We take a look at what’s included with PreSonus Sphere.
At first glance, the PreSonus Sphere looks a lot like one of those increasingly common subscription services where, for a monthly charge, you get more software than you need for less than you thought and are left feeling that you don’t actually own anything. Subscriptions have their pros and cons, but with Sphere, once you’ve waded through the software bundle, you’ll find that there’s a lot more to it than that.
But first, the software. This includes the flagship Studio One Professional, as well as PreSonus’ Notion composition and notation software. You also get every PreSonus plug‑in and every sound expansion and add‑on for both. This equates to 24 plug‑ins for Studio One, including their recently revamped Analog Effects Collection, which comprises Analog Delay, Chorus, Tricomp, Red Light Distortion and Rotor. You get all the expansion bundles for Ampire, the Channel Strip Collection with analogue console modelling, and all the Fat Channel EQ and compressors. I didn’t know PreSonus did extra plug‑ins beyond those which came with Studio One, so these are all a bonus. Many of them support other formats such as VST, AAX and AU and will be available for use in other DAWs.
Presence XT has built up quite a library with multisampled instruments such as acoustic and electric guitars, basses and electric keyboards. Then there’s a range of orchestral sounds covering brass, woodwinds, strings, vocals, percussion, and a Studio Grand piano. The Symphonic Orchestra brings in looped musical pieces composed and performed by Lukas Ruschitzka and Roman Vinuesa. There are also more experimental sounds from Deep Flight One that dive into synthesis technologies and otherworldly expressions.
If you’re not content with the library then you’ll find the Presence XT Editor useful as a means to start building your own instruments from your own samples or importing instruments in from other formats.
There are over 40 sound packs included for Notion, focusing on the London Symphony Orchestra recorded at Abbey Road Studios. Each instrument within the orchestra resides in its own library and has multiple articulations, expressions, as well as natural noises and effects. You’ll also find jazz instruments, banjo, mandolin and a broader collection of percussion.
For general samples there are over 70 sample packs filling your hard drive with a wide variety of loops, hits and unexpected possibilities. All of these continue to grow and expand as all new libraries or sound sets are included with your subscription.
Alongside Sphere, PreSonus launched an online collaboration system. The idea is that you have an online account and profile with Sphere, and can use that to create a ‘Workspace’ in any Internet browser to upload tracks and projects to share with other Sphere members. You could upload a mix, or invite a singer or guitarist to add their performance, with other Sphere users able to download your project and then upload their recordings. Or maybe you would be adding to other people’s tracks — either way, PreSonus are clearly hoping to build a creative community.
Initially it didn’t seem any more advanced than a file transfer system such as Dropbox, but actually there are many useful things available within this online space. You can play audio files directly from the Workspace and add comments on the timeline, in a SoundCloud kind of way. It has a live chat facility for discussions and communication, and Sphere will alert all collaborators when any new files arrive. So, it’s a lot more collaboration‑focused than Dropbox.
With the latest update Workspaces are now available directly within the Studio One browser, so you can drag audio files straight into or out of your project and into someone else’s. This requires your collaborators to be running Studio One, whereas with the online Workspace all you need is a free PreSonus account.
How It Works
Let’s have a look at how this works in practice. As a Studio One user I can create Workspaces either in the Studio One Browser or in my Sphere account online in a regular Internet browser by adding a new folder. It appears in both places almost simultaneously. From Studio One I can simply drag across an audio file from my project. As I hover my mouse over the Workspace the slightly cryptic ‘Export to’ label appears, offering options to add a WAV file version, a version with insert effects, or an Audioloop version. You can select which format you want to use by using the Alt key on your keyboard, and it’s applied to all the files you’ve selected. Note that when choosing the insert option, it’s only the insert effects that it takes with it; bus effects are not included.
What’s not available as yet is any ability to send your project as a complete mixdown directly to a Workspace. You can do this with the Show page, where you simply select ‘Send to Show’ and Studio One renders up a full mixdown. This would be a handy feature but for the moment you have to export a mixdown in the normal way and then import the mixdown to a track, which you can then drag across into the Workspace.
The Workspace in Studio One hasn’t replaced the web browser version, but it does make for easier transfers. To do everything else you need to log into your PreSonus account online.
When a collaborator receives an invitation they are instructed to create an account, if they don’t already have one, so that they can access the online Workspace. Once you’re there the interface is simple enough. You can view the individual audio files and play them, and you can drill down into each file and view them as waveforms where you can add comments and instructions. Any invited collaborators can write comments in the live chat window and discuss what it is you’re trying to do. They can download the files or stream them directly from the Workspace.
The collaborators can then upload their recorded files directly into the same conversation. The files also pop up in the browser in Studio One, ready to be dragged into your project. It saves a bit of that messing about you’d have to do with manually downloading but it’s not exactly revolutionary.
While Studio One users can fire files at each other from the comfort of their DAW browser, I wondered if this was possible with the free Studio One Prime version... I’m happy to report that it most certainly is!
While Studio One users can fire files at each other from the comfort of their DAW browser, I wondered if this was possible with the free Studio One Prime version. This could be a smart way of collaborating and wouldn’t require your team to purchase the full version of Studio One. And I’m happy to report that it most certainly is!
One recent update allows you to share individual files within a Workspace with anyone else, via a link. So if you just want someone’s opinion on a single track or want to test a mix out on some people, for example, you can send them a direct public link rather than putting them through the ordeal of creating an account to give them access to the whole Workspace.
The Online Collaboration tools are undoubtedly useful and the integration makes it that little bit easier to share files. Plus, with your Sphere subscription, you get 30GB of space in the Cloud to store them.
We’re not quite done yet. Sphere also gives you a range of extras to support you in your workflow and development as a Studio One user. There are training courses and events to be had. Every month there will be some sort of promotion or exclusive session. You have a live chat environment that will connect you to power users who will hold your hand through any tricky tasks you have to undertake. There’s a series of masterclass videos to deepen your understanding of the musical process, and there are regular live streams from experts covering all sorts of topics.
In April (while I’m writing this), there have been a number of Studio One ‘E‑Meetups’, where you can chat with product specialists; there’s been a live stream all about podcasting, and another about the tools to use when making beats; there’s a masterclass tutorial on multiband dynamics; tips on automation; and lessons about how to make best use of the PreSonus Sphere [see video below].
That’s a lot of useful stuff for your £13$15 a month.
Check out these PreSonus video explainers on all the cool things you can do with Sphere and Studio One.