Russ Long When I started engineering in the Eighties, it was hard to find a studio without Yamaha REV7 and SPX90 digital processors and a pair of NS-10M monitors. At the turn of the century as ITB (in-the-box) mixing burgeoned, it really wasn’t a surprise when Yamaha purchased software giant Steinberg Media Technologies, with its rich history in music production. Since 1984, Steinberg has created distinguished products such as Cubase, Nuendo and Wavelab DAWs (with a combined user base of over 1.5 million) as well as audio-processing standards such as VST (Virtual Studio Technology) and ASIO (Audio Stream Input/Output). While Steinberg continues to operate as its own entity, Yamaha/Steinberg joint developments have resulted in numerous audio interfaces and controllers. However, none of these products have come close to the software/hardware integration seen in Nuage, which perfectly assimilates hardware control with Nuendo and/or Cubase.
The recently updated Nuendo 6 and Cubase 7—de facto cores of the Nuage Production System—boast entirely new mixer windows and expanded feature sets, perfectly integrating with Nuage’s work surface. The Nuage system consists of different hardware components: Nuage Master, Nuage Fader, Nuage I/O, and large to small variations of Nuage Workspace. The system is completely modular; users may purchase only the components needed. A system can be built around a single Nuage Master or single Nuage Fader, up to three Nuage Faders and any number of Nuage workspaces.
The Nuage Master workspace. The Nuage Master is equivalent to the master section of a console. It includes a touch display accompanied by eight touch-sensitive multi-function knobs that provide direct control of EQ, dynamics, plug-in settings and other parameters. When utilized in conjunction with one or more Nuage Fader units, the display can show and provide the ability to adjust the parameters for the selected fader. The jog wheel found on the Nuage Master is of the highest quality I’ve ever encountered. The beautiful stainless steel wheel is precision machined to the perfect weight and size, providing elegant editing and transport control. The high-resolution wheel provides unmatched precision and speed in controlling forward and reverse playback, scrubbing, range and object selection, fades, zoom, etc. Nuage Master’s User Assignable Section offers up to 230 buttons with customizable functions, allowing several operational steps to be processed with the single push of a button. These buttons are key to optimizing the Nuage workflow. The Transport controls are above the jog wheel for quick and easy access. The Control Room section provides access to Nuendo Control Room monitoring features as well as Monitor Source and Cue sections. The Control Room feature set includes support for Multiple Monitor systems, Down mixes, Cue mixes and EXT inputs, all with flexible routing. This includes all of the essentials needed for proper surround sound configuration, including speaker level/delay adjustments and bass management.
The Nuage Fader features 16 touch-sensitive faders; 32 touch-sensitive encoders; Touch Slider, which allows touchscreen-style swiping to move channels or banks left or right; OLED Channel Name Displays and Color Bars; and various controls for Section, Automation, Control Room and Channel View. Each Nuage Fader works in conjunction with a standard 24-inch LCD monitor to provide a visual extension to each of the Fader’s 16 channel strips into the Nuendo/Cubase mixer window, software-calibrated to align perfectly. The control surface/display continuity assists the operator reaching intuitively for the correct hardware controller when viewing the monitor. Each of the 16 channel strips includes a long-throw, touch-sensitive linear fader and two touch-sensitive knobs/buttons. Each knob has the ability to control parameters in multiple ways. In the normal work mode, each channel’s two dedicated encoders are used for adjusting a selected parameter control. Alternatively, in the Channel Setting Mode, all 32 knobs are mapped to just one channel, allowing detailed control of multiple parameters for that channel. This includes third-party VST plug-in (including Waves, UAD, etc.) control as well. With Nuage, tweaking plugins without a trackball or mouse has never been so easy.
The small and large Nuage Workspace units are identical in size to the Nuage Master and Nuage Fader, respectively. They are perfectly suited to accommodate a keyboard, trackball, surround panner, 19-inch rack-mount device (large only) or other accessories while sustaining the overall visual and workflow coherence.
The Nuage Dante Accelerator PCIe computer interface card delivers ultra-low latency performance and is compatible with Mac and Windows OS. It provides 128 input x 128 output channels at 44.1/48/88.2/96 kHz or 64 input x 64 output channels at 176.4/192 kHz. The Nuendo Sync- Station is a hardware synchronizer that facilitates sample-accurate time-code synchronization between Nuage and any external audio or video equipment within a single unit.
The Nuage I/O audio interface options provide analog and digital connectivity, integrating the system with the users needs. Incorporating advanced DSP processing for stereo and surround monitoring, they utilize the Dante network protocol for flexible system design and expansion. There are three 16-channel models with different I/O configurations, which can be used individually or in combination for up to 128 channels. RIO interfaces— which include mic preamps—can also be utilized and can be directly controlled via the Nuage Fader surface. Third-party interfaces can also be incorporated into a Nuage system, but likely don’t have the networking benefits provided by Dante.
In addition to my Nuage review period, I’ve had the opportunity to utilize the Nuage audio interfaces on multiple occasions and the sound quality in every instance has been simply outstanding. They are among the finest sounding converters I’ve heard. The interfaces incorporate advanced JetPLL technology for extremely low jitter and outstanding AD/DA resolution.
The Nuage system I utilized for review consisted of a Nuage Master, a single Nuage Fader and a small Nuage Workspace. After several weeks of use, I’ve found that mixing with Nuage is as intuitive as any process I’ve encountered. Unlike most DAWs that require you to add EQ and Dynamics to each track as needed, Nuendo has EQ and dynamics already integrated on every track. Of course, plug-ins can be added as taste directs, but there is basic channel strip functionality in every channel. On mixes with larger track counts, I love the Touch Slider located immediately above the faders; it allows the engineer to quickly slide through the session’s channels by sliding a finger along the horizontal Touch Slider strip. Customizable channel layouts are another way to quickly bring unique groups of channels to the control surface with the push of a button.
Adding to Nuage’s intuitive operation, the color scheme used within Nuendo/Cubase carries through to Nuage as the channel names automatically appear in the equivalent Nuage Fader channel name displays, and the colors of the illuminated knob surrounds and the bars below the channel name displays match the colors of the Nuendo channel type icons. Nuendo offers extremely complex automation, allowing absolutely every parameter to be automated, but Nuage integration is simple and instinctual, allowing a DAW novice to jump in and start automating almost immediately.
Nuage metering is exceptional and the integrated loudness meter functions include a Broadcast Loudness meter, Loudness track and a Loudness normalization on audio export option. The loudness meter is capable of displaying Integrated, Momentary and Short Term loudness, allowing the user to continuously keep record of the loudness of a mix to ensure it meets EBU standards.
Unlike my mixing experience on other control surfaces, when working with Nuage, I found that I rarely need to touch a keyboard. One of the few exceptions is when I’m naming tracks while setting up a mix or after completing a mix and entering a title. In these instances, the keyboard is conveniently located in the cleverly designed keyboard drawer located under the palm rest of the Nuage Fader unit. A keyboard drawer is also found in the large Nuage Workspace.
Engineers involved with audio for picture will be glad to see the integrated ADR tool, ADR Taker V2. This fully integrated ADR system is completely integrated into Nuage, so no additional hardware or software purchases are required. Check out the demo on YouTube: http://x.co/7i5iv. Multi-room facilities can utilize Nuendo Network Collaboration (Nuendo only, not Cubase) which allows multiple users to work on the same project at the same time over LAN or WAN. Nuage allows up to three independent DAWs (Cubase, Nuendo and Pro Tools for example) to be connected directly to the system. Switching between workstations is as simple as pushing a button. Although Nuage is primarily designed to work with Nuendo and Cubase, the Nuage PT Bridge driver allows efficient operation with Pro Tools. If desired, Pro Tools can even be implemented as the system’s primary DAW or, as is typically the case, Nuendo is configured as the main DAW with Pro Tools also available on the system.
Nuage is far and away the finest example of integration between a DAW and a work surface I’ve encountered. It looks and feels beautiful, the controls are operationally smooth while still feeling extremely solid and the system cost is surprisingly within reach. For pro studios contemplating a switch to Nuendo or Cubase, this just may be your tipping point.
Yamaha Commercial Audio
Russ Long lives and works in Nashville, engineering and producing for a wide variety of music and film projects.