Review: BigTone EDM Expansion Pack for Z3TA+ 2

by Craig Anderton

Sound Designer Nico Herz has done sound design for a variety of companies, of course including Cakewalk. BigTone EDM, for Z3TA+ 2, is (as you can probably guess from the name) designed for EDM. So if you’re into traditional bluegrass, you probably should not continue reading this.

Anyway, the presets are designed for the EDM “sweet spot” of 125bpm. There are 127 presets total, arranged as eight banks: 7 Bass, 19 Keys, 11 Leads, 20 Pads, 11 Sequences, 6 Sound FX, 19 Textures, and 34 Arps. I’m going to assign each bank a letter grade average for two reasons—it might be helpful, and because sounds are so subjective, if you end up disagreeing with me you’ll know not to bother reading any sound reviews I do. Conversely, if you think my evaluations are correct, we can have an ongoing relationship with future sound reviews. (more…)

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Free Impulse Responses For Your Convolution Reverb

by Daniel Gonz
We’d like to release an impulse pack that we created last year in New York City. This free impulse response pack captures the simple ambience of two fantastic live rooms for drums, vocals, and pretty much any acoustic instrument you can imagine. Drop them into your choice of any convolution reverb to add depth to the elements of your mix.

Download the FREE Impulse Response pack here

Free Impulse Responses for Convolution Reverbs

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The Dynamic Gate | A Cleaner Way To Mix Drums

by Daniel Gonz

Gates are wonderful processors that can clean up background noise and bleed in your audio tracks. They’re a bit tricky to understand because the key to successfully using one is often a specific feature that’s hidden or buried in the interface. The feature I’m referring to is called the sidechain. It’s a powerful element of my mixing workflow and I’d like to show you why.

To follow along with this post, you can download the audio examples here.

In its simplest form, a gate allows a signal to pass through it only when its decibel level is above a set threshold. This means the gate is ‘open’. If the signal falls below the threshold then no signal is allowed to pass. This means the gate is ‘closed’. The sidechain becomes an integral part of this entire process because it’s what the gate uses to detect whether or not the signal is above or below the set threshold.

Sonitus Gates On Kick and Snare in SONAR

Top Left to Bottom Right: Kick In Gate, Kick Out Gate, Snare Top Gate, Snare Bottom Gate

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Using Cakewalk Drum Replacer: The “Right” Way and The “Other” Way

The “Right” Way:

There’s more than one way to use Drum Replacer to trigger your drum sounds. Which of these you choose will depend on the material, as well as your preferred outcome and workflow. First, let’s take a look at some of the intended, more traditional uses of Drum Replacer.

A mixed drum track or loop

A fairly standard Drum Replacer use is to augment or altogether change the drum sounds on an already-mixed drum track. The examples below play an unprocessed SONAR drum loop, followed by the same loop reinforced by Drum Replacer.

Filtered Drum ReplacerWith the built-in filter mechanism, it’s easy to isolate each piece of the drum kit and replace it individually. For this particular loop, focusing the filters to 67 Hz for the kick and 673 Hz for the snare ensured replacing the right sound. I wanted to soften this already-punchy loop by replacing the kick and snare sounds with something a little more “airy,” then blending these with the original. I chose the included WholeLotta Kick and WholeLotta Snare samples for their lighter, more pillowy qualities and blended them roughly 70/30 with the original drum track. Combined, they create a pleasantly complex, tight-yet-sustained sound.
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Speed Up Your Workflow With 5 (Rather Hidden) SONAR Features

SONAR has a LOT of features. So many, in fact, that it’s easy for some of them to fly right under the radar. The list below contains five of my favorite SONAR features that can really speed up your workflow!  Download the latest SONAR Free Demo and follow along.

#5 – Clip Coloring

Let’s say you’ve recorded a couple of guitar tracks, and the guitar player changed tone in certain parts of the song. You may want to identify these parts easily during the mixing process. Markers can work, but I typically use those to indicate sections and turning points in the song, and the tone change doesn’t always line up with arrangement changes. Instead, you can change the clip color in these sections to make the parts easier to find.

Here are the clips in their original state:
Clips Before Editing

Make some splits where the pickup change happens:
Clips Have Been Split

Now, select the parts with Shift+Click where the guitarist changes his tone, and using the Foreground selector in the Clip Inspector, color these red:
Clip Coloring GIF

You can now see all the sections where the guitar player used an alternate tone by the red waveform, which can come in very handy while mixing.

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Mixing Vocals: Create Depth with a Digital Reverb

by Dan Gonzalez

Depth is a factor of every mix, just like Height and Width. This is a harder concept to grasp because there really is no “Depth” adjust on a mixer. In this article we’ll talk about how to create depth using the Sonitus Reverb.

Creating Depth using the Sonitus Reverb

Digital reverbs are the proverbial swiss-army-knives of the mixing world. They are programmed in a way that emulates every part of a reverb. This includes the pre-delay, decay time, width, diffusion, early reflections etc. Since these emulate spaces like halls, plates, rooms, and other reverberant places – we can use them to create a room sound around our audio tracks for the purpose of creating depth. That’s a fancy way of saying that we can use reverb for depth. Here’s a vocal track that has no effects on it at all. It’s mixed into this track completely dry.

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Mixing Vocals: Easy Dynamic Vocal FX in SONAR

by Dan Gonzalez

A word on Vocal FX

Mixing vocals is a tricky process since it is the most prominent element in any song. Vocals can be processed a very specific way to achieve an effect of sorts – or they can be processed in subtle ways to fit nicely into an overall mix. Most of the time you’ll be dealing with the latter of the two so it’s important to figure out ways to enhance your vocals without overpowering the other instruments.

Critical attention to detail is what makes any track sound like a polished mix and to achieve this a lot of engineers approach each section, instrument, entrance, exit, etc. dynamically. Obviously one way to do this is by mixing with tons of automation, but there are other ways to setup your mix so that you don’t have to write loads of automation data.

Setting up a dynamic vocal effect

Let’s take a pretty dry vocal track and add a dynamic effect to it. Here’s an example of a verse that we can use.

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Making The New York Impulse Pack for the SONAR “Braintree” Release

by Dan Gonzalez

Impulse responses (IRs) are small bursts of audio data that represent the frequency response of a real life space. By using convolution reverbs we can use them creatively in our productions to increase depth and ambience.

 

The concept

To accurately represent a real life space, you need to excite it with a frequency sweep or a loud sound rich in complex frequencies like a starter pistol or snare drum hit. For my IR samples in the New York Impulse Pack I used a sine sweep. The sine sweep is the easiest way to make sure you get an accurate representation of a space.

Once you capture that space, you must process it with a utility that shortens the
frequency sweep into a state that convolution reverbs can use. Typically this audio data is no more than a split second long.

I used this workflow to produce the Impulse Responses you’ll receive in our content for users that are a part of the Braintree Release for SONAR Platinum and SONAR Professional.

The equipment you’ll need, and what I used

- Speaker, Studio Monitor, or Full Range Flat Response Speaker. I used a Cerwin Vega P1000.

The P1000X is a two-way, bi-amped, full-range bass-reflex speaker. It employs a 10-inch woofer and a high-frequency compression driver, powered by a custom Class-D amplifier. With a power rating of 1000 watts, the P1000X is one of the most powerful PA product in its class. A proprietary hemi-conical horn provides premium sound clarity over an even and wide coverage area. A built-in mixer with convenient I/O connections allows for simple and fast setup, while Enhanced EQ, VEGA BASS boost and High-Pass Filters enable exact tuning and exceptional performance for any application. The P1000X is a versatile product that can be used as a single speaker for small venues, set in pairs or installed with threaded hang points, and combined with the P1800SX Sub for a larger venue needing more coverage and SPL. Its compact size makes it ideal to operate as a floor monitor as well.”

- Pair of microphones, the flatter response the better. I had the benefit of borrowing a pair of Earthworks QTC40s.

- The ability to create a sine sweep. I used this free utility and then bought the license for $40.

- An audio interface to simultaneously play the sine sweep and capture sound of the excited space. My RME UFX worked out wonderfully because it has very clean preamps and multiple inputs and outputs.

- Of course, SONAR Platinum

The Microphones

The Microphones I used are pretty high-end reference microphones that have a frequency range from 20Hz-40kHz. These are great because they represent the sound of the room without any color. Since we’re in the business of capturing the sound of room – they make a perfect companion for this type of project.

Setting up the spaces

I setup the microphones in a few initial spots to get an idea of how the space sounded. On my first try it was clear that the space was going to sound good no matter where I placed the microphones and the source speaker. Both spaces are not highly reverberant, they just have quality sounding early reflections – which makes them great for getting initial sounds of drums and vocals.

The goal was to capture the room in various positions. I setup the microphones in close stereo pairs, distant stereo pairs, and subsequently moved the source speaker around them to bounce the sine sweep off different walls. During the processing stage, I then split these stereo IRs out into mono signals so that users could have a choice between stereo or mono processing. For example, here’s a rough diagram of how I setup the microphones in the center with various speaker locations for one set of IRs.

 

 

 

 

The IRs themselves

To excite the space I created a sine sweep with Voxengo Deconvolver.

BE CAREFUL WHEN PLAYING THESE, THEY ARE LOUD

Once the signal played through the room it sounds like this:

Large Room IR Example

Not very exciting on first listen, but when you process the tracks and apply some instruments you start to understand their sound. Here is a drum passage without the impulse response:

Now, here’s the same drum passage with the ambience of one of the “Big Room” IRs that I captured. You can hear how it doesn’t necessarily add reverb, but more an ambience.

Lastly, here’s just the ambience:

Small Room IR Example

Here’s a synth passage without any IRs applied:

Here’s the same patch with one of the SmallRoom IRs applied:

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The New SONAR: New Tricks for Drag and Drop

by Dan Gonzalez

There are a lot new things going on inside of the new SONAR Platinum, Professional, and Artist especially in some of the parts of the interface that aren’t so obvious. Did you know that we made some enhancements to our Media Browser and Drag and Drop mechanism? Well, it’s pretty useful stuff – especially for our die-hard users that know and love these workflows.

Export region selections using drag and drop

Within SONAR, you can now select a portion of an audio clip in the track view and drag it to another location on your computer. This nifty trick is great for extracting parts of audio without editing it and exporting.

Drag and drop now renders certain fx

Next up, if you drag audio clips to a destination outside of SONAR, any Clip FX or Clip Gain envelopes will be applied to the clip. Previously we wouldn’t bake any of this into the audio – but now it’s a pretty seamless.

Drag and drop to media browser inherits interleave setting

Drag and drop to the Media Browser now properly exports the expected interleave (mono or stereo) instead of always exporting to a stereo file or multiple mono. Multiple mono files work, but they can be annoying if you want to stick to the way your tracks were meant to be heard. You can see in the snippet below that my stereo audio file is twice the size of it’s mono counterpart. These were exported to the Media Browser using drag and drop.

 

Media Browser now supports Broadcast Wave Format via Drag and Drop

Drag and drop to the Media Browser now supports Broadcast Wave format so if you’re transferring files from one project to another – they’ll stay true to your timestamp on the timeline.

Copy or Replace Files Using Drag and Drop

Audio and MIDI files can be copied or replaced in the Media Browser via drag and drop using the CTRL modifier. If you drag and drop an auio file to the Browser, SONAR will rename it. But if you hold CTRL while you do this, the file will force the Clip Name that it has inside of SONAR. You can see here how the Clip Name stays as (19) when holding down CTRL.

In addition, if you need to replace the same file in your browser with an update version all you do is hold CTRL while dragging to the Browser.

Wrap Up

Grab your new version of SONAR Platinum, Professional, and Artist and start checking out these new tweaks today. Stay tuned for more about the latest additions to our Skylight Interface and upcoming new features on SONAR’s What’s New page.

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Addictive Drums 2 Sounds Like a Real Drummer, But How?

by Dan Gonzalez

Every once in a while there are some plugins that come along and completely change the way we do things. Sometimes it’s a different look on processing, or maybe a utility that increases workflow ten-fold. Drum plugins have become all the rage recently, and Addictive Drums 2 is at the forefront of this revolution. There are a few reasons why Addictive Drums 2 (now available in SONAR Professional and SONAR Platinum) sounds like a real drummer, so let’s check those out.

Extensive and sophisticated velocity scaling

Within Addictive Drums 2 there is a powerful Map Window that exposes some of the more sophisticated elements of the XLN’s engine. Here you can choose to do various things to customize the way you interact with Addictive Drums 2. But within this window there is a dedicated velocity curve stage for every single sample that XLN audio supplies.

Select one of your kitpieces from the neighboring section and you can use this menu to choose how you want to control the way Addictive Drums 2 individually treats every drum or cymbal hit’s velocity. You can even grab one of the existing velocity presets and adjust it to your liking.

Customized and pre-designed velocity curves

When you strike a note on your MIDI controller or play a MIDI (more…)

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