This guide highlights the best practices when using the SoundID Reference DAW plugin - default plugin placement, dedicated monitor bus, and how to set up in popular DAWs.
In this article:
- Default plugin placement and render-bypass workflow
- Using a dedicated monitor bus instead
- Setting up a dedicated monitor bus in different DAWs: Studio One, Cubase, Pro Tools, Ableton Live, Reaper
Default plugin placement and render-bypass workflow
The SoundID Reference DAW plugin should always come last in the chain. By default, the plugin should be placed on the master output channel, after all the analyzers and metering plugins (including speaker emulation and crossfeed plugins, such as Waves NX and Can Opener).
The plugin must be fully bypassed for exporting audio from your DAW. In other words, the calibration should only be applied to your monitoring setup, not imprinted on the actual rendered audio. Failing to do so would imprint the sonic anomalies of your monitoring system on the rendered audio.
A hard bypass must be used for this step (bypassing the plugin entirely), not just disabling the calibration inside the SoundID Reference plugin. The render-bypass workflow presents two significant aspects, which could be problematic for some users:
- There will be a volume increase after bypassing the plugin if the Safe Headroom feature was used (using Safe Headroom is recommended to avoid clipping, and is enabled by default).
- Some DAWs won't be able to notify you about the SoundID Reference plugin still being active in case you have forgotten to bypass it for rendering
There is a number of creative ways you can avoid the output gain issue. For example, you could use a metering plugin/analyzer before the SoundID Reference plugin and consult it for all of your final mix information instead of the master VU meter.
For the second issue, there is a render-bypass notification feature in place, which will remind you to bypass the plugin for rendering. Note that this feature works with select DAWs only, and there can be other functionality exceptions (unwarranted render-bypass warnings).
Using a dedicated monitor bus instead
The solutions mentioned above should cover most users. However, there is a smarter set-and-forget method that can be used: setting up a dedicated mix track (AUX track) as your monitor bus, and placing the SoundID Reference plugin on it, effectively turning it into a dedicated SoundID Reference monitor bus. This way, the plugin can stay permanently active since the dedicated monitor bus will not be a part of the master print track. There are obvious advantages to this setup:
- No need to bypass the plugin for rendering
- No output gain leveling issues due to the Safe Headroom feature
Some DAWs already have this feature built-in and ready to go, such as Control Room in Cubase, Monitor FX in Reaper, Listen Bus in Studio One, etc. If your DAW doesn't have a built-in monitor bus feature, you can easily create one manually.
See the examples below, and read about more clever routing techniques in different DAWs in the following Sonarworks Blog post: How To Use Reference In Pro Tools, Logic, and Cubase.
Using the Listen Bus in Studio One Professional
- Open the console by selecting View > Console (or press the F3 key on your keyboard)
- Click the wrench icon on the left side of the console
- Check the box next to Enable Listen Bus
- Set the output of the Listen Bus to your main outputs
- Insert the SoundID Reference plugin in the Post insert section
Use the Control Room in Cubase Pro
- Open the audio connections window by selecting Studio > Audio Connections
- Select the Control Room tab
- Set the Control Room outputs to your main outputs
- Click the Show/Hide Right Zone in the upper right corner (or press Cmd+Option+R on your keyboard) or open the Control Room window by selecting Studio > Control Room
- Select the Inserts tab
- Insert the SoundID Reference plugin under the Monitors section
Create a dedicated monitor bus in Pro Tools
- Assign all the tracks in your session to a stereo bus, like Bus 1-2
- Create a Master Fader and assign it to Bus 1-2
- Create a stereo Aux track, set its input to Bus 1-2 and its output to A 1-2. Solo safe this Aux track (Cmd+Click the Solo button). This Aux will be the speaker monitor control, so you can label this track “Monitors”
- Insert the SoundID Reference plugin on this Monitors Aux track and load your monitor profile preset
- Create a new stereo Audio track with its input set to Bus 1-2 and its output to A 1-2. (You will keep this track muted.) This is your Print track and you can record your final mixes to playlists on this audio track
- Once you print a mix to this track, simply click on the audio waveform and press Shift+Cmd+K to export the file (at whatever bit-depth and sample rate you choose) to a folder of your choice
Create a dedicated monitor bus in Ableton Live
This setup works really well if you are using several outputs simultaneously - this way, you can insert the SoundID Reference plugin with a unique preset for each unique output device:
- Create a new audio track - you will be using it as your monitor bus
- Insert the Reference plugin into the newly created audio track
- Make this monitoring track receive audio from the Master track (Post FX)
- Set the monitor mode to 'In'
- Set 'Ext. Out' as the Audio output and select the exact physical output that you wish to monitor on
- In case your Master track is already routed to your monitor output, you can route your Master track to a different, unused output, or even turn the master fader down to zero
Create a Monitoring FX track in Reaper
In Cockos Reaper, whatever you put on the Monitoring FX channel will only apply to the monitoring signal flow. When you print or render your master out, the Monitoring FX channel effects will have no effect on the result:
- Click on View > Monitoring FX
- Add the SoundID Reference plugin in the Monitoring FX section
- Notice how in the top-right corner of Reaper, a green Monitor FX button appears. This means the Monitoring FX channel is now active for all Reaper projects currently open, not just the one in the foreground. You can easily toggle the Monitor FX channel ON/OFF with this button