The biggest, most important feature in C13 (to me) is not the new GUI, the return of the Vocoder plugin, the new Pultec emulations or the new editing features. It’s the Quick Channel Change: The ability to flip audio channels from Mono to Stereo (or vice versa) on the fly.
Now we need to take this concept to its logical next step and apply it to VST instruments.
I’ve played keyboards for 35 years and I come from the Ed Seay/Dave Pensado/Bobby Owsinski school of recording/mixing synths. Simply put, in most cases, I don’t want stereo channels from a synth. Far more often than not I’m rendering (Exporting) instruments as Dual Mono files and tossing one of the L/R channels. Sometimes I’ll take a Send from a mono channel and recreate a better, more exciting stereo image with some mono delay or reverb panned oppositely. With bass instruments, I’ll often just leave them mono and panned near the center. The same is true for synthetic/sampled drums. I don’t want a stereo snare or kick drum sucking up space in the mix. Those should all be mono channels. Even when I decide to keep both channels from a VST instrument, I’m typically Exporting the audio as Dual Mono files so that I can apply widening or sweetening tricks to each channel independently.
The VST spec and SDK could be changed to support channel configuration adjustments within plugins, but that’s going to take far too long and not every manufacturer would embrace it or make an update. There is an easier solution that I’ve laid out below.
Instead of the “Activate Outputs” dialog we have today, let’s replace it with a more comprehensive dialog shown at the bottom. It could be an added tab to the Studio —> Audio Connections dialog or it could be called up the same way additional VSTi outputs are activated today. But with this enhanced module, you could flexibly choose how you want VST instruments routed to the Mix Console and change those settings quickly for different results.
Moving from left to right in the bottom image, you have the list of active instruments in the rack and the outputs that are currently activated. The next column shows what the native output configuration is from the plugin instrument (which in most cases will be one or more stereo output channels). The third column is the magic which allows you to choose Stereo (the default), Dual Mono, the Left channel only, the Right channel only, or a summed mono output with -3 dB or -6 dB level compensation. Finally the last column is the name of the channels in the Mix Console, which can be changed in this dialog or in the Mix Console itself.
With this setup, I could run my VST instruments just like hardware and flexibly choose which outputs I want to hear. And when I get everything right, then I can Render in Place and get the amount of signal (and configuration of signal) I want. Without this functionality, Render in Place is almost useless to me as I rarely want synths or samples in stereo.
Now … One might say “why don’t you try Brainworx bx_solo, DFX Monomaker, or even just use the Stereo Combined Panner set to a narrow width?” None of those plugins can mimic what this dialog/module could accomplish and a narrowed stereo channel is not the same as a mono channel.
Perhaps my mixing methods are rare, but I doubt it … If you’re using multiple instruments in a mix and they are all stereo, the likelihood of a bloated, overly dense mix is high. You can get far more interesting results with some mono channels, some stereo channels, and some Dual Mono/Split channels with independent processing.
This is the single feature I want from Cubase, more than anything else. This would speed up my workflow and enjoyment in ways that are hard to put in words. Thank you for listening.