Getting the most from aux sends requires you to understand how they work!
The recent release of Pro Tools 2022.6 brought with it, among other things, improvements to Dolby Atmos re‑renders, enhanced MIDI workflows and the option to display or burn‑in timecode in video. Useful as these are, the development which will make the most difference to me is a new preference allowing you to set a custom default level for newly created aux sends. I discuss this feature later in the ‘Default Send Levels’ box, but this also seemed a good opportunity to discuss the way sends are handled in Pro Tools generally.
A track in Pro Tools has a fader which controls the level going to an output or a bus. It is possible to route the track to more than one destination, but with only a single fader to control the output level, it is not possible to do so at a different level for each destination. In other words, using the main fader alone allows you to send a single mix to one or more places, but to have two different mixes, you need two sets of faders. Creating an aux send gives you an additional fader with which to create a different mix.
Why would you want to do this? The two classic use cases are effects sends and monitor mixes. There are other reasons you might want to use sends, but these two neatly illustrate the difference between pre‑ and post‑fade sends.
Sends are useful for more than just headphone mixes and reverb.
Exactly where the signal being sent via an aux is coming from makes a difference to how it behaves. A pre‑fade send is unaffected by moves on the main fader, making it independent of the main mix. Post‑fade sends, as the name implies, get their signal after the main fader, meaning that the level of the signal is controlled both by the main fader and that of the send.
This pre/post business can be confusing, and to make matters worse, both ‘pre’ and ‘post’ begin with ‘P’. Pro Tools sends are switchable between pre and post modes by hitting a button marked ‘P’ — not very helpful! In this case, it stands for Pre, and clicking the ‘P’ button so that it illuminates blue puts a send into pre‑fader mode. Screen 1 is a Photoshopped Pro Tools channel strip, in which I’ve rearranged the Headphones and Reverb sends to show them in their true position in the signal chain.
The reason these two varieties of aux send exist is to avoid unhelpful consequences. For example, if you want to share a common reverb across multiple tracks, the best way to do so is...