Mixing with the Console Emulator

Mixing with the Console Emulator

Snake oil, or useful processor? Read on, and find out

by Craig Anderton

Console Emulator plug-ins are controversial. First, a lot of people are convinced they don’t really make a difference. Second, there’s the philosophical question of whether emulating a console is a good thing—after all, you’re emulating imperfections. And third, there’s the question of which console you want to emulate.

However, before you can judge whether a console emulator is going to be useful, you need to know how to use it correctly…so let’s investigate.

About Console Emulation

There are legitimate reasons why analog consoles can sound different compared to mixing “in the box,” and also, legitimate reasons why some might consider these differences desirable. Technically speaking, there are two main differences compared to digital summing.

First, analog circuitry has inherent non-linearities (or in less polite terms, distortion). As a signal goes through multiple analog stages, these non-linearities add up although the end result can still be extremely low-level. Because there are differences between the left and right channels, this tends to “widen” the image and create the appearance of a wider soundstage. If the distortion is relatively high, as can be the case with older consoles, distortion generates harmonics in the audio spectrum’s upper range. With increased highs, and given that highs are more directional, this can widen the sound even further.

Second, consoles often use audio transformers and it’s not an overstatement to say that transformers are some of the most complex signal processors ever introduced into a signal chain. What’s more, the transformer’s characteristics are dependent on the circuitry that surrounds it—such as the source impedance, capacitive loading, resistive loading, and the like. For example, the external circuitry may damp some of the “ringing” that occurs when passing square waves through audio transformers. Transformers also generate distortion (primarily odd-order) that’s highest at lower frequencies. While the effect of all of these variables is subtle, many people like the sonic characteristics transformers can impart to a signal. Overall, good transformer implementations provide a somewhat “fatter” low end, and can add “warmth.”

Inserting Cakewalk’s Console Emulator

As with any processor, there are no rules if you want to get creative—so take the following as personal preferences, not as “rules” that must be followed.

Prior to mixing, I’d recommend inserting a Console Emulator Channel plug-in (CEC for short) last in the ProChannel for every track, and a Console Emulator Bus plug-in (CEB for short) in the master bus. The easiest way to do this is with the Quick Grouping command: in the Console view, open a ProChannel in a non-selected track. Then while holding the Ctrl key, right-click within the ProChannel, select Insert Module, and choose Console Emulator Channel; this places the CEC last in every audio track. You’ll need to insert the CEB in the master bus manually, as Quick Group works only across similar track types.

To ensure that the CEC is last in the chain, place the ProChannel post-FX bin (right-click in a blank space or effect header in the ProChannel, then select Post FX Bin—see Fig. 1).

Fig. 1: Placing the ProChannel post-FX bin, and inserting the Console Emulator plug-in as the last effect in the ProChannel, guarantees that all effects in the track will go through the Console Emulator.

Continue reading Mixing with the Console Emulator

SONAR X3 Clinic by Craig Anderton – Berklee Online

In case you missed the Berklee Online Webinar with Craig Anderton (March 31st, 2014) – here is the video in it’s entirety! Craig outlines some of his favorite topics including:

  • The MIDI advantage for songwriting
  • Using loops for both songwriting and EDM
  • Speeding up workflow to prevent “inspiration atrophy” (effects chains, track templates, browser techniques, etc.)
  • Creating your own mixer architecture
  • Using “spot” timing correction to tighten timing without destroying feel
  • How to make amp sims sound great (e.g. effects chains)
  • Mastering in SONAR

Learn more about SONAR X3

SONAR X3: Producing Drum Samples (Video Series)

In the midst of recording a whole record it’s always a good idea to take some samples of the drum set so that you can replace and reinforce the drums later on in mixing. Here is an 11-part video series that shows you how to apply some basic EQ, Compression, and Editing techniques to get your drum samples to sound pro within SONAR X3.

How Building Cost Effective Acoustic Treatment for the Music Studio Will Help Your Music Production; Final Links and Video

A 3 Part Resource for D.I.Y. Acoustic Sound Treatment and Room Development

As a conclusion to my series on Building Cost Effective Acoustic Treatment, I wanted to put a link to all three articles in one place along with a “before and after” video.  I also wanted to put this up on our forum in one place in case anyone has any questions about what I did with my studio.  If you are planning on trying to save some money by building your own acoustic treatment panels these three articles are worth reviewing.

Part 1: Building a sound cloud over your mix position

Part 2: Building corner traps

Part 3:  Building wall panels

The effort to build all this acoustic treatment was not minimal, but well worth it.  Besides saving a lot of money I was able to customize the panels so that they fit the room well.  Using the QuadCurve EQ which comes with SONAR X3Producer is where I can really tell the difference in my environment.  The QuadCurve EQ is very advanced and allows the user to surgically tailor frequencies.  Now that I have my room treated properly, I can really hear the difference between the EQ modes.

So the first step is to get going with a version of the SONAR X3 family, and then do your homework and figure out the best listening environment FOR YOU.