Do I Buy Cubase or Carry On with Cakewalk?

Hi, I’m a Cubase newbie and I wondered if I could trouble the knowledgeable people here to give me a quick heads-up as to what Cubase can offer over and above the free-of-charge Cakewalk that I currently use.

Given that it’s 500 quid I’d expect there to be substantial advantages but, from what I’ve gleaned thus far, I’m not sure what they might be and whether it would be worth the cost for me.

I’m an amateur singer-songwriter-producer working at home on my own projects just for fun in my retirement years, should that be of any consequence.

Many thanks all.


Hard to say, as there’s a number of things both DAW’s can do, offering different methods also.

If you’re looking at other DAWs, what is it that made you curious?

For singer songwriter, for me the main advantages would be variaudio for vocals (tuning system) and the chord track.

Using the chord track you can create music with the chord progressions listed above the timeline which gives your structure and helps plan out taking songs in different directions thanks to the additional chord selection features.

But furthermore, once you have that song structure in place you can then use Variaudio to not only correct vocal tunings, but individual notes are colour coded so that you can see where you’ve sang in tune, and where you’ve been out.

The beauty of this, is that you can move those notes and up and down the scale and try out new vocal phrasing which you may not have naturally thought of. When you have a correction or phrasing that sounds good, you can then play that back as a guide track into your headphones and record an ‘actual’ vocal take based on it.

There’s also harmony generators, so you can take a single vocal line and harmonise it out - again, you can adjust these with variaudio and use them as a guide track for new (more natural) vocal takes.

It’s like having a second person with you to objectively review your performance really. Short video that touches on how it works-

Outside of that, I can’t think of anything else that has affected the actual end result of my creativity to any great degree. The plugins are great, it mixes great, has a ton of features - but really, compared to Cakewalk it’s all very subjective and dependant on how deep you dig.

Groove Agent SE also has a very nice sounding range of drum presets and HALion Sonic SE is reasonable for bread and butter sounds - so perhaps they’re an upgrade on Cakewalk? I really don’t know.

I’d be more inclined to say that £500 is hard justified because of the sheer bang for buck Cakewalk delivers, you’re paying £200 more for features you may not even use too. So, look at the Artist version of Cubase than the Pro version if you’re interested, you can always move to Pro later in a sale.

I was Cakewalk user for long time and for me it was not best choice as it was very poor performing DAW for EDM. Other annoyance was that Cakewalk very poorly handle huge projects with more then 100+ tracks, lots of plugins, synths etc… - it just becomes unresponsive, very slow and lagging UI and I needed to switch to even 2048 buffer size to somehow handle and work in it. Other thing is that Cakewalk does not have ability as Cubase - Render In Place function - its time saver! And Cubase have great thing as Direct Offline Processing that make possibly to insert CPU demanding plugins without CPU load. I was bought eLicenser dongle and downloaded Cubase 11 Pro trial - and after that I just bought full Pro version. And I can say that in every possible way Cubase is much more advanced and better made DAW then Cakewalk. Cakewalk is not bad as a free DAW - but it have old programm code, lacks a lot of features for EDM producers, have not Control Room feature which makes Cubase even greater! Dont forget that Cubase Pro is bundled with tons of really great Steinberg plugins, Vari Audio, Spectral Layers One, SuperVision and much more great content! Cubase Pro costs a lot - but its totally worth it! And its not even EDM producing only related - Cubase is all round great DAW for almost any genre. My honest opinion as previous Cakewalk user. Maybe try Cubase Artist version first - as of course its hugely depends on what type of content you want to do and maybe you just will not use all that potential of Pro version. But as we all know - inspiration and new interest to try new features are great things to explore and self educate! As in my opinion - Cakewalk is more like a DAW for dads who want to record they guitar in mp3 and similar… Its a joke of course - so please Cakewalk fanboys dont be rude for this post.

Welcome @Wilbyforce!

This is a difficult question. It depends much on how you work, and what features of your DAW you expect to heavily use.

For example, if you are mostly tracking acoustic instruments and you are just using the DAW as a tape recorder, you will not have any benefit, in my opinion.

Andris_R just above and skijumptoes both gave a good summary of features in Cubase Pro, but if I were you, I would just wait a bit until the dongle-less Cubase 12 hit the streets, and give it a test drive.

Hi Keith. CbB user here although not now so much because for me the workflow is so much faster in Cubase due to its pretty comprehensive number of keyboard shortcuts. I also agree with Andris that Cakewalk becomes pretty laggy with bigger projects.

Are you happy with cakewalk and does it already do what you want? I’ve tried it out and it’s not bad. I think if you got Cubase you wouldn’t immediately think this is hugely better but once you got used to it and realised how useful some of the features are (some mentioned above ) then you couldn’t get by without them. But if you are happy and cakewalk is doing what you want then get something like a really decent microphone. I suspect since you are asking then you are not totally satisfied with cakewalk. I personally love Cubase but couldn’t live with any other version than the pro version.

This chart compares the various versions of Cubase and is also a good list of its capabilities. FYI, the LE and AI versions aren’t for sale, they only come bundled with something else, typically hardware.

Are you struggling to do what you need to do in Cakewalk? If you are, what particular things are difficult or lacking?

The truth is, it takes quite a lot of time to master a DAW, so I would only move if you feel you are being held back by the software you currently have.

I don’t want to not plug Cubase but I wouldn’t change unless there is some limitations with Cakewalk that is impeding your ability to make music. I think with DAWs, as with everything, the grass is always greener but in the end you’re mainly going to be doing the same basic things with them. Cubase is pretty feature rich beyond the aforementioned basics and there will be quite a learning curve even if you have experience with other DAWs. After 12-18 months I am only really just finding my feet after coming over from Pro Tools and Reaper.

Well first of all, many thanks for all of your replies, very helpful indeed.

Unfortunately I can’t post a link on here to an example song, but if you search for me (Keith Wilby or “wilbyforce” should find me) on the Bandlab site, there’s a song called “The Best Is Yet To Come”.

There’s also an album of stuff on the streaming services called “Night Vision” if you want to hear more.

The strings I’ve used are “Session Strings 2” in “Kontakt Player” which I think sound OK but I don’t think it’s possible to apply any vibrato, not natively anyway. Am I likely to get a better sound than that from Cubase? Also, the orchestra sounds in Cakewalk (“TTS-1”) are a bit “Noddy”. Is there a decent orchestra bundled with Cubase?

The drums on my track I do like, they are “Addictive Drums 2” (be patient, they don’t come in until 02:21). Vocal corrections I do with “Melodyne” which is pretty good.

The bottom line is that I’m not sure what I want to be honest. I thought I’d dip my toe into the Cubase water and see if was nice and warm.

I do take the point that it takes time to learn how to use a DAW. I’m fairly good with Cakewalk but it took me ages to reach this point, so whether it’s worth me learning a new one, given that it would really just be for my own amusement, is debatable.

Thanks again everyone for taking the time and trouble to respond, I’ll go away to “umm” and “ahh” for a while :slightly_smiling_face:

There’s not really a decent orchestra bundled with Cubase. Most people will get a third party orchestra. Halion that is bundled does have orchestra sounds but they may be no better than the cakewalk ones.

It’s not bundled but you can buy this for Halion:

I’m pretty sure you can use Halion SE with Cakewalk but it won’t have any content until you get some packs. There are a few free ones but most cost something.

The next release of Cubase will not require a dongle, so presumably you’ll be able to get demo versions of the higher end stuff like Artist and Pro without needing to buy or borrow a dongle.

I’ve not seen a projected release date, but I have seen that Cubase 12 is due sometime in 2022.
Cubase 12 Is Coming in 2022 | Steinberg

The best way to answer questions is to take it for a test drive :slight_smile: