On another topic, I talked about how you connect a compressor
. This time we'll be talking about how to connect an effects processor.
What is an effects processor? These are all-in-one units that can do reverbs, delay, chorus, flanging
. A good example of this is the Lexicon MPX-550 or the TC Electronic M-One
Here are some pics of my Lexicon MPX-550.
Photo of a Lexicon Effects processor. Also shown is a MOTU 828mk2 audio interface.
The LCD panel of the Lexicon MPX-550.
The numbers 1,2,3,4 and the text above it (which changes depending on what efects you'e selected... in this example it's "Small Hall") corresponds to the parameter knobs where you can easily change these parameters.
How do you connect these units to your home studio setup? Effects processors (or stand-alone Reverb, Delay, Chorus units) are connected in PARALLEL to the signal path.
Here's a diagram to help you picture it.
Basically, part of the original sound or signal (which is called the "DRY" signal in studio parlance) is sent to the FX/Reverb unit via the SEND jacks. How much of the original signal is sent to the FX? This is controlled via the "Send" or "Fx" knobs on your channel mixer.
So this "DRY" signal goes to the Effects Processor where the hardware does it's magic of giving it reverb, chorus or delay. The output of the effects processor is called the "WET" signal. This signal is sent back to the mixer via the RETURN jacks. Your mixer in turn mixes the signal from the RETURN jack to the original "DRY" signal, so you get a combination of "DRY" and "WET" signal.
By varying the amount of "DRY" or "WET" signal with respect to each other, you can control how obvious or subtle is the effect you're trying to add.
On this diagram of a Mackie 1402VLZ mixer
, you can see (2) Aux SEND jacks... labeled (1) and (2).
You'd also see 2 PAIRS of RETURN jacks... labeled (1) Left & Right and (2) Left & Right.
I know what you're thinking... how come there is only one jack for the SEND and two jacks for the RETURN? Here's the thing... most effects processors only need (1) channel to work it's magic. The resulting signal is often stereo. For example... you sang into your SM57 and now need to add a hint of reverb on your vocal tracks. You only need (1) channel to send the vocal track to the FX unit. Add some reverb... and the FX processor gives you a Left and Right "WET" signal. Now, when you listen to your vocal tracks (with the reverb added) it's in stereo and sounds very nice, full, and you can picture yourself singing in a concert hall or something. Some additional notes....
The above method is just one way of using FX Processors. There are other ways to use it, but this is the most common way of using it.
The ALT3/4 jack on your mixer will always be DRY. So if you have the ALT3/4 jack outputs of your hardware mixer connected to your soundcard inputs, you won't get the FX.
However, the MAIN OUTS of your mixer will have the DRY + WET signal. Of course, it also has the "mix" of all your channels.
Some high-end FX processors (like the MPX550) can also accept digital inputs (via SPDIF) and output the WET signal also as a digital signal.
Yes, you can use a hardware FX processors in your Cubase, Sonar, Logic, DP or whatever sequencer you have. In this case, the SENDs jacks will be coming from the analog output of your soundcard, going to the FX unit, then back to spare analog inputs on your soundcard. This is assuming you have multiple analog in/outs soundcard (or audio interface). The disadvantage of this setup is it's going to eat some of your audio interfaces input and output channels. The advantage is you can have a nice quality FX without using up any cpu resources. (Plus some say hardware is better.)
You can avoid using precious analog inputs and outputs on your soundcard, and still use your hardware FX unit by using digital SPDIF in and outs. Of course, this is assuming your soundcard also has SPDIF inputs and outputs. This is how I'm using my Lexicon MPX550 connected to my MOTU 828mk2.
I'll show you how to setup your sequencer in your computer to use your hardware effects processor this way. But that will be on another day's topic.