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Ask, September 2011

September 1, 2011
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In Logic Pro, the left track (guitar) has an amp sim insert effect and the bus in the middle includes reverb, while the output (right) has a limiter instantiated.

In Logic Pro, the left track (guitar) has an amp sim insert effect and the bus in the middle includes reverb, while the output (right) has a limiter instantiated.

There are so many options with DAWs when running effects. When should I insert an effect in an individual track, and when would it work better as an FX channel (bus)? I''ve also read that it''s not a good idea to run effects on the master (out) channel. Is this true, and why?
EJ GAUNA
DALLAS, TX
via email

Effects use CPU power, so if, for example, you want reverb on several tracks, you can put a single, CPU-hungry convolution reverb in a bus and send varying amounts of signal from each channel to it. This also gives a more realistic sound, because all of the sounds feel like they''re in the same “room.” Tempo-synced delay is another common bus effect, and some people even use distortion for dialing in a little “grit” on multiple channels. On the other hand, you''d likely use an amp sim or tremolo on an individual track and not other tracks, making them candidates for insert effects.

As to master effects, the issue is that these effects will be “baked into” your final stereo mix. If you then take the track to a mastering engineer, he or she will be constrained by the effects you added. Suppose you added dynamics to “squash” the sound; you won''t be unable to “unsquash” it, and if you really do want a squashed sound, the mastering engineer probably has better tools that will do the job with more transparency.

One option is to mix with compression, EQ, or whatever in the master bus sounds good to you, and export a stereo mix. Then bypass the effects, and export another mix. This is the one you give to the mastering engineer to master—but also provide the other one and say, “We want it to sound like this . . . only better!”
—The editors

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