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A Serial effect chain with switches

Published: 2017-09-24

Welcome back to another article about setting up creative effect in a modular way. While back in the days of Reason 4 or Reason 5 this idea was my favorite thing to do in Propellerhead Reason. While since recently I picked up a Launchpad Pro I am using this technique more then ever. The problem with Rack Extensions is that they can result in to CPU issues (especially if you use more then 64 of them). This lead me to go back to the way reason kind of started and build my own custom effect chains from the ground up again (because they are way more CPU friendly to begin with). While native stock devices will sound a bit more direct and straight forward (to throw in one example the DDL-digital delay vs the Echo) it sometimes requires a bit more tweaking to make certain effects sound interesting enough. Sure it may require more units to make it work, but again from a CPU perspective they are still more friendly.

In this case the more is more is applicable but we will do it with less devices to choose from (wink!). The main ingredients we'll be using in this case are:

  • DDL-1 digital delay
  • ECF-42 envelope controlled filter
  • CF-101 chorus flanger
  • D-11 Foldback distortion
  • RV-7 Digital Reverb
  • PEQ-2 Two band parametric EQ
  • The Matrix (as a curve)
  • Mixer 6:2
  • Spider audio merger splitter (to split and to create parallel chains)
  • Malstrom Graintable synthesizer 
  • Combinator

As you can see right now that most of the devices on this list are originally introduced since Reason 3. Most of them are half rack devices, while the only main exceptions in this case would be the mixer 6:2 and the malstrom graintable synthesizer. The malstrom in this case can be used in two ways (in this context): as a filter or as an lfo. A different alternative option would be making use of Thor. But in this case I can do without since most of of the filters we'll be using are some form of notches (PEQ-2), the LP12 (ECF-42 or Malstrom) and the Bandpass filter (ECF-42 or Malstrom).

four fx chain

The way we'll be setting thing up from an audio chain perspective will look like the above. The thing that has been taken out from this image (because if would look way more complicated) is that every route can be toggled by 4 toggle buttons. So in theory we can enable effect 1, effect 2, effect 3 and effect 4. While the direction of these effects will be linear going from one to two to three to four. In case effect one gets disabled it will pass on to effect two when enabled etc.

This is where some crafty wiring comes in to play and I will try to talk you through this step by step. I might note that creating an effect chain like this may require some work and time (and this is most likely why it isn't popular as a subject anyway). But in theory you can almost re-create a wide range of different VSTs in a whim and customize it the exact way you want it to be (in a non linear way). But ok, who cares about that anyway.

The initial chain setup

To create the initial chain setup we'll require an initial chain to make it work. The initial chain will require the following:

  • a splitter to split up the audio chain so we can pass on the dry / effect chain in two different ways
  • 2 mixer 6:2. Where one is the dry signal (unprocessed) while the second will be the processed signal
  • a merger. In theory you could use the same audio splitter but in this case we'll be using a new one instead (so you have a better visual what is happening with the chain)

Initially this could be looking as the following:

Make note that the first line 6:2 mixer has the volume as native (100) while the second has the level set to 0. This will be the initial state of the effect chain.

To make the chain complete we can copy / paste this chain 3 times so we'll have a total of 4 different chains to start with. Which eventually will look like the following:

Serial effect chain

The merge 1 section will then pass on to split 2. Merge 2 will then be passed on the split 3 etc. The benefit behind this chain is that we have the option to have different effects in every chain. The combination of them will also have a different outcome while triggering them.

Just think it of like this, lets say you have a ping pong delay in front of a reverb. You can then choose to just enable the reverb or have a ping delay in front of it. Both will have a different result as an outcome. The same thing could be said for pre-filtering or aft filtering etc. Different routes result in to different outcomes.

When setting up an effect chain you might be start to plan ahead while thinking about the different takes your want in the serial chain. For this article I will be going with some chain like:

- stutter effect
- pre-filter
- filtered reverb
- delays

And that ehm... is a lot to cover. So lets hop right to it.

Stutter effect

To create a stutter effect I will go for the typical "buffer" using a digital delay. Somewhat similar as our Beat repeater effect delux but a little bit simple. To make it work we'll need to program the audio chain first. The way I am going to set things up is using toggle buttons (button 1 till 4). Every button will then close the dry signal, yet open the wet (the effect) signal.

serial effect chain

This is the first toggle for the first mixer 6:2. In this case we'll be closing the dry sound by turning button 1 on. While turning the button off it will enable the dry signal (no effect).

The second mixer (the effect path) will to the exact opposite.

Serial chain enable the effect

In this case the effect chain gets enabled. If you have done it proper in this case it should not have any audible differences. If there is a difference while toggling on / off the level then there is something wrong (check the min / max values in that case since they should be 100 > 0 and 0 > 100).

Serial effect chain 1

To make the stutter effect work we'll be breaking the chain between the split (the audio splitter) and the effect chain. Everything we'll need to process the effect we can stick in there. To make a basic stutter effect I will be using a combination of a mixer 14:2 and a wide range of different digital delays (in different steps). Because I can re-use the same audio from the audio splitter we can chain them directly using multiple audio splitters.

Audio splitter

The main goal here is to use different audio outputs that will go through different digital delays with different steps. The matrix pattern step sequencer can be used to open up / close down the levels of every mix channel inside the mixer 14:2. I am using the mixer 14:2 in this particular case because it is the only mixer what you can use inside a combinator that allows the manipulation of the level while using Control Voltages as direct inputs (just to be political correct again).

To create our stutter effect I will be going for 4 different digital delay lines. Where the steps are going to vary from 3 steps, to 5 steps to 7 steps and one for 21 milliseconds (just to get some glitch stuff going on).

stutter effect

As you can see here is that the dry signal will be passed on to the digital delays while those will merge up again in the mixer 14:2. The mixer 6:2 will be the receiving end of it all. One could say that the receiving mixer 6:2 does not need to be there (which is true). But just for the sake of consistency I will keep it there.

The whole concept with this type of stutter effect is to open up the delays when we hit the first toggle button. Make note that I am using a toggle button in this case because a rotary in this context would not work proper. The delays will get an infinite amount of feedback (127) while the dry wet balance will go to wet. While we do this it will also create a louder output. Keep that in mind!

Stutter effect in Reason

To program the delays we'll do something similar as the above paragraph. The button will toggle on / off the delays. I am using this method over the "enable / disable" feature because the latter will result in to pops / click noises. And that is something we most definitely do not want.

To compensate the levels of the delays I will be using a level reduction on the mixer 14:2. This prevents things to clip of become too loud. But whatever.

Stutter effect level compensation

A different alternative would be using an Mclass Maximizer to prevent things from clipping. But in my best practice book, if I do not need it I would not use a limiter. So I am going with a level reduction method instead (just to be political correct again... this is becoming a trend as of lately).

The value on the level may vary since it kind of depend on what the delays are doing and what the incoming sound is doing. A descent average lies around 75-ish (where the default is set to 100). A typical delay in this context usually by average creates an increase of 3dB. But since we are using more then one this also increases the chance of going over the 3dB level.

The initial stutter effect inputs will be set to 0. Because later on we'll be using the Matrix patterns step sequencers (4 of them in total) to enable / disable the steps one by one.

Stutter effec

To set up the levels we'll be using good old matrix step sequencer while setting this to curve mode. The major benefit with this method is that we have an option to step things differently per digital delay line while just opening up / closing down levels. The amount may vary the duration may very etc. It will be a unique type of stutter effect that rack extensions like GSX / buffer could be dreaming about. It requires a bit more work. But hey, I am just being creative. So let me.

Stutter effect in Reason

The main connection for one digital delay will be using the Curve output connected to the level setting that correspondence with it. The matrix pattern step sequencer will be set to curve mode and we can manually draw in the curve where things need to turn on and off.

The audio muter

Before we continue we'll need to add one more device to mute the incoming path while enabling the audio effect chain of the first effect (8Kb of text and we'v only be writing about one effect). In the beginning of the audio chain we can setup a mixer 6:2 which will go on mute when hitting the first button. In this case the audio chain will stop while the digital delays will take things over.

Audio muter in Reason

The audio muter will be programmed as followed:

Stutter effect in Reason

The button 1 will now mute the incoming audio signal. While the delays will take things to a new dimension. Last thing we'll need is a wide range of different curves to enable the delays that go with it.

Stutter effect in Reason

And there is the first effect chain (yeah it is a long run, I know... it will be a lot easier from here on).

serial-effect-chain-02

The Pre Filter

For setting up the pre filter I usually go for either the ECF-42 or the Malstrom. Just because they are light weight filters and do not consume excessive amount of CPU. Sure they will sound a bit 'cheaper. But when we through everything in an effect chain you will barely notice any difference anyway. And haven't heard  any one complain about the filter of Synchronous yet either.

serial effect chain

To work on the second effect we'll be looking at this section inside the combinator. You have a split 2 which will be the original splitter that drives to the second effect chain. So the audio chain between Split 2 and Effect 2 will need to broken again and we can throw anything regarding to filters in between. 

lots of wires

As you can see in this picture is that the Split 2 will be passed on to the Dry 2 and the ECF 42 Filter. The ECF Filter will go to the effect 2 chain. At this point we need to program our effect 2 by using the second toggle button to turn off the Dry 2 while enabling the effect 2.

This is the dry signal (using button 2, min value 100 max value 0).

Serial effect chain

This is the effect signal (using button 2, min value 0, max value 100).

Serial effect in Reason

The filter does not required to be touched in this case because in theory what we are doing is either enable the dry signal or the filtered signal.

Download effect chain with filter

While at this point it is basically a filter thrown in between (in this case it is a band pass filter) there are different things you can do to make things different. Just to throw in a few options:

  • use an lfo to make minor adjustments in the filter frequency
  • use more then one filter in a parallel setup
  • use panning over different filters
  • etc

So in the end, you could end up with something like this.

serial-effect-chain-04.cmb

In theory it is based on the same idea. Only difference here is that the filters are 2 different band pass filters with an LFO attached to it. While using a Low Pass Filter in the middle. Et voila you just learned the basics on how to make 3-d sound.

The Filtered Reverb

Moving on. The filtered reverb will be based on the RV-7 reverb. While most people who have been using Rack Extensions or use the RV7000 MK2 I still find that till this day that little half rack device in the form of the RV-7 still has its applicable usages from time to time. There are 3 major algorithms I like to use:

  • hall
  • hall 2
  • gated

The only problem I sometimes have with this reverb is that it usually sucks out the energy out of the sound because they emphasize a lot of unwanted frequencies. Well, this is usually where the PEQ-2 or the MClass equalizer comes in. While I want it to be light (in CPU) I will go for the PEQ-2 instead of using the MClass equalizer. The major difference is that the way the curve works is quite different between the two. But since we are not going to move the curve in real time we don't need to worry about it having an impact on the sound output.

First things first. The third button will be used to turn on / off the effect. So from a linear direction we can enable the effect mixer 6:2 and disable the dry mixer 6:2.

Chain effects in reason

Here is the dry signal, the min value will be set to 100 again while the max value will be set to 0 (as before but in this case it is the Dry 3).

Serial effect in reason

Here is the wet signal. The min value is set to 0 (off) while the max value is set to 100 (on).

To set up the reverb chain we'll need to break the split section to the effect chain again. Like we done before, we'll do it again but in this case it will be the third chain. The RV7 will go in between while using the dry wet balance a bit more to dry (this balances out the reverb so we keep the original signal yet have a reverb in parallel more or less).

serial chain in reason

To make use of the PEQ-2 we can do two things: 

  • have one in front of the reverb
  • have one after the reverb

The benefit behind this method is that we can take out any rumbling tones before feeding it to the reverb. While making minor adjustments after the reverb has done its thing.

serial chain of effects

In theory the Hall 2 usually makes things rather bright, an artifact I sometimes love. By using the damp setting you have an option to muffle down the reverb just a little. While things would become more interesting by using 2 reverb instead of just one. Additional you could use an aux chain to make adjustments in the stereo field by using 2 reverb (one over left the other over right) while making movement using a filter. Yeah to many things to make screenshots of so I'll just be lazy and drop a combinator patch

serial-effect-chain-05.cmb

Delays

When it comes to delays in these type of things I love to use just more then one while using different filter stages per delay. Kind of like similar as what 3plex does as a rack extension. The way we can process it is kind of like the following:

  • one delay on step 2 with its own filter
  • one delay on step 3 with its own filter
  • one delay on step 5 with its own filter

etc. 

Every filter can have its own LFO so it moves along while the delay processes over time. Etc. For this process we'll be using the Malstrom as a Filter unit.

serial effect chain

In this case the delay gets passed on to the malstrom as a filter unit. The movement is created by using a Mod B to Filter where the rates from one malstrom to another are set different.

Well all this combined together results in to a modular effect unit like the following

serial-effect-chain-06.cmb

Inside this combinator you'll find tons of delays, filters and reverb. While initially Reason will run on 3% when loading up this device it has a max spike of 5% when enabling all those effects on my computer. If I compare this with some of the rack extensions (that do not even come close to what this combinator is doing) that is a whole different story.

Long story about something really 'simple'. While I believe people are not really interested in to creating something modular like this because everyone is just complaining about Reason 10 at the moment. But anyway... who cares.

Have a nice weekend!

Published on Reason Experts
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Published on Reason Experts
Published: 2017-09-24

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Suprjoolz
8 Mar 2018 

Suprjoolz

Hi Hidlide,I found the patch links.I look forward to trying them out when I get the chance.At the moment I am busy writing patches for G Force Minmonsta ( minimoog model d clone )They are going to post my first ever shared patches for this amazing instrument on their website.I love your videos. UR THE man, HydleDude! :-)
ebbhead
24 Sep 2017 

ebbhead

This is what Reason is all about...nice work Mr H
1
hydlide
 26 Sep 2017 

hydlide

Thanx! I have more of these in the pipeline ;)
1

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