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Using SampleOne XT In Studio One

PreSonus Studio One Tips & Techniques By Robin Vincent
Published April 2020

SampleOne XT is that rarest of things: a  virtual sampler that can actually sample!SampleOne XT is that rarest of things: a virtual sampler that can actually sample!

The unassuming SampleOne XT is actually one of Studio One's secret weapons.

SampleOne XT is probably not your go-to instrument in Studio One. It has no presets; it sits there, empty and uninspiring, so we tend to lean towards the rich sampled landscape of Presence. But to ignore SampleOne XT is to miss one of the most creative tools within Studio One — because with SampleOne XT, everything can become an instrument.

SampleOne XT is a conduit for remixing, a pathway to rethinking and adventure in using samples and audio streams in ways that were common before multi-layers and multi-articulations made sampling very complicated. It can sample from anywhere. You can drag and drop samples into it, but you can also sample directly from the microphone input, or the output of a software synth, or the output of an audio track. And it's this integration that makes SampleOne XT so interesting. SampleOne XT likes to be in the middle of things, messing about with your tracks and sparking unexpected ideas. So, let's get to know this unassuming little sampler.

Crate Digging

You can pull samples into SampleOne XT from anywhere you like. Pull them from the browser, drop them from a File Explorer window or pick them up from your timeline and drop them in that way. If you're a fan of menus, you can right-click an audio clip and select Send to new SampleOne XT from the Audio menu. Once added, a sample can immediately be triggered from your MIDI keyboard. If the sample has pitch information associated with it, SampleOne XT will automatically map it to the right note; if not, it gets spread across the whole range. So, you could take a bunch of pitched samples, drop them in and play them as an instantly generated instrument.

Also on the menu is auto-slicing. If you hold the Shift key while dropping in a sample, SampleOne XT will chop it up into slices depending on detected transients and map those across your keyboard. This is perfect for chopping loops into kits or mapping vocal phrases on to individual notes.

The great thing about SampleOne XT is its uncanny ability to sound fresh and different whenever you engage its services. It has what you might call an old-school vibe, because it works and sounds like the hardware samplers from back in the day.

But SampleOne XT is more interesting when you start using it for actual sampling, and for that, we need the Record tab. You can plug in a microphone, hit Record and sample some sound — but under the Input option you'll find an entry for anything and everything that's making noise. That includes every physical input, of course, but you can also take the output of an audio track, the output of any loaded virtual instrument, or even resample the output of SampleOne XT back into itself. If you want to sample the output of a number of audio tracks, you can create a bus in the console and set that as the input to SampleOne XT.

Let's say you have a perfectly programmed drum track using authentically sampled multi-layered sounds. Sample that into SampleOne XT and you can remix it with a lo-fi, sample-crunched, hip-hop vibe. You could take the output of a big synth sound and use it to play one-finger chords from SampleOne XT. Maybe you built up a huge patch using instruments like Serum and Omnisphere: sample a few notes into SampleOne XT and you've massively reduced the load on your system while retaining the ability to play the sound. If you're sharing projects with a friend, you don't need to own the same instruments; you can just set up a SampleOne XT preset. And whatever you do, it will sound interestingly different because it's being triggered by a sampler.

Sampling into SampleOne XT is very easy. You can record manually, or you can enable Gate Record, where recording starts automatically when the signal level crosses an Open threshold level and stops again when it falls below the Close threshold. This is great for hands-free recording, and you can also leave it running so that it will record a new sample automatically whenever the Open threshold is passed. This means that if you are recording an instrument, you can play each note in turn with a pause in between and get each note as a separate sample. You can also quickly turn a drum loop into a kit. One tip, though: name your sample before you press Record, as editing the name afterwards is not actually that easy.

Looping & Mapping

Once you have made your sample, SampleOne XT offers endless ways to process it, mess with it and turn it into an instrument. The Wave tab displays your sample and gives you a number of tools to change its nature and the way it plays back. You can set Start and End points by dragging in from the left and right. SampleOne XT automatically snaps the Start and End points to zero-crossing points before a positive waveform — you can see it happening if you zoom in — which nicely avoids any problems with clicks or glitches. This is also true when setting loop points.

Setting loop points in SampleOne XT.Setting loop points in SampleOne XT.

The idea of looping is to extend a sample beyond its original length by repeating a section. This can give the impression of sustaining a sound, for generating looping rhythms or just for effect. There are three types of Loop: Sustain, Release and Ping-Pong. In Sustain mode, the loop continues while the key is held and then moves on to the rest of the sample when you let go of the key, subject to the release setting of the envelope. Release mode is similar except that the looping continues when you let go. Ping-Pong mode loops back and forth between the loop points and acts like Release mode when you let go.

The Mapping tab gives you a piano layout, over which you can map your samples. You can set a root note for each pitched sample and then decide on the range you want it to cover. If you are building an instrument from individually sampled notes, you'll want each sample on its own note, but if you want to turn a smaller number of samples into an instrument you can do that, too. For example, you may have a sample of an instrument playing at different octaves, and you can use these samples to build a more realistic-sounding instrument than you'd get by pitching a single sample across the entire range.

Samples can be mapped across the keyboard, either to create playable multisampled instruments or to split out drum kits.Samples can be mapped across the keyboard, either to create playable multisampled instruments or to split out drum kits.

The further away you play a sample from its original note, the less real it will sound, because the sound is being sped up and slowed down to achieve the pitch change. This may be the effect you're going for, but if not, SampleOne XT has a very useful function that stops the sample getting longer or shorter as its pitch changes. The button you want is called Follow Song Tempo and that's found back on the Wave page. With that enabled, all the notes follow the same timing and end together — this is particularly useful for percussion loops.

With creative use of the Mapping tools you could assemble all the ingredients of a complex performance as a single SampleOne XT instrument, with loops spanning a couple of octaves and different instrument sounds and effects mapped to other notes. You can use up to 96 samples.

What SampleOne XT lacks, though, is vertical mapping of samples based on velocity. You cannot sample an instrument playing quietly and loudly, map those two samples to the same note and have one trigger at low velocity and the other at high velocity. If that's your thing, you might want to check out the optional editor for Presence XT.

Envelopes & Synth Parameters

The Envelopes tab gives us a graphical representation of the ADSR envelopes in the middle synthesis section of the GUI. The Attack, Decay and Release timelines can all be pulled into curves if you like. One important point to note is that like the other synthesis parameters, envelopes are global by default, applying to all the samples within the instrument. However, there's a poorly named Edit Sample button beneath the sample list that turns the envelopes and value indicators on the knobs from blue to orange. This enables you to change the envelope and synthesis settings for the currently selected sample only. Very useful if your instrument contains different sound sources doing different things, or if you want to vary how different samples sound within the instrument. It's a bit difficult to keep track of, though, as there's no visual indication of which samples you've individually edited. Any further global changes will be ignored by samples that have been edited individually until you go back to those samples and hit the Reset button. It's a powerful feature but feels a bit clumsy at the moment.

SampleOne XT envelopes can have curved attack and release stages.SampleOne XT envelopes can have curved attack and release stages.

The middle section of SampleOne XT is given over to some familiar synthesizer modules that let you shape and sculpt the sound. You have controls for Pitch, Filter and Amplitude, each with an ADSR envelope and modulation levels. The filter section has nine different filter models of varying shapes and sounds. A Drive knob adds some saturation to the filter while the Punch control adds some percussive attack to the start of the note. The single LFO has five waveform shapes including sample & hold, and can either be sync'ed to host tempo or free-flowing. It's a simple but effective synthesis section that you can use either globally or individually using the Edit Sample button.

Finally, SampleOne XT hosts the same effects engine you'll find on the other PreSonus instruments. In bank A you have Modulation, Delay and Reverb and in bank B you'll find the Gater, EQ, Distortion and Pan.

Reboot Your Music

The great thing about SampleOne XT is its uncanny ability to sound fresh and different whenever you engage its services. It has what you might call an old-school vibe, because it works and sounds like the hardware samplers from back in the day. It's a great way to use those sample packs you keep meaning to look at, or to build instruments with your own sounds and noises. But it's also a route out of writer's block, out of sameness and a loss of inspiration. Resample a few tracks into SampleOne XT and see how that makes you feel.

Published April 2020

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