Cubase 5 vs. Nuendo 4: Picking the Right DAW

Unlike most pro audio software manufacturers, Steinberg has two separate flagships DAWs – Nuendo and Cubase. Priced at almost $1800 USD, Nuendo 4 is over three times more expensive than Cubase 5. Not surprisingly, this discrepancy in price prompts many potential Steinberg users to ponder the differences between the two programs.

The dilemma becomes even more confusing. Both DAWs use the same core audio engine – meaning they both essentially offer the same level of professional quality. However, a look back at the respective origins of Cubase and Nuendo helps to clarify the differences between the two platforms.

The Development of Steinberg’s Cubase DAW

A child of the 1980s, Cubase is the older of the two DAWs  by a long shot. Originally designed as a MIDI sequencing and editing program, Cubase evolved into a full-featured digital audio workstation over the course of the following decade and a half.

The last few versions of Cubase have become increasingly focused on efficient ways to create and produce music. Cubase 5 is no exception as it is boasts a new feature set specifically for beat creation, vocal editing and loop manipulation.

The Development of Steinberg’s Nuendo DAW

Nuendo was first conceived in the late 1990s and was initially very hard to distinguish from Cubase. In 2005, Nuendo grew into its own as a professional post-production DAW with the release of Nuendo 3.

Nuendo 3 shared many core features with Cubase SX but added an extensive set of post-production features and networking capabilities that went miles beyond what was available in the scope of Cubase. This focus on audio post and live recording continued with the release of Nuendo 4.

Cubase 5 or Nuendo 4?

Almost all the major differences between Cubase and Nuendo have to do with how each program handles “audio to picture” applications. While it is quite possible to score a picture in Cubase 5, the Cubase DAW is geared towards music creation and production. Conversely, Nuendo 4 is specifically designed to excel in professional audio post-production environments thanks to the inclusion of dozens of specialized features – many of which are not available in Cubase.

Any users trying to decide between Cubase 5 and Nuendo 4 should choose the latter  if they plan to be working with visual media in strict professional environments. For example, Nuendo has the ability to work in 10.2 surround at 192 kHz with options for syncing to various video hardware.

Cubase 5 is the obvious choice for musicians, composers and producers who have little need for the expensive post-production extras. In fact, it is worth mentioning that some of the important music creation features found in Cubase have been removed from the basic Nuendo 4 program only to be offered as an ‘Expansion Kit’ for an additional $300 USD.

Despite the obvious difference in price, choosing between Nuendo 4 and Cubase 5 should be as simple as considering your primary DAW needs. If you require a DAW for professional post-production work, then the choice is clearly Neundo but if  composing and producing music is the priority then Cubase would be the logical option.

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