially transformative additions is TrackVersions. This enables you to create multiple versions of various track types that can be easily switched between within the track itself.
Perhaps you want to record alternate lyrics for your vocal track, or present a few versions of a guitar solo for narrowing down later - TrackVersions allows you to store multiple takes or versions on a single track lane, without having to copy over the entire track and all its plugins wholesale, saving CPU and time.
Not to be confused with comping Take Lanes, a TrackVersion actually includes all of the individual Takes and comping for that version. However, TrackVersions can easily be created, accessed, and switched from a dedicated area in the Inspector.
Also in the "track-related features" category, you can now save and recall a track's Quick Controls, and copy them over to other tracks, regardless of track type.
Scoring the hits
Cubase's Hitpoints system has long enabled transient detection for loop manipulation, audio quantise and more. Prior to v7.5, using Hitpoints has involved selecting a target audio file and subjecting it to a process via menus or the sample editor. Now, all audio brought into the Pool (via recording, import or bouncing) is instantly subjected to Hitpoint detection. Better still, you can now navigate audio clips in the Project window by using key commands to jump to adjacent Hitpoints.
"The formally schooled muso will be glad to learn that Steinberg has given the Score Editor a much-needed once-over"
It's worth mentioning that Hitpoint detection is a calculation rather than a destructive process, meaning it has no audible effect on your track's data unless you employ further processing, so no harm is done if you don't need it - but it's fantastic having it there instantly when you do.
The formally schooled muso will be glad to learn that Steinberg has given the Score Editor a much-needed once-over, bringing in a new tabbed Inspector for switching between the regular musical symbols and newly-enhanced MIDI functionality.
Very helpfully indeed, MIDI functions from the Key Editor have been added to the Score Editor, giving access to quantise, transposition, length and chord editing. It really is the best of both worlds.
Some cynics have been quick to brush off this paid point upgrade as a hurried money-grab, but they'd be missing out on some excellent enhancements. Cubase 7.5 has a lot to offer, and the upgrade fee is quite reasonable for what you get. Maybe it's wishful thinking to expect all of Cubase's bugs to have been ironed out, and some early adopters have reported carry-overs from version 7, but it performed very well for us on our test machines, never hiccuping, stuttering or crashing.
The new features all worked as advertised, adding up to an easier and more enjoyable workflow than ever before. Those with plugin folders filled to bursting might not be fussed about the additions and enhancements to the bundled instruments and effects, but newcomers looking for an all-in-one solution will (some would say at long last) get it in Cubase 7.5. An unmissable upgrade for all Cubase 7 users, not to mention those still on earlier versions.