What’s In Your Signal Chain?

Been going back over how I do things, learning a lot and trying to do things “right” - or at least better. Gain staging and mixing have always been my weak spots (but I’m ok w the creative side like sound design, sampling, synthesis, arrangement) and feel like I’m getting closer… However, In trying to figure out a default track DSP chain it’s been challenging.

  • My default instrument and bus tracks’ plug chain starts w a highpass at 100hz (obv lowered for subs and whatnot), a trim/gain, parametric EQ, a channel strip type thing (currently iZotope Neutron 3 elements), and Voxengo Span at the end of it all to see what’s going on.

  • Bass and drum busses get the above (EQ often bypassed though) and a saturator and/or compressor of some kind as well for the “glue” thing at the end.

  • Master will have the same as above w highpass set to 20Hz for rumble, an EQ for gentle correction, sometimes an air band type thing, and a limiter that I turn on and off as I’m trying to get it nice and loud without losing anything while still listening for stuff like funky phase tings.


How are your tracks, busses, master channels plugged up?

I know there are lots of strong and interesting opinions about this (like @hubb’s no-EQ style) but want to dial in this shit so each time I go to make music I don’t get bogged down in wondering if there’s something that doesn’t work, could be better, or is missing something lifesaving.

For instance - some of the phase-checking/AI-driven smart-mixing plugs like Soothe sound like they could improve everything a notch or two, but before money gets spent would like to hear more from you lot.

Ok, your turn.


Honestly I don’t use a template for what my tracks or busses will look like at all. I know some people advocate it for saving time and such and I’m sure it works for a lot of people. But I don’t really have any processor in particular that is always on each track. Usually when I’m in the sound design and production stage (which generally overlap pretty fully for me) I might be freezing, flattening, resampling things multiple times etc. so whatever is going on as far as fx just depends on what I need to get it to sound how I want or close enough. Once the elements are arranged and the song feels close to finished I move more to mixing although it still isnt a hard line, but I generally will have everything down to audio instead of MIDI by then. Again I usually just go by listening for anything that bothers me and specifically addressing that. For example I don’t low or hi pass anything by default unless it seems like it might need it, though I definitely do do it often.

The one thing I have set up on my default session is my master bus which is Pro-Q 3 (with default settings, usually the only move I make with it is cutting anything below 100hz from the sides, unless something else is bothering me like i need to shelf boost/cut the his or lows. Generally only wide band moves and less than 3db of gain) then into Saturn 2 (often just warm tape setting with the gain set a bit below the range that the lows start getting crunchy, though I will also do multiband stuff sometimes like setting a ~1khz range in the mids somewhere with amp distortion partially dry and partially wet, which kind of colours the whole track differently and can feel nice to me. Depends on what sounds good for the track, that kind of thing can be really bad too, so I always A/B it a few times before deciding.) After that the Softube Drawmer S73, which I just play with the settings till I get something good. Then soft clip a bit and then Pro L2 for limiting.


Also I’ve been playing more with mixing into a bus compressor on the 2mix before going into the master chain lately which I didn’t really have a good grasp on for a while, been using the Focusrite Red 3 mostly. Definitely not a standard thing either tho

I have a template for basic things when I open a session. My chosen room reverb and delay on aux sends. Emergency limiter on master. The initial MIDI and audio channels I will use etc.

I don’t have a default chain that I go to. I only add effects and processing depending on the situation.

Also, I don’t have a mastering chain happening when I’m mixing. I treat mixing and mastering as two separate processes.

Although I might have some sort of glue compression and saturation while I’m mixing. Sometimes. It depends. No limiters. I turn the emergency limiter off but it is only set to catch peaks if they get out of control anyways. If the mixdown is good, I’m nowhere near that.

1 BigUp

Every track is a blank canvas. I don’t use templates or any kind of chain.

I feel like the relation between rumble and lower freqs is really important and 100 seems high, maybe consider a lowshelf instead of highpass
i would never highpass a sub or a kick either for the same reasons as the stasi EQ rules :sunglasses:

other than that it sounds reasonable

i sometimes use camelphats inbuilt limiter like optical suggests on that video - i have it somewhere if people cant find it - its discontinued so probable not an issue sharing it

1 BigUp

i don’t have templates at all.

1 BigUp

Generally start off by setting up some good sends, make a few channel groups to sum and sidechain to kicks/subs etc, and then chuck a Satin tape effect preset on the master like a big ol cheater

1 BigUp

Also, I don’t have a mastering chain happening when I’m mixing. I treat mixing and mastering as two separate processes.

Yeah worth mentioning abt the master chain, I start working with it all turned off and have the master track peaking around -6/7 or so in terms of gain staging as I work, and once I’m at the point of mixing or around there I’ll turn the limiter and clipper on and dial them in. The rest of it I start to fine tune at some point as i go on. So not really fully separate mixing and mastering stages which imo is fine but definitely not doing master limiting and such till later in the process

1 BigUp

I suppose i do sort of have little things i do then. I turn the master down by about 8db and all the channels too before starting a track


Just so i got headroom and dont end up redlining. Probably overkill but it gives me lots of space i guess. Not entirely sure now tbh :upside_down_face:

You should not turn down your master. You are losing headroom by just doing that. There are some maths behind this.

You should adjust the volume as close to source as you can and then you should only need to make minor adjustments on the channel faders.

1 BigUp

If things are starting to peak on your master channel but you have a good balance, just select all of your tracks and bring down the fader on one channel so all of the other channels come down the same amount and you don’t lose your mix balance.

I’d imagine that Reaper should be able to do that.


Yeah seconding this ^^

1 BigUp

My template is pretty limited

I have four return tracks set up. 2 with Valhalla Verb and 2 with Ableton delay. Everything
I’ll ever make is going to have some reverb and delay going on, so why not start with that.
Then I have 1 instrument track with Predator on it and 9 audio tracks, 3 for every hardware instrument
I am using. All of these have an EQ on it and nothing else.

I end up not touching Ableton that much when I’m making sounds and jamming, which was my goal.

1 BigUp

My master chain usually has a utility set to 100%. Is that cancelling out the mono sub and kick?

Then I’ll have a tiny bit of reverb, a mid side EQ cancelling everything out at 30 and everything out at about 150 in the sides.

A soft clip

Maybe some parallel compression

Some light OTT

and then my limiter.

Subtle difference (to me) between shelf and pass… but it makes sense, because I was still seeing a little <20Hz in Span that was like wtf. Will try that.

The 100Hz thing seemed high to me too but it was mentioned by more than one producer in my research. Snares can get passed at 80, kicks anywhere from 40 or 45 all the way up to 80 as needed, Bass elements obv exempt except the rumble cut… but I have to say that using it on synths and other mid/hi stuff has definitely improved my mixes to a degree.

1 BigUp

Filtering out everything on your main mix below 150 on the sides is way too brutal and will result in a thin mix. Having too little 100-300 is as bad as having too much. Much better to use a parametric band to subtract the right amount than just outright filtering.

Too many stages of stereo->M/S processing->stereo makes the stereo image fall apart. I generally try to have only one or two(at most) conversions for any element from raw track to mixbus.

1 BigUp

So keep the master at 0db?