No pictures today, just words.

Currently I’m still going back and forth about switching from DP 9 to Cubase 8.5. I really enjoy Cubase so far, however there’s a few things that have me reconsidering.

Contents

Digital Performer: The Good Stuff

Polar

Google it, youtube it. Whatever. I love POLAR. It’s only available in DP.

Masterworks Collection

The Masterworks Collection that is included in DP is actually really good. The LA-2A emulation is fantastic. I sold all my plugins that overlap with what the Masterworks Collection can do.

So if I switch to Cubase, I’m going to have to spend a lot of time and some extra money finding an 1176 and LA-2A emulation that’s as good as what comes with DP.

Dynamic EQ and more

I love DP’s Dynamic EQ. I have a few third-party dynamic EQ plugins and they just don’t compare for me.

There’s also some really useful plugins like the Precision Delay, Subkick and Megasynth that are just very useful.

Looks

I really like the Eight Bit theme that you can see on the features page under themes.

I am not really much of a fan of dark UIs, which Cubase certainly is even after you hand-modify a bunch of colours yourself.

Transport

I love DP’s transport. The memory functions are awesome and I much prefer them to how Cubase’s loop/cycle markers work. DP’s transport is simply more flexible.

I also much prefer the methods of timeline selection, cycle selection and playback cursor control in DP. It’s much more flexible and allows you to adapts your workflow. Simple things such as having the cursor return to playback position or not are simple in DP. Not simple in Cubase.

Chunks

I can’t hammer this home enough. Chunks are awesome. They let me rip out parts of a track and work on them in their own little project and recombine them easily in various ways. Likewise it makes it easy to move parts between songs, manage songs themselves, use for track templates and more.

The modularity of ‘anything in a project can be a project or put in to a project’ is very useful. I really miss that in Cubase.

Tracks Overview

The Tracks Overview window in DP is awesome. It’s a very quick and easy way to make ‘macro-level’ changes to a project and easily manage huge projects.

Yes you can do this in other software kinda by just zooming out a lot (or using a zoom preset), but the convenience of the Tracks Overview is awesome. It also presents relevant information in a more coherent way considering that you are being presented with a large-scale view of the project. Zoom levels do not do that, they just squish everything!

DP’s Channel strip

I’m not talking about a channel strip plugin, but what is called the ‘Inspector’ in Cubase.

DP allows you to section this in to 4 columns and it can be easily docked and moved around very nicely. I find it to be a much more efficient use of space than Cubase’s Inspector.

The Command window.

I love DP’s command window. Having such quick access to shortcuts is so useful. I have the commands window docked so I can always see it. Often I’ll forget some weird rarely used shortcut and I can quickly search for it and go.

The Command window’s search is also light years better than Cubase’s keyboard commands search. Cubase shows you each result for the search one at a time. DP shows you all results as you type.

DP also has more functions mapped by default.

Huge winner here for someone like me that is obsessed with workflow and efficiency.

The consolidated window system

Being able to dock any window I want is amazing. I hate floating windows and DP allows me to have so much information on screen very easily. Having to fuss with modal dialogs and always-on-top windows in Cubase to do certain functions is really annoying.

Digital Performer: The Bad Stuff

Mixer

The mixer in DP is just inferior. Nothing like Cubase’s amazing Q-link, especially for inserting and controlling plugins. Resizing channels in DP is basically non-existent compared to Cubase’s excellent amount of control.

I really dislike the small faders in DP’s mixer as well. Yes you can scroll-wheel to change values, but I like to click and drag. Scroll-wheeling hurts my finger.

VCAs

No VCAs. Man does that suck. The amount of extra work that this causes is ridiculous sometimes, and it makes managing automation much more difficult than it needs to be.

Bugs

DP is definitely buggier than Cubase in my experience. Neither one crashes very often (if at all), but there appears to be more things in DP that ‘don’t work right’.

Support is… weird?

Motu’s support is awesome. Let me be totally clear about that. It used to suck big donkey balls, but they are doing awesome now.

The issue I have is that they are totally private. It’s rare to see someone from Motu out ‘in the wild’ helping someone out. Likewise it’s rare to see them discussing their development openly, or discussing bugs or… whatever.

It’s a functioning closed system. After you experience Reaper’s community, or Steinberg’s, or RMLabs etc… Motu’s closed-doors feel rather odd.

Cubase: Good stuff.

Control Room

Read about the Control Room that I wrote about here

Now realize how you wish you had that in your DAW. You can setup something similar in DP with a bunch of extra channels and ridiculous routing. It’s stupid to try.

A killer feature of Cubase for sure.

Q-link is awesome. It makes any selected tracks in the mixer now a temporary group. This also affects inserting and modifying plugins.

This is so cool if you use any sort of console emulation or tape plugin. You can quickly insert the same plugin on multiple tracks in the same slot and calibrate them to the same values.

It also makes it very nice to make various changes in the mix that don’t necessarily require a permanent group.

The strip.

The effect strip in Cubase is super useful. I love having the EQ and gate always at my fingertips. I’m also a magneto-fiend.

It’s entirely possible to setup a strip-like setup in DP by using Track Templates in DP, or you can use strip presets. I really wish this was the default, but I can also see how DP’s method is more flexible.

I like how Cubase does this.

Metering

Cubase’s Metering that I wrote about is so much better than DP.

There’s not much else to say. One of the most important aspects of audio production, and Cubase does it significantly better.

VCAs

Cubase has VCAs. That’s it. I love VCAs.

CurveEQ

Cubase comes with [CurveEQ]](http://www.voxengo.com/product/curveeq/). I love Voxengo products and I long since sold CurveEQ since I switched to using Pro-Q as my main go-to EQ.

I’ve since realized once again how awesome [CurveEQ]](http://www.voxengo.com/product/curveeq/) is. I think I’d have to buy it again if I stay with DP.

Re-record

I can’t tell you how much I love Re-Record in Cubase. Just press the record button to wipe what you’ve recorded and immediately start over.

I’m sure I can make some sort of system-based macro to do this in DP, but why should I have to?

List Editor

Cubase’s list editor is so cool! It’s more than an event list. It’s like a piano roll mixed with a very functional event list.

I really like DP’s event list (especially since it works so well with audio), but the List Editor in Cubase is super cool.

Audio warping

Audio warping in Cubase simply sounds way better than Digital Performer. It’s a huge difference.

It’s better in Studio One than either, but who want’s all that mess just for that? Gross.

Regular updates

Steinberg very regularly updates Cubase. Yes they are paid updates, but they are regular!

Motu on the other hand… You never know. Sometimes it’s 2 years, sometimes 6 months. Sometimes it costs, sometimes not.

I like regular updates, and I don’t mind paying people for their hard work.

Pan Law

I like Cubase’s equal power pan law much better than DP’s un-published pan law. This does make quite a difference when mixing.

Drum replacement

Drum replacement with Cubase is very simple. There’s various ways to do this in DP, but Cubase is much simpler and quicker in my experience.

Track Versions

Track versions! Multiple versions of a track that doesn’t require clobbering the takes function. You can have multiple comps, edits, performances etc… and just switch between them easily.

Adding busses

In DP, to add a buss for multiple channels it’s a 3 step process at minimum that involves 2 menus, a floating window, and it gets kinda confusing.

Cubase just has a very simple ‘Add group channel to selected channels’. Easy, like it should be.

Cubase: The not-so-great

Regular updates

Yeah, I said I like it didn’t I?

The issue is that they are regularly paid updates. This amounts to very nearly a subscription cost of ~$200 a year. Not so bad, but kinda crappy.

update 8/2/2016: Wrong here. It’s between $50-100 per year. I messed up the dates for the updates.

No decent track template system

No easy way just drop ‘a drum setup’ in to the project. Track archives come close, but they don’t obey some routing and folders don’t get captured.

The inspector

The inspector in Cubase kinda sucks. It’s 1 column and even if you sticky the things you use frequently, there’s still some rummaging that occurs with regular use.

If there was an option for at least a 2 column inspector with 2 narrow columns, I’d be very on-board with that.

Midi editor

I’ve simply found the midi editor to be unintuitive. Very likely because I’m used to another software, but I’ve not experienced this feeling of frustration when using other software (S1, Reaper, Tracktion, Samplitude, Renoise, Logic and others!).

I couldn’t really quantify the issues I had. I just found myself referring to the manual more frequently than I wanted.

The included plugins

Kinda suck. There’s not really much that stands out except CurveEQ and Magneto. DP has a whole plethora of plug-ins that are either excellent or worth using.

The UI

I really dislike the UI in Cubase. The dark colour feeling never goes away. The hovering icons, the sliding drawers, the stupid awful floating windows.

Honestly, the only DAW GUI I’ve liked less was Logic. For the same reason’s too.

Even Studio One was more bearable to look at and use (assuming you disregard the whole drag&drop thing).

Preferences

Finding stuff in Cubase’s preferences is awful. It’s cluttered, oddly named, badly designed and there’s things not in preferences that you would think should be. (plug-in stuff, audio device settings)

Keyboard commands

Cubase is really short on default keyboard commands. Not only that but the search is AWFUL. Really awful. It simply shows you the next item in the list. Often you have to click a dozen times or more to maybe find the option that you’re looking for. That’s until you realize that it’s called something else.

Not being able to have the keyboard commands window always open easily is not cool either.

Media bay

The media bay is super awesome and useless.

There’s so much clutter for stuff I don’t care about. If it was possible to get rid of all the loops, default categories, midi stuff etc.. then I would probably find it exceptionally useful. Oh, and it’d need to have a working track template system too.

Conclusion

There is none. I’m still trying to figure this out.

I thought writing all this down would help organize my thoughts and lead me closer to a conclusion…

Now I’m just more split.