If you are recording, mixing, mastering, or just making music, you’re going to need a DAW. And Cubase 11 is just one option that you can choose for your music-making needs. Keep reading this Cubase 11 2021 review to see if Cubase is the right DAW for you in 2021.
It’s the same DAW that Hans Zimmer uses, so it must be good, right? Well, while Cubase is popular among composers, there’s more to it than just looking at who else uses a particular DAW.
This review is going to cover all the major features of Cubase 11. I’ve been using Cubase since Cubase 6, so I think I know what I’m talking about when it comes to this DAW. There are various versions of Cubase, but this review will be covering the full version, Cubase PRO. I’ll talk about the differences between the versions in another part of this review.
Cubase 11 Requirements
As with any piece of software, there are requirements. Here are the requirements for all the versions of Cubase 11.
Cubase 11 System requirements
|Version||Cubase Pro 11||Cubase Artist 11||Cubase Elements 11||Cubase AI 11||Cubase LE 11|
|Operating systems (Windows)||64-bit Windows 10 Version 1909, 64-bit Windows 10 Version 2004, 64-bit Windows 10 Version 20H2||64-bit Windows 10 Version 1909, 64-bit Windows 10 Version 2004, 64-bit Windows 10 Version 20H2||64-bit Windows 10 Version 1909, 64-bit Windows 10 Version 2004, 64-bit Windows 10 Version 20H2||64-bit Windows 10 Version 1909, 64-bit Windows 10 Version 2004, 64-bit Windows 10 Version 20H2||64-bit Windows 10 Version 1909, 64-bit Windows 10 Version 2004, 64-bit Windows 10 Version 20H2|
|Operating systems (Mac)||macOS Mojave, macOS Catalina, macOS Big Sur||macOS Mojave, macOS Catalina, macOS Big Sur||macOS Mojave, macOS Catalina, macOS Big Sur||macOS Mojave, macOS Catalina, macOS Big Sur||macOS Mojave, macOS Catalina, macOS Big Sur|
|Apple silicon–based Mac||Rosetta 2 App||Rosetta 2 App||Rosetta 2 App||Rosetta 2 App||Rosetta 2 App|
|CPU minimum||Intel Core i series or AMD Ryzen multi-core||Intel Core i series or AMD Ryzen multi-core||Intel Core i series or AMD Ryzen multi-core||Intel Core i series or AMD Ryzen multi-core||Intel Core i series or AMD Ryzen multi-core|
|CPU recommended||Intel i5 or faster||Intel i5 or faster||Intel i5 or faster||Intel i5 or faster||Intel i5 or faster|
|RAM minimum||4 GB||4 GB||4 GB||4 GB||4 GB|
|RAM recommended||8 GB||8 GB||8 GB||8 GB||8 GB|
|Hard disk free space||35 GB||25 GB||25 GB||25 GB|
|Display resolution minimum||1440 x 900||1440 x 900||1440 x 900||1440 x 900||1440 x 900|
|Display resolution recommended||1920 x 1080||1920 x 1080||1920 x 1080||1920 x 1080||1920 x 1080|
|Graphics||Graphics card with DirectX 10 and WDDM 2.0 support (Windows only)||Graphics card with DirectX 10 and WDDM 2.0 support (Windows only)||Graphics card with DirectX 10 and WDDM 2.0 support (Windows only)||Graphics card with DirectX 10 and WDDM 2.0 support (Windows only)||Graphics card with DirectX 10 and WDDM 2.0 support (Windows only)|
|OS compatible audio hardware|
|Internet connection for||license activation, account sign up and product registration, installer download||license activation, account sign up and product registration, installer download||license activation, account sign up and product registration, installer download||license activation, account sign up and product registration, installer download||license activation, account sign up and product registration, installer download|
You should pay attention that these requirements are to get the program to run on your machine and these don’t include all the other third-party software you’ll probably be using with Cubase 11.
For example, you’re probably going to be using some virtual instruments. These are going to require more RAM and will work much better with an SSD than an HDD. That means you shouldn’t expect to meet the most basic requirements and then be shocked when you have a whole bunch of other stuff running and your system slows down.
One requirement that I don’t think is mentioned is a USB port. Cubase 11 – and other previous versions – all use a USB dongle to protect against piracy, so you’ll need to have a free USB slot.
That might not sound like a big deal, but if you travel a lot, you might find that needing the dongle can be a little annoying. If you lose it, you’ll be locked out of your DAW – not a good situation to be in.
Cubase works on both MAC and Windows
Cubase 11 works on both MAC and Windows. While both versions might have a few glitches and bugs – like all DAWs and software – I hear more complaints from people using Cubase 11 on MAC.
This shouldn’t be a deal-breaker, but it’s something that you might want to know ahead of time.
Setting up Cubase 11
Some users have reported that setting up Cubase 11 has been pretty easy. I’ve used Cubase with both MAC and PC and I’ve found that using Cubase with MAC is pretty plug-and-play if you don’t use an audio interface.
To be fair, I’ve found this to be true with Logic as well. Using a DAW without an audio interface on my Macbook Pro is just really easy – great if you need to use your DAW while traveling.
Setting up an audio interface with Cubase 11 can be a bit of a pain in the but if you don’t know what you’re doing, especially on Windows 10.
You’ll need to make sure you are using the correct drivers for your audio interface. (Even though ASIO4ALL is used, it can still be a bit of a headache figuring things out for the first time.) After getting your SAW set up, you’ll need to set up your in and out signals. This requires going to a completely different menu section and can be hard to find your first time.
To sum up setting Cubase 11 up, it can be a huge pain in the neck the first time you do it, but after you figure out where everything is, it’s no problem setting it up again. You’ll actually find that to be a recurring theme with Cubase – the many features can make it difficult for a beginner.
The Cubase 11 UI
The Cubase 11 UI looks flat and clean. While this may sound like a good idea – and it does look nice – sometimes it’s hard to remember where everything is. You can customize the UI, but because everything looks so similar, it can be difficult to navigate. Again, this is more of a problem for a beginner.
One thing I really like about Cubase is that you can change most of the colors on the UI. So, if you take your time and customize everything, you can make it look pretty much how you want.
Stock Instruments and Plugins
I’ve talked with a lot of other producers about different DAWs and one thing that always pops up is how good all the stock instruments and stock plugins are with Cubase. Not all of the versions of Cubase come with all the instruments and plugins, but here is what you get with the Pro version of Cubase 11.
Groove Agent SE
This is a drum programmer. It has programmable pads that you use to create rhythms. I think Groove Agent SE is decent, but when it comes to drums, I like to use other software like Battery for drum samples and Addictive Drums for real-sounding drums.
That said, Groove Agent SE is a fine drum programming software to start out with. It’s certainly a great deal being free for Pro users.
Halion Sonic SE 3
Halion Sonic is a “content library” which means it’s a player that has all sorts of instrument sounds like brass, strings, and more. I’ve used Halion Sonic before and felt the sounds were kind of overwhelming compared to more expensive software like Native Instruments Komplete.
Again, this is fine software to get you started and the sound library could very well be good enough for production-level tracks, but you’re going to be disappointed when you need a specific sound and Halion Sonic doesn’t have it.
This is a pretty decent synth. There’s not a whole lot to say here. I used this when I started out, but now I use Massive. That’s not to say Retrologue is bad – it’s just I’ve had more experience with Massive.
Sampler Track 2
This is a cool little instrument. You can take pieces of audio and manipulate it: play it forward or backward, change the key, or do whatever you want with the audio file.
This is a synth made for atmospheric pads. I really like the sounds that this synth can make, but I can never find a use for these types of pads in my music. That’s more a reflection of me mostly playing rock music, though.
This is another synth. Not a whole lot to say here except it’s another synth to add to your arsenal.
This is a virtual analog that’s said to be “easy to use.
This instrument allows you to create different loops or rhythms based on any audio you feed it.
This is another synth. Not a lot to say except this one and the next two synths have pretty boring interfaces.
This is another synth.
Main Features of Cubase 11
All DAWs – okay, maybe I should say “most” – have the basic functionalities of recording audio, using MIDI, looping, and all those other features. Here are the other features that Cubase 11 has that aren’t common with other DAWs.
This is the “autotune plugin” that comes with Cubase. It lets you change the pitches of any audio you’ve recorded. This is the main feature that got me using Cubase years ago. It works; however, I’ve heard that Melodyne works better than VariAudio. I’ve never used Melodyne, so I don’t have an opinion on it.
Cubase comes with a ton of audio effects for all kinds of uses. If you really learned these, you probably wouldn’t need to buy many other plugins. These can be a little overwhelming for beginners, but advanced users would probably find a ton of value from all of these audio effects.
This provides you with chords that fit in the specific key you’re working in. This is great for musicians that don’t know music theory. Even for those that do know music theory, this can be a great tool for songwriting or just getting the creative juices flowing.
Comping allows you to have multiple audio tracks and then take the best parts of each track. This is really nice for vocals so you can get the best part of each take.
This is similar to a piano roll, but as a drummer myself, I like using this for drum and percussion parts much better. It’s just so much easier to program drums in the drum editor than using a regular piano roll.
Main differences between the different versions of Cubase
All of the differences can be viewed on the Steinberg website. There are a ton of differences and I’d suggest you look at that before deciding on which version to buy, but here are the main differences.
Number of tracks
Pro lets you have unlimited audio, MIDI, and VSTi tracks while other versions restrict you to 8-64 tracks.
Pro comes with all the instruments I mentioned. The other versions come with 2-8 virtual instruments. You can, of course, use third-party instruments and don’t have to use the ones that come with Cubase 11.
VST audio and MID plugins
Pro comes with 79 audio and 18 MIDI plugins. The Other versions come with fewer.
VariAudio isn’t included in versions Elements and below.
Pros and Cons of Cubase 11
Here are the main pros and cons I’ve seen with Cubase 11
Pros of Cubase 11
- A ton of effect plugins and virtual instruments
- Clean look
- Many features
- VariAudio for autotune
- Drum editor
Cons of Cubase 11
- Can be complex for beginners
- USB Dongle for piracy protection
- Upgrading can be expensive
- Many versions – sometimes it feels like the cheaper versions are missing key features
Should I get Cubase 11 in 2021?
Cubase 11 is very powerful. I think it can do pretty much everything you need, but there can be a steep learning curve, especially compared to another more beginner-friendly DAW like Logic or FL Studio.
I use Cubase 11 mainly for large instrumental pieces and find it very suitable for my uses. I’ve been using Cubase for many years, so I’ve already spent my time learning the software and don’t really want to learn another DAW, so I’m a bit biased.
That said, if the cost isn’t a deal-breaker for you and you’re willing to learn the DAW, then Cubase could be a great DAW for you. If you are a complete beginner and have no idea about music production, you might have better luck with a more beginner-friendly DAW like Logic or FL Studio.
Alternatives to Cubase
Cubase isn’t the only DAW out there! Here are some reviews of other DAWs we have used: