PreSonus Blog

The new ARA audio plug-in standard

Audio Random Access, or ARA, is an extension to existing plug-in models like VST 3, VST 2, and Audio Units.

When we planned the PreSonus Studio One 2 release cycle, one of the features that we discussed was pitch editing, a function that many users need to fix errors in a performance. Some competing applications have pitch editing built in, but in a limited way, lacking access to details like vibrato. We considered building a solution using technology supplied by zPlane, who make the timestretch engine built into Studio One, but it would have been a very labor-intensive project.

Celemony’s Melodyne
seemed to be the best solution for graphical pitch editing, so we looked at the reasons a user would want an integrated solution instead of using the Melodyne VST plug-in. It turned out that a number of workflow issues made the VST plug-in inconvenient to use, but these issues could be solved by a collaboration between Celemony and PreSonus. We proposed to Celemony an extension of existing audio plug-in APIs that would give them the required additional access to the host audio data.

The major workflow issues we identified were these:

  1. The Melodyne VST plug-in uses a recording process to transfer the audio that is to be edited in Melodyne. But with ARA technology, Melodyne now has direct access to the audio data via the ARA interface, so that the user does not have to record manually.
  2. Once the audio was transferred to the Melodyne VST plug-in, there was no way to arrange the material, as Melodyne did not have any notion of what an audio event in the application was. Now, with, ARA Melodyne “knows” that an audio event is being edited, and because the Melodyne editing data travels with the audio event, the user can still freely edit the data.
  3. To free the processing power that a plug-in like Melodyne needs to do its tricks, the user had to “freeze” the material. At that point, the editing data was lost, and the user could not go back to make changes. Now, in Studio One, you can just freeze an event-based effect such as Melodyne to free the processing power. This freeze is reversible, so you can simply go back to the real-time processing and continue editing.

Our solution fixes all of these issues and gives us options to use additional capabilities of Melodyne and similar plug-ins in the future. For instance, Melodyne has the ability to extract a tempo curve from the audio material, which could be used.

If you want to see ARA in action, click here.

ARA will be licensed to other interested plug-in vendors in the future, free of charge. Companies interested in using the API should contact Celemony.

Press stuff

Ever wonder how all those magazines know all that stuff about all those products? Well, for one thing, most of the journalists are very smart and dedicated people – but also because people like me spend a lot of time visiting and talking to them to give them the info they need; and that’s what I’ve been doing a lot of recently. Just came back from visiting some rather excellent and very friendly UK music technology journalists to show them a preview version of Studio One 2.0. I love showing this program off – I’m really so very proud of being part of this, it’s so great.

On the other hand, you can never tell exactly how good it is until other people see it and give you their feedback. It’s always possible that what you as a developer think is great, other people might think is kind of boring or stupid. But in this case, I am very happy to report that the people who have seen 2.0 so far seem really blown away. Every demo I have done has left the audience with their jaws dropping in astonishment. That’s a pretty good start 🙂


Just got back from another session at Alchemea. This is very well known sound engineering college in London, who invite me to go guest lecture there every few months. I used to be a professional lecturer in Music Technology at Stroud College in Gloucestershire, UK, and I really love teaching, but since going to work for PreSonus I don’t get much chance to teach any more. So I love doing these small guest lecture days, since it gets me back in a classroom working with students, which is a great feeling.

In this case I went in with a StudioLive 24.4.2 and a 1602 and gave the Live Sound Engineering students an introductory class on what makes them so great for live work. The students are always really amazed at how much easier they are to learn than the standard digital desks they normally have to work on, and these guys were no exception. And passing around the iPad so they can take full control of the desk always blows their minds completely. The killer though is when somebody asks how much they cost – watching their jaws drop when they find out is always priceless.

I love that part because I remember what it was like when I was in my late teens / early twenties and trying to get into the music business. I would have killed to get my hands on a mixing desk and recording system at this kind of price, but back then you were talking high five figures just to get anything that might work, and well into six figures to get something decent. When the first VST computer systems were released it was a revolution in putting power into the hands of normal people, and with these desks we have taken that further than anyone ever dreamed.

Silly as it might sound, it makes me pretty proud to be part of that. And to be able to empower young people at colleges like Alchemea makes me release that we are doing something very worthwhile here.

P.S. If you are a teacher or student and would like me to come guest lecture at your college, shoot me a mail and let’s see what we can do.

RTFM (if you have one)

Been playing around with an early sample of the new Audiobox 1818 VSL over the past days and I love this thing. It’s beautifully made, incredibly powerful, software kicks ass, and it sounds awesome. Only problem is, the headphone don’t work! I figured it was because it’s a prototype and maybe mine just had an engineering fault so I was getting ready to send it back when I ran into one of the engineers on the Net earlier. I mentioned my problem and he said: “Oh, the headphone out is connected to Outputs 7 & 8 on the mixer, just assign the DAW signal to there in the software.” Doh! Two seconds later I have a perfectly working system.

Yeah, I know I should Read The F-ing Manual, but when you’re bleeding edge like I am sometimes you don’t even have a manual 🙂

Back online-ish

Owing to some stuff going on in the Real World (you know, that place where we don’t get time to play music because we have to pay the rent etc.) I’ve not been blogging for the past few days. I’ll be back with regular updates soon though if all goes well 😉

Representing @ the Producer Sessions

Spot the StudioLive desks just behind the massive Moog system at the Future Music Producer Sessions. All the seminars on the 6th floor were also being run by a StudioLive 16.4.2, which performed flawlessly over the entire weekend.

Recovery day

The Future Music Producer Sessions went great. We had a room alongside Moog and Arturia, both of which are excellent companies, and the three of us had a damn good time together and packed the place with users all weekend. Studio One was a big hit, and a steady stream of people were running up to Absolute Music‘s stand on the 4th floor to take advantage of their 10% off deal if you bought it at the show. Major thanks to the guys at Future Music for putting this on, you kick ass.

It’s Monday now, and boy am I tired. The show was spread over 6 floors and I ran up and down the stairs a fair few amount of times over the weekend, and lugged boxes of gear in and out etc.; and then I drove something like 6 hours home on Sunday night. So today my body is really feeling it. Unfortunately  I have way too much to do to be able to rest… Maybe later…

Filling the car

It makes me realise just how far we’ve come when I can get two 16 channel professional mixing desks in the back of my standard family car, plus a ton of posters, banners, cables, T-shirts, audio interfaces, computers, preamps etc. (and even a small hand cart!) and yet still travel in comfort and ease. Even a few years ago I would have been out hiring a truck for this.

This is why PreSonus stuff works the way it does: because we have to load it and carry it places too.

There’s a legend that James Watt designed the steam engine because he was too lazy to get up and take the kettle off the boil.  Never underestimate the power of laziness to motivate genius.

Cable ties

While packing up a bunch of stuff in cases today, it struck me that my single most used piece of PreSonus branded equipment is… the cable tie! We make these for promotional purposes really, but they’re one of those things that although small, cheap, and unassuming, has made a huge difference to my life. Finally I can actually find the cables I need, and not have to disentangle them from 17 other cables first. Yeah I know I should have figured this out 20 years ago, but better late than never, eh?

Velcro. It’s a wonderful thing.

Update on my previous Wi-fi woes: I found an old Linksys WUSB54G USB Wi-fi adapter laying in a drawer and plugged it into the studio Windows 7 box instead of the TP-Link PCI card. Win 7 found and loaded the driver automatically, and DPC Latency checker now reports a maximum latency of 331 microseconds. That’s not quite as good as the 74 microseconds with no Wi-fi, but a whole hell of a lot better than the 6000+ of the TP-Link card. Not only that, the Wi-fi signal is has gone from Poor with the TP-Link card to Good with the Linksys USB adapter..

So my conclusion is: TP-Link products appear to be cheap for a reason.