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Conventional wisdom says that compared to compression, limiting is a less sophisticated type of dynamics control whose main use is to restrict dynamic range to prevent issues like overloading of subsequent stages. However, I sometimes prefer limiting with particular signal sources. For example:
THE E-Z LIMITER
Some limiters (especially some vintage types) are easy to use, almost by definition: One control sets the amount of limiting, and another sets the output level. But Studio One’s limiter has four main controls—Input, Ceiling, Threshold, and Release—and the first three interact.
If the Studio One Limiter looked like Fig. 1, it would still take care of most of your needs. In fact, many vintage limiters don’t go much beyond this in terms of functionality.
To do basic limiting:
Note that in this particular limiting application, the Threshold also determines the maximum output level.
THE SOFT CLIP BUTTON
When you set Threshold to a specific value, like 0.00 dB, then no matter how much you turn up the Limiter’s Input control, the output level won’t exceed 0.00 dB. However, you have two options of how to do this.
While it may sound crazy to want to introduce distortion, in many cases you’ll find you won’t hear the effects of saturation, and you’ll have a hotter output signal.
ENTER THE CEILING
There are two main ways to set the maximum output level:
It’s also possible to set maximum output levels below -12.00 dB. Turn either the Ceiling or Threshold control all the way counter-clockwise to -12.00 dB, then turn down the other control to lower the maximum output level. With both controls fully counter-clockwise, the maximum output level can be as low as -24 dB.
SMOOTHING THE TRANSITION INTO LIMITING
Setting the Ceiling lower than the Threshold is a special case, which allows smoothing the transition into limiting somewhat. Under this condition, the Limiter applies soft-knee compression as the input transitions from below the threshold level to above it.
For example, suppose the Ceiling is 0.00 dB and the Threshold is -6.00 dB. As you turn up the input, you would expect that the output would be the same as the input until the input reaches around -6 dB, at which point the output would be clamped to that level. However in this case, soft-knee compression starts occurring a few dB below -6.00 dB, and the actual limiting to -6.00 dB doesn’t occur until the input is a few dB above -6.00 dB.
The tradeoff for smoothing this transition somewhat is that the Threshold needs to be set below 0.00. In this example, the maximum output is -6.00 dB. If you want to bring it up to 0.00 dB, then you’ll need to add makeup gain using Mixtool module.
Studio One’s Limiter is a highly versatile signal processor, so don’t automatically ignore it in favor of the Compressor or Multiband Dynamics—with some audio material, it could be exactly what you need.
Some instruments, when compressed, lack “sparkle” if the stronger, lower frequencies compress high frequencies as well as lower ones. This is a common problem with guitar, but there’s a solution: the Compressor’s internal sidechain can apply compression to only the guitar’s lower frequencies, while leaving the higher frequencies uncompressed so they “ring out” above the compressed sound. (Multiband compression works for this too, but sidechaining can be a faster and easier way to accomplish the same results.) Frequency-selective compression can also be effective with drums, dance mixes, and other applications—like the “pumping drums” effect covered in the Friday Tip for October 5, 2018. Here’s how to do frequency-selective compression with guitar.
The compression controls are fairly critical in this application, so you’ll probably need to tweak them a bit to obtain the desired results.
If you need more flexibility than the internal filter can provide, there’s a simple workaround.
Copy the guitar track. You won’t be listening to this track, but using it solely as a control track to drive the Compressor sidechain. Insert a Pro EQ in the copied track, adjust the EQ’s range to cover the frequencies you want to compress, and assign the copied track’s output to the Compressor sidechain. Because we’re not using the internal sidechain, click the Sidechain button in the Compressor’s header to enable the external sidechain.
The bottom line is that “compressed” and “lively-sounding” don’t have to be mutually exclusive—try frequency-selective compression, and find out for yourself.
Big news for StudioLive Series III mixer owners—get ready for some dramatic improvements to your mixer in the new StudioLive FLEX DSP update!
This update,w̶h̶i̶c̶h̶ ̶w̶i̶l̶l̶ ̶b̶e̶ ̶r̶e̶l̶e̶a̶s̶e̶d̶ ̶n̶e̶x̶t̶ ̶w̶e̶e̶k̶, which you can get RIGHT NOW, consists of:
Once you’ve installed the above, here’s what you’ll get:
New in StudioLive Series III Firmware 2.0:
Note that this update WILL restructure your existing scenes—be sure to back them up before installing the update! Click here for instructions on how to do that.
New in Capture 3.0:
New in Studio One 4.1.4:
New in UC Surface 3.0:
Questions? Check out this series of videos from Ray on all the new stuff.
Großartige Neuigkeiten für alle Besitzer von StudioLive Series III Mixern – macht euch auf einige dramatische Verbesserungen im neuen StudioLive FLEX DSP Update gefasst!
Dieses Update, welches wir in ca. einer Woche veröffentlichen werden, enthält:
Sobald diese Updates installiert sind, erhaltet ihr folgendes:
Neu in StudioLive Series III Firmware 2.0:
Bitte beachtet, dass dieses Update bereits existierende Szenen NEU STRUKTURIEREN wird – Bitte lege für diese ein Backup an, bevor das Update installiert wird! Hier klicken, um die Backup-Anleitung zu lesen.
Neu in Capture 3.0:
Neu in Studio One 4.1.4:
Neu in UC Surface 3.0:
You’re probably aware that several Studio One audio processors offer sidechaining—Compressor, Autofilter, Gate, Expander, and Channel Strip. However, both the Spectrum Meter and the Pro EQ spectrum meter also have sidechain inputs, which can be very handy. Let’s look at Pro EQ sidechaining first.
When you enable sidechaining, you can feed another track’s output into the Pro EQ’s spectrum analyzer, while still allowing the Pro EQ to modify the track into which it’s inserted. When sidechained, the Spectrum mode switches to FFT curve (the Third Octave and Waterfall options aren’t available). The blue line indicates the level of the signal going through the Pro EQ, while the violet line represents the sidechain signal.
As a practical example of why this is useful, the screen shot shows two drum loops from different drum loop libraries that are used in the same song. The loop feeding the sidechain loop has the desired tonal qualities, so the loop going through the EQ is being matched as closely as possible to the sidechained loop (as shown by a curve that applies more high end, and a slight midrange bump).
Another example would be when overdubbing a vocal at a later session than the original vocal. The vocalist might be off-axis or further away from the mic, which would cause a slight frequency response change. Again, the Pro EQ’s spectrum meter can help point out any differences by comparing the frequency response of the original vocal to the overdub’s response.
The Spectrum Meter
Sidechaining with the Spectrum Meter provides somewhat different capabilities compared to the Pro EQ’s spectrum analyzer.
With sidechain enabled, the top view shows the spectrum of the track into which you’ve inserted the Spectrum Meter. The lower view shows the spectrum of the track feeding the sidechain. When sidechained, all the Spectrum Meter analysis modes are available except for Waterfall and Sonogram.
While useful for comparing individual tracks (as with the Pro EQ spectrum meter), another application is to help identify frequency ranges in a mix that sound overly prominent. Insert the Spectrum Meter in the master bus, and you’ll be able to see if a specific frequency range that sounds more prominent actually is more prominent (in the screen shot, the upper spectrum shows a bump around 600 Hz in the master bus). Now you can send individual tracks that may be causing an anomaly into the Spectrum Metre’s sidechain input to determine which one(s) are contributing the most energy in this region. In the lower part of the screen shot, the culprit turned out to be a guitar part with a wah that emphasized a particular frequency. Cutting the guitar EQ just a little bit around 600 Hz helped even out the mix’s overall sound.
Of course, the primary way to do EQ matching is by ear. However, taking advantage of Studio One’s analysis tools can help speed up the process by identifying specific areas that may need work, after which you can then do any needed tweaking based on what you hear. Although “mixing with your eyes” isn’t the best way to mix, supplementing what you hear with what you see can expedite the mixing process, and help you learn to correlate specific frequencies with what you hear—and there’s nothing wrong with that.
Jeff Timmons is a singer, songwriter, producer, and founding member of the Grammy-nominated, iconic 90s pop group 98 Degrees! The group has six studio albums, has sold over 10 million records worldwide, and have eight Top 40 singles in the US. Additionally, Jeff has worked on numerous other projects including two solo albums and has continued to establish himself in the music industry as a producer. We connected with Jeff on Twitter and discovered his love for Studio One. We recently had the opportunity to catch up with him and ask a few questions regarding his work and Studio One.
Give us some background on yourself. How long have you been making music?
We started 98 Degrees way back in 1995. We signed to Motown in ‘96, then were upstreamed to Universal shortly after. I’ve been producing and engineering since ‘99.
How has the music industry changed since your early days?
The obvious is the digital streaming component. It’s completely changed the game. There is a lot less artist development, unfortunately. But, your ability to be virally prolific is exponential and amazing.
Do you ever get sick of talking about 98 Degrees?
Not at all. Being a part of something like that has been a complete blessing. We’re very fortunate to have an amazing fanbase and to be still selling out shows 25 years later.
Describe the first time you wrote a song?
I first started writing songs in high school and I didn’t get into production until I built my first rig in the late 90s. I had all of this massive hardware in a road case and would cart it around from city to city, and back and forth from the tour bus. Wow, how times have changed!
Who has been an influence in your life?
From a production standpoint, everyone from Babyface, Max Martin, Anders Bagge, Dr. Luke, Benny Blanco, Timbaland… it’s a long list!
Have you ever wanted to give up on music?
A million times. Everyone knows it’s a hard business.
What keeps you going?
My love and passion for creating and playing with sounds won’t let me give up on it.
What do you like about Studio One?
The ease of use and GUI is amazing. The drag and drop of synths and VSTs, the new key detection feature, sequencing… these are all incredible features.
When did you first hear about Studio One?
I heard about it when it first came out. I’m always looking to get better, and my friend Dominic Rodriguez, who I really trust and is prolific in the K-pop space suggested I try it; I didn’t waste any time and joined. He was right! Learning a new DAW is like learning a new language.
What features are you most impressed with in Studio One?
The ease of use, and how quickly I can get things laid out. Again, the new key detection is amazing. The fact that I can then change the key to match on all of the tracks in a non-destructive way is just mind-blowing. I recommend it to everyone.
Any user tips or tricks or interesting stories based on your experience with Studio One?
I love how you can combine virtual instruments on single tracks. That’s incredible to me.
How easy/difficult was Studio One to learn?
I’m still learning all of the tricks and features because there are so many, but it didn’t take me long to start flying with it.
Where do you go for inspiration?
I get inspired by a lot of things. I’ll hear a new song, a riff or beat or melody of an old one, or a new idea will just pop into my head.
Recent projects? What’s next for you?
I’m working with a number of projects. I did all of the music for a show on Discovery Science called “Droned.” I’m working with a new hip-hop artist, a male vocal group called Overnight, and a young female pop sensation named Nicole Michelle.
One of my favorite techniques for larger-than-life sounds is layering a synthesizer waveform behind a sampled sound. For example, layering a sine wave along with piano or acoustic guitar, then mixing the sine wave subtly in the background, reinforces the fundamental. With either instrument, this can give a powerful low end. Layering a triangle wave with harp imparts more presence to sampled harps, and layering a triangle wave an octave lower with a female choir sounds like you’ve added a bunch of guys singing along.
Another favorite, which we’ll cover in detail with this week’s tip, is layering a sawtooth or pulse wave with strings. I like those syrupy, synthesized string sounds that were so popular back in the 70s, although I don’t like the lack of realism. On the other hand, sampled strings are realistic, but aren’t lush enough for my tastes. Combine the two, though, and you get lush realism. Here’s how.
That’s all there is to it. Listen to the audio example—first you’ll hear only the Presence sound, then the two layers for a lusher, more synthetic vibe that also incorporates some of the realism of sampling. Happy orchestrating!