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Stereospread

Stereospread—James Hopkins and Sara Snyder’s sweeping, evocative electropop collaboration—began shortly after the two met on Facebook. Hopkins soon purchased a one-way ticket to Snyder’s neighborhood in North Carolina, where they continue to collaborate to this day. Prior to his migration, producer Hopkins spent time creating electronic music and contributing to musical endeavors with Between the Now and Voiceless, as well as Chicago industrial torchbearers Eight and One Half.

A lifelong songwriter schooled in jazz, blues, and pop, Snyder is now the voice and mastering engineer of Stereospread. She is also a multi-instrumentalist with a background in piano, guitar, and trumpet and lends these instrumental talents to the Stereospread recording effort.

As electropop is digital to its core, it stands to reason that Stereospread would be pretty choosy about their DAW. They chose PreSonus® Studio One® Professional 2.5. “I previously owned a PreSonus TubePre preamp and AudioBox USB interface, and we’ve always respected the company’s outstanding reputation for consistent and reliable products, so trying out Studio One was a no-brainer,” Hopkins says. “We use Studio One for composing, recording, sound design, and mixing in our project studio at our home in Waynesville, North Carolina.”

Hopkins finds it easy to wax poetic regarding his most-used features in Studio One but one favorite is clear. “Macros!” Hopkins exclaims. “Being able to automate anything we want has proven the most useful. Not all DAWs let me customize to the same extent. Through use of macros, we can specify precisely sliced divisions when quantizing.”

“We also use Event Effects often,” Hopkins explains. “The ability to put effects on individual clips is one of most interesting and innovative features in Studio One. We’ve found that the drag-and-drop functionality really streamlines our workflow. Studio One allows us to work very quickly, and we appreciate that we don’t have to stop audio playback while consolidating sections. Furthermore, Melodyne is integrated into the program, which saves time because we don’t have to use an external window like we would with other pitch manipulation plug-ins. Studio One also quantizes particularly well.”

Experimentation is the order of the day for Stereospread, and Hopkins finds Studio One to be an environment rewarding of serendipitous production. “Here’s a trick I recommend,” posits Hopkins. “Take a loop, chop it up, and throw different effects on each clip. Bounce the clips and throw the bounced clips into Sample One. Rearrange the parts as you see fit. If you do this right, you’ll quickly have a new, glitch-filled library!

“While working on our album The Heart and the Thief, we found it fun to simply go crazy with adding effects to tons of clips, and we never overloaded our CPU,” Hopkins continues. “Before this, we had tried multiple other DAWs and tools, and found none of them offered us the same freedom in creating what we were looking for. The first time Sara heard the track “What You Want,” it was quite shocking for her to come in to the studio and suddenly hear her vocals chopped up, glitched, and effected—stretched out all over the song! All that work was done in such a short amount of time.

“Sara also masters our music,” Hopkins says. “Before we began working with Studio One, she mastered everything in Logic Pro, but now she does a good deal of mastering in Studio One.”

“The Project page layout in Studio One is great for mastering multiple tracks for an album,” Snyder adds. “Adding different plug-ins to each track or to the Master channel is a necessity. I also find myself overlapping and crossfading tracks often. These features are not available in Logic Pro, and Apple’s WaveBurner software is no longer supported or updated, so I was happy to find these features in Studio One. I also love the fact that Studio One automatically alerts me to whether or not I have the latest mixdown in the mastering project; it gives me the option to automatically render and update mixdowns directly within the project. This means that if we keep our mixdowns and masters on the same computer, I can automatically update to James’ latest mix for mastering! I don’t have to find him, get him to render the latest version, put it on a disk, import it, and add it to the project to continue working. It really streamlines our workflow. And when we update our mixdowns, Studio One doesn’t lose all our fades and automation!”

Stereospread has also joined the growing roster of users who have brought Studio One to the stage for live use, taking advantage of Studio One’s ReWire capability to integrate with Propellerhead’s Reason.

“We also use Studio One as a ReWire master to Reason in our live sets,” explains Hopkins. “We have Reason running some synths, while the MIDI output and live effects are handled by Studio One. We trigger various sections and jump to song markers in Studio One. The fact that we can insert a marker and name it is great for switching up the live set when we feel the crowd is ready for a new vibe. For example, we use the Stop at Marker option so that a song will play through to its completion and the next song won't start immediately afterwards. This way, we have time to reset our equipment and talk to the crowd. Plus we can control our Lexicon reverb unit through Studio One when playing live! We’ll load REX loops, assigned to a separate output channel, and then do audio processing live through Studio One to add effects on the fly. And we have all our patches saved right there in the Studio One browser! We have tons of effects loaded up and set to bypass, which allows us to then enable them with a quick key command.”

“We also love the PreSonus Exchange,” closes Hopkins. “It’s such a vast resource of user patches, ideas, and templates, all collected in one easily accessible place! Studio One is a great asset to our studio and provides us with great tools for tracking, audio manipulation, mixing, effects, and performance. We are proud to be part of the family and we couldn’t have written our upcoming album without it!”