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SoundOnSound - July 2014 - Sample Your Gear With Acustica Audio Nebula (Part II)

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Learning to capture the behaviour of controls will take your custom Nebula creations to another level. Last month, I explained the basic tools and techniques required to 'sample' preamps and reverbs for Acustica Audio's Nebula plug‑in (http://sosm.ag/outboardin_nebula-pt1). If you're new to Nebula or its bundled NAT sampler, I recommend reading that article before this one. This month, I'll demonstrate how to capture gear with multiple controls, using EQs for the main examples. As Nebula is so demanding of processing power, I'll also help you make your Programs more resource-efficient.


A Nebula Program with sampled adjustable controls is called a Multi, because impulses are captured for multiple positions of at least one control. As you adjust the control of the resulting Nebula Program, the plug‑in shifts between the corresponding impulses. While I'll focus on EQs in this guide, Multi Programs don't have to be EQs or even have proper controls, for that matter — you could make one based on different mic positions relative to a guitar cab, for instance. Even compressors are possible (albeit tricky) with sufficient experience and experimentation.

Some of you will, no doubt, hope to capture every control on some esoteric bit of hardware, with lots of controls and lots of resolution per control. I'm afraid that's not going to be possible. Stunningly good results are achievable, but there are several limitations that mean you'll need to spend a lot of time planning and prioritising before you hook up your gear and start sampling.

You'll learn that some controls will require larger numbers of samples, which means that you may be forced to use fewer than you wanted for the other controls. But, if you know where and how to make those compromises, you can still get a good result. In other words, it's all about prioritising, knowing where you need more samples and where you can get by with fewer when you need to. The sample count also means that Multis are almost always non‑dynamic: they trade the ability to recreate dynamic behaviour for the ability to have adjustable controls. It's possible to have both features in one Program, but it's very tough to pull that off. Again, it requires many samples to be recorded, and it's usually impractical. A common and effective workaround is to make a preamp‑style Program that mimics the dynamic behaviour of the unit but not the equalisation, and use this alongside a Multi that takes care of the EQ'ing but not the dynamics.

No extra effort is required to create a Multi with sampled harmonics, though. These are always captured during the sampling process, so you simply tell NAT how many you want in your Program and it will extract them from the recordings. The limits to how many samples Nebula can handle in a single Program mean that, if you want to make a Multi with lots of sampled positions on multiple controls, you might have to accept having fewer harmonics than you wanted. Don't worry about this now, because you can always change your mind after the recording process.

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