Not enough will be said in this review about the exceptional editing capabilities of the Ensemble. As mentioned, when recording is done, the entire Soundfile of each recording is placed in the Mixview window as a Cue. These Cues can be cut up into a million pieces, moved all over the 8-track work area, copied, cut and pasted, and otherwise maneuvered in ways I've not seen before on any other system. This system is easily one of the most powerful I've seen.
Essentially all functions on the control panel are available on the screen in the popular pull-down menu method. But there are several functions available only by using the pull-down menus. For the rest of this review, we'll refer to control panel buttons unless the function can only be accessed via a pull-down menu on screen.
After recording a Soundfile, it's best to trim the front and back of the Cue of any silence or noise before and after the desired portion of the recording. The Ensemble uses a RAM buffer, so the scrub function works very well. Use the scrub wheel to move the TimeLine and cue up to the beginning of the audio where you want to the Cue to start, then press the MARK START button. This moves the start point of the Cue to the position of the TimeLine. Do the same on the back end of the Cue and press the MARK END button. Now you have a nicely trimmed Cue that visually reflects its proper length in the Mixview window.
After recording elements into your project, about the easiest thing to do is move Cues from track to track. This is a simple click and drag function. It doesn't get simpler. Need to edit out a bad take in the voice track? Click on that Cue to "select" it. Press the EDIT button. The screen switches to the Edit Mode where the waveform of the Cue is quickly drawn on the screen and enlarged for easy editing. Zoom functions are available. Use the scrub wheel to find the in point of your edit. When located, press the "[" button. Find the out point and press the "]" button. Indicators on the screen move to show the Edit Region you've selected. Press the CUT button and, within a second or so, the edit is done. Press the EDIT button again to return to the Mixview window. The audio that was "cut" is now placed in the "clipboard." Audio in the clipboard can be "pasted" anywhere in the project by pressing the PASTE button. Pressing the COPY button instead of the CUT button after marking the Edit Region copies that audio into the clipboard where it can be pasted elsewhere in the project, leaving the original cue untouched.
Let's say you have a Cue of a voice track that reads, "Win cash all weekend (pause) thousands of dollars" and you'd like to overlap the word "thousands" on top of the last part of "weekend" to give it that double-tracked effect. Scrub to the pause between "weekend" and "thousands." Press the SEPARATE button. Now, the one Cue becomes two individual Cues, and the second one, with the latter part of the sentence, can be moved to an adjacent track and slipped back just enough to overlap the other Cue. This takes mere seconds to perform! If you want to reclaim one of the two tracks used for this scenario, select the two overlapping Cues and press the SEGUE button. This digitally mixes the two Cues together to form a single new Cue which can replace the other two. Again, all editing is nondestructive. You can always retrieve the original Soundfile, or you can use the UNDO button. Like most workstations, the Ensemble offers an undo function, and you get a hefty thirty-two levels of undo. The REDO button sends you the other direction after undoing and, again, offers thirty-levels of redo.
The opposite of the SEPARATE button is the SPLICE button. Pressing SPLICE "splices" two selected Cues together so they can be manipulated as one Cue, but they still retain their individuality and can be separated. Use the SPLICE/JOIN function from the pull-down menu to actually make the two Cues become one.
The INSERT button takes whatever audio has been cut or copied into the clipboard and inserts it at the selected point within a Cue. This is handy if you need to extend a piece of music by another bar or two. Just mark the part you want to repeat, press COPY, cue to the insert point, and press INSERT. Seamless looping of audio is performed using the Fills function. A "Fill Region" can be defined and then "filled" with audio from a "Fill file." Confusing? Yes, a little. Rather than take a paragraph to describe the steps, let it suffice to say that the Fill function is a very versatile way to loop music or sound effects, but you won't stumble across this function and start using it without reading about it first.
Other editing functions on the control panel include the CLEAR button which records "digital silence" to selected regions and/or Cues. The X-FADE function takes two Cues on adjacent tracks with overlapping audio and automatically fades one out while fading the other up. This function works nicely on promos or spots with several testimonials, one after the other. The fades sound smoother than abrupt edits.
Most of the editing functions explained so far are pretty basic, but when you go to the pull-down menus, you begin to see the real power of the Ensemble. There are several special paste functions under the PASTE SPECIAL menu selection including Reverse Paste which creates a new soundfile of whatever audio is in the clipboard (from a Cut or Copy function) with the audio reversed. This is also where the Ensemble's time compression function is found. Again, a new Soundfile is created with whatever time scaling is applied. I took a sixty-six second voice track and shrunk it to sixty. This took about three and a half minutes for the system to rewrite the file. The result was a very clean, glitch free time compression with only a couple of places where it was barely noticeable that something had occurred. Though a bit time consuming, this is a nice function if you can't get the voice talent back for a second read. If done to stereo tracks, such as music, the function takes longer. Other Paste Special functions include pasting a pitch shifted version of a Cue and pasting an EQ'd version which retains the selected Cue's EQ settings. More on the EQ section later.
One of the most impressive editing functions found on the pull-down menus is the Strip Silence function. Together with the Checkerboard function, these two functions make producing promos with multiple voice effects lots of fun. Let's say your promo has ten sentences or phrases you want to set off from each other by using a filter, flange, echo, or whatever effect you like. Rather than record several individual Soundfiles with the different effects, just hit RECORD and start reading the copy. When done with the first line, reset effects and read the next line, reset effects and read the next, etc., being sure to leave a little space in between each read. (This shouldn't be a problem since you're pausing to reset effects anyway.) When done, you'll have one long Cue in the Mixview window. Now, select the Strip Silence function and the Ensemble goes through the entire Cue, separating each segment of the read, making each an individual cue with Mark Start and Mark End points set exactly at the beginning and end of audio for each segment! Very nice. The silence threshold and duration settings can be customized. What you have on screen now are ten Cues all on the same track with empty space between each. If you're like me, you want each element to slightly overlap each other to give the promo a sense of fast motion. Next, use the Checkerboard function from the pull-down menu. The Cues automatically place themselves on adjacent tracks--first Cue on track 5, second on track 6, third on track 5, fourth on track 6, etc.. Very fast track assigning! Now, you're ready to move each Cue into place. The CAPTURE button comes in very handy here. Use the scrub wheel to cue to the point where you want the next Cue to start, select that Cue, and press CAPTURE. The selected Cue instantly moves to that position. The Capture function is also handy when back-timing vocals to jingle sings or musical posts. Pressing the SHIFT key on the keyboard while pressing CAPTURE moves the end of the Cue to the TimeLine.
Moving groups of Cues is a breeze. Clicking on a Cue selects that cue and highlights it. Clicking another Cue deselects the first and selects the new Cue. Holding the SHIFT key while clicking additional Cues enables selecting multiple Cues. When multiple Cues are selected, they can all be moved simultaneously with the click and drag function of the trackball. If you want to somewhat permanently group these selected Cues together, use the Group function from the pull-down menu. At any time, the Ungroup function can reverse the process. If you want to completely turn the group into one easy to manage Cue, use the Assemble function to write a new Soundfile made up of all the individual Cues.
Moving around on the Mixview window is fast. As mentioned, placing the cursor in the Overview Bar and clicking will instantly locate to anywhere within the project. Pressing the GO TO START button locates to the beginning of the selected Cue. Press the GO TO END to locate to the end of the Cue. SET 1 and SET 2 set locate points wherever the TimeLine is located when pressed. These can be used on the fly as well. Press GO 1 or GO 2 to locate to the SET 1 and SET 2 points. The GO 0 button is a return to zero function. Press LOOP 1-2 to playback repeatedly between the SET 1 and SET 2 points.
There are "nudge" buttons for moving Cues in small increments either forward or backward on a track. The ADD MARK button places markers within a project that can be used to jump the TimeLine to. Notes can also be attached to these markers, and the notes will appear in the Timecode bar of the Mixview screen when the Show Notes function is selected. The SAVE button saves the Mixfile to disk. The button stays lit if changes have been made to the Mixfile. It goes out after saving. One modification I'd like to see is a flashing SAVE button when changes are made that haven't been saved. This would get your attention and remind you to save regularly. Soundfiles are recorded directly to disk, so they are always retrievable. But the Mixfile, which is where MOST of your work is done, is saved to disk only when you exit the project or press the SAVE button. On a couple of occasions, I lost work on new projects because the system locked and required re-booting. The Soundfiles were there, but the Mixfile, which had all my edits and 95% of my work, was nowhere to be found. (The system did not lock up regularly. On one occasion, I performed a "non-function" by double-clicking a Cue while pressing the Option key. The system didn't know what to do. The other time, a "disk full" message had just been received, and it's probable that the lockup occurred because of a lack of disk space. Outside these two occasions, the system performed according to design.)
There are several other editing functions, both on the control panel and in the pull-down menus, that space won't allow mentioning. But you get the idea; this is a full-featured system, and then some.