Setting up reverb in your mixes: aux send vs. insert

Setting up reverb in your mixes: aux send vs. insertReverb aux send vs insert

When you set reverb up in your session, you can do so in one of two ways. The first is to add the reverb as an insert directly on a track. You would add this just like you would an EQ or compression plugin.

Alternatively, you can insert your reverb plugin on an auxiliary track. Then, you can send a signal from different instruments to the reverb aux track using aux sends.

Each has its own benefits. The route that you take largely depends on the specifics of your individual session. In this article, we’ll look at which method to use and when.

Using reverb aux sends

The key benefit to using an aux track for your reverbs is that lots of signals can be sent to a single reverb plugin. Employing just one reverb plugin and then sending multiple tracks to it is often a more manageable process than adding the same plugin to lots of tracks as an insert and then having to manage each plugin individually. This method uses less computer processing power too. This still works well even if you use a few different reverbs in your track. You simply set up a few aux tracks for different reverb types. You then send your tracks to the desired reverb.

Inserting reverb plugins

That said, there comes a point where it makes more sense to insert your reverb plugins directly onto the instrument tracks themselves. If you want to use a lot of different reverbs in your session, or you want to use the same reverb plugin in different ways, such as different pre delay settings for different instruments, for example, then it may be more beneficial to add your reverb plugins as inserts to specific tracks. When dealing with a lot of different reverb requirements, this is often a more organized and manageable approach than setting up a lot of different reverb aux tracks for different reverbs and then sending perhaps only one signal to each.

So really, it’s a case of making the reverb aux send vs insert decision on a session by session basis. Sometimes it will be logical to send all of the tracks in your session to dedicated reverb aux tracks. In other cases, it will make more sense to add your reverbs as inserts on the instrument tracks themselves.

Wet/dry control

The method that you choose will affect how you use one parameter on your reverb plugin in particular. That’s the wet/dry parameter, sometimes also called ‘mix’. If you’re adding your reverbs on auxiliary tracks, then you should set your reverb plugin to 100% wet. That way, none of the direct signals will be heard on the reverb aux track. The aux track will be purely reverb. You can then use your reverb aux sends to dial in how much of the direct signal is sent to that aux track. If you’re adding reverb as an insert directly onto a track, however, then you will need to use the wet/dry parameter on the plugin to dial in the balance between the dry signal and the reverb for each track.

Reverb aux send: post-fader vs. pre-fader

When using an auxiliary track for the reverb, you need to be aware of how you are sending signals to the reverb aux track. With reverb aux sends, you can send the signal to the reverb aux track as either ‘pre-fader’ or ‘post-fader’. Pre-fader means that the signal that you send from a channel to the reverb aux track will be sent from a point before the channel’s fader. As such, any changes to the position of that channel’s fader will not affect the level of the signal that is sent to the reverb aux track. Meanwhile, post-fader means that the signal that you send from a channel is being sent from a point after the channel’s fader. So with post-fader sends, adjustments to the position of that channel’s fader will affect the level of the signal that is sent to the reverb aux track.

Reverb aux send: post-fader

This means that if you use a post-fader send, the level of a track’s dry signal and the level of its reverb are effectively linked. As such, the reverb will change in level when the position of the dry signal’s fader is altered. Turning a track’s dry signal up will turn the reverb for that track up too. Turning the dry signal down will also turn down the level of the reverb. If you automate the level of the dry signal to change, then the reverb will do the same. If you automate a track to mute, then its reverb mutes too. If you automate a track to fade out, its reverb fades out as well.

Reverb aux send: pre-fader

However, if a pre-fader send is used, then the two are not linked. Regardless of what happens to the dry signal, the level of the reverb for that track remains unaltered. If you apply automation to the level of the dry signal, the level of the reverb will not change. Fading out the level of the dry signal will not fade out the reverb. Even if the dry signal is muted, the reverb for that track will still be audible. As such, it’s generally best to use a post-fader send when sending signals to a reverb aux track. That is unless you have a specific need to be able to control a track’s dry signal level and reverb level independently of course.

As you can see, both methods of adding reverb to your mixes have their advantages. It all depends on your particular sessions. Which method do you find works best for you and why? Leave a comment below.


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