Help converting .arr files from Atari Cubase, which Cubase version/s should I buy Please?

Hello everyone,
This is my first post and so I hope you will indulge any mistakes I might make.

I used to use Cubase Atari in the 90s when floppy disks were in use, and I created a library of work that ended up in storage.
I have since tried to explore the possibility of reviving my work, and it turns out that the floppy disks still hold all the data.
I installed an Atari Emulator called Steem on my XP PC and I was able to install Atari Cubase version 2 on it, through which I was able to load disk images created using ST Recover.
I got that far, and now I want to convert those Cubase .arr arrangements using an early ‘Windows’ version of Cubase. The only problem is that I am not sure which versions I can use, and also I have read that some early Windows Cubase versions will import the .arr files, but then nothing appears in the main window once the import process is finished.
Any insights or ideas any of you might have would be greatly appreciated, as I am a bit stuck.
I will save up and buy any versions of Cubase that will allow me to complete this conversion process successfully, but I don’t want to waste money on the wrong versions.

Thanks very much for reading.


Hi and welcome on the forum,

Cubase SX 3 was the latest one, where you could open the *.arr files. You could Save it as *.cpr, what is the current Cubase Project format.

Hello Martin.Jirsak,
Thank you very much for your response.

The current format is the Atari Cubase format only, and they are all on floppy disks. I can get them off the disks and onto WindowsXP using an Atari emulator and Cubase Version 2 running on that emulator. Once there I can then save the arrangements onto Windows desktop as .arr files.

As yet I have not tried to buy a version of the windows based Cubase because I am confused as to which one is available, and also compatible with my needs.
I hope that makes sense.


At this moment, you can buy Cubase 11 only. With Cubase Pro 11, you can start any older Cubase version, including Cubase SX3.

You should be able to open Cubase SX3 with Cubase Pro 11 Trial too. So you should be able to test, if it works for you.

Thanks Martin_Jirsak

Without even looking though, I can tell that this solution will be a bit expensive, and I’m a student. Sorry to be a moaner, but can you suggest an earlier version of Cubase which might be a bit cheaper and which might still provide the same functionality as the latest one?
If this is true then I could look around even on auction sites and I might get lucky.

Thank again.


You can buy any earlier version, but as second-hand only.

With Cubase Elements 11, you would be able to start Cubase SL (or SE, I don’t remember the editions anymore, sorry) too. Unfortunately, I’m not 100% sure, Cubase SL/SE can import *.arr files.

But again, you can try with Cubase Elements 11 Trial for free.

Thank you.
It’s a great start with the information you have given. I can tell that this will be a bit of a quest.
I will check Elements 11 as you suggest.

Thanks again.


Sorry, I was wrong, you will need Cubase Pro or Artist license to me able to start any of Cubase "S"3 (SL3 or SE3) version.

Too good to be true as they say :slight_smile: well it was nearly an easy win!

That’s okay. In the long run, I guess it’s probably better to get the current version because it saves running all over the place fighting with compatibility issues.

Thanks again

Seeing as those ST variants didn’t have plugins and audio files involved (unless you were syncing it to some sort of recording device)…you could always just export as standard MIDI files (SMF). Modern DAWs will make quick work of reorganizing tracks and sorting whatever 'MIDI Effects" you might have had in play.

Inside your ST Emulator, export the project as MIDI type 1.

You might want to do two passes. One exactly as the Arrangement was last played. Another with any special MIDI effects you might have been using disabled.

If you have any special MIDI settings, program changes, SYSEX, or effects in play, those should also be ‘frozen’ into your SMF rendering (there might even be flags/settings in the program where you can make choices about this before exporting). If you don’t want those effects in your port, back up the project, disable them, and then export.

If the project has more than 16 channels, you might split it into multiple MIDI files, perhaps by instrument sections. If you have problems exporting it all together in a single SMF, try this.

Import the MIDI files into whatever modern DAW you like. Organize the tracks and connected them to whatever instrument(s) you require.


Great tips.

This is not necessary. Cubase can read even SMF0 and show it the common way, track per MIDI Channel.

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OK, using the Emulator and Cubase Atari, you can export in either MIDI 0 or MIDI 1 :slight_smile:

What if the project has more than 16 tracks? Or if some tracks use the same channel (user might have had MIDEX/Unitor/LOG3 or SMP ports at time point)?

Would type 1 not be better in that case?

Somewhere between the “VST 5” and “SX” generations, Cubase lost compatibility with .arr files from the Atari era. If you can open the .arr files on the emulated Atari ST, then just save them as .all files and they will import fine into Cubase SL3/SX3.

The problem here is that Steinberg don’t make available an old version capable of doing this conversion that can run without a USB eLicenser (“dongle”), so the very minimum you would need is a USB eLicenser, then you could download a trial license for Cubase 11, which would then let you run SL3/SX3 for a month so you could convert the files from .all to .cpr.

After that, you could decide whether to buy an Elements, Artist or Pro license, all of which can load the converted .cpr files.

[EDIT:] here’s the forum post detailing such a problem case a while back:

Perhaps an easier route might be to ask around if anyone as Cubase SX3 installed and would they mind simply converting the files for you. If you have too many, then this way might not work…
I’m surprised that the floppy’s are still readable.


Hi Martin.Jirsak, MrSoundman, beerbong, and Brian_Roland.

Sorry for not acknowledging your responses sooner, the truth is I have been a bit busy trying to sort this stuff out.
In the end I found an online post on a related forum, where the poster talks about Cubasis VST version 5 being necessary to open and then save .arr or .all files from the older Cubase version, in order to have them recognised by the later Cubase SE or SX versions.
So I found a copy of Cubasis VST version 4 luckliy on eBay, and using that I was able to open my image files exported using the Atari ST emulator running Cubase version 3. And then I saved them all as .all files on the Windows desktop.
Finally, to avoid running around, I purchased the full version of Cubase Artist 11, (bankrupt now) which then gave me access to Cubase SE 3 which runs on the same license. I was then able to open the .all files using Cubase SE3 which successfully converts them to CPR files. I have yet to work with them in Cubase 11, but I know I can do it when the time comes (steep learning curve, wow)
I did however discover that 50% of the floppy disks had lost the data on them and so too all my work, which was not fun, but at least I salvaged something I guess. 25 years in storage will do that I suppose.
Thank you all so much for your interest and incredible support, I really appreciate it.
Cheers and all the best,
Cliff :grinning: :smiley:

Good to hear – well done! :clap:

I have found that in some instances, I was able to data recover from these using an actual Atari 1040 STFM with an original 720K floppy drive after carefully cleaning the heads with isopropanol. Today’s USB floppy drives are mostly 1.44M drives with much narrower heads for high-density disks. Don’t discard the floppies! You may be able to pick up an Atari ST some time …

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Hi MrSoundman,
That is encouraging, and thank you. But I did use an internal floppy drive on an old XP PC, which is the same PC I installed the Atari emulator on. I also used a software program called ST Recover, which ripped the data off the original floppies onto the desktop as ST image files, which were then loaded into the emulator running Cubase version 3.
I did try to clean some of the disks using a rather brutal technique involving opening up the disk case, removing the whole floppy, and then cleaning it with water mixed with a tiny amount of detergent. After, I dried them carefully with some kitchen towel, all as per the instructions given on a YouTube video. This process had no effect and so I quit after 4 or 5 disks.
having said all that, If you think that an original Atari 1040 drive might still make a difference, it could be worth a go. Subject to how much acquiring one of them might cost!

Thanks again,

It’s the heads of the disk drive that I cleaned. What happens is that, over time, the magnetic coating of the disks sheds onto the drive heads, but as long as the heads aren’t worn, they can be cleaned with a little isopropanol – there used to be actual disk cleaners with a piece of linen or absorbent paper in them that could be dampened with the cleaning solution, but I never found them to be much use. To clean the disk drive heads properly requires opening the disk drive, and is a job for an experienced computer technician.

Even an XP-era PC is likely to have a “high-density” 1.44M drive installed, with a “narrower” head, i.e. it writes and reads magentic tracks that are narrower that the older 720K drives. It’s still possible to get 720K PC drives, and a cheap second-hand one might be worth a try – XP still supported 720K drives. What made the difference in my case was the fact that the 720K drive was able to read disks that were unreadable with even a new, fully-functional USB 1.44M disk drive, regardless of whether I attempted using XP, DOS (!) or Linux to do a sector-by-sector recovery.

The original Atari disks were written with a 720K mechanism that just has a wider head and therefore a wider magnetic track – more magnetised area that could still be read after 35 years.

Wow MrSoundman!
That almost sounds too good to be true, but if I were to somehow get one of those drives, could I connect it using the standard cable with which the present floppy drive is connected, or would I need to get some kind of special adapter? the motherboard is quite an old one, and so it might have the right plug, I am clueless though so please forgive me.


This is a really helpful discussion, thank you! Before I go through all this, I have a question: Most of my ancient work was done in Pro 24/III and I have a bunch of .SNG files (not .ARR) files that I’d love to convert to CPR files (or something else that Cubase 11 can open). Does anybody know if I can convert .SNG files with the Cubase SX 3 method being discussed here?