Mission: determine which native Ableton Live audio effects upset the phase to the least degree and are therefore the safest to use in parallel on send channels.
– some words from PerforModule
So one day i got it in my head to figure out which of Ableton Live’s Effects are the best to use in parallel.
What is the criteria for this? Simply, which processes alter the phase of audio passing through them, either to the least degree, or in a nicely summable way.
Why does this matter? Because phase offsets, when summed in parallel with the original signal, will inevitably cause changes to the frequency contour. Sometimes slight amounts of this phase offset can add a nice creamy touch to the sound of things (and pretty much all analog gear causes it to some degree), but when being surgically technical like during the finalizing stages of a track, they are generally just not helpful.
An example of not altering phase at all is Live’s Compressor effect which is phase-neutral; it can be used safely in parallel with no unwanted frequency coloration whatsoever.
An example of altering the phase in a “nicely summable” way is Live’s Reverb. Technically, it’s altering the phase a whole bunch, but it’s doing so in a time-smeared fashion which results in far less likelihood of perfectly-lined-up frequency cancellations, and so, when at 100% wet, reverbs can be just fine to use in parallel, and are often preferred this way.
After carefully checking the phase response of all of Ableton Live Ten’s native Audio Effects, i came up with five distinct racks providing combinations of the most parallel-friendly native effects, optimized for specific purposes with maximal versatility of application.
Results: Five distinct racks providing combinations of the most parallel-friendly native effects, optimized for specific purposes with maximal versatility of application.
Smoothly inject density with maxed-out extreme parallel compression chain ParallAux SMASH.
Add vintage reverb souped up with tremolo, erosion, tube, and compression/clipping using ParallAux Reverb Analog.
Add modern reverb enhanced with reflective surface, unique “prescient gate”, and compression/limiting using ParallAux Reverb Digital.
Add source-reactive lo-fi grit with ParallAux Eroded Tube.
Apply gating to multiple tracks at once using phase-inversion trickery with ParallAux Gate-Expander.
PARALLAUX DIRECTIONS FOR USAGE (TWO METHODS)
1. Return Track Method: Place a ParallAux rack (or racks) on a Return (aka “aux”) channel in your Live Set. Then use Sendknobs to feed to it various amounts from various tracks.
2. Channel Track Method: First stop playback to avoid a sudden volume jump. Place a ParallAux rack on a new chaininside an Audio Effect Rack on the channel (keeping a chain reserved for the original clean signal). Lower the new chain level to -inf dB, play your audio, and slowly bring the volume upwards to blend with the original signal to taste.
- Use the Return Track Method when you want to apply multiple tracks to the given parallel effects.
- Use the Channel Track Method when you are sure you only want the parallel effects applied to one specific audio track or group.
Note that both of these methods are additive — they will stack new energy on top of existing energy, rather than altering what already exists.
PARALLAUX ERODED TUBE
The simplest of the ParallAux racks, it cohesively combines Erosion and Dynamic Tube. Use it subtly for adding a touch of source-reactive lo-fi grit to the mix. Or you can push it a bit harder to blend in some sound of analog signal clipping without mangling the original material. This rack does have some very minimal phase coloration.
- Crunch——Clarity controls almost every internal parameter, transitioning between two extremes to fine-tune the texture. “Crunch” results in the most dirty, gnarly, clipped sound possible, whereas “Clarity” focuses its efforts on maintaining integrity to the utmost.
- Tone determines the tonal focus for both the erosion and the tube.
By particular routing using phase-inversion gimmickry, it is possible to gate tracks via a Return Track. Weird, huh?
- Gate Valleys cuts out the quietest moments of sound.
- Expand Peaks boosts the loudest moments even more.
- Gate Intensity determines how many dB that gated signals are attenuated by.
- Expand Intensity determines the expansion ratio, up to a whopping 1:2.
- Onset coordinates Gate Release plus Expander Attack.
- Recover coordinates Gate Attack plus Expander Release.
- Tone Sense seeks to maintain (or curtail) lower or higher frequencies.
- Expand Pre Feed establishes what percentage of the expander’s detector is listening to the pre-gate vs the post-gate signal.
Break the System
Note that there are ways to break this gate functionality by altering the phase summation of the signals as they hit the master channel. To place effects on a ParallAux Gate-Expander signal chain without that happening, make sure to drop them inside the rack, on the “ParallAux FX” track (rather than before or after the rack).
PARALLAUX REVERB ANALOG
Go-to aux reverb for when you want a more retro vibe, juiced up with easily adjustable tube, tremolo, subtle erosion, analog compression, and a clipper.
- Push compresses the signal post-reverb for a denser, fuller sound.
- vint Age increases the perceptual antiquity of the verb, sounding more like playback on out-of-date equipment.
- Distance increases the perceptual size of the listening space.
- Body vs Bite shifts focus between average sound vs transients by adjusting ER level as well as compressor settings.
- Tremolo Amount adds in tremolo, because we can, so why not?. Add a touch of diversity. Or go crazy!
- Tremolo Speed adjusts how fast the modulation is. Slow can be quite nice for subtle texture morphing.
- Tremolo V — W segues between volume modulation and width modulation. V can be nice for adding a touch of humanization, W for increasing stereo spread.
- Trim-Ceiling is a combination volume fader and clipper. Use it to lower the output when desired.
PARALLAUX REVERB DIGITAL
Go-to aux reverb for when you want a more modern vibe, juiced up with easily adjustable reflective surface, VCA compression, unique tight prescient gate, and a limiter.
- Push compresses the signal post-reverb more a denser, fuller sound.
- Tune sets the tone of the reverb as well as the resonant tune of the reflective surface.
- Surface Amount decides how much Corpus to add.
- Surface Material switches between surface types as well as morphs some of its parameters. A recommended workflow is to turn up Amount to listen, set carefully, tune it, then turn Amount back down.
- Psychic Gate “alters the future” by listening to the pre-reverb signal but applying to the post-reverb signal. This tightens up the decay tail in response to the raw material — a modern twist on the 80’s-style “gated reverb” technique.
- Decay alters the perceptual reverb tail length. This also affects the compressor and gate timings.
- Width adjusts how modulated and expansive the stereo panorama is.
- Trim-Ceiling is a combo volume fader and limiter. Use it to lower the output when desired.
Dual analog/digital compressors (in parallel with each other, of course) with thresholds and ratios slammed to their utmost. You feed signal into that slammation for added parallel “oomph”, good for feeding tracks in a mix into and also for injecting extra loudness during mastering.
- Smash Inject fine-tunes just how much of this smash to inject into the mix.
- Thump adjusts the sidechain EQ frequencies of both compressors to allow more bass through unimpeded, one using a lowering low shelf and one using a rising low cut.
- Attack adjusts compression onset. Use a higher (slower) attack value to let more transients through. Use a faster attack for more distortion and loudness.
- Release adjusts compression recovery. Use a higher (slower) release value to keep compressing steadily after it’s been triggered. Use a faster release for more distortion and loudness.
- Safety Limiter simply sets the ceiling beyond which none shall pass. Lower it for more smash and less level. For the cleanest possible sound, keep the signal low enough to avoid triggering it.