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Channel Strip Plugins – first or last?

lydian91

New Member
Sorry...a bit long-winded here. Ultimately a concise question, though it also touches on the analog mindset in general. I think it’s worth offering some context.

I’ve done some searching around online and have noticed that there can sometimes be responses to the effect of “you can do whatever you want, just use your ears.” While that is certainly true, for me, this is more about adopting a larger workflow/mindset shift than it is about chasing after the “correct” way of doing things.

I’m a media composer, though for the last few years, I’ve been doing a lot of studio work that is notation-focused. I also do a lot of audio transcription work, which in one sense, has strengthened my ears considerably, though it has also forged a strong relationship between what I hear and what I see. So recently, I’ve been trying to work on different ways of connecting with sound—particularly when it comes to creating music.

One avenue has been Syntorial. I already understood the concepts of synthesis, but I’ve just never really felt empowered with synthesizers. Syntorial has very accurately targeted the underlying issues of that, and I have benefited tremendously. Having only knobs/sliders and your ears (where you could theoretically work blindfolded) is fostering a lot of growth for me.

So I’ve been wondering how I can transfer this to my mixing process. Like synthesis, I understand the concepts mixing and can use them effectively, but I’ve just never felt totally empowered with it. I don’t own lots of plugins: basic Slate VMR (no subscription) for eq, compression etc, Soundtoys for creative stuff, and Valhalla Room for reverb. I don’t really have a desire to go beyond those until I feel like I can use them more deeply and intuitively.

I purchased these particular plugins because (they sound great) and they have analog-influenced GUIs that force you to rely on your ears. No flashy metering, graphics, etc. I know VMR isn’t a legit channel strip like the Waves SSL etc., but it’s close enough. I just like the idea of mixing with the essential items combined into one unit—that seems like the best way for me to get better. So the main question is where do creative effects like Soundtoys fit into the chain?

Another way to phrase this (and please forgive my ignorance here)—back in the analog days, if you recorded a guitar with all of the various pedal board/cabinet effects, that would all have to get printed to tape before going to the console for mixing right?
 
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ThePrioryStudio

Uk Computer
I know VMR isn’t a legit channel strip like the Waves SSL etc., but it’s close enough
The VMR sounds wonderful and more than a great sounding channel strip. I tend to put the VCC on every channel, even just for a bit of colour. I've not heard the Waves but they are all similar, afterall, they are modelled in similar ways i'm assuming. One unit might sound different to another but that's old gear for you.

It's all about training your ears and when you get to know how the process is affecting the signal you are treating, you can then push what you know about that to get what you need from the sound. I would recommend Using headphone first and put say a compressor over a looped drum for example. Attack at 0, release halfway, ratio say 4:1 and threshold at 0. Start being the threshold up and listen to the transient of the drum beat and how it changes. Then use the attack and release to hear what it does when you find a nice sweet spot with the attack. You're listening for very tiny changes, things that maybe you'd think were irrelevant or minuscule. It's these small differences that you need to train your ears to hear.


So the main question is where do creative effects like Soundtoys fit into the chain?
For the most part, reverbs and delays are added to aux channels and you'll send part of the channel signal to the aux. Again, listen to how the delay or reverb sounds in headphones. It's nice to do this pre fader with the channel muted so you hear just the FX. Apart from that, anything goes, you can put all kinds of plug ins on channel strips to obtain certain FX or treatments.

back in the analog days, if you recorded a guitar with all of the various pedal board/cabinet effects, that would all have to get printed to tape before going to the console for mixing right?
Yeah, you'd get a sound you liked and record it. There's a difference between creating space and ambience as opposed to crafting a sound which you then record. You wouldn't for example record a guitar dry then bus a reverb and delay to that dry channel if you wanted a delayed sound in the first place. The sound would drastically affect the way it was played and the vibe of the take.

You may still add reverb and some delay in the mix to give the sound space with the other instuments or create distance etc.

Hopefully I haven't fumbled my way through that but it's all about doing it really. :)
 
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lydian91

lydian91

New Member
The VMR sounds wonderful and more than a great sounding channel strip.
Absolutely—all I meant is that it's different from other channel strip plugins because the modules are interchangeable.

Yeah, you'd get a sound you liked and record it. There's a difference between creating space and ambience as opposed to crafting a sound which you then record.
This feels like the answer I was looking for. I think "crafting a sound" and "creating space" have become too homogenous for me. That is to say, not paying enough attention to which of those roles a plugin is serving. They are indeed different things, and it's part of why I've been drawn to this channel strip plugin workflow.

Very helpful—many thanks!
 
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