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Monthly Archives: July 2022

Super Stereo and Mondo Mono

This is my first FX Chain designed for Project page songs, although it also works for tracks and buses in the Song page. It’s based on mid-side processing. Fig. 1 shows the control panel, with switch-selectable Super Stereo (side emphasis) and Mondo Mono (center/mid emphasis). Complementary gain controls for the Mid and Side fine-tune the levels. Trim compensates for level changes caused by adjusting the other controls.

Figure 1: FX Chain control panel.

How It Works

Actually, you don’t need to know how it works—just download the FX Chain for Studio One Professional. (If you want to see an Artist version, let me know in the Comments.) For the curious, fig. 2 shows the “block diagram.”

Figure 2: Block diagram.

The Mixtool encodes the stereo signal into mid and side channels, and the Splitter splits them into two parallel paths. Each path has a 2.0 ms Analog delay, with Modulation used as a “secret weapon”—it adds an extremely subtle 3D quality on headphones. Enabling the delay in the side path extends the stereo image outward, while enabling the delay in the mid path squeezes the image more to mono.

Each path has a Gain control for adjusting the mid and side levels. Use these to fine-tune the switched settings.

The second-to-last Mixtool adds a fixed 6 dB of gain to compensate for the encoding/decoding process. The final Mixtool provides the Trim control’s ±6 dB of cut/gain. Fig. 3 shows the results of using this effect.

Figure 3: Dry audio (left), Super Stereo (middle), Mondo Mono (right).

How to Use It

This is not one of those effects that sounds best if you turn everything up full. The default has all controls flat. Start by enabling Super Stereo. Turn that off. Enable Mondo Mono. You’ll hear an obvious difference. Then turn both off, and play with the Gain controls for the Mid and Side. As to modulation, sometimes you can hear the effect, sometimes not.

Use Mondo Mono to tweak something that you know is going to play back over a mono, or close-to-mono, sound system. Turn the Side gain up all the way, then enable Mondo Mono. This mixes the sides more into mono, so they translate well in a mono mix.

In the audio example, the first half is without processing. Then the same phrase repeats in Super Stereo, with modulation up full. Both have been edited to the same LUFS value. I think you’ll hear the difference, especially if you go back to the first half after listening to the second half—which definitely “pops” more.

[insert audio example, Super Stereo.mp3]

Super Stereo

Download the Super Stereo Mondo Mono.multipreset here

For more tips on how to get the most out of Studio One, check out the series of Studio One eBooks that cover tips & tricks, creative mixing, recording/mixing vocals, dynamics processors, and recording/mixing guitar. Remember, just like software, eBook owners can download the latest “point” updates for free from their PreSonus account (or Sweetwater account, if purchased from there). Owners are also eligible for new editions at a reduced price.

Purify Your Reverb

With algorithmic reverbs (like the Room Reverb), you might be surprised at how much dry sound makes its way to the output, even with the dry/wet control set to all wet. Normally we don’t think about this—the reverb’s in a bus, it’s 100% wet, end of story. But this causes a certain lack of clarity, because the dry sound we want to hear by itself has to compete with a reverberated version of itself. Removing the last vestiges of dry sound from a reverb bus by adding a second, out-of-phase reverb in a parallel bus increases clarity, and spreads the reverb more.

Here’s the sound of conventional reverb. Even though there’s no dry sound mixed in, you can still hear plenty of piano.

Normal Reverb

Next, the sound of pure reverb. There’s less piano, and the reverb stretches out to the sides. This leaves more space in the middle for mixing in the dry piano we do want to hear.

Pure Reverb

Of course, if your productions are loaded with tracks, these subtle differences may not matter. But if  you do productions with solo instruments, prioritize vocals, or prefer minimal track counts in your own work, the purer reverb sound can improve the final mix’s clarity and space.

How It Works

We’re stealing a page from mid-side processing, without actually doing it. Instead of the usual, single reverb bus, this technique uses two reverb buses in parallel. The same algorithmic reverb, with the same settings, is in both buses (fig. 1).

Figure 1: Routing for the pure reverb effect.

The second bus has a Mixtool inserted. Its sole purpose is to flip the reverb’s phase (fig. 2).

Figure 2: Mixtool parameter settings.

That’s all there is to it. There are only a few tips:

  • Make sure the send going to each reverb is at the same level.
  • You can change the characteristics for one reverb (e.g., Length) and the common audio will still cancel, as long as the two reverbs are at the same level.
  • For this technique to work with convolution reverb, you also need to enable Swap Channels in the Mixtool. This is because convolution reverb doesn’t have the same variations as algorithmic reverb, with which this technique works best.  
  • Advanced tip: If you follow one of the reverbs with a Pro EQ, boosting within a frequency range will reduce cancellation in that range, so the dry sound will creep back in. For example, boost the highs, and the common sound’s higher frequencies will be reverberated.

Finally, let’s hear the sound in context. The main track is a dry piano part. In the first and third parts, the piano feeds a standard reverb bus, set to wet sound only. In the second and fourth parts, the piano feeds the purified reverb bus. You’ll hear that in these parts, the reverb “floats” out more to the sides, is more prominent even though it’s not louder, and the dry piano sound mixed with the reverb is more defined. For the most objective comparison, the piano is not mixed higher in the 2nd and 4th parts, so it does sound a little softer than in the 1st and 3rd parts, where the piano’s sound is inherently mixed in with the reverb.

In Context

For more tips on how to get the most out of Studio One, check out the series of Studio One eBooks that cover tips & tricks, creative mixing, recording/mixing vocals, dynamics processors, and recording/mixing guitar. Remember, eBook owners can download the latest “point” updates for free from their PreSonus account (or Sweetwater account, if purchased from there), just like software. Owners are also eligible for new editions at a reduced price.

“Pump” Your Pads and Power Chords

I’ve written about how to get that cool “pumped” drum sound using the Compressor’s internal sidechain—but I’ve never written about how to obtain the traditional, sidechain-based pumping sound that works with any sustained audio. Apologies! Let’s remedy that oversight.

If you’re not familiar with this effect, a waveform is worth a thousand words. Here, the drum track’s kick is pumping the Mai Tai synth part, which would otherwise be sustaining (like it does at the end).

Pump It (Eurosphere Mix)

The Routing

Fig. 1 shows the routing. The Drum Mix track’s signal goes through a pre-fader send to a Bus. To isolate the kick sound going through the Bus, the Pro EQ cuts off the highs, and boosts the bass. The kick signal from the Bus goes through a pre-fader send to the sidechain of a Compressor in the synth track. The Compressor does the pumping.

Figure 1: Signal flow for pumping a synth pad or power chord with the kick from a mixed drum loop.

The Bus EQ

Fig. 2 shows the EQ settings. Yes, I know it’s horribly distorted. But it doesn’t matter, because we don’t hear it. We just want a big honkin’ blob of kick energy to bombard the compressor’s sidechain…which this does.

Figure 2: Only two stages are highlighted, because that’s all we need

The Compressor

Fig. 3 shows the settings used in the audio example, but these are quite critical. You’ll likely need to tweak them for your specific musical scenario.

Figure 3: Compressor settings.
  • Lower Threshold = deeper pumping
  • Higher Ratio = more aggressive pumping
  • Higher Release = longer recovery from the pump
  • Higher Knee value = slightly less abrupt pumping
  • Auto and Adaptive = leave them off—we don’t want a natural compression sound
  • Mix = the secret weapon! Go from a hint of pumping at low percentages, to extreme pumpological action at 100%. And remember: this parameter is automatable. Just sayin.’
  • Pre-fader send to the Compressor’s Sidechain = tweak this for the most consistent results.

Frankly, I never get tired of this effect. I hope you enjoy it!

For more tips on how to get the most out of Studio One, check out the series of Studio One eBooks that cover tips & tricks, creative mixing, recording/mixing vocals, dynamics processors, and recording/mixing guitar. Remember, eBook owners can download the latest “point” updates for free from their PreSonus account (or Sweetwater account, if purchased from there), just like software. Owners are also eligible for new editions at a reduced price.

Multiband Harmonic Tremolo

If you’ve been following the Friday Tip blog posts, then you know two things: I actually use the stuff I write about, and ask “What if?” a lot. Those attributes come together into this post, which is more like a mod of two previous posts.

The March 26, 2018 post was The “Harmonic Tremolo” FX Chain. Unlike a standard tremolo, which does periodic modulation between high and low volume levels, a harmonic tremolo does periodic modulation between high and low frequency bands. In other words, the modulation is frequency-based instead of amplitude-based.

Then on June 3 of this year, the post was Spruce Up Your Mono Guitar’s Image. This split the signal to two Ampire graphic EQs only (no amp and no cab), with their sliders set oppositely—if one band’s slider was up on one graphic EQ, the same band’s slider was down on the other EQ. The result is a stereo image from a mono instrument like guitar or vintage synths. However, this particular effect can also impart some very interesting sounds to pads when you slow the X-Trem speed way down.

The “Aha!” Moment

When using both tips in one project, I wondered what would happen if I inserted the X-Trem from “The Harmonic Tremolo FX Chain” before the Splitter in “Spruce Up Your Mono Guitar’s Image.” Bingo! This creates a multiband harmonic tremolo that sounds pretty darn cool. Simply make the following mods in the June 3 post.

For the Studio One Artist version, which uses pre-fader Sends and Buses, insert the X-Trem into the Instrument track. Choose Pan mode (fig. 1).

Figure 1:  X-Trem settings for either the Studio One Artist or Studio One Professional version.

The two pre-fader sends from the Instrument track go to two buses hosting their own Ampires, each with the graphic EQ settings shown in the June 3 post. These then feed into the Main Bus (fig. 2). However, note that we can simplify this particular implementation, because we’ll usually want to vary the levels and panning of the Left and Right buses. For example, panning Right to center and Left to hard left spreads the sound from center to left.

Figure 2: Studio One Artist routing for the Multiband Harmonic Tremolo.

The downloadable Multiband Harmonic Tremolo FX Chain for Studio One Professional doesn’t need a control panel, because it can expose the crucial parameters (X-Trem Depth and Speed, Dual Pan Left and Right controls) when you expand the related plug-ins (fig. 3).

Figure 3: FX Chain for the Multiband Harmonic Tremolo.

The routing (fig. 4) is the same as for the Harmonic Tremolo in the 2018 post, except that the Ampire graphic EQs replace the two Pro EQs.

Figure 4: Multiband Harmonic Tremolo FX Chain routing.

That’s all there is to it. If you thought tremolo effects didn’t have any more life to them—this sucker just might change your mind! And I’ve learned that just because there’s a standard definition of what a harmonic tremolo does, that doesn’t mean we can’t invent new approaches.

Download the appropriate FX Chain for your version of Ampire:

Multiband Harmonic Tremolo.multipreset for standard Ampire

Multiband Harmonic Tremolo HD.multipreset for Ampire with the High-Density pack

Surf’s Up

The July 4th weekend is approaching, so it’s time to hit the beach—but you can’t have surfing without surf music, right? So before you start scouting for the impact zone, grab your guitar, import the epic downloadable Ampire preset, and play your guitar until you have noodle arms. Surf’s up!

The Surf Sound—Axe

It starts with the guitar, and your playing technique. Ideally, your guitar will have single-coil pickups, a whammy bar, at least .010 gauge strings (preferably a little heavier), and a hard pick to go with the heavy strings. If your guitar doesn’t have single-coil pickups, no worries—check out the Pro EQ-based Friday tip from November 2018, Humbucker to Single-Coil Conversion with EQ.

The Surf Sound—Amp

As luck would have it, Ampire has exactly what we need (fig. 1). Surf music wants a clean amp (well, maybe just a hint of distortion), lots of treble, and spring reverb. Tremolo is optional. I also use a compressor before the amp, to bring up decaying strings after playing with the whammy bar.

Figure 1: Ampire in all its surfer dude glory. By the way…is it my imagination, or is that background a pipeline?

Check out the audio example, I think it nails that mythical guitar sound. And just to be clear, this isn’t about cultural appropriation of surf music, nor is it a parody. This is a tribute—my high school band opened for the Ventures, and I still think the surf guitar sound represents a unique moment in time. Have fun!

Surf’s Up.mp3

Download the Ampire preset CA Surf Music.preset