adding outboard effects to a track

Quite a newbie… but using N-track for a while with plugins.
Now would like to add ouboard effects to individual tracks.
For instance a RNC compressor I’m considering.

Can I add it to an individual track like a plugin?
Without an outboard mixer?
Sorry if question seems dumb…
but that’s how you learn!

Welcome hogfingers!

What soundcard do you have?

To use outboard gear you will need 4 outputs or more.

And a mixer would help, but is not absolutley essential…

Sayu you have outputs 1&2 as your “normal” outputs that go to your monitors so you can hear what you are mixing.

If you want to route track 8 to your outboard gear you would send track 8 to outputs 3&4 of your soundcard (instead of 1&2) and then route outputs 3&4 to your ouboard gear and then the output from the outboard gear back to one of the inputs of your soundcard.

If you only have 2 outputs then you could solo the track you want to toute to the outboard gear and send it and record the output and then mix that back in, but then you can’t monitor it with teh rest of the tracks…


Hey thanks Richlum,
I have a audiophile 24/96 just two outputs…

So I guess that would not really work for mixing on individual tracks since you could not monitor the tracks…

O.k. though for adding to the final mixed down track I guess
So how do most people use outboard effects? soundcards with multiple I/O’s?

Umm… yeah I guess you could use the outboard gear on a final mix down if you did it in real time and just recorded the input of your soundcard.

Would obviously be applied to your whole mix.

Maybe someone else with more knowledge can suggest some creative routing…

I only use outboard gear (pre-amp and compressor) when tracking. When mixing everything is plugins for me…


You still could affect individual tracks but it would be somewhat by trial and error…

1. You could route your chosen instrument to one channel of your card and the rest to the other (essentially a mono mix of the song in one channel). Send your chosen instrument out to the effect and record the effect’s return. Then return to mixing as normal. (You could just mute all the other tracks rahter than have a mono mix, but at least this way you get some feel of the song to guide your effect settings).


2. For “aux” type effects rather than “insert” type effects you could mute all tracks except your chosen track, route it out through one of the two channels, set your effect to “fully wet” and record the result. Then in n-track you’d have a “dry” and a “wet” track that you could mix accordingly.

Hmm, I posted a reply but it seems not to be here; no matter, Mark and Rich said it better than I could. I’m dealing with the same issue. I’d really like it if it were possible to route a track through an aux and send the aux signal to the hardware unit and then back in such a way that it would act pretty much like a plug in - that is, right now I’m doing what Mark and Rich suggest, and re-recording the effected track - but it has to be done solo, and it’s a matter of trial and error indeed to get the effect right. There must be a way to use outboard stuff more easily…


There must be a way to use outboard stuff more easily…

Unfortunately there really isn’t. You gotta get a signal from digital land (computer) to analog land (yer outboard) and that takes an output from the soundcard. Mind, there are some outboard pieces that have their own converters, but then you gotta have a digital output of some sort (AES/EBU or SPDIF or something like that) on your soundcard.

I deal with this all the time, and it’s one of the reasons I rarely mix in the box. I have multi-channel cards so I can spit all the tracks out of the box. Once they’re outside, you can run 'em through all manner of outboard stuff. Of course, this approach requires a mixer; yet one more piece of gear to buy, darn it.

Mark A’s options are about the best available for a 2 channel system…

I would just add that if you go through an external effect you need to compensate for the delay manually. N-track can compensate for software plug-in delay but not delay in external devices.

There is also the issue of increased noise which occurs when you re-record the signal. You should be careful with your levels since all analog gear has some amount of noise this may become an issue.

One other point is that if you can determine the settings of the effect on a soloed track it becomes much simpler since once you re-record the track you can do the rest of the mixing with the track effects in place using the normal monitoring. If you want to be able to adjust the effect as you mix you will probably want to invest in a multi-track soundcard and a mixer or alternately a digital mixer with interface.

I personally believe that you can get adequate results with plug-ins and that it would be better to practice adjusting them to get the results you want. Hardware effects are fine but do not intrinsically lead to better mixes, especially if you are not experienced in the process. I use an RNC for live stuff but use the standard N-track compressor for my mixes. You could cascade several instances of the compressor plug to try to emulate the RNC and although it would be a lot of work to get the settings right it would ultimately be easier to use and you would learn a whole lot in the process.


One other thing to add…

I like using plugins to mix as you can automate them. Not just the amount sent (which you could do with sends to outboard gear) but also the parameters of the effects (depending on what the plugin programmer has allowed). This means that if you are varying the depth or feedback or whatever of an effect you can program it in and it will play the same way each play through.

Outboard gear you have to either remmeber what you did and do it exactly the same, or record it.

There are a lot of benefits in keeping it all "in the box"


I want both - e.g., I have a 1970s TOA “distorto-monster” compressor that really smashes things in a way that digital can’t. To my ear, a lot of analog gear has more character than digitial stuff. And I am grooving on my new Lexicon mx200 (digital!). But I also really like the SIR convolution reverb plug in. I want to use it all. :)