Longtime friend and PreSonus advocate Brian Lorelle of OBEDIA and PC Audio Labs recently interconnected four Quantums and four DigiMax DP88s for a series of test runs in his laboratory in Nashville, taking a close look at CPU usage and latency under varying conditions including different sample rates, plug-in counts, buffer sizes, etc. If you’ve been looking for a Windows recording solution that takes advantage of the speed and power of Thunderbolt, with tons of I/O, this is a must-watch!
Back in the days of variable-speed analog tape, we often cheated and sped up the master just a bit. This had three beneficial effects: it made the tempo a bit more lively, raised the pitch for a slightly brighter sound, and tightened timing. Even a 2% change could make a significant difference. (If you ever tried to play along with an old pop tune and found your instrument had to be tuned somewhat sharp, this is probably why.)
Digital technology gave us a major advance by making it possible to change tempo without changing pitch, or change pitch without changing tempo. Curiously, though, there aren’t as many options if you want to change both simultaneously. Fortunately, Studio One can do this easily.
The key is the Inspector’s Speedup and Tune parameters. A speedup of 2% is about right for making a noticeable, but not obvious change; however many older masters were sped up a lot more than that, so don’t feel too constrained. For Tune, 20 cents works well as a general-purpose setting but again, there are no rules about this other than to use your ears.
If you enter these changes and then go back to 0 for the two settings, the song will sound less lively. However it’s important to acclimate yourself to any changes, either speeding up or “bypassed,” before making any final decisions about what sounds best.
Note that I much prefer to do any master speed/tune change processing on the finished, two-track mix instead of while working on a song. That way I don’t need to remember to set the Speedup and Tune on each track, or render loops so I can use the needed parameters.
And since we’re in old school territory, consider adding a bit of Console Shaper as well from the Mix FX drop-down. I seldom push drive above 9 o’clock for program material, and some crosstalk makes the sound a bit more speaker-like when wearing headphones (with headphones, you don’t get acoustical crosstalk like you do with speakers, where the left ear hears some of the right speaker, and vice-versa). As to noise…well I’m not a fan of noise, but with some tracks, it does add a little “glue.” Or maybe it just triggers the psychological response of working with older gear.
The audio example plays an excerpt from the remix of “To Say No Would Be a Crime” (from my album “Simplicity”). The first 19 seconds are the original version, the rest of the example speeds it up by 1.02 with a pitch increase of 40 cents. The complete song is available on YouTube/thecraiganderton.
In any case, when you want your music to be a little more lively, brighter, and tighter, try raising the Speedup and Tune parameters just a bit. It really does make a difference.
The day has arrived! Studio One 4 has been released and is available for purchase from your favorite dealer or shop.presonus.com! Version 4 adds a ton of new features (full list is available in a PDF linked below) but some of the things we’re really excited about include:
I’ve been experimenting with phasers lately, and found some interesting tricks. This week we’ll create a mind-melting phaser-meets-stereo-imager. Next week, we’ll create a super-customizable phaser with continuously variable peaks and notches, so you can obtain specialized vintage sounds like the original Electro-Harmonix Polyphase.
HOW IT WORKS
You can reproduce the sound of a phaser with several tracking notch filters, so instead of using a phase shifter per se, we can use the Pro EQ.
The five parametric stages are set up as notch filters one octave apart, with a sweep range of four octaves. The FX Chain Frequency control sets their frequencies. If you download the multipreset, I highly recommend reverse-engineering it to see how to control multiple filter stages from a single knob.
The FX Chain Q control sets the phase effect’s resonance/sharpness by altering the Q for all five stages simultaneously. Broader Q settings reduce volume, with a less focused, gentler phasing sound. High Q settings are sharper, with a more pronounced phasing effect.
But the secret ingredient here is splitting the signal path into the Pro EQ-meets-phaser and the Mixtool. Inverting the phase for the Mixtool’s left and right channels cancels out any remaining dry signal from the Pro EQ “phaser,” which accents the phasing sound.
If you compare this to the sound of the PreSonus Phaser, it’s like the PreSonus Phaser supplements the audio with the phasing effect, while the Imaging Phaser replaces the audio with the phasing. They both have their uses.
THE IMAGING PHASER
The real mind melt happens if you run program material through the Imaging Phaser and then click the Image Xpand button. This swaps the right and left channels, which because they’re out of phase, creates insane imaging effects. The first time I tried this was on a laptop, and clicking on Image Xpand made it seem like the speakers were located somewhere else in the room. The effect is less dramatic with signals that don’t contain a lot of stereo information and ambiance, or on headphones, but it still makes a difference.
THE AUDIO EXAMPLE
The first part showcases the phaser effect. After the word “Reunited” appears, you’ll hear an unprocessed version of the track for four measures. After that, it’s Image Xpand time, with the FX Chain control being varied to alter the sound somewhat.
And for those without the patience to build their own Imaging Phaser, here’s an FX Chain multipreset you can download. Have fun!
The Project Page Meets Bluetooth
After mastering a project, I like to check out its suitability in a variety of contexts by listening to it over and over again—in the foreground, in the background while people are talking, while the dishwasher runs, whatever. This can be very instructive when trying for masters that are transportable not just for different playback systems, but for different listening conditions.
And that’s when it hit me: Bluetooth! I have IK Multimedia’s iLoud portable Bluetooth speaker, and carry it around the house to listen to music that’s streaming from a mobile device. Why not carry it around while listening to a mastered Project? Or even loop a Song, so I can get lyric ideas while the instrument tracks play in the background? Or listen over other Bluetooth devices, to get an idea of the type of sonic violence the music will have to endure at the hand of consumers?
Okay, so I was a little slow to tumble to this…but reality checks can indeed be useful, and I hope you find this tip useful as well. We’ll do the Mac first, and then Windows.
1. Choose Apple menu > System Preferences > Bluetooth.
2. Turn on Bluetooth at the Mac if it isn’t already.
3. Turn on your Bluetooth playback device, and enable pairing for it (usually by pressing a pairing button on the device).
4. When the Connection Request appears, click Connect.
5. The Bluetooth window will show the device as connected.
6. In Studio One, choose Preferences.
7. For Playback Device, choose your Bluetooth playback device.
1. Choose Settings > Devices > Bluetooth & other devices.
2. Turn on Bluetooth in Windows if it isn’t already.
3. Click on Add Bluetooth or other device, then choose Bluetooth when Add a Device appears.
4. Turn on your Bluetooth playback device, and enable pairing for it (usually by pressing a pairing button on the device).
5. Click on the device name to connect it. Once it’s connected, click on Done.
6. In the Windows search box, type Sound and then select Sound Control Panel.
7. Your Bluetooth device should appear in the list of potential playback devices. Click on it, and then click Set Default to make the Bluetooth device your default playback device.
8. Now that Windows is set up, open Studio One, and choose Options. Select Windows Audio for your Audio Device, and you’re good to go.
Vibrato is kind of the forgotten effect. It appeared briefly in Magnatone guitar amps many (many) decades ago, and some effects add it in a way that seems like an afterthought (“Hey, if we include a switch to turn off the dry signal in this flanger, then we’ll get vibrato!”). In fact it’s such a forgotten effect that when I use it on sustained sources like pads and power chords, people often want to know what “that cool new effect” is.
If a program doesn’t have a vibrato plug-in, the usual option is to trick a flanger or chorus into thinking it’s one. However, Studio One’s Flanger and Chorus are designed to give the lush sounds we associate with those effects, so it’s not possible to obtain true vibrato. However, there is a way to do vibrato with the Analog Delay.
The patch is quite simple. Here are the parameter settings.
Time (Beats section): Turn off sync, and enter 1.5 ms. This will delay the audio by 1.5 ms, but that’s only as much as moving your head 18 inches away from a speaker…I can cope.
Set Factor = 1.00, and Inertia = 0.00. Turn Low Cut and High Cut off. Set Feedback and Saturation to 0, and Mix to 100%.
Mod controls the vibrato depth. A maximum of about 37% works for me. If the depth isn’t enough, then enter 2 or 3 ms for the Time parameter. You’ll want the Sine waveform, but the LFO Beats control setting requires some explanation.
With Sync disabled, you can’t increase the LFO rate beyond 5 Hz. Although this will work as vibrato in some cases, generally, you’ll want to be able to go faster. No problem: Turn on Sync, and then you can obtain faster speeds by choosing faster sync values, like 1/8T or 1/16 at 120 BPM.
And that’s all there is to obtaining real vibrato effects with Studio One.
Using DX and DXi Plug-Ins with Studio One
The DX and DXi (instrument) plug-in formats for Windows were developed in the late 18th century, shortly after the invention of the steam-powered computer. Okay, okay…they’re not really that old, but development of new DX plug-ins ceased years ago when VST became the dominant plug-in lifeform for Windows. Regardless, you may still have some DX plug-ins installed on your computer from other programs, and want to use them.
Like many other programs, in theory Studio One doesn’t support DX/DXi plug-ins. However, it does support shell plug-ins (e.g., like Waves uses). This means you can use a wrapper that makes DX plug-ins look like they’re VST types. With this workaround, Studio One can “see” and load DX and DXi plug-ins because it thinks they’re VSTs.
I’ve tested the following with many DX and DXi plug-ins, from several manufacturers, in 64-bit Studio One. They can’t do sidechaining, and 32-bit plug-ins that were never updated to 64 bits aren’t compatible with 64-bit Windows, but otherwise they work as expected. Here’s how to make your DX and DXi plug-ins productive members of Studio One society.
That’s pretty much all there is to it. Open Studio One, and you’ll see all the DX and DXi plug-ins—the screenshot shows plug-ins from Cakewalk, rgc:audio, and Sony. The Instruments tabs will show any available DXi plug-ins.
I don’t have a 32-bit system so I didn’t test this with 32-bit DX shells. But if it works like the 64-bit one, you should be covered there as well.
Granted, this is a bit of a hollow victory because if a DX plug-in’s functionality is available with Studio One’s VST plug-ins, you’re better off using the VST versions. But there are still some DX effects that have no real equivalents in the modern world—and now you can use them.
Sample Magic is back! Well, they never really went away. But it has been a little while since they’ve had new stuff available at shop.presonus.com, and this time around they brought a whopping nine sample packs for your Studio One productions!
These loop and sample packs sound incredible, (almost magical, right?) and are compatible with Studio One Prime, Artist and Professional (Version 3.5.6 and higher). They also include Impact preset kits for making your own beats.
Assorted live instrumentation, Tycho-esque melodics and processed beats are the foundations of Indie Chill 2: Over 700 MB of overdriven keys, live bass guitars, and palm-muted Gibsons—this collection comes stocked with euphoric sounds blending the best of chilled electronica to ambient and indie rock/alternative. Featuring even more sounds, drum hits and high-quality guitar and bass loops, Indie Chill 2 is the perfect toolkit for any and all types of electronica and ambient music.
Future beats with a distinct retro flavour… The ultimate oxymoron brings succulent synths together with machine-drummed beats in Retro Future – a 900MB+ assortment of era-defining pop sensibilities and epic synthesized landscapes. Dive into an action-packed excursion of soundtrack themed melodics, pumping arpeggios, Disco-drummed beats and Tron-hinged analogue heaven.
An artful collage of west coast hip-hop, sample-heavy electronica and chilled trap – pulling in elements of jazz, funk and soul along the way – Low End Theory is a 799MB exploration of the influential LA beat scene made famous by the likes of Flying Lotus, Gaslamp Killer and Daedelus.
Spanning the edgy and experimental to the hazy and hypnotic, Low End Theory comes packed with punchy low-slung beats, thick and fuzzy bass, languid keys, kaleidoscopic synths, skittish percussion, wildly pitched vocals, heavily processed FX and stacks of characterful drum hits and melodic shots expertly crafted from over 100 hours of analogue jams, field recording trips and late-night studio sessions.
Fusing the leftfield sound of downtempo, trip hop, LA Beat and IDM; Glitched Beats delivers 390MB+ of futuristic rhythms, wavetable bass, abstract elements and glitched textures. Including an assortment of WAV and MIDI, Glitched Beats is produced using cutting-edge sound design software and processing to give instant, top quality inspiration-starters.
Deep, contemporary garage beats and lush melodics for ambient and evolving tracks. Classic vocal vibes combine with experimental electronics and modern sound-design for a diverse and slamming collection. Get to grips with over 500MB of shuffling acoustic rhythms, booming subby basslines, lush chord stabs, hooky vox shots and more.
From the creators of the best-selling Chillwave Trilogy comes Lo-fi Electronica, an 840MB+ collection of dusky beats, polaroid-tinged music loops, and beach-hazed melodics. Inspired by a leftfield approach to chillout, indie and synth-pop, Lo-fi Electronica is the product of a love affair with thrift store synths, garage-sale guitar pedals, and tape machines.
Modern beats, warm subs, and club-ready melodies: Future Pop 2 blends the best of the digital era’s hip-hop, R&B, and trap scenes. Processed through the finest hardware, we’ve once again gone all out with this 550MB+ futuristic collection of fat one-shots, pulsating loops, and ethereal FX.
Powerful, deep, and emotive – Organic Techno is an energetic and vigorous assortment of the very latest in modern techno production. Armed with analogue sequences, fluttering arps, harmonically-intriguing mallets, hypnotic percussive drums and immersive atmospheres, this collection is guaranteed to get the inspiration flowing and the mind creative.
Sometimes it seems that certain recorded sounds, like acoustic guitar attacks and percussion, just don’t have the “sparkle” you hear when they’re playing live. The Sparkler is a sophisticated brightening FX Chain that adds definition—without treble equalization.
The Sparkler is a parallel effect. Referring to the FX Chain structure, a Splitter in normal mode creates a dry path through the Mixtool. This increases the level by 6 dB to compensate for the volume drop that occurs when bypassing an FX Chain where one of the splits contributes no significant level. The other split goes to the Sparkler effect, which consists of the Pro EQ, Redlight Dist, and Dual Pan.
How it works. First, the signal goes through the Pro EQ, set for a steep (48 dB/octave) high-pass filter that leaves only the very highest frequencies intact. The Low Cutoff control varies the cutoff from 7.6 kHz to 12.5 kHz. The Redlight Dist synthesizes harmonics from those high frequencies. (Even though it has a High Freq control, that’s not drastic enough a cutoff—hence the Pro EQ.) The Soft/Hard control chooses between 1 or 2 distortion stages; stage 1 is my preference because it sounds more natural, but people with anger management issues might prefer 2 stages, which gives a nastier, more aggressive sound.
The Amount control sets the Redlight Dist output, which determines how much Sparkle gets added in parallel with the main signal. Use the Sparkle Bypass button to compare the sound with and without the Sparkle effect.
The reason for the Dual Pan module requires some explanation. The Sparkle FX Chain is intended for individual tracks, buses, and even master mixes when used subtly. Highs are very directional, so if with a bus or master there’s a trebly instrument mixed off to one side, like tambourine, the Sparkle effect can “tilt” the image toward the channel with more highs. The Center Highs control, when turned clockwise, brings the Left and Right “sparkle” channels more to center until when fully clockwise, the highs for both channels are centered.
Applying the Sparkle. To learn that the Sparkle effect does, it’s best to listen to the effect by itself and manipulate the controls to hear the results. Unfortunately you can’t assign FX Chain controls to Splitter parameters, so if you want to hear the Sparkle sound in isolation, go into the FX Chain and bring down the post-Mixtool level control all the way. As you tweak the Sparkle sound in isolation, grab only the highest audible frequencies, and avoid harsh distortion—you want just a hint of breakup, and only at the highest frequencies.
When using the Sparkle effect in context with a track of bus, start with the Amount control at minimum, and bring it up slowly. Use the Bypass button for a reality check—you want just a subtle brightening, not highs that hit you over the head and make dogs run away in panic. It takes a little effort to master what this effect can do, and it’s not something you want to use all the time. But when used properly, it can really add—well, sparkle—to tracks that need it.
I did a Harmonic Tremolo as a Sonar FX Chain tip, and it was very popular—so here’s a Studio One-specific version. For those not familiar with the term, some of the older, Fender “brown” amps used a variation on the standard, amplitude-oriented tremolo which the company called “harmonic tremolo.” It splits the signal into high and low bands, and then an LFO amplitude-modulates them out of phase so that the while the highs get louder, the lows get softer and vice-versa. The sound is quite different from a standard tremolo, and many players feel the sound is “sweeter.” But unlike a guitar amp, you can sync this tremolo to the rhythm—and that makes it a useful addition to groove-oriented music as well.
Here’s the FX Chain “schematic.”
X-Trem needs to be in Pan Mode or this won’t work. As a result, this FX Chain must be inserted in a stereo track—a mono track switches X-Trem to Tremolo Mode (although a mono file inserted in a track set to stereo will work). If you switch a stereo track to mono accidentally and then switch it back to stereo, you’ll need to click on the Reset button in the FX Chain to return X-Trem to Pan Mode.
In Pan mode, while the left X-Trem channel gets louder, the other becomes softer and vice-versa. The Splitter (in Channel Split mode) sends the left split to a Pro EQ set to High Cut, while the right split goes to a Pro EQ set to Low Cut; their frequencies track to set the split point between the high and low bands.
Finally the two outputs go to a Dual Pan, which provides several functions.
Crossover links the Pro EQ HC and LC Freq controls so you can adjust the split frequency between the high and low bands. At either the full clockwise or counter-clockwise position, the Harmonic Tremolo acts like a conventional tremolo.
Reset connects to the X-Trem Mode so you can reset it to Pan if needed.
LFO Speed controls the X-Trem speed from minimum to about 15 Hz. This control is inactive if the LFO Sync switch is on.
LFO Beats chooses the X-Trem sync rhythm and requires that the LFO Sync switch be on.
LFO Depth controls the X-Trem depth.
LFO Type chooses among the four standard waveforms (triangle, sine, sawtooth, square).
Lo/Hi Balance ties to the Dual Pan’s Input Bal knob. Fully counter-clockwise gives only the low band, clockwise gives only the high band, and the settings in between set the balance between the two bands.
Width controls the Dual Pan’s Width control. For the most authentic sound, leave this centered for mono operation (the Dual Pan should have Link enabled, and Pan set to <C>.
After assigning the controls, congratulations! You have your own Harmonic Tremolo… no soldering or guitar amps required!