When using effects in your DAW recording software, it’s important to think about the routing. Do you need to sequence the effects as inserts? Does the order matter? And what are the advantages of an AUX send? In this blog, we offer answers to these questions and explain just how to make your music sound just as fat as the last YouTube hit, simply by placing an effect where you usually wouldn’t place it in the effect chain. You might also be glad to know that a lot of what’s discussed here can also be applied to mixing desks.

Mixing with Inserts & AUX Sends


The easiest way to use effects in a DAW is to open a plug-in in an ‘insert slot’ of the channel where you want to apply the effect. The entire signal is then sent through the effect, then maybe through one or more following effects, before it finally reaches the fader. If you place a number of effects one after the other, the signal is also effected in the particular order in which the plug-ins have been placed. For example, if you use an equaliser to shave off some of the excess low-end and then place a compressor after the equaliser, then (thanks to the equaliser) the compressor won’t have to work so hard to react to the lower frequencies. But if you use the equaliser to boost a specific frequency range, then the compressor will have to work pretty hard to react to that particular frequency range. In this case, it’s actually better to place the equaliser after the compressor.

Aux Sends

Effects like reverb and delay are usually used with the so-called send/return construction. With a ‘send’, the signal is split and sent to a separate channel in your DAW. In that separate channel, you can then open a reverb or delay effect – normally in an insert slot. The dry signal and the effected signal can now be heard at the same time. With the send knob, you can adjust how loudly the signal is sent to through the reverb or delay and, therefore, how loudly you hear the effect.


A big advantage of AUX sends is that multiple channels can be sent to the same reverb or delay. This can have the effect of making all of the instruments sound like they’re in the same room. Also, you’re saving your computer a huge processing load by not adding a separate reverb to each channel. Another advantage is that you can edit the effect independently of the original sound. For instance, you can dial back some of the low-end of the reverb using an equaliser, while the low-end of the source audio remains untouched. AUX sends are therefore also great for modulation effects like a chorus, phaser, and flanger.

Pre Fader / Post Fader

For effects like reverb and delay, ‘post fader’ AUX sends are almost always used. This means that as you lower the fader, the signal sent through the effect is reduced. In this way, the balance between the dry signal and the effect always stays the same. A ‘pre fader’ send works entirely independently of the fader of the channel concerned. If you close the fader entirely, then you will still be able to hear a pre fader send. This is why pre fader sends are generally used for monitoring, whether live or in the studio. Pre fader sends are not so great for using effects since the balance between the effect and dry signal is shifted as soon as you move the fader.

An Example: Compression with AUX Sends

As I’ve already mentioned, moving effects around in the effect chain can have a dramatic impact on your mix. A great example of this is the use of compression in an AUX send construction. This is also known as parallel compression or ‘New York compression’, and is a popular technique for thickening up a track. Since the way a compressor operates strongly depends on how loudly the signal is sent through it, it’s best to use a pre-fader send. Here, you need to completely forget everything you’ve already learned about subtle settings. Use an extremely short attack and release time and a high ratio. A gain-reduction of -18dB is also not unheard of when using this technique. If you use a compressor with these settings as an insert, you get a flat sound, drained of life. But, if you use the compressor in parallel; in the technique used above, then you’ll retain all of the punch and dynamics of the dry signal alongside the sustain and detail of a hard working compressor.

What are your favourite effect-based tricks? Let us know in the comments!

See Also…

» DAW Software
» Effect Plug-Ins
» Mixing Desks
» Peripheral Studio Equipment

» Blog: The Reverb Effect: What is it?
» Blog: How to Record a Great Sounding Demo
» Blog: Compression: What is it and How Do You Use it?

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