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!
My mastering specialty is salvage jobs, which has become easier to do with Studio One. But this gig was something else.
Martha Davis’s last solo album (I Have My Standards, whose mastering challenges were covered in this blog post) has done really well. Since the pandemic has sidelined her from touring as Martha Davis and the Motels or going into the studio, she’s releasing a new song every month online. These involve excellent, but unreleased, material.
That’s THE good news. The bad news is that her latest song choice, “In the Meantime,” had the drum machine kick mixed so loud the song should have been credited as “Solo Kick Drum with Vocal Accompaniment.” With a vocalist like Martha (listen to any of her many hits from the 80s), that’s a crime. She was hoping I could fix it.
Don’t tune out, EDM/hip-hop fans. What about those TR-808 “toms” that are always mixed way too high? When I was given a Boy George song to remix, those toms were like sonic kryptonite before I figured out how to deal with them. And let’s not get into those clichéd 808 claps, okay? But we have a solution.
I tried everything to deal with the kick, including EQ, iZotope RX7 spectral reduction, mid-side processing using the Mixtool, and more. The mix was mostly mono, and the kick was full-frequency—from low-frequency boom to a nasty click that was louder than the lead vocal. Multiband dynamics didn’t work because the kick covered too wide a frequency range.
In desperation, I thought maybe I could find an isolated kick sound, throw it out of phase, and cancel the kick wherever it appeared in the song. Very fortunately, the song intro had a kick sound that could be isolated as an individual sample. So instead of going directly to Studio One’s mastering page, I went into the Song page, imported the stereo mix into one track, created a second track for only the kick, and dragged the copied kick to match up with every kick instance in the song (yes, this did take some time…). It wasn’t difficult to line up the copied kicks with sample- (or at least near-sample) accuracy (Fig. 1).
Figure 1: The top track is from the original song, while the lower track is an isolated kick. After lining the sounds up with respect to timing, flipping the kick track phase removed the kick sound from the mixed tracks.
The payoff was inserting Mixtool in the kicks-only track and flipping its phase 180 degrees. It canceled the kick! Wow—this physics stuff actually works.
But now there was no kick. So, I added the Waves LinEQ Broadband linear-phase equalizer (a non-linear-phase EQ can’t work in this context) in the kick drum track. This filtered out some of the kick drum’s lower frequencies so there was less cancellation while leaving the highs intact so they would still cancel as much as possible. Adjusting the shelving frequency and attenuation let in just enough of the original kick, without overwhelming the track. Even better, because the kick level was lower, I could bring up the low end to resurrect the bass part that had been overshadowed by the kick.
The mix traveled to the mastering page for a little more processing (Studio One’s Pro EQ and Binaural Pan, IK Multimedia’s Stealth maximizer, and Studio One’s metering). After hitting the desired readings of -13.0 LUFS with -0.2 True Peak readings, the mastering was done. Sure, I would much rather have had the individual tracks to do a remix, but it was what it was—a 28-year-old two-track mix.
To hear how this ended up, the audio example first plays an excerpt from the mastered version. Then there’s a brief pause, followed by the same section with the original file. I’m sure you’ll hear the difference in the kick drum.
Listen to an audio example from In the Meantime here:
Although it’s always better to fix issues at the source, here’s a tip to help repair recorded vocals during the mixing phase. The technique (which is featured in the new book How to Record and Mix Great Vocals in Studio One – 2nd Edition) combines multiband dynamics processing with equalization to both de-ess and reduce plosives. Although the screen shot shows the Multiband Dynamics processor in Studio One 5, this technique will work with previous Studio One versions if you duplicate the settings.
In the screen shot, the Multiband Dynamics’ Low band settings are outlined in red, and the High band settings are outlined in blue. (Note this is not the actual interface; the high band panel is pasted into the image from a different screen shot so you can see both the Low and High band settings simultaneously.)
The High band acts as a de-esser, because it applies compression to only the high frequencies. This helps tame sibilance. The Low band compresses only the low frequencies, which reduces pops. However, this preset also takes advantage of the way Multiband Dynamics combines equalization with dynamics control. Turning down the Low stage Gain all the way further reduces the low frequencies, where pops like to hang out and cause trouble.
For the High band, vary compression to taste. The compression settings are less critical for the Low band if you turn the Gain down all the way, but in either case, you’ll need to tweak the settings for your particular vocal track.
And that’s all there is to it. When a loud pop or sibilant sound hits the Multiband Dynamics, it’s compressed to be less annoying, while leaving the rest of the vocal intact. Vocal repaired!
Like being able to change what happens when one Event overlaps (covers over) a different Event.
Prior to Version 5, overlapped Events were treated the same. The overlapping Event became translucent, so you could see the waveform or note data of the Event underneath it. This is ideal for making audio crossfades, which is one of the main reasons for overlapping audio Events. To create a crossfade, type X, and optionally, click and drag up/down at the crossfade junction to shape the crossfade curve. Then you can shift+click on the overlapped Event, type ctrl+B, and combine them into a single Event. With note data, overlapping Events is helpful when combining, for example, the main snare hits on one track with alternate snare hits on a different track.
Another option after overlapping Events is mixing them together. Shift+click on the overlapped Event to include it with the overlapping Event on top. Then type Ctrl+B to mix audio, or G to merGe note data.
However, if you don’t crossfade or mix, then the region below the overlapping Event is still there. The overlapping Event is grayed, which can get confusing if you have a lot of muted sections; and if you remove the overlapping Event because you want to replace it with something else, it’s not obvious where the overlap occurred.
Some programs default to deleting, not just covering over, a section that’s being overlapped by another clip. This is useful when you’re doing lots of edits, because you’re not left with vestigial pieces of regions that still exist, but don’t do anything. To accommodate this type of workflow, Studio One 5 now offers a “no overlap” mode for Events. There are three ways to access this (Fig. 1).
Figure 1: In addition to using a keyboard shortcut, Studio One can default to “No overlap when editing events,” as chosen in the Arranger view or under Options.
Selecting “No overlap when editing events” deletes the overlapped part of an Event, and the replaced section looks like it’s part of the track (i.e., not grayed). However, if you later decide you didn’t really want to delete the overlapped region, then just remove the section that overlapped it. Now you can slip-edit the edge of the underlying Event back to where it was.
(Note that if you enabled Play Overlaps in a track’s Inspector, or chose “Enable Play Overdubs for New Audio Tracks” in Options/Advanced/Audio, so that you could overdub over an existing track and hear both the original track and the overdub on playback, enabling “No overlap when editing events” overrides this setting.)
Granted, this may seem like a small change, but it accommodates more workflow possibilities—especially if you learn the keyboard shortcut, and choose the right option at the right time.
Full disclosure: I’m not a big fan of chorusing. In general, I think it’s best relegated to wherever snares with gated reverbs, orchestral hits, DX7 bass presets, Fairlight pan pipes, and other 80s artifacts go to reminisce about the good old days.
But sometimes it’s great to be wrong, and multiband chorusing has changed my mind. This FX Chain (which works in Studio One Version 4 as well as Version 5) takes advantage of the Splitter, three Chorus plug-ins, Binaural panning, and a bit of limiting to produce a chorus effect that covers the range from subtle and shimmering, to rich and creamy.
There’s a downloadable .multipreset file, so feel free to download it, click on this window’s close button, bring the FX Chain into Studio One, and start playing. (Just remember to set the channel mode for guitar tracks to stereo, even with a mono guitar track.) However, it’s best to read the following on what the controls do, so you can take full advantage of the Multiband Chorus’s talents.
The Splitter creates three splits based on frequency, which in this case, are optimized for guitar with humbucking pickups. These frequencies work fine with other instruments, but tweak as needed. The first band covers up to 700 Hz, the second from 700 Hz to 1.36 kHz, and the third band, from 1.36 kHz on up (Fig. 1).
Figure 1. FX Chain block diagram and Macro Controls panel for the Multiband Chorus.
Each split goes to a Chorus. The mixed output from the three splits goes to a Binaural Pan to enhance the stereo imaging, and a Limiter to make the signal “pop” a little more.
Regarding the control panel, the Delay, Depth, LFO Width, and 1/2 Voices controls affect all three Choruses. Each Chorus also has its own on/off switch (C1, C2, and C3), Chorus/Double button (turning on the button enables the Double mode), and LFO Speed control. You’ll also find on/off buttons for the Binaural Pan and Limiter, as well as a Width control for the Binaural Pan. Fig. 2 shows the initial Chorus settings when you call up the FX Chain.
Figure 2. Initial FX Chain Chorus settings.
Because chorusing occurs in different frequency bands, the sound is more even and has a lusher sound than conventional chorusing. Furthermore, setting asynchronous LFO Speeds for the three bands can give a more randomized effect (at least until there’s an option for smoothed, randomized waveform shapes in Studio One).
A major multiband advantage comes into play when you set one of the bands to Doubler mode instead of Chorus. You may need to readjust the Delay and Width controls, but using Doubler mode in the mid- or high-frequency band, and chorusing for the other bands, gives a unique sound you won’t find anywhere else. Give it a try, and you’ll hear why it’s worth resurrecting the chorus effect—but with a multiband twist.
Ampire is a guitar rig simulator that leverages State Space Modeling for uncannily realistic re-creations of classic (expensive and heavy) guitar amplifiers, cabinets, and pedals. State Space Modeling is the surgical measuring and digital re-creation of analog hardware on a per-component level. Each capacitor, every resistor, all the diodes, and every circuitry element of the complete hardware schematics have their behavior measured, modeled, and re-created… including even component-specific non-linearities.
All Fat Channel Plug-ins are state-modeled to accurately produce the sound and response of the original hardware processors. The following plug-ins are included in this bundle:
This EQ offers the world’s most popular EQ curve. Using gently sweeping treble and bass EQ shelves, it allows you to make subtle, yet effective, changes over wide swaths of the frequency spectrum.
Comp 160 Compressor
With simple controls, yet capable of extreme compression traits, the Comp 160 provides VCA character with a personality all its own. Try it on drums—you’ll be glad you did!
Everest C100A Compressor
Based on a classic design focused on gentle, natural-sounding gain reduction, the Everest C100A helps control dynamics while still letting the signal breathe.
The smooth character of this compressor allows you to create transparent or extreme color changes to your audio, making it a workhorse for just about any application.
Vintage 3-band EQ
With its distinct filter shaping, sheen, and bite, this three-band active EQ includes both high and low shelving filters, providing enhanced tone-shaping possibilities.
The Tube CB Compressor
In general, the response time of optical compressors tends to soften the attack and release, which can smooth out uneven volume fluctuations. Emulating an all-tube, optical design, the Tube CB compressor delivers musicality, preserving the clarity of the signal even at the most extreme settings.
The Tube EQ
The Tube EQ is based on a passive, all-tube design for ultra-smooth and musical equalization, making it ideal for any midrange source material.
This model of an iconic compressor/limiter of the 1950s imparts an unmistakable silky warmth on just about any signal.
Capturing the unique sound of a twin VCA gain-reduction amplifier design, the Brit Comp is ideal for taming piano dynamics or adding punch to drums and percussion.
The 1960s-vintage EQ provides consistent, repeatable equalization using three overlapping bands, divided into seven fixed frequency points, each with five steps of boost or cut. Its selectable peaking or shelving filters for the high and low band, along with an independently insertable bandpass filter, provide an easy path to creating acoustically superior equalization.
Solar 69 EQ
The sound of classic British EQ is absolutely legendary and has enhanced many a great recording. Emulating this classic British design, the Solar 69 EQ adds definition to kick drums, shapes electric guitars, and adds shimmer to acoustic guitars and vocals without sacrificing body.
Studio One’s Overlap Correction feature for Note data isn’t new, but it can save you hours of boring work. The basic principle is that if Note data overlaps so that the end of one note extends long enough to overlap the beginning of the next note, selecting them both, and then applying overlap correction, moves the overlapping note’s end earlier so that it no longer overlaps with the next note.
My main use is with keyboard bass. Although I play electric bass, I often prefer keyboard bass because of the sonic consistency, and being able to choose from various sampled basses as well as synth bass sounds. However, it’s important to avoid overlapping notes with keyboard bass for two main reasons:
One option for fixing this is to zoom in on a bass part’s note data, check every note to make sure there aren’t overlaps, and shorten notes as needed. However, Overlap Correction is much easier. Simply:
Normally I’m reluctant to Select All and do an editing function, but any notes that don’t overlap are left alone, and I haven’t yet run into any problems with single-note lines. Fig. 1 shows a before-and-after of the note data.
Figure 1: The notes circled in white have overlaps; the lower copy of the notes fixes the overlaps with the Length menu’s Overlap Correction feature.
Problem solved! The reason for setting overlap to -00.00.01 instead of 00.00.00 is because with older hardware synthesizers or congested data streams, that very slight pause ensures a note-off before the next note-on appears. This prevents the previous note from “hanging” (i.e., never turning off). You can specify a larger number for a longer pause—or live dangerously, and specify no pause by entering 0.
Also, although I referenced using this with keyboard bass, it’s useful for any single-note lines such as brass, woodwind, single-note MIDI guitar solos, etc. It can also help with hardware instruments, including electronic drums, that have a limited number of voices. By removing overlaps, it’s less likely that the instrument will run out polyphony.
There’s some intelligence built into the overlap correction function. If a note extends past another note, there won’t be any correction. It also seems to be able to recognize pedal points (Fig. 2).
Figure 2: Overlap Correction is careful about applying correction with polyphonic lines.
Selecting all notes in the top group of notes and selecting Overlap Correction didn’t make any changes. As shown in the bottom group of notes, preventing the pedal point from overlapping the final chord requires selecting the pedal point, and any of the notes in the last chord with which the pedal point overlaps.
It’s easy to overlook this gem of a feature, but it can really help with instrumental parts—particularly with keyboard bass and solo brass parts.
Sound on Sound Magazine is “the independent voice of music recording technology for over 34 years.” Their team is based in the United Kingdom and, like the rest of the world, Covid-19 has thrown a wrench in their day-to-day and service to their customers. In response to the lockdown, they’re now offering access to their September issue for FREE! Read cover to cover digitally here.
The PreSonus Quantum landed on the cover of Sound on Sound back in 2017. We are very excited to see Studio One featured in their latest issue! Writer Robin Vincent gives an extremely detailed review of many of Studio One 5’s enhancements, new features and so much more. All we can say is THANK YOU!
They also shout out to PreSonus Sphere! Here’s a little snippet:
The pricing is impressive, achievable, realistic and it keeps you in the upgrade loop.
Learn more about PreSonus Sphere here: https://shop.presonus.com/PreSonus-Sphere