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Knowing how to set up an Effects Loop is a key mixing technique. Often used for adding reverb or delay to a mix, an Effects Loop enables multiple tracks to access one Effects processor or plug-in. This saves a lot of computer processing power, gives you a lot of control over the mix and can also help to unify the overall sound of a mix. Let's talk about the components used in an Effects Loop. First, we have the Send, and the Sends are listed right here in the Sends area of the Mix window or the Edit window but we are going to look at the Mix window. You might ask how did I set up this window so that I can see just this individual Send on this track.
Well, go into View > Mix Window Views > Sends A-E and then to show the individual send on the track, I went to view Sends A-E and chose Send A. A Send makes a copy of a track and route it to an output or a Bus. So whatever is on this track, this is the Acoustic Guitar 2 track. The Send makes a copy of that Acoustic Guitar 2 track and route it either to an interface, maybe an analog output or a digital output or to an internal Bus within Pro Tools.
Now Bus carries that signal somewhere usually to another track and I'd like to think of a Bus that's kind of like a pipeline. Finally, a return receives that signal from the Bus, affects it and then routes that signal somewhere usually to the main outputs. And in this case, our return is going to be this Auxiliary track so it receives the Bus 1-2 signal here at the input and then puts it out to the Analog 1-2, which is the main output.
So let me back up and explain this whole process here of how to set up an Effects Loop. First, what you do is you assign a Send on the track. So in this case we assign the Bus 1-2 and that's going to be our pipeline to send the copy of this track to somewhere else. Then we go over to the return, which is this Auxiliary track, and for the input of this track we choose that same Bus, Bus 1 and 2, so that this track is receiving what this is sending. Then we can put our effect on this track so we put an insert and in this case, I'm using a D-verb Reverb plug-in.
So now the copy of this Acoustic Guitar track is being routed here. It's being affected by this D-verb plug-in and then it's being routed to the main output of the session. With this setup, the individual Send Faders, right here control the amount of signal that's sent from each track to the Reverb plug-in on the Aux track over here. So you will see that both of these Acoustic Guitar tracks are routed to this Auxiliary track with the D-verb plug-in. We can control how much of the level from each track is sent to the Reverb plug-in using the Send control right here. The Aux Fader control, right here, controls how much of the reverb effect on those tracks is actually added to or returned to the overall mix.
And the whole idea of an Effects Loop is to have both an affected or a wet signal, and an unaffected or dry copy of each track going to the main outputs, so that you can control the level of both the wet and the dry signals separately in the mix. So you'll see on these two tracks we have the dry tracks being routed out here to the main outputs. And then we also have the copies of them being sent here where they are affected by the reverb. And we can control the Reverb amount here on the Auxiliary track.
One other thing here I want to mention is that I have made this Auxiliary track Solo safe. So it will always be active even if I Solo other tracks in the session, and the way to do that is to press Command on a Mac or Ctrl on Windows and Click the Solo button and you can toggle it between being non-solo safe and solo safe. And when it's kind of ghosted like this that means its solo safe. So let me show you what this means. We are going to go over and actually Solo these Acoustic Guitar tracks and because this is solo safe, we can still hear the effect coming through this track. So I'm going to play this and you can listen to the effect and how these controls, the Send controls and the Auxiliary controls, affect the overall mix of the dry and wet signals. (Music playing.) Effects Loop can be either Pre fader or Post fader. By default any new Send you assign in a session is set to Post fader. However, you can change that by clicking the Pre or the little P button here. Allow me to explain. The signal routed through a Send can either be affected by the volume on the tracks volume fader down here which makes it Post fader or you can decide to make it Pre fader and then the volume fader will not affect how much is sent out here.
Let me dig a little deeper, Pre fader sends routed signal on a track through the Send before the signal is effected by the Volume fader, the Solo, ad the Mute buttons. Whereas signals that are routed Post fader are affected by the Volume fader, Solo and Mute buttons. So why would you want to make a Send either Pre fader or Post fader? Post fader sends are the default because in most instances you want the levels of the unaffected dry and the affected wet signals to be controlled at the same time. In our example session here, if I mute the guitar track, the dry guitar track will be muted and the reverb signal will be muted as well. That way you won't get a ghost in the machine, a wet track without its dry counterpart and let's have a listen. (Music playing.) Now you did hear the reverb tail but you didn't hear the reverb effect going on while these tracks were muted. In contrast Pre fader Sends are perfect for when you actually do one that ghost in the machine or put it in another way, when you want the original track and the sent copy to be relatively independent of each other. For example, in our session here I'm going to create an effect where the drums slowly disappear into a reverb background. So I'm going to hit the Pre button and then press Play and check out the effect that we get. (Music playing.) With the Pre fader Send, as you pull down the fader on the drum track, the reverb drum signals stays the same level. As the dry track fades away, you're left with only the reverb or the wet version that you can then start fading out or in this case boosting to create whatever effect that you want.
One thing you should note is that all inserts that is plug-ins or I/O choices here affect both Pre fader and the Post fader sent signals. In other words, any effect that you add to a track as an insert will be on the track when it's routed through a Send as well. I found that using Effects Loops for Reverb and Delay effects actually sound better than using Reverb and Delay plug-ins on individual tracks. The setup shown here tends to make the mixes less muddy and have more impact. I'm sure once you learn to create them and understand the signal routing involved, Effects Loops will become an integral part of your own personal mixing technique.
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