Change the Playback Speed while retaining formant

Hey. I use Cubase 12 Pro for all my musical and non-musical recording/production projects. One shortcoming of Cubase 12 Pro is the lack of a way to increase/slow-down the playback speed of a project while retaining the formant of audio tracks. There is Shuttleplay, but this changes the formant and is therefore not ideal when attempting to edit long audio texts like audiobooks and podcasts. Our work-around has been to transpose the audio event using the clip transpose feature (e.g. to -12) then shuttleplay x2 to retain formats, but this is a long process that is bound to errors (such as forgetting to return the event transpose back to 0 after editing - And theres no way to automate this process either via Macro or PLE). But the best feature would be to have a way to increase/decrease the playback (and have smaller increments e.g. x1.2, x1.4, etc) to make our dialog editing much easier. Thank you.


please feel free to add why or in what way the time-stretch algorithms don’t work for you.

Thanks for the query @Johnny_Moneto .

Part of the activities at our studio is recording long dialogs (audiobooks, trainings, podcasts, etc). So a lot of time is spent listening to the podcast at normal speed, we would want to record that at a faster speed, thus the need to change the speed of playback; but we require the formant to remain the same. Shuttle Play changes the formant, and there is no intermediate speed in between x1 and x2, which is quite a bummer.

Timestretching will not work. We are editing long audio recordings which are encapsulated in an event at a given timestamp on the timeline of Cubase. When we timestretch the audio (yes, the formant remains unchanged), but the length of the audio event changes. Edits to dialogs require a lot of cutting and moving audio events (and the cubase feature of Events to Part works excellently for us). However, once we are done with the edits, returning back to normal speed (if we used timestreching) resizes the events, meaning all our work (could be hours long of edits) has to be redone! Definitely not ideal.

Wavelab has this functionality, but paying over 500 Euro just for this feature is not a feasible option for us. Reaper has this feature, we have considered moving there, but the rigours of learning a new DAW will slow us down yet there are time-bound projects.

So in a nutshell, we want to edit our work faster by playing the audio files faster with the correct formants. Timestretching retains the formants but we cant edit with timestreching.

You might be able to achieve what you need by keeping the tracks timebase on Musical and then set the audio events also to Musical Mode On - directly after importing before you start to edit.

You then should be able to change the bpm of Cubase to playback everything faster and at the end put the tempo back to the original value.

In this example the ruler is set to Minutes/Seconds and I am just changing the project’s speed, not time-stretching individual events:

Maybe that helps you already. Your workflow might be different, though, in a way that it doesn’t.

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My suggestion would be to use musical mode for all audio events (even if they only contain speech).

First set the project tempo to 60 bpm and the time signature to 1/4.
Then you practically get an alternative time ruler (1 second / bar), which can, however, be stretched by changing the tempo.
You can use the tempo to adjust the playback speed as desired.
In this mode, the audio events retain both their absolute position in the beat grid and their relative position to each other.
The formants are retained and you can choose the optimal stretch mode:

EDIT: @Johnny_Moneto had the same idea, but was quicker to answer :wink:

Thank you @Johnny_Moneto and @P.A.T

Seems to work now, we kept getting an issue when we changed the tempo. Probably the track had not been set to musical mode. This is a step in the right direction.

However, I have two problems with this approach:

  1. We often place events into parts once we are done editing, especially for a script that has named sections (for example, an Interactive Voice Response Prompt). The Part allows us to name the edits as required and can be exported out using the “Export Selected Events” menu. When we put the events into a part, with the events and audio track in musical mode, the changes in tempo cause the events inside the part to resize, destroying the edits.
  2. Placing the audio events and tracks in musical mode has a huge inefficiency hit. Simple cut and move of events causes beachballing, slowing the pace of editing (The time we gain in speeding up the audio is lost in waiting for Cubase to respond to the commands). Without the tracks and events in musical mode, cuts and moves are instantaneous, even for heavy mixing projects with over 100 tracks.

Oh-> I am running Cubase 12 Pro on a Macbook Pro (2017 15 inch, Core 17 7th Gen, 32GB RAM, Mac OS Monterey).

If these two are sorted, I should be good to go with this approach.

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Strange, not on my version (12.0.60). In blue there is a part with 3 events, they all just stay the same.
Please check if all events inside the parts are really set to Musical Mode.

How long are the recordings approximately? And how many per project. I am sure this variies but just to have an idea for crosschecking it on my end.

Probably because Tracks don’t have Modes, they do however have a Timebase.

The Jargon Police

Thank you for the response, @Johnny_Moneto

We have quite long recordings… some up to 2 to 3 hours long per file. It could be a dialog, so there could be two or three tracks of these.

As soon as I change the mode of the events to Musical Mode, the beachballing begins, first to place them into musical mode, then for each edit I do.

As for the events in the Part, they are in musical mode as well, however, editing the tempo shifts them… I had to check if the part iteself could be changed to Musical Mode… but that does not seem to have this feature.

Thank you for the correction, @raino

We are so used to using shortcuts or icons as we work, we have to look for names when trying to explain something… But yes, its timebase for tracks. Events have a property called Musical Mode…