If you have read the article ‘A tried and tested DAW workflow for mixing sessions’, I refer to setting up an effect send and return. This article gives you a systematic guide on how to do just that. When mixing, a common method involves setting up an ‘effects send’ and an ‘effects return’. This system makes it possible to process all of the session’s reverb or delay through a designated effects channel. With this method, the dry signal remains unaltered. The creation of the wet signal occurs entirely at the effects bus return channel. You can then blend the wet signal with the dry signal to your desired amount.
Why use an effect send?
Using an effect send and return as opposed to placing effects ‘in line’ on channels is really beneficial. It means that you can turn the level of the overall effect up or down from just one fader. It also means that you can add other plugins to the effect return channel. This is especially useful for effects such as reverb, as it allows you to EQ the processed signal and tailor its frequency response to the mix. This method also frees up your computer’s CPU by using only one reverb or delay plugin, as opposed to several.
Setting up the effect bus channel
Begin by setting up a new auxiliary track:
An auxiliary track differs from other tracks in that it does not have any audio of its own. Instead, it receives signals from other tracks and allows you to control them on a single channel. To process your signals, you need to add your chosen effect plugin to one of the insert points on the auxiliary track.
Setting up an effects return to receive signals
Once you have added the effects plugin to the auxiliary track, you need to set up the routing. In order for the effects return channel to receive signals, select an available aux bus at the auxiliary track’s input:
Doing this means that the effects return channel receives any signals being sent via that bus. I find that it helps to rename the bus so that it’s easier to set up the routing. The aux track is now set up and ready to receive signals. However, make sure you don’t forget to set the output of this effect bus channel to the mix bus or master fader. That is the only way the processed signal will reach the final output of your mix.
Setting up the ‘effects send’ to send signals
The final step is to send signals to your effect return channel. To send signals, go to whichever of the tracks you would like to process through the effect and click on an available ‘send’. Select the same bus that you used as the input on the effects bus return channel. Now, any signal routed to this auxiliary track will reach your chosen effect plugin:
Controlling the effect send
Your DAW will provide a fader or some means to control how much signal you are sending to the return. This allows you to dial in how much of each signal will reach the effect plugin. If you only want a touch of reverb for instance, send a small amount of signal to the effect return. If you want the signal to be more reverberant, send a larger amount.
This method offers you a quick and easy way to process signals through an effect. It offers a fantastic amount of control and flexibility to the way that you handle the effects in your mix. As always, give it a go! Set up some effects send and return processing in your DAW. Compare just how much better this method is than adding reverb or delay plugins directly to your tracks.