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Steinberg Cubase Elements 6 review

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £78
inc VAT

Too complex for casual users and possibly too restricted for ambitious ones, but its elegance and sophistication far exceed expectations

Steinberg Cubase Essential 5 has been our favourite low-cost recording software for almost two years. The concept is simple: take one professional recording application, remove the features that aren’t relevant to home users, take out a few more that they’d probably quite like but can live without and sell it for around £100.

Cubase Elements 6 takes over from where Essentials 5 left off – except it doesn’t quite match up. It costs £30 less, but in some key areas it’s a downgrade rather than an update. Essentials 5 supported up to 64 audio tracks per project but Elements 6 only allows 48. MIDI tracks, group channels and physical inputs and outputs are all down too. Existing Cubase Essentials users haven’t been abandoned, though, as they can upgrade to the considerably more capable Cubase Artist 6 for just £76.

Cubase main window It may be heavily stripped down compared to the full-price Cubase 6, but Elements is still a highly sophisticated recording platform – with the learning curve to match

It’s disappointing to see features regressing, but to be fair, the new limitations are still pretty generous. 48 tracks are enough for a recording project with a live drum kit and additional percussion, bass, three guitar parts, eight vocal tracks and a triple-tracked string quartet, plus up to 40 keyboard parts voiced by virtual instruments, which don’t count towards the 48-track limit.

People with such lofty ambitions are more likely to be put off by the restricted effects library. Cubase 6’s best-sounding effects are absent from the Elements version, and the ones that remain are more utilitarian than inspiring. A few are positively poor sounding, although these older ones are only included for file compatibility (newer, better ones are cryptically marked with a /// symbol). There are lots of compatible third-party effects in VST format on the market, but with most serious contenders costing hundreds of pounds, relying purely on these can get seriously expensive.

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