Effects vs. Processors

Discussion in 'Mixing & Editing' started by Doublehelix, Feb 25, 2002.

  1. Doublehelix

    Doublehelix Distinguished Member

    Oct 7, 2001
    I just read a *great* article in the February 2002 issue of Sound On Sound magazine regardingplug-insthat raised lots of questions in my mind about how I am currently using them. (I love articles that generate more questions than they answer!!!)

    Sound on Sound is a great magazine (U.K. based). Check them out at:


    This article discusses the difference between effects and processors, and where they should be used (channel inserts vs. Aux buses). Also they go into a great discussion about plug-in order, and more importantly...*why* they should be ordered in the way they recommend, but that will be saved for another thread...

    Effects vs. processors:

    Insert points can accept *either* effects or processors, while send/return loops (aux buses) should only be used with effects.

    What is the difference you ask? OK...here goes.

    Effects are generally delay-based (reverb, delay, echo, pitch-shifting) or modulation-based (phasing, flanging, chorus, vibrato). Effects almost always have a "mix" control to balance the dry signal with the wet signal. The article contends that when using an effect through the send/return loop, the direct channel path for the dry sound is through the mixer channel, so the effect should be set with the mix control set at 100% wet (effect only) so that only the effected sound is added when the channel (post-fade) send control is adjusted. If the effect is used in a channel (group or master) insert however, the wet/dry balance is set up using the mix control on the plug-in itself.

    Now for Processors:

    Processors have no mix control, because **no dry signal is used**...the output is entirely processed. Some common processors are EQ, gates, compressors, panners, and resonant filters. If there is no delay element and no mix control, you can be pretty sure it is a processor *not* an effect. Because it is not desirable to add the processed sound to the dry sound, processors are only used in insert points. If the dry sound were to be added, it would at best reduce the intensity of the processor, and could introduce some really unpleasant artifects.

    Now none of these rules are absolutely "set in stone". After all, rules are made to be broken! But in general, according to the article, these rules are considered the "standard" that we should be following.

    To summarize:

    Aux Sends: reverbs, delays, echos, pitch shifters

    Inserts: EQ, compressors, gates, filters, distortion (or any effect)
  2. dnmayn

    dnmayn Guest

    What then, may I ask, is an "effects processor"? :)
  3. Ang1970

    Ang1970 Well-Known Member

    Sep 5, 2000
    So what was your question? :)
  4. Doublehelix

    Doublehelix Distinguished Member

    Oct 7, 2001
    Hehe...I guess I was hoping for a discussion thread rather than posting a specific question. I obviously didn't generate much interest!

    I guess I am looking for people that have suggestions as to how to break the rules...or those that have a different set of rules...or whatever...
  5. Ang1970

    Ang1970 Well-Known Member

    Sep 5, 2000
    :Ang takes a virtual baseball bat to the head of whoever suggested there should be any "rules".: :D
  6. RandomGuest

    RandomGuest Guest

    Feb 10, 2001
    I'll jump in!

    Here's another reason why in a DAW setting it is important to set your effects at 100% wet when using them on an aux bus.

    Adding any plug in adds a slight delay to the original sound source, which can vary in length depending on the amount and type of processing involved. The delay a one band EQ might add would be very small compared to something like Autotune, but every plug-in creates a delay to some extent.

    Now this is often not critical, as for example, a processor is delaying the entire sound - so the particular track is not effected by the delay relative to itself - the only effect is how the track sounds relative to the other tracks on the session. This is a good reason why it would be risky to add a plug-in to one side of a stereo signal, but not the other - as now the left and right sides will sound out of phase because of the delay of the plug-in added side. ( I know some engineers who calculate the total delay of plugins on every track and then slide all the tracks around by that specific amount to compensate. This keeps all the tracks phase coherent to eachother. I'm sure it sounds better, but, some of us are just too damn lazy!)

    What does this have to do with effects on aux buses? Simple - if you forget to set the mix on the effect plug-in to 100% wet, some of the original dry signal will be mixed in with the wet. The problem is, that dry signal is still being delayed - both by the plug-in itself and because busing to the aux also introduces a tiny delay. So you are hearing the original sound added to whatever percentage of your effect is dry, with latter being delayed. If you want to hear the ultimate in phasiness, just try it yourself. Set up an aux return with a reverb set to only 20% wet. Put an aux send on a recorded track and gradually raise the aux send level and listen to the sound get increasingly crappy from phasing. Now try again with the effect at 100% wet - now you just get the reverbereance you probably intended. Hopefully this will be enough to make you remember to set your effects at 100% wet every time, unless of course, as Angelo would say, you are purposely going for the crappy phasey sound, in which case, go for it! :cool:

    And how come this forum doesn't have the wavey hand graemlin like Pro Talk does?!!! :confused:

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