PreSonus Blog

Monthly Archives: July 2021


Slapback Echo—Elvis Lives!

 

John D. made a comment in my Sphere workspace, which hosts the companion files for The Huge Book of Studio One Tips and Tricks: “How about a tip on how to create the original Elvis echo from his Sun Studios days? I really love that sound.” Well John, we take requests around here! So here ya go.

I asked the internet if anyone knew the time in ms for the slapback echo Elvis used. The various answers didn’t seem right, so I went to the source, and analyzed Elvis Presley’s “I Don’t Care if the Sun Don’t Shine” and as well as Carl Perkins’ “Her Love Rubbed Off” (he also recorded at Sun Studios). After measuring the duration for three repeats and dividing by 3, the answer was around 135 ms (fig. 1).

Figure 1: Measuring slapback echo time for the Elvis Presley and Carl Perkins songs.

The analog delay has all the parameters needed to achieve this sound (fig. 2).

Figure 2: The “Elvis Lives” analog delay settings.

The time is, of course, 135 ms. Feedback is 0.0%, because the echo was run through a separate tape recorder. It didn’t sound like the echo was being re-routed back to the input on the recordings I heard, but it might have been, and later recordings did do this…so choose what works best for you.

The Color controls are important. I pulled back the lows just a bit, as well as the highs, because 7.5 IPS recorders don’t have as crisp a high-frequency response as 15 IPS machines (but who knows how the echo tape machine was aligned?). When you listen to these recordings, you’ll often notice some distortion, so kick up the Drive control as desired. 6.0% was about right for my taste. Adjust Dry/Wet for the desired amount ratio of echo to dry sound.

You’re probably wondering about the Speed and Amount controls. I decided what the heck, I’d add some mechanical tape flutter. 15 Hz corresponds to 7.5 IPS, and the amount seemed reasonable.

Does it really sound like that famous echo effect? Well, at the risk of great (and possibly irreversible) public embarrassment, I donned an Elvis impersonator outfit, put on 50 pounds, and did my approximation of a 50s-style vocal for “That’s All Right, Mama.” True, I didn’t write the song—that honor goes to Arthur Crudup, who recorded it in 1946. But it’s under 30 seconds, for educational purposes, transformed (done digitally by someone who doesn’t sound even remotely like Elvis), and doesn’t diminish the market value of the music. I think we’re cool from a Fair Use standpoint.

And there you have your vintage slapback echo. Yes, I do take requests—I’ll be here all week, don’t forget to tip your servers, and remember, every Thursday night the Chez PreSonus eatery in Baton Rouge has its famous 2-for-1 gumbo special! See you soon.

Studio One Sings!

Let’s get one thing straight: yes, I did promise a tip of the week. But, I specifically didn’t promise it would be normal. Besides, I know some EDM fans are just going to love this one. And with plenty of creative Studio One aficionados out there, who knows what you’ll do with this…

I wanted to see if it was possible to use a simple, no-cost text-to-speech synthesizer, create a phrase, load it into Studio One, and tune it with the Chord Track. While the results won’t be mistaken for Realitone’s Blue, this setup can do some cool tricks—check out the audio example, with a vocal that’s not being sung by a human.

Generating the Speech

This all started because a person who had bought The Huge Book of Studio One Tips and Tricks mentioned that you could load the PDF into Microsoft Edge (which is cross-platform). Then if you invoked Edge’s Read Aloud function, the program would read the text to you. Say what? I had to try it.

There are plenty of text-to-speech converters, including ones built into MacOS and Adobe Acrobat. Extensions are available for various browsers, and there are cloud-based text-to-speech services. But Microsoft Edge’s implementation is a great way to get started—just open a PDF doc in Edge. (Non-PDF docs will have to be converted or exported first; you can always use a free option, like Open Office.) Select what you want it to read, and then click on Read Aloud. The fidelity is excellent, and you can speed up or slow down the reading speed.

There are 10 different English speakers, but if you choose one of the other 28 languages, depending on the language, they’ll read English with an accent (fig. 1). Of course, these languages are meant to read texts in their native language, but who cares? I used Katja, the German speaker, for the audio example. She speaks English quite well.

Figure 1: The text-to-speech feature in Microsoft Edge is surprisingly flexible.

Next, you need to get the speech output into Studio One. I have a PreSonus 1824c interface running on a Windows computer, and in that scenario, all that’s necessary is enabling the virtual input while Edge reads the words. Just remember that when you record the audio, to avoid feedback, don’t enable Input Monitor for the track you’re recording—just listen to the virtual input.

In addition to third-party apps that capture audio, the Mac has a fun way to generate speech. Open TextEdit, and write (or load) the text you want. From the TextEdit menu, choose Services > Services Preferences. Next, click Services in the keyboard shortcuts pane. In the right pane, scroll down to Text, and check its box. To create a recording, which you can bring into Studio One, select the text, go to the TextEdit menu again, and under Services, choose Add to iTunes as a Spoken Track. When you initiate the text-to-speech process, the audio file will be saved in the album you specify.

If all else fails, patch the audio output from a device that produces speech, to an audio input for Studio One.

Editing the Voice

Once the voice was in Studio One, I separated the words to place them rhythmically in relation to the Musicloop. Copying the vocal two more times allowed for panning, timing shifts (one track -20 ms, one track +20 ms, one with no shift), and reverb. To give a sense of pitch, the vocal tracks followed the Chord Track in Universal mode (fig. 2). If you want to get really granular, Melodyne does an outstanding job of varying inflections.

Figure 2: The vocals now accompany a Musicloop. It’s necessary to Follow Chords in Universal mode.

That’s really all there is to it. I just know someone is going to figure out how to use this to create some cool novelty song, it will be a big hit, get zillions of streams, and shower a Studio One user with riches and fame. That’s why it’s so important to read the Friday Tip every week 😊

Why the Performance Monitor Is Cool

Ever wonder why inserting a particular plug-in makes the latency go through the roof? Which tracks you should transform because they require a lot of CPU power, and which ones aren’t a problem? The Performance Monitor, accessed via View > Performance Monitor, reveals all

But this isn’t just about interesting information. The Performance Monitor will help you decide which block settings to use, whether native low-latency monitoring will work for you, what level of dropout protection is appropriate, and more. Then, you can make intelligent tradeoffs to process audio in the most efficient way, while optimizing system stability.

Start at the the Top

Referring to fig. 1, the readout at the top indicates CPU and disk activity. Check this periodically to make sure you aren’t running your CPU up against its limits. This can lead to audio crackles, dropouts, and other potential glitches. You can also set the level of dropout protection here.

Figure 1: The Performance Monitor window (the UI has been modified somewhat to make analyzing the data easier).

The Cache readout lets you know if you’re wasting storage space. The Cache accumulates files as you work on a song, but many of these files are only temporary. If you invoke Cleanup Cache, Studio One will reclaim storage space by deleting all unused temp files in the cache. If you have lots of songs and haven’t cleaned out their caches, you might be surprised at how much space this frees up. I usually wait until I’m done with a song before cleaning it up.

Finally, there’s a list of all the plug-ins that are in use. The left-most column shows much relative CPU power a plug-in consumes, as a bar graph, and numerically. The next column to the right shows the plug-in name and format. The Type column shows whether the plug-in is an instrument or insert effect. The final column on the right shows the delay compensation a plug-in requires.

(Note there’s also a column that shows the plug-in “path,” which is the track where the plug-in resides. For effects, it also shows the effect’s position in the insert section. However, fig. 1 doesn’t show this column, because it takes up space, and doesn’t really apply to what we’re covering.)

Figure 2: The transport shows useful performance information.

The transport includes a performance summary (fig. 2). Toward the lower left, you’ll see meters for CPU consumption (top meter) and disk activity. Click on Performance to call up the Performance Monitor window. The circle of dots indicates writing activity to the cache. Also note the figure under the sample rate—this is the total time Studio One has added for plug-in compensation.

Analyzing the Data

I’ve altered the UI graphic a bit, by grouping plug-ins, and adding a line in between to separate the groups. This makes it easier to analyze the data.

The top group includes a variety of reverbs, which in general tend to consume a lot of CPU power. Waves Abbey Road Chambers, iZotope’s Neoverb, and Rare Signals Transatlantic Plate clearly require the most CPU. Neoverb and Abbey Road Chambers also require the most latency compensation.

HD Cart is more efficient than I would have expected, and Studio One’s reverbs give a good account of themselves. Open Air and Room Reverb in Eco mode are extremely efficient, registering only 01 on the CPU meter. However, bumping up Room Reverb to HQ mode registers 03.

Bear in mind that lots of CPU consumption doesn’t mean a poor design—it can mean a complex design. Similarly, minimal CPU consumption doesn’t mean the effect won’t be as nuanced; it can simply mean the effect has been tightly optimized for a specific set of tasks. Also note that CPU-hungry reverbs are good candidates for being placed in an FX Channel or Bus. If used in individual tracks, Transform is your friend.

The next group down compares virtual instruments. You’ll see a fair amount of variation. I didn’t include the native Studio One instruments, because none of them requires delay compensation. Mai Tai and Presence typical register 01 or 02 in terms of CPU consumption, while the others don’t move the CPU meter noticeably. Bottom line: if you want to have a lot of instruments in a project, use as many native Studio One versions as possible, because they’re very efficient.

The next group down is plug-ins that use phase-linear technology. All of these require large amounts of delay compensation, because the delay is what allows for the plug-in to be in-phase internally. The Pro EQ2’s reading (which alternates between 3 and 4) is for only the phase-linear stage enabled; the nonlinear EQ stages draw very little CPU power. This is what you would expect from an EQ that has to be efficient enough to be inserted in lots of tracks, as is typical in a multitrack project.

The next-to-the-last group is amp sims. The figures vary a lot depending on which amps, cabinets, and effects are in use. For example, the Guitar Rig 6 preset includes two of their new amps, in HQ mode, that use a more CPU-intensive modeling process. The PRS V9 doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles, but concentrates on detailed amp sounds—hence the high CPU consumption. Ampire is somewhat more efficient than most high-quality amp sims, but there’s no avoiding the reality that good amp sims consume a lot of CPU power—which is another reason to become familiar with the Transform function.

Finally, the last group shows why even with today’s powerful computers, there’s a reason why people add Universal Audio’s DSP hardware to their systems. Both the Manley Massive Passive and Shadow Hills compressor draw a lot of power, and require significant delay compensation. But, they don’t draw any power from Studio One, because they get their power from UA’s DSP cards, not your computer’s processor.

It’s interesting to compare plug-ins. You’ll sometimes find that free plug-ins draw a fair amount of CPU because they’re not optimized as tightly as commercial products. You’ll also see why some plug-ins will bring your computer to its knees, while others won’t.

All this reminds me of a post I saw on a forum (not Studio One’s) where a person had just bought a powerful new computer because the old one crashed so much. However, the new one was still a “crashfest”—so he decided the DAW was the problem, and it must have been coded by incompetents. A little probing by other forum members revealed that he really liked iZotope’s Ozone, so he put it on almost every track instead of using a more standard compressor or limiter. Oh, and he also used a lot of amp sims. Ooops…I’m surprised his CPU didn’t melt. If he’d had Studio One, though, and looked at the Performance Monitor, he would have found out how to best optimize his system…and now you can, too.

The Multiband Limiter

Although Studio One offers multiple options for dynamics control, there’s no “maximizing” processor, as often implemented by a multiband limiter (e.g., Waves’ L3 Multimaximizer). The Tricomp and Multiband Dynamics come close, but they’re not quite the same as multiband limiting—so, let’s use Studio One Professional’s toolset to make one.

The concept (fig. 1) is pretty simple: use the Splitter in Frequency Split mode, and follow each split with a Limiter2. The final limiter at the end (Limiter 6) is optional. If you’re really squashing the signal, or choosing a slower response, the output limiter is there to catch any transients that make it through the limiters in the splits.

Figure 1: Each of the five parallel limiters processes a specific frequency band.

 The Control Panel with the Macro controls (fig. 2) is straightforward.

Figure 2: The Macro controls adjust the controls on the five Limiter2 processors that follow the splits.

Each Macro control corresponds to the same control in the Limiter2, and varies that control over its full range, in all the Limiter2 modules that follow the splits. For example, if you vary the Threshold Macro control, it controls the Threshold for all limiters simultaneously (except for Limiter 6 at the output, which has “set-and-forget” settings), over the control’s full range. However, you can get even more out of this FX Chain by opening up the Limiter2 GUIs, and optimizing each one’s settings. For example, using less limiting in the lower midrange can tighten up the sound.

You can download the multipreset from my public PreSonus Sphere area, so you needn’t concern yourself with the details of how it’s put together (although you might have fun reverse-engineering it). And is it worth the download? Well, check out the audio example. The first and second parts are normalized to the same level, but the second one is processed by the multiband limiter. Note that it has a louder perceived level, and is also more articulated. This is because each band has its own dedicated limiter. I rest my case!

Bonus Supplementary Nerd Talk

The Splitter’s filters are not phase-linear, which colors the sound. There’s an easy way to hear the effects of this coloration: Insert a mixed, stereo file in a track, then copy it to a second track. When you play the two together, they should sound the same as either track by itself—just louder.

Next, insert a Splitter in one track, select Frequency Split, and choose 5 splits. Play the two tracks together, and you’ll hear the result of the phase differences interacting. Choosing a different number of splits changes the tonality, because the phase shifts are different.

This is why for mastering, engineers often prefer a phase-linear, multiband limiter—the sound is transparent, and doesn’t have phase issues. The downside of phase-linear EQ is heavier CPU consumption, and increased latency. But it’s equally important to remember that phase issues are an inherent part of vintage, analog EQ, which have a “character” that phase-linear EQs don’t have.

So as usual, the bottom line isn’t choosing one over the other—it’s choosing the right tool for the right job. If you’ve worked only with phase-linear multiband limiters, give this variation a try. With some material, you may find it doesn’t just give more perceived level, but also, gives a more appropriate sonic character.

Sound Design for the Rest of Us

 

Last May, I did a de-stresser FX Chain, and several people commented that they wanted more sound design-oriented tips. Well, I aim to please! So let’s get artfully weird with Studio One

Perhaps you think sound design is just about movies—but it’s not. Those of you who’ve seen my mixing seminars may remember the “giant thud” sound on the downbeat of significant song sections. Or maybe you’ve noticed how DJs use samples to embellish transitions, and change a crowd’s mood. Bottom line: sound is effective, and unexpected sounds can enhance almost any production

It all starts with an initial sound source, which you can then modify with filtering, delay, reverb, level changes, transposition, Chord Track changes, etc. Of course, you can use Mai Tai to create sounds, but let’s look at how to generate truly unique sounds—by tricking effects into doing things they’re not supposed to do

Sound Design Setup

The “problem” with using the stock Studio One effects for sound design is…well, they’re too well-designed. The interesting artifacts they generate are so low in level that most of the time, we don’t even know they exist. The solution is to insert them in a channel, amplify the sound source with one or two Mixtools set to maximum gain, and then enable the Channel’s Monitor button so you can hear the weirdo artifacts they generate. Automating the effects’ parameters takes this even further.

However, now we need to record the sounds. We can’t do this in the normal way, because there’s no actual track input. So, referring to fig. 1, insert another track (we’ll call it the Record Trk), and assign its input to the Effects track’s output. Both tracks need to be the same format – either both stereo, or both mono. (Note that you can also use the Record track’s Gain Input Control to increase the effect’s level.) Start recording, and now your deliciously strange effects will be recorded in the new track.

Figure 1: Track layout for creating sound effects orgies.

The FX channel is optional, but it’s helpful because the Effects track fader needs to turned way up. With it assigned to the Main bus, we’ll hear it along with the track we’re recording. That’s not a problem when recording, but on playback, you’ll hear what you recorded and the Effects track. So, assign the Effects output to a dummy FX bus, turn its fader down, and now you’ll hear only the Recorded track on playback. The Record Trk will still work normally when recording the sound effects.

After recording the sounds, normalize the audio if needed. Finally, add envelopes, transpose the Event (this can be lots of tun), and transform the effect’s sound into something it was never intended to do. Percussion sounds are a no-brainer, as are long transitions from one part of a song to the next. And of course, the Event can follow the Chord Track (use Universal mode).

The Rotor is a fun place to start. Insert it in the Effect track, and run through the various presets. Some DJs would just love to have a collection of these kinds of samples to load into Maschine. Here’s an audio example.

 

 

Audio Example 1 Rotor+Reverb

 

The next example is based the Flanger.

 

Audio Example 2 Flanger

 

Now we’ll have the previous Flanger example follow a strange Chord Track progression, in Universal mode.

 

Audio Example 3 Flanger+Chord track

 

Other Effects

This is just the start…check out what happens when you automate the Stages parameter in the Phaser.

 

Audio Example 4 Phaser Loop

 

Or turn the Mixverb Size, Width, and Mix to 100%, then vary damping. The Flanger is pretty good at generating strange sounds, but like some of these, you’ll have the best results if you set the track mode to mono. OpenAIR is fun, too— when you want a pretty cool rocket engine, load the Air Pressure preset (under Post), set Mix to 100% wet, add some lowpass filtering…and blast off!