The Unique Geek

The Unique Geek
June 1, 2011

ReMess Up Your Audio

Are you like millions of other Americans? Do you have a guitar effects processor and would like to spruce up your love life/guitar tracks? Do you find it hard to concentrate at work because your synth parts aren’t “sick?” Well if this sounds like you then stay tuned for the next 30 minutes to learn how you can bring that spark back to your love life and audio tracks. [Note: this won’t take 30 minutes and “millions” of Americans is probably an exaggeration.]


Why are you chasing around more plug-ins? Well, for one they are cool and keep sounding better with each passing year. But, if you already own an external effects processor/sound mangler then it’s time to start using that, too, in your arsenal of effects for a mix.

There is a reason why we have interfaces with so many outs. You have 8 outs, say, because you could do some analog summing or are using the outs in a live scenario and want control backing tracks on a live console. But, let’s be honest. For most of us, we want the 8 ins to capture a drum kit or a bunch of channels all at once. But, playback really amounts to L & R out – 1 & 2 out – stereo. So, since you have these other outs, why not use some of your external effect boxes that are underused and collecting dust?

Real world scenario: I have, what I think to be, a great sounding guitar amp modeler box. I recently got a nice IO and started to record guitar parts completely dry. Then, I have more control over the effects I add later and how they influence the whole mix. Years ago (and I mean years) I would record through a massive amount of guitar effects.

This is a nice side note for you – if you stink at playing guitar, just add effects – lots of effects to your guitar sound. Is your guitar playing pretty unimpressive? Nothing that a lot of delay can’t fix. You might as well slather on chorus, reverb, tremolo and panning while you’re at it.

Stink at playing? Use more of these.

Instead of going out 1&2 (main mix) you are using the other unused outs.

Back to the real world scenario. I have my guitar recorded completely clean and now look for tone to put on this uninspiring sound. So, it’s time to dial up amp emulation software. But, after doing this for a couple of months, I realize I really just want my original hardware amp modeler’s sounds instead. It finally dawned on me, “hey, lazy-guy – perhaps it’s time to use additional outputs to your hardware box.” Thus, I simply had to assign a set of outs and ins to go to and from the external hardware.


Random effects box…

In a nutshell, all you are doing is sending your dry guitar tracks out of a different output than just going to the main mix (1/2 Out) like you normally would. Now, you are setting your output to “Out 3” (for a mono track) or “Out 3/4” (for stereo). Then, on a new and unused channel/track you are going to set its input to “in 3”(for a mono return) or “In 3 / 4” (for stereo). What you’ve done is sent out your track to its own output direct to your hardware and then it’s coming back in on its own channel and track for recording within your DAW.

Check your in and out settings in your DAW

What’s great about this, too, is that doing external effects frees up your CPU if you have an older computer. If you are plug-in challenged by how many plugs you can have running at one time, you can just capture a recording of your audio (guitar or anything for that matter) that was effected externally and not run a plug in real time.

You could use your send controls to route the audio track to your output.

On most DAW’s, you can also select to “send” to a hardware output and not just a bus for internal routing. Doing this, gives you a volume control, within your DAW, for your output. Make sure you look at your in and out settings in the DAW so that everything is routed as you’d like. Then, on the outboard hardware, make sure that is all set to get input at the right place and send it to the right place – this is only tricky if you mean to do all of this over a S/PDIF cable.

Sad Cat


Oh, and make sure to feed the cat. If you get started on this reamping and processing fun – you could forget about the cat.

On the left, dry. On the right, the “reamped” track.

Apart from a guitar effects box of some sort, don’t forget about synths, for starters, that could benefit from getting run through distortion to get edge or grit on a lead sound. Bass synth and bass guitars can benefit from overdrive, too. Entire drum mixes could be run through a synth with an external input that allows you to go through its filters or modulation routings. Anything. You get the point. If you are looking for something that gives you a new sound or you’re trying to get that 5 year-old computer to do more – go external. Oh, and I have yet to determine how any of this will benefit your love life.