Audio effect order

I was asked by a friend to look at her son’s audio project he was doing. He’d asked me for advice and I’d given him my advice but she said he wasn’t happy with the final quality as it sounded terrible.

I got him to email me the finished mix down and it did sound awful so I asked him to send me a screenshot and straight away I saw the problem.

When adding effects in the effects rack Audition completes 1 before 2 and 2 before 3 etc. If you have your effects in the right order you can get some fantastic audio but if they’re in the wrong order you can get some terrible sounding audio.

The mistake he’d made was putting the noise gate in after he’d applied EQ and compression. The recording had picked up what I assume is the computer fan and the noise gate couldn’t then be set because the compression had boosted the volume of the background noise quite close to the volume of the speech so the softer parts were potentially going to be lost in the noise gating.

Fortunately, he’d kept the session file so I told him to move the noise gate to slot 1 and all of a sudden he got the audio he wanted.

That’s a drastic case but it’s always worth thinking of the order you add effects into the effects rack whether in multi-track where they’re totally non-destructive or in the wave editor where they do become destructive once applied. Never be afraid to question your order and check your order both audibly and in the preview and spectral frequency display before committing anything to edit destructive waveform editing or multi-track mixdown.

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Maybe we should do a piece on gain staging in the signal path and how to “drive” various plugins.

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A brilliant example of why it’s so important to use effects in a certain order. Certainly a piece that should be expanded upon.

Let me have a think about this one.

Have you any examples of the session before and after @markdenholm? That would be interesting to see as an example.

It’s not just about slapping an EQ on a track and finding out and applying what cut or boost freq band level woks best for you. It’s about equalising the sound first.
The input level applied is crucial for it to work properly in order to find the sweet spot.
Start with an EQ input level lower than the normal room environment level.
Once you have equalised the audio, then add output gain to room level and only then add the sauce.

It’s not just about slapping a compressor on a track.
The input level coming from the output of the EQ is going to “drive” the triggering and compressor settings. If you underdrive the input, the compressor’s gain will be higher and if you overdrive the input, you end up in crunch territory. Overdrive is useful in plugins like guitar distortion/overdrive VSTs that depend on a gain structure to push valves to glow hot to overdrive the mixer stage in the amp and produce overtones, harmonics and distortion before some of that is send back to the input stage to mix with the original output of the preamp.

Hi @Mike I only got Whatsapp audio and a whatsapp screenshot so nothing great but I had an idea of what might have happened when I heard the audio, hence why I asked for the screenshot which confirmed.

In order to explain to him and anybody else I made this

It’s a drastic example I’ve made here to demonstrate what happens when the noise gate / expander is used in the wrong order but this is basically what had happened.

Hey Mark, this is a great example!

Here’s a challenge - can you get the key points from that video into one that lasts around 3 minutes with a before and after example included in the first 15 seconds of the video.

I know this great example you share would benefit more people who would watch to the end if you could do this :slight_smile:

Such an important point about the order of the effects rack and the possibility to ruin audio if you get them in the wrong way around.

Hi @Mike, I reckon I could compress it down to 3 minutes with a before and after example if it would help the community.

Yes, please do Mark. This is good stuff and more people will watch and benefit if your example video is shorter.

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