Tracks vs Channels - Exporting Stems In PreSonus Studio One Demystified

Working With Stems

If you’ve spent any time working in a DAW then you’ve most certainly heard of the term “Stems” before. Without getting into too much detail - the concept is actually pretty simple. If you are looking to collaborate with another person, whether that may be a producer, a mixer, or an artist, you will most likely be asked to deliver Stems to them - so that they may import the audio files into their DAW of choice and continue working on the song.

The general concept with Stems is that certain elements may be ‘grouped together’ and rendered out as an audio file. In some cases, this may be quite simple, such as: Drums & Percussion, Bass, Guitars, Keys, Vocals, FX.

In other cases it may be more complex, such as: Kick, Snare, Hats, Toms, Over Heads, Room, High Percussion, Low Percussion, Bass, Acoustic Guitars, Electric Guitars, Lead Vocal, BG Vocals, etc etc..

In addition, Stems can also have different channel width’s as well. Such as 4.0, 5.0, Stereo, Mono, etc etc.. But for the sake of today’s example, let’s keep it simple and deal with stereo.

**Before we move on, I also want to point out that there is another approach to exporting audio files as well, which would be “Raw” tracks.. Meaning that NO processing is applied during the exporting - but this is something that I plan to tackle on another day. For all intents and purposes - let’s assume that we want our Stems to have any plug-ins, Fader level’s, and Panning rendered into the Stereo File.

The Benefit’s of Stems

There are many different reasons why stems are a preferable way to work. The most obvious being that in the case where someone is using a different DAW - they would quite obviously NOT be able to open up a session from YOUR DAW (we do have AAF options available - but that’s a different article all together). Another good example would be when someone may have the same DAW, but NOT the same plug-ins.

And lastly, In all honesty it’s just a great way to keep things clean, tidy, and simplified when collaborating with others, or archiving your productions. Case in point, if you are 100% completely happy with your drum sound - then why complicate things any further? Just print a Drum Stem and be done with it. Your Drums will now be 1 Stereo track and 1 Fader in any DAW that the stem was imported into.

Conversely if you feel the need to leave your options open, then perhaps it’s better to “Stem Out” the drums into all of the individual elements to allow for additional processing and mixing further down the line.

But regardless, using Stems is a fantastic workflow - that simplifies the production / recording / mixing process immensely.

Exporting Stems In PreSonus Studio One

If we take the above into account - it’s quite easy to see how having different methods of exporting Stems can be useful. And thankfully - Studio One offers a plethora of different options for rendering audio depending on what needs to be accomplished - whether it’s a simple Stereo Lead Vocal Stem with ALL the FX and processing rendered in, or discrete Stems for each element of the Vocal.

The 'Export Stems' option in Studio One is an extremely useful way to quickly render out Stems from your Song. But did you know that there are some fundamental differences between using Tracks vs Channels?

In this video, I demonstrate the key differences between the 2 methods - as well as when (and why) to use one method over the other.

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Cheers, Marcus