Vocoders are processors that use the audio from vocals (called the modulation source, or modulator) to modulate another sound, like a synthesizer pad (called the carrier). However, no law says you have to use vocals as a modulator, and I often use drums to modulate pads, power chords, and more. While Studio One’s toolset doesn’t have enough resolution for super-intelligible vocoding with voice, it’s perfect for drumcoding, which actually benefits from the lower resolution.
This tip is for advanced users and requires a fairly complex setup. Rather than go into too much detail about how it works, simply download the Drumcoder.song file, linked below, which has a complete drumcoding setup. Load Drumcoder.song into Studio One 5, press play, and you’ll hear what drumcoding is all about. (Note that the file format isn’t compatible with previous Studio One versions. However, based on the description in this tip, you should be able to “roll your own” drumcoding setup in previous Studio One versions.)
Let’s check out an audio demo. The first half has the drumcoded sound only, while the second half mixes in the drum (modulator) sound.
But wait—there’s more! Although the drumcoder isn’t designed to be the greatest vocoder in the world (and it isn’t), you can still get some decent results. Here, the voice is saying “Even do some kinds of vocal effects with the PreSonus drumcoder—have fun!’
Next, we’ll explore how it works…or if you’re impatient, just reverse-engineer the song.
Vocoding splits the modulator (like voice or drums) into multiple frequency bands. In a traditional vocoder, each band produces a control voltage that corresponds to the audio’s level in each band. Similarly, the carrier splits into the same frequency bands. A VCA follows each carrier band, and the VCAs are fed by the modulator’s control voltages. So, if there’s midrange energy in the modulator, it opens the VCA for the carrier’s midrange audio. If there’s bass energy in the modulator, it opens the VCA for the carrier’s bass audio. With a vocoder, as different energy occurs in different bands that cover a vocal’s frequency range, the carrier mimics that same distribution of energy in its own bands. This is what generates talking instrument effects.
Vocoders typically need at least eight frequency bands to make voices sound intelligible. Studio One’s Splitter can divide incoming audio into five bands, which is enough resolution for drumcoding. Fig. 1 (which takes some graphic liberties with Studio One’s UI), shows the signal flow.
Figure 1: Drumcoder signal flow.
The Drums track provides the modulator signal, and the Mai Tai synthesizer provides the carrier. The Drums track has five pre-fader sends to distribute the drum sound to five buses. As shown in Fig. 2, each of the five buses has a Splitter (but no other effects) set to Frequency Split mode, with splits at 200, 400, 800, and 1600 Hz. The < 200 Hz bus mutes all Splits except for 1, the 200-400 bus mutes all Splits except for 2, the 400-800 bus mutes all splits except for 3, the 800 – 1.6 kHz mutes all splits except for 4, and the > 1.6 kHz bus mutes all splits except for 5. Now each bus output covers one of the five bands.
Figure 2: Splitter settings for the five buses.
The Mai Tai carrier has a splitter set to the same frequencies. Each split goes to an Expander, which basically acts like a VCA; see Fig. 3. We don’t need to break out the Splitter outputs, because you can access the sidechain for the Expanders located within the Splitter. (A Mixtool follows each Expander, but it’s there solely to provide a volume control for each of the carrier’s bands in the control panel.)
Figure 3: Effects used for the Mai Tai synthesizer carrier track.
As to the bus outputs, the < 200 Hz bus has a send that goes to the sidechain of the Expander in the carrier’s < 200 Hz split. The 200-400 Hz bus has a send to the sidechain of the Expander in the carrier’s 200-400 Hz split. The 400-800 Hz bus has a send to the sidechain of the Expander in the carrier’s 400-800 Hz split…you get the idea. Basically, each bus provides a “control voltage” for the corresponding “VCA” (Expander) that controls the level of the carrier’s five bands.
Fig. 4 shows the Control panel.
Figure 4: Drumcoder macro controls.
Threshold, Ratio, and Range cover the full range of Expander controls. They affect how tightly the Expander follows the modulator, which controls the effect’s percussive nature. Just play around with them until you get the sound you want. The Expander Envelope settings aren’t particularly crucial, but I find 0.10 ms Attack and 128.0 ms Release work well. Of course, you also need to enable the sidechain for each Expander, and make sure it’s listening to the bus that corresponds to the correct band.
The five knobs toward the right control the level of the individual bands by altering the Gain of the Mixtool that follows each band’s Expander. The five associated buttons enable or bypass the Expander for a particular band, which can give some really cool effects. For example, turn off the Expander on the Mid band, and with the Song’s Mai Tai preset, it almost sounds like a choir is singing along with the drumcoded drums.
Although the Drumcoder isn’t really designed for vocal effects, it still can be fun. The key is to bring up the > 1.6 kHz Bus slider, as this mixes in some of the voice’s “s” sounds, which give intelligibility. Experiment with the Expander controls to find what works well. If you really want to dig into vocal applications, edit the Splitter frequencies to optimize them for the vocal range instead of drums…or leave a comment asking me to pursue this further.
Due to the complexity, if I think I’m going to use the Drumcoder, I’ll just treat this song like a template and build the rest of the song from there. But once you understand the principle of operation, you can always add the effect in to an existing song as needed. I have to say this is one of my favorite Friday tips ever… I hope you enjoy playing with the Drumcoder!
Although Studio One 5 doesn’t have a tape emulator plug-in per se, it can emulate some of the most important characteristics that people associate with “the tape sound.” Truly emulating tape can go down a serious rabbit hole because tape is a complicated signal processor; no two vintage tape recorders sounded the same because they required alignment (influenced by the engineer’s preferences), used different tape formulations, and were in various states of maintenance. However, emulating three important characteristics provides what most people want from tape emulation.
Check out the audio example to hear what this FX Chain can do. The first part is unprocessed, while the second part uses the default FX Chain control settings with a little underbiasing and head bump. The difference is subtle, but it adds that extra “something.”
This FX Chain starts with a Splitter, which creates three signal paths: one for saturation, one for hiss, and one for hum (Fig. 1).
Figure 1: FX Chain block diagram.
After auditioning all available Studio One 5 saturation options, I liked the TriComp best for this application. The Pro EQ stage preceding the TriComp provides the head bump EQ and has a control to emulate the effect of underbiasing tape (more highs, which pushes more high-frequency level into the TriComp and therefore increases distortion in that range) or overbiasing (less highs, less distortion).
At first, I wasn’t going to include tape hiss and hum, but if someone needs to use this FX Chain for sound design (i.e., an actor starts a tape in a theatrical production), then including hiss and hum sounds more authentic. An additional knob chooses 50 or 60 Hz hum, which represents the power standards in different countries. (Note that the closest you can get to these frequencies is 50.4 and 59.1 Hz, but that’s good enough). However, I draw the line at including wow and flutter! Good riddance to both of them.
Because creating three splits reduces each split’s level, the TriComp Gain control provides makeup gain.
Turning Bump on adds a boost at the specified frequency, but also adds a 48 dB low-cut filter around 23 Hz to emulate the loss of very low frequencies due to the head bump. As a result, depending on the program material, adding the bump may increase or decrease the total apparent bass response. For additional flexibility, if you turn Bump Amount down all the way, the Bump On/Off switch enables or disables only the 48 dB/octave low-cut filter.
Fig. 2 shows some typical spectra from using the FX Chain.
Figure 2: The top curve shows the head bump enabled, with underbiasing. The lower curve shows minimal added bump, but with the ultra-low cut filter enabled, and overbiasing.
The controls default to rational settings (Fig. 3), which are used in the audio example. But as usual with my FX chains, the settings can go beyond the realm of good taste if needed.
Figure 3: Control panel for the Tape Emulator.
For example, I rarely go over 2-3% saturation, but I know some of you are itching to kick it up to 10%. Ditto tape hiss, in case you want to emulate recording on an ancient Radio Shack cassette recorder—with Radio Shack tape. Just remember that the Bias control is clockwise to overbias (less highs), and counter-clockwise to underbias (more highs).
There’s a lot of mythology around tape emulations, and you can find some very good plug-ins that nail the sound of tape. But try this FX Chain—it may give you exactly what you want. Best of all, I promise you’ll never have to clean or demagnetize its tape heads.
We’ve all heard the saying, “To know him is to love him.” This sentiment could not be more true for PreSonus’ very own Johnny McAndrew. From trade shows to demos and Vic Viper video shoots to cooking Louisiana’s best Jambalaya, there’s no doubt Johnny has made a lasting impact on PreSonus’ culture of family, humor, fun, creativity, and hard work. He’s been around for almost 17 years of PreSonus’ 25 years as a company and has some of the best stories from the last quarter-century. Get to know our Territory Manager for the US and Canada below.
How long have you worked at PreSonus?
I was hired as the 19th employee in February of 2004, so 16 and a half years.
When was the first time you heard about PreSonus?
It would’ve been around the year 2000. I was learning to run sound at the Spanish Moon in Baton Rouge, LA and we were using a few of the outboard compressor/ limiters known as the ACP88. I soon found out that this fancy blue piece of gear with the cool lights was designed and built above an old antique store—right up the street from Galaxy Music, the music store I was working at downtown. I remember being fascinated that there was a pro audio company just a few blocks over, designing useful products for musicians and audio engineers all over the world. A few years later, some friends of mine that worked here reached out to let me know that they were hiring and wanted someone that “could do a bunch of different things.”
Is there are particular moment or memory that happened at NAMM that stands out for you?
There are so many, and most of my favorite memories have to do with my friends and partners I get to see, but I’ll go with day 1 of my first Winter NAMM in 2010. I remember being on a plane from Louisiana headed to California and I couldn’t believe that I was getting paid to go to what seemed like a mythical show that I had only seen in guitar magazines growing up. I got off the plane, dropped my bags off at the hotel and headed straight to the show. While waiting in line to get my badge I notice I’m right behind the coolest bass player of all time, Sir Bootsy Collins. I make a beeline to the booth and soon as I get on the trade show floor, the very first person I see is Dave Mustaine from Megadeth followed by Kerry King from Slayer and Tommy Lee from Motley Crue. I walk straight up to my assigned area to demo what would have been the original StudioLive series and Studio One version 1, and the first person I talk to about the console is Johnny Hiland, who happens to be one my favorite guitar players and he was just as gracious as can be. I know I’m going a little heavy on the name dropping, but it was it a lot to absorb in the first 15 minutes of being at the Anaheim Convention Center; it’s always surreal because you never know who you’re going to end up seeing or showing gear to at that show. Except for Sinbad. You will always, without fail, see Sinbad every single year at Winter NAMM. He’s as nice and funny as you’d think but what you might not know is that he is a total tech/gearhead.
Is there an achievement or contribution that you are most proud of? If so, why?
That’s a difficult question because I will often blow right past a milestone, or a noteworthy achievement that I should probably take the time to acknowledge or enjoy, but I’m always thinking of the next month, the next quarter, or the next year. I can’t really point to a particular contribution or achievement but just seeing what we’ve done as a whole over the past 25 years, while constantly refining our process is something to be proud of. I’ve been lucky enough to be involved for 16 of those years and it’s been an awesome journey to see where we’ve been and where we’re headed.
What PreSonus product are you most proud of?
It depends on when you ask me and whether I’m recording or running live sound. Currently, I’m pretty stoked on PreSonus Sphere because of the collaboration aspect that will continue to improve over time. I love the idea of bringing people together through creativity. If I’m going with a vintage memory that really made an early impression on me, I‘m really proud of the ADL 600 because that was the first product I had a hand in as I was doing QA at the time. To see the product from its inception, which started as a schematic on a napkin, to working late nights with Robert Creel and the engineers so that we could get it out the door, to see it get accepted by the market and used on some really serious records was such cool thing to be part of.
What inspires you to keep showing up to work at PreSonus?
So many things. I could go on and on about the people I get to work with, the process, the technology, and the products, but I on my most challenging day, I always think about friends that have called or texted after the first time they set up their interface with Studio One and how excited they were to start creating. The idea that there’s some kid out in the world, that could be the next Stevie Wonder and they’re using our gear to create something is as motivating as it is humbling. It’s truly a privilege to serve the creative community and to hopefully help create an exquisite user experience.
What is or was the biggest challenge you faced during your time here?
When you work for a technology company in a highly competitive field, you’re basically signing up for an endless barrage of obstacles while someone says it can’t be done or we’ve always done it this way so why should we change it? Combine those daily challenges with a healthy dose of the year 2020 and you’ve got one massive rock to push up the hill. That being said, I really don’t think about the perceived obstacle in front of us but rather how we can all move forward together.
What do you think other people should know about PreSonus that they don’t?
Our COO, Jim Boitnott, created the spices that are sold on our web store. Our senior product manager, Ray Tantzen, should probably have his own cooking show where he talks proper methods of using a smoker. Colby Huval in the sales department makes better Cajun Sausage and Tasso than 99.99% of people in Louisiana, which puts him in the running for the best worldwide. Our Shipping Admin, Shawn Lee, is one of the most talented musicians and songwriters I’ve ever heard. Chad Schoonmaker in marketing is one of the best abstract artists I’ve ever seen. Product Specialist, Gregor Beyerle and Software Engineer Michael Cole are two of the funniest people I’ve ever met in my life.
I think we have the most talented group of cooks, musicians, creatives, and engineers that truly care per capita of any other company on the planet. You can learn something inspiring and unique from all the folks at our offices in Louisiana, Ireland and Germany.
How has working at PreSonus changed you? (for the better)
Just doing something that I love and feeling like I have a sense of purpose when I walk into work every day gives me focus. Acknowledging how lucky I am to get to do something that I care about forces me to be present and enjoy the moment as opposed to looking too far ahead.
Considering all your time and effort you’ve spent at PreSonus, what’s something you’re excited to see PreSonus accomplish in the next 5 years?
I hope we continue to push the envelope of what is possible when designing products for creative people while giving the user a great experience. Let’s make it better and more fun!
Studio One 5.1 has arrived! This update is free to PreSonus Sphere members, or anyone else who owns Studio One 5—Artist or Professional editions. Fire up Studio One and click “Check for Updates” to get it!
This update addresses many user requests, particularly in the realms of composition and notation, but if you’re less old-school and more no-school, don’t fret! We’ve got plenty of updates for you including Retrospective Record, External Instrument support for the Show Page, and a ton of workflow streamlining. All are detailed below.
Version 5.1 adds score printing to Studio One Professional. Scores and individual parts can now be printed directly from Studio One! Printing is supported for any number of tracks, from single instruments to full orchestral arrangements. Several other composition enhancements along with Score Printing are featured in this video:
Never miss another great song idea again! Retrospective Recording captures everything you play on your keyboard or controller—even without hitting record! It works invisibly in the background on a track-by-track basis.
Managing large projects with a huge track and channel count is now faster and easier than ever with the addition of powerful search and filter options.
Clip Gain Envelops can now be bypassed from the Event context menu and the Event Inspector, making it quick and easy to compare the result of your Gain Envelopes without losing any of your adjustments.
The Score View will reflect any Key Signature changes added to Studio One’s new Signature Track. These will also transfer to Notion when sending a score between applications.
View minutes:seconds with bars and beats at the same time! A must for film composers.
Global Tracks can now be displayed inside Editors and used as guides when editing audio or Note Events in Piano View and Drum View.
External MIDI instruments are now supported using Virtual Instrument Players. Patches can include program change and bank change messages so you can control an entire MIDI rig from your Show!
Drag and drop stompbox settings between Ampire and Pedalboard, so go ahead and steal that Big Fuzz tone from your guitarist… we won’t tell!
Note Events in the Pattern Editor are now colorized to match the pad colors in Impact, ATOM and ATOM SQ, so you always know which sound is being triggered and which pad is controlling it. And there’s a new library of inspirational drum patterns and variations patterns in Musicloops format for easy, drag-and-drop saving and export.
Studio One 5.1 is a significant update and is free to owners of Studio One 5 Artist and Professional. Click here for the full change log, and click “Check for Updates” in Studio One’s start page to get all these new features now!
Notion 6.8 Maintenance Release
Notion 6.8.0 Build 18060 is now available, adding compatibility with the updated Score Editor of Studio One 5.1, Portuguese as a new supported language, and more. Notion 6.8 is a free update for Notion 6 owners or PreSonus Sphere members that can be obtained by clicking “Check for Updates” within Notion, or download from your PreSonus Sphere or myPreSonus account.
Compatible with Studio One 5.1
Studio One 5.1 adds new functions to its score editor, including print, page layout, transposition and key signature changes. These items are now supported when you send score data between Studio One and Notion 6.8. To see more about Studio One 5 and its new Score Editor, click here.
New score elements that can be exchanged with Studio One:
For a full guide to Studio One and Notion transfer, see updated User Guide (Chapter 15.7)
With physical audio media in its twilight, streaming has become the primary way to distribute music. A wonderful side effect has been the end of the loudness wars, because streaming services like Spotify turn levels up or down as needed to attain a specific, consistent perceived level—squashing a master won’t make it sound any louder.
However, the “garbage in, garbage out” law remains in effect, so you need to submit music that meets a streaming service’s specs. For example, Spotify prefers files with an LUFS of -14.0 (according to the EBU R128 standard), and a True Peak reading of -1.0 or lower. This avoids adding distortion when transcoding to lossy formats. If the LUFS reading is above -14.0, then Spotify wants a True Peak value under -2.0.
Fortunately, when you Detect Loudness for a track on the mastering page, you’ll see a readout of the LUFS and LRA (a measure of overall dynamic range), as well as the True Peak, RMS (average signal level), and DC offset for the left and right channels. Fig. 1 shows an example of the specs generated by detecting loudness.
Note that this hits Spotify’s desired LUFS, but the left channel’s True Peak value is higher than what’s ideal. This readout also shows that the average RMS levels for each channel are somewhat different—the left channel is 1.2 dB louder than the right one, which also accounts for the higher True Peak value. This may be the way the artist wants the mix to sound, but it could also indicate a potential problem with the mix, where the overall sound isn’t properly centered.
A simple fix is to insert a Dual Pan into the Inserts section. Use the Input Balance control to “weight” the stereo image more to one side for a better balance. After doing so and readjusting the LUFS, we can now give Spotify exactly what it wants (Fig. 2). Also note that the left and right channels are perfectly balanced.
A Crucial Consideration!
You don’t want to mix or master based on numbers, but on what you hear. If you set up Dual Pan to balance the channels, make sure that you enable/bypass the plug-in and compare the two options. You might find that balancing the left and right channels not only accommodates Spotify’s requirements, but improves the mix’s overall balance. If it doesn’t, then leave the balance alone, and lower the track’s overall output level so that True Peak is under -1.0 for both channels (or under -2.0 for LUFS values above ‑14.0). This will likely lower the LUFS reading, but don’t worry about it: Spotify will turn up the track anyway to reach -14.0 LUFS.
Coda: I always thought that squashing dynamic range to try and win the loudness wars made listening to music a less pleasant experience, and that’s one of the reasons CD sales kept declining. Does the end of the loudness wars correspond to the current music industry rebound from streaming? I don’t know… but it wouldn’t surprise me.
Sonarworks Reference 4 Headphone Edition is 30% Off starting Friday, October 16 through Thursday, October 22!
Finally, you can mix with confidence on your current setup. Sonarworks Reference 4 HE removes unwanted colouration from your headphones. With the Sonarworks SR (Studio Reference) sound, you can focus on music instead of worrying about the sound in the studio or on-the-go.
This offer is available worldwide right in the PreSonus Shop. It is valid today through October 22, 2020.
Now through October 22, SAVE up to 80% on select Image Sounds products right out of the PreSonus Shop! That’s over 50 loop bundles up for grabs at the best price all year—products from Image Sounds have never been this low-priced in our shop, grab ’em while you can!
This offer is available worldwide starting today through October 22.
For ONE week only… Save 50% on the Notion Acoustic Bundle!
Included in this bundle is Banjo, Mandolin, Acoustic Fingerstyle Guitar, and Ukulele.
This offer is available right in the PreSonus Shop, offered worldwide, and is valid now through October 22, 2020.
Already at a LOW price, the price for all Spark Collections is now even lower for the next SEVEN days only!
We announced the Spark Collection back in 2019; here’s a little snippet about it:
Hit the ground running with the Spark Collection of loops and add-ons from PreSonus! These low-priced loop packs are a great place to start making music for less. These professional, royalty-free tracks are a great source of inspiration for starting a new song, learning how to mix, or adding a little flavor to your existing compositions. We’ve launched Spark Collections with a whopping 35 packs… with many more to come!
Everything from trap, reggae, pop, and sound FX are available in the Spark Collections–NOW ALL for 50% off!
This offer is valid starting today, October 16, 2020, runs through October 22, and is offered worldwide!