Zen of Recording
A Bonus from Presonus, Part 1: Studio One 2
DAW. An acronym for Digital Audio Workstation. Maybe you’ve seen the term referenced here or in the pages of your favorite recording magazine. If you use your computer to record audio, you probably have one… or several. Their names might seem familiar: Cubase, Logic, Digital Performer, Sonar, Vegas and of course, the brand so ubiquitous it’s almost a verb: ProTools. This is where we do much of our multitrack heavy lifting; recording and editing stuff like drums and guitars, tracking overdubs, sweetening vocals, and printing mixes. Many of these programs offer other workflow options as well, like looping, MIDI functionality, and virtual instruments.
Perhaps because we spend so much time as recordists in our chosen audio software environments, manufacturers seem driven to make these programs a “one-stop-shop” that can conceivably cover all of one’s needs in one central location. This well-meaning approach often comes at the cost of bloated, sluggish performance or a less than comprehensive feature set. As a result, many like myself employ several programs within their workflow, exploiting each one’s strengths in turn. For example, since I first reviewed Studio One from Baton Rouge’s Presonus (www.presonus.com) a couple of years ago, I have increasingly incorporated it as a sort of “Virtual Instrument Studio,” where I go to explore a vast storage room full of vintage keyboard instruments, recording and editing them via MIDI, then subsequently rendering those performances as audio files. I then import those performances into my main DAW (Sony Vegas), where I address them just like all the other audio files. If I need to tune-up a vocal here and there, I open it in Celemony’s Melodyne.
This workflow of the last I-don’t-know-how-many recording projects may be changing soon.
The reason is simple: With the recent release of Studio One 2 ($699 retail, $399 for professional version), Presonus has not only seamlessly integrated the worlds of digital audio recording and editing, virtual instruments, mixing and mastering… even digital delivery, into one easy to navigate, intuitive interface; they’ve also made it fast, dependable, and professional enough for my demanding schedule.
One of the interesting things about this upgrade is just how comfortably familiar the program still feels. They didn’t go out of their way to change the color scheme or layout of things in order to direct attention to its “newness” at all. In fact, if you didn’t know better, you might think you were still in version 1.
There have been some significant changes and improvements, though! Like the fact that the previously mentioned Melodyne tuning and quantizing app is now integrated into Studio One. That’s right, it not only comes with it, it also comes within it! Simply right click on an audio event and select “Edit With Melodyne” and it automatically opens an editor window and begins analyzing the audio. You can subsequently go in and adjust pitch and timing issues as much or as little as you’d like. Because it allows you to instantiate an instance of Melodyne for every clip you have, the large number you might use in editing a lead vocal could quickly eat up your computer’s resources. Presonus addresses that potentiality with the new “Transform Track” function. Much like the “Freeze” feature in other programs, this command applies all current real-time processing on a track to a temporary audio file, freeing up the valuable computer resources for other tasks. This allows you to still hear the resulting effects as applied to the file without using up your data overhead, while preserving the ability to go back and edit them later, if needed. A huge time saver as well!
New Transient Detection and Groove Quantize features were something I never thought I’d get excited about, until I came upon a project where the guitar and drum tracks were completely out of sync with each other. It worked perfectly the first time! I went through and did the whole album right away!
I’ve often found myself using Studio One for its excellent time-based effects like delays and flangers, and that became even more frequent with the addition of the amazing sounding Open Air convolution reverb plug in. Convolution reverbs use an impulse response (IR) from real-life environments to recreate those spaces. The result is an incredibly deep selection of rooms, halls, vintage plates and chambers and they all sound… breathtakingly good. A huge value add, in my opinion. The Ampire XT both updates and simplifies Presonus’ guitar amp and effects simulation, providing great results on keys, drums, and vocals. All Ampire’s time-based effects (i.e., tremolo) are also locked to tempo, making one of Studio One’s best features even better.
The new Multitrack Comping features help speed things along even more, by breaking out multiple takes into “lanes” that allow quick navigation and previewing of sections that can be easily pasted into a master take. Simply highlight a section of audio on one of the take lanes and double click it; it’s cut and pasted into place automatically, with adjustable crossfades inserted at either end. I’d personally like to see auto crossfades available on all other tracks as well, instead of having to create them after the fact.
The Music Loop function is a boon to those of us trying to collaborate in loop-based music idioms. Allowing for a more creative free flowing approach, with an eye toward collaborative audio file sharing, via its drag ‘n’ drop SoundCloud integration from within the browser.
The ability to dynamically master your mixes and burn CDs, as well as generate professional digital releases from within the Studio One application (one of my favorite options) is augmented by the addition of disc image and DDP Protocols, making it even easier to interface with disc manufactures online.
Of all the adjectives I’ve employed in trying to capture what’s truly great about Studio One 2 and it is great, the two words that keep popping up here are “Faster” and “Easier”. That means more time for you and if time is money…well, you do the math.
Sven-Erik Seaholm is an independent record producer, performer and recording artist. His latest album, Seaholm Mackintosh’s Monarchs has been nominated for a San Diego Music Award for Best Pop Album and is available on iTunes.