Better integration of external hardware

Hi.

Now that Wavelab 9 is playing a bigger role in my mastering work flow I am wondering if there is any possibility of enhancing the facility to work with external hardware. I would love to integrate my hardware within the montage. Especially at clip/track level. At the moment its a bit limiting having to work through the master section only.

Thanks.

+1 on this. It would be nice to use only WaveLab for mastering when analog gear is involved but for now, I use a multitrack DAW first for the analog processing (some plugins inserted before the analog chain of course) before moving over to WaveLab montage to finalize things.

I was using Pro Tools as a multitrack DAW for this step, but recently moved to REAPER for a few reasons, some of which maybe WaveLab can add in the future.

One of the best reasons is that on any given audio track in REAPER, you can send the audio to multiple hardware outputs, and choose if the audio is sent before or after any inserted FX. So with one track, I can send audio to both of my D/A converters for analog processing (I A/B which converter is best for the song) and then another output send PRE-FX to another input on my monitor controller to easily A/B the original unprocessed mix to my live mastering work. It’s brilliant. Pro Tools can do multiple hardware outputs for one track, but it’s not smart enough to send “Pre FX” so that complicates that concept.

The other nice thing about using a multitrack style DAW for the analog processing is having the playback and capture timeline linked together. If I need to remaster a new mix of the song, I can work on the same place in the timeline incase I need to either just punch in a section of the song, or redo the entire thing…because play/capture it’s on the same timeline it makes it very easy to combine versions/takes etc. Staying in sync is very important IMO and the concept of playlists in this area is also HUGE. Sometimes with a remix, I’ll end up using the original heads and tails of a track so that the new master stays the exact same length, and I don’t lose any noise reduction stuff I may have done with RX5 at the start or end (if the mix didn’t change there of course). Either way, it’s good to have a visual to match the new version to when trimming the start and end in the same place on the timeline so when you insert into the montage, it’s exactly like the old version.

For me, playing an audio file in WaveLab and recording to a new file with no timeline relationship between the two for edits/punch-ins/new versions etc. is why I don’t use WL for this step. It’s too primitive.

It’s actually not a huge deal for me to do mastering in two different apps but I know some people expect an all-in-one solution, and while technically WL could be an all-in-one solution for mastering with analog gear, it’s not ideal.

REAPER is kind of mind blowing with how you can customize it so at this point, it would take a major improvement in WaveLab to move away from REAPER for the analog play/capture.

That being said, to me, nothing beats WaveLab for the final mastering steps and any 100% “in the box” mastering projects.

I just had a great example of why having the play/record timeline linked is great as mentioned in my above post.

I had processed a song through the analog chain, but didn’t notice some major clicks at the top of the file until after the print when I do my thorough scan for clicks/pops. The clicks/pops were so bad that RX5 couldn’t fix w/o ruining the drums transients.

Anyway, the client sent a new mix file with the problems fixed, and I punched in the first few seconds of the song. Everything was in sync and it took about 20 seconds. I don’t see how this is possible with the current play/capture options in WaveLab.

This kind of things happens more often than not and had I been using WaveLab to play/capture, it would have been a lot more time consuming for this simple edit.

I’ve been integrating my external hardware by using it between two computers. I play back audio from Cubase, and use whatever FX there I want to use, then hit my analog “hardware” chain, and then capture into Wavelab - while monitoring through the master section in real-time - so I can use whatever FX in Wavelab. Everything happens in real time (Cubase FX -> Analog Hardware -> Wavelab FX). Any sample rate conversion is accomplished by running the two computers at different sample rates - playback at one, capture at another).

One problem I’ve had with working this way, is that I like to use reference tracks - to be able to instantly compare my work with other masters (other songs from the same record I’m working on, or completely different masters that I like the production on). There is no way in Wavelab to bypass the input plugin, so I can’t instantly swap back and forth between my real-time monitoring/mastering, and playback of my reference tracks.

I just wish Wavelab could simultaneously:

  1. Be playing reference tracks (for example, maybe I set up a loop and and Wavelab keeps playing the loop).
    AND
  2. Be able to INSTANTLY monitor the “INPUT” through the master section instead of the PLAYBACK (to be able to “toggle” back and forth - bypass, not bypassed, bypass, not bypassed). Maybe playback would happen in the background still though, and not be heard through the master section.

Justin, maybe you’ve already tried this, and that’s what you’re talking about (the differences), but you can play off one track and record in sync on another track in Wavelab. It’s just not as obvious and straight ahead, or as flexible as the other programs. (You can’t completely put away the record dialog, there’s no live waveform created, etc, routing is possibly less flexible, In and Out, although you can have multiple outputs from a track in Wavelab. And I was never a fan of the limitations of the External Gear and Audio Input plugins). But if you haven’t tried recording in sync, you might want to, to see what you think.

Set the cursor on the record track in the montage, pull down the Track Number on the left and select Record at Cursor. In the record dialog that pops up, set Input to “Playback’s Output” (at least to test without external gear), set “Add To Selected Track of Montage” instead of “Create New Audiofile Window”, and set your other parameters. Hit the Record button. Then hit the Playback button in the transport panel.

It would be nice if it was simpler.

I’d also like an Input Monitor (like Cubase’s track “monitor” button), and Phase Invert button on every track.

And maybe a record button on every track.

Thanks Bob,

When I have time I’ll revisit this again but I certainly remember it not being as flexible as a multitrack DAW where you can easily punch in a section, use playlists, have multiple outputs both pre/post FX etc.

i would also love it if the external hardware plug was available within the montage, but i believe PG said it’ll never happen.

I’m not suggesting you’ll like it any better. It’s definitely clunkier. I think it’s worth trying just to see what’s there and how much it could be improved.

When you say your experience trying these things with Wavelab was not as flexible as a multitrack DAW, it reminds me what I’ve seen said in the past regarding Wavelab. “It’s not multichannel, it’s not multitrack, use another program for that”. But pretty much everything out there is considered a multitrack or multichannel DAW (not just Reaper, Protools, Nuendo, but all of the other “mastering” DAWs - Soundblade, Pyramix, Sequoia, Sadie, are all considered “multichannel/multitrack” programs, as well as “mastering” programs). But Wavelab is apparently often thought of as not, for some pretty valid reasons.

I know what you’re talking about regarding flexibility, many of the others are more similar in how they deal with multiple tracks and are more fluid in doing that, but technically Wavelab is “multitrack” too, so it at least has a basis to start on. I think everyone is asking that Wavelab be made more like the other programs in their flexibility.

The only thing is, Steinberg already has Nuendo and Cubase for multitrack, so that’s sort of a unique position, that the other mastering program companies don’t have. I think all 3 programs (Nuendo, Cubase, Wavelab) probably all have tons of followers for their unique attributes, so I don’t think it would hurt to have Wavelab incorporate some of this. Wavelab also has a lot of things the other mastering programs probably don’t have, or don’t do as well: multiple file delivery, comprehensive metadata, Encoder Checker, Meta-Normalizer, Clip Plugins, comprehensive analysis, M/S tools (thanks PG and Toader), montage conversion (thanks PG and Justin), comprehensive CD/DDP, etc, etc. I wouldn’t trade Wavelab for any of the others right now, but the multitrack/multichannel edit/process, external gear, playlists requests, would definitely be welcome.

One thing Wavelab doesn’t have, that the other mastering programs consider absolutely essential to have in a pro mastering program, is source/destination editing and a comprehensive crossfade editor. Maybe that will never happen, but it’s another thing that limits Wavelab in some ways.

…btw, I think you probably can punch in in Wavelab too, but I’ll get back to you on that.

Thanks Bob. I will admit that when I first tried WaveLab 7, I tried to do some play/capture though analog gear and being new to the software, I gave up somewhat easy and decided to use WaveLab mostly for the montage side of things.

Since then, I’ve gone from using two computers (one to play and one to capture), to using one computer but two apps to play and capture, to now doing all the play and capture in the same app before moving over to WaveLab to finalize.

I was using Pro Tools for this and now REAPER and I must say I’m super happy with REAPER and while it might be possible to do everything within WaveLab, I’m not convinced I would prefer it over what I’m doing now in REAPER.

Maybe WL 10 can focus on better source/destination features and better external hardware integration but as you say, maybe Steinberg expects users to also rely on Cubase for this especially now that Cubase exchange exists.

All in all I’m pretty happy with my workflow but I know that some users want to use ONLY one app such as WaveLab for the analog play/capture and I can clearly see that it’s not really WaveLab’s strength.

The montage however is very very good IMO.

I’m sure you can punch in in WL now but something about doing this in a multitrack DAW with playlists and linked timeline with ability to tweak the punch in/edit point works better for my brain.

Agree Toader. I think we might have both been through this request a number of years ago. I originally wanted exactly this, (even without Wavelab Audio Input plugin FX), because while I/O A/B switching between track playback and audio input for the most part worked in Wavelab (using the monitor button in the Record Dialog), it was super clunky compared to the track “monitor” buttons (like cubase’s track “monitor” buttons) I was used to in Sonic HD. Then I found out all the other mastering programs could also do this easily (not necessarily all with FX on the input) but they could do it more fluidly just the same.

If you were recording in Cubase on the 2nd computer it would be easy, because it has FX slots in the input mixer, and “monitor” buttons on the tracks.

Would Wavelab even really need limited Audio Input and External Gear plugins (limited to the master section only), if it had an Input Mixer with FX slots and flexible Track/Clip output routing?

Sorry about the delay - I’ve written several responses to your ideas, but I keep deleting them instead of posting. I think the issue is pretty complicated. Yeah, an input mixer might help solve the problem… or a bypassable input plugin.

Another thought (but I doubt PG will like it): Imagine if they just took the entire audio track design and also the mixer from Cubase, and bolted all of that into Wavelab. With Cubase audio tracks, you can easily assign any input/output to the track. With the Cubase mixer, you have 1) extensive routing capabilities, 2) an input mixer where you can monitor through plugins, 3) a playback tracks mixer, 4) a master section. I prefer Wavelab’s master section, but maybe the mixer could be modified so it would just use Wavelab’s master section instead of the Cubase one… AND AND AND - why not transfer over the automation tracks and automation functionality too?

The reason I’ve been reluctant to mention this - I know it would allow Wavelab to compete somewhat with Cubase/Nuendo for mixing capabilities, and that might bother PG and/or Steinberg - it might hurt product differentiation. Still, if it was done right, it would really open up a lot of possibilities for Wavelab, and it would obviously fix some of the issues we have been complaining about.

I’m not convinced this is the ultimate idea though… There may be better ways to approach it. I figured I’d share the idea though since we’re kind of brainstorming here.

It’s definitely a fine line of not making WaveLab too much like a multitrack DAW but I think the playback/capture through analog gear can definitely be improved. While I was using Pro Tools for this, I recently decided to learn an entirely new app (REAPER) instead of revisiting what’s possible with WaveLab for this part of the process.

I could see it happening two ways:

A new “workspace” concept is added that is similar to a montage but allows you to route tracks to analog outputs and capture on a new track, or even simply digitally route from a source track to a record track w/o going analog via a digital buss. The ability to send tracks to more than one output at a time is essential and also ability to have each send be pre or post track or clip FX also important.

Both the record and capture tracks should share the same timeline (like a multitrack DAW) have Pro Tools style playlists so you can edit/combine “takes” and also preserve the original state of a file easily is a must.

There are a ton of other little features I could mention, especially after using REAPER but that’s the main concept. Then you could bring these captures over to the montage for assembly as normal.

The other way would be to simply allow the montage to record audio, add Pro Tools style playlists, and add the improved hardware routing to support multiple outputs both pre and post FX individually (meaning some outputs are post FX, some are pre FX) and then ability to make the source tracks inactive an hidden after you’ve captured back from analog so they don’t use CPU. This could work as well.

The other thing I really miss from Pro Tools is Audio Suite. Maybe a VST take on Audio Suite could happen so we can destructively process audio clips without having to insert/route/manage plugins in the master section…similar to how you can already process a file with DC Offset Removal, Loudness Normalizer etc…just an offline window that pops up and lets you select and process audio without using the master section…just like Pro Tools Audio Suite.

I could go on but that’s my basic idea.

I agree, everything about the Cubase input mixer, tracks, output mixer, on top of Wavelab (or vice versa). Live record waveform, multi-channel file support, automation, record buttons, track monitor buttons, flexible routing, but with clip plugin support (already in Wavelab) if clip fx aren’t in Cubase (don’t think they are). Basically Reaper tracks on top of Wavelab, because Reaper has all of the above (clip fx, tracks, automation, multi-channel file support, etc., and i/o monitor, and phase invert buttons).

It’s been done before I think, because I believe Sequoia was built on top of Samplitude, adding mastering specific features, many of which aren’t even required or used anymore (like old digital format machine controls, and DDP on outdated physical formats). All that’s probably still used of what they added on is DDP file, metering, a complex Crossfade editor, and Source-Destination editing.

Just reading through, on a lazy Saturday afternoon, as the Tennis plays on tv… I’m just a hobbyist WL user btw… :wink:

All this sounds interesting guys, and it made me think:- Cubase AI edition is given away with some hardware; Cubase Elements is around 80 GBP. Maybe, there is a new category they could invent, to sit somewhere between, that sees an edition which is completely stripped back of the Key, Score, List, (sample.?) editors and other ‘esoteric’ features, but leaving the essentials you guys speak of and that can ONLY be installed if a valid WL instance/license is detected.

Aimed at those who don’t already run both apps, but with the additional ‘enhancements’ you’re requesting, developments which are integrated into both the full and this new ‘light’ Cubase version (multi-destination routing, playlists, audio suite, multi-channel support, etc…).

Maybe limit the number of tracks too, so there’s no chance you’re getting some real DAW capabilities on the cheap…

But hey… I’m just thinking aloud… :slight_smile:

Cheers,
Bob

Bob, maybe that’s something considered, but I personally wouldn’t have a problem buying Cubase Elements at $100 if it did all that. Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. My experience with Cubase Essential 5 (which I think was the Elements of its time) was that it didn’t have an input mixer, or input fx slots, so had to buy Cubase 5 Full for that. And it also didn’t have multichannel 5.1 file support.

Bur I think Wavelab Pro should be able to do this in one program, and it probably will at some point. I really don’t think you should need two programs to do this.

Electrodaddy, sorry to derail your request with talk of multichannel files and stuff that had nothing to do with your request.

I think your request would be fulfilled if the External Gear Plugin was allowed somehow in Clip and Track plugin chains, which I think is what you intended. And maybe that’s the only logical way for forward compatibility as Wavelab goes on to higher versions. Or maybe it would make it harder to change routing options in the program later. I still think clip/track/montage i/o routing and monitor options should be more like they are in Cubase and Reaper, if that’s possible.

I don’t use it anymore (used to use it in a two computer pitch and catch), but an input mixer with FX chain slots seems possible in all other pro programs I’ve seen. FX chains that can be adjusted while auditioning after external gear and then the chains copied/pasted or saved/imported to the track or clip where they’ll be used.

Also, I kept referring to it as the “Audition” button (which I’ve corrected), but what I meant was “Monitor” button: The Speaker Icon buttons on every track in Cubase.

What it allowed me to do was easily play a reference track (or already mastered song) on the track and continuously a/b compare it to the audio input with input mixer FX applied. Then after making all the input FX settings, bypass the input FX and record without. Then cut/paste or save/restore the input FX chain to the new clip or track for later adjustment if necessary.

AFAIK you can’t do that in Wavelab with the Audio Input plugin, because you can’t play the reference track out of the montage while you’re using that ASIO plugin.
Cubase Track Monitor Button.png