Review: Steinberg Nuendo 7

Stephen Bennett explains why this new update should be considered an “essential upgrade” by fans of the digital audio workstation…

Nuendo, Steinberg’s flagship DAW, has had a makeover and is now at version 7 – the integer increment suggesting that the now venerable piece of software has received some significant additions.

For those already familiar with Nuendo, version 7 looks pretty much the same as previous revisions – and this is a good thing. Nuendo has always been pretty quick to get to grips with, and is easy on the eye, so I’m glad Steinberg hasn’t gone for any pointless revamps of the interface. It’s also as stable as ever – not a single crash in three weeks of intensive audio to video work.

There are some useful ergonomic changes – the VST instrument rack is now displayed in a ‘Rack Zone’ in the Project space, while Media bay assets can be dragged directly into the Project window. Other changes include an improved Track list and Inspector and the addition of tempo detection; a Plug-in manager to sort your VSTs (hooray!); and VST Connect version 3. The latter lets you record audio and MIDI over networks, including the internet, and is now closely connected with Nuendo’s excellent cue and monitoring system that enhances the possibilities of remote collaboration no end.

How useful this feature is going to be really depends on your network speeds, but experiments with collaborators over a 100mbs wired system proved encouraging. A rash of new and improved VST effects and instruments are bundled with Nuendo, as well as some other features lifted from Cubase, such as Chord pads and Groove agent – but if you want to use Nuendo extensively for composition it’s probably a good idea to grab the Nuendo Expansion Kit (NEK), which showers the software with other tools lifted from its sibling DAW.

Nuendo now features VCA faders, which are something you wonder how you lived without when you start using them. Rendering audio has been mightily improved and you can render to disk tracks and regions, with or without effects and at various sample rates and bit depths. The Render-in-place feature enables you to bounce audio and MIDI tracks to disk, which are then automatically copied back into your Project. The program has undergone some ‘under the hood’ tweaks as well that mean Projects now load faster and CPU performance is improved.

Game Plan

The addition of some new features moves Nuendo into new areas that are the main interest in this upgrade. Steinberg has tackled the burgeoning computer games area head on with the inclusion of Game Audio Connect. GAC (as it will be henceforth known) is designed for those working in the field, and has been developed to provide a close integration with Audiokinetic’s Wwise middleware. Wwise is an audio authoring solution for computer game development and with Nuendo, you can drag-and-drop audio files, including metadata via GACdirectly into Wwise. Nuendo Projects can also be loaded directly from the Wwise application, making archiving and updating much easier. GAC also features a seamless integration with Perforce, the distributed revision-control file management system, so that any changes in shared Nuendo 7 projects are automatically monitored in the background and updated as necessary.

Back in more familiar Nuendo territory, the software now features a new re-conforming algorithm that detects picture changes on the basis of comparisons between the updated and original Edit Decision Lists (EDL). This ‘change list’ is then used to perform the re-conform process. You can preview re-conformed audio to check if the material is as you’d expect, and the re-conforming toolset offers a video preview of the resulting picture changes. The system is conceptually quite simple and works extremely well, saving time during those inevitable last-minute video edits.

For Nuendo’s main claim to fame – it’s core functions in the video and audio world – the best DAW for sound to picture work has just got better, with useful features being added while maintaining the program’s ease of use and legendary stability. For existing users of Nuendo, version 7 is an essential upgrade; for those thinking of working in the fields of film, games or who want to collaborate with colleagues over networks, you’d do well to check out the latest version of Steinberg’s behemoth DAW.

Key Features

  • Game Audio Connect interfacing technology
  • Re-conforming for film and TV post projects
  • Render-in-place
  • VCA faders
  • New and improved plug-ins

RRP: €1,799/£1,324

Stephen Bennett has been involved in music production for over 30 years. Based in Norwich he splits his time between writing books and articles on music technology, recording and touring, and lecturing at the University of East Anglia.