After testing Elements on the MBP for the past couple of weeks, I decided to upgrade to C9 on the main rig. In the end, it was one single reason that made me jump above all others - stability. Subjectively, C9 Elements on the MBP felt snappier, looked a little cleaner and seemed to behave impeccably - for a .01 release at launch, quite something. On the W10 main rig, I found exactly the same thing - not a single hiccup or glitch. I did have spikes I never tracked down in C8.5. So far, an hour of playing around with a moderately busy session, C9 has performed impeccably. Whatever else it may or may not be, C9 feels slick and stable. Aside from the useful and very long-awaited mixer undo, sadly this is pretty much the only reason to upgrade.
I still can't see myself ever using the Lower Zone. I run a 4 monitor rig - 3 across the front, 1 above and behind. The central screen is for the main project window - everything else has to get out the way and stay out. Extraneous toolbars are banished. Something that a) restricts the project window'ss height and b) is itself so height restricted and thus functionally crippled is as welcome as a polar bear at an antiques shop. The Lower Zone for me is, literally, a waste of space. Also a waste of space and time - the new Transport Bar. I have transport buttons on the top menu bar, and the floating bar on the right hand monitor top right, so a new option to restrict height in the project window is entirely redundant. The Sampler Track, as discussed elsewhere, is currently weighed down with all kinds of problems - maybe successive updates will make this something useful, but until then it will be another unused new feature by me. The Frequency EQ plugin is however rather nice, hardly essential for those already well stocked, but it looks like being a useful workhorse and easy to see where your problems might be.
Meanwhile a myriad of irritations, bugs and underdeveloped features remain. For (glaring) example, with the new crispness, its all the easier to see how ridiculous the truncated names are in the mixer inserts and sends - as others have pointed out, it makes it nigh on impossible to work out what plugins or effects are being used sometimes. There has to be a better system, and Steinberg could do a whole lot worse than looking at how Pro Tools does it - somehow conveying more useful information in less characters in their narrow mix view. Scrapping spaces and vowels first would be a start, eliminating space-wasting ".."s close behind. Anyway, just one example of where Steinberg seem to be focused forever in the wrong place, missing the glaringly obvious in front of all our eyes.
So after a few weeks and an upgrade on the main rig, my initial impression is largely intact. This is overall a poor upgrade. The new features clearly miss the mark for many users (not all). In my view, all are either poorly conceived or executed, and do little to address the pleas of core functionality and workflow improvements. However, where I've shifted my view is that under the hood there do appear to have been some significant improvements. While the headline performance seems broadly similar to C8, my early results suggest that it is a less bumpy ride. For that, and that alone, Steinberg are to be congratulated.
Win 10 64 bit, i7 4930, 64gb RAM, 2x GT610, RME Babyface, Cubase 9.01, PT 12HD
Macbook Pro 2015, 2.8ghz i7, 16gb RAM