Ableton Live 10 Drum Buss Audio Effect

The Drum Buss effect in Ableton Live 10 can add some much-needed Boom to your rhythmic parts. Noah Pred recommends you jump on it while it's still fresh...  

Along with nested Groups and true Stereo Panning, Live 10 brings a new weapon to your mixdown tool kit: the Drum Buss audio effect. Boasting a clever combination of harmonic distortion, tuned-up compression, transient shaping and subsonic emphasis, this easy to (ab)use device is custom-built to add glue, grit and texture to combined percussion. Whether programming your drums from scratch, recording them live or assembling loops, placing a Drum Buss on a Group of your drum tracks instantly adds collective character and impressive enhancement with just a few simple tweaks.

On the left of the device we find the input settings. A Drive dial controls the additional heat added to the input signal, with a three-mode distortion toggle offering Soft waveshaping, Medium limiting, or Hard clipping circuit models. It’s worth trying all three modes in context to hear which might be most suited to your particular mix. Soft delivers subtle saturation, Medium emphasizes the high-mids more intensely, and Hard boosts the low end significantly.

The Trim slider attenuates the input signal to help compensate for the Drive circuit’s added gain, while the Comp toggle activates percussion-optimized in-line compression prior to the distortion stage. 

Focused on the crucial mid-high frequency range that lends drums their presence and bite, the Crunch control applies sinusoidal distortion, delivering harmonic excitation where it tends to count the most. A Damp control provides a low-pass filter to remove undesired high-end frequencies that might be introduced by one or both distortion stages. 

Where most dedicated transient shaping effects provide separate controls for the attack and sustain of incoming audio, Drum Buss cleverly incorporates both into a single bi-polar Transients dial. At the default neutral value dynamics remain unaffected, but with positive values both transient attack and lingering sustain components are boosted, sharpening the resolution of onsets while inflating the body of decay segments; at negative values, transients are sharpened while sustain is diminished, resulting in more crisp and staccato rhythmic material with reduced background ambience. Drum Buss’ transient shaping only occurs above 100 Hz.

Below 100 Hz, the low end of any signal can be exaggerated with the Boom dial, which increases the influence of a hyper-resonant low-pass filter. The Freq dial allows you to tune the bass boost to make sure it’s in key with the rest of your mix; while measured in Hz, a tuning display below reflects the corresponding MIDI note, with a plus or minus symbol indicating sharpness or flatness, respectively – while clicking the MIDI note display itself automatically sets the Frequency to the exact note center to quickly dial in your low-end emphasis with diatonic precision. A Decay control tightens or extends the duration of the emphasized low frequencies, while the cue button solos the results of the Boom path to hear what you’re adding to the mix a bit more clearly – and if the Boom Frequency is too low for your monitors to reproduce, the dedicated Bass meter represents the low end output visually.

Speaking of output, the outgoing wet signal can be adjusted with the Out slider, while a Dry/Wet balance allows for a blend of extreme settings with the original unaffected signal for more natural or delicate results. Drum Buss can easily bring a variety of drum and percussion elements to life even when used sparingly, though it may introduce gain in the process, so be prepared to compensate with a Utility or on your level faders. I personally found Soft saturation combines nicely with a variety of other settings at around 33% Wet or less for all the enhancement I need. 

Processing drums with Drum Buss, followed by a Utility to compensate for total gain

Processing drums with Drum Buss, followed by a Utility to compensate for total gain 

Conclusion

An impressive mix tool purpose-built for electronic and natural drums alike, Drum Buss can also breathe life into more or less any full-spectrum rhythm-driven program material, from thin synths to stale sequences and anything in between. While there’s valid concern it may soon be overused – with a glut of new tracks or potentially even new genres taking full advantage of the Boom feature in particular – there’s no question Drum Buss is brilliantly conceived to quickly add grit, consistency, and character wherever your mix demands.

Learn more about Ableton Live in the Ask.Audio Academy: https://ask.audio/academy?nleloc=category/audio/application/ableton  

Noah Pred is a Canadian techno and house producer, DJ and Certified Ableton Trainer living in Berlin, Germany - where he runs his label, Thoughtless Music. His Juno-nominated full-length album Third Culture, is out now: http://www.thoughtlessmusic.com/releases/tlm086-noah-pred-third-culture/ - and you can check out his new project with... Read More

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