Persona Digital Studio
Recording studios are moving toward computers and software mixers. Computers
with fast dual core processors, large amounts of RAM and SATA hard drives are
now common and inexpensive. With the right software, they can do multitrack
audio mixing and editing; as well as professional equipment. Old obstacles to
computer-based recording have disappeared. Digital audio workstation (DAW)
refers to a variety of hardware and software combinations that create a virtual
studio, including an; audio multitrack mixer and recorder, MIDI recording and
playback, usually incorporated in a host computer with audio/midi interface
hardware. A professional DAW must have; high quality ADC-DAC hardware,
professional audio software and a fully empowered midi sequencers. Home studio
versions of DAWs are increasingly common and affordable. Computer Hardware and software continues to advance remarkably,
making some of my studio equipment vintage stuff that still
produces great music but lags behind the quick and facile equipment of 2017.
New electronics, however, are mostly based on older designs that evolved for over
The Persona Music Studio is built for electronic music production. A distinction
can be made between electronic recordings of musicians playing acoustic
instruments into microphones and recordings of instruments that have audio
outputs. As soon as an acoustic instrument's sound wave production in air is
captured by a microphone, the music path is electronic until the electronic wave
is returned to air waves by a speaker. We do have acoustic instruments and
microphones at Persona Studio, but 90% of the music recorded here is produced by
keyboards playing electronic instruments and other instruments such as electric
guitars that have audio outs. The language of music communication among our
instruments is MIDI. We have an advanced interest in how our brains process sounds and have generated a number
of interesting psychoacoustic effects. Our in house music production creates
audiophile quality recordings presented as CD's, DVDs, singles and albums
Persona Studio History
In 1985, Persona began adding computers and state of keyboards to the studio.
For example, a Yahama DX7 Synthesizer arrived with a new mixing board, an
analogue tape recorder and a PC that ran a DOS based sequencer, Textures.
Eventually this equipment was replaced with better MIDI software, sound processing modules, DAT recorder, and
sound models from Yamaha and Roland. The 1990's saw an explosion of performance
and recording electronics with evolving sophistication in sound production and
modification. Big companies (Yahama, Korg, Roland and many others) marketed a
succession of keyboards. The new market for all the products was home recording
and small studios. INDIE music production became possible and somewhat
At Persona, hardware and software sound production achieves excellent sounds and
continues to offer abundant opportunities to create instruments, explore psychoacoustics and
develop and understanding of sound physics. All composing, editing and mixing are done
with software; in two computers with multicore CPUs, 8 GB RAM and fast SATA
hard drives; >1000 GB.; At least 2 drives are required: the boot drive should
contain the operating system, programs and data; the second drive is committed
to audio recording. The only software sound module I
use routinely is the EMU X3.
The temptation for most studio musicians is to keep adding to a collection of aging synthesizers, mixers
and sound processors until the studio begins to look like a museum of
electronica. Sometimes the bond between a musician and an an old keyboard or
mixing console is so strong that no natural force can part the two. This is
good. The opposing tendency is to seek novelty and buy the latest gear hoping
for an advantage over the competition. Both tendencies have been at work in my
mind but I found that simplicity is best. Some hardware, especially mixers and
effects modules, can now be retired in
favor of computer based music composition and recording.
Sound Modules, Workstations
The Korg Trinity is a synthesizer, music station, first available in 1996.
The Trinity became a highly regarded professional instrument. The Trinity
workstation features sound samples combined with filters and a versatile set of
sound processing effects to create diversified orchestration. Programming is
done through a graphic touchscreen. Song composition; is available with a
built-in 16-track sequencer. The Trinity synthesizer was a descendant of the
original Korg OASYS synthesizer, an acronym for Open Architecture Synthesis
System that Korg previewed in 1994 but did not market until it released the
Trinity. Korg has introduced a prolific series of synthesizers/keyboards with
the basic elements of the Trinity. They first changed the name to Triton. A new buyer may chose from a variety of Korg creations.
I am staying with my venerable Trinity and added a Korg M3 in 2010.
Korg described a more recent contribution: "The Pa4X Professional Arranger is more
than a keyboard. It’s your backup band; your accompanist; and your musical
director. It’s your soundman; your effects engineer; and your always in-tune
background singers. Best of all—you’re always in charge! Ideal for composing,
recording, and combo use, the intuitive Pa4X really comes to life in the hands
of the solo keyboard performer and entertainer. And nowhere else is the flawless
operation and superior sound of one keyboard instrument more in the spotlight"
EMU Proteus 2500
The EMU Proteus 2500 is a music synthesizer, workstation without keyboard. The P2500 represents a highly evolved, excellent example of electronic engineering,
sound sampling and musical sophistication. Our current configuration has 2200
instrument samples, 512 programmable user presents ( programs) and and
additional 1024 presets in ROM. Its high speed processor handles dense MIDI data
without dropouts or distortion. The module is highly programmable with an
array of 4 layered sounds 50 filters and 2 sets of effects. The
synthesis architecture is the same as the software sampler-synthesizer, Emulator X3, so that familiarity with
either allows you to program both. Often an instrument requires modification to
fit into the mix. The 16 knobs on the left are programmable and provide quick
access to 64 programming parameters. I have always enjoyed turning knobs to
adjust sound... one of the sensual pleasures of early analog synthesizers that
EMU; resurrected in this synth. This is a module for sophisticated
professionals; beginners probably should avoid. EMU was bought by the sound card
company, Creative, and the EMU professional products that I value are no longer available.
EMU X3 Emulator & Sampling Software
The EMU X3 Software is a software sampler and performance module. Over 30 years of sampler
development at EMU has been packaged into a program that turns a PC into a
sophisticated sampler and a band or
orchestra. Best results are achieved
having a fast computer with a professional sound/MIDI card and then you can
produce exquisite sound quality, using powerful sampling, synthesis and filters.
We dedicate one computer for the X3 to run without competition from other
programs and use the EMU Audio/Midi interface 1820M. We have accumulated a
planet-wide sound-sample collection. The X3 enables a composer to select and
program sounds to fit special and often the unique needs of a composition.
EMU Digital Audio & MIDI Interface
Over the years, we have used a number of sound cards, digital audio
converters, amplifiers, mixing boards and sound processors. We are
very happy to have had two EMU interfaces hard at work. Each module is controlled by
software mixing boards in; two computers. The sound of the 1820M is excellent.;
Each unit receives a total of 8 analogue inputs and the digital to audio
converters are hi grade with a dynamic range of 120dBA. The EMU X3 resides on its own computer and shares one 1820m with the Trinity.
A second 1820 inputs to a 64x4 core computer that handles the Proteus 2500
and other optional modules we might use. Both 1820s together provide an
additional 4 microphone inputs. Most of the mixing is done in computer. Each
1820 has two sets of MIDI in and outs. The net effect is that we have up to 64;
MIDI channels to work with. The Proteus 2500 will send and receive on 32
channels. Sad to say, both interfaces began to fail in 2016 after several years
of reliable function and needed some new
capacitors to continue service. There is no support for hardware malfunction so
that enterprising users buy the capacitors and solder them in place themselves.
The are newer versions if the interfaces using the PCIe connector, but they also
appear to be unsupported for recent Microsoft operating systems and list drivers for Windows XP, not WIN 7 or 10. EMU
disappeared into Creative, a sound card company that has no plans to continue this excellent
line of professional gear.
Below is a 4 channel version of the EMU software mixer. Any number of channels
can be added as needed. On the right you can see an input and output patch bay
above the output controls. There are a host of effects that can be inserted in
the channel strips or as side chain auxiliary effects. The mixer is displayed on
its own LCD monitor; a 1440 x 900 24" display is perfect for a 16 channel setup.
The complexity and versatility of the mixer can confuse and deter inexperienced
users, but makes perfect sense to experienced sound engineers,
In 2010, the Korg M3 sound module was added to the Persona Digital Studio.
This is a descendent of the Korg Trinity and Triton series of workstations that
evolved in the past 15 years. Some familiar features of the Trinity/Triton
series persist -- banks of programs and combinations, a touch screen with
progressive menus, and a 16 track sequencer. All the features appear in layered
collections of menus; the overall complexity of the M3 compared with the Trinity
has been increased. The M3 looks promising but the learning curve is
steep, even for old pros. I have concerns that a new, inexperienced user will
face some obstacles. One problem with the Korg M3 and Karma is that the
setup is complex and not intuitive.
By 2015 the M3 was no longer in production. One interesting feature is a version of Stephen Kay's Karma, an
algorithmic composition/performance program that advanced students of music can
study and enjoy. The M3 comes with a computer based editor. The programs (patches) are designed to be played
alone and some, at least, are wonderful creations by experienced
programmer-musicians. Each program utilizes several effects to achieve the
final result; however, when you mix these magnificent voices you have to guard
against music mush (aka noise).
Here is an edited description from the M3 manual of this complex and
potentially expressive instrument: "Rich and vivid sound produced by a new
Enhanced Definition Synthesis sound generator based on PCM sources.; Each voice
has two oscillators allowing four-stage velocity; switching, cross fading,
layering, using up to eight (stereo) multisamples, four filters,; two amps,
five LFOs, and five EGs, all available simultaneously. The oscillator selection
is; 1,032 multisamples sampled at 48 kHz, as well as 1,606 drum samples. The amp
section includes a driver circuit that adds edge and character to the sound. The
key tracking generator allows the filtering to vary according to the keyboard
range; you can apply subtle filtering for convincing simulation sounds, or
aggressive filtering that produces drastic changes in filtering as you play up
or down the keyboard.;; Envelope generators; allow you to specify how the sound
develops over time. The each EG stage (attack, decay, slope, and release) allows
you to create accurately simulated acoustic sounds. 50 different modulation
sources provides complex expression; control over the; performance. AMS Mixers
let you create even more detailed modulation designs, such as mixing two
modulation sources together, multiplying; one modulation source by another, or
modifying the shape of the modulation source in various ways."
Ableton live is a different approach to music creation with a special ability
to support live performance with an associated controller. The software
comes from a clever group of musician-programmers in Berlin. They describe
their DAW: ”Live is software for creating musical ideas, turning them into
finished songs, and even taking them onto the stage. With two views - the
classic Arrangement View, where musical ideas are laid out along a timeline, and
the unique Session View, where you can improvise and quickly experiment with
musical ideas. Live is a fast, fun, intuitive way to make music. No matter how
you start your music, Live offers a workflow that will help you get going.
Record audio or MIDI from any source. Mix and match loops and samples from any
tempo. Work with a huge range of included sounds, instruments, and effects. You
can even move seamlessly from audio to MIDI; using Live’s unique audio-to-MIDI
conversion tools, turn drum breaks, guitar lines, or even harmony parts into
MIDI patterns that you can edit and reuse with your own sounds.”
This software can turn a
laptop computer into a complete music studio. The
program becomes powerful using looping audio samples and an array of
sound processing effects. MIDI can control plug in software synthesizers so that
an entire studio can be housed in one computer. There are many video tutorials
and performances on YouTube. The video tutorials are free and some courses are low cost.