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Friday Tips: What’s a Phase Meter—And Why Should I Care?

I’ve always appreciated Studio One’s analytics—the spectrum analyzer, the dynamic range meter in older versions and the more modern LUFS metering in Studio One 4, the K-Scale meters based on Bob Katz’s research, the strobe tuner, and the ability to stretch the faders in the Mix view when you want to couple high resolution with long fader travel. But I wonder if the Phase Meter and its companion Correlation Meter get the props they deserve, so let’s look at what this combo can do for you.

Phase Meters—Not Just for Mixdowns!

Most people consider a tool like the Phase Meter as being only for checking final mixes. However, one very useful technique is putting it in the master output bus, and soloing one track at a time (remember, you can Alt+click on a track’s Solo button for an “exclusive solo” function). This gives some insights into the phase, level, and stereo spread of individual tracks in a way that’s more revealing than just looking over panpots.

Correlation Meter Basics

In brief, the Correlation meter (the bar graph at the Phase meter’s bottom) indicates a stereo signal’s mono compatibility. This was of crucial importance when mastering for vinyl, because it could indicate if there were out-of-phase audio components in the audio that could possibly cause the stylus to jump out of its groove. These days, it’s largely a stereo world but it’s still important to check for mono compatibility—after all, when listening to speakers, you don’t have perfect stereo separation. You’ll usually monitor correlation in the master bus, but for individual tracks, it can indicate whether (for example) a signal processor is throwing a track’s left and right channels out of phase.

The Correlation meter reading spans the range between -1 (the right and left channels are completely out of phase, with no correlation) and +1 (the right and left channels are identical, and correlate completely). With most mixes, the bar graph will fluctuate between 0 and +1.

Mono Readings

If the Phase meter displays a single vertical line, then the left and right channels are identical, and the track is mono. The Correlation bar graph meter at the bottom confirms this with its reading of 1.00, which means the left and right channels correlate completely—in other words, they aren’t just similar, but identical.

Left and Right Readings

If there’s a single, diagonal line on the L axis, that means that all the signal’s energy is concentrated in the left channel. Similarly if there’s a single, diagonal line on the R axis, then all the signal’s energy is concentrated in the right channel. If you pan a track where the left and right channels are identical (as shown by the Correlation meter displaying 1.00), then the line will move from one channel to the other.

Stereo Signals

With stereo, you’ll see an excellent visual representation of how much the signal extends into the stereo field. The vertical size indicates the level. As you pan the signal left or right, the stereo field will become narrower around the line that moves from left to right until at one extreme or the other, you’ll see only a diagonal line on the L or R axis.

Note the correlation meter is showing +0.47. This means that there’s about an equal amount of similarity between the left and right channels as there are differences, but nothing is out of phase.

Mid-Side Encoded Audio

With Mid-Side encoded audio, you’ll see amplitude around the L and R axes, as well as along the M axis. Because the L signal is the center and the R signal the sides, you’ll see a lot more level along the L axis. Also, note the Correlation meter setting of 0.00—this means that there’s no similarity between the right and left channels, which is what you’d expect with a Mid-Side encoded signal.

Binaural Pan Signal

Studio One’s Binaural Pan processor widens the stereo image so that there’s much more energy in the right and left sides than in the center; this image shows what happens when you set the widening to maximum. Compare this to the reading for stereo signals—you can see that in this case, the energy extends further out to the right and left. Furthermore, the Correlation meter shows that there are no significant similarities between the right and left channels, which is a result of the Binaural Pan processor being based on Mid-Side processing.

Phase Issues

Here, the Correlation meter shows a negative number, which means there are out-of-phase elements within the stereo mix. Occasional negative blips aren’t a problem, but if the Correlation meter spends a substantial amount of time to the left of 0, then there’s a phase issue that will interfere with mono compatibility.

 

Friday Tips: Create the “Barberpole” Audio Illusion

The Shepard Tone (aka Barberpole) is an audio illusion where a tone always seems to keep rising (or falling). You may have heard it before—to build tension in music by Swedish House Mafia, Beatsystem, Data Life, and Franz Ferdinand, as the sound effect for the endless staircase in Super Mario 64, for the sound of constant acceleration for the Batpod in The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises, at the end of Pink Floyd’s “Echoes” from the Meddle album, or in the soundtrack for the film Dunkirk in sections where the goal was to produce a vibe of increasing intensity. Check out the audio example, and you’ll hear how the tone just goes on forever.

 

Thanks to Studio One’s Tone Generator, it’s easy to produce a Shepard Tone loop—just follow the step-by-step instructions, in a song with the tempo set to 120 BPM.

 

  1. Insert the Tone Generator in the Input L+R insert section so that you can record its tone, and edit the Tone Generator generator’s settings as shown in the screen shot. The goal is the longest possible sine wave sweep from 20 Hz to 22 kHz.

 

  1. Start recording, then click the Tone Generator’s On button. After recording the file, trim the beginning and end respectively to just before and just after you can hear a tone, and add a short fade in and fade out.

  1. As shown above, copy the track, and offset each track’s beginning by two measures compared to the track above it. Keep copying and offsetting until the start of the last track is at the same measure as the end of the first track.

  1. Now select all, and drag the entire group to the right so that there’s a bit of an overlap between the two groups. Select everything, then type X to turn the overlap into a crossfade with a linear curve. Next, create a loop that extends from the start of the lowest track to the end of the highest track.

 

  1. Choose Song > Export Mixdown, set the Export Range to Between Loop, and under Options, check Import to Track and Close After Export. Solo the mixed track, and play it—you’ll hear a continuously rising tone. Now we need to turn it into a loop.

 

  1. Follow the instructions in the July 27 Friday Tip of the Week on how to create pads that loop perfectly. The above screen shot shows the basic concept; Track 1 shows the first steps. Copy the clip, move the copy to the right so it overlaps the last four measures of the original clip, and then crossfade the overlap with a linear crossfade.

 

  1. Track 2 in the screen shot shows the next step. Bounce the two clips together, then split at the end of measure 4 to remove the first four measures, and at the end of the crossfade to remove everything after the crossfade. Loop the section that remains, and you have your never-ending upward Shepard Tone, as a glitchless loop. Note that when you bring it into a project, don’t stretch it to conform to tempo—there is no tempo. And if you want it to go on forever…just keep typing D!

 

Download the loop here!

 

Bonus Tips:

 

  • I recommend adding a Pro EQ—reduce the high frequencies somewhat with the HC (High Cut) filter, and boost the low frequencies with a bit of a shelf, to increase the illusion’s effectiveness.
  • The “classic” Shepard Tone requires that the tones be one octave apart. However, offsetting them by 2 measures at 120 BPM seems close enough.

 

 

Studio One 4 User, James Reynolds, at the Top of the Charts!

Currently sitting in the no.1 and no.2 slot on the USA iTunes Charts are two songs mixed by mix engineer, music producer and songwriter James Reynolds who also is a Studio One user!

As a huge fan of the DAW, Reynolds worked with us on the development of the new Studio One 4, and it’s his go-to DAW for many reasons.

Reynolds was recently interviewed for Sound on Sound Magazine. Check out some of the article here. Here are just a few things he had to say about Studio One:

“I was on Cubase for a while, and then I switched to Logic. I stayed in Logic for a long time, rather than moving to Pro Tools, because I found Logic more creative. But when I discovered Studio One I really liked it, and today it is absolutely perfect!”

“Pro Tools and Studio One are very similar, because Studio One is designed to make it very easy to convert to for Pro Tools users, who would find it a piece of cake. Where it differs is in the drag‐and‐drop workflow, which is super‐fast. You have a sidebar with all your plug‐ins listed in your folders, and you just pull a plug‐in on the channel or the bus, and it will set up the routing for you. It is designed to be super‐quick. It has also taken a leaf out of Ableton’s book, so all your samples can be previewed real‐time and will automatically loop in time. Plus it has gone next level, for example in that you can create splits of your plug‐in signals within your channels. So let’s say you have a lead vocal, and you want to do a parallel bus for it within that channel, you do the split inside the plug‐in, and this gives you a lot of control very easily. It is all very well thought‐out and the automation is fantastic, and so is the MIDI.”

 

Click here to read more

Here’s more on what he has to say on Studio One. He’s basically the expert.

One more thing…. BTS’s latest release “IDOL” mixed by James, now holds the record for the biggest music video debut in YouTube’s history with over 45 million views in the first 24 hours! So that’s awesome.

Huge congrats to James and we’re so stoked for your success! Keep up with his success here.

Join the Studio One family here!

Friday Tip of the Week – EZ Squeez: the One-Knob Compressor!

Sometimes you just want a compressor that’s quick and easy. Maybe you’re tracking and need to compress the vocals, or hear what the bass will sound like when you add some compression on mixdown. But you know what happens—you adjust the threshold, and then the ratio, but now realize you need to re-adjust the threshold, which means the output gain needs adjusting…and maybe the knee…

If you have a bunch of ready-to-go presets, great. But here’s another option: The EZ Squeez compressor. It uses an FX Chain macro to alter six compressor parameters at once, so that a single knob sweeps from no compression, to some compression, to compression that’s more like a guitar sustainer stompbox. Although there’s a downloadable preset, I’d recommend reverse-engineering this to learn the power of the FX Chain’s Macro Controls. The principles used in this FX Chain apply to many other processors.

 

Figure 1: Three different Macro Control settings.

Figure 1 (top) shows the compressor settings with the EZ Squeez knob turned all the way counter-clockwise (minimal compression). As you turn up the EZ Squeez control, the Ratio, Release, and Gain increase, while the Threshold, Knee, and Attack decrease. The middle image shows the EZ Squeez knob turned up about 60% of the way. Turned up all the way, the parameter values become more extreme, as shown in the lower part of the screen shot.

Figure 2: (Top) Macro Controls parameters and (bottom) Macro Controls interface.

Figure 2 shows the Macro Controls. Rather than expose the control settings, it’s easier just to download the Multipreset, and then click on the curves for yourself. Note the curves on the Gain and Release parameters. Given that there’s only one node on the curve you can’t get too sophisticated, but these are close enough to give a fairly even response as you move the knob from fully counter-clockwise to fully clockwise.

Because compressors are so dependent on the input signal level, I did cheat on the “one-knob” concept and added an input level control. This allows trimming the input level so that it falls in the compressor’s “sweet spot.” There’s also a bypass button so you can compare the compressed and uncompressed sounds.

As to applications, you’ll probably find that EZ Squeez knob settings of 30% to 65% will work for a variety of signal sources. Past that point, the compressor gets into a more extreme territory that pumps mixed drums, and acts more like a sustainer for guitar. But it’s easy enough to find what works the best—just turn the knob until the compression sounds right. After all, that’s the whole point!

Download the EZ Squeez.multipreset

 

 

 

Friday Tip: Rotating Speaker Emulator FX Chain

A rotating speaker is an extremely complex signal processor (as most mechanical signal processors are—like plate reverbs). It combines phase shifts, Doppler shifts, positional changes, timbral variations, and more. And of course, Studio One includes the Rotor processor, which does a fine job of capturing the classic rotating speaker sound.

However, I’ve always felt that rotating speakers have a lot more potential as an effect than just emulating physical versions—hence this FX chain. By “deconstructing” the elements that make up the rotating speaker sound, you can customize it not only to tweak the rotating speaker effect to your liking, but to create useful variations that don’t necessarily relate to “the real thing.” What if you want a speed that’s between slow and fast? Or a subtler effect that works well with guitar? Or simulate the way that the horn spins faster when changing speeds because it has less inertia than the woofer? This FX chain provides a useful, more subtle variation on Rotor’s rotating speaker sound—check out the audio example—but the best way to take advantage of this week’s tip is to download the multipreset, roll up your sleeves, and start playing around.

Rotating speaker basics. There are two rotating speakers—one high-frequency driver, and one low-frequency drum. A crossover splits the signal to these two paths, so we’ll start the emulation by setting the Splitter to Frequency Split mode around 800 Hz. Here’s the routing.

The high-frequency and low-frequency paths each go into a Flanger to provide Doppler and phase shifts, and an X-Trem for subtle panning to provide the positional cues. Let’s look at the individual module settings.

 

The Analog Delay adds a 23 ms reflection for a bit of a room sound vibe, with some modulation to add a Doppler shift accent. Finally, an Open Air reverb (using the 480 Hall from Medium Halls) creates a space for the rotating speaker.

Knob Control. This was the hardest part of the emulation, because changing speed has to alter (of course) Flanger speed, but also the Flanger’s LFO Width because you want less width at faster LFO speeds. The X-Trem speed and Analog Delay LFO speed also need to follow the range from slow to fast.

However, the curves for the control changes are quite challenging because the controls don’t all cover the same range. Fortunately you can “bend” curves in FX Chains, but you can’t have more than one node. As a result, I optimized the knob settings for the lowest and highest speeds—besides, a real rotating speaker switches to either speed, and “glides” between the two settings as it changes from one to the other. An additional subtlety is that the high-frequency “speaker” needs to rotate just a little faster than the low-frequency one. Also, they shouldn’t track each other exactly when going from the slowest to the fastest speed because with a physical rotating speaker, the low-frequency drum has more inertia.

All these curves do complicate editing any automation, because you need to write-enable each parameter when you turn the knob. So if you need to change some automation moves you made, I recommend not trying to edit each curve—just try another performance with the knob.

Oh, and don’t forget to try this on instruments other than organ!

CLICK HERE TO DOWNLOAD!

 

Listen here:

Friday Tip: Smoother, Gentler Sidechain Gating

I’ve always been fascinated with using one instrument to modulate another—like using a vocoder on guitar or pads, but with drums as the modulator instead of voice. This kind of processing is a natural for dance music, and using a noise gate’s sidechain to gate one instrument with another (e.g., bass gated by kick drum) is a common technique.

However, the sound of gating has always seemed somewhat abrupt to me, regardless of how I tweaked a gate’s attack, decay, threshold, and range parameters. I wanted something that felt a little more natural, a little less electro, and gave more flexibility. The answer is a bit off the wall, but try it—or at least listen to the audio example.

 

Setup requires copying the track you want to modulate (the middle track below), and then using the Mixtool to flip the copy’s audio 180 degrees out of phase (i.e., enable Invert Phase). This causes the audio from the original track and its copy to cancel. Then, insert a compressor in the copy, and feed its sidechain with a send from the track doing the modulating. In this case, it’s the drum track at the top.

 

 

When the compressor kicks in, it reduces the gain of the audio that’s out of phase, thus reducing the amount of cancellation. However, as you’ll hear in the example, the gain changes don’t have the same character as gating.

You can also take this technique further with automation. The screen shot shows automation that’s adjusting the compressor’s threshold; the lower the threshold, the less cancellation. Raising the threshold determines when the “gating” effect occurs. Also, it’s worth experimenting with the Auto and Adaptive modes for Attack and Release, as well as leaving them both turned off and setting their parameters manually.

Using a compressor for “gating” allows for flexibility that eluded me when adjusting a standard noise gate. If you want super-tight rhythmic sync between two instruments, this is an unusual—but useful—alternative to sidechain-based gating.

Studio One 4 is Here!

 

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:

  • Chord track for real-time chord re-harmonization of instrument tracks and audio tracks; chord selector, Song Key Signature, Chord Transposing
  • Impact XT Drum Instrument with 8 pad banks, 32 outputs, filters, trigger quantize, real-time time-stretching, and more
  • Sample One XT sampler with record page, live sampling from nearly anything, auto-slicing, robust FX section, real-time time-stretching
  • New Music Editing Options including  intuitive Drum Editor and Drum and Melodic Patterns
  • AAF support and Song Data Import
  • New, lighter color options available

Click here to get a complete list of what’s new in Studio One 4. (PDF) 


Where to buy: 

 


Click here to watch the live webcast announcement with tons of feature videos, artist performances, and more:


Here’s our Studio One 4 YouTube playlist, with all of the webcast segments plus a whole lot more:

Where to buy: