A session of harddisk recording with Cubase Audio, by Claes Holmerup.
Today I'm going to tell a little about Cubase Audio on the Falcon. Maybe I'm in over my head when I try to explain about such a vast program as Cubase Audio, but I'll give it a try anyway.
But first over to something as rare as reader questions (thank you everybody who have sent questions and views about my previous articles) and since this article will deal with Cubase Audio, what's better than starting with questions about the program?
? Is it possible to mix audio tracks without having to go through an external mixer, thereby having to convert twice (D/A-A/D)?
! Of course it's possible to make remixes within the program. The user's manual doesn't say much about it, but if you look for "permanent mixdown", you'll find the few lines that describes it. The trick is to make the right choise in the Hardware setup; you have to choose Mix as input instead of the others, like FDI, Analog or ADAT. This can also be a quicker alternative to "Delete unused" in the Pool.
? Does "Normalize" increase the risk for noise?
! Definitely yes! When you normalize, the whole file gets searched for the highest peak and then the overall gain is increased in all of the recording so that the peak gets to be at maximum and the rest is amplified the same amount. The problem is exactly that everything is increased the same amount - including the noise. That's why you should always record as high as possible, so you won't have to normalize afterwards. When recording close to 0dB, you'll also increase the dynamic range, so to get the best sound quality, you should always record just below the limit for distortion -and NEVER get distortion, since digital distortion sound worse than terrible!
? Do I need to defragment even if I've deleted all the recordings on a partition?
! Nope - if everything is deleted, there's nothing left that can cause fragmentation. Fragmentation means that you have small spaces on the harddisk between the file sand when you record the next time, these spaces are filled first - which means that you might get problems with clicks in the recordings when the R/W-heads in the HDhas to jump back and forth to create the file, instead of saving it as a long, unbroken file.
? If you have an audio file that hasn't been edited - is there any risk of fragmentation clicks if I record a new audio file which is edited with Erase unused or other functions?
! There are no such risks until you record the next file - the file after the first edited file, since the first recording still hasn't been changed. The second file gets edited, but will still be located on the HD as an unbroken file - but with the risk of leaving empty spaces for the next recording.
? If you record with the Falcon's built-in input, why can't the incoming signal level be measured other than with a clip indicator - when the clipping occours, it's already too late...?
! I guess you'd have to ask the programmers about that one... One possibility to get a more accurate level indication is to use the Monitors. The monitors show the output after the mixer, but if you always use the same settings on the mixer, you can learn how the monitor-indicators should look like toget a suitable level.
These were a couple of interesting questions and I hope that my answers weren't too hard to understand. If you need anything further explained, just tell me and I'll continue in the next issue. I've had some questions about my studio equipment, but I believe it's rather tiring to read a long list of gadgets, so to keep everybody happy, I'll try to sneak some of the equipment into the text when it's used in the coming articles.
OK - enough smalltalk - let's record some music!
Most of you probably are frequent users of some version of Cubase, so I won't get into the midi aspect of the program - after all it is an article about harddisk- recording (I got away from that quite easy, didn't I?). The nice thing about Cubase Audio is that the audio files you record appear like any other Parts in the Arrangewindow and you can cut, paste and copy whichever way you want to. All editing is non-destructive as long as it doesn't come to offline functions or Permanent mixdown, which I described in one of the questions above. Non-destructive means that you can always get back what you had in your original recording (sometimes it's a little harder, but still possible). If you have limited memory, you can shut off the use of waveforms - something that's usable when you make many recordings continuosly and don't have the time for the computer's wave image creation betweenthe recordings.
I have a song that I made previously, with all the midi instruments I need. It
soundsgreat as it is and should have the final touch by adding vocals. I start by
setting up everything right for the input device. In this case I record with Milab
LC-25 phantom powered condenser microphones via a Behringer Ultragain mic preamp,
further on through a Behringer Composer (compressor/limiter) and from there to my DAT
(SonyDTC-690). From the DAT, I have an optical cable which leads to the S/Pdif
interface and that's what makes the settings in the "Hardware setup" obvious (FDI
left or right). Since the digital transfer is exactly as the original, I get the
recordinglevel adjustable on the DAT.
Normally you only make the Hardware setup settings once - before you start recording your first song. Then you save the empty song as DEF.ALL and your settings will be automatically loaded every time CAF is started.
THE FIRST AUDIO TRACK
Time to record the first track. I choose track 1 and press "*" (or the record button below the arrange window). A file manager pops up and a name for the recording has to be typed in. It's possible to create new folders here if you want to - which is very nice to have, to be able to separate the recordings for different songs and don't get a mixed stew of all recordings in the same folder. I type the originalfile name "LEAD.AIF" and get back to where I started (in the Arrange window). Now I can press "*" or Record (this time the recording is started right away, since a file name has been chosen). Now we're past the most confusing part if you're used to record with a tape recorder, i.e. to give the recording a name BEFORE the recording starts, when you only press record on the tape recorder and start yelling immediately...
When you record, you probably want to listen to what you're doing - so that it doesn't sound too awful - there must be some limits ;) . In other words you have to get the sound out of the computer at the same time you record it. This is done by selecting Monitor in the monitormixer or the Trackinfo menu. How your output device looks like is naturally a matter of taste and/or a question of money. If the output quality on the original output is enough for your needs, you just connect the output to a mixer or amplifier. Otherwise you can use one of the available output units, like JAM8 (8 separate balanced outputs) or FA4/8 (4 or 8separate unbalanced outputs). I use a JAM8 and I'm very satisfied with it - it suits fine together with the balanced inputs on my mixing console (Behringer Eurodesk MX8000), as well as other units in my effects rack.
Enough talking - let's continue recording. Now I record track number one and when it's finished, I stop the recording by pressing Space. A question pops up, asking if I want to keep the recording or delete it. Since the recording was perfect, I choose to keep it and then the computer starts creating the waveform image (Waveforms make it easier to edit the audio if the recording isn't as perfect as you believe from the start). If you don't want to use the waveform at the moment, you can press Cancel, or even disable waveforms completely by de-selecting the option in the Audio menu. This action may even benecessary if you have too little RAM (that is, if you have 4MB).
THE RECORDING CONTINUES
Now it's time to record on track number 2, which will be a backing vocal track. I select the track for recording, name it and press record, just like before. This time there is an annoying false note and I choose to delete the recording after I press stop. Now I'm about to give it another try, but now it's time to remembe a small bug in Cubase Audio, which has the effect that sometimes after deleting files or even sometimes after just listening to a recording, you may get an old, deleted recording instead of what you thought you were recording. Sometimes it's nothing but digital noise - VERY annoying indeed! The cure for this problem is very simple and you only have to change audio track back and forth once before each recording and the problem is gone.
After some problems I now have one track with the lead vocal and a couple of tracks with backing vocals. Now it's time for mixing down the song. When you (like I) are used to normal analog mixers, you probably set the volume faders in the mixermap at the same levels and the panning to the extreme right or left, to get the separate tracks from the JAM8 to the mixer console. Then you start adjusting the sound. If you're somewhat intelligent, you use some of the possibilities in the computer at mixdown, for example the fact that you can record real-time changes in the mixermap and maybe it's better to set the mixing console's faders to the same value. Everything is a matter of taste and there are probably as many ways to work as there are musicians around (well - maybe not, but there are more ways to work than you think).
TO BE CONTINUED...
I'm afraid that the time has flown away, because deadline is approaching and I don't have the time to write more for the moment, but I hope I've been able to straighten out some questions. I'll continue in the next issue with some special functions in Cubase Audio and after that, we'll see where the wind blows - maybe more Cubase Audio articles, or something about Mastering, or about CD-writing, or...
As usual you're more than welcome with questions, either to the editor or to me directly at the following address: