Test Drive: Steinberg Nuendo 2.0

by Steve Cunningham

The world of software DAWs has been significantly rocked in the past year or so... IQS and SAW are essentially gone, Apple bought Emagic and discontinued the PC version of Logic, Cool Edit Pro is now Adobe Audition and Cool Edit 2K is history, and Sony owns all of Sonic Foundry’s products. Yikes! — if you’re not a fan of change, then this has been a tough year for you.

On the other hand, Pro Tools is still Pro Tools, and Digidesign continues to maintain the largest user base in the audio industry. But if you read the trade press, they’ve got competition, notably from Steinberg’s Nuendo package. And yeah, Steinberg was bought by video software maker Pinnacle late last year. It figures.

Introduced by Steinberg in 2000, Nuendo is touted as a Pro Tools killer, and has gained some favor in the music and postproduction markets. But is it right for radio?

Nuendo is a serious piece of software. At a suggested retail of $1495 it had better be, and it indeed shows itself to be a very complete package with some unique features. Nuendo combines multitrack audio recording and editing with heavy MIDI capabilities for the music guys. It boasts an unlimited number of tracks at sample rates from 32kHz to 192kHz and bit rates up to 32 bit, and you can combine different bit depth files in the same project.

Nuendo’s system requirements are on the steep side for radio, where many of us are still running Windows 98SE or Mac OS9. On the Windows side you’ll need to be running either Windows XP or 2000, with at least an 800 MHz Pentium or Athalon and 384 MB of RAM. If you want to have any fun, you’ll really want a 1.4GHz Pentium or Athalon, more than half a gig of RAM, and a monitor that will do 1152 x 864 pixels. Actually two monitors are needed for real fun, as Nuendo’s screens are info-packed. On the Mac side you must run OSX 10.2.5 or later, with at least an 867MHz G4 and 384MB of RAM. Better is a dual 1.25GHz, a boatload of RAM, and either a dual monitor setup or one of those tasty 23" Cinema displays (are you listening, Santa?).

Nuendo is also a wee bit particular about audio hardware — it works best with audio cards that have their own ASIO drivers. ASIO-compliant cards are not unusual, but this rules out some Digidesign hardware (although that should come as no surprise). You can use Nuendo with a card that supports DirectX or MME, but you lose Nuendo’s ability to automatically compensate for latency. The good news is that high-quality ASIO-compliant cards are reasonably cheap. For PC use check out Midiman on the low-priced end, or RME if you have a few bucks in your jeans.

Installing Nuendo was uneventful for me. The program uses a serial number for registration, and it does require the use of a USB dongle for copy protection. I’ve ranted before about having my USB ports stolen by dongles, so I won’t repeat that rant here. I get it, but I don’t like it... ‘nuff said.

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