I never lost faith in the potential of tremolo, even after those opto-based amplitude processors in guitar amps had become quaint. X-Trem rewarded my faith—and it’s about time tremolo joined the 21st century, given that we’re a fifth of the way through it already.
This FX Chain does dual-band standard tremolo, harmonic tremolo, and panning—and because it’s dual-band, the high and low frequencies are processed independently. You can download the Ultimate TremPan FX Chain if you can’t wait, but because of the flexibility, let’s go through the control panel before covering how it works.
The control panel (Fig. 1) gives multiple ways to configure the effect. The low- and high-frequency bands have identical switches.
Figure 1: The TremPan control panel.
Let’s look at the controls. The low- and high-frequency bands have three controls in common.
The Hi/Lo Mix control determines the balance of the low- and high-frequency bands. Imaging spreads the low and high bands; when centered, the low and high bands are centered too, and if a band is in panning mode, it pans the full stereo field. Turning this control counter-clockwise moves the low band toward the left and the high band toward the right, while de-emphasizing panning so that when fully counter-clockwise, both bands are acting as tremolos in their respective channels. Turning this control clockwise reverse the action, i.e., when fully clockwise, the high band sounds like a tremolo in the left channel, while the low band sounds like a tremolo in the right channel.
Figure 2 shows the block diagram.
Figure 2: The processors inside the Ultimate TremPan FX Chain.
The Splitter does two splits based on frequency, with a split around 800 Hz. This seems to work well for guitar, but feel free to play around with it (I hope that in some future update, Splitter parameters will be assignable to control panel Macro knobs).
The Mixtools have their gains varied oppositely by the Lo/Hi Mix control to set the proportions of the high and low bands. The Dual pans in the Splits have their Input Balance controlled oppositely by the Imaging knob.
You have a lot of options, but here are some of my favorites.
The rhythmically synched effects can make one instrument almost sound like two instruments, working together as a team. This FX Chain can also animate hand percussion tracks by varying where the percussion happens in the stereo field. Have fun with this sucker—it’s time to re-discover amplitude modulation.
Studio One 5 and Notion are both 30% off this week!
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One of the complaints about electronic music instruments and controllers is that they lack the expressiveness of acoustic instruments. Although future instruments will take advantage of MIDI 2.0’s enhanced expressiveness, two options are available right now: polyphonic pressure, and MPE (MIDI Polyphonic Expression). Studio One 5 can record/edit both, and ATOM SQ generates polyphonic pressure…so let’s dig deeper.
First, there’s some confusion because people call the same function by different names. Channel Aftertouch = Channel Pressure = Mono Aftertouch = Mono Pressure. Polyphonic Aftertouch = Polyphonic Pressure = Poly AT = Poly Aftertouch = Poly Pressure. Okay! Now we’ve cleared that up.
Aftertouch generates a control signal when you press down on a keyboard key after it’s down, or continue pressing on a percussion pad after striking it. Aftertouch is a variable message, like a mod wheel or footpedal—not a switch. A typical application would be changing filter cutoff, adding modulation, or doing guitar-like pitch bends by pressing on a key.
There are two aftertouch flavors. Mono pressure has been around since the days of the Yamaha DX7, and sends the highest controller value of all keys that are currently being pressed. Polyphonic pressure sends individual pressure messages for each key. For example, when holding down a chord for a brass section, by assigning poly pressure to filter cutoff, you can make just one note brighter by pressing down on its associated key. The other chord notes remain unaffected unless they’re also pressed.
Controllers with polyphonic aftertouch used to be fairly expensive and rare, but that’s changing—as evidenced by ATOM SQ.
As expected, you need a synth that responds to poly pressure. Many hardware synths respond to it, even if they don’t generate it. As to soft synths, although I haven’t tested all of the following, they reportedly support poly pressure: several Korg Collection synths, Kontakt, Reaktor, all Arturia instruments, all U-He instruments, XILS-Lab synths, TAL-Sampler, AAS synths, Albino 3, impOSCar2, Mach5, and Omnisphere. If you know of others, feel free to mention them in the comments section below. (Currently, Studio One’s bundled instruments don’t respond to polyphonic aftertouch.)
Figure 1: ATOM SQ being set up to generate Poly Pressure messages.
With ATOM SQ, press the Setup button. Hit the lower-left “pressure” button below the display, then spin the dial to choose Poly (Fig. 1). Note that if ATOM SQ outputs poly pressure, most instruments that respond only to channel (mono) aftertouch will ignore these messages.
Record poly pressure in Studio One 5 as you would any MIDI controller. To edit pressure messages, use the Edit window’s Note Controller tab. Select Pressure for the Type, and then the Pitch of the note you want to edit. Or, click on a note to select its corresponding note Pitch automatically. You can then edit that note’s poly pressure controller as you would any other controller (Fig. 2).
Figure 2: The selected Note’s data is white; unselected notes of the same pitch are blue. The gray lines in the background show the poly pressure controller messages for notes with other pitches.
It may seem that editing data for individual notes would be tedious, and it can be. However, because poly pressure allows for more expressive real-time playing, you might not feel the need to do as much editing anyway—you won’t need to use editing to add expressiveness that you couldn’t add while playing.
A fine point is that it’s currently not possible to copy Note Controller data from one note, then paste it to a note of a different pitch (probably because the whole point of poly AT is for different notes to have different controller data). However, if you copy the note itself to a different pitch, the Note Controller data will go along with it.
Although ATOM SQ can adopt a layout that resembles a keyboard, it would be a mistake to see it as a stripped-down version of a standard keyboard. Controllers with polyphonic pressure tend to think outside the usual keyboard box, by incorporating pads or other transducers that are designed for predictable pressure sensitivity. Poly pressure has been around for a while, but a new generation of MIDI controllers (like ATOM SQ) are making the technology—and the resulting expressiveness—far more accessible for those who want to wring more soul out of their synths.
It’s not surprising a lot of Studio One users also have Ableton Live, because they’re quite different. I’ve always felt Studio One is a pro recording studio (with a helluva backline) disguised as software, while Ableton is a live performance instrument disguised as software.
Fortunately, if you like working simultaneously with Live’s loops and scenes and Studio One’s rich feature set, Studio One can host Live as a ReWire client. Even better, ATOM SQ can provide full native integration with Ableton Live when it’s ReWired as a client—once you know how to set up the MIDI ins and outs for both programs.
Now ATOM SQ will act as an integrated controller with Ableton Live while it’s ReWired into Studio One. Cool, eh?
To return control to Studio One, reverse the process—in Live, set Control Surface to None, and toggle the MIDI Ports that relate to ATOM SQ from On to Off. In Studio One’s Options > External Devices, For ATOM SQ, reconnect ATOM SQ to Receive From and Send To.
Note that with ATOM SQ controlling Studio One, the Transport function still controls both Live and Studio One. Also, if Live has the focus, any QWERTY keyboard assignments for triggering Clips and Scenes remain valid. So even while using ATOM SQ in the native mode for Studio One, you can still trigger different Clip and Scenes in Live. If you switch the focus back to Studio One, then any QWERTY keyboard shortcuts will trigger their assigned Studio One shortcuts.
Note: When switching back and forth between Live and Studio One, and enabling/disabling Studio One and Ableton Live modes for ATOM SQ, to return to Live you may need to “refresh” Live’s Preferences settings. Choose None for the Control Surface and then re-select ATOM SQ. Next, turn the various MIDI Port options off and on again.
Although Studio One 5 doesn’t have a tape emulator plug-in per se, it can emulate some of the most important characteristics that people associate with “the tape sound.” Truly emulating tape can go down a serious rabbit hole because tape is a complicated signal processor; no two vintage tape recorders sounded the same because they required alignment (influenced by the engineer’s preferences), used different tape formulations, and were in various states of maintenance. However, emulating three important characteristics provides what most people want from tape emulation.
Check out the audio example to hear what this FX Chain can do. The first part is unprocessed, while the second part uses the default FX Chain control settings with a little underbiasing and head bump. The difference is subtle, but it adds that extra “something.”
This FX Chain starts with a Splitter, which creates three signal paths: one for saturation, one for hiss, and one for hum (Fig. 1).
Figure 1: FX Chain block diagram.
After auditioning all available Studio One 5 saturation options, I liked the TriComp best for this application. The Pro EQ stage preceding the TriComp provides the head bump EQ and has a control to emulate the effect of underbiasing tape (more highs, which pushes more high-frequency level into the TriComp and therefore increases distortion in that range) or overbiasing (less highs, less distortion).
At first, I wasn’t going to include tape hiss and hum, but if someone needs to use this FX Chain for sound design (i.e., an actor starts a tape in a theatrical production), then including hiss and hum sounds more authentic. An additional knob chooses 50 or 60 Hz hum, which represents the power standards in different countries. (Note that the closest you can get to these frequencies is 50.4 and 59.1 Hz, but that’s good enough). However, I draw the line at including wow and flutter! Good riddance to both of them.
Because creating three splits reduces each split’s level, the TriComp Gain control provides makeup gain.
Turning Bump on adds a boost at the specified frequency, but also adds a 48 dB low-cut filter around 23 Hz to emulate the loss of very low frequencies due to the head bump. As a result, depending on the program material, adding the bump may increase or decrease the total apparent bass response. For additional flexibility, if you turn Bump Amount down all the way, the Bump On/Off switch enables or disables only the 48 dB/octave low-cut filter.
Fig. 2 shows some typical spectra from using the FX Chain.
Figure 2: The top curve shows the head bump enabled, with underbiasing. The lower curve shows minimal added bump, but with the ultra-low cut filter enabled, and overbiasing.
The controls default to rational settings (Fig. 3), which are used in the audio example. But as usual with my FX chains, the settings can go beyond the realm of good taste if needed.
Figure 3: Control panel for the Tape Emulator.
For example, I rarely go over 2-3% saturation, but I know some of you are itching to kick it up to 10%. Ditto tape hiss, in case you want to emulate recording on an ancient Radio Shack cassette recorder—with Radio Shack tape. Just remember that the Bias control is clockwise to overbias (less highs), and counter-clockwise to underbias (more highs).
There’s a lot of mythology around tape emulations, and you can find some very good plug-ins that nail the sound of tape. But try this FX Chain—it may give you exactly what you want. Best of all, I promise you’ll never have to clean or demagnetize its tape heads.
Studio One 5.1 has arrived! This update is free to PreSonus Sphere members, or anyone else who owns Studio One 5—Artist or Professional editions. Fire up Studio One and click “Check for Updates” to get it!
This update addresses many user requests, particularly in the realms of composition and notation, but if you’re less old-school and more no-school, don’t fret! We’ve got plenty of updates for you including Retrospective Record, External Instrument support for the Show Page, and a ton of workflow streamlining. All are detailed below.
Version 5.1 adds score printing to Studio One Professional. Scores and individual parts can now be printed directly from Studio One! Printing is supported for any number of tracks, from single instruments to full orchestral arrangements. Several other composition enhancements along with Score Printing are featured in this video:
Never miss another great song idea again! Retrospective Recording captures everything you play on your keyboard or controller—even without hitting record! It works invisibly in the background on a track-by-track basis.
Managing large projects with a huge track and channel count is now faster and easier than ever with the addition of powerful search and filter options.
Clip Gain Envelops can now be bypassed from the Event context menu and the Event Inspector, making it quick and easy to compare the result of your Gain Envelopes without losing any of your adjustments.
The Score View will reflect any Key Signature changes added to Studio One’s new Signature Track. These will also transfer to Notion when sending a score between applications.
View minutes:seconds with bars and beats at the same time! A must for film composers.
Global Tracks can now be displayed inside Editors and used as guides when editing audio or Note Events in Piano View and Drum View.
External MIDI instruments are now supported using Virtual Instrument Players. Patches can include program change and bank change messages so you can control an entire MIDI rig from your Show!
Drag and drop stompbox settings between Ampire and Pedalboard, so go ahead and steal that Big Fuzz tone from your guitarist… we won’t tell!
Note Events in the Pattern Editor are now colorized to match the pad colors in Impact, ATOM and ATOM SQ, so you always know which sound is being triggered and which pad is controlling it. And there’s a new library of inspirational drum patterns and variations patterns in Musicloops format for easy, drag-and-drop saving and export.
Studio One 5.1 is a significant update and is free to owners of Studio One 5 Artist and Professional. Click here for the full change log, and click “Check for Updates” in Studio One’s start page to get all these new features now!
With physical audio media in its twilight, streaming has become the primary way to distribute music. A wonderful side effect has been the end of the loudness wars, because streaming services like Spotify turn levels up or down as needed to attain a specific, consistent perceived level—squashing a master won’t make it sound any louder.
However, the “garbage in, garbage out” law remains in effect, so you need to submit music that meets a streaming service’s specs. For example, Spotify prefers files with an LUFS of -14.0 (according to the EBU R128 standard), and a True Peak reading of -1.0 or lower. This avoids adding distortion when transcoding to lossy formats. If the LUFS reading is above -14.0, then Spotify wants a True Peak value under -2.0.
Fortunately, when you Detect Loudness for a track on the mastering page, you’ll see a readout of the LUFS and LRA (a measure of overall dynamic range), as well as the True Peak, RMS (average signal level), and DC offset for the left and right channels. Fig. 1 shows an example of the specs generated by detecting loudness.
Note that this hits Spotify’s desired LUFS, but the left channel’s True Peak value is higher than what’s ideal. This readout also shows that the average RMS levels for each channel are somewhat different—the left channel is 1.2 dB louder than the right one, which also accounts for the higher True Peak value. This may be the way the artist wants the mix to sound, but it could also indicate a potential problem with the mix, where the overall sound isn’t properly centered.
A simple fix is to insert a Dual Pan into the Inserts section. Use the Input Balance control to “weight” the stereo image more to one side for a better balance. After doing so and readjusting the LUFS, we can now give Spotify exactly what it wants (Fig. 2). Also note that the left and right channels are perfectly balanced.
A Crucial Consideration!
You don’t want to mix or master based on numbers, but on what you hear. If you set up Dual Pan to balance the channels, make sure that you enable/bypass the plug-in and compare the two options. You might find that balancing the left and right channels not only accommodates Spotify’s requirements, but improves the mix’s overall balance. If it doesn’t, then leave the balance alone, and lower the track’s overall output level so that True Peak is under -1.0 for both channels (or under -2.0 for LUFS values above ‑14.0). This will likely lower the LUFS reading, but don’t worry about it: Spotify will turn up the track anyway to reach -14.0 LUFS.
Coda: I always thought that squashing dynamic range to try and win the loudness wars made listening to music a less pleasant experience, and that’s one of the reasons CD sales kept declining. Does the end of the loudness wars correspond to the current music industry rebound from streaming? I don’t know… but it wouldn’t surprise me.
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Already at a LOW price, the price for all Spark Collections is now even lower for the next SEVEN days only!
We announced the Spark Collection back in 2019; here’s a little snippet about it:
Hit the ground running with the Spark Collection of loops and add-ons from PreSonus! These low-priced loop packs are a great place to start making music for less. These professional, royalty-free tracks are a great source of inspiration for starting a new song, learning how to mix, or adding a little flavor to your existing compositions. We’ve launched Spark Collections with a whopping 35 packs… with many more to come!
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This offer is valid starting today, October 16, 2020, runs through October 22, and is offered worldwide!