One of the things I love about mixing is the exposure to different types of music I normally don’t listen to. Take this remix, it’s a pop song, not generally speaking my thing. I start assembling it by adjusting each instrument part and it’s individual sound one by one to what I think it should be. In building up each part you become really familiar with every little bit of the song. How each note or beat works in the context of the song and you can’t help but gain an appreciation for it as a result. If it’s good that is, which this one is.
For me I always like to listen to the original after I’ve finished my interpretation of it, and it always amazes me how different they sound. This one was no different in that regard. If you’re interested in such things the original is here. Below is my crack at it, which I mixed using Studio One for the first time:
Kind of jumping all over the place here in terms of the process, but rather than starting with recording I thought I would start by mixing a track. The track I chose was a nice little acoustic number called Long Long Way Down by ChaseK.
I thought I should really try to use whatever Presonus equipment I had for this so I used StudioLive 16.4.2 mixer, my Faderport 8 control surface and Studio One Artist version 4. I have a some other equipment as well, but for mixing really that’s all I needed this go around. I started the mix on my Mac Mini, and then continued and finished it on my Alienware laptop.
I will start off by saying, as a working environment, Presonus have created a nice little system. The way everything is recognized and integrated into Studio One automatically is pretty well flawless. My mixer and control surface were ready for me to use right off the bat, so the only thing to do is import the audio for the session and get off and running.
I won’t go through the whole process because who the hell wants to read that? Every system has it’s own little quirks and I’ll go through my experience with those.
To VST or Not To VST
The first one is kind of a big one for anyone thinking of going to any version below $550 CAD Professional version, VST/AU/Rewire plugins are not supported out of the box. You have to buy an add on for that which costs about $110 CAD alone or $137 CAD in an “Artist Booster Pack” which includes some other what you would think are standard features like MP3 import/export. Now I got the Artist version for free because it was bundled with some of my hardware, but if I had to pay the $138 CAD list price for it, I don’t know that I would be too happy about that, regardless I decided to bite the bullet and buy the booster pack because there were some plugins that I do use on a regular basis.
To be fair, some of the Presonus plugins that do come with standard are pretty good. The fat channel strip right off the bat I liked because it was a mirror of what is on the board, which I think is well laid out and most importantly sounds good. It comes with a high pass filter, Compressor, EQ, limiter and gate, which are exactly what I want in a channel strip. That being said, in this session there was some distortion and clipping that was really bothering me in the source so I wanted to break out my Izotope plugins to deal with that.
This is where one issue started showing itself, that being high CPU usage when I started adding VST/AU plugins. Like I mention earlier, I started on my Mac, it’s a 2018 model with 16 gigs of RAM and 6 core I5 processor. To me it seemed a bit weird, so I thought I’d switch to the Alienware which has a 6 core I7. This is where another “problem” showed up. Some, not all, of my plugins would not load saying they couldn’t be found. I posted a note over on the community forums as well creating a support ticket with Presonus about it. Nada from the community but support got back to me a couple of days later saying the session was using AU plugins and I should switch over to the VST plugins instead. Studio One uses both, I noticed multiple instances of the plugins and never thought why that was. So I will chalk that one up to my bad, and hid all the AU versions on my Mac. Problem solved.
Now comes the BUT. CPU usage on the Alienware was also high. This I knew had to be a problem with Studio One, because Mixcraft or Protools for that matter never had problems with plugins no matter how many I threw at them. After some time researching on the net, it turns out this is indeed an issue with many people complaining about the high CPU usage of Studio One with VST plugins. This one for me is a deal breaker, and quite honestly something extremely annoying. If you are going to charge for VST support, it should work properly. So I cut the number of plugins and soldiered on.
Did I Miss The Bus?
In organizing the tracks I noticed a weird quirk with Studio One in it’s approach to bussing. When a Bus is created, it appears in the console view but not in the main mix window. Additionally there was no obvious way to add automation for busses. I think most people approach automation the way I do which is to mix tracks into a bus and then automate that rather than do each track individually so I started to worry a bit. A quick search revealed the way to automate busses, quirky but it works. The mix window could be helped by adding the bus there and then collapsing the child tracks into it to help better organize it. Not a deal breaker but it would help management of the session.
In The End
I know there’s been a lot of negative there, but that’s not really indicative of my view of it. Like I mentioned earlier I have a Faderport 8, that quite honestly I’ve never really used for mixing because while it works in Mixcraft, it just never quite fit into the process. With Studio One however I found myself using it a whole lot for transport, and especially for automation. What was interesting was that I found myself not looking at the screens and instead riding faders to get levels to where I wanted by listening which for me, made it a much better process. The buttons did what they were supposed to and I loved that I was listening for the right level instead of plotting it out with dots on a line.
I’ll publish the song either tonight or tomorrow. I think the results are pretty well par for the course in terms of what I would have come up with from any other DAW. That being said I’ll have to reflect more on where I go with Presonus Studio One from here. I do want to try tracking through it, so I’ll have to come up with a quick song to record. From what I’ve seen of Studio One and it’s companion piece Capture, I can potentially see those being used exclusively for tracking because the Presonus environment seems very organic and natural. That’s the thing right? When you’re trying to be creative you don’t want the technology getting in the way. You don’t want to worry about CPU load and why you hear crackling due to CPU spikes caused by plugins. I generally don’t use plugins while tracking so on paper, it sounds perfect for that purpose, unfortunately for mixing, it’s not.