Getting Modular with Tracktions’ Effects Racks

Many DAWs have effects racks these days. Traction's plug-in rack allows you to build complex effects chains and route them in a modular, convenient way. Gary Hiebner shows how.  

Within Tracktion’s single screen user interface and making use of the drag and drop functionality, you can build up some complex effects chains using the Plugin Rack. What I like about these Plugin Racks is that they have a modular approach in that you can see how the audio routes between the effects in the chain. Let’s take a look at how to use and build up these Plugin Racks.

Creating a Plugin Rack Effect

The Plugin Effects Rack allows you to build up your own multi-effect chains. You can also choose how you want the routing to be in the chain. First let's add the plugin rack. To do this, drag the plus sign from the Filter pane onto the inline mixer part of your track. This launches the Filter effects contextual menu. Navigate down to the Plugin Racks folder, and then choose Create New Empty Rack. This will open up an empty instance of the Plugin Rack.

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So this will act as a container to store your plugin chain.

Adding an Effect to the Rack

Now let’s add an effect here. Either drag an effect from the Filter pane here, or click the plus sign in the rack to add an effect.

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Let’s first start with something simple, so how about adding the Tracktion Compressor/Limiter.

Next you’ll get a message if you want to auto-connect the filter effect to the rack or if you want to leave it unconnected. Choose to leave it unconnected, as you have more flexibility connecting it yourself.

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Now let’s go through how to connect up this filter effect. On the left you have your inputs (MIDI, and Audio Left, and Audio Right). And then on the compressor effect you have inputs on the left. Connect the Audio Left input to the left input on the compressor, and the Audio Right input to the right input on the compressor.  And on the right of the compressor you have your outputs, and these can be connected to the outputs on the right of the effect rack. So you’re routing your audio that is coming into the plugin rack through the compressor and then back out of the plugin rack. That’s the plugin rack in its simplest form.

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Now let’s build up this rack a bit more, so you have a complex advanced plugin rack.

Building Up an Effect Chain

I want to build up a plugin rack that takes advantage of parallel processing. With this you can create a parallel chain so on each chain you can add different effects and have control on the levels and parameters on each chain.

Let’s create a new plugin rack on a new track. Add the empty plugin rack like described above. Now add a volume meter. Drag the plus sign to add a filter effect and then choose the Volume and Pan effect from the Tracktion Plugins effect. Connect the audio inputs to the audio inputs on the volume meter. 

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Now add a Compressor/Limiter after the volume meter. Connect the audio outputs from the volume meter to the compressor inputs. And then after the compressor add a chorus effect and connect the compressor to this chorus. Now connect the outputs from the chorus to the outputs of the plugin rack.

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Now to start our parallel second chain. Add another volume meter plugin. Cable the Audio left and right inputs as well into the inputs on this plugin. So you’ll have two cables from each of the audio left and right inputs going to volume meter plugins.

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Let’s add a set of other plugins to counter the first chain. Add a low/high-pass filter. You’ll notice that when you click on each plugin it updates to show its properties in the bottom of the plugin rack. Make sure the High-pass button is selected and dial in a Frequency of 2000 Hz. Connect the outputs of the volume meter to the high pass effect.

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Now insert a phaser plugin, and connect the outputs of the high-pass plugin to the phaser. Then connect the outputs from the phaser to the outputs of the Plugin rack.

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Mixing Your Chain

Now you have a complex chain of effects in the plugin rack. If you play back your audio through this chain, you’ll hear how each chain is altering the sound. Parallel processing is great as you can adjust each chain. So I can adjust the volume of the chain with the compressor and chorus, and this won’t alter the volume of the second chain.

What I’d recommend is dropping the level of both chains. Then starting with one chain, raise the level and adjust the effects. Then move to the second chain and raise its level and start tweaking the effects. So you can get a submix from within the plugin rack for this effect. You’ll hear that the phaser is only phasing the audio above 2000 Hz. Now you can adjust the volume level to how much you want to hear this effect.

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You can even add a combination of Tracktion’s plugins and your 3rd-party effects in the plugin rack, giving you more flexibility with your plugins and their combinations. 

Saving Your Chain

When you’re happy with the plugin rack effect that you have built up, you can save it as a preset that you can recall on other tracks or in other projects. This is how you do it. Right-click on the rack effect on your inline mixer on your track and choose ‘Save selected plugins as a preset’.

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Then the preset dialog box will come up where you can give the plugin chain a name. There’s also an optional description field if you wish to add further details on the preset. You can also add tags, that will help when you're browsing for specific presets. Make sure to add a comma between each tag.

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Now when you add a filter plugin to a track, you’ll see under the New from preset submenu in the Plugin Racks menu that you can see your preset. So this way you can extra instances of this plugin rack in your song or other songs.

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Conclusion

That’s how to build up a modular plugin chains in Tracktion. The plugin rack interface is very visual and allows you to easily see the route the audio takes by choosing where to connect the inputs and outputs. So get in there and build up your own unique plugin racks and save them as presets so that you can recall them in all your projects if needed.

Gary Hiebner is an enthusiastic South African Sound Designer and Apple Tech Head! Gary has been involved in the South African music industry for the decade, and in this time has also been involved in the sound design and music production for many advertising agencies and media houses. Gary is a devoted Logic and Ableton user, but he al... Read More

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