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Best practice for adding Effects

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Best practice for adding Effects

Postby hkrobster » Tue Mar 06, 2018 12:53 pm

Dear community

I am learning mixing using Studio One. I have a question I would be interested in hearing your opinions on...

For adding FX to an audio or instrument channel (or bus of multiple channels) I see two basic approaches.

1) Route the signal from the original channel (or bus) to a dedicated FX channel via a SEND. Both the dry channel (or Bus) and the FX channel then route via their outputs to Main mix => The FX channel and dry channel (or Bus) are both mixable via their faders to the main mix.

2) Send the entire signal from the original channel (or bus) via its OUTPUT to the dedicated FX channel in. Output that to the Main mix. => There is no virgin dry signal left on the Main mix. Here, we adjust the level of dry signal in the mix within the actual effect(s).

I know both work, I'm just wondering which you prefer. It would seem that approach (1) i.e. retaining dry signal would not make sense for dynamics e.g. Compressor/Gate or EQ. So perhaps the best approach is to SEND to FX channel as in (1) for things like reverb and delay etc.. and then apply dynamic effects to the whole Main mix sum which comprises the dry mix as well?

Looking forward to your thoughts!

Robert
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Re: Best practice for adding Effects

Postby Matt Houghton » Tue Mar 06, 2018 1:41 pm

Hi Robert.

There are no rules (cliché alert) and a DAW lets' you do pretty much what you desire these days.... but as a working guide, I'd start with the traditional approach of placing *processors* (by which I mean things like compressors, gates, limiters, EQs, saturators that affect the whole signal) as inserts, and *effects* like reverb and delay on sends.

There are exceptions of course — delay-based effects such as chorus, phasers, flanging I'd typically use as inserts. And you might sometimes want to use a reverb as an insert if you're using it to change a sound (eg adding ambience to a snare drum sound) before you send the resulting sound to one of your main send effects.

Not only does placing reverbs and delays on sends mean you use less CPU, but it also means different elements in your mix can share the same 'spaces' in different amounts — which can help to give your mixes a better sense of cohesion — and that if you wish to change those spaces, you only have to do so once, rather than replace a gazillion instances on every channel. IT also means that if you decide your whole mix sounds too 'wet' you can simply bring down the reverb return channels' faders.

Naturally, there are perfectly valid reasons to use compressors, gates, distortion, tape emulations etc as send effects — essentially some more advanced parallel processing tricks, or where you want to process only part of the signal. But I'd recommend steering clear of those until you first have a good feel for the traditional way of doing things — keep it simple, keep your focus on the music!

Hope this helps,

Matt
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Re: Best practice for adding Effects

Postby Zukan » Wed Mar 07, 2018 8:37 am

^^^^
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Re: Best practice for adding Effects

Postby hkrobster » Wed Mar 07, 2018 10:33 am

Matt Houghton wrote:Hi Robert.

There are no rules (cliché alert) and a DAW lets' you do pretty much what you desire these days.... but as a working guide, I'd start with the traditional approach of placing *processors* (by which I mean things like compressors, gates, limiters, EQs, saturators that affect the whole signal) as inserts, and *effects* like reverb and delay on sends.

There are exceptions of course — delay-based effects such as chorus, phasers, flanging I'd typically use as inserts. And you might sometimes want to use a reverb as an insert if you're using it to change a sound (eg adding ambience to a snare drum sound) before you send the resulting sound to one of your main send effects.

Not only does placing reverbs and delays on sends mean you use less CPU, but it also means different elements in your mix can share the same 'spaces' in different amounts — which can help to give your mixes a better sense of cohesion — and that if you wish to change those spaces, you only have to do so once, rather than replace a gazillion instances on every channel. IT also means that if you decide your whole mix sounds too 'wet' you can simply bring down the reverb return channels' faders.

Naturally, there are perfectly valid reasons to use compressors, gates, distortion, tape emulations etc as send effects — essentially some more advanced parallel processing tricks, or where you want to process only part of the signal. But I'd recommend steering clear of those until you first have a good feel for the traditional way of doing things — keep it simple, keep your focus on the music!

Hope this helps,

Matt

Matt,

thank you so much for taking the time to reply. That helps me very much. I very quickly noticed that there's any level of complexity one could take this to using a modern DAW. I was not aware of the fact that sends use less CPU, but I suppose that makes sense because creating an insert amounts to creating a new channel to process in parallel. Thank you so much for your thoughts!
Robert
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Re: Best practice for adding Effects

Postby The Elf » Wed Mar 07, 2018 11:11 am

The saving in CPU comes more from the fact that sharing one effect across several sources means less work for the processor than assigning a single effect to each source. The same can be said for placing a single insert processor over a group, rather than on individual channels. Essentially, the fewer instances of plug-ins you can use to do the job, the more processing capability you will have available to you.

And don't underestimate what Matt says about cohesion. With reverb, for example, you can end up with a cacophonous mess (and I hear this a lot with many of those I mentor), with many reverbs on each channel, rather than sharing a single reverb in appropriate amounts across multiple channels.

Just thought it was worth emphasising.
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Re: Best practice for adding Effects

Postby hkrobster » Wed Mar 07, 2018 12:35 pm

The Elf wrote:The saving in CPU comes more from the fact that sharing one effect across several sources means less work for the processor than assigning a single effect to each source. The same can be said for placing a single insert processor over a group, rather than on individual channels. Essentially, the fewer instances of plug-ins you can use to do the job, the more processing capability you will have available to you.

And don't underestimate what Matt says about cohesion. With reverb, for example, you can end up with a cacophonous mess (and I hear this a lot with many of those I mentor), with many reverbs on each channel, rather than sharing a single reverb in appropriate amounts across multiple channels.

Just thought it was worth emphasising.

Thank you so much! Very helpful indeed.
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Re: Best practice for adding Effects

Postby CS70 » Thu Mar 08, 2018 9:52 pm

hkrobster wrote:Dear community

I am learning mixing using Studio One. I have a question I would be interested in hearing your opinions on...

Reverb and delay are rather obvious sends (unless they have a "dry mix" knob, and even then CPU and glue consideration may suggest using a shared one).

For others - is it your intention to change the sound outright, or only augment with something? For example, if you're EQing to remove some ugly resonances, it makes no sense to mix the original signal with the effected one, as you really want to get rid of the resonances. But if you're compressing hard and distorting the signal, you may want to add only so much of that distortion, to give a bit of "zing" to the proceedings without altering the base timbre completely.
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Re: Best practice for adding Effects

Postby Matt Houghton » Fri Mar 09, 2018 10:56 am

I stand by what I wrote above — until you know more about what you're doing and why, try to stick to those basics. But if/when you're ready to dig deeper, there are lots of little questions to consider about the differences. But you can quickly disappear down the rabbit-hole...

For instance, when you automate a send to a reverb, you're actually increasing the volume of the part (even if the smearing quality of the reverb reduces the impact of that volume change): simply because you're adding wet signal to the dry. And you can't make it 100% wet without making the send pre-fader, and then fading out the dry signal. Which gets fiddly. So if you're going for an effect where you might want to automate between 100% dry and 100% wet, then it appears to make sense to use a reverb as an insert. But then you lose all the advantages of reverb as a send — the cohesion, the ability to EQ the reverb return, the CPU saving over multiple reverb instances, the ability to duck the reverb. So then you start inventing complex routing solutions like the 'echo mixture' one I described here: https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/recreating-bbc-echo-mixture-control
That enables you to use a send effect in the same way.

But by the time you're done setting up, you've probably forgotten why you wanted the effect in the first place.

Hence the advice to start out for at least a few years sticking almost religiously to the old-school way of using processors and effects. You'll make more progress, and when you do need to figure out routing issues like that one above, you'll be much better placed to do it — and will have made lots of great music in the mean time!
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Re: Best practice for adding Effects

Postby DC-Choppah » Sat Mar 10, 2018 1:43 am

Matt Houghton wrote:I stand by what I wrote above — until you know more about what you're doing and why, try to stick to those basics. But if/when you're ready to dig deeper, there are lots of little questions to consider about the differences. But you can quickly disappear down the rabbit-hole...

For instance, when you automate a send to a reverb, you're actually increasing the volume of the part (even if the smearing quality of the reverb reduces the impact of that volume change): simply because you're adding wet signal to the dry. And you can't make it 100% wet without making the send pre-fader, and then fading out the dry signal. Which gets fiddly. So if you're going for an effect where you might want to automate between 100% dry and 100% wet, then it appears to make sense to use a reverb as an insert. But then you lose all the advantages of reverb as a send — the cohesion, the ability to EQ the reverb return, the CPU saving over multiple reverb instances, the ability to duck the reverb. So then you start inventing complex routing solutions like the 'echo mixture' one I described here: https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/recreating-bbc-echo-mixture-control
That enables you to use a send effect in the same way.

But by the time you're done setting up, you've probably forgotten why you wanted the effect in the first place.

Hence the advice to start out for at least a few years sticking almost religiously to the old-school way of using processors and effects. You'll make more progress, and when you do need to figure out routing issues like that one above, you'll be much better placed to do it — and will have made lots of great music in the mean time!

Man, somebody should probably print out and frame that response. I know I did.
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Re: Best practice for adding Effects

Postby bill555 » Thu Mar 15, 2018 4:38 am

To me it's all about how many tracks you're talking. If only a track or two-ish, address individually. If many tracks, send to a send. :)
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Re: Best practice for adding Effects

Postby The Elf » Thu Mar 15, 2018 9:02 am

I'm not sure that this approach holds up. If the recording was, for example, of a piano and flute duet, it would arguably make even more sense to share a reverb to create a sense of a common space. I find that separate reverbs, even if they are set identically, begin to overlap and smear, and generally muddle the illusion of space.
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