Review: Cubase 7.5: In Depth Guide to All the New Features

Just when you thought Cubase 7 satiated your desire for creative tools, Steinberg releases Cubase 7.5. Is it appealing enough to be an audio stocking stuffer? Find out in our world-first review.  

It's been almost a year since Cubase 7 hit the scene, and it injected many large improvements into an already powerful and popular platform. Now Steinberg have released Cubase 7.5, which is a paid upgrade. Some will grumble at the idea of paying for a point-rev, but many software companies have now adopted this paradigm to help them develop more substantial upgrades over shorter periods of time. Let's dive into Cubase 7.5 and see if it makes sense for you to upgrade.

No Aversion to TrackVersions

Perhaps the biggest new feature in Cubase 7.5 is TrackVersions. These allow you to keep multiple versions of tracks all within one individual track. Here's a scenario: You've recorded a bass guitar track with both pickups on, but perhaps the front pickup would offer a sound more appropriate for the material. With TrackVersions, you can record a new performance onto the same track, then switch back and forth to make your selection.

Figure 1. Selecting TrackVersions on an Audio track.

Figure 1. Selecting TrackVersions on an Audio track.

TrackVersions also have their own comping lanes, which allow you to duplicate a TrackVersion with material on it, but make edits that won't affect any of the other TrackVersions. Clicking on the track name will open the TrackVersion options, and you can also enter the version names in the TrackVersions Inspector tab (see Figure 1). TrackVersions are supported on Audio, MIDI, Instrument, Chord, Tempo, and Signature tracks, and offer the fringe benefit of sliming your visible track count.

Can You See Me Now?

Speaking of track counts, long gone are the days of mere 16- or 24-track projects. Cubase offers unlimited track counts, which can make wrangling all those tracks more challenging. Cubase 7.5 offers Track Visibility tab at the top of the Inspector column. Clicking the Visibility tab will allow you (similar to Channel Visibility in the MixConsole) to view or hide any track. But there's also a Filter Track Types button added to the top of the Project Window that allows you to quickly display only certain type of tracks.

Figure 2. Track Visibility tab and the Filter Track Types button.

Figure 2. Track Visibility tab and the Filter Track Types button.

When all tracks are visible, the Filter Track Types button will be grey, but when the filters are enabled, the button will be orange. Using the Visibility tab will allow you to view or hide any individual track. This is great for hiding tracks that you've previously disabled, or that you're not sure you'll end up using in a project. But make sure to check the Filter button because before you're used to Track Visibility, you might think some of your tracks have vanished. It's also important to know that hidden tracks are still audible.

Instrument Tracks and Racks

Instrument Tracks 2.0 gives you the ability to route more than 2 audio outputs from a multi-output capable virtual synth, but also lets you route multiple MIDI tracks to the same Instrument track. Both of those features formerly required the VST Instrument Rack to be addressed by MIDI tracks. But what Steinberg have done is bisected the Rack into Track Instruments and Rack Instruments.

Figure 3. MIDI track routing and the VST Instrument Rack.

Figure 3. MIDI track routing and the VST Instrument Rack.

Notice the grey line between instrument 5 and 6. That is what delineates the Track Instruments and Rack Instruments. So basically, if you've already added a multitimbral Instrument track (like HALion Sonic SE 2) to your project, you can now route additional MIDI tracks to the same Instrument track, and have the benefit of routing different audio output channels to the MixConsole. Steinberg certainly listened to their users regarding this feature, for it has been often mentioned in the forums. Plus, the new VST Quick Controls can be viewed and edited on the VST Instrument Rack.

Getting Plugged-in

Both HALion Sonic SE and Groove Agent SE have been upgraded to versions 2 and 4, respectively, and Steinberg have added the new plug-ins REVelation reverb (not to be confused with REVerence), LoopMash FX, and Magneto II. I'll talk a little about each new plug-in.

HALion Sonic SE 2

The look and feel of HALion Sonic SE 2 (hereby HSSE2) has been refined with a GUI that is visually darker than HSSE1, and it comes with the Trip virtual analog arpeggiated synth with 150 factory presets.

Figure 4. HALion Sonic SE 2 with the Trip virtual analog synth.

Figure 4. HALion Sonic SE 2 with the Trip virtual analog synth.

All of the presets are very useful and sound great. The arpeggios run from sparse to very dense, and Trip itself has three oscillators, a sub oscillator, and you can add multiple layers for an even broader soundscape. Plus, HSSE2 has 8 new effects of its own including an improved rotary effect, step flanger, ring modulator, and more. 

Groove Agent SE 4

Steinberg gave Groove Agent SE 4 (hereby GASE4) a total makeover. It's predecessor (Groove Agent ONE) was very useful, but always looked a little out of place to me. GASE2 now has the crisp look and feel of HSSE2, and a massive injection of power and presets.

Figure 5. Groove Agent SE 4 control panel, Instrument and Edit views.

Figure 5. Groove Agent SE 4 control panel, Instrument and Edit views.

If you've used a drum machine sampler before (like an Akai MPC), you'll be right at home on GASE4. But unlike many hardware samplers, you also get 128 pads, drop-and-drag sample placement (including velocity-based sample layering), 24 filters including the coveted bit- and sample-rate reduction models, 27 insert or AUX audio effects (4 inserts, 4 AUX sends), visual sample editing, vintage and turntable playback modes, and lots and lots of preset patterns. With all the new features, Groove Agent SE 4 has been transformed into a drum beating dragon.

LoopMash FX

The LoopMash plug-in has been a very popular plug-in for users who like the real-time capability of adding stutters, stops, and cycles to multiple loops. But LoopMash FX allows you to add 19 '

Matthew Loel T. Hepworth

More articles by this author

MATTHEW LOEL T. HEPWORTH has been teaching music technology since 1984. The son of educators, he has the ability to thoughtfully instruct people to get the most from complicated music products and software. He authors the Cubase and WaveLab tutorials for and authored several books including WaveLab 7 Power!, The Power i... Read More


Want to join the discussion?

Create an account or login to get started!