I have been told Digital Performer is most “close” but also Studio One has a fresher foundation and it’s definitely “up and coming.” I think you will find advantages and disadvantages with those plus I know for a fact, missing features. There are also some nice features in those but missing in Cubase. With that said, I still think Cubase is the most “feature rich” DAW. Therefore it depends on your workflow and goals of a DAW. What do you really need in a DAW?
Keep in mind what seems like a simple feature request or simple bug fix might in reality be extremely difficult and costly. Unfortunately, bug-fixing and workflow improvements don’t necessarily attract new users.
For myself at some point I just have to say this is just a tool and I’m going to make the best of it that I can. My goal is completed tracks with deadlines. Is your goal the same? My issues are often better workflow and unfinished features/bugs and continual work-arounds. Reading forums, but limiting my time on them, I find users whos goal is not the same as mine. For some I think it is simply a hobby or just experimenting and pushing the limits of the DAW. The result might be some finished tracks, but that is secondary to the “pure enjoyment” of exploring the DAW. You find this in every area of audio. Users who have to meet an objective vs. users who are hobbyists. An example would be spending days or weeks comparing a emulation VSTI to the real synthesizer. Another example is esoteric comparisons of high end converters where IMO it often comes down to which “flavor” and nothing is really “best” and rarely conducted objectively blind in controlled audio environments. Obviously, there is nothing wrong with this, but it is different than the user who just wants to use the tool to meet an objective. Most users fall somewhere in the middle.
So what are your goals? How much time do you want to spend to really learn a new DAW? I will guarantee you there are bugs in every DAW with unhappy users. Assuming Cubase is the most feature-rich DAW is it not acceptable to assume it might be the one plagued with the most bugs? That is no license for Steinberg to ignore the most common verified bugs, but I think they also have to make a profit for Yamaha with each new release. Personally I’m thankful they haven’t dreamed up LoopMash3. Follow the money. The money is controlled by prosumers, not every-day users or pros with deadlines. This is why I think so many bugs go ignored.
Keep perspective that forums may not represent the overall status of any DAW. I’m here to learn. Many have questions that can be easily answered and then never participate again. The majority of DAW users I think never participate.
Does mix history interest you? I find it amusing to see now that we got mix undo…many are begging for the mix undo to be stored with the project. Or better yet, keep the last 20 changes but somehow delete the prior change. More feature requests and complaining right?
The same goes for sampler tracks. We got it, but it’s not nearly good enough, and now look at all the potential sampler improvements. Steinberg just opened more cans of worms.
Meanwhile some very basic core DAW function bugs and concepts go unfixed…year in and year out.
So does mix history or sampler tracks seduce you? If not…stay on 8.5, or look to the other side where the grass looks greener.