New install, no VSTs

New to Cubase, but not to DAWs, I had a hell of a time trying to install Cubase AI 11 during the notorious eLicenser server outage. After that bad weekend, I got Cubase installed, and started getting used to it.

The documentation is basically a quick install guide and does not even mention content. As with most any DAW, I expected to see loops that I probably wouldn’t use and VST instruments and effects that I probably would use. There were none. Since the box and documentation didn’t say there would be any, I just thought it was strange Steinberg didn’t give any.

On a YouTube video, I happened across a reviewer saying there is such content, but that for whatever reason it doesn’t reliably install with Cubase. So I start following his suggested fix using the Steinberg Download Assistant. Ah, there’s the content. So I spent pretty much a whole day downloading a ton of VSTs that sounded good.

Starting up Cubase, I am met with a dialog saying a ton of that loaded content was not licensed! What the what? Seriously? The Steinberg Download Assistant can’t tell me something is not licensed before I spend all that time and SSD space?

So I am over a week into this install and still not actually using it to make music. Yes, it looks like Cubase has a ton of features, but if someone who has worked with half a dozed DAWs can’t hit the ground running as a new user, Steinberg has a seriously bad ignorance around user experience issues.

Just to add to this, I also found that VST instruments not listed in that “unlicensed” list also don’t load for similar licensing issues after startup. I can add a VST track for them, but am then told they’re not licensed.

I would suggest referring only to videos created by Steinberg to be sure you’re getting correct info.

Also recommend referring to the Operation Manual is there, as well as other topics you mention.

As far as the error dialog, it looks like you have installed instruments you didn’t buy.

So on your first point (don’t trust other videos), are you saying the Cubase AI bundled with my UR22C does not come with any VSTs?

On the second point, thanks, that’s the first reference to an operation manual I have seen for Cubase! That should be featured in the getting started guide. I will pour over that.

Third, seriously! There is no documentation telling me what is and what is not licensed with my Cubase AI. And the Download Assistant doesn’t help determining that either. It is a complete crap shoot to try and figure out what is there and I have wasted days trying to figure out this stuff that should be well documented and up-front. If it helps me install unlicensed VSTs, then I am left at square one. Does it come with no VSTs, or is there a list of VSTs it is supposed to come with that I can’t find?

And it didn’'t install Halion or Groove Agent. After I installed Halion manually, it told me it wasn’t licensed. So you tell me.

Please, there is nothing SB can do if you don’t fully read the documentation they provide.

Of course, Halion and Groove Agent are not the same as Halion SE and Groove Agent SE.

  • Download the Steinberg Download Assistant.
  • Navigate to Cubase>Cubase AI 11.

All (and only) the content and VSTs included in that product are in that list. Download all of it.

That is EXACTLY what I did, then got the “unlicensed” reaction starting Cubase back up. We are now talking in circles.

That’s because you also downloaded other products that are not included in AI.


That is a list of the products and corresponding presets that you downloaded but that you didn’t buy, or request a trial license for.

So Halion Sonic doesn’t come with that Halion Sonic content shown by Download Assistant? Where the hell is any guide telling me what is and what is not licensed for AI?!?!?!?!?! Seriously, this garbage is wasting more of my time than Pro Tools did right before I quit them!

You own Halion Sonic SE. Not Halion Sonic.

So why didn’t the Cubase install install it?

The total size is too big, so it is divided up into smaller downloads.

What you need to do is

Those specific instructions should be in the quick start guide. I was apparently not aware I needed to constrain my downloads to AI 11 because you have to scroll down to see it even exists, and the Download Assistant doesn’t care what is licensed. Deadly combo.

Earlier, I saw no VSTs, in Download Assistant I navigated to VST Instruments and Plugins as anyone might, and saw a plethora of content I had no license to. Now, as a Principal Software Architect, I can tell you that is a bad workflow problem, but one that could be avoided IF THE DOCUMENTATION TOOK THE USER THROUGH THE STEPS TO AVOID IT. I am yelling, because if the software development team and documentation folks worked in my organization, it would be something to yell about instead of allowing it to happen to as many users as it must.

Addendum: The earlier reference to escaped me, but turns out to be the same content as linked in the startup of Cubase as help content, so yes, I had already been there, just though of it as part of the software, not an external reference. And no, that documentation was not helpful for this situation. So maybe suggesting I just wasn’t “reading the manual” did not help in any way.

Sorry Steve, but the new user install experience is one of the worst I’ve experienced, and I’ve been in the software business for 30 years, and that was in the User Assistance area of software.

Telling the user that they should have read all of the documentation is the very definition of adding insult to injury. This isn’t the 1980s anymore—Steinberg needs to grow up, because the rest of the industry did decades ago.

The install should go well, and if there are pain points (such as a free VST not being loaded, or being loaded, but not with any content due to size / space install constraints), then that is an area in need of improvement by Steinberg.

I get that this is a complex suite of tools, but we’re only talking about the installation phase here, before one even gets down to figuring out how this DAW works. All they need to do is make the user more aware of these things, manage their expectations. If marketing material suggests a whole bunch of great things are going to happen after install and they don’t, that’s is in a word, bad.


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Hi Chris, I completely agree, and also spent decades in R&D, primarily software. Steinberg’s problem there is absolutely a development process flaw. When a product is young, everyone is a new user, and the offering is typically simple and intuitive. Those benefits disappear in most mature products, giving way to endless options. If your documenters and testers have experience with the product, they are not testing and documenting the new user experience. They already know how to avoid the new user pitfalls and do it without thinking. This blindfold can make adoption of the product nightmarish for new users. With tons of documentation and videos to consume, and nothing specifically to walk them through a typical start (far beyond getting the software installed), it can be more frustrating than many would find worth continuing. This is where Cubase appears to be today.

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Please don’t exaggerate my comments. The product names were conflated by the user, and in fact, the install did go well – @hitch.steve also downloaded products that are not included with his purchase, products not mentioned on the AI product page, such as The Grand.

Certainly there is plenty SB can do to improve this, but I stand by my comment that it’s on the user to read attentively enough to understand different product names.

I don’t work for Steinberg and these are just my opinions.

Steve, Instead of taking offense when you CLEARLY have no idea of the depth you’re swimming, maybe understand there are people who do. My earlier posts were filled with justifiable disgust over the gaps in Steinberg’s offerings that wasted a ton of my time. Yet after two bad weekends that could have been avoided by better design and documentation, I still offered up advice for Steinberg that is worth far more than I paid for their product. I appreciate the help, but defending Steinberg in this discussion would only help them screw up more customer experiences. You don’t fix issues without identifying and understanding them. Did I make a mistake in the install? Yes, because it was intuitive to take the wrong path, thanks to Steinberg’s development process ignoring new user experience.

Let me further clarify this for you. You can’t run Download Assistant and Cubase at the same time. So after running Cubase and seeing no VSTs, and learning (not in Steinberg’s documentation) there should have been VST instruments, I quit Cubase and ran Download Assistant again. Anyone looking for their missing VSTs would intuitively go to the “VST Instruments and Plugins” menu. That’s where all the unlicensed VSTs came from. You’re blaming the user for Steinberg’s very bad workflow, lack of documentation, and failing testing practices.

And know that my angst started a week earlier with Steinberg’s eLicsenser server outage that only gave me a dialog blaming my firewall or proxy server for not being able to connect. It also included a printed license key that failed because according to Steinberg, it had already been used - another Steinberg screwup I had to find out about through other users who had experienced the same bug. You like Steinberg, that’s fine. You have been using their products long enough that every problem is only an incremental glitch. You are blind to the experience of new users who have to suffer all these problems in a compressed timeline, with little or no externally searchable context. If you want to keep fanboying Steinberg and defending them, that’s your call. But know that if you’re successful in doing that, you are helping Steinberg lose new customers. That is a path to obsolescence.

I, too, found the Download Assistant very unintuitive, easily leading a user to download wrong items instead of being a guide to the solution.
When I updated Cubase from 8.5 to 11 I needed quite some time to figure out, which of the downloads are included in my license. Only because I am a long time user I had an idea what to download. I consider the Assistant to be an obstacle rather than a solution.

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