A free upgrade to Studio One offers several welcome new features.
The day I write this column, PreSonus have released version 2.6 of Studio One, so it seems a good time to cover some of the new features. There are, of course, more additions than I can cover in depth here, including improved support for devices using the Mackie Control/HUI protocol and dashboards for your Nimbit and SoundCloud accounts. If you download the new version from your My Software page in the Registration section of PreSonus's web site, you won't get the version 2.6 documentation. This is available from the new Studio One web site at http://www.presonus.com/uploads/studioone/media/files/Studio%20One%20Manual%20Addendum_EN.pdf — for the Spanish, German, French or Japanese versions of this document, simply substitute 'ES', 'DE', 'FR' or 'JA', respectively, for the 'EN' at the end of the link.
A lot more flexibility has been added to the metronome in version 2.6. First, count-off (called Precount in Studio One) is now separate from pre-roll. The Metronome Setup dialogue now features radio buttons (which look like tick boxes) for these two options. With Precount active, a count-off of the length indicated in the adjacent Bars field occurs when the Record button is clicked. When the count-off ends, Studio One drops into record, even if no track is record-enabled. It may seem odd, at first, that Studio One would enter record with no tracks record-enabled, but this, in effect, provides a rehearsal mode. When you're ready for a take, simply arm one or more tracks and go again. The difference between Precount and Preroll is that instead of the cursor simply sitting at the record-in point while the metronome counts off, Preroll starts playing back the project from the indicated number of bars before the record-in point.
Other new features in the Metronome Setup dialogue include eight new click sounds, and an easier way to add custom sounds. To add a custom click sound, you now need only choose the Add Sound command at the bottom of the metronome sound drop-down menu and navigate to your click sound file in the dialogue window.
A Repeat Accent option enables the chosen Accent sound to be used for the pulse in compound meters. For example, in 12/8 time, the Accent sound would occur every third beat, which is to say, four times per bar. This matches the way most people count 12/8, which is as if it were 4/4 with eighth-note triplet subdivisions. An Offbeat click has been added, too, so now you can have downbeats, other beats and offbeats all delineated, with their own sounds and mix levels.
Once you've configured all of those sounds and levels, there are two ways to capture the metronome settings. One is to store the entire metronome configuration as a preset by clicking the Preset Save button. The Preset Load button drops down a list of all stored presets, so you can recall any of them instantly. The other method is to render the click to an audio file on a new audio track. Clicking the Render button brings up a dialogue that lets you render either from the start of the timeline to the Song End marker, or just the area between the loop markers. One cool thing is that the render follows time-signature changes, so if the song goes from 4/4 to 6/8, the metronome will too, when it is rendered.
The release of Studio One 2.6 coincided with numerous other announcements PreSonus unleashed at the same time, one of which concerned the release of their next generation of StudioLive mixers, the AI series, along with version 2.1 of the Capture basic recording software, which comes bundled with the StudioLive mixers along with Studio One Artist. StudioLive mixers already integrate with Studio One as recording interfaces, and such that a computer running Studio One could be used as an effects processor for StudioLive, or vice versa. Version 2.6 significantly expands this integration.
If you have a StudioLive mixer, you can now capture its setup into a Capture 2.1 document that can be imported into Studio One. But importing does more than bring in fader, pan and mute settings. Studio One has now gained a new channel strip plug-in, Fat Channel, which replicates the sound and functionality of the StudioLive's onboard Fat Channel processing. Fat Channel rolls together an HPF, expander/gate, compressor, four-band parametric EQ and a hard limiter.
When you import a Capture 2.1 session containing StudioLive AI data, Studio One automatically instantiates a Fat Channel plug-in on each channel it imports, along with the settings that were being used in the mixer for that channel. This makes it really easy to mix your show live while simultaneously recording it, then mix the live recording later in Studio One for release or posting to SoundCloud. Of course, the Fat Channel plug-in is not limited to this application, and can be used anywhere you need a nice channel strip.
Some useful enhancements have also been added to Studio One's editing features in version 2.6. One that I particularly like is the ability to draw in MIDI notes on an Instrument track to whatever duration you please. Previously, when the pencil tool was clicked to add a note to an Instrument Part, the inserted note was always the duration of the Quantize Value shown above the Arrange view. I often want to insert notes that are not of a precisely quantised value, especially if the sound I'm using has a noticeable decay, and this is now possible: the Quantize Value will be used if the pencil tool is dragged in the piano-roll editor with Snap box ticked, but if Snap is not ticked, you just drag to the desired duration. It's a small improvement, but one I find helpful.
Another useful enhancement is the addition of two new selection commands, one that selects from the start of the timeline up to a selected Part or Event, and one that selects from the Part or Event to the Song End marker. There are two things to note here, though. First, these commands only select in the last track in which a Part or Event was selected; if you have Events selected on three tracks, only one track will extend its selection. Second, there are no key shortcuts assigned for these commands, so scurry over to the Keyboard Shortcuts in the Preferences dialogue and assign some for yourself.
You can now select multiple Events, hold down the Option key (Alt key on Windows), drag an effect or an FX Chain from the browser, and drop it on any one of the selected Events, and the effect will be added to the Event FX insert areas of all the selected Events. For a real-world example of a situation where this is useful, imagine a song where the vocalist does a sort of call-and-response with herself on the lead vocal track, and you want all of the responses to sound like they're coming through a telephone. Create your phone processing FX Chain and store it as a preset. Once the responses are isolated into their own Events, you can simply select them all, and drop the effect on any one of them. Now, all of the responses will have phone processing. Excellent! (Note that the manual addendum does not mention the Option/Alt key, but if you do not hold down that key, the effect is inserted on the channel, as usual.)
Oh, and speaking of FX Chains, you can now drop one in the Sends area of a channel: a new FX channel will be created with that chain as an insert, and a send to that FX channel instantiated on the channel where you dropped the chain.
The last new feature I'm going to talk about might seem less sexy than some of the others, but it is no less useful. At the bottom of the Performance Monitor window there is now a Show Devices tick box. When ticked, this drops down a list of every plug-in used in the song, displaying its CPU use, name, mixer location, whether it is active or disabled, and its latency. This makes it really easy to pinpoint CPU hogs.
All in all, version 2.6 is a good minor version upgrade. The next jump is likely to be to 3.0, which I expect to be a number of months away and to include even greater steps forward. But it will also be a paid upgrade, while 2.6 is free to registered users, so go get it and find all the rest of the new features I didn't talk about.