As you may know by now, the Bakers at Cakewalk are constantly on a mission to improve upon SONAR. Whether that’s a bug fix, a new feature, or a feature enhancement, we’re giving you the tools to be creative and get the job done. In 2016 we brought you workflow improvements for comping such as improved copy and paste functionality, keyboard shortcuts (adjusting stretch and crossfades), as well as visual improvements and customization options for take lanes. With the 2017.02 release we take things to a whole new level, with a host of new features based on your feedback. Don’t forget, if you have features or enhancements you’d like to see, drop us a line at bakery.cakewalk.com and let us make SONAR even better! For now, let’s dig in:
by Craig Anderton
Sure, the LP EQ is a great linear-phase, stereo EQ. But it was designed for mid-side processing as well as conventional stereo, so let’s explore what mid-side processing is about, and why it’s so important.
LP EQ BASICS
You can add up to 20 nodes, and each can have one of the following responses:
- Low shelf
- High shelf
- High pass
- Low pass
- Peak boost/cut
However, there’s some intelligence when adding nodes; for example if you double-click to enter a node close to the highest possible frequency, the LP EQ will insert a lowpass filter. At a somewhat lower frequency, there’s a shelving response (although you can of course change these default responses to whatever you like). Drag nodes horizontally to change the frequency or up/down to vary amplitude; a right-click + drag on a node alters the width, as does using the mouse scroll wheel on a selected node.
You can ctrl+click, or draw a marquee around, multiple nodes to select them, but there’s an interesting twist. Suppose a node is set to boost, and another to cut. If you select both, then click on the one that boosts and drag it downward, the amount of boost will decrease. However the one that’s cut will start boosting. This complementary motion allows increasing or decreasing the overall emphasis easily; for example, if you think you went too far with the amount of EQ and want to pull it back, this reduces all aspects equally.
If all the selected nodes either boost or cut, then their amplitudes vary together.
These basics give a flavor of the features, but there’s much more—so click on the UI to give the LP EQ the focus, then press F1 to call up the comprehensive documentation.
MID-SIDE EQ PROCESSING
Mid-side processing encodes a stereo track into two separate components: the center becomes the “mid” component in the left channel, while the stereo track’s right and left elements become the “side” component in the right channel. You can then process these components individually, with automatic decoding back into stereo.
To get started with mid-side processing, click on the LP 64’s Expert button and under Mode, choose Mid/Side. For best results, set the precision to High. This results in the most latency but the highest accuracy, which is important because with mid-side processing, you don’t want any phase shift or sample misalignment—that will interfere with the decoded stereo imaging.
Processing can be independent for the mid and side components (as it is for the left and right channels in conventional stereo applications). You assign a node to the appropriate component by clicking on the node, and then clicking on M or S (toward the LP EQ’s upper right corner). Here are a few possible applications.
- With mastering, you can get “inside the file” to do pseudo-remixing on a stereo track. One typical application is giving a slight boost to the higher-frequency side components to provide a bit more “air” and a wider stereo image.
- If you’ve been seduced by vinyl’s comeback, remember that it’s crucial to center the bass and minimize bass excursions in the sides. With mid-side EQ processing, you can reduce the bass in the sides, and if needed, increase bass a bit in the center. Even if you’re not mastering for vinyl, taking this technique further can give a super-anchored, “center-channel” bass sound.
- Drums with lots of room ambience can benefit from a bit of upper mids in the sides for extra definition, and a little bit of lower mids in the center to accent the kick.
- If a synth bass has a wide image that “steps on” other instruments, you can bring down the bass in the sides.
- For taming reverb, set a node to Mid, select the high pass curve, and slide it all the way to the right to take out essentially everything. Then you can shape the remaining reverb with the side EQ, while chasing the away from the center, where it can muddy the bass and kick.
THE VALUE OF THE MIX CONTROL
But…how do you know whether you’re really making an improvement to the sound or not? The LP EQ includes a Mix control (accessed in the Expert section) so you can vary the mix from full EQ to no EQ. Yes, parallel processing for EQ…very handy, and even better, the Mix control can be automated (like virtually all other parameters, including display characteristics and bypass).
You can also switch quickly between two different EQ settings with the A/B comparison function.
Granted, there’s no shortage of EQ plug-ins, but the LP EQ truly brings something new to the party. If you’re not familiar what mid-side processing can do with EQ, there’s no better way to find out than with the LP EQ.
Something inspiring is happening in the Dallas music scene, and Cakewalk is excited to be a part of it with SONAR Platinum. When Norman Matthew gets off the road from touring with his band Murder FM, or finishes up a major video or full length record, it’s not time to chill out. In fact for him, that’s the time when he buckles down and digs into his “little side-thing” which is a major music operation called The Sound Foundation (TSF) in Dallas, TX. Dallas has always been known to be a great music town, but Norman’s TSF has a great angle to its existence that resonates to the very core of his soul. In fact just recently, TSF caught the eye of the Ford Motor Company who took notice of Norman and his operation and were so impressed, they featured the establishment on their “Good Works” series.
If you’re reading this article, I’m sure you are aware that the Major Label system has pretty much all but collapsed. Look anywhere on the internet and you will find all the articles you can handle about how evil all the labels were, how they had this coming to them and how the lavish lifestyles of the greedy executives fostered this meltdown. But what you may not know is that “back in the day,” a good piece of that excess cash folks paid down on an $18 CD that cost $1.76 to make went right back into a pool of starving artists (not directly of course). It was called “Artist Development” and it helped pay and pave the way for many iconic artists who started out with the ole “Label Demo Deal.”
Here at Cakewalk we are fortunate to have an external team of rocket scientists who help test out SONAR beta releases. This team is dedicated, passionate and most of all appreciated by all of us internally here at the Cake shop. Recently I received a general email from one of my esteemed colleagues mentioning that one of our trustworthy beta soldiers was jumping off the beta-battlefield in lieu of another SONAR related activity. Huh? This peaked my curiosity and I felt obliged to dig a bit deeper on the subject. What could “another SONAR related activity” involve? SONAR Olympics? SONAR CPU Racing? SONAR Academy?
Featured Music Placements on Discovery Channel, History Channel, CBS, Bravo Network
Whether you update SONAR every month or not, this month is a great time to hit the C3 button. Besides the new cutting edge LP mastering plug-ins, we have worked hard and closely with our good friends at Overloud to deliver something that can truly change your sound as a SONAR user. TH3 Cakewalk has arrived and will now replace TH2 moving forward, and I had the opportunity to run the beta for the last month building some basic presets for the plug-in. Right out of the gate I found this VST3 to be a nice upgrade from its predecessor TH2.
Now I am absolutely nothing close to a guitar wizard, but I have been hacking around since I picked up the instrument at age 5, so I’ve been around the block with guitar tones touring, producing, engineering, recording, etc. like a lot of folks probably reading this. From a production standpoint, I’ve always loved the convenience of amp simulators, but always hated what would happen to the tone when trying to mix them together with drums that had been recorded with 1073’s, API’s or other heavy duty pres and mics… the tone gets small pretty fast. In my opinion, this is something that Overloud in general has excelled at—DSP and algorithms that truly stay at the front of the mix no matter what the context. TH3 brings this concept to even another level. Here are some of my quick thoughts and findings.
There are a lot of changes with the new TH3 Cakewalk including the new and upgraded User Interface which I will get into, but I bet a lot of folks like me really base their judgments on how things sound. The good news is that once you are up and running with the plug-in you will notice a nice improvement on the sound quality from TH2 Producer/Cakewalk. 5 new amp models with more accurate model reproduction are included in TH3 Cakewalk, and all have improved DSP along with enhanced preamp and power amp stages. To my ear, I notice a more “open and natural” sound in general, but also notice a more responsive relationship between the pick and the strings in terms of “feel”—like when you play a guitar through an amp that just had the tubes replaced. I also notice more presence overall, but the right type of presence without harshness. The low-mids and mids are thick and punchy and I especially love the new Slo88 and Tweed Deluxe amps which have a lot of character. The Bassface is a beast as well; this amp is a secret weapon for many rock producers who use it to double rhythm guitar parts recorded with other amps. Blending these two sources together produces a tone that is about as thick as it gets.
New amps in TH3 Cakewalk:
Bassface 59: Model of a classic american “bass” combo amp, tuned to be great for rhythm and blues playing on guitar once overdriven
Just a few short years ago, we learned of a new up-and-coming artist who was using SONAR. After introducing ourselves and learning more, the one thing that kept resonating were the infectious melodies and counterparts embedded into his tracks. We were delighted to witness him working in SONAR, but at the same time very intrigued that he was using SONAR 8.5.
Soon after being in touch with iLan, we were able to catch up with him face to face in his studio just north of London for a night where we introduced SONAR X3 to him. It was a fun night and very interesting to watch a pro’s reactions going from 8.5 to X3 considering that undoubtedly the platforms are truly different. There were some moments of, “Whooaaah… that will save me a ton of time,” and there were moments of, “Ummm…that will take a while to get used to.” Leaving iLan to his own devices we were really unsure where he would take it.
Toggling back and forth from 8.5 to X3 for a while, iLan finally found his stride with SONAR Platinum. He told us, “After working on both 8.5 and X3, once I was on Platinum there was no going back. The basic features alone like the smart tool and Mix Recall not only save me a lot of time, but allow me to create things I could not create in 8.5. With the amount of tracks I create and pace of my workflow, the fact that Platinum is rock solid and really fast means everything to me. 8.5 always allowed me to ‘not’ sound like everyone else in my genre, and Platinum just continues that path for me.” iLan’s first full production in SONAR Platinum titled “Bigger Than Love,” a collaboration with singer/songwriter/artist Giuseppe de Luca was recently released on Anjunabeats and quickly found its way up the charts to the #1 spot on Beatport.
Check out the latest episode of Cakewalk Talk, where Dan Gonzalez interviews audio engineer Daniel Rowland (Adrian Belew, StudioBelew, Accept) about LANDR and his role at the company.
We’ve posted a shorter cut below as well.
As a fan of our bakers and all the great features coming out of the Rolling Updates, I absolutely love exploring all the new things SONAR brings every month. As a big fan of Lounge Lizard, I was really excited to learn that we would be incorporating the Ultra Analog Session 2 (UAS2) instrument into SONAR this month. So at this year’s Namm convention I made a point of meeting up with my buddy Marc over at Applied Acoustic Systems to learn more about the synth before trying it out.
“A fun synth to play around with,” Marc explained. And once I got my hands on it I understood what he was talking about. Being a bit underwater with time these days, I decided to put an hour (or so) cap on diving into the synth and writing a short piece of “whatever” inspired me while first hearing and manipulating the sounds; and making use of the features. I challenged myself a bit by using ONLY instances of this synth combined with stock SONAR Producer ProChannel modules so I could get a good feel for its capabilities. I also thought it would be a fun test since there are no stock drum or percussion patches in the synth. Here is what I found:
- Useful: In my book, you can never have enough options when it comes to sounds. I have synths where I only LOVE a few patches but you know what? – Those patches are worth every penny having the synth in my arsenal. I found the UAS2 to have some really great sounding vintage patches. With 7 banks of sounds there are a lot of tones that would come in handy and will work well in certain styles of music. I found combining these sounds with ProChannel shaping to be a great combination for creating some unique sounds.
- Diverse: I like the fact that for a synth with a small footprint, it crosses a through a wide array of tones. The 5 main tonal character traits are Arpeggio, Bass, Lead, Pad, Polysynth, along with a bonus of two banks from Richard and Sean Devine that come in handy for more options. I like the fact that there’s not a ton of overwhelming stuff here—and what’s in the box is all great and diverse for different applications.
- Cool features: I personally love using arpeggiation effects. Admittedly, I love them because I am a horrible keyboard player and they make me sound like I know what I am doing… kind of;) I sometimes use arpeggiation in a way that might be different than some users—I follow no rules of arpeggiation (is that even a word?)—I throw on tons of effects… I let my ears rule both my hands and find notes and things that just sound good to me. I often use this effect on choruses while knocking out all low end to give a song an inconspicuous lift. The “Arpeggio” on this keyboard is cool. It’s simple and straight forward and allows the user to combine a bit of old-school arpeggio tactics along with many syncing options.
- A Strong Simple Synth Engine: For someone like me who is not a synth expert, this instrument is great. The 3 sound generators (VCO, Filter and Amp) are simple enough to navigate for those who do not fully understand the complexities of creating synth patches. In my opinion, 10 minutes of turning knobs with this instrument is enough time for anyone to come up with some great sounds. For example, after putting a limiter on my master bus I noticed one of my staccato parts was cutting through in a way that sounded too intense compared to the kick. Very easily was I able to identify the “Amp Attack” as the culprit, and by simply dialing that knob back a bit the sound became what it needed to be.
- Onboard FX: Similar to Z3TA+, this synth carries its own FX processing right inside the synth. Although multiple FX are not possible in one patch, the good news is that AAS didn’t skimp on the quality of the engine. I tested all FX (Chorus, Delay, Distortion, EQ, Flanger, Phaser, Reverb) with different patches and found the available parameters to be intuitive while rendering high-quality sounds.