15-Compressor Shootout: Lead Vocals

No question, there are a lot of compressor plugins out there, and they all have their unique layouts, quirks, and sonic qualities. In the video below, we line up 15 different compressors and demonstrate these differences.

Below the video, you’ll also find a helpful updated list of key features, a downloadable chart, and links to learn more about the compressors that do not come standard with SONAR Platinum. If you’re not familiar many compressor plugins, I recommend starting here.

It’s worth noting that this video demonstrates a limited scope of each compressor’s capabilities. Since the compressor is being used to level out a vocal performance, each one has been set up optimally for the application, usually with a low ratio and fairly fast attack and release wherever applicable.

Every possible measure was taken to keep the responses and output levels of each compressor as uniform as possible so that the shootout makes for a consistent apples-to-apples comparison. In the future, keep an eye out for more of these shootouts, as the same tools might have totally different effects on a snare drum, acoustic guitar, electric bass, or saxophone.

Continue reading 15-Compressor Shootout: Lead Vocals

Parallel Compression: Now Easier Than Ever

A few years back, we showed you a bit about Parallel Compression in SONAR. Now that we’ve introduced Patch Points in the Jamaica Plain update, you can do these same things with a much more efficient workflow.

Let’s quickly define parallel processing: In parallel processing, a signal is duplicated into two or more signals. Each copy of the signal is processed differently but plays back simultaneously with the original. The copy/copies are then mixed together.

Parallel Compression Diagram_600x222

Parallel Compression, aka “New York Compression,” is most commonly used on drums to add body to the drum mix without flattening the snappy transients.

Check out the video below to see just how easy (and great sounding) this technique can be:

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Tape Emulator Gif SONAR Patch Points Multiband Processing
5 TOOLS TO GET “THAT ANALOG SOUND” FROM SONAR UNIVERSAL ROUTING TECHNOLOGY 202: THE AUX TRACK

Anatomy of a SONAR Project: Replacing the Placeholder

DELIVERING MUSIC FOR THE FILM “FOR BLOOD” (COFFEERING ENTERTAINMENT LOS ANGELES, CA)

Sometimes I am fortunate enough to have the time to take on a project outside of Cakewalk, and I love that those projects let me put our current SONAR Platinum “Rolling Update” to the test in the field. Recently, the LA-based production company Coffee Ring Entertainment asked me to write, produce and deliver three tracks for their new movie, For Blood. This article describes highlights of the process involved in writing and producing one of those tracks for a specific scene in the film.

My first question to the director was, “Do you already have placeholder music in the rough cut?” When producers and directors have placeholder music they like already set into the cut, it speeds up and simplifies writing and producing the music. Fortunately the answer was “yes,” so all I needed to do was replicate what they liked about their placeholder tracks using the array of instruments and plug-ins in my home project studio rig.

A primary objective in writing music for film is to forget about yourself and your own emotional agenda. And oddly enough, for me at least, this notion really speeds up the workflow because you are writing/producing for someone else’s purpose other than your own thoughts. Adamantly keeping this in mind throughout the writing/producing process helps to stay focused on what the client wants. For this song, it’s exactly what I had to do because the producers had a Tarantino-ish type track set into the scene, and my innate production style tends to lean more towards big, clean commercial pop rock. Luckily, I could go to YouTube and analyze suitable styles of music but even luckier for me, SONAR’s Addictive Drums and TH2 plug-ins were  ideal for dialing in the kind of music that was needed. Continue reading Anatomy of a SONAR Project: Replacing the Placeholder

Improving Your Synth Sounds With Real-Time Upsampling

By Craig Anderton

Some plug-ins and virtual instruments sound better when recording at sample rates higher than 44.1/48 kHz because high audio frequencies can interfere with lower clock frequencies, which causes foldover distortion. This adds a “wooliness” at lower frequencies, and can also compromise high-frequency response. Plug-ins that include internal oversampling do not have this problem, but not all plug-ins—particularly older ones—use oversampling.

The Foxboro update introduced Upsample on Render, which provides the benefits of using higher sample rate processing even in 44.1 kHz or 48 kHz projects by internally 2X up-sampling plug-ins of your choice, rendering them as audio, then down-sampling the rendered audio back down to the original sample rate. While it may seem counter-intuitive that the audio quality from rendering at 96 kHz is preserved at lower sample rates, the lower sample rates have no problem reproducing signals in the audio range, and by rendering at 96 kHz, the problematic frequencies no longer exist.

The Jamaica Plain update now offers Upsample on Playback, so you can preview and compare the difference in real time. To enable either Upsampling on Render or Upsampling on Playback on a per-plug-in basis, click the FX button to the left of the instrument name in the virtual instrument interface.

SONAR Upsample On Playback Option

To turn Upsampling on or off globally for plug-ins that have Upsampling enabled, use the 2X button in the Control Bar’s Mix module.

SONAR Plug-in Upsampling

Universal Routing Technology 202: Unlocking the Creative Potential of the Aux Track

By Craig Anderton

Here are some representative applications for using Patch Points and Aux Tracks. There are often several ways to accomplish the same functionality, so use whichever is most comfortable. For example, if you already have existing tracks that you want to connect to Patch Points, it’s probably easier to assign their inputs to Patch Points than create new Aux Tracks. However, if you’re setting up a new recording scenario, it will probably be easiest to create an Aux Track as that will create both a track and a Patch Point assignment.

Application #1: Recording the Metronome to a Track

Note: If your project already contains a Metronome bus, skip to step 7.
  1. Choose Insert > Stereo Bus to create a new bus for the audio metronome.
  2. Rename the new bus to Metronome.
  3. Choose Edit > Preferences > Project – Metronome.
  4. Select the Recording check box and clear the Playback check box (you will hear the recorded metronome instead during playback).
  5. Select “Use Audio Metronome.”
  6. Click the Output drop-down menu and select the bus named Metronome, then click OK to close the Preferences dialog box.
  7. Click the Metronome bus’s Output control and select New Aux Track on the pop-up menu.
  8. Arm the Aux Track for recording.
  9. Begin recording.

Continue reading Universal Routing Technology 202: Unlocking the Creative Potential of the Aux Track

Universal Routing Technology 101: Improving Your Workflow With Patch Points

By Craig Anderton

Cakewalk has been quietly developing a Universal Routing Technology that gives tremendous flexibility when routing signals within SONAR. One of the first examples was the FX Chain, which provided a “container” for routing effect inputs and outputs together, and had the intelligence to disconnect controls if the effects being controlled were removed. The ProChannel and FX Racks are a basic example of taking the “insert jacks” on mixers to a more flexible level by providing two ways of inserting effects, where one block could be pre or post compared to the other.

Synth recording took the concept another step further by allowing real-time recording of synth outputs, but now Patch Points and Aux Tracks introduce a mind-boggling level of flexibility: you can feed tracks (audio or instrument) into tracks, buses into tracks, sends into tracks, or even (get ready!) tracks, sends, and buses into the same track—and much more. It’s even possible to do something like feed track outputs and bus outputs into an Aux Track, when can then feed with other Aux Tracks and a Send into a different track. This may sound complicated enough to make your head explode, but it’s all implemented in a smart, intuitive way that not only adds no clutter to the Track or Console view, but even cleans up unused patch points if the routing changes.

Please note: Projects that contain Patch Points and Aux Tracks cannot be opened in SONAR versions prior to SONAR Jamaica Plain (Update 9). If you need to open a project in an earlier version, first back up the project, unassign any patch points, then re-save the project.

For detailed Patch Points information, see the New Features section in SONAR’s online Help.

Creating, Choosing and Assigning Patch Points

When you open a track input or output picker, or a send or bus output picker, you’ll see the option “New Patch Point.” Select this to create a Patch Point. This is also how you pick an existing Patch Point. Continue reading Universal Routing Technology 101: Improving Your Workflow With Patch Points

The Evolution of Comping

Compiling or “Comping” takes is relatively new to sound recording. With the increased ability of technology has come the increased desire to comp with excruciating attention to detail, sometimes all the way down to a syllable or note, to create “The Perfect Take.”

The Acoustic and Electrical Eras (1877-1945)EdisonPhonograph

When audio recording was first introduced, it was an entirely mechanical process. Comping did not exist. In fact, neither did mixing as we know it. Everything was recorded in one take, and level adjustments were made by moving musicians closer to or farther from the horn–essentially the microphone of its time.

In the primitive stages of this recording format, it was not uncommon to have copies of the same record that sounded entirely different. This was because if a band wanted to release 1,000 copies of a song, they would have to record it 1,000 different times, each take resulting in its own uniquely-performed copy.
Continue reading The Evolution of Comping

Five Reasons Why Patch Points Rock

By Craig Anderton

Looking for some advanced, interesting, or downright weird ways to use the new Patch Points feature? Here you go:

Signal Splitter

Suppose you want to split one track to several outputs, for example to do multiband processing. Here’s how:

SONAR Patch Points Splitter

The Dry track output goes to Patch Point 1 instead of the master bus. Five tracks, each of which filters a different band of frequencies, have their inputs set to Patch Point 1. The Dry track now feeds all five channels simultaneously. Placing all these tracks inside a track folder makes it easy to fold them up when you want a tidier setup.
Continue reading Five Reasons Why Patch Points Rock

5 Ways SONAR’s Rolling Updates Are Working For You

With the introduction of the new SONAR last January, we also introduced a new delivery model we call Rolling Updates. Essentially, when you purchase an upgrade to SONAR Artist/Professional/Platinum, you receive 12 months of SONAR updates free. Each month, you receive an update (or sometimes more) which can include anything from fixes to new features and tools, add-ons, additional content, tutorials, and more. Once the initial 12 month period is up, you can renew for an additional 12 months and continue to receive updates, or keep everything you own up to this point. Lots of folks were skeptical at first about these Rolling Updates, but since their introduction, they’ve proven their worth. Here’s how:

5) Faster Learning Curves

When we were releasing a version every year or so, you’d receive a whole boatload of new features all at once – which was pretty cool, except you suddenly had tons of totally new features you had to learn to use. These game-changing new features were often designed to speed up your workflow and make your life a little easier, but investing the time to learn how all the new things worked could be overwhelming.

With Rolling Updates, you can now ease into all these new features. Instead of piling on 10-20 new tools, we’re introducing them in bite-sized pieces so you can take them in one or two at a time. This allows you to get a real feel for how they work before diving into something new, and has less impact on your workflow.

Continue reading 5 Ways SONAR’s Rolling Updates Are Working For You

5 Tools To Get “That Analog Sound” From SONAR

With the advent of digital audio, some feel a certain quality associated with the analog signal path has been lost. While that may have been true at one point, analog emulations have come a long way since first introduced. Let’s find out how to add that “analog sound” using some of SONAR’s plugins. (Note: Many of the following examples use features are exclusive to SONAR Platinum, so if you don’t already have this version, you can try a free demo by clicking here.)

#5 – ProChannel Tape Emulation

Tape Emulator Gif

Tape does some pretty magical things to audio, so SONAR Platinum includes tape emulation as a ProChannel module. Best  of all,  you can use it as much as you like without having to clean the heads!

Here’s how tape emulation enhances the sound:

  • Emulates the “head bump” of analog tape to enrich the low end, adding subtle warmth
  • Smooths response by slightly rolling off lowest lows and highest highs
  • Increases sustain by smoothing peaks
  • Saturates the signal in a non-linear, analog manner
  • Optionally introduces high-frequency hiss

For a basic application, insert the Tape Emulator in the Master Bus ProChannel. You’ll immediately hear a more cohesive mix. Increasing the REC LEVEL increases the overall saturation. The REC LEVEL knob, TAPE SPD switch, and BIAS switch all interact in unique ways, so try out different combinations to hear how they affect each other.

After hearing how the Tape Emulator affects your sound, try applying it to individual tracks (your drums will sound particularly fabulous). This will be a more subtle effect, adding a sense of depth to the overall mix.

Continue reading 5 Tools To Get “That Analog Sound” From SONAR