The first in an occasional series of workshops for Presonus' Studio One DAW focuses on the powers of its useful Browser.
Although Presonus' Studio One DAW has been with us for less than two years, it has already become surprisingly popular. When it was released in 2009, a key part of its appeal was a very strong focus on easy workflow. The idea behind this approach was to allow you to be as creative as you could be without having to worry too much about the technicalities of the program itself. Over the course of two workshops, we're going to take a closer look at one of the main elements that contributes greatly to this ease of use: the Browser. This first workshop will focus on organising plug‑ins and managing presets in your system.
The Browser in Studio One consists of various tabs labelled 'Instruments', 'Effects', 'Sounds', 'Files' and 'Pool'. Each tab has default sorting options and supports the two‑way drag‑and‑drop functionality for which Studio One has become well known. What makes the Browser in Studio One particularly powerful is its tight integration with the file system itself.
The first two tabs (Instruments and Effects) provide an overview of the plug‑ins that Studio One has discovered on your system. VST and AU plug‑ins are picked up automatically from their default install locations on Mac OS. However, for Studio One to find the VST plug‑ins on a Windows machine, it will need to know where to look for them. You can tell it by setting the locations in the 'VST Locations' section under the Options menu.
As many Windows users will know, however, installing and keeping track of your plug‑ins can be challenging. Not all plug‑in installers on Windows use the same default install location and, as a result, you could very well end up with your plug‑ins scattered around various folders. The easiest way to prevent this is to create a default location where you install your plug‑ins — for example, a folder labelled 'VSTPlug‑ins' in the root of your system drive. If you're using Windows Vista or Windows 7 as your operating system, you might also want to consider keeping this folder outside of the Program Files structure, as Microsoft added the UAC (User Access Control) security in the latest versions of Windows causing some plug‑ins to have trouble with authorisation.
The big advantage of using a dedicated folder is not just that you have all your plug‑ins in one location — meaning that you only have to add a single folder in Studio One to the VST location — but that it also allows you to categorise your VST plug‑ins into folders, as the Browser integrates with the file system.
If you create a folder structure based on categories inside your main plug‑in folder, you can use the Folder option in the Browser to list the plug‑ins based on that folder structure. For example, you can create folders called 'Synths', 'Samplers' and 'Drum machines' for instruments, and perhaps folders called 'EQ', 'Dynamics' and 'Modulation' for effects. The Browser will only show folders containing plug‑ins recognised by Studio One. (The folders 'Presonus', 'FX Chains' and 'VST3' appear automatically and contain the Presonus factory plug‑ins, stored effects chains and VST3 plug‑ins respectively.)
Because Studio One Pro supports various plug‑in formats (VST2, VST3 and AU), you'll quickly notice that the Browser is showing your plug‑ins in all manner of formats. Although the type of plug‑in is indicated by the icon displayed with the plug‑in name, it might be helpful if you didn't have to view certain types of plug‑in in the list. Of course, you could just remove those plug‑in formats you don't currently need, but if you're using multiple DAWs, as many people do these days, that might not be the most sensible option: you might want any one of them in the future. Fortunately, Studio One gives you the option to simply (and reversibly) disable support for specific plug‑in formats, which can really help to clean up your plug‑in view in the Browser. To do this:
- Open Options (Preferences on a Mac).
- Go to Advanced / Services.
- Confirm the warning that pops up.
- Disable the services for the plug‑in formats you will not be using.
Another strong workflow advantage of the Studio One Browser is the way in which it can be used to manage presets.
When looking at the Instrument and Effects tabs, you'll notice that underneath the Presonus factory plug‑ins there's a list of presets. Recalling these presets is easily done, simply by dragging and dropping them either onto the arrangement or onto a channel in the mixer. Studio One will, helpfully, automatically recognise which plug‑in it needs to initiate in order to recall the preset. If you're recalling an instrument preset, dragging it into the arrangement will also set up the instrument track and the appropriate channels in the mixer.
But this can also be done for third‑party plug‑ins. Let's say you've been fiddling with your favourite synth on a Sunday afternoon, you've created a great bass patch, and you want to store it for use in one of your tracks. You could go with the traditional approach and use the menu‑based preset‑management system located in the plug‑in header of the GUI, or the built‑in preset‑management system of the plug‑in. But there's an easier way to store presets and, yes, it's based on drag and drop and the Browser:
- Use the Ctrl modifier and hover over the preset drop-down list — you'll notice the pointer changing into a little hand.
- Grab the preset name: this will allow you to drag the preset to the Browser and automatically store the preset on the file system in your User Data folder. Additionally, Studio One will add the preset to the instrument or effect in the Browser for fast recall.
- You can easily rename the preset by right‑clicking and selecting the option 'Rename Preset'.
So far so good, but if you save a lot of presets in this way, the list can get pretty long and that can make finding specific presets a bit of a challenge. This is where the integration with the file system comes into play again. If you right‑click on a preset, you'll notice the option 'Show in Explorer' (or Finder on a Mac). Clicking on this will open up the file browser in the folder where the preset is located. You can use the same approach mentioned earlier for creating categories for VST plug‑ins: create folders to categorise your presets and sort them in the way that is most convenient for you. The Studio One Browser will display these folders accordingly in the Instrument or Effects tab, under the section for the plug‑in that the presets belong to.
Studio One offers two further methods of storing presets for Effects, through the mixer. Using Ctrl‑click on an insert in a mixer channel allows you to store the preset used there, without having to go to the trouble of opening the plug‑in GUI. Storing an entire configuration of effects on a specific track — which creates the so‑called effects chain — can also be accomplished through drag and drop. Grab the entire effects chain, by clicking on the 'Inserts' label, and drag it to the Browser. Dragging the entire chain to another channel will copy the effects setup to that channel.
Folder‑based categorisation can be used in one more situation, and that is to organise SoundFonts for use with Studio One's built-in Presence sample player. SoundFont is a commonly used format for sample‑based instruments.
You can assign a specific location where Studio One should look for SoundFonts in the Options, and the SoundFont files that Studio One finds will then be listed under Presence in the Browser. Organise the various SoundFont files into folders on your file system and Studio One will display them accordingly as presets for Presence.
So much for managing plug‑ins and presets — in the next workshop we'll be focusing on the file‑management powers of the Studio One Browser.