Cubase LE vs Cubase Pro 12: Unleashing the Powerhouse DAW Showdown!

By Christoper Horton •  Updated: 07/15/23 •  14 min read

When it comes to choosing a DAW, many artists and producers have different expectations. Cubase LE Vs Cubase Pro? Which one should you get? Today we look at the features, pros, and cons, of both to see which version of Cubase is worth your money.

Cubase LE vs Cubase Pro: Which One Do You Need?

Note: To keep things simple, we are referring to the “Essentials” and “Elements” versions of Cubase as “LE” as well. These replaced the Light Edition for Cubase 12, but they have the same type of features that the LE versions sported. We will look at the “Artist” version in another article.

Cubase is a renowned digital audio workstation (DAW), that offers different versions tailored to meet the diverse needs of music producers, home studios, sound designers, and enthusiasts. Two popular versions, Cubase LE and Cubase Pro, offer distinct feature sets and functionality.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the advantages of Cubase LE compared to Cubase Pro, highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of each program. Whether you’re a beginner seeking an entry-level DAW or a professional looking for advanced capabilities, this article will help you make a well-informed decision.

Picking a DAW can be just as personal as choosing an instrument. Just like buying a new guitar, you have a set of features and specs that you are probably looking for, as well as a budget in mind. The same parameters should be accounted for when choosing a DAW program.

Cubase is one of the oldest DAWs still on the market, and it has been constantly updated with new features to keep up with the changing landscape of the production world. There are more plugins and VSTs available now than any other point in Cubase’s history.

So today we are going to go over all of the reasons why you might want to save some cash with Cubase LE, as well as why you might need Cubase Pro for your projects. Both may seem similar at a glance, but the details and overall functionality is what makes a difference.

Which one is for you? Let’s begin with the general overview of each version of Cubase, starting with the LE Edition. You might be surprised with what this inexpensive version has to offer! Then we will move on to Cubase Pro, and discuss the features that justify the upcharge.

Cubase LE: A Gateway to Music Production

Cubase LE vs Cubase Pro

Cubase comes in several different variants, but today we are going to focus on the least expensive, and the most expensive versions. We can start with Cubase LE, which has a surprising number of features for a bargain price.

Cubase LE stands for “Light Edition” and is also known as “Essentials” or “Elements” depending on when you bought the program, or if the DAW came free with a piece of hardware you bought. Not to be confused with the “Artist” edition, which is closer to Pro.

Cubase LE serves as an entry-level version of the software, designed to introduce beginners to the world of music production. It offers a range of features and tools to lay the foundation for their creative journey. Less features means there is less to learn in the initial go-around.

This is precisely why so many artists choose Cubase LE to get started. The ease of use, and intuitive UI make learning the program a simple task. Many home studios use Cubase LE as a foundation for making demos, and arrangements for songs.

Let’s delve into the advantages of Cubase LE that make it a compelling choice for artists:

Cubase LE is the easiest way to get familiar with the DAW, especially if you are a novice. But professionals who have used other DAWs will find Cubase LE easy to approach as well. This version has all of the necessities you need to get started recording.

The more affordable versions of Cubase actually offer a lot of useful tools to beginners, and to anyone that wants to try Cubase but isn’t quite sold on the ecosystem. The UI is streamlined, and many advanced options are disabled.

The main features that make Cubase LE a great version to start with, are some of the same elements found in the Pro Edition. You get plenty of MIDI loops and samples, over 5 gigs worth of them! But you also get some essential plugins like Groove Agent SE for MIDI drums. Let’s take a look at the highlights:

So Cubase LE can produce full professional mixes, and it has plenty of features to get any beginner started. Cubase LE is also going to be a little easier on your CPU resources, in case you have an older computer. It is a great introduction to what Cubase has to offer, and perfect for recording on-the-go.

But what if you need something a little more in-depth? What if you are starting your own studio, and you need the more “premium” features when it comes to making music? Then you probably want to shell out a little more cash, and check out what Cubase Pro has to offer.

Cubase Pro: Unleashing Professional Power

Cubase LE vs Cubase Pro

Cubase Pro represents the flagship version of the software, delivering a comprehensive suite of advanced features and functionality. It caters to professional producers, engineers, and artists who require extensive creative control and professional-grade tools.

Any LE version of Cubase can be upgraded to Cubase Pro anytime, at a discount. You can also use your Student ID to receive a discount for any version of Cubase. There are many advantages to working with Cubase Pro.

This Cubase edition has all of the restrictions taken away, making it a popular DAW in professional studios all over the world. It has all of the tools that you can possibly imagine, and more! Let’s explore the reasons why artists would choose Cubase Pro over Cubase LE:

When it comes to Cubase LE vs Cubase Pro, the obvious option for professionals is the Pro edition. The lighter versions offer a lot for the people just getting into music production and sound design. You can learn a lot by using the more “restricted” versions.

The main feature to take note of is the use of unlimited tracks. The Essential and Element Light Editions of Cubase have a track limit. While this probably will not affect your average bedroom producer, people like Hans Zimmer need more than 20 or 30 tracks.

Zimmer is a great example because he often mixes the MIDI instruments and plugins with real-life instruments. The amount of tracks add up quickly, and you want to have the advanced MIDI editing options that Cubase Pro offers. Listen to Hans Zimmer’s beautiful “Dune” soundtrack for an example of this kind of mix.

Cubase Pro has an extensive amount of virtual instruments, and they can vary between vintage synths to woodwinds and brass sections. This huge library of built-in samples and MIDI instruments allows you to keep projects neat and tidy, without using 3rd party software. Unlike above, it would be impossible to list all of the instruments and tools that are available in the Pro Edition.

Along with an extensive VST library, you also get many pro-quality mixing and mastering plugins. This means pitch correction, virtual desk faders, EQ options, and fine-tuned compressors. Again, this limits the amount of 3rd party plugins that you need to buy and download. Cubase PRO is a full production suite with its own ecosystem.

Finally, you can also customize Cubase Pro however you want, visually. This means you can optimize the DAW to utilize multiple screens and monitors. You can also customize the appearance of Cubase Pro, and assign keyboard shortcuts.

Cubase Pro certainly lives up to its moniker, being the obvious choice for professional audio editing. This can make the Pro version a little more daunting when it comes to options for beginners. Most users end up “working their way up” through the Cubase versions, often starting with a Light Edition and upgrading to Pro.

Cubase LE vs. Cubase Pro: Pros and Cons

The pros and cons are actually rather obvious when it comes to the different editions of Cubase 12. Beginners can benefit from using the Light Editions that Steinberg offers. Not only are they less expensive, but the LE variants are initially easier to learn and use.

Despite the obvious, we can still go over the details. Choosing the version that is right for you is going to come down to the feature set you need as an artist. If you want to run a professional studio, then the choice is obvious.

But many home studios have become more advanced, so the Cubase Le vs Cubase Pro choice is not as easy these days. The lines between pro studios and home studios have become blurred. Many popular artists produce full albums now at home.

So the choice is going to be up to you, and what your needs demand as an artist. To provide a comprehensive overview, let’s examine the pros and cons of Cubase LE and Cubase Pro in detail:

Cubase LE, Elements, and Essential Versions:

Cubase Pro:

Cubase LE vs Cubase Pro: Wrapping Up…

I think the choice is pretty clear when it comes down to which version of Cubase most artists will choose. The reason that so many DAW companies offer streamlined “Light” versions comes down to getting beginners interested. Since once you learn a particular DAW, you usually stick to that program.

Sure, you can skip the LE versions of Cubase, but you may be overwhelmed if you are a beginner. The Light Editions have less options for a good reason, and make it easy to jump in and start creating music. While Cubase Pro can easily overwhelm new users, even if you have DAW experience.

Choosing between Cubase LE and Cubase Pro depends on your skill level, requirements, and aspirations as a music producer. Cubase LE serves as an ideal entry point, providing beginners with essential tools and a user-friendly interface to explore the world of music production.

On the other hand, Cubase Pro unlocks a wealth of advanced features, expansive instrument libraries, and professional-grade tools for experienced users seeking ultimate creative control and sonic possibilities. The Cubase ecosystem has everything you need to take tracks from demo to polished master.

Consider your budget, skill level, and long-term goals when making your choice. Remember, both Cubase LE and Cubase Pro offer exceptional capabilities that can drive your musical journey forward. Upgrading from Essentials and Elements Light Editions is discounted when you move on to PRO.

Select the version that aligns with your current needs, and rest assured that the Cubase family will accompany you on your path to musical excellence. Choose the DAW that is appropriate to your skill level, and get down to creating your own masterpieces!

Steinberg Cubase Pro 12

Used by everything from Hans Zimmer to Meshuggah, Cubase is an industry stalwart and a leading pioneer in the field of DAWs. Ideal for creating, recording, mixing, and mastering, Cubase has all the tools you need to create professional-sounding music at home. We love this software.

  • Control Room: Unmatched recording and monitoring control for a superior mix.
  • Sound Quality: A 64-bit audio engine that delivers professional-level audio.
  • Plug-Ins: A wealth of high-quality plug-ins for any genre.
  • Score Editor: Ideal for composers with its sophisticated notation feature.
  • Customizable Interface: Adaptable to your workflow for optimal productivity.

Cubase LE Vs Cubase Pro: Which One Is Better For Beginners?

While Light Editions of Cubase like Elements and Essentials do have some missing features and more restrictions, they are very beginner friendly. This means these versions of the popular DAW are a great starting point for artists.

Cubase LE vs Cubase Pro: Which One Has More Features?

The Light versions of Cubase do not have most of the virtual instruments, or mastering plugins that Cubase Pro features. The Light Editions have a few virtual instruments, but nothing compared to Cubase Pro.

Cubase LE vs Cubase Pro: What Is The Biggest Difference?

The biggest difference between Cubase Pro and the lighter editions, is the amount of professional tools and features, as well as the options to customize the DAW. Light Editions have track limitations, and a smaller collection of VSTs.

Cubase LE vs Cubase Pro: Which One Runs 3rd Party Plugins?

All editions of Cubase work well with 3rd party plugins. You can use just about any plugin with all versions of Cubase.

Christoper Horton

Christopher has been playing guitar, bass, and piano for 28 years. He has been active in the professional music industry for over two decades. Chris has toured for years with several bands and music projects across the United States. He worked in Los Angeles as a studio musician and engineer working with many genres, but mainly Pop, Rock, and Metal. In between giving private lessons, he is usually recording under his various projects at home in Georgia. Christopher plays Schecter Guitars, BOSS Amplifiers, and uses STL Tones in the studio.

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