PreSonus Blog

Sneaky Mastering Page Tip

For this tip to make sense, I need to be upfront about two personal biases.

Personal bias #1: Drums should sound percussive. I can’t remember the last time I used compression on drums (although limiting or saturation is helpful to shave off extreme peaks).

Personal bias #2: I avoid using bus processors. The mix has to sound great without any bus processors, so the mastering process can take the mix to the next level.

Why I have these biases would take up a whole other tip. Besides, if your music sounds great with bus processors and compressed drums, then by all means—keep using bus processors, and compress your drums!

But There’s a Problem: “Super Peaks”

As a result of my biases, I send mixes with a wide dynamic range to the Mastering page, because that’s where I can control the precise amount of dynamic range processing in context with other related pieces of music. But, not restricting dynamics means that from time to time, there are “super peaks”—for example, if the kick, snare, cymbal, keyboard stabs, and a guitar power chord all hit at the same time (fig. 1).

Figure 1: The super peaks are outlined in orange. Lower peaks are outlined in white.

These super peaks go way higher than most peaks, so if you normalize, the super peaks prevent any significant peak level increase. Using limiting or compression on the track works, but alters the percussive character. Of course, the beauty of the Song/Mastering page synergy is that you can tweak the mix in the Song page, and the Mastering page will reflect the results. However, with super peaks that combine multiple instrument sounds occurring simultaneously, tracking down which tracks to reduce, and by how much, gets complicated—especially if you have to deal with a dozen or so super peaks.

The Gain Envelope is the perfect tool for dealing with super peaks. You can bring down the peak and the area immediately adjacent to it, without neutering the percussive waveform (fig. 2). The Gain Envelope just lowers the peak’s level a bit—it doesn’t flatten the peak.

Figure 2: The super peak on the left has been lowered by -3 dB on the right.

Although the Mastering page doesn’t have Gain Envelopes, there’s still a way to apply that Song page advantage to the Mastering page. Usually, audio goes from the Song page to the Mastering page. In this case, we’ll do the reverse.

  1. Create a new Song.
  2. Open the Browser, and unfold the Project’s folder. Then, unfold the Song with the file that needs editing, and open the Song’s Master folder to expose the file used by the Mastering page (fig. 3).

Figure 3: Locate the Master file. Note the -Master.wav suffix.

  1. Drag the Master file into the new Song, and start editing.
  2. Use the Gain envelope to bring down the super peaks. While the file is open, you can make any other needed changes (e.g., increasing the level slightly at the beginning to pull listeners into the music).
  3. After making your changes, rename the existing Master file to something like “Song-Master Old.wav.” Then, drag the edited file from the Song into the Master folder, and rename it with the original name, like “Song-Master.wav.” Now your project will think the modified file is the Master file (fig. 4). Once it checks out as okay, you can delete the old Master file.

Figure 4: The original file is on the left. The version on the right had the super peaks reduced, and was then re-normalized.

Mission accomplished! Both files in fig. 4 were normalized, but compare the file on the right—it’s more consistent and louder, yet the dynamics remain intact. It was necessary to change only the levels of ten super-peaks by about -3 dB. I also brought up the level in the beginning section, to make a stronger entrance after the end of the previous song. The end result was about a +2.0 LUFS increase.

So there you have it: you can win the loudness wars—but with a bloodless coup that doesn’t squash your audio.

Save $30 on AudioBox 96 Studio 25th Anniversary in the USA and Canada in November 2021!

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Now through the end of November 2021, save $30 on the AudioBox 96 Studio 25th Anniversary Edition at participating dealers in the USA and Canada!

Start recording today with this complete, all-PreSonus package! Based on the AudioBox USB 96 audio/MIDI interface and award-winning Studio One recording and production software, PreSonus AudioBox 96 Studio is great for creating multitrack recordings, demos, live recordings, podcasts, field recordings for video and sound effects, and much more.

You get our best-ever selling AudioBox interface, the M7 Condenser microphone, comfy HD7 headphones, Studio One Artist, the Studio Magic Suite (over $1000 worth of software) and all the cables you need to hook it up. It’s everything you need to record and produce in a single purchase—and for a limited time it’s more affordable than ever!

This is an instant rebate, live at the point of purchase. No forms to fill out.

 

Get $30/€30 instant rebates on the Revelator Microphone!

Now through the end of Dec. 2021, — save $30/€30 on the Revelator USB microphone at participating dealers!

Stand out from the crowd! Revelator is the first USB microphone to deliver voice processing to polish your sound and an easy-to-use loopback mixer to bring in multiple sources from other software applications—all built into a studio-grade microphone that connects right to your computer, Chromebook, and iOS/iPadOS devices. It’s ideal for singer/songwriters, podcasters, or just regular ol’ Zoom calls for the work-from-home crowd.

You also get Studio One Artist and the Studio Magic software suite—over $1000 worth of software!

Here’s a great review of the Revelator from Production Expert!

 

The fine print:

USA and Canadian customers can get their $30 off instantly at participating dealers.

European customers need to use the rebate form linked below. Qualifying territories include: Germany, UK, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Austria, Ireland, Hungary, France, Spain, Portugal, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia.

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Get $50/€50 instant rebates on ioStation 24c!

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When you’re a solo artist, you have to be more than just creative to realize your vision; you must also be a producer and an audio engineer. The ioStation 24c audio interface and production controller provides the tools needed for all of these diverse roles in a compact, ergonomic desktop design that will fit into any home studio. Record your audio through two pristine XMAX mic preamps and high-definition 24-bit, 192 kHz analog-to-digital converters. Navigate your recordings with easy-to-use transport controls. Edit your production and automate parameters in your favorite DAW with the powerful Session Navigator and mix it all with a 100 mm touch-sensitive motorized fader. Whether you’re a musician producing your latest album or just getting started with your first podcast, the ioStation 24c gives you the tools you need to record and mix with the ease of hands-on, tactile control—all in a single device that doesn’t clutter your creative space.

You also get Studio One Artist and the Studio Magic software suite—over $1000 worth of software!

Here’s a great review of the ioStation 24c from Creative Sauce!

 

The fine print:

USA and Canadian customers can get their $50 off instantly at participating dealers.

European customers need to use the rebate form linked below. Qualifying territories include: Germany, UK, Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, Austria, Ireland, Hungary, France, Spain, Portugal, Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia.

To find a dealer outside of the USA, click the links below!

Shimmer Reverb

As reverb transitions from being simply a way to emulate an acoustic space to an effect in its own right, new reverb designs are becoming more popular. One of these is “shimmer” reverb, which uses pitch shifting before the reverb to add high-frequency content. Some of these recirculate the pitch-shifted output back to the input; although this implementation doesn’t do that, it still gives a solid shimmer effect—check out the audio examples.

After hearing the examples, you’ll probably want to download the multipreset included for Pro users. If you’re an Artist user and have the Ampire add-on, you can do this effect by using buses. Fig. 1 shows the Shimmer Reverb’s block diagram.

Figure 1: Shimmer Reverb FX Chain.

The Splitter has three splits. Two go to a Pedalboard with a Pitch Shifter module, set for an octave higher shift (fig. 2). The third provides a dry signal.

Figure 2: Pitch Shifter settings.

Because the fidelity drops off with extreme transposition, having two Pitch Shifters in parallel gives a smoother sound. Note that Mix Harmony is set full up, and Harmony Detune is up halfway. Feel free to experiment with the Detune parameter.

To smooth the sound further, an Analog Delay (fig. 3) follows each Pitch Shifter. They have identical settings, except that one is set for 31 ms of delay, and the other for 23 ms.

Figure 3: Analog Delay settings.

You’ll need to set the wet/dry balance in the FX Chain itself, using the level sliders for the three splits. Or, eliminate the dry split, and use this only as a bus or FX Channel effect.

And that’s all there is to shimmering your sound. Happy ambiance!

Download the Shimmer Reverb multipreset here.

Mixing Vocals: How To Make Vocal Production Presets in Studio One with Alina Smith



Join PreSonus Sphere today to check out Alina Smith’s exclusive Presets and more by other PreSonus artists!

Only $14.95 per month for Studio One Professional, Notion, and so much more.

Alina Smith: 2000’s Teen


Alina Smith is a songwriter, a producer, and one half of LYRE, who has written and produced records for traditional acts such as Fall Out Boy, ITZY, Red Velvet, Betty Who, Kirstin Maldonado (Pentatonix), as well as for today’s top digital creators like Kenzie Ziegler, Lexi Jayde, Niki and Gabi.

She has accumulated hundreds of millions of streams on songs she’s been a part of and earned several #1 singles. Alina’s work has been profiled in Forbes Magazine, Billboard Magazine, American Songwriter, 1883 Magazine, and more. She’s also well-known in the sound design space with LYRE’s Splice sample pack called “Perfect Pop.”


Here’s what you need to know, straight from Alina:

So I started recording myself singing pretty early on, I wanna say… 2005. I had a dynamic mic I plugged directly into the audio input of my prehistoric laptop and I had absolutely zero training in anything related to production. Then, a few years later I upgraded to an M-Box and a $100 MXL mic which is, funny enough, the setup that I got my first songwriting cut on. From then on, I kept progressing and learning, which I still do to this day, although I do have a pretty large bag of tricks at this point that I can dip into when I record different singers in different genres.

A few years ago I switched from Pro Tools to Ableton Live for instrumental production, but I was struggling with the vocal production side of things in there because at the time Ableton didn’t have playlisting, so recording and comping vocals was super time-consuming and clunky.

I decided to test-run Studio One and fell in love with it immediately! With the ease of setting my own key commands, I was able to choose the commands I was used to and not have to learn a whole new set. Sprinkle in the Melodyne and VocAlign via ARA integration, and I knew that I finally found my soulmate vocal production DAW!

With a PreSonus Sphere membership, I’ve discovered a lot of new plug-in effects I really love, like the Analog Effects Collection. The Analog Delay is chef’s kiss!

I’ve really come to enjoy the PreSonus PX-1 mic, which I use for on-location recording quite a bit. With the right “in-the-box” vocal chain, I can make it sound bright and crispy and much pricier than it actually is!

It’s been a really hectic year for me! At the top of 2021, I set the intention of not holding back in any area of my life or career and for the rest of the year it translated into me pursuing several things all at once. I ended up organizing and hosting an online music convention, called the Modern Music Expo, which you can watch a replay of here:

I also released an EP called 2000’s Teen, which is my first body of work as an artist! And, seeing as my main job is writing and producing music for other artists with mg production team LYRE, I also did a ton of that, my favorite being “Mafia in the Morning” by ITZY, which came out this spring.

I’m already working on my next release: filming a music video and planning the drop. Writing and producing for various projects and making production tutorials for YouTube and TikTok. But mostly, I’m just trying to relax and enjoy fall, which is my favorite time of the year. It’s so important for artists to replenish their batteries, so that’s what I’m doing!


Let’s welcome Alina into the family as a Featured Artist on PreSonus Sphere!

She is sharing ten of her custom Vocal FX Presets for all PreSonus Sphere members to access and enjoy:


Join PreSonus Sphere today to check out Alina Smith’s exclusive Presets and more by other PreSonus artists!

Only $14.95 per month for Studio One Professional, Notion, and so much more.

The Really Grand Piano

Having worked on several classical and piano-oriented sessions, I’ve had the opportunity to hear gorgeous grand pianos in their native habitat. But it spoiled me. When I had to use sampled pianos in other types of productions, it always seemed something was missing.

This tip puts some of the low-end mojo back into sampled pianos. Sure, it’s done with smoke and mirrors, not by having wood interact with a room—but check out the audio example at the end, and you’ll hear what Beethoven has to say about it.

How It Works

The bass enhancement occurs by mixing a sine wave behind the main piano sound, but only in the lower octaves, and very subtly. This adds bass reinforcement that you won’t find in samples.

Set up a Multi-Instrument (sorry Artist users, this is a Pro version-only feature) that combines the piano of your choice, like the Presence Acoustic Full, and Mai Tai (fig. 1).

Figure 1: Multi-Instrument setup for grand piano reinforcement.

For Mai Tai, you want the simplest sound possible—one sine wave oscillator, no modulation except for an amplitude envelope, no random phase, and no effects other than EQ. By turning the Filter cutoff down to around 100 Hz or so, turning Key tracking all the way down, and using the EQ (in the bass range) to take out all the highs, we now have the sine wave tracking your playing on only the lowest notes (fig. 2).

Figure 2: Mai Tai sine wave reinforcement preset. Sections that aren’t used are grayed out.

Tweaking

The Mai Tai’s level setting is crucial. You want an almost subliminal effect—something you don’t notice unless you mute the Mai Tai. Check out this audio example, but note that I’ve mixed the Mai Tai up higher than I normally would, so you can hear what the sine wave adds to the piano sound. Also note that even with the extra emphasis on the lower octaves, you can’t hear an added sine wave on the higher notes. This is important for a realistic sound.

Finally, although I’ve emphasized using this with piano, the same technique can add a commanding low end to other sampled instruments, like acoustic guitar—yes, you can change your parlor guitar’s body into a jumbo—no woodworking required!

Attack Delay—Done Right!

The Attack Delay effect, used primarily with guitar, fades in a note or chord over the initial attack to give a more pad-like sound. The effect feeds audio into a gate with an attack time, and triggers the gate when a note or chord hits.

However, you need a brief silence between notes or chords (I prefer using this with chords), so the gate can reset prior to initiating the next attack. It’s kind of annoying to have to modify your playing style to accommodate this pause. Also, if the gate threshold is too high, you won’t hear any note—and if it’s too low, you might lose the attack effect. Attack Delay stompboxes can be iffy, which may be one reason why you don’t see one on every pedalboard.

Nonetheless, this can be a beautiful effect when done right…and as the audio example shows, Studio One can do it right.

Attack Delay Setup

The key is to insert the Gate in the track you want to process, but not trigger the Gate from that track. Instead, you create a copy of the original track, and optimize it for triggering the Gate. The copy then controls the Gate through its sidechain (you don’t listen to the copied track).

(Optionally, before setting this up, consider compressing or limiting the original guitar track so that it has a longer sustain. You don’t want the guitar to fade too much before the attack fades in.)

Fig. 1 shows the mixer setup. The GtrPadTrig track’s pre-fader send goes to the Gate’s sidechain. Turn down this track’s channel fader, because we don’t want to hear the copied track. The guitar track in the audio example inserts Ampire before the Gate, and reverb after the Gate. The reverb adds an ethereal quality as the guitar fades into the chord.

Figure 1: Mixer setup.

Next, prep the control track in the Edit window. Open the Audio Bend panel (to the right of the speaker icon in the Edit window toolbar), right-click on the Event, and choose Detect Transients. If necessary, adjust the Bend Marker Threshold (or remove and add Bend Markers) so that Bend Markers appear only at the beginning of chords or notes (fig. 2).

Figure 2: The beginning of each chord has a Bend Marker. This shows the waveform prior to splitting.

Mind the Gap

Right-click on the Event, and choose Split at Bend Markers. All the Events will be separate and selected. Click on the right edge of any Event, and drag to the left. Because all the Events are selected, this opens up a gap before all the chord attacks (fig. 3).

Figure 3: The control track is on the top, and the audio we listen to below it.

Now start playback, and adjust the Gate parameters. This is a little tricky at first, because you want the Threshold set so that triggers coming in from the sidechain open the Gate, coupled with a Release time that’s short enough so that the Gate doesn’t shut off immediately. I usually leave about a 100 ms gap between chord attacks, and set the Gate release time to 60 ms. Your mileage may vary.

If the triggering isn’t reliable, adjust the Threshold, gap length, or Release. To edit the gap, select all the events and vary the right edge of one of them—they’ll all move together. Sometimes, there might be one obstinate note that doesn’t trigger correctly, in which case you can select only the Event before it, and vary its gap for reliable triggering with the next chord.

Yes, this takes a little effort to set up, but it’s cool. Besides, there’s nothing wrong with exploring an effect that remains somewhat rare, because it’s hard to get right—fortunately, Studio One can get it right.

Drum Replacement with Melodyne

The problem: I was using one of Chris McHugh’s acoustic drum loops from the (sadly, no longer available) Discrete Drums sample library. However, it had been recorded at a slower tempo, and when sped up, it was a bit too “busy” in places.

The solution: Drum Replacement with Studio One, Pro EQ, Gate, and Melodyne, so I could edit Note data into the part I wanted.

Getting Started: Step by Step

  1. Copy the drum loop to a new track, because we’ll want to re-visit the original one for each drum. We’ll start by replacing the kick.
  2. Use the Pro EQ as an Event effect to dial in the kick drum’s fundamental (fig. 1.) Combine a steep high cut with a low-frequency boost at the kick’s main frequency to isolate the kick from the rest of the track. Note that the sound doesn’t matter, you just want readily identifiable peaks. However, do avoid distortion, so Melodyne can represent velocity well.

Figure 1: EQ settings to isolate the kick’s fundamental.

  1. Render the Event. This may leave some lower-level drum sounds or ambiance, so add a Gate, and set the Threshold to pick up only the kick drum’s peaks (fig. 2).

Figure 2: Gate settings to isolate the kick’s peaks.

  1. Render the Event again, select it, and choose Edit with Melodyne. Now the kick part looks like fig. 3.

Figure 3: The Event on the left is the drum loop after EQing the kick. The Event on the right is the same one after gating. The lower blobs are the result of choosing Edit with Melodyne.

  1. Drag the Event track into an instrument track, and now you have note data for the kick.

Prepping the Note Data

The note data length will vary. To tidy up the part, set all the drums to 16th or 32nd notes with Action > Length (fig. 4).

Note that Melodyne picked up on some low-velocity kick hits too (pretty cool). You could assign these to a different sample of a kick hit softly. Fortunately, the Discrete Drums library includes samples of the individual drums. So, I could load the samples into Impact XT, and this way the sound would work with other loops from the same collection. Since the drums are multi-sampled at different velocities, I selected all the notes, and used Studio One’s Transpose function to set them to the same pitch as the kick samples.

Hi-hat was the most difficult to convert to Note data, because snare hits can produce transients that extend into the hi-hat range. A 48 dB/octave low-cut combined with a major high-frequency peak did a decent job of isolating the hi-hat, but the frequency was extremely high and Melodyne wasn’t too happy about that. Transposing the Event down an octave or so before applying the gate made the hits more Melodyne-friendly.

Clean Up

I was taken aback at how well this technique was able to translate the acoustic drum loop into Note data. The best aspects were that it preserved the human timing of a real drummer, and Melodyne did a good job of preserving the dynamics. The only needed fix was removing a few notes caused by loud snare hits that came through on the hi-hat track, and of course, editing the data to create the part I wanted—done!