NUENDO 8 – The Gear Gods Review

Hey there Gear Mortals, today I’m going to be taking a look at Nuendo 8 by Steinberg!

Nuendo should look very familiar to you if you are a Cubase user. Nuendo has, essentially, the same exact audio engine as Cubase. In fact, you can even open Cubase projects in Nuendo with 100% compatibility. Where Nuendo differs are some very key areas concerning video games, film, and TV.

In this review, I will be focusing on what version 8 brings to the table, and if Steinberg manages to cater to each industry’s needs. There are so many new features included, especially with the release of 8.3, that I won’t be able to go in depth about every single one. What I will do is talk about the features I felt were most significant to me in my time using Nuendo 8.

Nuendo 8.3 saw the release of a bunch of tools geared towards Virtual Reality like Ambisonics Support, Headtracking, Go Pro VR player and support for VR related plugins like Facebook 360. If you are working in Virtual Reality, especially in games, Ambisonics Support and Headtracking are going to help you take your audio to the next level. Ambisonics basically lets you place sound in a sphere around the VR user. You can place the sound anywhere in that sphere, and in conjunction with head tracking, that sphere moves and changes in 3D. For example, when you place a sound to the left in the sphere,  if the user turned their head 180 degrees, they would now be hearing the sound in their right ear instead and you can hear the sound smoothly changing from one side to the other as you would expect.

Version 8 brings Game Audio Connet 2 which connects to Wwise and lets you transfer your composition, including audio and MIDI tracks, giving you a lot more flexibility with middleware integration.

A cool quality-of-life change in Nuendo 8 is the ability to rename events from a list window. It doesn’t seem like it would be a problem for most people, but especially when you are working on a game, your naming convention has to be the same in Nuendo as it is in whatever game engine or middleware you are using. I personally used the Unity game engine to test with Nuendo and working between both software, I did not face much trouble at all. Nuendo does help make the naming convention a little easier by letting you import a CSV file that with all that information pre-loaded.

Nuendo 8, just like Cubase 9.5, has the same Direct Offline Processing feature. This is really cool – it lets you apply audio processing, either from Nuendo itself or a plugin, directly to audio clips selected in your project. What this does is apply that processing to the audio files almost like its printed on the track. The advantage to this is that it lets you apply heavy chains of processing to a track without the CPU load that comes with it. This process is non-destructive, in that you can “un-print” the processing from any of the audio clips at any time from the Direct Offline Processing menu. It’s one of my favorite features in Nuendo 8, as projects tend to get massive and require a LOT of CPU power. Being able to quickly process tracks and free up CPU will be valuable to most people working on bigger projects.

Another one of my favorite new features in Nuendo 8 is Automatic Audio Alignment, which lets you set a track as a reference for other tracks to copy the timing off of. This is extremely useful if you have, for example, a song and a bunch of vocal tracks, like harmonies, or even doubles. Chances are, those tracks are not going to be aligned with each other very well. With Automatic Audio Alignment in Nuendo 8, I was able to easily to get them all to correctly time align with the main vocal track. So now I can have the vocal double track a little under the main vocal track to add more body and width to the vocals and the harmonies are perfectly in sync with each other, making it sound a lot more polished.

Probably the most useful feature added to Neundo in this version is Mix Console History – the ability to undo pretty much ANYTHING you do in the mix console. This feature has saved me so many times I don’t know what I would do without it now. Let me paint you a picture: You are working on a project, you get carried away with it and end up working on it non-stop for 5 hours. By this time, you have made all kinds of decisions in the project. What plugins you are using on what tracks, volume balance of everything, and of course, panning. In that 5 hours of work, you were being real nitpicky about getting the 3D audio to behave a certain way. You come to the sudden realization 6 hours in that you have actually made things much worse in the past 3 hours than it was. If you were on literally any other DAW other than Nuendo 8 and Cubase 9.5, there is nothing you can do about it, unless you happen to make a separate backup save file exactly at that moment 3 hours prior, and chances are, you didn’t. In Nuendo 8 this isn’t a problem at all, – I was able to roll back as far back as I liked. One of the things I like about how Steinberg presents the Mix Console History is they show you a list, with the bottom being the most recent event. And in that list, it tells you every single action you do. Just click right above the last action you want to undo and that’s it! An incredibly handy feature to have.

Nuendo 8 also has added Zones to their Edit and Mix windows in this update, the most prominent of which being the lower zone. This lets you display part of your mix window below the edit window, allowing you to avoid switching windows back and forth between the Mix window and Edit window. But it doesn’t just need to be used for that – I actually mostly used it for MIDI writing and editing. It’s a great way to write out MIDI tracks while still having control over the action in the edit window. Another way I used was for pitch correction using Steinberg’s built-in tool “VariAudio.” All you have to do is double click the audio track and it will automatically pop up the lower zone with the track in question, allowing you to quickly do your edits without having to leave the window or overlay another window over the edit window. Super neat!

Nuendo 8 now runs on a 64-bit floating point engine. What does that mean? It means Nuendo is now able to do much more complex math that allows all the processing of audio and with plugins to be done more accurately and at a higher resolution. What that means for you is overall much better audio quality in your work.

Some quick mentions of new features I really like.

  • Automation with Curves, allows you to shape your automation points much more smoothly for better transitions.
  • Automation Range Tool, allows you to quickly make automation points for a section you would like to control but just using the range tool and highting the section you want points in.
  • A LOT more plugin insert slots. I usually don’t run out of plugin slots but it has happened from time to time, and it’s just one more thing getting in the way of your workflow to deal with the problem.
  • Updated and expanded Metronome, easier control over volume, accents, and the kind of sound you want for your click track.
  • Adapt to Zoom, the snap grid resolution changes as you zoom in and out in a window, becoming smaller/bigger accordingly. I love this feature, as it has basically replaced my old routine of selecting larger quantize values like a half note when zoomed out, then having to change it to 32nd note when zoomed in.

If you are a professional in the video game, film, or TV field, I’m not sure a more full-featured DAW exists out there. In fact, if you are a VR developer, I’m not aware of any other DAW that has any support for VR. This update really streamlines a lot of the workflow tools of Nuendo, and makes working in it a much better experience. Things like Automatic Audio Alignment save you a lot of time, allowing you to focus on what is actually important, creating the best content you can, in as short of a time frame as possible. I already consider Cubase 9.5 to be the best DAW for audio professionals, and Nuendo 8 has everything Cubase has plus the addition of professional tools for VR, gaming, film, and TV. There isn’t any other DAW out there that I could recommend over Nuendo 8 if you are an audio professional working in these fields, especially if you are doing work in more than one of them.

But there is something extremely important I must mention and make note of for those of you interested in Nuendo. There is a substantial performance issue with Nuendo, especially on Mac OS. Steinberg’s own forums are filled with hundreds of people complaining of the same issues. If you are unaware of the problems I’m speaking of, for years now, it has been known that Nuendo and Cubase run much slower on Mac than on Windows. By slower, I’m talking about actually working in the software, the workflow is extremely sluggish even on the most powerful of Mac computers. Say, for example, you have to make a lot of edits to a drum kit recording. It is painfully slow zooming in and out of parts for editing, to the point where I honestly do not use Nuendo or Cubase on Mac at all anymore. It’s just not worth fighting with the software when my time could be better spent. Or maybe an easier way to explain it to my fellow film and video game devs is like this – it’s basically like working in an environment where the frames per second is around 10 fps most of the time. But if you are a Windows user, these problems are pretty much non-existent. Using the frames per seconds analogy, on Windows, it feels like Nuendo is running close to 60fps most of the time. In my own tests I found that it’s not really the hardware that is the issue, but the operating system you use. A Mac running Windows will run Nuendo great! But switch to the Mac version on the same machine, and it’s suddenly unusable. I have talked to Steinberg Support but this problem and it always goes nowhere. I sent them video evidence and the reply I got was that they don’t see that problem on their end. So if there are any of you out there that have been hoping for them to fix this problem one day soon, don’t hold your breath. But for those of you on Windows anyway, then you have nothing to worry about and I think there isn’t a better DAW out there than Nuendo 8.

To find more information on Nuendo 8 and where you can buy check out Steinberg’s website here!

Written by

Alex Nasla is a keyboardist, producer and mixing engineer. He keeps busy making audio plugins for Rosen Digital, is audio director at multimedia company Toxic Creativity and is involved in 3 different musical endeavors.