Where to start a review of a product or software is especially tricky when you have been working with it for almost 20 years. I began using Nuendo v1.5 in 2000 when it was first released for Mac OS. At the time, Nuendo's biggest draws were that I was not required to use any dedicated/proprietary hardware for I/O or processing, there were no track count limitations, and it had superior sonic integrity. Contrary to the beliefs of some, all DAWs do not sound alike. I am very particular about everything in the audio path and cannot tolerate average (or merely acceptable) quality for my clients. The decision to use Nuendo as my main recording and mixing software has served me very well, and Steinberg has improved their resampling quality with this release for even better sounding audio. The product has grown and evolved over the years, along with mixing requirements, which makes it is hard to track changes or note new features through the passing of time. During the course of reviewing Cubase Pro 10 [Tape Op #131], I dug into a few of the more Cubase-specific workflows and features that I didn't know much about or use often. In that review, I also touched on the evolutionary change of Cubase versus Nuendo, and the version numbers as they leap-frogged each other, so I won't readdress that subject here. Needless to say, Cubase is geared towards music production while Nuendo includes features for post-production. The appearance and functionality of both DAWs are the same, but Nuendo 10 is the pinnacle release of the Steinberg DAW set for me, with all the music production features of Cubaseplus a little more.
I have always had a linear approach to DAW production –using it more like a tape machine with the added benefit of great editing and audio processing, rather than as a heavy MIDI or virtual instrument tool. When recording or mixing, I have generally preferred projects that work with more audio than sound design components. I would rather work with the artist to get a great performance than to manufacture one from pieces, and I rarely do any drum replacement or augmentation, plus I don't really tune vocals unless absolutely needed for a few notes that might otherwise impact a great performance. But in today's record-making environment, the reality is that balance is always the key, so I will use any tool that can get the project to be the best creative representation of the artist and song. For me, Nuendo has a ton of tricks and tools up its sleeve that I know that I can turn to when needed, but they're not in my face or forcing me to work any differently than I normally would.
I visited the Steinberg website to learn about the new release features (see later). Great. Got it. Some of these features I'm already using and are the same or similar to those currently in Cubase. We all have our ways of working – our little shortcuts, or batch setups, routing, naming conventions, solutions to problems, or go-to techniques for creative inspirations. Not necessarily fixed or rigid; just efficient and predictable. I took a dive into the YouTube rabbit hole to see how others were using this software and what their favorite features might be. That's when the train slowed way down for me. Even with my long-term use, this program is much deeper and more flexible than I ever imagined, with features I was unaware of. Though I won't unpack everything, here's is a list of some of the standouts: Updated support for high-res video displays (with plans to introduce video rendering in a future update), audio export dialog improvement, a Sidebar upgrade, excellent and super usable channelstrip tools, coloring panel/tool improvement, Mixer snapshots (awesome, but I do wish I could apply snapshots to different projects), latency display, major sidechain improvements, a very powerful offline process window, an Audio Alignment panel (allows for viewing multiple selected audio events at the same time as an overlay for timing and editing), much improved VariAudio, MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Extension) support, additional included sound sample libraries, new REVerence reverb presets based on hardware and impulse responses, a Field Recorder Audio Import tool with advanced search functionality, a Doppler effect plug-in that simulates movement within the mix field, a VoiceDesigner plug-in, a Distroyer processor for adding analog-like harmonics to thick distortion, Wwise (game audio) integration, plus immersive audio tools like the Ambisonics panner, ADM (Dolby Atmos) import, Dolby Atmos and other high channel object oriented audio compatibility – this is just the short list. Wow!
Something that I wish every DAW manufacturer would do, and what Steinberg never talks about, is how simple they make key commands. It drives me crazy that every other DAW uses their own terminology for trim/cut/splice/segment. Why can't we all agree on a common vernacular – maybe AES/P&E recommendations? Looking for the name of a function in a key command window when you don't know what it is called sucks. In Nuendo and Cubase, if you open the Key Command window immediately after having performed an operation, it takes you right to what you just did, highlights it, and either shows you the command assigned to it, or allows you to make your own for that function, right there! Done. F%$&$#G awesome! I just finished mixing a new Kenny Wayne Shepherd record in Dolby Atmos with Eric "ET" Thorngren in Nuendo. One of the many things I learned from him was to make (and use) one new key command every week. Soon, your workflow will become dramatically faster, and more creative because you won't bog down the pendulum swinging from the left side of your brain to the right every time you go from technical to creative (and back again). Another very simple feature that I have always appreciated about Nuendo is the fade dialog. Simple. Deep. Intuitive. Fast. I am using another DAW for mastering, and it has the most archaic and time-consuming fade dialog I believe I've ever seen. It drives me batshit crazy to use, which really makes me appreciate the simplicity of the advanced fade tools in Nuendo.
The Direct Offline Process window is something I am using much more than expected after my feature dive into Nuendo. Being able to use the same process chains for use on batches of files, or to apply same setting to album projects across its different song projects, has been a real time saver, in addition to maintaining consistency from song to song on instruments like drums, vocals, etc. The newly added Audio Alignment panel is fantastic for not only comping vocals from different takes, but is also a huge benefit to folks working in post-production, ADR, and game audio. The new Renaming tool can process names and tags to batches of files and folders, which is huge for project management when there are large amounts of files – bringing us to the MediaBay and Sidebar improvements. In the Sidebar you can do and see more very quickly; VST Instruments, FX, MediaBay, channel presets, loops, and samples. It's a very fast and simple method to find the files and processing you are looking for, and then apply them to single or multiple tracks. In the game audio and VR world, there are also great additions and improvements to the Head Tracking window, the GoPro VR Player Remote window, the ReConform function, the Game Audio Connect feature, and the new Video Cut Detection function.
As great as I think Nuendo is, there are a few things that I think they could improve upon. While the VST Panner is good, it should be much easier to access for each channel in my opinion. Stereo works fine, but the 3D panner is difficult to access quickly. With regards to object-based audio, Steinberg could streamline the routing and connection of audio to objects. Working in high track count immersive audio, the VST Panner might be re-imagined for the streamlining of workflow – perhaps it could have its own full window for all Panners together? I'd like to see Steinberg offer an authoring tool for immersive audio output – one of the biggest drawbacks to widespread adoption may be in providing clients references. I really like the metering in Steinberg's WaveLab [Tape Op #95], and would like to see Nuendo get the same views and data. One other little nit to pick... please put the manual back in the Help menu.
The versatility of Nuendo 10 makes it hard to categorize who this is made for; that can be a good thing. Nuendo can be as deep or as simple as you need. It's highly intuitive and configurable, which makes it easy to be productive. It's not trying to force you to work like Nuendo thinks you should, but rather adaptable for what you need to do. I know that Steinberg has positioned Nuendo 10 to be at the forefront of post-production game audio and VR (which it definitely excels at), but I can't stress enough how strong it also performs as an audio production DAW; it's equally great for recording and mixing. Steinberg has always been a leader in developing innovative DAW features, workflows, and audio tools we take for granted but could now not go without – clip gain, automatic delay compensation, virtual instruments, project archival and asset delivery, sidechaining, continuous audio engine improvement, flexible routing, deep automation, and so many others. With the release of Nuendo 10, Steinberg polishes many of these existing tools while adding more to its palette. Powerful. Deep. Flexible. Incredible sounding. Well done, Steinberg!