Best practices for using/applying plugins?

Discussion in 'Tracking / Mixing / Editing' started by sshack, Feb 20, 2008.

  1. sshack

    sshack Active Member

    So I'm laying in bed last night thinking about this stuff....Lord help me.

    I realize that there's probably no 'best' way, so perhaps someone can enlighten me with the pros and cons here...

    Regarding the differences of applying a plugin effect (say verb, delay, comp, etc.) either directly to a channel/track or as an AUX channel and then bus it to the respective instrument track. I understand some of the obvious points of being able to control levels and maybe the wet/dry mix, but sonically is there much difference when looking at the overall picture?

    And as I type, I just thought of another....(I'll research this, but let me throw it out anyway); how about the signal chain of said effects? I imagine that it may be just like the arrangement of my pedals for my guitar, which to put first, which to put last...and so on. If I put the verb first then the delay, am I delaying my reverberated signal, and visa versa?

    Thinking out loud here, any help or experienced comments are much appreciated.

  2. natural

    natural Active Member

    No qualtiy difference between inserting to the track or an Aux, only how the signal is routed.

    Yes, usually the inserts of a DAW (you didn't mention which DAW you use) are in Series meaning that the signal is altered and then passed on to the next effect in the chain like your pedal board.
    BTW- this should be clearly stated in your manual.
  3. sshack

    sshack Active Member

    Logic 8. It's a 1000+ page manual and I'm a slow reader.
    Though I figured it was in series.


  4. hueseph

    hueseph Well-Known Member

    The convolution plugins I've used only work well as inserts and suffer huge latency as an aux send but that's just me. Generally though, I like to have dynamic and eq effects as inserts and delay/modulation effects as sends. Simply because they're easier to automate if they're on a separate track.
  5. sshack

    sshack Active Member

    Good thought, thank you.
  6. Cucco

    Cucco Distinguished Member here's my thought(s) on the subject -

    We'll start with Busing versus inserting on a channel:

    Certain effects work better on a separate bus, some better on the channel itself and still yet others work fine either way. I can't say I've had any major issues with plugs on separate buses causing extreme latency issues, but I haven't specifically sought this out, so I may be off.

    Clearly when you want to apply the same effect to multiple tracks, busing the effects are preferred. A case in point would be reverb. Say you want to wash the cymbals in verb, but only put a little on snare. You could send them both to the same bus with a verb on it (at 100% wetness) and vary the amount sent. I know - this is a no brainer.

    What about compression? IMO, this doesn't work as well. First, a compressor is going to work completely differently when multiple signals are hitting it versus a single signal (whether that "single" signal be an entire drum kit or just a solo vox, versus a vox and a guitar...) That being said, If you have a bus set up for a voice or instrument such as drums, clearly it's advantageous to put your compressor on that and glue the instruments together with the compressor.

    Other effects such as flangers, EQ, pitch shifting, chorus/harmonizers, etc. work better when directly on the single track that it is affecting.

    So, ultimately, in the case of "to bus or not to bus" I believe the biggest deciding factor is the quantity of instruments you want to affect.

    Additionally, as has already been stated, if you wish to use automation on the effect, busing it (even for a single track) can really help make automation easy. You can be quite ceative with this whether it be automated EQ curves, automated pitch effects, reverb, flanger, etc...

    As for signal chain and flow, it's all a matter of deciding which effect will affect the remainder of the effects and will this be a benefit or a detriment.

    For example - EQ and Compression. If you put the EQ first and push a band really hard, you're going to get greater compression on that band since it will excite the compressor first. Minor adjustments to EQ aren't likely to really make a significant difference to the compressor however.

    What about compression and reverb - this is one of my favorites to play with. You can SERIOUSLY alter the way the reverb is handled by putting the compressor AFTER the reverb. Take an otherwise thin sounding tail and make it sound fat and extended by compressing the heck out of it.

    Generally, I'll put the reverb after the compressor unless I'm really wanting to do what I just mentioned above.

    In most cases, I think the only reasons one would need to worry about effect order (for the most part) is when compression is involved. In that case, simply think of what your signal will be doing to that compressor. Is this what you want or do you want to avoid this? Answering that question will answer your other remaining questions about signal flow.

    There's plenty more on the subject, but I'll leave it up to you if you want to ask a more specific set of questions or I'd end up writing 20 pages...

    pcrecord likes this.
  7. rockstardave

    rockstardave Active Member

    very well put, that's about 100% on my approach to effects as well.

    big up yourself and listen to these words
  8. Space

    Space Well-Known Member

    Yes you are.

    If the space or room the reverb produces is important to a specific instrument or voice then it becomes part of the sound of that track. So for the delay effect to be realistic and maintain the integrity of this sound, the order is important.

    Then again, you might like the way an instrument sounds when it is reverbed and delayed dry, reverbed and delayed dry, reverbed...
  9. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Can you say little kids?

    Can you say candy store for big kids?

    Do you suck on a Tootsie Pop until you get to the Tootsie Roll?

    Or, do you crunch it hard first so you can get to the Tootsie Roll Center faster?

    I've tried just about everything and I can tell you this...... I need a dentist.

    Ms. Remy Ann David
  10. rockstardave

    rockstardave Active Member

    remy thats got to be the most verbose way to say "like a kid in a candy store" .. ever.

    i think what she means is that you're a kid in a candy store when it comes to plugins, routing, busing, and insert capabilities. experiment and see what you like.

    since remy didnt harp on anyone about how they be stupid to do it a particular way, i can also assume she generally agrees with what has been said earlier in this post.
  11. kmackall

    kmackall Active Member

    I use Logic 8 myself. For reverb, I use an external Lexicon unit, so I have an aux i/o set up for that, and then each channel I want reverb on, I'll control how much via the send to that aux.

    For other effects, I always have compression on individual tracks, and I have it last in the chain. For vocal tracks, I'll reserve the first insert for Autotune (if I find I need to use it on that track), and EQ on the second insert. For instrument tracks, if I use a noise gate, that will be the first insert, and then any EQ the second, anything else like a chorus the 3rd insert, then then the last compression.

    Maybe it's just me, but I like both the effect of compression on just about every track, but that also gives me the ability to easily change the overall level of a track via the compression insert, when I've already have the volume automation set. I may get the mix where I like it, edit in some track volume automation, and then the person listening to it wants the overall level of a voice or instrument raised. Instead of having to change the track automation, I just make a simple change to the level in the compression plug-in for that track, and I'm done.

  12. sshack

    sshack Active Member

    Great comments and suggestions, thanks.
  13. tremont

    tremont Active Member

    I read through the answers quickly so I'm sorry if I didn't see someone else saying this, but sometimes if there isn't going to be a sonic difference, I'll make this choice based on saving CPU . I guess if you're on Protools HD it doesn't matter, but for most of us (especially running older/slower machines), routing a bunch of tracks through the same instance of a plugin makes a big difference in how complex our mixes can be.

  14. Tampa Recording

    Tampa Recording Active Member

    Use your ear. Don't be afraid to trust what you hear even if you're doing everything backwards.

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