Digital Audio Workstations (DAW) have become the foundation of modern recording. It has become extremely rare for an album to be completed without at least one stage (tracking, overdubbing, editing or mixing) to include the use of a DAW. Where Digidesign’s Pro Tools has established itself as the industry standard, more recently many professionals have been finding that other systems such as Steinberg’s Nuendo, MOTU’s Digital Performer or Emagic’s Logic might better suit their needs. As a longtime Pro Tools user I was excited to sink into the Nuendo world and see if all the talk was simply hype or if there truly is something to this environment that has turned so many heads.
Product PointsApplications: Studio, project studio, post production
Key Features: Windows, Mac-compatible; imports almost every format audio file; exports all major audio file formats; up to 192 kHz sample rate; numerous plug-ins; surround sound; MIDI; compatible with VST synths; video-compatible
Contact: Steinberg at 818-678-5100, Web Site.
For PC use, Nuendo 2.0 requires 256 MB RAM, a 650 MHz Pentium or Athlon processor running Windows 2000 or XP, and 16-bit/44.1 kHz or better audio hardware with ASIO or Windows Multimedia driver and USB. For Mac use, it requires 256 MB RAM, PowerMac G3 or better running Mac OS 9 or later, with USB. These are of course minimum requirements. Typically, as with any host-based DAW, the more RAM the better it runs.
Nuendo 2.0 can import and export virtually any type of audio file (import options include WAV, Broadcast WAV, AIFF, MP3, MPEG-2, REX, SDII [Mac only], audio CD, QuickTime, AVI, MPEG video, OMF, OpenTL 3.0, AES31, generic EDL, Premiere EDL, MIDI and Cubase songs; export options include WAV, AIFF, MP3, RealAudio, WMA, OMF and OpenTL) at sample rates up to 384 kHz. I found it extremely helpful that audio can be imported directly from a CD without first having to extract it.
One of Nuendo’s many killer features is its ability to have multiple projects open simultaneously and to effortlessly drag and drop between projects or directly from a desktop folder into a project. Nuendo’s Library feature helps organize samples, loops, sound effects, etc. Nuendo 2.0 offers an unlimited number of channels, effect returns, VSTi and group channels for simultaneous mixing (limited only by the host computer) in 16-bit, 24-bit and 32-bit floating point audio files of 44.1 kHz, 48 kHz, 88.2 kHz, 96 kHz, 176.4 kHz and 192 kHz sample rates.
Although the Nuendo 2.0 windows are packed full of information, due to their highly intuitive layout they remain easy to navigate. The Project window is Nuendo’s primary window, providing a graphic overview of the project and allowing easy navigation and the ability to perform large-scale editing. The Project window is divided vertically into tracks with a horizontal time line. The following track types are available: Audio, Group Channel, MIDI, Marker, Master Automation, Plugin Automation and Video.
Audio tracks provide the recording and playback of Audio Events and Audio Parts. Each Audio Track has a corresponding Audio Channel in the Nuendo mixer. Each Audio Track can have any number of automation subtracks for automating insert effect settings and mixer channel parameters. With 2.0, every input, audio track, send, effect return, group and output offers up to 12 discrete channels.
MIDI tracks allow for recording, editing and playing back MIDI Parts. In Nuendo, MIDI Events are always gathered in MIDI Parts, which are essentially containers for one or more MIDI Events. MIDI Parts can be manipulated and rearranged in the Project window.
The Marker Track displays the markers and allows them to be renamed and moved directly in the Project window. Markers shown on the Marker Track are exactly the same as shown in the Marker window, so any changes made on the Marker Track are reflected in the Marker window and vice versa. Markers in the Marker Track are shown as Marker Events, which are vertical lines with the Marker name or number beside it. Each Project can only have one Marker Track.
Plugin Automation tracks contain automation curves for the parameters of all Send and Master effects. Video Tracks allow Video Events to be played back. Each Project can only have one Video Track. Video files are displayed as Events/Clips on the video track, with film frames represented by thumbnails.
The Project browser window provides a list-based representation of the Project allowing the viewing and editing of all Events on all Tracks by using regular value editing in a list.
The Transport Panel features transport controls, much like those found on a conventional tape recorder. It can also be used for locating marker positions, setting tempo and time signature, etc.
All clips, audio or video, that belong to a Project are listed in the Pool. Each has a separate pool. In the pool you can organize, convert and audition clips among many other things. Multiple pools can be opened within a Project.
The Sample Editor allows audio to be edited by cutting and pasting, removing, drawing or processing audio data. All of the editing in the Sample Editor is “nondestructive,” and at any point you can undo changes or revert to the original audio sample by using the Offline Process History. This dialog allows you to remove or modify audio processing at any time. This is one of Nuendo’s strong points as it is even possible to alter or remove processing performed earlier while keeping all later processing.
MIDI data is edited in the MIDI Editor window. Nuendo 2.0 also offers Drum, Logical, SysEx, List and Score editors, making the editing of MIDI information highly flexible. Packaged with 2.0 are several MIDI plug-ins including Quantizer, MIDI Echo and Compressor.
Audio channels are mixed using the completely re-engineered 32-bit, floating point mixer. The user-configurable mixer allows the user to choose between a variety of display options above the fader section including insert effects, effect sends, EQ or an additional view with input and output settings that include gain change and phase shift per channel. The new narrow view allows for the simultaneous display of more channels. The mixer now features effects return channels as well as input channels that allow effects to be processed while recording, if desired. For stereo mixes, Nuendo 2.0 offers the option of three panning modes for both the channels and the sends: balance, dual and combined. The new VST Connection Device provides an entirely new way of organizing inputs and outputs, allowing the user to customize multiple multichannel input/output configurations and store them as presets. Multiple input and output bus objects with respective sub busses can be created quickly and easily and then connected to the desired ASIO port. Any mixer channel can be routed to any of the input or output busses as desired and multiple input and output busses can be used simultaneously.
Nuendo offers extensive surround features including 25 different supported formats (including mono, 5.0, 5.1 and 10.2) with a surround architecture of 12 discreet channels and an extremely flexible matrix routing. When mixing in surround, a surround panner is available for each send, allowing a source position for a 5.1 surround effect to be determined. Also included are multiple output configurations for multiple speaker setups. Users who routinely work with surround will want to consider the surround edition, which adds an assortment of true surround plug-ins (8-in/8-out) to the included stereo plug-ins. These include OctoQ (EQ), OctoComp (compression), OctoMaxx (loudness maximizer), Octoverb (reverb) and LFE control (LFE Splitter and LFE Combiner). Also available at an additional cost is the Nuendo Dolby Digital and DTS encoder.
Nuendo 2.0 offers an audio engine with completely rewritten code that provides improved performance on virtually every level. When used with a multiprocessor computer, Nuendo 2.0 ensures that the work is spread evenly between each CPU. All delays inherently created by plug-ins, regardless of where they are inserted, are compensated for by the 2.0 architecture.
Nuendo 2.0 includes a wide assortment of highly usable plug-ins including dynamics, EQ and effects, as well as the previously mentioned MIDI plug-ins. Of course, there are tons of VST plug-ins available typically at a price substantially less than their TDM counterparts.
After spending several months running Nuendo 1.6 on both PC and Mac formats, I was excited to upgrade to version 2.0. The installation was a breeze and I was actually up and running in a fraction of the time that I anticipated. Both the Mac and the PC environments use a hardware key for copy protection. Of all copy protection schemes, this is my favorite. If your computer completely dies and you have to be up and running in no time, this is the protection scheme that makes that possible. It also makes software upgrades quick and easy. Although I would not recommend trying this at home, I am happy to report that my key is still working like new after going through a complete cycle in both the washer and the dryer after being accidentally left in the pocket of my jeans.
Since I spend a lot of time traveling, I was anxious to find a DAW that would run on my Sony PCG-FX340 notebook computer. The potential to get a mix roughed in or get some editing done while waiting to board a plane or during a long flight is quite appealing. I found Nuendo to be the perfect choice. I would have never guessed 10 years ago that someday I would actually be able to say that I did an almost complete mix on a flight from Nashville to Seattle. If you are lucky enough to have a CD-burner built into your notebook, you can actually burn a CD and run it up to the artist in first class and have him/her check the mix before the plane touches down.
Nuendo worked equally well with my Mac and a MOTU 828. I imported some SDII audio files from a Pro Tools session and went to work. My initial surprise was how intuitive the program is. I found that I rarely needed assistance and when I did, the program’s Help menu was able to point me in the right direction.
I spent some time discussing Nuendo with longtime user John Mark Painter. He has put the system to work on a wide variety of projects over the last 18 months and has been extremely pleased with its performance. Painter, who does a large amount of video and film sound work, was exceptionally pleased with the video scrub feature. I also spent time discussing Nuendo with renowned producer/engineer Joe Baldridge, who has been living in the Nuendo world for over a year. He explained, “Nuendo’s internal mixer has the width and depth of an analog mixer. I feel we make no sonic compromises mixing internally in Nuendo. The flexibility and speed of the automation allows us to go much further than the financial constraints of being in a $1,200 a day mix room.”
Steinberg’s formation and ongoing support of the Nuendo Producer Group makes it apparent that the company is committed to the continued development and support of this incredible package. This group is made up of top producers and engineers in support of the Nuendo Media Production System and includes Chuck Ainlay, Elliot Scheiner, Phil Ramone, Frank Filipetti, Alan Parsons and several other top-knobs. The group’s aim is to bridge the gap that typically exists between software designers and the end-user.
Although Nuendo 2.0 still lacks the user base that Pro Tools possesses, it is a powerful environment offering a host of features that will make Pro Tools users everywhere drool with envy. If you are in the market for a DAW, it is worth taking a good look at Nuendo 2.0.