Steinberg VST Live Review

Steinberg’s recently released ‘VST Live’ is billed as the ultimate live performance system. A unique, stable software solution designed for musicians who want to put on a great show, including sound, lights and video, wherever you are.

Yamaha Musicians reviewer, Werner Mairegger puts ‘VST Live’ to the test.


I was very excited to hear about Steinberg’s release of VST Live Pro and Elements. While Steinberg offers a complete tool chain for studios including the DAW Cubase, the mastering software Wavelab, the scoring System Dorico, a spectral editing system Spectral Layers and several smaller tools and software instruments. What was missing until today was a live performance system that competes with MainStage from Apple or Camelot Pro from Audio Modelling.

Now with the release of VST Live Pro & Elements there is finally a competing system out of Steinberg’s tool chain. The list of features is quite nice:

  • VST Live software with the well-known 64bit Cubase audio engine that supports samples rates up to 192kHz
  • You get licenses for three software instruments:
    • HALion Sonic SE 3 including the Pro / Artist / Basic Set sound sets. This includes a few thousands of sounds and will well satisfy all bread & butter live sounds
    • Padshop Pro 2 which is quite a nice spectral and granular synthesis instrument
    • Retrologue 2 that is an emulation of classic analogue synthesizer
  • Create songs, parts & layers and you have a setlist feature
  • Stacks (effect rack)
  • Sequencer & click track
  • Backing tracks
  • Performance recorder
  • Chord & lyrics feature
  • Connect with the band by using the VST Live Mods app that can show lyrics, chords and a metronome (only Pro)
  • Video (only Pro)
  • DMX control (only Pro)

You get all of this for an introductory price of just 99,99 € and the full price of 129,00 €. Compared to the normal retail price of Padshop Pro 2 which is 129,00 € on its own. I think the price for the complete package is very good.


Like all Steinberg products released this year VST Live uses the new Steinberg Licensing and the Steinberg Download Assistant. After you complete the purchasing process you will be provided with a download access code from Steinberg. Now you need to download the Steinberg’s Download Assistant and enter the code.VST Live Install 1

After clicking on the download & install buttons on the left side of VST Live the instruments & content will be installed on your computer. At the end you will also need to download Steinberg’s Activation Manager. Here you need to login to you Steinberg account where you will find your licenses. Just click activate on VST Live and you are ready to go! With the new Steinberg license system you can use your license on up to three different computers.VST Live Install 2

You can find the required downloads on Steinberg’s Website:

Main Screen:

VST Live opens with a hub like screen with dialogs already known from Cubase & Wavelab. Here you can change basic properties like the audio interface and midi interface etc.

VST Live Main Screen

The main screen is divided into 4 Zones:

  • On the left side you can find your songs & parts (song parts)
  • On middle upper are the details of the selected parts including the layers
  • On the middle bottom you can choose between a detailed view of layer and the mixer
  • On the right side there is the MediaBay (known from Cubase) and kind of a library that assist you in building your performances

VST Live Main Screen 2

Importing Songs From Cubase:

There is an interface with Cubase: you can export projects from Cubase to VST Live. In Cubase 12 you will find a menu item “File /Export/VST Live…”. This menu item is only available if you have selected a track in Cubase. The followinig dialog lets you then choose the tracks for export. And here is the first disappointment: you can only export audio tracks, and the export will contain limited information. It’s only little more than exporting waves and importing them into VST Live.

VST Live Importing From Cubase

Now you can import the project in VST Live with “File/Import Media Project…”. You will get the audio tracks imported into VST Live and they are showing up in the Tracks section of VST Live.

VST Live Playback

To start the playback you have to press the space button on your keyboard or click on the play button the playback starts.


There is a section where you can add lyrics. The phrases are assigned to the time where they should light up for the vocalist.

VST Live Lyrics Chords

The editor unfortunately needs some refinement. You can enter a phrase by clicking the plus on the headline. After that you can enter the text. You can also move the lyric phrase by drag & drop in the timeline. If you want to have the text on the display for longer you need to edit the length field in the headline. I did not find any mouse action to do that:

VST Live Lyrics Chords 2

VST Live Mod/App Connection

You can find the necessary app in the Apple Store (I only have apple devices, so I could only test it on iOS/iPadOS).

VST Live Mods

After you have installed the app and agreed that the app can access your local network and microphone the main display appears. In my case (the iPad is in the same local network as my desktop computer) VST Live is detected immediately.

VST Live Mods 2

After switching to Lyrics and starting the playback on the computer the app immediately starts to scroll lyrics according to the timeline.

VST Live Mods 3

Same procedure for chords:

VST Live Chords

Wow! That was very smooth and fast! First try and it immediately worked. I’m impressed.

Song Part/Layer

As I have imported tracks VST Live has automatically created a new song for me. I named the song and the part. In this case I want to play everything on my Montage 8 (as an external device):

Therefore, I create a layer that has no midi input and a midi output and that is intended to send the current program change to the Montage:

You can change the patch on the keyboard by sending MSB/LSB/PC. While some boards start with zero for LSB/MSB VST Live starts with 1. So, you end up needing to work this out yourself ☹:

VST Live Song Part Layer

Above example for program change (incl. MSB/LSB)

Montage MSB 64 = VST Live MSB 65
Montage LSB 34 = VST Live LSB 35
Montage PC 87 = VST Live PC 87

There is a very annoying bug: if you close VST Live and open it again: the MIDI Output of all external midi parts is set to HALion Sonic SE.

VST Live Song Part Layer 2

If I then set the output back to “Montage OUT” the program change numbers are deleted.

VST Song Part Layer 3

This behavior alone would be a no-go for using the system live at them moment.

VST Live doesn’t support SysEX messages but Steinberg announced that they will add this feature soon.

Compared to Camelot Pro this is only a very basic functionality. Camelot Pro comes with maps for lots of instruments. This let you create layers & splits of external instruments and VST plugin instruments. This in a much faster way without any use of numbers or lists. You can just use the delivered maps or the included learn function. VST Live doesn’t even allow you to add text patch lists like in Cubase. You need to deal with numbers here. In my opinion this is not state of the art and needs some rework and functional extensions.

VST Instruments:

You can also create Layers out of virtual instruments and layer them, split them by key or velocity

VST Live Instriments 1

VST Live instruments 2


This is the effect rack where you can load various built-in effect plugins and route your signal through.VST Live Stacks



Steinberg delivers a very nice first version of VST Live. It’s a good base for future development and with the time and for sure with delivered fixes and updates it will become a great choice for live musicians.

At the moment and at this stage it is in my opinion not ready for the stage. There are many issues and restrictions. It feels a bit like a beta software:

  • No SysEx support
  • GUI & usability improvements are necessary (selection dialog formats). Here some examples:

VST Live Conclusions 1


  • I had a bunch of crashes during my testing
  • Cubase & VST Live integration is only available with basic functionality
  • No patch lists and MSB/LSB beginning with 1 instead of zero
  • No learn functionality for program changes
  • It would be nice if the instruments from Steinberg’s parent company Yamaha, would be better integrated (Montage/MoDX/CP/YP/Genos)
  • Bug: on reopen of VST Live the midi out selection is automatically set to HALion Sonic SE
  • You can not deactivate VST plugins that you don’t want to load. If you add an VST 2 path you will find a lot of plugins doubled in the list
  • You can assign midi CCs or note numbers to functions (e.g. pressing a specific midi controller button to start the track or step through the parts/songs). Here you have “learn” function. But it worked partly not as expected and crashed VST Live.
  • Adding a video crashed VST Live
  • It would be really nice to not only view lyrics OR chords. It would be nice to view both.
  • You can add some text notes but you can’t add a PDF or picture containing scores.
  • ATTENTION: Pressing ESC performs a panic reset and freezes the GUI for a moment (also when you try to close open dialogs)


Despite from that I’m overall impressed by this first release and I will monitor the future steps. I like the GUI and the affinity to all other Steinberg software. So please Steinberg bring this software to the next step😊