Paid DAW... To Invest Or Not in Cubase 12

Hi Forum,
Not a “support”-related question per se,but hoping to get some actual user experience…
I’ve been using SONAR and eventually Cakewalk for many years as my DAW,and am mulling over the potential benefits of moving to a paid-for DAW,specifically Cubase,which I’ve used previously in an IoS environment.
Cakewalk has it’s detractors,however it’s been mostly stable for me in a Windows 10 environment and has regular hot fixes and updates.
Reading extensively through the Cubase forum recently,some less than encouraging posts have been placed with regards to Cubase 12(either 0.5 or 0.52 updates)causing freezing and crashes in a Windows 10 OS,a couple of which extend to discussions about legal action from professional users.
My own usage is purely as a home amateur musician and engineer with relatively simple workflow,however it would be good to have some confidence that a purchase approaching £500 UK would function consistently without many issues.I have Wavelab 11 Pro and this has performed well so far.
So the question I have is,leaving aside the seemingly excellent collection of included VST plugins and instruments and focusing on core DAW functionality,does Cubase 12 provide additional capability that is worth investing in,over and above what Cakewalk supports?
My system specification is:-
Windows 10 20H2 Build 19041(updates switched off and registry disabled)
Intel i7 10750H 2.6Ghz
64Gb DDR4
nVidia GeForce GTX 1650
2 x 1TB M2 SSD driver.
Focusrite Scarlett 3rd Gen Solo using Focusrite driver and Control Panel.
Line6 Helix on-board USB interface using ASIO Helix driver.

I will acknowledge any responses on here,from anyone considerate enough to respond.
NW England.

I have switched from Reaper to Cubase about 1 and a half year ago. There is a certain learning curve but I never looked back. Cubase was very stable on my windows 10 i7 system and it is rock solid on my Silicon Macs ( I switched to Mac half a year ago and I love the Silicon Mac experience). Regarding workflow, comprehensiveness of functionality and maturity Cubase 12 is a great Daw. I wouldn’t deny that some people have issues on their systems with Cubase but the density of complaints on a forum is usually much higher than in real life as people go to forums when they have issues.
I personally would recommend Cubase as a DAW to switch to.

Regarding the price point the 500 UK Pounds are the normal price. If you wait until the next sales initiative you may get it for around half of that amount (as a user of competitors daw you might even get a competitive cross grade price.


Reading any forum you will see many people with problems. In fact forums are usually full of problems because that is what they are there for in the main. I use Cubase pro with win 10 and now win 11 with no problems.

Why don’t You get the demo which is a full version and have a go with it. I also suggest waiting until a sale as you can usually get it for around half price


Get the demo. You no longer need the $50 dongle to try it.


I was a longtime Sonar user and switched to Cubase after the Gibson implosion.
Have been very happy with Cubase running on Windows 10 1909.
There’s a demo you can download that no longer requires a dongle for the Pro version. Check it out.
Also, you may be eligible for a competitive crossgrade price ($360) if you owned Sonar X2 or higher:
Cakewalk Sonar X2 or higher (Platinum and Professional / excl. Artist and Cakewalk by Bandlab)


Thank you all for replying…you may have just convinced me!


…Stop Press before I finally succumb to temptation…
Just a clarification with regards to the move to Dongle-Free access…as a mostly brand new Cubase purchaser,does the Dongle Free caveat apply to both the core DAW and the sound libraries that come as part of the Cubase 12 Pro package?
My reason for asking is that having just viewed a C12 Pro upgrade tutorial on YT by a user who has a lot of previously-purchased content,he states that the dongle-free usage is limited to just the core DAW.
Hopefully if I’m guessing correctly,this condition only applies to users who are upgrading from an e-Licensing environment where their existing libraries are still covered by this,while waiting for the 1-2 year migration to dongle-free operation.
So am I fully and unconditionally dongle-free as a brand new purchaser of C12 Pro?
Thanks again!

Yes, Everything listed in the Cubase Pro 12 section of the Download Assistant is covered by the new system.

For anything else, see


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Ex-CbB and Sonar user here. For me, no comparison. Cubase just works (for me on Windows 11) and can easily handle larger projects. Go for it!

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Yes, everything that ships with Cubase 12 is dongle free.

Stuff that still requires a dongle or eLicenser?
Some of the add-on and/or third party sound libraries for HALion or Groove Agent still need it. Perhaps some of the extra Steinberg/Yamaha VST plugin packs still need it as well. If you happen to have any (or purchase them), then you should have the keys you need to get it working alongside stuff that uses the newer dongle free system.

Full versions of HALion 6 and Sonic 3 (and included sound libraries), upon first install, have an ‘option’ to use a dongle, or to keep the key on an older software eLicenser. If these are put on dongle at some point they can be moved to a different Steinberg dongle, but can NOT be moved back to a soft-eLicenser.

If I’m not mistaken, this means that it is possible to demo the full blown versions of HALion without a dongle as well.

In time, the HALion suite of products are slated to migrate to the new licensing system as well.

The full version of Groove Agent 5, as far as I know, is now supported with the new dongle Free system (so you can demo the full version of this dongle free at some point as well). Some of the extra libraries for it might still require a dongle or soft-eLicenser (again, if you own some of them, you’ll have what’s required to get it working).

Steinberg is working on moving pretty much everything that they still sell/support to the new dongle free system. What happens at this point when you ‘update/upgrade’ something from dongle/eLicenser to the new system is:

Keys on the dongle/eLicenser are tagged appropriately (can no longer be upgraded on the dongle/eLicenser) but they can still be used with older versions, and the new system is also implemented.

As newcomers who start at Version 12 and beyond wanting to roll back to old stuff that requires the dongle? I have no idea. I’m guessing that if you want/need to run the older stuff, you’ll need to find dongles and keys for that if you don’t already have them. From what I can see thus far, unless you have big libraries of old projects
(and probably backup system drives to go with them) there shouldn’t be a need to roll back. It’d be pretty rare.

The only thing that’d make me hesitate to make a major shift into Steinberg world from something else would be VST2 support going into the future. Steinberg has announced that they plan to phase support for it out of Cubase in the not so distant future.

Version 12 for PC supports VST2 just fine. Version 12 for Mac with intel silicon is no problem, and with Apple Silicon it requires Rosetta. Not sure what will come with future versions in terms of VST2 support.

So, if you have and insist on using a lot of older and not so well supported plugins that don’t come in a 64bit VST3 format, it’s something to consider. The good news is that even in this scenario, products exist that can bridge VST2 plugins into a VST3 host (and vice verse).


It can get a little confusing indeed. When the whole switch to the new licensing happened, that threw me for a bit too as I had just come back to Cubase right before 12 came out and wasn’t familiar with it.

There ARE standalone versions of some of the plugins that come with Cubase available. Like Retrologue, Padshop, etc. Along with that, all of the instruments also come in the Absolute bundle, which is its own separate license from Cubase 12.

Retrologue and Padshop, Groove Agent SE, and a lite version of Halion come with Cubase 12. BUT the users that own the separate/standalone licenses or the Absolute bundle, have those plugins tied to the dongle still until they migrate to the new system. Sound libraries are in the same boat.

If you are starting from ground zero with Steinberg stuff, you will be covered and won’t need to worry about it. But if you own Halion and a bunch of libraries, or something of the sort, you have to keep using the eLicenser until those move over.

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I’m much obliged to everyone here,certainly the VST2 support is one aspect I wasn’t aware of(many thanks for that one Brian…),fortunately all the major third-party VST investments I have(eg full T-Racks5,FabFilter,Ozone and a fair Toontrack collection)are all VST3.

The Plastic Fantastic is quoting PeterCee(above)at me…go for it…go for it…

Ive tried many programs & cuabse is the only one Ive stuck with. Its far superior to others & If you record using USB keyboards or midi, then youll be pleased with the amount of tools available. If you get the pro version u get extra plugins too

Its a program thats perfect for mixing, its perfect for engineering, its perfect for scoring… etc etc … its one of those programs. The only downside is I dont find it to work as smoothly as i’d like & its an expensive program if you want to keep it up to date & the plugins/expansions aren’t cheap - but that reflects the quality of the products. But the plugins u do get for free are great

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Yes, Cubase 12 (in various flavors) is totally dongle-free. Most of the other major Steinberg products are too (Wavelab, Dorico, etc). The full Groove Agent is dongle free. Some VST instruments and some sound packs are still being converted over to the new system, though I just found a pretty large cache of vouchers for sound packs in my account and just got them migrated this week. Here’s my SAC to give you an idea where things stand with what’s covered by the new dongle-free activation:

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Unless you’re heavily into composition you should consider saving some money and getting Studio One Professional instead. That may still allow you to crossgrade from SONAR Platinum (if you have the receipts).

You can use the money you save to buy better plug-ins.

I actually use little of Cubase’s Stock EQ/Dynamics plug-ins, and the only Synth I’d consider using is Padshop 2 - if I didn’t already own stuff like Komplete and Falcon 2.

The acoustic instrument (Sampler patches) that it ships with are worse than the Independence Pro library, so that is not a selling point for Cubase Pro.

IMO, the selling point is the deep composition feature set, but quite a bit of that can be seen as biased to specific market segments.

I would get the trial version and do one production on it to see if it is worth it. Reading a feature list and having people list feature disparities is not the same as evaluating for yourself to check if you even need any of that stuff.

I feel for you people :stuck_out_tongue:


You should def start using halionsonic, great VST imo. I’ve never used padshop & I’ve been using cubase for about 10-12 years.

what do you think StudioOne one does exactly better than cubase?

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It’s a good DAW. I would try out the trial version first to see how it runs.

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I wouldn’t, until Steinberg gets it more stable and new issues don’t keep cropping up for people here.

I use Ableton, Reaper, Renoise, Maschine, and FL Studio on and off. I really want to like Cubase, but they just can’t seem to get the basics right, and the drop of VST2 is just a slap in the face right now. Yeah, I’ve been a huge proponent of moving to VST3, and I only buy products with stable VST3 versions (I still don’t own Serum, of the hundreds of plug-ins I have, but hope to soon once things appear stable).

Cubase 12 seems to be a shift for Steinberg in many ways, with some substantial rewriting, but many things not working or stable compared to 11 based on what is seen here from customers. I intended to make Cubase 12 my primary DAW, but significant functionality is still missing from Remote MIDI, and there isn’t enough focus on core elements from devs to give me confidence they will get solved quickly.

I agree with comments about Studio One. I would recommend Studio One or FL Studio at this time, as they are both super stable, have VST3 support, and no dongles. When Steinberg decides to devote enough time to get things stable, come back and check it out. Until then, I also believe you will be wasting your money and potentially frustrated at the lack of response from Steinberg over issues you need resolved.

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Well here’s the kicker. It IS stable for most of its users. Sorry but with as many copies of Cubase there are in use today, the folks complaining on the forums are a very small, but vocal minority. And when folks cross post between this forum, KVR, GearSpace, etc, that doesn’t mean the sky is falling. Its just the same loud users reposting on every forum they can to get someone to listen. For every complaint, there are probably 1000 users out there getting on just fine with it…

Between Ableton, Reaper, Renoise, Maschine, etc… What else have you done to your machine? Did anyone stop to think that maybe all those ‘optimizations’ you do for one app don’t play nicely with another? Or perhaps those ‘optimizations’ you get on random websites aren’t really optimizations at all?


Hi, Brian

Could you point us to such products ? I’ve already seen The Blue Cat one (which seems to work in a rather reliable way, according to one post I’ve seen here - don’t remember where, sadly), but still : I wouldn’t mind to see other solutions…

This, as my concern is more about To invest or not in Cubase… 13.

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