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.



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.



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.


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:


SONAR PLATINUM: Hello from DanceFair Utrecht Netherlands 2015

[Many photos; this conference is way too vivd to tell it all in words.] Cakewalk’s SONAR Platinum, along with many other Gibson Brands’ products are making a splash in Utrecht Netherlands this weekend at DanceFair 2015.  EDM has had strong roots in Utrecht, and in the Netherlands in general for quite some time, so it’s absolutely the perfect location to capture the spirit of this genre. Electronic music makers from all over the world have converged here over the weekend to celebrate and discuss the state of the industry, technology, creativity and performance.

Some of the world’s most influential electronic professionals including Martin Garrix, Alvaro, GLOWINTHEDARK, Andrew Bayer, Roog, and even Cakewalk’s own SONAR Platinum endorsee iLan Bluestone can be seen walking the halls, testing out the latest and greatest new gear, and even holding workshops for tomorrow’s EDM stars. One of the greatest aspects of Dancefair is that the pros are very accessible to the many aspiring (and very young) EDM enthusiasts who can be seen mingling in breakout rooms around the conference.

The conference is held at Jaarbeurs Utrecht which is a very impressive complex to say the least, and also lends itself very well to the modern theme and overall vibe of this convention. From complex rhythms to chilled out backbeats, walking through the different pockets in this facility has everything modern EDM has to offer. The KRK listening room was exceptionally popular (more…)


The New SONAR: Better Design in all 3 versions

by Dan Gonzalez

Commitment to Design

As SONAR fanatics, we tend to constantly improve and optimize our interface to make it more fluid and user-friendly. In the new SONAR, our sends and fx stacking have taken on a new look to better suit the needs of the modern day mixing engineer. This new look adopts our dynamic window management philosophy.

Our sends act dynamically with your mix

Upon first opening your shiny new SONAR Platinum, Professional, or Artist’s console view, you’ll notice that our Sends section has a different look. In addition to making the Sends look and feel like they belong to our interface, we’ve added the ability to set your sends to 1, 2, 4, 8, and unlimited live sends. As you add up the sends to the console view the window expands to meet the needs of your mixing architecture.

As you remove them, the sends section reduces in size. This dynamic feature makes the overall feel of your console view a bit more larger than life and is definitely handy in those larger mixing sessions.

Our FX Stacking has smartened up

Loading FX into SONAR has become a much smarter process and has continued the recurring theme of dynamic window management. Drag and drop your FX into the new FX Stacks and you’ll see how they expand and compress depending on the number of effects you have loaded into your mix.

Recycling Plugins windows are clean and clear

SONAR Platinum, Professional, and Artist have now optimized the way we handle VST plugin windows. Now in the user interface they will cycle through clicked VST plugins so that the interface isn’t cluttered with unused windows.




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.


Achieve More Professional Sounding Vocal Tracks With VocalSync

by Jimmy Landry

Things have obviously changed in music production over the years, but just recently a few technological advances have surfaced that are game-changers. One of these items includes the VocalSync technology inside the new SONAR Platinum. What exactly is VocalSync and why should you care? Here is one real-world practical example:

VocalSync is a tool that’s integrated directly inside of SONAR Platinum which gives anyone working with vocals 2 distinct benefits:

1. The ability to save a lot of time from manual editing
2. The sonic advantage of producing tight professional sounding multi-tracked vocals

It does this by “guiding” or conforming the information on one track to match another more fluently. The outcome of this is a much more professional production sound in the vocal tracks.

Let’s take a look at a real-world example: Recently, I had the good fortune to work with a great artist from Finland by the name of Peppina who has made a name for herself through Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s brainchild platform HitRecord. If I had to compare or categorize her music I would say it’s a modernized version of Dido sprinkled with some Sarah Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson. With my producer hat on, I thought to myself that her vocals needed to be very large and wide on the tracks, but they also needed to sound authentic, realistic and intimate. To achieve this sound for the lead vocal, I used VocalSync to tighten 3 “takes” that would work together strategically in the stereo field. (more…)


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…)


Drum Maps for Addictive Drums 2 in SONAR

by Joey Adams

Drum Maps are a powerful tool for taking all the guesswork out of editing your MIDI drum tracks. By using Drum Maps, you are able to see exactly which MIDI Notes trigger which sounds in your VST drum kit.

The purpose of this particular Drum Map is to allow you to see the relationship between MIDI notes and drum kit pieces of Addictive Drums 2, a VST Instrument included with your SONAR Professional and SONAR Platinum software.

Here is what editing MIDI in Piano Roll view looks like without a Drum Map:

Here is the same exact MIDI data viewed with a Drum Map. Now you can see exactly which pieces of the drum kit are in use:


Step  1 – Download the files you’ll need

To get started you will want to download the (more…)


What’s the deal with Addictive Drums 2 in the New SONAR?

by Dan Gonzalez

Addictive Drums 2 come to life in the brand new version of SONAR Platinum and SONAR Professional making for a massive introduction into the world of XLN Audio and all the awesome products that they develop.


As a SONAR X3 user, your standpoint may be “What’s the deal with Addictive Drums 2 and my upgrade?” Let’s see if we can clear that up in this article.

What comes with my purchase of SONAR Platinum?

SONAR comes in 3 flavors, and 2 of them come with Addictive Drums 2.

With SONAR Platinum you get the Addictive Drums 2 Producer Bundle. This comes with your choice of any 3 kits that are available for Addictive Drums 2.

You also get your pick of 3 MIDIpaks and 3 Kitpiece Paks from XLN Audio’s webshop. Just about every single genre of music is covered in the wide (more…)