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Cubase Pro: Audio Alignment & ADR

Steinberg Cubase Pro Tips & Techniques
By John Walden

Screen 1: The Audio Alignment Panel, primed to tighten up a  double-tracked vocal part.Screen 1: The Audio Alignment Panel, primed to tighten up a double-tracked vocal part.

Cubase Pro 10's Audio Alignment Panel can do more than just deliver tight backing vocals!

The new Audio Alignment Panel (AAP) was one of Cubase 10's most eye-catching new features — it allows you to align the timing of two (or more) audio clips almost instantly, by automating its AudioWarp and Hitpoints/Slices facilities. What was previously a time-consuming manual chore now takes just a few clicks. It holds obvious appeal for working double-tracked lead vocals and stacked backing vocals, but it can also be useful in some other scenarios, as I'll show — but let's start with the obvious...

On The Double

Screen 1 (red waveforms), above, shows a section of a double-tracked lead vocal. The waveform (and audio examples below) show that the singer actually did a pretty good job, but there was scope for improvement — and the AAP allowed us to tighten things nicely.

Open the AAP (from the Project window toolbar or via the Audio menu), select the audio clip that will act as your Reference (timing master) in the Project window, and click the '+' button for the Reference entry in the AAP. The track's name should appear. Repeat this for the Target clip (the audio whose timing you wish to adjust to match the Reference). In this example, that's our second lead vocal take.

For double-tracked vocals, the Match Words option is best; the AAP will use AudioWarp to stretch/compress the Target to more closely match its timing to that of the Reference. You can also set the Alignment Precision, which is similar in concept to quantising (higher values produce a more precise timing match). I chose 100 percent, which could be extreme for some styles, but if you take things too far you can simply undo the processing once applied. Experimenting with the Alignment Precision in this way makes it super-easy to find the setting that sounds the most musically appealing. And that's it. It takes just a few clicks and a few seconds. Typically, no further manual tweaking will be required, but you can move the AudioWarp markers by hand as normal if you feel the need to tweak any little details.

Well Stacked

Screen 2: Aligning multiple backing vocal tracks at once.Screen 2: Aligning multiple...

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Published August 2019