Return to Sender

This week we’re going to delve further into the world of routing and getting our head around the digital version of plugging in cables. If you missed the last post, go here for an introduction to routing.

Today we’ll look common examples of effects processing, where we can put them in the signal chain and more importantly what sort of factors would go into your creative decision making.

The Origins of the Send Knob.

To understand the Kingdom of send we need to look back and understand originally audio devices weren’t used by self confessed audio nerds that enjoy talking about Hertz  and spatial characteristics of rooms but by men in awesome lab coats in large room filled with cool electronic gear.

Each piece of equipment worked as a modulator part. To solve this problem you need A, B, and C bit of equipment chained together. To solve that problem you need A, C and D and so on.

But at some point in the 1950’s someone discovered that adding 6 reverbs to re-create one acoustic space meant that you either spent the either song confused as the drums were in big room and the vocal were stuck in a cube in the corner…

Or you need 6 large boxes to do one thing.

Splitting the signal was born…

I want to point out here. I must have re-written this part about six or seven times but in the end a picture won out over long form gibberish.

Inline vs Split processing

On the left hand side, a small amount of the signal is being passed into the effect unit through the send knob. On the right, the signal is being completely processed.

And yes…the wet/dry knob on most modern units does the same thing.

As to the pre vs post fader options, I talked about this in the last post

To help distinguish between the two setups often you’ll hear the terms Inline processing (inline with the signal path) or Side processing (outside the signal path). So the real question becomes why would you want to use Inline vs Side?

Well, traditionally if you’re recording a group of musicians such as a 4 piece band. You’ll want a natural acoustic environment where everyone appears within it. Using one room reverb provides a sort of sonic glue that will help your brain place them in the same space.

Processing Control
You can process your reverb (effect) separately from the original signal. For example, you’re using a plate reverb for a drum and vocal track the plate is being overexcited by the the cymbals in the overhead mics. By using side processing we can now place an EQ across the reverb channel to help correct the reverb without damping the high frequency content of the dry signal.

CPU Limits
CPU have limits and often  if you’re like alot of my readers your CPU is pretty good but not amazing. Using a Send system means that your reducing load on the CPU and less crashes mean less swearing at your computer.

But there are plenty of great reason for inline processing as well.


Maybe you don’t care what the audience thinks and want to just mess with their brains. In that case put thirty reverbs on everything. Do what you want.

Dynamic control
Inline fx placement is often used where you need to process all of the signal not a portion. You wouldn’t for example want to half gate a snare drum for a rock track or half eq out a problem frequency. In this case INLINE all the way.

Sound Design…
Often having six delay on the one channel is awesome then you want to crush it using extreme limiting. Just do it.

Just remember…There are only traditions in the music environment not rules. No one is going to die if it sounds bad so don’t fall into the trap of being scared of making mistakes.

Getting our hand dirty…
Download this (Contain a 4 bar drum loops and a Deep house 4 bar synth stab)

1) Set up a send system with send A a large reverb (Something ridiculous like a church), Send B a small room which is reflective (This will give a better sense of the room) add Send A in 25% increments then B in 25% increments and then use a combination of. Pay attention to the the illusion that is created as you add the reverb.

2) Repeat step 1 with the stab. Try drums in the small reverb and stab in in the big reverb. Try the reverse.

3) Try putting a delay (try two delays) on the stab inline then adding drums and stab to the small room.

4) Active your routing from send A to send B add some small room to the big room. Do the reverse.

5) Keep Experimenting

Listen. Try different things. It’s all about exploring and finding what works and what sounds cool or not cool. Maybe that won’t work in this track but maybe in different track it will be the exact right thing.

That’s it for this week.

Subscribe, Share and definitely stay tuned because coming up we’re going to dive into sampling and working with loops.

I’m quite busy at the moment developing new segments for the blog. First up the playlist of the month. Some of it will be old, some of it new and some it obscure. Along with a little snippet about what makes it exciting to my ears. Check it out



About Braydon Zirkler

Currently based out of Melbourne. I'm dividing my time up between this blog, teaching, a radio show that's in the works and working on a live performance project with physical theatre performers. Get in touch here:
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