PreSonus Studio One is more than capable of being your companion from song conception to completion. In this tutorial, Gary Hiebner shares 5 essential mastering tips Studio One users can enjoy.
Studio One Professional comes packaged with a great mastering tool application. You can create songs, and then bring these songs into projects to master them. Let's take a look at some of the tools that are available and how they can assist you with your mastering. First I'll cover the different metering options that are available, and then I'll finish off with a suggested mastering chain order to use.
The Projects page comes bundled with great visual meters that can help to assist you with your audio mastering. You should always first be using your eyes to judge the quality of your mastering, but these visual aids can be really helpful in confirming what you are hearing. I like to use the Frequency Spectrum graph and set it to FFT mode. You get a very clear indication of where the audio is most prominent along the frequency range. Use this graph to make sure you're not overcompensating in areas.
Maybe you think your mastering is sounding ok, but from the frequency spectrograph it is showing a bit of a bump in the low midrange. By using the meters you will pick this up and your can correct it by doing a slight frequency cut in this frequency region.
If you hover your mouse pointer over the region it will give you details on the frequency and level, so use these accurate meters to assist you.
I find using the Hold mode also helps. This will draw in a line where the highest peaks are. You can set different hold times so that you can see these peaks for longer, or shorter if you prefer.
Studio One Professional has an advanced output metering system in the Projects page. It uses a Peak/RMS mode and you can also choose different K-metering systems. The Peak/RMS mode is a great way to see your peaking levels on the output by the Peak Meter, and the RMS shows the average level. So maybe your highest level peaks are at -2 dB, but the average is sitting at -10 dB. This gives you a good indication of how much headroom you have in your song.
There is also a clip button that will go red if any of the audio clips the output. If your output level does clip, adjust accordingly and then click the Clip button to reset it. Then check if your output is still clipping, as you don't want any digital distortion being introduced into your audio.
The K-metering output options can be used to meter different styles of music, as the K-metering system suggests that different styles have different dynamic ranges and output levels. K12 is recommended for any broadcast audio. This will show a green meter and when it goes over the 0 dB level it'll go yellow. The ideal level is below 0 dB, so probably around -6 to -3 dB, leaving you enough headroom in the audio. This metering system can also be used for rock and pop style music.
The K14 meter can be used with music and audio with more dynamic range, like the rock and country genres.
And K20 is used for styles with the most dynamic range such as orchestral and classical style or high fidelity recordings.
So if you want to use the K-meters, use the one that is most appropriate to the genre or style you are mastering. These meters are more sensitive to the audio than the Peak/RMS mode so make fine changes to the levels and keep a close eye on the meters to see when your audio is reaching the optimum level for the style.
If you have any potential phase issues in your audio, this is where the Correlation Phase Meter comes in handy. This visual graph in the Projects page next to the level meter is a little small, so I'd recommend rather adding the Phase Meter plug-in to your inserts and viewing it from there. The big visual graph shows the stereo image of the audio, and the bottom line shows the correlation phase of the audio.
Try changing the pan of your audio, maybe pan your stereo audio track all the way to the left and see how this changes the stereo image of your audio. Now try something else. Add the Binaural Pan plug-in to your inserts and click on the Mono button to mono your audio. See how this displays on the stereo width display. So you can get a good idea of how narrow or wide your audio is on this graph.
Now looking at the Correlation meter at the bottom of the Phase Meter, this should jump around between the 0 to 1 range. If this drops into the 0 to -1 range then there could be a possible phase issue somewhere in your audio. You'll probably need to go back to your mix and check the tracks to see where the phasing issue could be stemming from. So go back to your Song file and use the MixTool plug-in to help you correcting phase issues. First insert the Phase Meter on your master track. Then solo each track while viewing this plug-in and see which track/s could be out of phase. On the tracks that are causing the phase issue, insert the MixTool plug-in and invert the phase.
What can really help streamline your mastering is to build up a mastering chain. This works especially well if you are working on a collection of songs for an album as you can have a coherent mastering process applied across your song and similar related mastering projects. The mastering processing chain is broken down into 3 sections. There's the Inserts which is processing applied to each track, and then there is the Master Inserts and Post which is applied globally. So let's build a mastering chain that can be applied across all tracks. Let's do this by using the Master Inserts section, and then you can use the Inserts to apply processing to individual tracks.
First add a ProEQ. The ProEQ has a frequency analyzer as well so you can use this to analyze your audio. Use the ProEQ to make minor EQ adjustments. If you need to make any big EQ changes, rather go back to the mix to make them. I usually use the ProEQ to cut out some of the low frequencies that are inaudible (such as a low cut removing out all the frequencies below 50 Hz) and this will free up some extra headroom.
Next add the MultiDynamics plug-in. This is a multiband compressor that can be used to alter the dynamics on your stereo audio file. Maybe you want to tighten up the lower bands with some compression, and then increase its level. And then maybe you want to increase the level of the higher frequency band. This can all be done through a multiband compressor like the MultiDynamics plug-in.
After this, add in the Limiter to increase the overall perceived volume of your audio, but at the same time prevent the audio from clipping. With the Limiter, set the ceiling to -0.3, so no audio will go over this ceiling. Now increase the Input and hear how this raises the overall level of your audio, but it doesn't clip no matter how hard you push the Input level. Just make sure to keep some space for dynamics, so if you push the Input too far it'll squash your audio dynamics that you worked so hard on in the mix. You can also change the metering on the Limiter from the Peak/RMS to K-meters.
The beauty of the Projects page is that you can still go into each track and add different processing through the Inserts section. Let's say on your one track you'll like to add in a tad more reverb to the sound than the others, then you can add a reverb effect on the Inserts, and it'll only be applied to that particular track.
Take these tips and apply them in your next mastering project. Using the visuals meters will really help guide you with your audio and confirm that what you seeing is what you are hearing as well. And streamlining your mastering with mastering insert chains will help you focus more on the audio and less on the setup process.