Studio One’s mixing capabilities are straightforward, intuitive, and easy to use.
Studio One’s Console is available in the Song page at all times, but it can be separated and even dragged to a second monitor. You can mix as many tracks and use as much processing as your computer CPU can handle. And Studio One’s powerful drag-and-drop features make it quick and easy to bring in new elements, effects, presets, and more.
Custom configurations abound for tailoring your mixdown environment to the task at hand. In addition to quick and easy access to all channel strip controls and plug-ins, access to routing, busing, and automation operations are all just a click away.
Studio One provides you with a mixing console as complete and capable as any found in a commercial recording studio. There are no limits to the number of input channels, inserts, FX channels, subgroups, mix buses, and outputs you can employ. The only constraints are the number of hardware inputs and outputs in your audio interface and the limits of your computer system.
There’s also no limit to the number of processors and effects that you can employ, up to the limits of your computer system. Just drag-and-drop!
Mix Console views
Studio One offers a number of options for getting to and viewing the mixing console. All are available without leaving the Song page, so you can keep working, not waste time navigating!
Click on the Mix button from the Song page to open a mixing-console overlay. The tracks you are working on are still right there. The default small Mix view shows just the basics that you need: level, pan, mute, solo, etc.
Each channel strip features an Expand button that opens up the rest of the channel strip and displays your insert effects and effects sends. You can also get right to this view by double-clicking the left column of any track (where the track name is).
The Console can be toggled between small and large view—as large as full-screen—and also toggled between narrow and normal. The Console can also be detached from the Song page and can even be dragged to a second monitor. All of these options allow you to work as efficiently on your laptop as you do in your studio with multiple screens.
Studio One strives to keep clutter down and productivity up by having only one window open at any time and by giving you lots of easy navigation options. However, you might want to view the settings for several effects side by side, or perhaps you simply prefer more of a dorm-room look. If you click on the Pin button at the upper right of any Insert Effect window, the interface for that insert effect will stay open in an independent window until you choose to close it. Any number of Insert Effect windows can be pinned and open simultaneously.
Banks: Configurable Channel Views
Studio One’s Console defaults to a simple view of available audio and Instrument channels. The stereo Main Out channel strip is always anchored to the right side of the Console.
The Banks panel controls which channels in the Console are visible, as well as which channels are available to a configured control surface. Channels that appear in the Banks-panel list can be shown or hidden in the Console. Click directly on any channel name in this list to show or hide the channel; hidden channels are highlighted in gray. Each channel type (audio tracks, Instrument tracks, FX returns, buses, and sub outs) has an associated button at the bottom of the Banks panel; click to quickly show or hide all channels of that type in the Console. Channel numbers and level meters can be displayed in the Banks list to help you understand where sound is coming from during mixing, regardless of which channels are shown or hidden in the Console.
In short, it’s really easy to get a mixing console put together that makes sense for what you are doing. To top it off, custom views can be saved as console Scenes that can be recalled whenever you need them. Cool again!
The Inputs panel is closed by default and can be opened and closed by clicking on the Inputs button in the Console navigation column. The Inputs panel will display audio channels in the Console for each configured hardware audio input. This is your most accurate display of audio levels coming into Studio One.
Careful attention needs to be paid to these displays. If the audio input signal is too “hot,” it can overload the circuitry of your hardware interface, which distorts the signal. Trying to fix this after the fact is kind of like trying to unshoot a gun.
The Studio One Console channel strips come in a number of flavors but the various types work similarly. There is no limit to how many tracks you can add to a console. Here are your options:
This type of channel strip is a direct feed from your audio interfaces to the Studio One Console. It can be mono or stereo, depending on the audio device and your setup choices. You can add as many inputs as your interface supports. Input channels are routed to open audio tracks during tracking and to assigned buses or main outs during mixdown.
Hardware audio inputs for an input can be selected directly in the Console view from a pull-down menu of connected audio interfaces. You configure outputs to mix buses and route signals to insert devices, sends, and cue buses the same way you configure input channels. It’s consistent and easy.
Any recorded audio track automatically has a corresponding channel strip that includes all options for inserts, sends, and mix buses.
Instrument tracks contain MIDI performance data captured by or imported into Studio One. The output of an Instrument track is routed to a virtual instrument. The console does not automatically create a mixer channel for the performance. Rather, it creates a channel for every output of the assigned virtual instrument.
What does this mean to you? Lay down a track with a MIDI instrument controller, and your performance will be captured and ready to mix. If you decide to play that performance through a different virtual instrument, with a different output configuration, Studio One will reconfigure the channels of the console for you.
Multiple console channels can be assigned to a bus for submixing and processing. Buses are always stereo and by default are routed to the main L/R outputs of the console. Alternately, buses can be routed via Sub Out channels to your audio-interface outputs and sent to external destinations. There are no limits to the number of buses that you can create.
Audio can be routed from any number of channels, through a send, to an FX channel, where you can apply an entire rack of effects. From there, the processed signal is routed to the main stereo L/R mix. Each FX channel can have any number of effects in its Insert Device Rack. For instance, several keyboard tracks and a guitar track could be routed via sends to an FX channel with a reverb inserted so that they sound like they are in the same space.
Output channels are routed directly to hardware outputs on your audio interfaces. The number of output channels is limited only by the number of physical outputs in your audio interface and by your computer’s CPU.
The Console has a default Main Out stereo pair that is the source for monitoring the main mix and (in Studio One Professional) for mastering. You can create additional audio outputs for cue mixes, surround outputs, and so on. It’s a really big patch bay with as many holes as you have hardware output channels!
No one has had the nerve to draw a block diagram for the Studio One mix console like the kind you see for hardware mixers. No surprise, as Studio One lets you build your mixer as you progress through a Song, adding extra input channels as needed, drilling new inserts, and pasting in more effects sends.
Here’s an overview of the Console’s basic segments:
Inputs and outputs to the console come in two basic flavors: jacks on an audio interface and software inputs from recorded tracks, virtual instrument outputs, software inserts, FX Channels, and so on.
Hardware audio inputs can be configured, selected, and assigned by clicking on the I/O tab to the top left of the console. Clicking “I/O” opens a matrix of available audio interfaces and Studio One software inputs and outputs. Studio One automatically polls the attached audio devices and software connections for their channel count and types: mono, stereo, boxers, or briefs. You can attach hardware and assign it to software as you see fit. Studio One automatically creates console channels for software inputs, such as recorded audio and Instrument tracks, effects returns, and buses.
Inserts versus Sends
As with inserts in a hardware mixer, a Studio One insert does not get its own channel. Inserts are processing detours that are exclusive to one input, audio channel, or Instrument channel. Signal from a channel is diverted through one or more plug-ins and then returned back to that channel. This works just like the channel and bus insert points on a hardware mixer.
Sends, on the other hand, are buses that collect signals from multiple console channels for processing through the same device chain. A good example is gathering all of the audio tracks from a drum kit and sending them to one reverb to create an overall stereo room sound. That collective reverb mix then shows up on the console as stereo drum effects channels to mix with the individual drum tracks. In short, these sends work just like aux buses on a hardware console.
Both insert and send devices can be viewed within a console channel strip in three levels of detail: a listing by name, a front-panel display with access to automation and such, and (for PreSonus Native Effects only) a mini-view that shows just the essential parameters.
Pipeline, which is exclusive to Studio One Pro, is a specialized plug-in: an insert bus that connects to external hardware. You use it just like any other plug-in, but it sends signal out to an external hardware audio device through your audio interface, and Studio One Pro automatically compensates for the latency caused by the processing and the D/A and A/D converters. A slick user interface lets you manage levels.
These handy detours through the signal flow of a channel would be right after the mic preamp on an analog mixer. In Studio One, they sit right at the output of the audio-playback engine. Every input channel has an insert panel into which you can drag-and-drop effects plug-ins.
Instead of send and return jacks, Studio One inserts enter and leave the channel’s virtual insert rack. Any number and combination of effects can be dragged into an insert rack, up to the limits of your computer system.
Keep in mind that there is a difference between equalizing a compressed signal versus compressing an EQ’d signal. (Many bar bets and fistfights have erupted over that one!) To keep the bets and fights to a minimum, Studio One includes a number of professionally created FX Chains that can be dragged-and-dropped from the Browser to an insert rack. These preset chains of effects, with basic settings, are configured for specific applications. They’re conveniently named, too: Bloozy Guitar, for instance.
Where’s the EQ?
Studio One comes with several EQ plug-ins that can be dragged from the Browser to a channel strip or added by clicking on the + button in any channel’s insert section. Studio One’s Channel Strip is a good choice to start with. It provides a variable low-pass filter, three-band parametric EQ, and basic dynamics processing. Need more bands of EQ? Check out PreSonus ProEQ, a seven-band parametric EQ with more advanced features.
As we’ve discussed, inserts apply a rack of processors to one audio channel. Sends route an audio mix or submix to a bus or FX channel, where you can process the entire mix or submix. Every channel send includes level and pan sliders.
Certain processors use audio signals to control the processing of other audio signals (“program” signals). The buses that carry these control signals are known as “sidechains.” You don’t hear the sidechain signal; you hear the effect of its actions on the program signal.
For instance, a compressor can trigger a level reduction when it receives a signal at its sidechain input. This is called “ducking,” and it is commonly used to lower the level of the music when an announcer begins to speak. In this case, the announcer’s voice is routed two places: to an audio channel (so you can hear it) and to the sidechain input of a compressor that is processing a music submix. Whenever the announcer speaks, the sidechain triggers the compressor, which lowers the level of the music.
Studio One allows unlimited internal patching options to create sidechains.
Even if you’ve scored the latest octo-core, cryogenically cooled, supercomputing beast with terabytes of RAM, it still takes time to process audio with software and convert it to and from the digital domain with the audio interface’s A/D and D/A converters. This delay caused by processing and conversion is called “latency.”
Studio One automatically calculates and compensates for latency, keeping your audio synchronized when signals are diverted to plug-ins and external hardware processors (with Studio One Professional’s Pipeline plug-in). Wannabe NASA engineers can opt to ignore automatic delay compensation and set delay times for all tracks manually. But don’t you have a record to make?
Throughout Studio One, at every important point of the signal flow, graphic metering displays are available. Watching signal levels is critical, for example, to avoid distorting the physical input on your interface and to ensure that you have sufficient level to drive effects and get the best signal-to-noise ratio.
Studio One meters are task-specific to give you the information that you need at each stage of the recording process. Depending on where in the audio chain you are working, Studio One offers anything from clip meters to Peak/RMS (averaging) meters to high-precision K-System metering algorithms scaled for targeted products, including archival recordings, consumer recordings, and audio for broadcast.
What the Heck is a K-System?
K-System metering is a method of calibrating and metering a recording system. It is unusual in that it takes into account monitoring (speaker) level to standardize the monitoring, mixing, and mastering processes.
Using the K-System assures that playback levels are appropriate for the type of music and intended playback media and venue. Utilizing K-System metering preserves the performance for the most accurate representation and reproduction, while leaving adequate room for dynamic range when mastering a complete album.
K-System metering has three modes of operation: K-20, K-14, and K-12. To quote inventor Bob Katz from his Audio Engineering Society paper, An Integrated Approach to Metering, Monitoring and Leveling Practices, “The K-20 meter is for use with wide dynamic-range material, e.g., large theater mixes, ‘daring home theater’ mixes, audiophile music, classical (symphonic) music, hopefully future ‘audiophile’ pop music mixed in 5.1, and so on. The K-14 meter is for the vast majority of high-fidelity productions for the home, e.g., home theater and pop music (which includes the wide variety of moderately compressed music, from folk music to hard rock). And the K-12 meter is for productions to be dedicated for broadcast.”
Because K-System metering takes into account monitor playback levels, calibration with an SPL meter is required. It’s an extra step in creating a complete record, but that’s the Studio One difference: end-to-end production in one application.