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What is ARA?

Here at Synchro Arts, we talk about ARA a lot when it comes to using VocAlign and Revoice in Logic Pro X, Reaper, Nuendo, Cubase and Studio One – so what exactly is ARA? 

What does ARA mean? The snapshot

ARA is a revolutionary audio plug-in extension that allows an instant exchange of data between a plug-in and the DAW. Put simply, audio can be immediately captured meaning multiple vocal or instrument tracks can be aligned, tuned or manipulated simultaneously, and instantly – saving a great deal of time and the patience of producers [cue cheer]! 

ARA explained 

ARA, abbreviated from Audio Random Access, facilitates communication between the DAW and plugins in the sense that all audio data like tempo, pitch, rhythm is available in an ‘timeless’ way. For example, transferring volume inflections to several vocal tracks is possible with ARA, saving a large amount of time whilst achieving better, sonically-sounding results.

It’s important to note ARA functionality varies per DAW depending on how a DAW chooses to implement it. For example, when using VocAlign ARA in Logic Pro, you have to insert AU plugins on all Guide/Dub tracks. You can then open one of the instances and capture your Guide/Dub tracks from there. Whereas with Studio One, you can instantiate VocAlign by selecting an audio clip, and then clicking Audio > Edit with VocAlign (this has to be done for both Guide and Dub tracks). This will then open a VocAlign Project 5/Ultra window within Studio One and you will be able to capture your Guide and Dub tracks at the click of a button. Use the arrows to see the process happen for both Logic Pro X and Studio One:

Currently we are on ARA2, the latest version of Audio Random Access. The news that a second version of ARA was announced at NAMM in January 2018, which demonstrated new features of ARA that weren’t possible before, such as transfer of chord track information and undo synchronisation with the DAW.

“Time-saving tools on steroids”

Before ARA, plug-ins would have to process audio in realtime, meaning only one track could be processed at a time and had to be physically played through to capture all of the necessary data. This meant that, before ARA, the time-wasting task of aligning several vocal or instrument tracks had to be processed individually.

Imagine this – you have 12 backing vocals that need to be synced up with the lead vocal. With tools like VocAlign or Revoice Pro, this could be done in a matter of minutes before ARA-compatibility by selecting the guide vocal (the lead), and aligning each dub track (e.g. the backing vocals) individually. Whereas now, with ARA, we are able to do this in seconds by selecting all dubs and aligning them to the guide in a couple of mouse clicks.

"VocAlign in Logic Pro with ARA, what a game-changer. Absolutely love it!" – Alan Branch (U2, Primal Scream, The Cure)

Plugins that are ARA2 compatible:

  • Revoice Pro 4 by Synchro Arts
  • VocAlign Ultra by Synchro Arts
  • VocAlign Project 5 by Synchro Arts
  • Melodyne by Celemony Software (version 4.2 or later)
  • SpectraLayers by Steinberg (version 6 or later)
  • Auto-Align Post 2 by Sound Radix (version 1)
  • iZotope RX by iZotope (with Logic Pro X)

VocAlign: ARA in context

In the VocAlign Project 5 non-ARA plugin, the audio information has to be fed into the plugin, hence why you are prompted to “record” it during the capture process. In the ARA version, the plugin simply fetches everything it needs without playing (or recording) any audio. More so, the processed audio can be replaced instantly within the DAW. This allows the plugin to import and export audio instantly, rather than in real time for the non-ARA version. 

DAWs that are ARA2 compatible:

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