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Knowledgebase 5. Using Cubase

Inserts, Sends, and Groups   (published: 20/11/2006 04:33:24 )
Article # 160
Title Inserts, Sends, and Groups
Inserts, Sends and Groups

One of the confusing things when starting out using sequencing software such as Cubase is the difference between insert and send effects and in what situation to use group tracks.

Cubase bases its routing on real-world mixers. On a hardware mixers channel strip, you have an number of insert points or inputs where you can interrupt the signal and route it to an external processor such as a compressor. This is what Cubase is replicating when you place an effect in an insert slot of an audio track. Remember with an insert effect, the whole audio signal is affected and changed.

The way a send works is slightly different. On a real-world mixer, each channel will have several aux send knobs which enable you to route a copy of the signal to different external effects. They are numbered because all the aux send 1's on the desk channels are mixed together as are all the aux send twos etc. This means you can route a number of channels to the same external effect and you can also control the level sent from each channel. The signal then comes back from the effect and goes back into the desk into an aux return which is just another stereo input on the desk.

This type of routing is useful for reverb, as you will likely want a number of your instruments to use the same reverb patch. Cubase works in a very similar way. You create an 'FX track', and you specify what effect you want. This FX Track is similar to the aux return on a mixer desk. Within the cubase channel strip you can now route a copy to your new effect, and control the level much like you would with the aux send knobs.

Finally, groups are stereo tracks which your audio tracks can be routed to. You can use both insert and send effects just as you would on an ordinary audio track. This enables you to add the same processing to several tracks at once and can be a very economical way of working as only one instance of each plug-in need be used - as opposed to using the same plug-in several times each audio track.

Cubase is very flexible and it allows you to move beyond what was easy done in the hardware world. For example, the FX Tracks you have created are not bound to just one effect. You could create a send effect which is a reverb, which has had its top and bottom shaved off with your favourite EQ and then compressed.

When you are in the middle of your mix, think carefully when applying effects. Using insert effects on audio tracks can be very costly with regards to processor power. Could you be using an FX Track instead? Or could you be routing an number of tracks to a group and then apply the effect?

For example, when I am working on a mix I might have two lead vocal parts and say 4 backing vocal parts. I want to pitch correct each vocal, and also compress, add reverb and delay. I have to pitch correct each vocal separately, so the I place the plug-in on the individual audio tracks. With compression I don't mind the backing vocals being compressed together and lead vocals being compressed together. So I set up two group tracks, one for the lead vox and one for the backing, both with a compressor. Finally, I want the same reverb and delay for both the backing and the lead so I set up two FX Tracks. One for the delay, one for the reverb which I can now apply to the group tracks. Using groups and FX tracks in this way means I have severely cut down the number of inserts I am using.

Being economical is very important within sequencers as you can quickly get yourself into a situation where you are having to take measures to deal with a stuttering PC.
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