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Tag Archives: Friday Tip of the Week

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!


Studio One 5’s Dynamic EQ Meets EDM

I’ve always loved having one track impart its characteristics to a different track (“cross-modulation”), particularly for EDM. A good example is using a vocoder for “drumcoding,” where drums—not a microphone—provide the vocoder’s modulation source. Previous Friday Tips along these lines include The Ultra-Tight Rhythm Section, Smoother/Gentler Sidechain Gating, Pumping Drums – With No Sidechain, and most recently, Rockin’ Rhythms with Multiband Gating.

Sending audio from one track over a sidechain to control dynamic EQ in another track is great for cross-modulation effects—and now this is easy to do in Studio One 5 because sidechaining has been added to the Multiband Dynamics processor. One of my favorite effects is using the kick drum to boost the upper midrange on a rhythm guitar part or keyboard pad so that the guitar or pad emphasizes the rhythm…and that’s just one possibility.

This isn’t about “textbook” dynamic EQ in the sense of being able to use any type of filter (e.g., highly resonant bandpass) as the EQ, but as pointed out in the Friday Tip Studio One’s Secret Equalizer, the Multiband Dynamics combines both EQ and dynamics. We’ll use that to our advantage—and in a way, a relatively broad filter response is better for this kind of application. (The typical dynamic EQ application involves fixing a problem, and for that, you often need precise filtering.)

The Setup

Insert the Multiband Dynamics in the Target track, like guitar, pad, organ, etc. Then, insert a Send (pre-fader is probably best) in the Source track (e.g., kick or snare drum). Assign the Send to the Multiband Dynamics sidechain (Fig. 1).


Figure 1: This technique requires a source track to trigger the Multiband Dynamics’ sidechain and a target track that’s processed by the Multiband Dynamics.

Multiband Dynamics Settings

This is where the fun begins. The sidechain feeds all Multiband Dynamics bands simultaneously, so the most basic implementation would be bypassing all the bands except for one, which you then set to either cut or boost a particular frequency range. The amount of boost or cut depends on the level that the source track sends to the sidechain.

For example, with compression, you can create pumping effects (Fig. 2).



Figure 2: The Multiband Dynamics attenuates the selected frequency range whenever it receives a signal from the source track.

In this example, a kick drum is modulating a pad. Every kick drum hit attenuates the HM (High-Mid) range; the amount of attenuation fades over the 1000 ms Release time. A shorter Release parameter creates a more percussive effect. Choose the frequency range you want to modulate by adjusting the crossover frequencies. Even better, note that you can automate the Multiband Dynamics’ crossover frequencies, so the frequency range can sweep over time—this is a novel effect that adds considerable animation.

Another option is to raise the target band’s Gain so that any modulation lowers the band’s level. In other words, the default state for that band is boosted, and modulation reduces the boost.

You can also boost a band’s level in response to dynamics, by setting the Multiband Dynamics parameters for upward expansion (Fig. 3). Note how the graphic in the upper left shows an expansion curve instead of one for compression.

Figure 3: Upward expansion boosts the target audio in the selected frequency range.


The control settings here are fairly crucial. Ratio must be set for upward expansion, so the second number in the ratio control needs to be greater than one—the bigger the number, the steeper the expansion. For the maximum expansion effect, set High Threshold to 12.00. The Low Threshold parameter determines where expansion begins, and Gain increases the overall level to compensate for the lower level below the point where expansion kicks in. Adjust Attack and Release to shape the boost’s dynamics. Because upward expansion boosts the output signal level, you may need to reduce the Global gain somewhat.

But Wait—There’s More!

The best way to understand all the possibilities is to create a basic setup like the one in Fig. 1 with a kick drum as the source and a very simple, sustained pad (e.g., a chord with sawtooth waves) as the target. This will make it easy to hear the results of playing around with the Multiband Dynamics’ controls. And of course, it is a multiband processor, and the sidechain feeds all the bands, so you could have one band attenuating while another is boosting. If you get into automating parameters, the sky’s the limit.

Dynamic EQ can also be useful to process signal processing. For example, suppose there’s a main reverb inserted in a bus, to which you send drums, guitar, voice, etc. To avoid muddiness, insert a Multiband Dynamics after the reverb, use kick as the sidechain source, and attenuate the low frequencies whenever the kick hits.

Cross-modulation with dynamic EQ can be serious fun…give it a try.

Use the Listen Bus for Dim Solo


Any time you want to do detailed edits in context with a mix, Dim Solo is your friend. When you solo a track with a Dim Solo function enabled, the non-soloed tracks aren’t muted but instead play back at a lower (dimmed) level. I find this essential for many workflows, particularly comping. When you use the Listen Tool to audition various comps, normally you don’t hear them along with the rest of the mix. So one of the comps might sound wonderful, but when you play it back in context, find the timing was off. Dim Solo provides an immediate reality check.

I wanted this function so much in Studio One that my second “Friday Tip” blog post was about how to kludge a Dim Solo function by adding a Sub bus. But kludges are no longer needed, because V5’s new Listen Bus provides an efficient, flexible Dim Solo solution.

This technique works best with interfaces that have a mixer applet (like Universal Control) with virtual outs. I’ve tested this with the 1824c and Studio 192; just make sure you don’t bypass the Universal Control mixer. Start by right-clicking in a channel, enabling the Listen Bus, and checking Solo through Listen Bus (Fig. 1).

Now go to the Audio I/O setup and choose the Listen Bus output (Fig. 2). Although the line outs can feed physical outs, with the Universal Control mixer they can also feed virtual outs. The Main bus can feed the usual 1+2 outs, while the Listen Bus feeds the 3+4 outs.

Figure 2: Audio I/O Setup for the 1824c or Studio 192.

As another example, Universal Audio’s Apollo Twin USB also creates virtual outs. Fig. 3 shows the Audio I/O setup.

Figure 3: In Universal Audio’s Apollo Twin USB, the Listen Bus goes to a set of virtual outputs.

With the Listen Bus assigned to a virtual output, you can hear both the Main and Listen buses within your usual monitoring system. If virtual outputs aren’t available, then the Listen Bus needs to go to a hardware output, which requires a way to monitor the Listen Bus audio. For example, the Listen Bus could go to a Monitor Station input.

Now it’s time for the Dim part. Insert a Mixtool in your Main Bus, and lower the Gain to whatever creates an ideal balance for listening to the soloed track compared to the rest of the mix (Fig. 4).

Figure 4: The Mixtool controls the Main bus level.

I usually choose about -12 dB of attenuation. To Dim the mix, enable the Mixtool. Bypass it to return the mix to its normal level. (Sometimes I even insert two Mixtools, one set to -6 dB and the other to -12 dB.)

So now we have the option of a continuously variable amount of dimming, down to -24 dB. But, Studio One V5 has a couple other tricks up its sleeve.

The Listen bus has a pre-/post-fader option. The soloed track will still appear in the dimmed mix if its fader is up, but this probably won’t matter because the Listen Bus level will be louder. However if you do need to excise the soloed sound from the dimmed mix, pull down the fader on the channel you’re soloing, and set the Listen Bus pre/post fader switch to pre-fader.

Another small but useful feature is that if there’s a fadeout on the Main bus, the Listen bus isn’t affected by the fade, so it’s easy to hear your edits even as a song fades out. Also, if you want to hear the track feeding the Listen Bus in isolation, no problem—just mute the Main bus.

Dim Solo improves workflow considerably when comping and editing, and thanks to the Listen Bus, it’s now easy to do.



Pro EQ2: More than Just a Facelift

Yes, Studio One 5’s Pro EQ2 has a more “pro” look…but there are also some major improvements under the hood, so let’s investigate.

Linear-Phase Low-Cut Filter

This is arguably the most significant change, and appears as an eighth filter stage just below the left of the frequency response display (Fig. 1).

Figure 1: The phase-linear Low-Cut filter section offers three cutoff frequencies and two different slopes.

There’s much mythology around linear-phase EQ, so here are the basics. Traditional EQ introduces phase shifts when you boost or cut. With multiple EQ stages, these phase differences can produce subtle cancellations or reinforcements at particular frequencies. This may or may not create a sometimes subtle, sometimes obvious effect called “smearing.” However, it’s important to note that these phase shifts also give particular EQs their “character” and therefore, can be desirable.

Linear-phase EQ technology delays the signal where appropriate so that all bands are in phase with each other. This tends to give a more “transparent” sound. You might wonder why there’s only one linear-phase stage, with a low-cut response, but there’s a good reason for this. Many engineers like to remove unneeded low frequencies for utilitarian purposes (e.g., remove p-pops or handling noise from vocals), or for artistic reasons, like reducing lows on an amp sim cab to emulate more of an open-back cab sound. Standard EQ introduces phase changes above the cutoff frequency; with linear-phase EQ, there are no phase issues. This can be particularly important with doubled audio sources, where you don’t want phase differences between them due to slightly different EQ settings.

The Pro EQ2 is very efficient, but note that enabling linear-phase EQ requires far more CPU power, and adds considerable latency—it’s not something you’ll want to add to every track. Fortunately, in many cases, it’s a setting that you apply and don’t think about anymore. This makes it a good candidate for “Transform to Rendered Audio” so you can reclaim that CPU power, and then use conventional EQ going forward.

By the way, an argument against linear-phase EQ is that it can create pre-ringing, which adds a low-level, “swooshing” artifact before audio transients. Fortunately, it’s a non-issue here, because pre-ringing is audible only at low frequencies, with high gain and Q settings. (Note that traditional EQ can add post-ringing, although you usually won’t hear it because the audio masks it.)

Level Range Options

I’ve wanted this feature for a long time. Some EQ changes are extremely subtle, particularly when mastering. With range set to 24 dB, it’s difficult to drag nodes around precisely. What’s more, when making fine gain changes, with the 24 dB view it’s easy to move slightly to the right or left, and end up editing frequency instead. Holding Shift provides fine-tuning, but for fast EQ adjustments, the 6 dB view is welcome (Fig. 2).

Figure 2: It’s much easier to see subtle EQ changes by setting the level range to 6 dB.

Granted, you adjust EQ with your ears, not your eyes—but learning how to correlate sound to frequency is important. I knew one guitar player who when he said something like “that track really needs to come down about 2.5 dB at 1.25 kHz,” he was 100% spot-on. When mixing, he could zero in on EQ settings really fast.

And there’s another implication. Those learning how to use EQ often overcompensate, so at seminars, I advise applying what I call “the rule of half”: if you think a sound needs 6 dB of boost, try 3 dB of boost instead and get acclimated to it before adding more boost. If you choose the 6 dB view, you’ll be forced to use smaller boost and cuts in order to adjust or see them graphically—and you might find those smaller changes are all you need.

12th Octave Frequency Response Display

The Third-Octave Display is good eye candy, and gives a rough idea of how EQ affects the sound. The new 12th-Octave resolution option gives far better definition. In Fig. 3, note how many of the peaks and dips visible in the 12th-Octave display are averaged out, and lost, in the Third-Octave version.


Figure 3: The 12th-Octave display in the lower view gives far greater detail and resolution.


Workflow Improvements

In addition to the more “marquee” improvements, several other additions make working with Pro EQ2 a better experience than the original Pro EQ.

Keyboard Display. Now you can correlate frequency to note pitches; note that these line up with the bars in the 12th-octave display.

Band Controls. In Studio One 4, there was a little, almost invisible arrow between the controls and the frequency response display. Clicking on this hid the controls. The Band Controls button does the same thing, and you won’t overlook it.

Curves Button. Similarly, Studio One 4’s All/Current buttons that control how curves are displayed have been consolidated into a single Curves button.

Sidechaining. We already covered Pro EQ sidechaining in the blog post The Sidechained Spectrum. However, when choosing the FFT curve, now there’s a sidechain spectrum peak hold button for the sidechain input. Clicking on the “snowflake” button freezes peaks (hence the name) until you click the button again.

Better Metering. Studio One 4’s Pro EQ had only output metering, whereas Pro EQ2 has metering for both input and output. This is a highly useful addition. If the output is too hot, you can always turn down the output level, but you won’t know if the reason why it’s hot is because you’ve boosted some frequencies too much, or the input level is hitting the EQ too hard. Now you’ll know. As with Studio One 4, the metering shows both peak and average levels.

And that’s a wrap for Pro EQ2. I guess you could say the newer version is ahead of the curve…the EQ curve, that is 😊

Add Studio One 5 to your workflow today!


Big Fun with Tape Resampler

Tape Resampler, a new Studio One 5 feature, replicates an “old school” time-stretch technique that varied pitch and tempo simultaneously and proportionately. Today’s DSP can change pitch and tempo independently, which is cool. But the price you pay is artifacts, because when changing tempo or pitch, you need to either delete or add data.

With resampling, the data stays the same—so there are no artifacts, and the sound is natural. Although extreme speedups give the “Chipmunks” sound and extreme slowdowns evoke Darth Vader on tranquilizers, subtler speed changes were used all the time with tape. It was common to speed up a master tape by a few per cent to give the tempo a slightly faster, “peppier” sound, as well as some added brightness. (If you’ve ever tried to play along with a song that was several cents sharp, it was probably sped up a bit.)

The manual mentions using Tape Resampler to fit loops to tempo (assuming accurate pitch isn’t crucial), but there’s another application that at least to me, is worth the update price by itself. With tape, it was common to slow the tape down or speed it up, play along with the part, and then return the speed to normal. This produced a timbral and formant shift, and was popular for background vocals. For example, if a song was in the key of A, you’d slow down to the key of G, sing along with it in G, then return the tape to normal. The vocal would have a brighter formant change that often worked well. This could also help you hit notes that were just out of your range. (We covered similar techniques in the blog post Varispeed-Type Formant Changes, but because they used DSP, at least some artifacts were unavoidable.)

How to Do It

  1. Create a premix of the song from start to finish. The premix must begin at the start of the timeline, even if the actual tracks don’t come in until later. An easy way to create a premix is with Song > Export Mixdown, and under Options in the dialog box, choose Import to Track.
  2. Solo the premix and select the track. In the Inspector, choose Timestretch, and Tape for the Timestretch method.
  3. Look at the handy transposition chart that lists how to edit the Speedup parameter to transpose an Event up or down a specific number of semitones. For example, suppose you want to lower the premix pitch two semitones down so you can sing along with it. Select it, then enter 0.89 for the Speedup. 

    The Handy Transposition Chart


Semitones Pitch Up Pitch Down
1 1.06 0.94
2 1.12 0.89
3 1.19 0.84
4 1.26 0.79
5 1.33 0.75
6 1.41 0.70
7 1.50 0.67
8 1.59 0.63
9 1.68 0.59
10 1.78 0.56
11 1.89 0.53
12 2.00 0.50


  1. Sing along with the premix, which is now playing back two semitones lower and somewhat slower.
  2. When you’re done, extend the overdub’s beginning to the start of the timeline (e.g., use the Pencil to draw an event from the beginning to the start of the overdub, select them both, then type Ctrl+B to glue them together).
  3. Select the overdub, and again, choose Tape for the Timestretch method. This time, set the Speedup value to 1.12 to transpose the pitch up 2 semitones so it will match the song’s original pitch (Fig. 1).
  4. You no longer need the premix, so either remove it, or change its speedup value back to 1.00 to return it to its normal pitch. (If you select the overdubbed Event and type Ctrl+B, the new pitch will become a destructive edit, and the Speedup value will return to 1.00.)

Figure 1: The overdub is being raised two semitones.

Calling All Rocket Scientists!

Note that the transpose numbers relate to the 12th root of 2. This irrational number (its numerical value has been taken out to over twenty billion decimal digits, but it still doesn’t repeat!) sets the ratio between semitones of the even-numbered scale. Fortunately, three significant digits covers our needs.


Learn more about Studio One 5 here!

Tremolo: Why Be Normal?

Tremolo (not to be confused with vibrato, which is what Fender amps call tremolo), was big in the 50s and 60s, especially in surf music—so it has a pretty stereotyped sound. But why be normal? Studio One’s X-Trem goes beyond what antique tremolos did, so this week’s Friday Tip delves into the cool rhythmic effects that X-Trem can create.


The biggest improvement in today’s tremolos is the sync-to-tempo function. One of my favorite techniques for EDM-type music is to insert two tremolos in series (Fig. 1).

Figure 1: These effects provide the sound in Audio Example 1. Note the automation track, which is varying the first X-Trem’s Depth parameter.

The first X-Trem runs at a fast rate, like 1/16th notes. Square wave modulation works well for this if you want a “chopped” sound, but I usually prefer sine waves, because they give a smoother, more pulsing effect. The second X-Trem runs at a slower rate. For example, if it syncs to half-notes, X-Trem lets through a string of pulses for a half-note, then attenuates the pulses for the next half-note. Using a sine wave for the second tremolo gives a rhythmic, pulsing sound that’s effective on big synth chords—check out the audio example.



X-Trem’s waveforms are the usual suspects: Triangle, Sine, Upward Sawtooth, and Square. But what if you want a downward sawtooth, a more exponential wave (Fig. 2), or an entirely off-the-wall waveform?


Figure 2: Let’s have a big cheer for X-Trem’s 16 Steps option.

This is where the 16 Steps option becomes the star (Fig. 2) because you can draw pretty much any waveform you want. It’s a particularly effective technique with longer notes because you can hear the changes distinctly.

But for me, the coolest part is X-Trem’s “Etch-a-Sketch” mode, because you can automate each step individually, choose X-Trem’s Automation Write, and go crazy. Just unfold X-Trem’s automation options, choose all the steps, add them to the track’s automation, and draw away (Fig. 3).


Figure 3: Drawing automated step changes in real-time takes X-Trem beyond “why be normal” into something that may be illegal in some states.

Of course, if you just draw kind of randomly, then really, all you’re doing is level automation. Where this option really comes into its own is when you have a basic waveform for one section, change a few steps in a different section and let that repeat, draw a different waveform for another section and let that repeat, and so on. Another application is trying out different waveforms as a song plays, and capturing the results as automation. If you particularly like a pattern, cut and paste the automation to use it repetitively.

And just think, we haven’t even gotten into X-Trem’s panning mode—similarly to its overachieving tremolo functions, the panning can do a lot more than just audio ping-pong effects. Hmmm…seems like another Friday Tip might be in order.

The “Double-Decker” Pre-Main Bus

This Friday tip has multiple applications—consider the following scenarios.

You like to mix with mastering processors in the Main bus to approximate the eventual mastered sound, but ultimately, you want to add (or update) an unprocessed file for serious mastering in the Project page. However, reality checks are tough. When you disable the master bus processors so you can hear the unprocessed sound you’ll be exporting, the level will usually change. So then you have to re-balance the levels, but you might not get them quite to where they were. And unfortunately, one of the biggest enemies of consistent mixing and mastering is varying monitoring levels. (Shameless plug alert: my book How to Create Compelling Mixes in Studio One, which is also available in Spanish, tells how to obtain consistent levels when mixing.)

Or, suppose you want to use the Tricomp or a similar “maximizing” program in the master bus. Although these can make a mix “pop,” there may be an unfair advantage if they make the music louder—after all, our brains tend to think that “louder is better.” The only way to get a realistic idea of how much difference the processor really makes is if you balance the processed and unprocessed levels so they’re the same.

Or, maybe you use the cool Sonarworks program to flatten your headphone or speaker’s response, so you can do more translatable mixes. But Sonarworks should be enabled only when monitoring; you don’t want to export a file with a correction curve applied. Bypassing the Sonarworks plug-in when updating the Project page, or exporting a master file, is essential. But in the heat of the creative moment, you might forget to do that, and then need to re-export.


The Pre-Main bus essentially doubles up the Main bus, to create an alternate destination for all your channels. The Pre-Main bus, whose output feeds the Main bus, serves as a “sandbox” for the Main bus. You can insert whatever processors you want into the Pre-Main bus for monitoring, without affecting what’s ultimately exported from the Main bus.

Here’s how it works.


  1. Create a bus, and call it the Pre-Main bus.
  2. In the Pre-Main bus’s output field just above the pan slider, assign the bus output to the Main bus. If you don’t see the output field, raise the channel’s height until the output field appears.
  3. Insert the Level Meter plug-in in the Main bus. We’ll use this for LUFS level comparisons (check out the blog post Easy Level Matching, or the section on LUFS in my mixing book, as to why this matters).

Figure 1: The Pre-Main bus, outlined in white, has the Tricomp and Sonarworks plug-ins inserted. Note that all the channels have their outputs assigned to the Pre-Main bus.

  1. Insert the mastering processors in the Pre-Main bus that you want to use while monitoring. Fig. 1 shows the Pre-Main bus with the Tricomp and Sonarworks plug-ins inserted.
  2. Select all your channels. An easy way to do this is to click on the first channel in the Channel List, then shift+click on the last channel in the list. Or, click on the channel to the immediate left of the Main channel, and then shift+click on the first mixer channel.

With all channels selected, changing the output field for one channel changes the output field for all channels. Assign the outputs to the Main bus, play some music, and look at the Level Meter to check the LUFS reading.

Now assign the channel outputs to the Pre-Main bus. Again, observe the Level Meter in the Master bus. Adjust the Pre-Main bus’s level for the best level match when switching the output fields between the Main and Pre-Main bus. By matching the levels, you can be sure you’re listening to a fair comparison of the processed audio (the Pre-Main bus) and the unprocessed audio that will be exported from the Main bus.

The only caution is that when all your channels are selected, if you change a channel’s fader, the faders for all the channels will change. Sometimes, this is a good thing—if you experience “fader level creep” while mixing, instead of lowering the master fader, you can lower the channel levels. But you also need to be careful not to reflexively adjust a channel’s level, and end up adjusting all of them by mistake. Remember to click on the channel whose fader you want to adjust, before doing any editing.

Doubling up the Main bus can be really convenient when mixing—check it out when you want to audition processors in the master bus, but also, be able to do a quick reality check with the unprocessed sound to find out the difference any processors really make to the overall output.

Acknowledgement: Thanks to Steve Cook, who devised a similar technique to accommodate using Sonarworks in Cakewalk, for providing the inspiration for this post.

Tighten Mixes with the “Tightener” FX Chain


Sometimes when you’re mixing, sounds conflict because they have too much energy in the same part of the spectrum. The usual solutions are to lower the level of the sound deemed less important, or use EQ to try to ensure that each sound carves out its own part of the spectrum. This week’s tip presents an entirely different solution. It’s the kind of tip where people will likely go “yeah, whatever…” until they run into this problem, try the tip, and find that amazingly enough, it works.

But we’ll also take advantage of this tip to describe how to make a simple FX Chain. FX Chains are an extremely powerful Studio One feature, so if you haven’t gotten into creating your own yet, this is a good project for getting started.


The Tightener creates four sharp, narrow notches in a Pro EQ, at frequencies related to the musical key. For example in the key of A, the notches are at 110 Hz, 220 Hz, 440 Hz, and 880 Hz. If you have, for example, a song in the key of A where the guitar conflicts with the piano, to have less piano and more guitar, insert the Tightener FX Chain for the key of A into the piano track, and increase the depth of the notches. Here’s how to create a Tightener FX Chain.

  1. Insert a Pro EQ into a track, and open its interface.
  2. We’ll be using the LF, LMF, MF, and HMF stages. Set the Q for each stage to 24.00.
  3. Referring to the chart at the end, type a filter frequency into each filter stage. For example, with the key of A, choose 110 Hz for the LF stage, 220 Hz for the LMF stage, 440 Hz for the MF stage, and 880 Hz for the HMF stage (Fig. 1).

Figure 1: The filter settings for the key of A Tightener, with the notches set to maximum depth.

  1. Click on the knob icon in the effect’s upper left corner (just above the enable/bypass “power” button; it’s circled in red in Fig. 1). This opens the FX Chain Macro Controls interface. Then, click on the interface’s Wrench icon to open the Macro Controls editor.
  2. In the right-hand pane, unfold the Pro EQ folder, then unfold the Low Frequency, Low-Mid Frequency, Mid Frequency, and High-Mid Frequency folders.

6. Ctrl+click on LF-Gain, LMF-Gain, MF-Gain, and HMF-Gain to select all four parameters. The FX Chain Editor should now look like Fig.

Figure 2: The FX Chain Editor shows the Pro EQ parameters used for the tightener.

  1. Now click on Add Targets. The Gain control parameters will appear in the middle pane. They’ll all be controlled by the one knob at the bottom.
  2. I wanted the knobs to work so that when the control is full up, there’s no notch and the EQ works normally. Then to reduce the energy at a particular key, turning down the control increases the notch depth, producing more of a cut. However, if you turn the Macro control at the bottom of the window and watch the filter response, you’ll see it goes from full notch at minimum, to full boost when turned up. We don’t want the boost.
  3. Click on one of the Trans graphs, and drag the node in the upper-right-hand corner down to 0. This ensures that when the knob is up all the way, its filter gain is zero. Then, click on Copy (Fig. 3).

Figure 3: Adjust one of the graphs so that the maximum value is 0, then copy and paste to the other graphs.


  1. Click on the other three graphs, and choose Paste. Now all the Gain controls will track each other.
  2. Look at the filter, and vary the knob at the bottom of the FX Chain Editor. All the notches will go from maximum notch with the control fully counter-clockwise, to minimum notch with the control clockwise.
  3. Now double-click on the knob label, and type a name like “Tightener A” or “Tightener C#” or whatever, depending on the filter frequencies.
  4. Click on the wrench to close the Editor. To save the FX Chain, click the downward arrow in the Macro Control panel’s upper left, and choose where to store your preset (Fig. 4).



Figure 4: Don’t forget to store your FX Chains, so you can use them again.


And now you have a Tightener FX Chain! But you’ll want one for each key. It’s easy enough to do—type new frequencies into the four EQ bands, rename the control for the appropriate key, and then save the FX Chain under the name of the new key. For example, if you change the frequencies to 147 Hz, 294 Hz, 587 Hz, and 1175 Hz, you now have a key of D tightener. Here are the frequencies for all the keys (Fig. 5).



Figure 5: Frequencies for an octave’s worth of tighteners.

You need to be a little strategic about applying this FX Chain; it’s needed only when you want to help keep instruments from stepping on each other.

So that you can get started experimenting with this as easily as possible, all the Tightener FX Chains are available for download. After downloading, place them in the folder Studio One Songs and Projects\Presets\PreSonus\FX Chains\Tighteners, or wherever you specified the location for presets in Studio One > Options > Locations > User Data.

But even if you download them, try your hand at creating an FX Chain if you haven’t done so already. They’re really handy.

Download ALL 12 Tighteners Here! 


Friday Tips: Rhythmic Reverb Splashes

Summer may be over in the northern hemisphere, but we can still splash around. This is one of those “hiding in plain sight” kind of tips, but it’s pretty cool.

The premise: Sometimes you don’t want reverb all the time, so you kick up the send control to push something like a snare hit into the reverb for a quick reverb “splash” (anyone who’s listened to my music knows this is one of my favorite techniques). The reverb adds a dramatic emphasis to the rhythm, but is short enough that it doesn’t wear out its welcome—listen to the audio example, which demos this technique with Studio One’s Crowish Acoustic Chorus 1 drum loop.


However, although this technique is great with drums, it also works well with rhythm guitar, hand percussion, synths, you name it… even kick works well in some songs. I’m not convinced about bass, but aside from that, this has a lot of uses.


Studio One offers an easy way to produce regular splashes automatically (like on the second and fourth beats of a measure, where an emphasizing element hits). Insert X-Trem before the reverb, select 16 Steps as the “waveform,” click Sync, and choose your rhythm. The screenshot shows Beats set to 1/2 so that the reverb splash happens on 2 and 4, which in the case of the audio example, adds reverb to the snare on 2, and to the closed high-hat on 4.

And that’s pretty much it. Because the reverb is in a bus, set Mix to 100%. The 480 Hall from Halls > Medium Halls is one of my faves for this application, but hey… use whatever ’verb puts a smile on your face.