Hello Gear Mortals! Today I’m checking out the Cubase 9.5 Pro update by Steinberg! In this review, I will mainly be focusing on the new features added to Cubase since version 9 but if you want a more all-encompassing review of Cubase as a DAW, I suggest you check out my review of Cubase 9 Pro here. I will also address if Steinberg has fixed any of the issues I faced in the previous version as well.
Cubase 9.5 adds a bunch of awesome and requested new features. First, let’s start off with what is easily my favorite new feature, zoning. Cubase 9.5 has added the ability to have zoning kind of similar in the way you might see in Logic Pro X or Studio One. I have been a long time Cubase user, so zoning was not really something I had much experience with and I honestly thought I would never use it when I saw that it was a new feature in 9.5. But, it’s actually pretty useful and it’s one of those things that you didn’t know you wanted until you actually used it type-of-things. I use the zoning in a bunch of different ways (mostly to bring up my Virtual Instrument rack to the right and to bring in the mixer window on the bottom). But it doesn’t just get used for that. Things that used to open in separate windows in Cubase now open as a lower zone in 9.5. Workflow is just much more streamlined this way as there are no windows ever popping up in your face that you are resizing and moving around. For example, if you double-click on a vocal track, it will bring up the waveform and processing options such as pitch correction in the lower zone. So you can do pitch correction on vocals while still having an eye on the rest of the tracks.
There is only 1 minor annoyance I have come across using the lower zone that I hope Steinberg and figure out a solution too. If say, for example, you have a vocal track opened on the lower zone and you click away on something in the main edit window, all the options for that track disappear until click anywhere on the lower zone again. I can understand why they ended up doing this since the only way to show the lower zones options is on the right where the tracks usually are. As I said, it’s just a minor annoyance and isn’t a big deal but it would be nice if they can figure something out about that.
Another favorite new feature they have added in 9.5 is much better automation editing. Automation was never bad in Cubase, but it was one of the few things that I saw in Pro Tools made me wish was better in Cubase. Well, they made it a lot better in this update! It’s now much easier to make quick automation points and to adjust them the way you want. How I go about making automation points now in Cubase is so easy, I just open the automation bar and select and use the range tool the part I want to automate. From there, 3 points show up at the top of the selection. One in the top left the corner, in the middle and the top right corner. Clicking the middle lets you scale vertically up or down, the left and right scale with a tilt for fading in or out. The second you click and drag using any of these 3, the automation points are automatically made for you. All you have to do from there is move the bar up or down depending on what I want to do with that particular section. Much faster than what I was doing before, which was literally drawing out each point in for each section. BUT that’s not the only cool thing they did with automation in 9.5, as they also now let you make automation with curves, which I don’t think I have seen before in another DAW. I found it really handy when trying to smooth out the transition from parts that I had drastic automation on.
In 9.5, Steinberg has overhauled the metronome giving people a lot more control over the click track, which is a welcome change! Now you can easily change the volume if you want an accent or no accent, and even what sounds you want to use for the click track. They have a bunch of different options like the classic Cubase click sound or a woodblock but if none of those are to your liking, you can actually import your own sound to use as a click track tone. The biggest issues I used to have with the metronome on Cubase in the past was getting it to be louder and getting rid of the accent on the first beat, with this update I don’t run into that issue anymore.
Probably the biggest under the hood update in 9.5 is Cubase now has a 64-Bit Floating Point sound engine. What does that mean? It basically means all the processing that happens of audio and with plugins are done at a much higher and accurate resolution, which in turn means you have a lot more leeway when mixing and mastering in Cubase.
Some other smaller but great changes in 9.5 are things like a lot more plugin inserts now being available. A lot of the stock Steinberg plugins in Cubase have been updated visual and look a lot nice now. Direct Offline Processing allows you to essentially apply audio processing to a track without adding to your CPU load. They have also added a feature called Adapt to Zoom which increases or decreases the quantize grid snap based on how zoomed in or out you are in the window. This is easily one of my favorite new features and such a great quality of life update. I love not having to constantly change the grid quantize valve every time I zoomed in and out while editing.
Cubase 9.5 might have the most useful updates of any update Steinberg have done since I started using Cubase with SX3. There have been a lot of big changes and new features added to Cubase in past updates, no doubt, but everything about this particular update greatly improves some of the most important aspects of a DAW. The automation and the metronome especially I feel like are things I and other fans of Cubase have been complaining about for a while now, wishing they were as good as other DAWs. Now I can safely say they are the best implementation of both features that I have used in a DAW to date. It might seem simple, but things like zoning and automation really make a substantial difference in how fast you work and at the same time how much better.
If you read my review of Cubase 9, you may remember me mention a substantial performance issue with Cubase, especially on a Mac. For those who don’t know, for years now it has been widely documented that Cubase is known to run much slower on Mac than on Windows. And I say that on Windows because when you run Windows on a Mac, the problems pretty much go away. Every year, fans of Cubase hope that the next version is going to be the one to finally fix it. Does Cubase 9.5 finally put an end to the torment Cubase users experience on Mac? Unfortunately no. In fact, as far as I can tell, there is no performance improvement at all from 9.0. Are they ever going to fix this problem? In my talks to multiple people at Steinberg Customer Support, I feel pretty confident in saying no at this time. But why? They just don’t believe there really is a problem. Many times I would tell them the problem, give them video evidence of my claim, point to hundreds of people on Steinberg’s own forum that are having the exact same problem for years and the response I get from them every single time is that they don’t see the problem at all on their end. As far as I’m aware, there is no effort in their dev team to actually try and fix this issue. So my warning from my last Cubase review still stands. If you are on Mac OS, you will probably want to skip Cubase entirely. You will rip your hair out fighting with how sluggish it gets when editing. If you are on a PC or a Mac running Windows, on the other hand, this problem is pretty much non-existent and I personally think there is no better DAW out there right now than Cubase. I just wish I could use it on my Mac.