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Tag Archives: Craig Anderton

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.

Melodic Percussion

This week’s tip shows how to augment percussion parts by making them melodic—courtesy of Harmonic Editing.

The basic idea is that setting a white or pink noise track to follow the chord track gives the noise a sense of pitch. Although having a long track of noise isn’t very interesting, if we gate it with a percussion part, then now we’ve layered the percussion part’s rhythm with the tonality of the noise. Add a little dotted 8th note echo, and it can sound pretty cool.

Step 1: Bring on the Noise

Noise needs to be recorded in a track to be affected by harmonic editing, so open up the mixer’s Input section, and insert a Tone Generator effect in tracks 1 and 2. Set the Tone Generator to Pink Noise, and trim the level so it’s not slamming up against 0 (Fig. 1).

Figure 1: We need noise in each channel to implement this technique.

Record-enable both tracks (set them to Mono channel mode), enable Input Monitor, and start recording noise into the tracks. The reason for recording into two tracks is we want to end up with stereo noise, so the tracks can’t be identical.

Step 2: Make the Noise Stereo

Now that the noise is recorded, you can remove the Tone Generator effects from the track inputs. At the mixer, pan one channel of noise left, and one right. In each track’s Inspector, choose Universal Mode for Follow Chords, and Strings for Tune mode (Fig. 2).

Figure 2: How to set up the tracks for stereo noise. The crucial Inspector settings are outlined in yellow.


Set each track’s output to a Bus, and now we have stereo noise at the Bus output. Insert a Gate in the Bus, and any other effects you want to use (I insert a Pro EQ to trim the highs and lows somewhat, and a Beat Delay for a more EDM-like vibe—but use your imagination).

Step 3: Control the Gate’s Sidechain

Choose the percussion sound with which you want to control the Gate sidechain, insert a pre-fader send in the percussion track, assign the send to the Gate, and then adjust the Gate parameters so that the percussion track modulates the noise percussively. Fig. 3 shows the track setup.

Figure 3: Track layout used in the audio example.

Tracks 1 and 2 are the mono noise tracks that follow the Chord Track, and feed the Bus. Tracks 4 and 5 both have pre-fader sends to control the Gate, so that for the first 7 measures only the cowbell controls the gate, but at measure 8, a tambourine part also modulates the Gate.

Track 6 has the cowbell and tambourine audio, which is mixed in with the pitched noise, while the folder track has the kick, snare, and hi-hat loops. (The reason for not using post-fader sends on the percussion tracks is so that the tracks controlling the Gate are independent of the audio, which you might want to process differently.)

But Wait…There’s More!

With a longer gate, the sound is almost like the rave organ sound that was so big at the turn of the century. And there are options other than gating, like using X-Trem…or following the Gate with X-Trem. Or draw a periodic automation level waveform for the bus, and use the Transform function to make everything even weirder. In any case, now you have a new, and unusual tool, for percussive accents.

Keyboard Meets Power Chords

Hey keyboard players!

Do you feel kind of left out because of the cool guitar amps that Studio One added in version 4.6? Well, this week’s tip is all about having fun, and bringing power chord mentality to keyboard, courtesy of those State Space amps. Listen to the audio example, and you’ll hear what I’m talking about.


And so you can get started having fun, you don’t even have to learn what’s going on to get that sound you just heard. Download Power Chordz.instrument, drag it into the track column, feed it from your favorite MIDI keyboard, and start playing.

Download here. 

Now, I know some of you prefer just to download a preset and get on with your life, and that’s fine—but for those who want some reverse engineering, here’s what’s under the hood.

Figure 1: The Multi-Instrument is pretty basic—it just bundles a Chorder Note FX and Mai Tai together.

The preset starts with a Multi-Instrument (Fig. 1) that consists of the Chorder Note FX, and Mai Tai synthesizer. The Chorder plays tonic, fifth above, an octave above, octave+fifth above, and two octaves above when you hit a keyboard key—your basic “it’s not major, and it’s not minor” type of power chord.

The Mai Tai uses a super-simple variation on the Init preset. In Fig. 2, anything that’s not relevant is grayed out. Turn off Osc 2, Noise, LFO 1, and LFO 2. There’s no modulation other than pitch bend, and no FX. Envelope 2 and Envelope 3 aren’t used. I set Pitch Bend to 7 semitones to do whammy bar effects, but adjust to taste. Also, you might want to play around with the Quality parameter. I’m allergic to anything called “normal,” so if you are as well, try the 80s, High, and Supreme settings to see if you like one of those better.



Figure 2: The Mai Tai preset uses simple waveforms, which is what you want when feeding amp sims and other distortion-oriented plug-ins.

Look in the instrument’s mixer channel, and you’ll see four Insert effects: Pro EQ, Ampire, Open Air, and Binaural Pan. You can check out their settings by opening them up, but the Ampire settings (Fig. 3) deserve a bit of explanation.

Figure 3: Ampire is using the Dual Amplifier and 4×12 MFB speaker cabinet, but just about any amp and cab has their merits.

The reason for choosing the Dual Amplifier is because it’s really three amps in one, as selected by the Channel knob on the right—I figured you’d appreciate having three separate sounds without having to do anything other than adjust one knob. Try different cabs and amps, but be forewarned—you can really go down an Endless Rabbit Hole of Tone, because there are a lot of great amp and cab sounds in there. I’ll admit that I ended up playing with various permutations and combinations of amps, effects, and cabs for hours.

You can also get creative with the Mai Tai, specifically, the Character controls. I didn’t assign any controls to a Control Panel, or set up modulation because having a pseudo-”whammy” bar pitch wheel was enough to keep me occupied. But, please feel free to come up with your own variations. And of course…post your best stuff on the PreSonus Exchange!


Up Your Expressiveness with Upward Expansion

Many people don’t realize there are two types of expansion. Downward expansion is a popular choice for minimizing low-level noise like hiss and hum. It’s the opposite of a compressor: compression progressively reduces the output level above a certain threshold, while a downward expander progressively reduces the output level below a certain threshold. For example, with 2:1 compression, a 2 dB input level increase above the threshold yields a 1 dB increase at the output. With 1:2 expansion, a 1 dB input level decrease below the threshold yields 2 dB of attenuation at the output.

Upward expansion doesn’t alter the signal’s linearity below the threshold—if the input changes by 2 dB, the output changes by 2 dB. But above the threshold, levels increase. For example, with 1:2 expansion, a 1 dB increase above the threshold becomes 2 dB of increase at the output. Fig. 1 shows the difference between downward and upward expansion.

Figure 1: The top screen shot shows how downward expansion attenuates levels below a threshold, while the lower one shows how upward expansion increases levels above a threshold.


That’s Nice…So What?

Upward expansion is a useful tool for drums, hand percussion, and other percussive instruments. One function is transient shaping, to emphasize attacks. Suppose you have a drum loop with too much room sound. Traditional expansion can make the room sound decay faster, but using upward expansion brings the peaks above the room sound, while leaving the characteristic room sound alone.

Another use is with percussion parts, like hand percussion, that are playing along with drums. A lot of times you don’t want the percussion hits to be too uniform in level, but instead, the most important hits should be a little louder compared to the rest of the part. Again, that’s where upward expansion shines. Dip the threshold just a tiny bit below the peaks—the peaks will stand out, and sound more dynamic.

Let’s listen to an audio example. The first two measures use no upward expansion with a drum track. The next two measures add a subtle amount of upward expansion. You’ll hear that the peaks from the kick and snare are still prominent, but the room sound and cymbals are a bit lower by comparison. The final two measures use the settings shown in Fig. 2. The kick and snare peaks are still there, but the rest of the part is more subdued, and the overall sound is “tighter,” with more dynamics.


Figure 2: Expander settings for the Upward Expansion Demo.

The only difference among the two-measure sections is the Range control setting. For the first two measures, it’s 0.00 dB; nothing can be above the threshold, because there is no threshold. In the second two measures, the Range is -2.00, so anything above that threshold goes through 1:4 expansion. In the final two measures, the range is -4.00 (I rarely take it lower, as long as the Event hits close to 0 on peaks).

Here’s the coolest part: Automating the Range parameter lets you alter a drum part’s dynamics and feel, without having to change the part itself. This is particular wonderful for compressed drum loops, because you can lower the range to keep the peaks, while making the rest of the loop less prominent. When you want a big sound, slam the Range back up to 0.00.


But Wait! There’s More!

The Multiband Dynamics processor can do frequency-selective upward expansion. You can isolate just the high frequencies where a drum stick hits, and emphasize only that frequency. Another use is making acoustic guitars sound more percussive, as in this audio example.


The first two measures are the original acoustic guitar track, and the next two use Multiband Dynamics to accent the strums (Fig. 3).

Figure 3: This setup takes advantage of the Multiband Dynamics’ ability to add upward expansion to a specific frequency range. Note the Input level control adding gain (outlined in white).

The Multiband Dynamics are in a separate, parallel track (you could build this into an FX Chain, but I think showing this in two channels illustrates the process better). Because the Multiband Dynamics is listening to only the high frequencies, which are quite weak and not sufficient to go over the expander threshold, the Input control is adding +10 dB of gain. Alternately, you could insert a Mixtool before the Multiband Dynamics.

This effect is best when used subtly, but next time you want to reach for a transient shaper, try this instead. It’s a flexible way to emphasize percussive hits and strums.

Fun and Games with Alternate Mixes

There are many uses for alternate mixes, and Studio One makes it not only easy to create alternate mixes, but also to store them as part of a song. We’ll cover traditional uses for alternate mixes, and then get into some more unusual applications.


How to Create and Store Alternate Mixes

When sending a file off for mastering, sometimes the engineer will want two additional versions, one with the vocal up 1 dB and another with it down 1 dB. This is because during the course of mastering, the relationship of the vocal to the track might change. A more prosaic example is creating a mix without vocals for karaoke, and of course, remixes are common in EDM. You might also do an “unplugged” version with only the acoustic tracks.

After creating the alternate mix:


  1. Choose Song > Export Mixdown (Fig. 1).

Figure 1: The Export Mixdown dialog box. Note that Import to track (outlined in white) is checked to bring the exported file into the song.


  1. Choose a location for the mix, the export range, file resolution, and make sure you check Import to track. (If while exporting a warning says there was clipping, reduce the master fader to compensate—for example if the export was 1 dB over 0, reduce the master fader level by at least 1 dB.)
  2. The file will now appear as a track within your song. When you save the song, you’ll save the alternate mix.

If your mix changes are relatively extensive, save it as a Version so you can recall it later. Choose File > Save New Version, and name it (Fig. 2). Use a name that corresponds to the name of the alternate mix file, and then you can choose File > Restore Version to recall the version corresponding to that particular mix.


Figure 2: It’s easy to save a version of a song that corresponds to a particular alternate mix.

Processing Song Sections with Alternate Mixes

Suppose you want to add flanging to only a solo section of a song. You can insert a flanger in the main bus, and then adjust automation to enable it and set the parameters as desired. However, another option is to create a mix, and bring it into your song as a track. Then, create an alternate mix you bring into the song. Now you can experiment on the alternate mix with the effect(s) you want to use, and when you have the sound you want, render it. Cut the solo section you want to flange from the main mix, and insert the rendered solo section from the alternate mix.


Better Virtual Instrument and Amp Sim Feel

Last week’s tip covered how to save CPU power with amp sims by bouncing and/or transforming the track with the sim. One user commented “I can see how doing [this] reduces CPU load, but only after I’ve finished choosing and using an amp sim patch. My frustration is the latency or CPU hit when actually playing my guitar through an amp sim, deciding on what I’m going to play, rehearsing it, auditioning amp sim patches and so on.” Alternate mixes to the rescue: make a premix of all tracks except the one with the amp sim, and then disable the tracks themselves. With the tracks now placing no load on the CPU because you’re listening only to the premix, you can throttle the latency way down when playing around with your sim and adding a new part. After recording the part, you can use the tips presented last week to reduce the CPU drawn by the amp sim.


Auditioning Different Mixes for Albums

The renewed interest in vinyl has had a corollary effect: an interest in albums and collections of songs, not just singles. As a result, Studio One’s synergy between the Song and Project page—where you can edit songs after hearing them in context with the master file, and update the master file with that song’s changes—is brilliant. But even if you don’t produce albums, Studio One’s mastering options make it easy to obtain consistency among songs. That way, if someone switches from one song of yours to another on YouTube or Spotify, there won’t be a jarring difference.

But you might do various mixes of songs, so you can choose the best one when assembling an album. If you update the version in the mastering file after changing a mix, to compare it to a previous mix you need to open the file with the other mix (which may take a fair amount of time if you have lots of effects and virtual instruments), update the mastering version, and repeat with any other mixes.

A simpler option is to create alternate mixes in your song as described above (remember to save each alternate mix as a separate version), and mute all tracks in the song except for the track with the mix you want to audition. Update the mastering file with that track. To audition a different mix, mute all tracks except for the different mix, update the mastering file, and hear that mix in context. Once you decide which mix you like best, open the Version containing that mix, and then you can make further tweaks to it.

Using 3rd-Party Cabs with Ampire XT

There’s an old joke about guitarists:

“How many guitars does a guitar player need?”

“Just one more!”

…and sometimes I feel the same way about amp sims, because all of them are different. Ampire XT benefits from PreSonus’s “State Space” technology, and if you have no other amp sims, its collection of amps has pretty much all the essentials.

What’s more, you can load thrid-party cabinet impulse responses (IRs) that re-create the sound of various cabinets, mics, and mic positions. These go into the User Cabinet, whose unique feature compared to typical IR loaders is being able to load individual IRs for the three mics.

But you can take impulses even further by turning off an amp’s cabinet altogether, and following Ampire XT with the Open Air convolution processor.  Although most people probably think of Open Air as a way to create a variety of reverb and other space-based effects, it’s also a flexible impulse response loader that plays nice with cabinet impulses.

There are many free cabinet impulses on the web to get you started. Admittedly, the sound quality varies—some are fine, some aren’t, but there’s also a middle ground where tweaking the Open Air controls can give the sound you want. is a popular source for free impulses (click on the Free tab), but there are many other companies that offer free samples, or sell impulses commercially.

The Setup

Create an FX Chain with Ampire XT followed by Open Air. The Impulse Responses are only for cabinets, so set up Ampire XT’s amp and effects however you want, but turn off the cabinet section (Fig. 1).

Figure 1: Click the cabinet bypass button (middle left, outlined in white) and the cabinet field will show None (upper right, outlined in white).


Follow Ampire XT with the Open Air, and start with its Default preset. Drag an impulse into the Open Air waveform display window (or click on the impulse name field to open the file selector, and then navigate to the impulse you want). Turn Mix to 100% so that you hear only the cabinet output, and none of the pre-cabinet amp sound (Fig. 2).

Figure 2: Make sure you set the Open Air Mix control to 100%, so that you don’t hear the pre-cabinet amp sound.

 Tweaking the Tone

The Kalthallen impulse shown in the screenshot above didn’t need tweaking to sound good, but you’ll find that with a lot of the free impulse responses, you’ll need to tweak the Gain and Frequency controls. Often the main problem is a “thin” sound and Fig. 3 shows some tweaks that help remedy this issue—pull back on the highs, and boost the low end for a bigger, beefier tone.


Figure 3: These EQ settings can help tame free impulse responses that sound too thin.

But the most dramatic tweaks come by enabling Shorten with Stretch and Stretch with Pitch, then varying the Length control. This can produce sounds that are similar to different mikings, or even cab sounds you’ve never heard before. The Predelay, ER/LR-Xover, and ER/LR controls can also affect the sound, although the differences aren’t as dramatic as stretching with the Length control.

Finally, although it’s great to have options, you don’t want to suffer from option overload (“maybe trying just one more impulse will give the sound I want…”). If you download a bunch of impulses, create a folder of favorites in a place where it’s easy to open it up, and drag-and-drop impulses into Open Air. If you find one you really like, save it as an Open Air preset for future use.

The “Table” Filter Response

There are a lot of filter responses: notch, bandpass, peak, allpass, high pass, lowpass, shelf…now let’s add the “table” response to the collection.

Parametric EQs can add peaks and cuts that are broad, narrow, or anywhere in between, but they all have slopes on either side of the filter frequency. The table response described here can boost or cut over a range of frequencies, with a flat response over that range. This avoids having to dedicate several overlapping parametric stages, which still doesn’t achieve quite the same result. The key to this response is combining shelving EQs.

Table Response Boost

To boost a frequency range, set the low- and high-shelf frequencies to the lowest and highest frequencies in the range (Fig. 1). Use the Shelf setting to determine how quickly the boosted section returns to the flat response. I’ve found the 12 and 24 dB settings works well, because the Q control comes into play. This can provide additional modifications to the response, which we’ll cover later. However, for the gentlest effect, 6 dB is valid in many situations as well.


Figure 1: This table response, inserted before a high-distortion amp sim, gives greater sensitivity to midrange notes and also trims the highs and lows for a “tighter” sound.

But we’re not done quite yet. To provide an actual boost, increase the output Gain control for the desired amount of boost. For example, if you want the table response to boost +12 dB, set the high and low shelf Gain settings to -12 dB, and the output Gain control to +12.

Table Response Cut

Similarly to the boost option, set the low- and high-shelf frequencies to the lowest and highest frequencies in the range you want to cut (Fig. 2). Again, use the Shelf setting to determine how quickly the boosted section returns to the flat response; the same general comments about how the shelf slope works with boosting apply here too.

Figure 2: This table response for a drum loop cuts back on the midrange a bit to help emphasize the kick and the snap/sizzle of the share and high-hats; it also reduces any “midrange mud,” and makes space in that frequency range for other instruments.

Cutting requires an equal and opposite approach to what we did for boosting. If you want the table response to cut 4 dB, then boost the shelf controls by +4 dB. Then, set the output gain control to -4 dB. This restores the shelf boosts to flat, and adds the desired amount of cut for the specified frequency range.

Using Q

When cutting with the low shelf or boosting with the high shelf, increasing resonance by turning up the Q control adds a peak just above the shelf’s corner frequency, and a dip below the corner frequency. When boosting with the low shelf or cutting with the high shelf, increasing Q adds a peak just below the shelf’s corner frequency, and a dip above the corner frequency. This emphasizes the extremes of the chosen frequency range, while also increasing the depth of the cuts near the corner frequency. Try adding resonance to the low shelf when using this technique for vocals, particularly narration (Fig. 3).

Figure 3: The table response adds a bit of a low-frequency boost (with Q) to give the “late night FM DJ sound,” but also cuts lower frequencies to reduce p-popping. Meanwhile, the high-frequency shelf emphasizes the voice’s articulation, while reducing extraneous highs, hiss, and sibilance.

Of course, the table response doesn’t replace a parametric. But sometimes, it might be just the response you need, and you’ll find it faster to dial in the right frequency range by moving the shelf controls than trying to make multiple stages of peak/boost EQ do what you want.

All About Ampire’s Virtual Miking

A physical guitar amp is more than a box with a speaker—it’s a box with a speaker being picked up by a mic in a room. Both the mic and room contribute to the overall sound. To better emulate the sound of a physical guitar amp, Ampire includes a Mic Edit Controls panel that allows making a variety of virtual mic adjustments.

Ampire doesn’t include room emulation, because you can emulate room sound with several of Studio One’s plug-ins—Room Reverb, Open Air Reverb, Mixverb, and Analog Delay. However, it’s best to avoid adding ambiance until most other tracks have been cut, so that the ambiance achieves the right balance. Too much ambiance can clutter the mix, or hog the stereo field.

The mics you choose, their levels with respect to each other, and whether you add delay can make a major difference in your amp’s sound. So, let’s investigate the Mic Edit Controls panel (Fig. 1).

Figure 1: The Mic Edit Controls in Ampire XT.

Choosing the Mic Type

Many guitarists record with their amp cranked to really high levels, to get their “sound.” Dynamic mics are ideal because they can handle high levels, and the inexpensive Shure SM57 is the classic guitar cabinet mic—many engineers choose it even when cost is no object. Although dynamic mics may lack brightness compared to condenser mics (as modeled by Mic C), this doesn’t matter much with amp cabinets, which typically don’t have much energy above 5 kHz or so anyway. Mic A in the Mic Edit Controls panel has the SM57’s sonic character, and will likely be your go-to mic.

Mic B produces the sound associated with ribbon mics, which shows one of Ampire’s benefits: older ribbon mics tended to be fragile—but you can’t blow up a virtual mic. Ribbon mics have an inherently warm midrange. Royer’s R-121 mic is popular for miking cabs, and Mic B models its overall sonic character.

Mic C emulates the PreSonus PM-2 matched pair of condenser microphones. Condenser mics are often too sensitive for close-miking loud amps, but when moved a bit back from the cab, they can give a brighter, more “open” response that handles note attacks well. They’re also commonly used as room mics, which is why these two virtual mics are arranged in an X-Y miking configuration to give a stereo image.


Wait a Minute—Did You Say Stereo?

Guitars are mono signal sources, but taking full advantage of Ampire’s mics, as well as room ambiance plug-ins, requires a stereo signal. To convert the mono guitar into a dual mono signal (i.e., stereo, but with the same audio in the left and right channels), record the guitar with the Channel Mode set to Mono (one circle showing to the right of the Record Input selector). Although this means that any plug-ins will be in mono, that’s acceptable when tracking. After recording the track, change the Channel Mode to stereo (i.e., two circles showing to the right of the Record Input selector), select the event, and bounce it to itself (ctrl+B). Now the mono guitar is dual mono.


Mic Control Applications

Each mic has three controls: level, mute button (which makes it easy to evaluate what a particular mic contributes to the overall sound), and phase switch (the Ø button). Also, Mics B and C have Delay controls.

Often when miking a physical amp with more than one mic, you’ll vary their blend to find the right mix. The Mic Mix Link button toward the extreme left simplifies this process. When enabled, altering one mic’s level adjusts the levels of the other mics oppositely.  For example, turning up Mic A turns down Mics B and C, or turning up Mic B turns down Mics A and C.

The Phase buttons and Delay controls can make major differences in the overall sound. There’s no right or wrong phase or delay setting; use whatever sounds best to you. Try the following to hear how these controls affect the sound. (Bear in mind that amp sims do a lot of calculations, so moving the controls will sound “choppy.” This is because Ampire has to recalculate constantly to reflect the changing settings.)

  1. Turn off Mic Mix Link.
  2. Mute Mic C.
  3. Set Mic A’s Level up full, and Mic B’s Level down all the way.
  4. Enable Mic Mix Link.
  5. Lower Mic A’s level. Mic B’s level will increase. Note the difference in sound as the levels change.
  6. Alter Mic B’s Delay time, and again, change Mic A’s level. You’ll hear a sound that’s somewhat like flanging, due to the comb filtering caused by Mic B being out of phase.
  7. Enable the Phase reverse switch for Mic B, and again, alter Mic A’s level. You’ll hear a wide tonal variation.


Now check out how Mic C creates a stereo spread. With Mic Mix Link off, adjust Mic A and/or Mic B for the desired sound. Bring up Mic C’s Level control slowly, and you’ll hear the stereo image bloom. Again, the Delay control and Phase reverse button make a big difference in the sound.


Clean Sounds, Too

One of my favorite mic applications is with clean guitar sounds (cabinet only, no amp). Mic C is particularly useful, because its brightness gives the cabinet’s tone a useful lift, and creates a stereo image. Finally, note that if you change the Channel Mode from mono to stereo (or the reverse), the sound may mute. Varying one of the Mic level controls restores the sound. Of course, it’s easy enough to call up an Ampire preset, and just start playing… but becoming proficient with the Mic Edit Controls opens up a wealth of possibilities.

Komplete Kontrol Integration, Part 3: Controlling Non-NKS Plug-Ins

Our prep work is in order: in part 1 we integrated the Komplete keyboard as a DAW navigation control surface, and in part 2, explored how to create general-purpose MIDI control surface templates. In the thrilling conclusion of this trilogy (soon to be a major motion picture!), we’ll now find out how to control non-NKS instruments and effects, running within Studio One, from the Komplete keyboard hardware control surface.


Because we’ll be mapping hardware controls to software parameters, it’s important to understand the difference between Studio One’s Focus and Global control mapping functions. When you program a controller in Global mode, it affects aspects common to all songs, like faders, pan, etc. In Focus mode, you program a controller for a specific instrument or effect. Focus mode has two wonderful attributes: You can program different settings on the same instrument or effect in the same project, and Studio One remembers this assignment for other songs. For example, I made a Komplete keyboard Mojito template so whenever I call up Mojito in any song or any instance in a single song, it has a hardware control surface.

To choose Focus mode (Fig. 1), click the gear button toward an instrument or effect’s upper right. From the drop-down menu to the right of the gear symbol, choose MIDI-OX (the MIDI utility we installed back in Part 1 of the series because it lets the Komplete keyboard talk to non-NKS plug-ins). You’ll also need to choose Focus mode for an instrument or effect when you want to use a previously created template.

Figure 1: The Gear button (circled in white, upper right) opens the Focus mode Control Link functionality (outlined in white rectangle).

After entering Focus mapping mode, parameter and Control fields appear between the header and plug-in. This is where we do our hardware-control-to-parameter Control Link assignments. To complete a Control Link assignment, click on the arrow that points from a control to a parameter. This causes the arrow to flash yellow in Focus mode, or blue in Global mode.

Okay, let’s return to creating our control surface. To start with a clean slate, close MIDI-OX and Studio One if open, and turn off the Komplete Kontrol keyboard.

  1. Turn on the Komplete Kontrol keyboard. After it “boots,” open MIDI-OX, and verify that it shows the correct MIDI devices (see Fig. 1 in Part 2). Leave MIDI-OX open, although it can be minimized.
  2. Open the Komplete Kontrol stand-alone application. Click the application’s MIDI button in the upper-right corner, verify that you’ve chosen the desired template, and then click the MIDI button again to de-select the MIDI mode.
  3. Open Studio One, and Create a new song. Press the Komplete keyboard’s MIDI button so that it’s lit brightly (if it isn’t already).
  4. Click on Studio One’s Mix tab, and then on the External button toward the left. A column with External Devices appears.
  5. Click the MIDI-OX arrow under External Devices. Choose Setup, and verify that it’s sending to and receiving from the correct Komplete Kontrol ports, as described in Part 2 (Receive From = Komplete Kontrol -1, Send To = Komplete Kontrol Ext-1). Click OK.
  6. Now click on the MIDI-OX arrow again, and choose Edit. Click MIDI Learn, and prepare for an orgy of knob twiddling.
  7. Turn your attention to the Komplete Kontrol keyboard, whose MIDI button should be brightly lit. Choose the control surface’s Page 1 with the left/right arrow buttons (if it isn’t already selected; check the keyboard’s right display, in the lower right, to confirm that it shows 1/4).
  8. Turn all 8 keyboard knobs, below the display. Studio One’s External Devices window will sprout 8 controls. Widen the External Devices window so the 8 take up exactly one row, then choose page 2 with the keyboard’s right arrow button. Again, turn all 8 controls.
  9. Similarly, choose page 3 and turn all 8 controls, then page 4. You’re now populating the External Devices window with all the available controls.
  10. Similarly, do the same for the four pages of switches.
  11. Fig. 2 shows our masterpiece of total control. The Komplete keyboard’s controls, switches, and pages are now recognized as a control surface for Studio One.

Figure 2: Studio One now recognizes the Komplete keyboard controls and switches as a control surface.

  1. While in MIDI Learn mode, you can change the control graphic to (for example) a switch instead of a knob. To do so, click on the arrow in the CC label below the knob, and choose the desired graphic.
  2. After setting up the control surface, turn off MIDI Learn (so you don’t brush up against a control and change something accidentally).
  3. We’ll use Mojito as an example. Bring Mojito into an Instrument track, and strategize what control layout would be best for each page. Fig. 3 shows what I chose; in the labels, the first number is the page, the second the physical control or switch.

Figure 3. Komplete keyboard hardware assignments for Mojito.

  1. Next, use Control Link to link the control surface knobs with the Mojito parameters. With Mojito in Focus mode as described above, move Control 1 on the keyboard or the external devices page, click on (or move) the Mojito Pitch control, and then click on the Arrow between them. The arrow turns yellow to confirm the link. Proceed similarly through all the controls and switches until they’re all assigned. (It’s a little complicated with the LFO Speed, because when you switch between the two LFO Sync options, you would actually need two knobs – one to vary frequency, the other to vary beats. I figured I’d use beats 99% of the time, so I used the hardware to control the LFO when in beats mode. For frequency, you can use your mouse to move the knob, or program a couple of the spare knobs that will be available on page 4.)
  2. After programming your knobs, return to the Komplete Kontrol stand-alone app, click the MIDI button, and label the template’s knobs (Fig. 4). Now, when you choose the template, the knobs on the Komplete keyboard will show the parameters they affect. Done!

Figure 4: Labeling the template’s controls adds labels to the keyboard’s control surface.

After creating these templates, you won’t want to lose them—which you will if your hard drive crashes. Or maybe you’re going to do a re-install, or want your templates on a different computer. For more information, a helpful document on the NI web site tells where to find the Komplete Kontrol MK2 settings.dat file so you can copy it, or back it up.


If you have multiple templates and want to switch among them to control various instruments and effects while you work in a song, here’s the procedure.

  1. Make sure the stand-alone Komplete Kontrol application is open (a Komplete Kontrol instrument can be open at the same time in Studio One, there will be no conflicts).
  2. Enable the stand-alone Komplete Kontrol application’s MIDI button, choose the template, and then disable the MIDI button. (I usually minimize the Komplete Kontrol app after this, but it’s not necessary.)
  3. Open the instrument or track you want to tweak, and press the keyboard’s MIDI button to enable communication. The keyboard’s MIDI button must be shining brightly to control instruments or effects in Studio One.

You can switch between controlling an instrument loaded in Komplete Kontrol, and a Studio One instrument that uses the currently selected template. This is pretty much automatic; when you select a track with Komplete Kontrol, the PLUG-IN button toward the keyboard’s upper right lights. When you select a non-NKS track, the MIDI button lights. However, you do need to change templates if you switch to an instrument or effect that doesn’t use the currently selected template.

Note that when you want to use the Komplete keyboard as a hardware controller, or to test your programming, the stand-alone app’s MIDI button must be turned off. Then you can press the keyboard’s MIDI button to communicate with the instrument or effect.


If you’re tweaking one parameter at a time, arguably just grabbing the mouse, clicking on a parameter, and dragging is easier. But where hardware control really comes into its own is being able to adjust multiple parameters at the same time, like varying filter gain and frequency, envelope parameters, or compressor controls that interact, like threshold and ratio.

Also note that knobs can control drop-down menus. For example, in the Pro EQ, you can choose the LC and HC slopes, or the LF and HF filter types, with knobs. Another trick is redundancy. With my Pro EQ template, the filter parameters are spread over different pages. However, the 7 active/bypass switches for the filter stages are available on every page. That way, no matter which filter stage I’m adjusting, it’s possible to bypass or enable any other stage for diagnostic or comparative purposes.

Yes, it takes a bit of effort to program templates for everything you might want to control. While this may seem arduous at first, you need to create a template only once (although of course you can edit it if needed). After a while it becomes second-nature to switch over to the Komplete Kontrol stand-alone application, choose the desired template, minimize Komplete Kontrol, and carry on tweaking parameters. And, a particularly outstanding feature is that you don’t need to switch templates when controlling the same plug-in. A good use case is adjusting EQ during the mixing process. Call up your Pro EQ template, and it can apply to whichever EQ you select.

So now we can use the Komplete keyboard’s control surface not only to tweak NKS-format plug-ins, but virtually any plug-ins from any manufacturer—it even works with prehistoric wrapped DX and DXi plug-ins. Pretty cool!