Cubasis vs Garageband

See also: Cubasis vs Garageband Revisited

One of the objectives of my tune-a-day project is to try out different iPad music apps. My first attempt at using an alterative DAW was a bit of a disaster, so I was a little more careful in researching which one to try next. Cubasis and Auria are usually mentioned as the top two, but I was put off Auria by all the in-app purchases that seem to be required, and lots of reports of poor reliability. So I took the £35/$50 plunge and went for Cubasis. And I have to say that so far I’ve been very pleased with it.

Having used Garageband for so long, I inevitably compare alternative DAWs directly with Garageband’s capabilities. While Cubasis is undoubtedly a better DAW, there are definitely areas where Garageband is better. So here’s a list of 7 things I prefer about Cubasis and 4 things I prefer about Garageband.

7 things I prefer about Cubasis:

  1. Wide range of effects (delay, reverb, eq, etc) that can be applied to each track individually. I was increasingly unhappy with the sound of my digital piano recorded in Garageband, and the lack of eq control prevented me doing anything about it. Strangely, in Cubasis it sounds much better even without any eq changes. This is a little odd and probably worthy of another post in its own right.
  2. More time signatures – you can play in 5/4 and 7/4 in Cubasis (although curiously not 6/8 or 7/8… that doesn’t really matter in practice because you can just choose 6/4 or 7/4 instead, but it’s a bit weird).
  3. Export to Dropbox. I use Dropbox as my main way of getting mixes onto my (Android) phone to listen to while I’m out. From Garageband, this is really tedious.
  4. Import MIDI loops. I got a great range of 7/8 drum loops from OddGrooves, but getting them into Garageband on the iPad is really awkward (it involves going via Logic on the Mac). In Cubasis, this is very easy.
  5. Import/export files via web server. Cubasis has a built in web server to upload/download files.
  6. Ability to name tracks. As I use a lot of acoustic instruments, I end up with loads of “Audio Recorder” tracks in Garageband that are hard to tell apart. In Cubasis you can name each track.
  7. It is being regularly updated with new features – in fact there was a new release today adding punch-in/out recording, another thing Garageband lacks.

4 things I prefer about Garageband:

  1. The virtual instruments sound better. I found this quite surprising, but most of the Cubasis ones are rather horrible – they sound like the sort of thing you’d find on a cheap keyboard. I quite like some of the synth pads though, while I don’t much like the Garageband ones.
  2. The electric guitar presets. It’s only when they’re taken away from you that you realise how good they are. I use several of Garageband’s presets frequently. Cubasis has nothing like this. Yes, it has all the effects that you could combine to get a similar sound, but there are no presets and (more surprisingly) seemingly no way to save a combination of effects. As a result, I’ve also had to buy Ampkit – more on that another time.
  3. The loops are better. The difference here is not as big as the previous two points, and some of the Cubasis drum loops are usable. But I think the Garageband ones are better.
  4. It’s much easier to loop sections of a track in Garageband – you just drag the end of the section to repeat as many times as required. In Cubasis you have to copy and paste, which is OK, but a bit tedious.

Two things that are about the same:

  1. User interface. When I tried Multitrack DAW I was somewhat horrified by the user interface. Cubasis is much nicer; I learned how to use it very quickly. It doesn’t feel like a step down from Garageband.
  2. Audiobus. Both support Audiobus, and while I’ve read that the Cubasis integration is meant to be better, I can’t say I really noticed the difference. One thing is certain – the Audiobus integration is more important to Cubasis than to Garageband, because you are more likely to need external instruments and effects than you are in Garageband.

To sum it up, I would say that Cubasis is a better DAW, but Garageband is a more complete package. I will probably use both – Cubasis for proper recordings, and probably most of the time for acoustic tracks; Garageband for quick sketches, and electric guitar & virtual instrument tracks in particular.

Finally, here’s today’s tune-a-day, recorded in Cubasis. It’s a piano piece that my son, Tom, is learning. I added some banjo and accordion.

4 thoughts on “Cubasis vs Garageband”

  1. Very interesting comparison, I also own both apps, you are absolutely right: Garageband is an excellent tool for a quick idea sketching and the instruments do sound better than Cubasis ones. What I like of Cubasis is a the interface (might be personal preference after long years of Cubase use) and the midi editor.
    However, to achieve similar quality in Cubasis, one might end up wiring Garageband to Cubasis via AudioBus, so you can get all your GarageBand sounds on Cubasis…pretty awkward , but nothing better comes to my mind….

  2. You said Cubasis has a built-in web browser? Where do you see it in Settings?

    You can loop a track by setting start/end points and tapping the Loop icon in the toolbar located before Play button.

    1. Not a web browser – a web server for you to upload/download projects.
      What I meant about looping was repeating the same bit of recording multiple times in a track. What you describe just plays it in a loop, rather than repeating it in the recording.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *