Rightly or wrongly, plenty of people seem to think that Cubase is free. Let’s set the record about whether or Cubase is free once and for all…
Cubase, developed by Steinberg, is a renowned Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) used by music professionals across the globe. Recognized for its robust features and capabilities, Cubase is one of the most potent music creation software tools on the market.
And, if you do decide to go with Cubase you’re going to be in good company – the software is used by the likes of Hans Zimmer and Meshuggah to name just a few of its most well known users.
But if times are tight and you want to record music, you likely won’t want to pay for a DAW. So, for the cash-strapped, does Cubase offer a free version of its software? Let’s dig in because the answer, while fairly straight forward, is a little more nuanced than usual…
Is Cubase Free?
First off, here’s the bad news: Cubase is not available for free. In order to start using Steinberg’s Cubase products, you’ll need to purchase a license.
But the good news? Steinberg does offer an entry-level version of Cubase called Cubase AI which is aimed squarely at beginners.
As of 2023, there are three primary versions of Cubase, each with their respective pricing and feature set. These versions include Cubase Elements, Cubase Artist, and Cubase Pro.
- Cubase Elements is the entry-level version, priced at $99.99 USD. It offers a solid foundation for those beginning their journey in music production or for home studio enthusiasts. Despite its lower cost, it comes equipped with a generous 48 audio tracks and 64 MIDI tracks. Also included are 24 VST instrument tracks and over 1000 instrument sounds. Plus, it provides 45 VST plugins and supports 24 inputs and outputs. Although it doesn’t provide VCA tracks, for beginners and home studio users, it’s a strong starting point and offers excellent value.
- Cubase Artist, stepping up the ladder, is available for $239 USD. It unlocks the unlimited potential for audio, MIDI, and VST instrument tracks. It significantly expands the sound library to over 2600 instrument sounds and adds 32 more VST plugins, making the total 77. The Artist version also increases the capacity for inputs & outputs to 32. However, it still doesn’t provide any VCA tracks. This version is ideal for musicians looking to expand their creative horizons beyond the basics.
- Finally, there’s Cubase Pro, the premium version, which comes with a price tag of $579 USD. This version is primarily targeted at professional music producers and studios. It continues to offer unlimited audio, MIDI, and VST instrument tracks. The instrument sounds go up to over 3000, and the VST plugins reach a total of 99. The Pro version takes a significant leap in the inputs & outputs capacity, allowing for up to 256. The standout feature in this version is the inclusion of 256 VCA tracks, which provide advanced mixing and control capabilities.
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.
Why Cubase Isn’t Free
Developing a full-fledged Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) like Cubase is a complex process that involves multiple factors that all cost a ton of money. You have developers, designers, sound engineers, and UX designers to employ, pay, and project managers to keep them all organised.
DAWs like Cubase need to constantly evolve too. Updates need to happen frequently and new features need to be developed, tested and implemented. This all costs money. And this cost is passed on to you, the consumer, so Steinberg can make profit and keep doing what it’s doing – making awesome software for recording music.
I’m no software developer, but the scope of what goes into making something like Cubase is enormous. Here’s a quick breakdown of just a few things you’d need to do in order to get a workable DAW off the ground…
Building A DAW is NOT Easy – Here’s Why
- Design and Planning: Before actual development begins, there’s a phase of detailed design and planning. This includes defining the DAW’s features, user interface, workflow, and plugin compatibility. This stage could require several weeks to months of work by experienced system designers and planners.
- Software Development: This is the phase where the core of the DAW is built. The cost here can vary greatly based on the complexity of the features. Developing a DAW involves building audio engine, plugin support, a mixer, sequencer, MIDI support, recording and editing features, a user interface, and more. It would require a team of skilled software developers and engineers working for several months to years.
- Testing and Debugging: An integral part of the development process is testing and debugging. This ensures that the software works as expected and that any bugs or issues are resolved before it reaches the users. This can be a long process and may significantly contribute to the overall cost.
- Support and Updates: Post-launch, maintaining and updating the DAW with new features, improvements, and bug fixes also contribute to the overall cost.
Considering all these factors, the cost to develop a DAW like Cubase is substantial, and this is why most DAW software is NOT free. Developing something similar from scratch would be a multi-year project that would cost several hundred thousand to millions of dollars, depending on the scope, scale, and quality of the end product.
And this doesn’t even include the ongoing costs of maintaining, supporting, and updating the DAW. Botton line? Running and marketing software like Cubase is not a cheap endeavour, so, yeah… that’s why you have to pay to access to the full version of it.
In conclusion, while Cubase is not free, it offers a scalable pricing structure that caters to various user needs, from beginners and home studio users to professional music producers.
Its robust features, exceptional sound quality, and the sheer versatility it brings to the table make it worth every penny of its price. Whether you’re making a one-time investment in your music career or looking to upgrade your existing setup, Cubase’s three-tiered offerings ensure there’s a perfect match for everyone.