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Category Archives: Friday Tip of the Week


The Flanger Lab

 

 

 

The Flanger Lab FX Chain provides a wide variety of effects, from traditional flanging to psycho-acoustic panning, and can even incorporate some mid-side mojo—it all depends on how you set the controls. Originally, I had planned to include a control panel for Studio One Pro users, but there are simply too many options to fit into eight controls. It’s more fun just to open up all the effects, play with the knobs, and be pleasantly surprised.

The FX Chain itself is fairly straightforward (fig. 1): A split into two Flangers, one preceded by a Mixtool to invert the phase, and a Dual Pan at the end.

 

Figure 1: Flanger Lab FX Chain block diagram

 

Now let’s look at the effects (fig. 2).

Figure 2: Effects used in the Flanger Lab FX Chain.

 

 

The audio example, with stereo program material, uses the settings shown in figures 1 and 2. However, this is just one possible sound. Flanger Lab is equally effective with mono distorted guitar, stereo string pads, and more.

 

 

Here are some tips on how different control settings affect the sound.

  • Flanger Lab works with mono or stereo audio.
  • Because the Mixtool is inverting the phase of one split, as the flangers approach the same audio in both channels, the mid cancels (which gives through-zero flanging), and you’re essentially just hearing the sides.
  • Choosing Normal split mode instead of Channel Split accentuates the mid cancellation. This can produce a dreamy, ethereal effect with instruments that you want to have come in and out of the mix in interesting ways.
  • Offsetting the Mixtool gain by even just a little bit will reduce the cancellation when the audio coincides.
  • Offsetting the Flanger Delay controls changes the sound—for example, there’s quite a difference between having a delay of 1 ms for one Flanger and 5 ms for the other, compared to the default of 2 ms for each one.
  • I prefer offsetting the Speed controls so that one is slow, and the other faster. This helps randomize the sweeping effect.
  • LFO Amount and Mix do what you’d expect.
  • Setting Feedback to the same negative percentage has less intensity than setting them both to the same positive percentage, but try setting one for negative feedback, and the other for positive feedback.
  • Altering Input Balance on the Dual Pan, with both Pan controls centered, changes the proportion of the two flangers in the audio output. When set fully to the left or right, the sound is like traditional flanging, based on the flanger settings in the left or right channel respectively.
  • Centering both Dual Pan controls gives a traditional, mono flanging sound, with through-zero cancellation. Spreading the controls out further products psycho-acoustic panning effects that will make your head spin on headphones, but translate to speakers as well. Also when spread fully to the left and right, mid cancellation doesn’t happen. With playback over a mono system, the panning goes away, and you just get flanging.
  • The controls interact—for example, changing the delay time will change the effect of the panning mentioned in the previous tip.

The bottom line is you can play with the controls for hours. Well, at least I could! If you come up with a cool sound, save it as a custom FX Chain. Given the variables, you might not be able to find that sound again.

Finally, there seems to be persistent confusion about how to handle downloaded FX Chains, like where to store them, and how to put them in custom folders. For answers to these and other questions about FX Chains, please check out the Friday Tip Fun Facts about FX Chains.

Download the Flanger Lab.multipreset FX Chain preset here

The Ampire Sweetener

 

I work a lot with amp sims, and I love ’em. Well, except for one thing: Almost all of the ones that involve distortion exhibit what I call “the annoying frequency.” It’s hard to describe, but when it’s removed, you can definitely tell what’s missing—kind of a whistling sound, but without a sense of pitch. I have no idea why this particular type of artifact happens. It doesn’t go away if I increase the sample rate, choose a different pickup, switch guitars, or change my socks. And it’s worse with some amp sims than others; when reviewing a [particular amp sim by a PreSonus competitor] and I made the product manager aware of the annoying frequency, a subsequent expansion pack included a parametric equalizer so users could notch it out.

Granted, the 3rd gen Ampire is light years ahead of the 1st gen, as well as a lot of other amp sims out there. But we can still make it better, because the goal of the Friday Tip is to make things better, right?!? Besides, I’m an unreasonably picky guitar player.

Adding the EQ

Download the preset Ampire Sweetener.preset , and load it into the Pro EQ2 (Just open the .zip and double click the .preset file to install).  It will now have the curve shown in Fig. 1. Insert the Pro EQ2 after your Ampire amp and cab of choice, and the sound will magically lose its artifact.

Figure 1: Insert these notch filters after Ampire and its cab.

You have every right to skeptical—after all, you are reading this on the internet—so let’s listen to an audio example. The first half is with the EQ following the MCM800 amp and 4×12 MFB cab. The second half is with the EQ bypassed, but everything else the same. Both examples in the audio file are normalized to the same level. I’m pretty sure you’ll hear the artifact in the second half. Another way to hear the difference is play some power chords, and bypass the EQ stages to hear what they contribute to the sound.

 

The EQ’s curve isn’t only about the dual notches. There’s no need for super-high or -low frequencies, so those are reduced as well. Also, because the notches are in the high frequencies, adding a slight treble shelf compensates for the reduced amount of highs.

Figure 2: Reduce the high-shelf level and the two notches to sound more like the original amp sim/cab tone.

Now, this doesn’t mean you’ll like the end result better. You might prefer the sound with the artifact, and that’s fine. However, the artifact persists through the various amps and cabs. Inserting the Ampire Sweetener EQ removes that common element, which emphasizes the unique character, and tonal quality, of the individual amps and cabs. However, you can also “split the difference” by dialing back the parameters outlined in white (Fig. 2).

Finally, if you use other amp sims, many (if not most) will also benefit from one or two steep notches at the output. They probably won’t be the same frequencies, but they’ll likely be pretty close. The bad news is quite a few of them have far more prominent artifacts than Ampire, but the good news is the higher level makes it easier to hear them, so you can dial in their frequencies more quickly to notch them out.

LCR Mixing and Panning Explained

Lately, it seems there’s an increasing buzz about “LCR” mixing. LCR stands for Left, Center, and Right, and it’s a panning technique where all panpots are set to either left, center, or right—nothing in between. Look it up on the internet, and you’ll find polarized opinions that vary from it’s the Holy Grail of mixing, to it’s ridiculous and vaguely idiotic. Well, I’m not polarized, so I’ll give you the bottom line: it can work well in some situations, but not so well in others.

Proponents of this style of mixing claim several advantages:

  • The resulting mixes sound very wide without having to use image processing, because there’s so much energy in the sides.
  • It simplifies mixing decisions, because you don’t have to agonize over stereo placement.
  • Mixes translate well for those not sitting in stereo’s “sweet spot,” because the most important material is panned to the center.
  • It forces you to pay attention to EQ and the arrangement, to make sure there’s good differentiation among instruments panned hard left and hard right.
  • If an LCR mix leaves “holes” in the stereo field, then you can use reverb or other stereo ambience to fill that space. As one example, stereo overhead mics on drums can pan hard left and hard right, yet still fill in a lot of the space in the middle. Or, place reverb in the channel opposite of where a signal is panned.

There are plenty of engineers who prefer LCR mixes for the reasons given above. However, LCR is not a panacea, nor is it necessarily desirable. It also may not fit an artist’s goal. For those who think of music in more symphonic terms—as multiple elements creating a greater whole, to be listened to under optimal conditions—the idea of doing something like panning the woodwinds and brass far left and the violins full right, with orchestral percussion and double bass in the middle, makes no sense. Conversely, if you’re doing a pop mix where you want every element to be distinct, an LCR approach can work well, if done properly.

Then again, some engineers consider a mix to be essentially a variation on mono, because the most important elements are panned to center. They don’t want distractions on the left and right; those elements exist to provide a “frame” around the center.

Another consideration is according to all the stats I’ve seen, these days more people listen on headphones than component system speakers. LCR mixing can sound great at first on headphones due to the novelty, but eventually becomes unnatural and fatiguing. Then again, as depressing a thought as this may be, a disturbingly large part of the population listens to music on computer speakers. Any panning nuances are lost under those conditions, whereas LCR mixing can sound direct and unambiguous.

 

Help Is on the Way!

So what’s a mix engineer to do? Well, a good way to get familiar with LCR is to load up some of your favorite songs into Studio One, and listen to the mid and sides separately. Hearing instruments in the sides tends to imply an LCR mix; Madonna’s “Ray of Light” comes to mind. For a “pure” LCR mix, listen to the original version of Cat Stevens’ “Matthew and Son” on YouTube. It was recorded in 1966 (trivia fans: John Paul Jones, later of Led Zeppelin, played bass). Back then, the limited number of tracks, and mixing console limitations, almost forced engineers into doing LCR. In case you wondered why some songs of that era had the drums in one channel and the bass in the opposite channel…now you know why.

Anyway, it’s easy to do mid-side analysis in Studio One (Fig. 1).

Figure 1: Setup for analyzing mid and side components of music.

The Mixtool, with MS Transform selected, encodes a stereo signal into mid (left channel) and sides (right channel). However, it’s difficult to do any meaningful analysis with the mid in one ear and the sides in the other. So, the Dual Pan’s Input Balance control chooses either the mid <L> or sides <R>. The panpots place the chosen audio in the center of the stereo field.

Once you start finding out whether your favorite songs are LCR or mixed more conventionally, it will help you decide what might work best for you. If you decide to experiment with LCR mixing, bear in mind that it kind of lives by its own rules, and it takes some experience to wrap your head around how to get the most out of it.

 

And the Verdict Is…

Well, you can believe whatever you like from what you see on the internet, and more importantly, choose what sounds best to you…but this is my blog post, so here’s what I think 😊. Any and all comments are welcome!

As mentioned in a previous blog post, I always start mixes in mono. I feel this is the best way to find out if sounds mask either other, whether some tracks are redundant because they don’t contribute that much to the arrangement, and which tracks need EQ so they can carve out their own part of the frequency spectrum. That way, whether instruments are on top of each other or spread out, they’ll work well together.

But from there on, I split my approach. I still favor the center and use the sides as a frame, but also selectively choose particular elements (usually rhythm guitar, keyboards, and percussion) to pan off to the left or right so there’s a strong presence in the sides. For me, this gives the best of both worlds: a wide mix with good separation of various elements, but done in service of creating a full mix, without holes in the stereo field. Those who listen on headphones won’t be subjected to an over-exaggerated stereo effect, while those who listen over speakers will have a less critical “sweet spot” than if there was nuanced panning.

I came up with this approach simply because it fits the kind of music I make, and the way I expect most people will listen to it. Only later did I find out I had combined LCR mixing with a more traditional approach, and that underscores the bottom line: all music is different, and there are few—if any—“one-size-fits-all” rules.

Well, with the possible exception of “oil the kick drum pedal before you press record.”

Mid-Side Meets Reverb

The post on using mid-side processing with the CTC-1 garnered a good response, so let’s follow up with one of my favorite mid-side techniques: M-S reverb.

 

To recap, mid-side processing separates sounds in the center of a stereo file from sounds panned to the sides, processes them individually, then puts them back together again into stereo. It isn’t a perfect separation, because the mid is the sum of the left and right channels. Although this boosts the center somewhat, the mid still includes the sides. However, the side channel is quite precise, because it’s derived from putting the right and left channels out of phase—so the center cancels.

 

Applying Mid-Side Reverb

 

Before getting into how to make M-S reverb, here’s why it’s useful. Some productions have an overall reverb to provide ambiance, and a second reverb (often plate) dedicated to the vocal. The vocal is usually mixed to center, so it’s competing for space with the bass, snare, and kick. If they’re contributing to the overall reverb, and the vocal is creating its own reverb, that’s a lot of reverb in the center.

 

One popular fix is adding a highpass filter prior to the overall reverb, set to around 300 Hz. This keeps the bass and kick from muddying the reverb. However, it doesn’t take care of midrange or high-frequency sounds that are panned to center, like snare. These can compete even more with the vocal if they’re in the same frequency range.

 

While some reverbs let you tailor high- and low-frequency reverb times with a crossover, this doesn’t cover all the processing you might want to do, nor does Studio One’s Room Reverb include these parameters. Mid-side reverb, with different reverbs on the mid and sides, is a more flexible solution for customizing an overall reverb ambiance.

 

 

Assembling the Mid-Side Reverb

 

Download the FX Chain, or if you want to roll your own, start by dragging the MS-Transform FX Chain into a bus (of course, this also works for individual channels). Then drag a Room Reverb into each split (Fig. 1). The default reverb preset is a good place to start, but if the FX Chain is in a bus, remember to set the Mix controls for 100% wet sound. I also like to insert a Binaural Pan after the second MixTool to widen the overall stereo image.

 

Figure 1: Mid-Side Reverb FX Chain, which adds two Room Reverbs and a Binaural Pan to the MS-Transform FX Chain.

 

The reverb on the left handles the center, while the reverb on the right processes the sides. Lower the fader after the left reverb; Fig. 1 shows -6 dB, but adjust to taste. This alone will open up some space in the center for your vocal and its reverb. However, where this effect really comes into its own is when you tweak the reverb parameters for each reverb. For example…

 

  • If you still want reverb on the kick and low end, vary the mid reverb’s Length parameter. Shorter lengths tighten the kick more, while longer lengths give that Kick of Doom reverb sound.
  • Increase Length on the sides for a more atmospheric reverb sound.
  • Increase pre-delay on the sides, to make space for attacks on the vocal track. Consonants benefit from the extra clarity.
  • For this application, Eco mode sounds fine but try HQ as well.
  • Turn up the Binaural Pan after the second Mixtool. I often turn it up all the way, because it sounds great in stereo, and there aren’t any phasey issues of the output collapses to mono.

 

By adjusting the two reverbs, you can sculpt them to give the desired overall reverb sound. If you then place a vocal in the center with a sweet plate, I think you’ll find that the vocal and overall reverb create a smooth, differentiated, and conflict-free reverb effect.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recording ReWired Programs

I had a bunch of legacy Acid projects from my pre-Studio One days, as well as some Ableton Live projects that were part of my live performances. With live performance a non-starter for the past year, I wanted to turn them into songs, and mix them in Studio One’s environment.

 

Gregor’s clever video, Ableton Live and Studio One Side-by-Side, shows how to drag-and-drop files between Live and Studio One. But I didn’t want individual files, I needed entire tracks…including ones I could improvise in real time with Live. The obvious answer is ReWire, since both Acid and Live can ReWire into Studio One. However, you can’t record what comes into the Instrument tracks used by ReWire. Nor can you bounce the ReWired audio, because there’s nothing physically in Studio One to bounce.

 

It turned out the answer is temporarily messy—but totally simple. First, let’s refresh our memory about ReWire. 

 

Setting Up ReWire

 

Start by telling Studio One to recognize ReWire devices. Under Options > Advanced > Services, make sure ReWire Support is enabled. In Studio One’s browser, under the Instruments tab, open the ReWire folder. Drag in the program you want to ReWire, the same way you’d drag in an instrument. (Incidentally, although you’re limited to dragging in one instance of the same ReWire client, you can ReWire two or more different clients into Studio One. Suitable clients includes Live, Acid Pro, FL Studio, Renoise, Reason before version 11, and others.) 

 

After dragging in Ableton Live, open it. ReWired clients are supposed to open automatically, but that’s not always the case.

 

Now we need to patch Live and Studio One together. In Ableton Live, for the Audio To fields, choose ReWire Out, and a separate output bus for each track. In my project, there were 9 stereo tracks (Fig. 1).

Figure 1: Assign Ableton Live’s ReWire outputs to buses. These connect to Studio One as track inputs.

 

Then, expand the Instrument panel in Studio One, and check all the buses that were assigned in Ableton Live. This automatically opens up mixer channels to play back the audio (Fig. 2). However, the mixer channels can’t record anything, so we need to go further.

Figure 2: Ableton Live loaded into Studio One, which treats Ableton Live like a virtual instrument with multiple outputs. 

 

Recording the ReWired Program

 

As mentioned, the following is temporarily messy. But once you’re recorded your tracks, you can tidy everything up, and your Live project will be a Studio One project. (Note that I renamed the tracks in Studio One as 1-9, so I didn’t have to refer to the stereo bus numbers in the following steps.) To do recording:

 

  1. In each Studio One track, go to its Send section and choose Add Bus Channel. Now we have Buses 1-9—one for each track.
  2. Our original instrument tracks have served their purpose, so we can hide them to avoid screen clutter. Now Studio One shows 9 buses (Fig. 3).

Figure 3: The buses are carrying the audio from Ableton Live’s outputs.

 

  1. Create 9 more tracks in Studio One (for my project, these were stereo). Assign each track input to an associated bus, so that each of the 9 buses terminates in a unique track. Now we can hide the bus tracks, and record-enable the new tracks to record the audio (fig. 4).

Figure 4: Studio One is set up to record the audio from Ableton Live.

 

  1. Now you’re ready to record whatever is in Ableton Live over to Studio One, in real time. 
  2. Fig. 5 shows the results of unhiding everything, narrowing the channels, and hitting play. At this point, if everything transferred over correctly, you can delete the ReWired tracks, remove the buses they fed, close Ableton Live, and you’re left with all the Live audio in Studio One tracks. Mission accomplished!

Figure 5: The Ableton Live audio has completed its move into Studio One. Now you can delete the instrument and bus channels you don’t need any more, close Ableton Live, return the U-Haul, and start doing your favorite Studio One stuff to supplement what you did in Live. Harmonic Editing, anyone?

 

Bonus tip: This is also the way to play Ableton Live instruments in real time, especially through Live’s various tempo-synched effects, while recording them in Studio One. And don’t forget about Gregor’s trick of moving Studio One files over to Live—this opens up using Live’s effects on Studio One tracks, which you can then record back into Studio One, along with other tracks, using the above technique.

 

Granted, I use Studio One for most of my multitrack projects. But there’s a lot to be gained by becoming fluent in multiple programs.   

 

Mid-Side Meets the CTC-1

I’ve often said it’s more fun to ask “what if I…?” than “how do I?” “What-if” is about trying something new, while “how do I” is about re-creating something that already exists. Well, I couldn’t help but wonder “what if” you combined the CTC-1 with mid-side processing, and sprinkled on a little of that CTC-1 magic? Let’s find out. (For more information on mid-side processing, check out my blog post Mid-Side Processing Made Easy. Also, note that only Studio One Professional allows using Mix Engine FX.)

 

One stumbling block is that the CTC-1 is designed to be inserted in a bus,  and the Mid-Side Transform FX chain won’t allow inserting Mix Engine FX. Fortunately, there’s a simple workaround (see Fig. 1).

 

  1. Copy the stereo track you want to process, so you have two tracks with the same stereo audio. One will provide the Mid audio, and the other, the Sides audio.
  2. Insert an MS-Transform FX Chain into each track (you’ll find this FX Chain in the Browser’s Mixing folder, under FX Chains)
  3. Create a bus for each track.
  4. Assign each track output to its own bus (not the main out). However, the bus outputs should go to the Main out.
  5. Add a CTC-1 Mix Engine FX in each bus.

Figure 1: Setup for adding mid-side processing with the CTC-1 to a mixed stereo file.

 

  1. To dedicate one bus to the mid audio, and the other to the sides, open up the Splitters in the MS-Transform FX Chains.
  2. Mute the sides output for the Mid track (top of Fig. 2, outlined in orange). Then, mute the mid output for the Sides track (bottom of Fig. 2, also outlined in orange).

Figure 2: One bus is Mid only, the other is Sides only.

 

Now you can add the desired amount of CTC-1 goodness to the mids and sides. And of course, you can vary the bus levels to choose the desired proportion of mid and sides audio.

 

Audition Time!

 

The following example is an excerpt from the original file, without the CTC-1.

 

 

 

Next up, CTC-1 with the Custom option on the Mid, and the Tube option on the Sides. Fig. 3 shows their settings—a fair amount of Character, and a little bit of Drive.

Figure 3: CTC-1 settings for the audio example.

 

 

 

If you didn’t hear much difference, trying playing Audio Example 1 again after playing Audio Example 2. Sometimes it’s easier to tell when something’s missing, compared to when something’s been added.

 

The more you know about the CTC-1, the more effectively you can use it. The bottom line is I now know the answer to my “what if” question: get some buses into the picture, and the CTC-1 can be hella good for processing mid and sides!

 

The Multiband X-Trem

Finally! People are becoming aware of the Splitter. Although the Splitter can act like a Y-cord or split based on channel, the coolest Splitter feature for me is being able to split based on frequency. This is what makes creating multiband FX Chains in Studio One sooo easy. 

 

Check out the audio example to hear a taste of what this can do with a pad and drum part. The first four measures are unprocessed, while the second four measures use the same Multiband X-Trem settings on the pad and the drums.

 

 

 

The block diagram (Fig. 1) is pretty simple—the Splitter creates three bands, Lo, Mid, and Hi, with crossovers at 332 and 854 Hz. (There’s nothing magical about those particular frequencies, choose what works best for the audio you’re putting through it.)

Figure 1: Block diagram for the Multiband X-Trem.

 

The real magic in this FX is the way the crucial parameters are brought out to the control panel that’s available in Studio One Pro (Fig. 2). However, Studio One Artist users can still load the FX Chain, and edit individual parameters. Although it’s more time-consuming, you can end up with the same sonic results.

Figure 2: Multiband X-Trem control panel.

 

How to Use It

 

This FX Chain assumes you’re going to sync it to tempo. Each of the three bands has a control to choose the Beat (tremolo rhythm) and Waveform, along with buttons to choose each band’s mode (Pan or Tremolo) and waveform Phase Flip. So far, that’s pretty simple.

 

The Mix section toward the right, with two knobs and their associated switches, is a little more complex. There aren’t enough control panel knobs to have a Depth control for each band, however in use, I’ve found that I usually adjust the depth for the Mid and Hi bands together, and the Lo band by itself. So, the Lo band has its own Depth control, while the Mid and Hi bands share a Depth control. There are also buttons to bypass the X-Trem for the Mid and/or Hi band. This is almost as good as having individual Depth controls, because you can remove depth for either band as needed.

 

We’ll close out with some additional tips…

 

  • The sawtooth wave defaults to positive-going (i.e., the level ramps up from nothing to full). Flipping the phase makes a more percussive effect.
  • A slow rhythm for the Lo band gives a sort of “rolling” effect. Faster speeds seem to work best for the Mid and Hi bands.
  • Feel free to jump in and do tweaks—like change the Gate or Step waveform levels, vary the levels of the bands within the Splitter module, or change the crossover frequencies.

Happy download! Grab the Multiband X-Trem FX Chain preset here.

A Slick Trick for Thick Kicks

Imagine if you had a mold for sound, the same way you can have a mold for Jell-O—and whatever you poured into your “sonic mold” took on those particular characteristics. Well, that’s pretty much what convolution processors do. When they load their “mold,” which is called an impulse response, it shapes whatever sound they’re processing. 

 

Studio One has two convolution processors. Ampire uses one to load speaker cabinet impulse responses. For example, when Ampire wants to sound like it’s going through a 2 x 12 speaker cabinet, it loads a 2 x 12 cabinet impulse response. The other convolution processor, Open Air, is optimized for creating acoustic spaces. So if the impulse is of a concert hall, sound processed through Open Air sounds like it’s in a concert hall. If the impulse is a blues club, the the sound takes on the characteristics of being in a blues club.

 

What’s perhaps not as well known is that you can load pretty much any WAV file into Open Air and use that as your sonic mold. So, this month’s tip is for the  EDM and hip-hop crowd, because we’re going to load big-sounding kick drums into Open Air. Then, we’ll use them as molds to turn wimpy kicks into giant, thick kicks that smash through a mix, while leaving a trail of sophisticated destruction in their wake. But don’t take my word for it—check out the audio example, which has no EQ or compression. 

 

 

 

There are five two-measure examples. The first example is from a kick track. The second, third, and fourth examples process the kick using this technique. The fifth example repeats the first example, as a reminder of how the sound started. 

 

The secret is processing the kick track through the Open Air reverb, using a kick drum sample as the impulse (Fig. 1). Just like how a cabinet impulse response imparts the sound of a cabinet onto a guitar amp, these kick drum impulses shape the kick track to have an entirely different character.

Figure 1: The Open Air reverb has a kick impulse loaded, and imparts that sound to the kick track.

 

Studio One’s Sound Sets have lots of kick drum samples. Here are the ones I used for the second, third, and fourth two-measure examples. The Open Air Mix control hovered around 30% for these.

 

Acoustic Drum Kits and Loops > Samples > TM Pop Rock Kit > DW 20.24 Pop Rock Kick  > DW 20.24 Pop Rock Kick 1.wav

 

Acoustic Drum Kits and Loops > Samples > TM Thuddy 70’s Kit > Gretsch 14×22 Vintage Thuddy Kick > Gretsch 14×22 Vintage Thuddy Kick 1.wav

 

909 Day Studio One Kits > Samples > F9 909 Detroit Kick.wav

 

So What’s the Catch?

 

Kick drum impulses can overload the Open Air pretty easily. The first two examples used the softest-velocity kick, but the F9 909 Detroit Kick was way too loud (well, unless you like horrific distortion). Most convolution reverbs are happiest with impulses that peak at around -12 dB.

 

So, the solution is simple. Drag the kick drum impulse into a Studio One track, use the gain envelope to cut the gain to about -12 dB peak, hit ctrl+B to make the change permanent, and then you can drag this impulse from the Studio One track right into the Open Air reverb.

 

Of course, you don’t have to limit yourself to kick, but it does seem kicks are where this technique shines the brightest. I also fooled around with using a floor tom as an impulse, and open hi-hat impulses on closed hi-hat tracks. The results aren’t always predictable…but that’s what makes it fun, right?

Fun Facts about FX Chains

Whenever I write a blog post with a downloadable FX Chain, it seems there are always questions about how to load it, save it, or use it. Well, there’s no time like the present to consolidate a bunch of answers.

Artist vs. Pro  

An FX Chain combines several effects, which for convenience, you can save and load as a single “virtual multi-effects.” For example, if you come up with a cool kick drum sound based on limiting, EQ, and saturation, you can save the combination of effects as an FX Chain. The next time you want that sound, instead of loading the three effects and tweaking them, just load the FX Chain.

Studio One Professional enhances FX Chains with the ability to bring out macro controls to a control panel (Fig. 1).

Figure 1: Control panel for the Vintage Tape Flanging FX Chain.

Macro controls are extremely powerful—they can control multiple parameters at once, as well as scale control ranges. If you have Artist and see that one of my FX Chains has a control panel, you can still tweak the parameters, but you’ll have to do so at the chain’s individual effects. Often, a lot of effort goes into programming the macro controls, so using these FX Chains in Artist can be a challenge. However, I do try to save FX Chains so that the default settings are useful, and may not require too much tweaking.

 

Where FX Chains Live

FX Chains are stored in two locations, but the Browser combines these. So, it appears there’s only one place where FX Chains are stored. The factory default FX Chains are located in:

  • [Windows] C:\Program Files\PreSonus\Studio One 5\Presets\PreSonus\FX Chains
  • [macOS] Applications\Studio One 5 (right-click, and choose Show Package Contents)\Contents\Presets\PreSonus\FX Chains

The User Presets section in this location is for preferences like color schemes and such, not FX Chains. Don’t store your custom FX Chains in the factory default location, because it’s overwritten when you install a new version of Studio One. Instead, store your FX Chains in the location specified in the program’s options for User Data. To find this location from within Studio One:

  • [Windows] Studio One > Options > Locations tab > User Data tab
  • [macOS] Studio One > Preferences > Locations tab > User Data tab

The default for the user data is:

  • [Windows] C:\Users\[user name]\Documents\Studio One\Presets\PreSonus
  • [macOS] Macintosh HD\Documents\Studio One\Presets\PreSonus

In either case, the PreSonus folder has a folder for user FX Chains. When you save an FX Chain (click on the down arrow to the right of “Inserts”), you’ll have the opportunity to save it to a particular folder. Any folders you created for your chains in User Data will be shown, and so will the factory default folders. However, if you save into what appears to be a factory default folder, like Drums, your preset will not go into that factory folder. Instead, it will be placed in a Drums folder in your user FX Chain folder (if a Drums folder doesn’t exist in there, Studio One will create it). But remember, only one Drums folder will appear in the Browser, because it’s smart enough to group together the default and user FX Chains from their respective folders.

 

Moving Your User Data

With either Windows or Mac, I prefer not to keep too much stuff on the main system drive. For example, with Windows I avoid saving to the C drive’s Documents folder. I’ve dedicated drive D: to music, so everything relating to music—songs, projects, and custom presets—is in one place, for easy backup. So, I cut the Studio One folder from the default user location given above, pasted it at the root of my music drive, and re-directed the User Data tab in Studio One’s Options [Windows] or Preferences [macOS] to this new location (Fig. 2).

 

Figure 2: All my user data is now in the Studio One folder at the root of my music drive.

For Windows, my custom FX Chains now live at:

  • D:\Studio One\Presets\PreSonus\FX Chains\CA Chains

 

Is that a User or Factory FX Chain?

If you’re not sure whether an FX Chain is a factory one or a user one, right-click on the FX Chain and choose Show in Explorer [Windows], or Show in Finder [macOS]. You’ll then see whether the FX Chain lives in your User Data folder, or the factory defaults folder.

 

How to Evaluate an FX Chain

You might not want to add one of my FX Chains to your permanent collection, unless you think it’s something you’ll use. To evaluate an FX Chain after downloading it, drag the chain from the download folder to a Channel, Bus, or FX Channel insert. Check it out and if you want to keep it, store it in your User Data folder, as described above.

 

Here’s Where to Get My Friday Tip FX Chains

You won’t have to go through years of blog posts anymore! Thanks to the unceasing efforts of Ryan Roullard and the web team to make life easier, they’ll soon be posting my FX Chains on PreSonus Exchange, and you’ll be able to drag and drop them into your Songs right from Studio One’s Browser.

 

The Presence 12-String Electric Guitar

 

It’s difficult to sample a 12-string. The core Presence content includes a 12-string acoustic guitar, but there are no 12-string electrics—so let’s construct one. 

 

One of my favorite guitars ever is the Rickenbacker 360 12-string. Back in my touring days, it travelled tens of thousands of miles with me (Fig. 1). 

 

Figure 1: The mighty Rickenbacker 360 12-string guitar. Nothing else sounds like it.

 

I thought it would be a challenge to try and emulate that iconic sound with Presence. Listen to the audio example, and hear the results.

 

 

How It Works

 

The sound starts with one Presence instance, which uses a 6-string electric guitar preset. Then, we create a second, multi-instrument track with two Presence instances that use the same electric guitar preset. Transposing one of the instances up creates the octave above sound; however, a real 12-string guitar doesn’t have octaves on the 1st and 2nd strings. So, we use the final Presence for a unison sound, and edit the ranges in the multi instrument so they don’t overlap.

 

Step-by-Step Guitar Construction

 

  1. Create an Instrument track with Presence, and load the Guitar > Telecaster > Telecaster Open preset. This guitar sound is closest to a Rickenbacker, but we’ll do some EQ tricks later to get it closer.
  2. Create a new Instrument track with Presence, and load the same preset. Drag a second instance of Presence into the same track. When asked whether you want to “load the instrument or combine the instrument Presence,” choose Combine. This opens the Multi Instrument window. Load the same preset into the new Presence instance as well.
  3. In the multi instrument, drag the upper end of one Presence key range down to A#2 (we’ll call this the “Octave Presence”). Drag the lower end of the other Presence key range up to B2 (we’ll call this the “Unison Presence”). Fig. 2 shows the multi instrument window.

Figure 2: The multi instrument window has two instances of Presence—one for the octave above strings, and the other for the unison strings.

 

  1. Open the Octave Presence preset. Set Transpose to +12, and Pitch Fine Tune to +5 cents. Then open the Unison Presence preset, and change Pitch Fine Tune to -2 cents.
  2. Insert an Analog Delay in the multi Instrument channel , with the settings shown in Fig. 3. The reason for the 20 ms delay is because the higher string in a pair of strings gets hit just a little bit late. (We can’t use the Delay in Presence itself, because the mix needs to be 100% delay—no dry sound.) Without this delay, the emulated 12-string doesn’t sound right.

Figure 3: The Analog Delay emulates the delay caused by hitting the octave strings just a little bit later.

 

Note the High Cut setting—this reduces some of the brightness caused by transposition. The Width settings give a big stereo image, but for a more “normal” sound, turn ping-pong mode to Off.

 

Your mixer should look like Fig. 4, with two channels (basic guitar, and multi preset).

Figure 4: Mixer channels for the 12-string guitar.

 

Additional Tweaks

 

The Pitch Fine Tune settings in the multi instrument instances emulate the reality that a 12-string is seemingly never in tune, which accounts for that beautiful shimmering effect. Feel free to adjust your virtual 12-string so that it’s more or less in tune.

 

Another important tweak is to set the multi instrument channel’s fader about -6 dB below the main guitar sound. The octave strings on a 12-string are thinner than the strings with standard pitch, so they generate less output. This isn’t true of the 1st and 2nd strings, but that’s fine. With the octave strings a little lower, there’s a better balance.

 

Bring on the EQ

 

And finally…the coup de grâce to get us closer to the iconic Ric sound. On the main Presence instance, use the EQ in the Bass range. Boost 3 dB 3200 Hz, and pull the lowest slider down all the way. On both multi instrument instances, pull down the highest and lowest sliders (Fig. 4). Then, insert a Pro EQ in each mixer channel.

Figure 5: These EQ settings help get “the” sound. Clockwise from top: EQ on main Presence, EQ on the two multi instrument Presence instances, and Pro EQ placed on both mixer channels.

 

The narrow cut in the Pro EQ at 3.27 kHz helps reduce what sounds like some bridge “ping” in the original Telecaster samples. But all the EQ settings shown are suggestions. Between the broad EQ in Presence and the surgical nature of the Pro EQ, you can shape the sound however you want.