PreSonus Blog

Monthly Archives: October 2020


The Studio One “Drumcoder”

 

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.)

Click here to get drumcoder.song

 

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.

Drumcoding Explained

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.

Studio One’s Implementation

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.

Vocal Effects

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!

 

 

Studio One 5’s Tape Emulator

 

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.

  • Tape saturates, which rounds off waveform peaks and affects dynamic range. This gives a higher average level, which is part of why tape sounds “punchy.”
  • Head “bump.” The frequency of a bass range peak (around 2 dB) depends on the tape speed and the tape machine. At 15 IPS, a typical peak is in the 40-70 Hz range, and at 30 IPS, in the 70-150 Hz range. However, at 30 IPS, the bass response drops off below the bump—sometimes drastically, sometimes gently. Even though in theory 30 IPS offered better fidelity, many engineers preferred to work at 15 IPS due to the bass response characteristics (and they saved money by using half as much tape for the same recording time).
  • Tape is a flawed recording medium that trades off noise, high-frequency response, and distortion. For example, some engineers aligned their machines to underbias the tape, which increased distortion but gave more highs; other engineers did the reverse and made up for the lack of highs with subsequent equalization.

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.”

 

 

The Tape Emulator FX Chain

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.

Roll Tape!

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.

Download the Tape Emulator.multipreset here!

The Jambalaya King: Johnny McAndrew

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!

Learn more about PreSonus Sphere here! 

 

What’s New in Studio One 5.1

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.

 

1. Score Printing

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:

2. Retrospective Recording

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.

 

3. Powerful Track/Channel search and filter options

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.

 

4. Bypass option for Clip Gain Envelopes

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.

 

5. Combined Time/Key Signature Track

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.

 

6. Secondary Timeline Ruler option

View minutes:seconds with bars and beats at the same time! A must for film composers.

 

7. Global Tracks in Editors

Global Tracks can now be displayed inside Editors and used as guides when editing audio or Note Events in Piano View and Drum View.

 

8. External Instruments support on Show Page

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!

 

9. Ampire/Pedalboard Update

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!

 

10. TONS of Extended Integration with ATOM controller

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.

 

Too much to list!

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 Now Available

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.


NEW

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.

Studio One 5.1 Now Available!

New score elements that can be exchanged with Studio One:

  • Key signature changes
  • Instrument transposition
  • Staff name and abbreviation
  • Page size and orientation
  • Page margins
  • Notation font size
  • Staff and system spacing
  • Bar number options
  • Overall text size
  • Multi-measure rest options

For a full guide to Studio One and Notion transfer, see updated User Guide (Chapter 15.7)


ALL FIXES

Import/Export Improvements

  • If the track order is changed in Studio One, then the order is retained when importing into Notion
  • Scores with instrument names that contain special characters now import as expected to Studio One
  • Fix for sending audio from Notion to Studio One when there is a slash mark in the instrument name
  • Avoid importing metronome marks, time- and key signatures twice on import from Studio One
  • Half notes will now split into tied notes on Studio One or MIDI import, if they are syncopated and across the middle of a bar
  • Fix for drawing a tie if only element is present in a MusicXML file
  • Imported MIDI tempo now cleaner to read when there are many consecutive tempo changes

Video Window

  • [Win] Fix video window showing only its caption when opening for the first time after installation
  • [Win] Fix video window keeping the previous video’s aspect ratio after changing the video
  • [Win] Fix video window moving around when resizing

Languages/Documentation

  • New language – Portuguese
  • New Portuguese Quick Reference Guide and Shortcuts pdf’s added to Notion, to your user account, and to the website here
  • [Win] Installer language fixes
  • Some translation improvements in Korean

General

  • [Win] Fix for ‘Save As’ crash if an External MIDI port is set in ‘Preferences>MIDI IO’
  • [macOS] Fix for starting Notion when an existing PreSonus Sphere membership expires
  • [macOS] Add fix for plug-ins that use legacy copy protection
  • Fix crash on entering glissando/portamento into part with only one staff
  • Crash fixed if beaming tool is accidentally used on a tablature staff
  • Version number scheme for Notion changed – Now 6.x.x Build xxxxx

How to Make Spotify Happy

 

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.

Figure 1: Although the LUFS reading meets Spotify’s specs, True Peak doesn’t, and the RMS value of the left and right channels isn’t balanced.

 

 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.

Figure 2: The True Peak and RMS values are now identical, so the two channels are more balanced than they were without the Dual Pan.

 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.

Notion iOS 2.5.5 Release Notes

Notion iOS 2.5.5 Maintenance Release

A maintenance update is now available for Notion iOS, the best-selling notation app on iOS. This is a free update for Notion iOS owners that can be obtained by visiting Notion in the App Store on your device, or checking your available updates in the App Store.

All the changes are below—if you missed all the major news for v2.5 itself, check it out here.

And while you’re here, please join us at our new official Facebook user group for news, tips and community support: https://www.facebook.com/groups/PreSonusNotionUsers

 


All Fixes and Enhancements:

New:

  • New language: Portuguese

Sounds Menu fixes:

  • In Store tab, Notion now shows a check mark (instead of a cloud) for purchased bundles
  • In Store tab, now shows a check for instruments purchased in bundles
  • In Store tab, icons are force refreshed after tapping Restore Purchases
  • In Sounds tab, instruments are reloaded after restoring purchases
  • Notion no longer restarts purchase downloads when the app launches

Languages:

  • (iOS13 and later) Can now change preferred language for just Notion, rather than following the language set globally for the device. Go to Device Settings>Notion>Preferred Language
  • ‘Choose Instruments’ now localised as expected in New Score dialog
  • Improved Korean translations in score setup
  • Template documents localised
  • Templates now open as expected in all languages

General:

  • Fix for drawing a tie if only “tied” element is present in an imported MusicXML file
  • Fix for Chord Root changing on iPhone only version of Chord Library when selecting extensions
  • Half notes will now split into tied notes on MIDI import, if they are syncopated and across the middle of a bar
  • General performance improvements
  • Minimum requirements: Apple iOS9 or higher (please note, Notion 2.5.x will be the final version to support iOS9 and iOS10)

My Craziest Mastering Salvage Job (So Far)

 

My mastering specialty is salvage jobs, which has become easier to do with Studio One. But this gig was something else.

Martha Davis’s last solo album (I Have My Standards, whose mastering challenges were covered in this blog post) has done really well. Since the pandemic has sidelined her from touring as Martha Davis and the Motels or going into the studio, she’s releasing a new song every month online. These involve excellent, but unreleased, material.

That’s THE good news. The bad news is that her latest song choice, “In the Meantime,” had the drum machine kick mixed so loud the song should have been credited as “Solo Kick Drum with Vocal Accompaniment.” With a vocalist like Martha (listen to any of her many hits from the 80s), that’s a crime. She was hoping I could fix it.

Don’t tune out, EDM/hip-hop fans. What about those TR-808 “toms” that are always mixed way too high? When I was given a Boy George song to remix, those toms were like sonic kryptonite before I figured out how to deal with them. And let’s not get into those clichéd 808 claps, okay? But we have a solution.

What Didn’t Work

I tried everything to deal with the kick, including EQ, iZotope RX7 spectral reduction, mid-side processing using the Mixtool, and more. The mix was mostly mono, and the kick was full-frequency—from low-frequency boom to a nasty click that was louder than the lead vocal. Multiband dynamics didn’t work because the kick covered too wide a frequency range.

What Did Work

In desperation, I thought maybe I could find an isolated kick sound, throw it out of phase, and cancel the kick wherever it appeared in the song. Very fortunately, the song intro had a kick sound that could be isolated as an individual sample. So instead of going directly to Studio One’s mastering page, I went into the Song page, imported the stereo mix into one track, created a second track for only the kick, and dragged the copied kick to match up with every kick instance in the song (yes, this did take some time…). It wasn’t difficult to line up the copied kicks with sample- (or at least near-sample) accuracy (Fig. 1).

 

Figure 1: The top track is from the original song, while the lower track is an isolated kick. After lining the sounds up with respect to timing, flipping the kick track phase removed the kick sound from the mixed tracks.

The payoff was inserting Mixtool in the kicks-only track and flipping its phase 180 degrees. It canceled the kick! Wow—this physics stuff actually works.

But now there was no kick. So, I added the Waves LinEQ Broadband linear-phase equalizer (a non-linear-phase EQ can’t work in this context) in the kick drum track. This filtered out some of the kick drum’s lower frequencies so there was less cancellation while leaving the highs intact so they would still cancel as much as possible. Adjusting the shelving frequency and attenuation let in just enough of the original kick, without overwhelming the track. Even better, because the kick level was lower, I could bring up the low end to resurrect the bass part that had been overshadowed by the kick.

The Rest of the Story

The mix traveled to the mastering page for a little more processing (Studio One’s Pro EQ and Binaural Pan, IK Multimedia’s Stealth maximizer, and Studio One’s metering). After hitting the desired readings of -13.0 LUFS with -0.2 True Peak readings, the mastering was done. Sure, I would much rather have had the individual tracks to do a remix, but it was what it was—a 28-year-old two-track mix.

To hear how this ended up, the audio example first plays an excerpt from the mastered version. Then there’s a brief pause, followed by the same section with the original file. I’m sure you’ll hear the difference in the kick drum.

Listen to an audio example from In the Meantime here: 

 

Pigface: Everywhere All At Once

Saturday, October 10th

(click)👉Pigface will go live online HERE at 6PM (CST)👈(click)


(Concert photography by: Bobby Talamine)

Martin Atkins has been a longstanding PreSonus artist/endorser and we’re excited that both he and his audio engineer, Mark Williams have embraced our StudioLive 64S Series III console mixers are their go-to “mission control” for their studio recording workflows.

Let’s find out more about them and what’s new in the Pigface camp in these surreal times we’re in:

Martin: I’ve had a long storied career – starting in 1979 when I joined Public Image Limited (the band started by Johnny Rotten when the Sex Pistols imploded) for a 5 year spell that included world tours and their most successful albums. A few years with Killing Joke (who just opened for Tool last year) some work with Nine Inch Nails (appearing on the Grammy award winning Wish) touring with Ministry and founding my own band Pigface – an industrial ‘supergroup’ that has included Mary Byker (PWEI, Gaye Bykers On Acid), Chris Connelly (Revolting Cocks, Ministry), Randy Blythe (Lamb Of God), Danny Carey (Tool), Curse Mackey (Evil Mothers), En Esch (KMFDM), Lesley Rankine (Silverfish, Ruby), Charles Levi (My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult), Bobdog Catlin (Evil Mothers), Bradley Bills (Chant), Andrew Weiss (Ween, The Rollins Band), Greta Brinkman (Moby, Druglord), Orville Kline (Porn and Chicken), Gaelynn Lea, Dirk Flanigan (77 Luscious Babes), Leanne Murray (Beer Nuts), Chris Harris (Project 44), Mike Reidy (Worm), Leyla Royale, Andrew Apocalypse, Ali Jafri, Roger Ebner, Bruce Lamont, Jesse Hunt, Dai, C.A.M., J Lamar, Just Chris (courtesy of Add-2) and Rona Rougeheart

I started my own label Invisible Records in 1988 and, after a few short years it was obvious I should open my own studio – I bought Steve Albini’s tape machines (an 8 Track ½” and a  ¼” machine both by Otari.) As digital started to enter our lives my studio became a hybrid of cool quirky analog, circuit bent pieces, and whatever digital interfaces were affordable at the time. 

More and more of my time was spent either in the studio or out recording live events with my band in the US or over in China where I travelled a couple of times. I’ve always been impressed by how supportive PreSonus is to artists– either with no nonsense customer support when needed or by carefully crafting new pieces of equipment that just make sense. I think the piece that illustrated their support of artists for me was the now “classic” Faderport– when most companies were trying to sell multi-fader automation they (and then I) realized that most of us only needed one channel to write volume and pan automation – so, that, I guess, cemented everything for me.

It feels like things are really coming to fruition now, with support from PreSonus and my good friend and audio engineer, Mark Williams. I got to see the StudioLive 64S Series III console mixer in action first at Mark’s studio in Baton Rouge where he laid out all of the tracks, but then we got to work at River City Studio, which is an amazing recording facility, right there at the PreSonus office building. Everyone was so welcoming, people jumping out of meetings to say hi that I had met speaking at PreSonuSphere years ago (you should bring that back!) and I even met the CEO. Mark and I were able to tweak the tracks there and then finish up any tweaks remotely from Chicago.

All of this made the need for a StudioLive 64S console essential for my studio– with so much catalog and multi-track sessions it will be an essential hub of our next few years of activity as a band and as a label. I have the ability to quickly communicate the power of these live shows we have been creating. We recorded many of the shows during our 2019 tour – the line up was just AMAZING and, just be reading through the names you’ll know this was nothing to roll the dice with – the new format allows seamless passing of sessions, follow up tweaks, and easy workflows. Not only has the StudioLive 64S made the mixing of the live tracks from the last tour possible, it’s enabling possibilities of making other shows available for the fans who want more material from us.

Mark: I met Martin the first time in 1993 while working in college radio at the University of Alabama. I worked for him as a field representative for Invisible Records for about 5 or 6 years. Martin contacted PreSonus about one of his ACP88’s and became an Endorser for the company. Throughout the years, PreSonus has outfitted his studio with products including: the ADL600, Central Station, Fadeport, Digimax 96, and their award-winning DAW software, Studio One.

I’ve worked on numerous recording projects and mixes throughout the years with Martin and in November 2016, we recorded the Pigface 25th anniversary concert at the Chicago House of Blues using 2 StudioLive RM32 rackmount mixers and Capture recording software.

In 2019, I supplied Martin with a Quantum interface to record all Pigface live concerts with. The front-of-house (FOH) engineer for the final concert at Thalia Hall sent me all 32 channels of the recording. I synced up the 26 channels from the multitrack with 6 additional channels from the board mix and FOH feed.

Breaking down the 32 channels, 48khz recording down by song was quite an undertaking, as it was a massive amount of data to go through.

Martin flew down the last week of February 2020 so we could mix the album in my studio. The heart of our system was an IMAC with 32 gigs of RAM with a few external terabyte drives, a StudioLive SL64 console mixer, Scepter 8 monitors and Avantone Mixcubes. We went through each song to evaluate what we would use. As we did that, we created template fat channels for each musician. We had 3 drummers, 3 bassists, 2 guitarists, a DJ, 3 saxophones, cello, viola, violin, sitar and more vocalists than I can remember.

Basically we mixed everything “live” using the StudioLive 64S, relying on the console for dynamics processing and effects. We did some simple edits in Studio One. However, to maintain the integrity of the recording, we didn’t repair or fix anything. We used the recording as is in all its chaos and beauty. We didn’t correct any timing, pitch (i.e. no Auto-Tune!). I wanted to stay true to the Pigface form for the live energy.

A couple of days went by of mixing in my studio and then went to River City Studio. I was able to store the presets for the StudioLive 64 on the iMac. We just carried it up to the studio and plugged it in. The scenes loaded up quickly and easily. The transition from my studio to the PreSonus studio was seamless. We were able to get a different perspective in PAE HQ due to the different room and monitoring.

Then, we finalized the mixing in my studio and I uploaded the mixes online for filesharing, as Martin had to fly home to Chicago. He and I tweaked the final mixes over the next month easily to get to the final product that has been pressed to a beautiful Double LP. Y’all need to check it out… click on the link below for more info!

The mix that we did there is what is being used for the live video concert on October 10th.

 

We Don’t Ride Llamas… yes. WDRL!

Afropunk. Counterculture. Art. Rock Music. Weird things. Generation Z.

These 4 siblings hail from Austin, TX and have been a band for 6 years now.

Around the end of 2019, We Don’t Ride Llamas (WDRL) was  introduced to PreSonus by Grammy nominated music producer, King Michael Coy (Dr. Dre, H.E.R, Anderson .Paak, Ms Lauryn Hill, Busta Rhymes, Snoop Dogg, Bilal, Kendra Foster, Frank N Dank) who has been a Studio One Professional endorser for several years now.

By March of 2020, the group was armed with an AR16c mixer, a PX-1 condenser microphone, the PM-2 stereo pair mics and Studio One Professional DAW software, the kids have been upping their recording game while staying home during the time of COVID-19.

Being the super-duper creative explorers that they are, WDRL has maximized their use of these products in true DIY fashion:

From creating cool voice-overs (did y’all 👀 the trailer video above ☝️ yet?), producing band interviews and promotional videos to the more obvious use case of recording original music and cover songs… the band can now achieve high quality recorded or live streamed audio that kids from previous generations would not have been able to do.

As a matter of fact, We Don’t Ride Llamas recently just wrote a song called “Buddy” that is featured in Welcome To Sudden Death, now streaming on Netflix. You can check out both the “Groove” and “Dance” mix versions on Spotify here!!!

Synecdoche is the long awaited EP that’s on the horizon for release. The recording is an extremely personal project for WDRL as it explores feelings of being displaced, yearning for the future, their general melancholy at the current state of the world and how everything (for them at least) always comes full circle.

Here are a few things they had to say to us:

“We knew that he company has a longstanding reputation for products that are easy to use, sound great and within the budget for most rock bands. These are the reasons we initially were interested in PreSonus. Can’t wait to get our hands on one of those ATOM pad controllers (hint, hint)… :)”

“We love how user friendly and multifunctional everything is! Your products make us feel like sound alchemists even though we’re still fairly new to recording our own stuff at home.”

“The fact that the AR16c mixer is pretty simple to understand and we can just pick it up and go record somewhere is amazing. Also the amount of product videos and training tutorials PreSonus has available online now makes a huge difference.”

 

 

 

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