PreSonus Blog

Tag Archives: Tip of the Week


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.

Mastering Martha Davis—for Vinyl!

Martha Davis is best known for her string of hit singles in the 80s with the Motels.

 

Songs like “Suddenly Last Summer” and “Only the Lonely” were Top 10 hits that remain on playlists to this day, but her varied (and ongoing) career includes solo albums, an acting stint in “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure,” creating music for several films (including “Moscow on the Hudson,” “Teachers,” “The Golden Child, and her “Soul Man” duet with Sly Stone), and working in theater. She still tours—at least when there’s not a pandemic—and amazingly, her voice is better than it was in the 80s. But, it took Studio One’ Project Page to bring a solo album back to life that had been all but written off ten years ago.

 

The collection of songs on “I Have My Standards” (Fig. 1) was meant to be an album of jazz standards, with orchestration—but the twist was that Martha had written the “standards.” She cut a demo album with longtime musical collaborator Marty Jourard (piano, tenor sax), Allen Hunter (bass), Paul Pulvirente (drums), and Felix Mercer (clarinet). However, the budget to do the orchestration never materialized, and the record was never finished.

Figure 1: The cover of “I Have My Standards.”

When Martha found out I did mastering, she mentioned “the album that never was” and being curious, I asked to listen to it. I was floored. The songs were deep, the vocals flawless, and the instrumentation excellent. I heard the lack of orchestration as an advantage because the sparse, emotional treatments were compelling in themselves.

 

Except…being a demo, there were technical problems. Among other issues, the acoustic bass overpowered the song on some of the demos, the mic had a boxy quality that was no friend to Martha’s voice, and there were mix and level issues that resulted in a lack of clarity. I asked if she could locate the multitracks so I could remix before mastering, yet no one had any idea where they were. Oh, and the project had to be mastered for vinyl—she wanted to put it out on 180-gram vinyl for her nascent record label, Remarkable Records.

 

ENTER STUDIO ONE

 

Fortunately, the songs were recorded with the same basic setup. Although I’m usually not a fan of “one size fits all” mastering chains, in this case, there weren’t too many variations among the songs (Fig. 2).

Figure 2: The Project Page mastering chain.

The Splitter separated the frequencies below 178 Hz from the rest of the audio. With vinyl, bass needs to be centered, and the dynamics need to be controlled—hence the Limiter, and the Dual Pan. with both left and right channels set to center.

 

Another reason for the Splitter was that in some songs, the acoustic bass overpowered the mix. Note the fader at the end of the Dual Pan, set to -9.0 dB to help keep the bass under control. This setting worked for most of the songs but for one of them, I had to pull the level down by -13.8 dB to get the right balance. The frequency splitting was crucial.

 

For the rest of the audio, EQ was by far the most important process. Fig. 3 shows the setting that was used on most of the songs. Remember that the RIAA curve for vinyl (which boosts treble massively on the vinyl, then cuts it on playback) isn’t a fan of high frequencies, so the highs were often cut on vinyl masters. Although the steep high-cut filter wasn’t needed on all the songs, when necessary this gave a sound that was more consistent with vinyl records.

Figure 3: Initial EQ settings for the songs.

 

The substantial dip at 625 removed the muffled quality by making the highs more prominent. The dips at 2.72 and 3.06 kHz were tricky—they were essential in removing a resonance on Martha’s voice that took away from of the openness and intimacy. Almost all the songs needed the dip at 8 kHz, where treble energy from recording the individual tracks “bunched up.” Bass wasn’t an issue, because the split took care of that.

 

The Binaural pan was set between 124% and 137%, depending on the song. This mainly had the effect of spreading out the reverb more than the instruments, which enveloped the sound in an ambiance it didn’t have otherwise. This also moved the reverb a bit out of the center, so there could be more focus on the voice.

 

Finally, I’m not much of a believer in “special sauce” processors, but the Scheps Parallel Particles from Waves was ideal (Fig. 4).

Figure 4: The Scheps Parallel Particles plug-in added just the right amount of “air.”

 

After taming the highs to accommodate vinyl mastering, I wanted to restore a perception of high frequencies. Adding a significant amount of the Air parameter, with just a touch of Thick and Bite for a little more midrange presence, did exactly what was needed.

 

FINAL TOUCHES

 

I was aiming for a LUFS of -12. This was a bit of a compromise between vinyl and streaming. A little compression would make it easier for the vinyl cutter to optimize the levels for vinyl, and besides, being a little “hotter” than the typical streaming target of -14 LUFS was fine. For the last stage of dynamics control, I used IK Multimedia’s Stealth Limiter (which is designed for mastering), in the Project Page’s Post slot. It’s a transparent but CPU-intensive plug-in, hence using only one instance as the final limiter. The songs were the levels I wanted, so they needed only very slight tweaks to hit the Stealth Limiter a little harder or softer to reach the -12 LUFS goal.

 

It was easy to generate timings from the Project Page, so that those cutting the vinyl would know where to put the bands between cuts…and we were on our way. The vinyl hits the world in August (available from themotels.com and specialty record stores). The digital release is available now on iTunes, Apple Music, Spotify, Amazon Music, Amazon Disk on Demand, and you can hear it on Pandora, Shazam, iHeart Radio, and YouTube Music. Most of these have ways to preview the songs, and I think it’s well worth following some of the links to check out music that sounds like it’s frozen in time, yet curiously modern.

 

I checked out some of the customer reviews on Amazon. While they’re all over-the-top about Martha’s voice and songs, as you might expect my favorite is the one that said “The album is mastered in such a way that you would think that Martha Davis is actually in the same room with you.” Mission accomplished (Fig. 5)!

Figure 5: Martha with the author.