Review: Yamaha Pocketrak 2G (Bonus Material)

The Pocketrak 2G comes bundled with Steinberg Cubase AI 4 digital audio workstation software, a special lite edition of the company''s flagship Cubase 4, specifically developed to bundle with Yamaha hardware.
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The Pocketrak 2G comes bundled with Steinberg Cubase AI 4 digital audio workstation software, a special lite edition of the company''s flagship Cubase 4, specifically developed to bundle with Yamaha hardware. The AI stands for Advanced Integration and is reflective of the ongoing close collaboration between the two companies since Yamaha acquired Steinberg back in 2005. It is designed to provide plug-and-play setup and interactivity between the software and Yamaha hardware devices such as digital mixers, keyboards, and synthesizers like the Motif XS.

The software handles as many as 48 audio tracks and 64 MIDI tracks, and it comes with 25 VST effects, 20 Cubase templates, 480 drum loops in WAV format, and the HALion One software sample player. Cubase AI 4 is designed to integrate with Steinberg''s new hardware products, the MR816 CSX, MR816 X, and CC121. Much of this functionality goes way beyond the needs of many Pocketrak users, but if you do need it, you have a full-featured multitrack audio and MIDI environment with lots of bells and whistles.

The program comes with no printed documentation, but it does furnish several PDFs, including a Getting Started guide and a full reference manual, as well as extensive tutorial projects to help you learn your way around. I am not a regular Cubase user and have had only limited experience with it in the past, but with scarcely a glance at the manual, I had no problem figuring out how to import a Pocketrak recording and trim it; apply fades, EQ, and limiting; and export my mix


When you choose New Project from Cubase AI 4''s File menu, you can load a convenient Mastering Setup template that''s an ideal starting point for Pocketrak users. It opens up to present you with an empty stereo track and a Channel Settings window displaying a 4-band parametric EQ and a VSTDynamics plug-in instantiated on one of the channel''s inserts. Clicking on a little E button above the inserts opens the VSTDynamics editing window, revealing three dynamics processors—a compressor, a limiter, and a gate—each of which can be activated or disabled with buttons along the bottom. The easy-to-operate limiter section is usually all you need for simply adjusting the overall gain of your stereo recording, and it is also available as a separate plug-in. Attack and release are optimized and adjusted automatically according to the audio material, or you can manually adjust the release.

Once you''ve uploaded your Pocketrak recordings to your computer, you can import one into your Cubase project by simply dragging it into the track window or by using the Import command. If it is an MP3 recording, it will be converted to your project''s format (WAV or AIFF) on import. Sliders along the right and bottom allow you to zoom vertically and horizontally. You can trim the start and end of your audio track by dragging white boxes at the bottom, and add fades by dragging blue triangles at the top. A full toolbar palette offers Select, Split, Mute, Glue, and other tools. Once you''ve made your edits, you set left and right locator points and choose File->Export->Audio Mixdown for a faster-than-real-time bounce to disk. Although you can export your file as WAV or AIFF, direct MP3 export is not supported.


Cubase AI 4 is an OEM product that is available only with the purchase of Yamaha hardware products. It is a powerful DAW application in its own right, and probably more than sufficient for the average Pocketrak user''s needs. Nonetheless, it is obviously an entry-level product designed to introduce you to Cubase and encourage you to upgrade to the full version. Personally, I wish more than four EQ bands were available for every channel. For most users, four bands will probably be sufficient, though, and if not, plenty of third-party EQ plug-ins are available (including several free options you''ll find on the Web).

Cubase AI 4 is much more than a simple teaser product. It is a comprehensive audio-production package that gives you access to a substantial share of the power of Cubase and adds significant value to your Pocketrak purchase.