SONAR 8.3+ External Inserts Enhancements & Tips

Last updated on 3/31/2016

SONAR 8.3 External Insert Enhancments & Tips

SONAR 8.3 includes numerous enhancements to improve the performance of the External Insert feature.  In a nutshell the external insert feature sports:

  • Improved sync when mixing external hardware with other plug-ins that require delay compensation
  • Improved sync while looping
  • Multiple external inserts can be used in the same project
  • Improved stability on multi-core computers

While all of these enhancements offer improved performance, the tips and instructions below will help you get the most out of SONAR's external inserts feature.


Measuring the delay

To measure the delay, make sure your sends and returns are configured properly and that there is a "circuit" for audio to pass from your send back to your return. Pressing the delay measurement button will send an audio signal through the circuit. The round-trip time for this signal to return is measured and displayed on the button. This is the delay that will be compensated for in SONAR to keep the track in sync with the rest of the project.



Testing the Delay Measurement

The External Insert's delay measurement is normally sample accurate. However, for some hardware configurations, it is possible that a manual adjustment of up to several samples may be required to be exactly sample-accurate. For most users, even this rare timing mismatch would be insignificant and could be ignored. If you wish to test the accuracy the delay measurement is for your hardware, you can do the following test:


  1. Create an audio track with an audio clip
  2. Clone this track (including the audio)
  3. Patch the External Insert on one of the tracks
  4. Set up the send and return to use some available inputs and outputs on your sound card
  5. Directly patch an audio cable between the inputs and outputs on your sound card
  6. Press play in SONAR - you should hear both tracks out of time with each other
  7. Carefully match the levels of the two tracks (hint: use the numeric peak indicators on the track strip). It's important for this test that the levels are as close as possible
  8. Flip the phase of one of the Tracks
  9. Measure the Delay - A number of milliseconds should appear on the delay button
  10. Press play in SONAR again - you should now hear the track play significantly quieter and thinner sounding
  11. To see if the delay is measured as accurately as possible, try adjusting the manual offset by one sample either way. Press play after each adjustment and note if the sound gets louder or quieter.

In almost all cases, you should find that the sound is quietest with no manual offset. In some rare circumstances, you may have hardware that requires an offset of a sample or two. If this is the case, you will want to always add that offset when you use the External Insert (hint: the manual offset can be saved in a preset for the External Insert). If you perform the measurement accuracy test, it should only need to be done once for any particular sound card.


Delay measurement Invalidation

Several things can change the delay of the External Insert such as:


  • Changing Audio ports
  • Changing Audio driver model
  • Changing Audio device
  • Changing SONAR's buffer size

When the delay becomes invalid, an "*" is displayed by the number of milliseconds on the measurement button. When you see this, it means something has changed in your system and it's time to measure the delay again.


Freeze It

The External Insert is a simple way to use real outboard effects as if they are inside SONAR. However there are several good reasons why you should consider freezing the audio that passes through the External Insert and capturing the result of the external hardware processing. You would do this after the outboard gear settings are "dialed in". If you want to make a change later, you can always un-freeze, change settings, and freeze again. This is the only inconvenience of freezing the result of the External Insert. Consider the following issues if you choose never to freeze the External Insert track:


  • If the outboard effect's settings are changed (say, between sessions), your project will sound different.
  • If you change buffer sizes often, you will need to re-measure the delay on all instances of the External Insert each time.
  • If you collaborate with another studio, it will be impossible for the other studio to get the same sound as you unless they have the exact same outboard gear with exactly the same settings.
  • You may want to use that outboard gear for something else - either in an External Insert on another track, or for any other use in your studio.
  • No way to use the same piece of outboard gear on different projects with different settings.

To freeze a track with the External Insert patched, you need to select the Real-time Audible option in the freeze options.

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