Propellerhead Reason tutorials made by Hydlide

Published on Reason Experts

Send effects in the SSL Mixer

Published: 2017-07-20

Many people have mixed opinions about insert effects and send effects. Also, there are a lot of miss conceptions regarding how send effects work like. Since this is now turning in to a series of mixing and mastering, I think it would be a good time to touch the subject matter one last time: send effects

Send effects vs insert effects

The major difference between send effects and insert effects is that the insert effect by default is attached in serial. So it goes from the sound source (instrument or audio track) to the insert effect. It depends on how the insert effect is handled, and how things are chained. But by default, insert effects are in a serial chain. Going from filter to reverb to delay (as an example).

Insert effect audio

In the most obvious cases, insert effect usually have a dry / wet balance knob (there are exceptions). Often these are set more to dry so this adds that specific effect by the amount of turning it to wet. The exception rule applies to most Equalizers, compressors and filters (again, there are exceptions).

The send effect usually creates a separate output bus next to the original channel. While the SSL Mixer by default has 8 send channels by default. This means in theory that you can have an additional output bus for every channel that goes through the output bus.

In theory this would be similar as parallel processing effects. Since the major difference between inserts vs sends is that send effects are by nature set to wet. The level in the send bus means how much send effect you are applying to them. This also has the side effect that applying send effects will add that effect with the amount of level. Resulting in to a louder output level.

And it is the latter part of the above paragraph which is an important part. Louder usually means: oh oh! At least, there should be some alarm bell going off that this will have an impact on the balance of the mix!

All sends are in parallel

Just to take away another miss conception. Some people believe that the sends in the SSL Mixer are chained in the way they are set up. Meaning, it is believed that the audio will travel from send 1 to send 2 to send 3 (in that specific order). Nothing about this sentence is true! I want to put in the clear that every send will go in parallel next to the original dry signal.

So if you have a send effect with a reverb on send 1, a digital delay on send 2, this means that these will play next to each other next to the dry signal.

Just to demonstrate this obvious effect, I have set up an example file made in reason 9.5 where the effects are exaggerated. The delay time is set to 1 step (so this will trigger first, even while it is set to Send 2), then after this effect is passed a reverb tail will follow (reverse reverb set to pretty long). Also make note that the reverb tail will not contain any information we have from the send 2 (so there is no delay artifact inside the reverb tail itself).

I am using this test case to back up the two theories that send effects are in parallel (since you still have the dry signal intact). And I will use this to take away the idea that send effects are in series, yet they are all in parallel (separate aux bus).

A similar topic is already addressed in the form of insert vs sends. But for sake of discussion, I would add this piece of information here.

Unlimited sends in Reason

In theory this means you can have unlimited send effects if you want. Because you can set up instruments in parallel chains using spider audio merger splitters. The instrument goes to the splitter and the dry signal goes in to the mix channel while the other dry signal goes in to an insert effect set to dry. The level in the SSL mixer will then be the send amount. But since this requires a lot of work to set things up, I won't go through that much in detail about this workflow. Since it requires a whole different way of thinking while looking at the SSL mixer by default (since every level setting that is a send is now a fader in the SSL mixer console).

But just for the sake of argument I am just saying: yes this can be done. It is time consuming to set it up. Therefor I am Turtle.

The basic usage of send effects

Send effects in the mixing stage are most commonly used to do 3 things: widen the sound (reverb), make the sound longer (delay), or create a creative effect (stutter, bitcrush, saturate, transform etc). The first two are most obvious two. While send effects can be used in a lot of different creative ways.

Reverb as a send effect

Reverb as a send effect has the purpose to add width on the sound. Some would try to use this to emulate a specific space or room. Or width can be used to emphasize those elements that do not have any width at all. A good example would be adding emphasis on a percussion track. For instance if you want these elements upfront in the mix, you could apply a reverb on the other tracks just to put the other elements in the background by making them sound wider.

send effect reverb

In the following zip file I have added 2 Reason 9.5 example files. There is one that does not use any send effects while the other uses 2 send effects on the leads and bass lines. There is a huge difference between the positioning of these two tracks because of the way that everything sounds dry vs a version that has a lot of width in the leads. 

Download Comparison Zip file

It is a jedi mind trick really. But tricks like these work. And that is what matters.

Delay as a send effect

Delay as a send effect has a different meaning to the sound. While in the old school days (read: 80's) typical delay lines where made by adding different tracks on play them back on tape with different volumes. This behavior triggered what call the digital delay effect. While sequencing, you can also do this manually by copy / paste the complete track and have a lower volume on the second track, on the third track and so on.

Manual Delay effect

Using a delay as a send effect it will create a similar artifact. The delay time will determine how far the next delay kicks in, the feedback on a delay will determine how many times the delay kicks in. The level on the send in this case will determine how much that delay effect is in the mix. The essential idea with delay effects is that it increases the duration of the sound, can act as a stem increase of a sound (for instance Berlin school uses this technique a lot), and some use it as a tape / flange / chorus effect (lower delay times in milliseconds). Because delays have multiple purposes you will find delays in a lot of effect plugins or instruments even.

The problem with delays is that they can also trigger the same note twice while the delay kicks in. This also has the unwanted artifact on making the sound louder at that given time. Just as an example, if you have a sequence playing 3/16th notes all playing C3 and you add a digital delay on the send effect with a setting of 3/16. This would result in to playing 2 times a C3. With one at full, while the delay on a lower output. But still, this adds an additional loudness on that second note. 

So setting steps proper on a delay is crucial at times. Same could be said for the level of the delay effect itself. 

Creative effects

When talking about creative effects, then there are a lot of different things to plug in a send effect bus. Creative effects are often used to transform the sound out of context of the original and add that effect as an additional layer. In cases like these the level knob on the send effect is the "creative effect amount". This could be a bit of distortion, a saturation to add some dirt, some digital effect to make it sound old school. And the list goes on. Since this type of send is pretty broad, in terms of mixing it is also the least used while mixing. Since in most cases these type of effect are more likely to happen as insert effects. But still, the mixing engineer has that additional option to add those artifacts even while mixing the song.


Send effects should be seen as additional tools to mix a song. You could see them as additional filter presets inside Photoshop. You can set a filter, tell how much of that effect you want on top of the sound. But in cases like these the photo itself will remain intact on an opacity of 100%, while the additional effect is applied determined by the opacity amount (just to add another Photoshop reference here).

While send effects are most common used in conjunction with Reverb to widen it up, or a delay to make it longer there are non traditional effects that can be applied as a type of creative effect. The creative effect approach is either in you, or it is not. Other people prefer plugins.

Just as a good example, you could look at my old Reactor Refill or Space Ambient Refill. A lot of combinators I made have send effects applied inside the combinator itself. Turning an effect in a creative approach. While in theory, a similar approach could be done while making a send effect for Reason (did you know you can use a combinator as a send effect? There is an idea).

It just totally depends on what type of send effects are in your original game plan, and the biggest question of all is "how much do you add?". It all depends on the track. Just be creative and twist some knobs, and see what comes out of the mix.

Published on Reason Experts
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Published on Reason Experts
Published: 2017-07-20

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