Chapter 16: REAPER Plug-ins in Action

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16 REAPER Plug-ins in Action[edit]

16.1 What Are Plug-ins?[edit]

There's a wonderful assortment of plug-ins supplied with REAPER - over 200 of them! These include the Jesusonic and the VST Rea plug-ins from Cockos. In this section we will be introducing you to a selection of these. We will only be covering the very basics, just to give you a feel for what plug-ins are and how they work. Beyond this, you can explore for yourself.

Plug-ins are pieces of software that are used to control and shape the sound generated when you play back the media items in your tracks. Some simple examples of when and why you might want to use a plug-in are:

To make a vocal recording sound nicer, more lifelike. Perhaps your dry recording sounds a bit thin, even verging on feeble in places. Plug-ins can add body, warmth and sparkle to such a track, not by working magic, but by finding where those qualities are buried in the recording and bringing them out.

To smooth off peaks and dips in the volume of a track, making the overall track sound more even.

To add a 'live' feel to a track or even a whole mix, making it sound more as if it were recorded in a church or a concert hall, rather than in a boring old studio.

16.2 The Three Laws of Plug-ins[edit]

Before you start using plug-ins, study and memorise this mantra. There are no exceptions to these laws!

  1. It is better not to use a plug-in at all than to use it badly. A badly used plug-in is likely to make your mix sound worse, not better. If in doubt, underdo the use of plug-ins, don't overdo them.
  2. Never judge the quality of a plug-in by how much you like its presets. Presets reflect someone else's idea of how something ought to sound, not the quality of the plug-in, nor its potential. You will almost certainly never learn how to get the best out of any plug-ins, be they EQ, compression, reverb or anything else unless you take the trouble to understand their various parameters. And that takes time.
  3. You can't judge the quality of a plug-in by its cost. No, really you can't. Some plug-ins are free. Some cost literally thousands of dollars. Some free ones are pretty awful, some are great. Some plug-ins costing hundreds of dollars are, to be polite, very, very ordinary. Others are excellent.

16.3 The Five Types of Plug-in[edit]

Especially when you are new to digital audio, when you start to explore the world of plug-ins you might find yourself feeling overwhelmed, if not utterly confused. Why? Because there is so much choice. Heaven help me, have I really got to understand all that lot to be able to use this recording caper?

No, you don't. Learn in steps as you go. In essence there are essentially five types of plug-in (well, there's a major exception to that, which I'll get to shortly). These five types are:

Sound Shaping: these plug-ins affect the frequency (pitch) of your track(s). An example is EQ.

Time-Based Effects: these plug-ins manipulate how your track(s) interact with time. Examples include Delay, Chorus and Reverb.

Volume Changing: these are plug-ins that determine the overall volume or perceived volume of your track(s). Examples are Compressors and Limiters.

Routing Plug-ins: these do not shape the sound of your tracks as such, but are used for tasks such as routing. Routing is generally beyond the scope of this chapter: we'll get to it in Chapter 17.

Analytical Plug-ins: these display information, but don't in any way alter the sound of the track.

And that exception? Well, some plug-ins can cut across more than one of these categories at the same time, performing more than one job. One example of this is a Multiband Compressor, which displays the characteristics of both an EQ and a Compressor.

It would be way beyond the scope of this User Guide to teach you the science between these various plug-ins ' that would require an entire volume in itself! Our objective is to give you an introduction to what REAPER offers in this area, and to show you how REAPER's own interface is used to control them.

16.4 Adjusting Plug-in Parameter Controls[edit]

Plug-in faders can be adjusted using any of four main methods. These are:

Hover your mouse over the fader and scroll the mousewheel. Use Ctrl for finer adjustments.

Click on a fader and drag the mouse. Hold the Ctrl key for finer adjustments. Hold Alt for 'elastic' auditioning: the control will return to its original position when the mouse is released.

Click on the fader then use the Up and Down arrow keys.

Click in the parameter value window (in the first example show below, you can see one of these to the immediate right of each of the three horizontal faders) and type a value.

If you prefer not to use the first of these methods (for fear of making accidental adjustments), you can enable on the Editing Behavior, Mouse page of your Preferences the option Ignore mousewheel on all faders.

16.5 Sound Shaping Effects: ReaEQ[edit]

Many sound shaping plug-ins fall (in one way or another) into the EQ category. EQ means 'equalisation.' This is rather strange, since they are used to emphasise (or de-emphasise) selected frequencies. Perhaps they should be called 'UnEQ'!

ReaEQ is the main EQ plug-in supplied with Reaper. There are also several JS EQ plug-ins but ReaEQ is the most powerful and flexible. Let's take an example.

  1. Open the supplied project file All Through The Night.RPP and save it as All Through The Night EQ.RPP
  2. This example uses only the vocal track, which is an excellent tool for demonstrating EQ. Solo the Vox track.
  3. Display the FX window, click on Add and add Cockos VST: ReaEQ. Notice that by default this has 4 band tabs (numbered 1 to 4).
  4. Play the song. As you do so, select Band 4 and fade the Gain left to about ' 35 dB. Notice how deep the voice becomes. Double click on the fader to return it to the centre.
  5. Select Band 2. Fade the Gain down to about ' 14 dB. Notice how tinny and even disembodied the voice sounds. Double-click to return to normal. Now lift the Gain to about +3 dB. The voice should sound quite pleasantly fuller and warmer. Select Band 3 and set the Frequency to about 4200. Observe what happens as the gain is adjusted between +3.5 and -3.5. When finished, return it to 0.0. Save the file.

What has been happening is that you have been adjusting frequencies This is a huge subject. It is way beyond the scope of this guide to teach everything there is to know about EQ, but here is a brief introduction. Exactly how you divide up the frequency spectrum is to some extent arbitrary. Here's one way that makes sense:

Frequencies Comments 16 to 60 Hz Very Low Bass. These frequencies are felt rather than heard.
60 to 250 Hz Bass. Herein dwell the fundamental notes of the rhythm section. A modest boost here can help make a sound fuller, but too much gain will make it boomy.
250 to 2000 Hz The Mid Range. Too much gain here makes it sound like you've recorded from the other end of a telephone. If a take sounds muddy, try cutting it here.
2000 to 4000 Hz Upper Mid Range. Often a tricky area. Too much can cause listening fatigue. Lower this range a tad on the mix while boosting a tad on vocals can help a vocal stand out.
4000 to 6000 Hz Presence Range. This is the key range for clarity and presence of instruments and vocals. Some gain here will bring the instrument or voice forward in the mix. A drop here can pull a vocal or an instrument back.
6000 to 16000 Hz High Range. This is where you find clarity and sparkle. Too much gain here produces a searing, glassy effect. Not enough will sound dull ands 'heavy'.

So ... we know that the frequency is measured in Hz (and kHz), and that we can increase or decrease the volume at any level, to shape the sound. The sound level itself is measured in decibels.

We need to understand two more terms ' first, band width. ReaEQ measures bandwidth in octaves. A narrow bandwidth setting means that you will raise or lower the sound over a very small part of the spectrum relative to your selected frequency. A wide setting means that you will be working on a much wider part of the spectrum. An example of the difference in how a narrow bandwidth (top) and a wide bandwidth (bottom) can shape a sound is shown here.

You will also see, if you display the drop down list labelled Type that there are several type of band. Some of the most commonly used are:

Band: the volume is raised or lowered either side of the frequency, the range being determined by the bandwidth setting. Sometimes called a 'peaking filter.'

Low/High Pass: Filters out frequencies above/below the frequency setting.

Low/High Shelf: Causes the gain to be lowered or raised below/above the frequency setting.

Pass and Shelf will in most cases only be used (if at all) at very low frequencies or very high frequencies.

You can add or remove bands using the Add band and Remove band buttons.

Tip: Don't forget that you can create track parameter controls and/or automation envelopes for this or any other plug-in by clicking on the Param button in the plug-in window ' as explained in Chapter 11.

16.6 Time Based Effects: Delay[edit]

These include reverb, delay and chorus. Sound takes time to travel thru any distance, and surfaces like walls and ceilings create reflections which make the sound patterns even more complex, intricate ' and alive. Time based FX use a number of tricks and techniques to artificially simulate this, thereby creating a more 'live' sound. But be careful. Too much here can ruin an otherwise good sound.

Parameter Description Delay (ms) Determines the amount of time that passes between the original sound and when the delayed sound is heard.
Feedback Determines the amount of the delayed signal that will be fed back into the delay itself. This helps to prevent the delay from just being an echo.
Mix in (dB) Determines the overall output level.
Output wet (dB Determines the Output level of the Post FX signal. Lowering this relative to the dry output will make the effect more subtle.
Output dry (dB) Determines the Output level of the Pre FX signal

In this example, we will use the JS: Delay/Delay to add a touch of delay to the Bouzouki.

Example

  1. Unsolo your Vox track and solo the track Bouzouki. Open its FX Window and add the JS:Delay/delay.
  2. Play the song. Experiment with adjusting the FX parameters until you have found an effect to your liking. For very small delay settings, such as 0.2 ms, it is easier to type them in the box than to use the faders.
  3. Unsolo the track, then continue to make any further adjustments until you are satisfied with the results.
  4. Save the file.

Note: The plug-in ReaDelay is a more powerful alternative to JS Delay. In particular, it allows you to create multiple delay taps, each with its own delay settings, and to pan each of these individually.

16.7 Volume Changing Plug-ins: the Limiter[edit]

In this next example, we will look at an example of one volume changing effect, the JS:LOSER:masterLimiter. This can be added to the FX Window for your MASTER to perform two functions. These may at first appear to be contradictory, but they are not:

To raise the overall volume of the mix, but at the same time '

To prevent the mix from 'clipping', i.e. getting too loud at any point.

We will be using the JS:Loser/masterLimiter which includes the following controls and parameters:

Parameter Description Threshold Determines the level at which the other limiter settings will be applied. It may seem paradoxical, but the lower the threshold, the higher will be the perceived overall volume. As you lower the threshold, more of the song is lifted to the limit specified.
Look Ahead Determines how far ahead the limiter looks ' this helps smooth out sudden peaks.
Attack Determines how quickly the limiter kicks in as the signal increases.
Release Determines how quickly the limiter recovers after a peak is encountered.
Limit This determines the maximum volume that cannot be exceeded.

Example

  1. Display the FX Window for your MASTER and insert the JS: LOSER /masterLimiter.
  2. Play the song, adjusting the controls.
  3. As you lower the Threshold, the volume will get louder, but the maximum (limit) volume is never exceeded.
  4. As you lower the Limit, the song gets quieter.
  5. The more you lower both Threshold and Limit, the more you squeeze the dynamics out of the song ' volume remains almost constant, and there is little or no movement in the VU.

The trick to using a limiter well is to smooth out peaks and dips somewhat, but without adversely affecting the dynamics of the song. And, especially at first, be gentle!

16.8 Analytical Plug-ins: the Frequency Spectrum Analyzer[edit]

Shown on the right is a JS: Frequency Soectrum Analyzerr plug-in.

Insert this into any track 's FX chain (or the master's FX chain and as the project is played you are given visual feedback as to the level of output at different frequencies.

This plug-in is explained in detail in the free REAPER Cockos Effects Summary Guide.

Three of the Cockos plug-ins ' ReaEQ, ReaFir and ReaXComp - all include an analytical display similar to that shown here as part of their standard interface.

Now that you've had a look some examples of different types of plug-in. We can go on and examine some more.

First, though, another word or two about presets ...

16.9 Using FX Presets[edit]

When you are satisfied with your settings for any plug-in, you might wish to save them as a preset, so that you can apply them next time you want to use it on another track:

  1. Click on the + button just above the JS Delay/delay plug-in when this plug-in is selected.
  2. Choose Save preset from the menu.
  3. Type a name and click on OK.

To save these as default parameter settings for the plug-in when it is used in the future, use the Save preset as default... command from the same menu.

To import an existing preset library (such as you might be able to download from the REAPER web site) you would choose Import preset library'. To export your presets to a file (for backup purposes, or to use on another computer) you would choose Export preset library ...

To choose an existing preset (from those previously saved or imported, or which were supplied with the plug-in), insert the plug-in into that track's FX window, display the drop down list of presets (see above), then select the one that you want.

Within the FX Browser, you can select a preset when adding an FX to the FX chain. Right-click over the plug-in name then from the context-sensitive menu choose Presets, then select the required preset from the displayed list.

16.10 Time Based Effects: ReaVerb[edit]

ReaVerb is a VST plug-in that is supplied with REAPER. Reverb itself is a time-based effect, and ReaVerb uses a type of reverb known as convolution reverb to create the illusion of space. This section will introduce you to the basics of using ReaVerb. After that, it has more features that you can explore for yourself.

Most reverbs attempt to simulate the effect that the acoustic environment of, say, a hall or a room would have on sound. However, the mathematics required is complex, so that few come close to sounding like real acoustic rooms. Reverb plug-ins vary not only in their essential quality but also in the scope of their applications.

Convolution reverb can give you realistic reverb on a budget. It uses impulse responses of real acoustic spaces. This is done by first generating a signal in the required environment and then recording the result.

ReaVerb even takes this concept a step further, allowing you to not only use recorded impulses from real environments to create your reverb, but also to use something closer to more traditional reverb methods to then modify that sound further, should you wish to do so.

To be able to use convolution reverb, you will need a collection of impulse wave files. Search the net and you'll find all you want, many free. This example uses files downloaded from http://www.voxengo.com/impulses/. In the example that follows, these files have been downloaded and stored in a folder that we have created and named C:\Program Files\REAPER\Reverb Impulses\Voxengo\

Example

  1. Open the file All Through The Night.RPP and save it as All Through The Night REVERB.RPP
  2. Add a new track after the last track, and name it Reverb Bus
  3. Create Receives into this track from all of the instrument tracks and the Vox track. This will later enable you to feed different levels of signal, panned as required, from different tracks into your Reverb Bus.
  4. Display the FX Window for the Reverb Bus.
  5. Add ReaVerb into this FX Window.
  6. Fade the Wet level down to around '60 and the Dry level down to about '0.5, as shown above. We will start by adding just a little reverb, then increase it as required.
  7. Click on the Add button and then on File. This lets you add a file at the start of your Reverb chain. Navigate the file browser window to where your impulse files are stored and select one. In this example, we will be using St Nicolaes Church.wav
  8. Click on Open to insert that file into ReaVerb.
  9. Play the file. In the Track Window, lower the Volume fader for the Reverb Bus to about '10dB. Lower the fader on the Master to about ' 6dB. You can bring this up again later if you wish.
  10. In the ReaVerb window, now raise the wet signal until you hear a pleasing amount of reverb. This will probably be at about '10 dB. If you like, Solo the Reverb track for a while, so that you can discern the effect more clearly.
  11. We can now use the ReaVerb controls to adjust the Reverb effect. The Pre-reverb fader offsets the reverb tail by delaying the signal that is sent to the reverb tail generator. Try it for yourself.
  12. To add more controls to the Reverb chain, click on Add and choose Time/Gain/Stretch. Your window suddenly has all these extra controls. These are used to stretch the impulse (make it longer), add in some graininess, or trim the impulse (make it shorter). The best way to find out is to experiment!
  13. Now click on Add again and add a Filter (LP/HP). This causes a High Pass Filter and a Low Pass Filter to be added. This can be used to stop the reverb impulse from being added to very low and/or very high frequencies.
  14. When you have your sound right, you can save that set of parameters as a named preset that can by recalled for other projects. Click on the + button, choose Save preset, name the preset and click OK.

Notice that when you are experimenting with ReaVerb you can:

  • Drag and drop to change the order in which modules are positioned in the reverb chain.
  • Untick the box to the left of any module's name to bypass that module.

Tip: When making changes to ReaVerb settings it may be necessary to first stop and then restart playback for those changes to be employed.

ReaVerb Features Summary

Echo generator - generates an echo - useful for "filling in the gaps" of an impulse or creating echo-decay.

High and low pass filter - force the impulse not to work above or below a certain point.

Normalize - raise the gain of the impulse to 0dBFS.

Reverse ' reverses the Reverb ' a nifty effect for vocals, guitar solos and song intros/outros.

Trim/Gain/Stretch ' trim or stretch the impulse (make it shorter or longer), add in some graininess.

File - use this to insert an impulse file. You can insert as many files as you want!

Max FFT ' FFT filters are a complex mathematical topic. Google to learn more details! Meanwhile, for the rest of us, changing the FFT size changes CPU usage. A lower FFT setting means a higher CPU usage, but spread more evenly. Higher FFT sizes will consume less CPU but result in more latency. FFT size will therefore affect performance and possible dropouts, but it should not affect the sound itself. If unsure, use the default setting.

ZL ' option to enable zero latency: useful when tracking while monitoring reverb levels.

LL ' option to use an extra thread to improve low latency performance.

You may find when rendering that better results are obtained with both ZL and LL disabled.

Set all -apply these performance settings to all instances of ReaVerb in the current project.

16.11 Volume Control with Compression: ReaComp[edit]

Earlier in this chapter, we encountered a Limiter. You can think of a limiter as being like imposing a ceiling ' it stops the volume of a signal from going above whatever level you set.

Because limiting can be harsh, it is often better to use a compressor on individual tracks. Think of it this way ' a simple limiter cuts in suddenly and severely, whereas a compressor can be eased in much more gently. It might help to get a visual picture of what limiting can do to a recording compared to a well applied compressor. The three illustrations show the same waveform first as recorded, then how it might look with limiting (center), and with compression instead of limiting (right).

Notice that on the original waveform the volume varies quite considerably from time to time. Applying a limiter (near right) can lift the quieter passages, but may make the overall effect too loud. The dynamics have been largely squeezed out of the song. The illustration far right shows the same waveform after carefully using a compressor instead of a limiter. The track no longer clips, and more of the dynamics of the recording have been preserved.

Software compressors vary from the simple to the complex. We're going to concentrate here on understanding just five main terms. These are essential to understanding how to use compression. There are other factors, but let's just focus on these five for now.

Threshold - This is the volume at which the compressor will kick in. For example, if you set your threshold at, say, -10dB, then nothing below that threshold will be compressed at all.

Ratio ' This determines how gently or severely the compression is required. For example, a relatively gentle ratio like 2 to 1 would ensure that for every 2 decibels the volume of the recording goes above the threshold, the sound will be increased by only 1 decibel. A much more severe ratio of 12 to 1 would mean that for every 12 decibels the recording goes over the threshold, the sound will increase by only one decibel.

Gain ' This is how the volume of the track is adjusted after compression. Often you will want to raise the overall sound at least a little, to prevent the overall volume of the track from now being too quiet. The gain control in ReaComp (above) is labelled Wet.

Limit Output ' Selecting this option will prevent the compressor output from exceeding 0 dB.

Bypass ' this is the small tick box in the top right corner, next to the UI button. You can use this to toggle bypass on and off, enabling you to assess what this plug-in is doing. When this is ticked (as here) the plug-in is active. When unticked it is set to bypass. You'll find one of these in all plug-in windows.

Example

  1. Open the file All Through The Night.RPP and save it as All Through The Night COMP.RPP
  2. Solo the Bouzouki track. Look at its media peaks. You can see that it starts at a steady volume, but over the last 30 seconds or so of the song it gets rather loud.
  3. Play the track from the 55 second mark for about 15 secs then stop it. Try applying some compression to kick in at about '12 or '13 dB.
  4. Display the FX Window for this track.
  5. Insert the VST: ReaComp (Cockos).
  6. Create a loop to play over the last 20 secs or so of this instrument.
  7. As you do so, experiment with setting the Threshold (vertical fader on the left) and the Ratio. Select the option to Limit Output. You'll probably end up with a setting of something like -16 on the Threshold and a ratio around 4:1 or 5:1 (see picture).
  8. Now save this file.

16.12 JS Transients Plug-ins[edit]

Used well, a compressor can enrich a track or a mix, but used badly it can do more harm than good. If you're not too confident about using a compressor, you could do worse than look at the JS Transients Killer. It's a simple compressor (more like a clipper really) with just two parameters for you to control ' Threshold and Ratio. All other settings are fixed. The threshold determines the volume at which compression begins ' the ratio determines how much compression is applied.

Feeling a little more adventurous? Try adding the JS Transient Controller immediately after this, to add more sustain and/or attack to the track, folder or mix.

16.13 JS De-Esser[edit]

The JS de-esser is a specially crafted compressor whose purpose is to remove sibilance from vocal tracks.

It works by combining either a highpass or bandpass filter centred on a specific frequency with a compressor to tame the sibilance.

By turning Monitor on you are able to sweep the Frequency control to identify where the sibilance is worst, then turn Monitor off again. As a rough guide, male sibilance is likely to be found at around 4500 Hz and female at about 6500 Hz ' but these can vary with individual singers.

The Bandwidth determines how wide or narrow will be the frequency range to which the compression is applied.

Threshold, Ratio and Gain work in the same way as in a normal compressor.

16.14 Volume Control with a Noise Gate[edit]

Noise Gates controls sound at the quiet end of the scale. Often when you record a track such as a vocal there will be sections of silence, perhaps between verses. At least, you want them to be silence! However, you might notice on playback irritating sounds have been recorded at a low level during these periods. A noise gate can be set to detect these and filter them out. Like the compressor, the Noise Gate can be quite simple or more sophisticated. For now, we're going to focus on just the basic Noise Gate controls:

Threshold ' Used to specify a minimum sound level below which the Noise Gate will kick in.

Attack ' Specifies how quickly the gate should kick in. Too short an attack period can cause it cutting out the natural decay of a sound you want.

Hold ' This specifies how long the gate remains open after the signal falls below the Threshold

Release ' This determines how soon the gate closes after the signal has fallen below the Threshold.

Let's take an example, using the project All Through The Night COMP.RPP

Example

  1. Solo the Vox track.
  2. Play the song from just before the end of the first verse. If you listen carefully (especially thru headphones) you can hear some unwanted sounds during the otherwise silent passage. Certainly you can see this on the track's VU meter.
  3. Open the FX Window for this track and add Cockos VST ReaGate.
  4. Play the song again. Adjust the Threshold fader (the first on the left) to a level just above that at which the Threshold's VU meter is peaking during the quiet passages (see below). This will shut out the sound ' visual confirmation is given by the VU meter on the right, which should now display no activity.
  5. You will probably find that the default settings for Attack, Hold and Release work quite well, but experiment with adjusting them if you wish.
  6. Now save this file again.

You have just seen here a simple example of using a noise gate. Noise gates can be used to great effect and for a large number of applications (including with a drum kit to cut out the bleed between mics). Applications like that are more complicated and require a greater understanding of the noise gate's many parameters.

16.15 Sstillwell Chorus and Delay Effects[edit]

If you have ever owned an acoustic guitar then you probably know what a chorus effect is. You might have used a chorus pedal at some time to make your guitar sound fuller and richer, almost like two or more guitars.

REAPER includes a number of chorus effects. Shown here is Sstillwell's Chorus_Stereo.

This uses similar principles to the delay plug-in that we encountered earlier. It has a number of additional controls, the most important of which is Number of Voices. Try it and see! This is another plug-in where you'll find the wet/dry mix control and bypass toggle tick box (top right) can be very useful.

Other chorus/delay effects from Sstillwell include a mono Chorus effect, Delay_Pong (creating a delay effect which can be ping-ponged between left and right speakers), and Delay_Tempo (a simple delay effect). For a really unusual delay effect, try experimenting with remaincalm's floaty delay.

16.16 Noise Reduction with ReaFir[edit]

ReaFir is a multipurpose dynamics plug-in that almost defies categorisation or description. It can act as an EQ, a Compressor, a Noise Gate, and more. In this example, you will see how it can be used for noise reduction. The need for a noise reduction plug-in can arise when an otherwise good track has some unwanted background noise on it. This might, for example, be hiss or rumble, or the sound of an air conditioner.

ReaFir can be used to remove such sounds from your tracks in real time. In order to do this, you must first identify a passage on the track (perhaps a second or two) where you have recorded the unwanted noise by itself. This is likely to be at the very beginning of the track.

Example and Procedure

In overview, the procedure is this:

  1. Insert ReaFir in the FX window of the track containing the recorded items with the unwanted noise.
  2. Position the play cursor at the start of a passage containing just the unwanted noise.
  3. Set ReaFir to Subtract mode.
  4. Set Edit Mode to Precise.
  5. Select the Option to Automatically build noise profile.
  6. Play the track only for the duration of the passage containing the noise, then stop the playback.
  7. You should see that ReaFir has built a profile of the unwanted noise. This will be marked with a red line (see above right).
  8. Now uncheck the box labelled Automatically build noise profile.
  9. Return the play cursor to the start of the song and play it.
  10. You should now find that as the song plays, the noise that you profiled by following steps 1. to 5. has now been removed from your output..

Note: You might be a little puzzled as to when to use a noise gate and when to use noise reduction software such as ReaFir. The answer is usually quite simple. Noise reduction is suitable for removing a background noise that is fairly constant, such as an electrical hum, whereas a noise gate is better at dealing with occasional noise, such as a vocalist's breathing sounds.

16.17 Multiband Compression with ReaXComp[edit]

Applied to the Master, Multiband Compression can be a useful tool for adding body, warmth and volume to your final mix. It is outside the scope of this guide to suggest just how heavily or lightly you should apply your Multiband Compressor. Many audio engineers believe quite strongly that the contemporary trend being currently pursued by the major record companies takes multiband compression too far.

Be that as it may, a multiband compressor works by applying different rates of compression to different frequency bands. This lets you shape the sound much more precisely than is possible with a simple compressor.

The ReaXComp default settings include 4 bands. These are 0 to 200 Hz, 200 Hz to 1,000 Hz, 1,000 Hz to 5,000 Hz and above 5,000 Hz. However you can add extra bands or delete superfluous ones. You can also change the band frequencies as you wish. For example, if you increase the top frequency of Band 1 to, say, 250 Hz, then that automatically becomes also the starting frequency for Band 2.

f you have not used a Multiband Compressor before, then you are advised to start cautiously and become more adventurous as you gain in knowledge and confidence. You can experiment on any of the sample All Through The Night project files that you have used elsewhere in this User Guide.

Example

  1. Open one of your sample project files.
  2. Insert ReaXComp in the FX window for the Master.
  3. Play your project from the beginning.
  4. It is quite likely that at this stage ReaXComp will have no effect on the sound. This will be the case if, as shown right, the peak levels (green vertical bars) fall short of the threshold settings (red horizontal lines) for each band (see example above) But you can still learn something!
  5. Enable the Solo current band feature.
  6. As the song plays, select in turn each of the four tabs, 1, 2, 3 and 4. This will enable you to hear separately each of the frequency ranges that you are working on.
  7. Now disable the Solo Current Band feature. Disable Auto makeup gain. This will need to be done individually for each of the four band. If Auto makeup gain were to be left enabled, the volume of our mix would be pumped up after we make our other changes.
  8. As the song plays, adjust the threshold for each of the bands until they come just below the peaks for each band. An example of this is shown here.
  9. The default Ratio setting of 2:1 is quite a 'safe' level. Try increasing the ratio for each of your thresholds up to around 4:1. If you find this makes the sound too compressed, ease the levels back towards 2:1. Remember, this is an example, not a model!
  10. Even now, with these fairly conservative settings, you should notice the difference with ReaXComp enabled and set to bypass. When enabled, the different tracks should bind together better into a mix.
  11. If you wish, you can experiment with the various other controls, especially the Knee. This setting determines how suddenly or gradually the compression is applied.
  12. You can also experiment with the Gain controls if you wish, both for individual bands and for your overall mix, but don't overdo it.

Using ReaXComp: Some Tips

Don't use too many bands. Too many independently compressed bands can make your mix sound disjointed. Many of the best mastering engineers use only as few as three bands.

Listen closely to the changes in sound as you adjust the various settings. One affects the other, so it is important to take your time here.

The Attack settings determine how much time passes after the signal rises above the threshold before the compressor kicks in.

The Releases settings determine how much time passes after the signal falls back below the threshold before the compressor is released.

Try to adjust the Attack and Release settings so as to make the compressor come in and out unnoticed.

Especially when first using a Multiband Compressor in the Master, it is advisable to use the Gain settings only to compensate for loss of volume due to compression, not to pump the signal up. A notable exception here might be where one bandwidth needs to be adjusted slightly relative to the others.

It is often advisable to place a limiter (such as LOSER's Master Limiter) after the Multiband Compressor in your FX Chain.

Another, and completely, separate use for a Multiband Compressor is to compress a very specific frequency within a track, for example as a de-esser or de-popper on a vocal track.

16.18 JS: Time Difference Pan[edit]

Of the many JS plug-ins that are supplied with (or available for use with) REAPER, the Time Difference Pan definitely merits a mention. It is simple to use, but very effective.

Sometimes you may feel that a track you have recorded sounds rather 'thin' or 'wimpish'. You'll want to fill it out a bit, or fatten it up to make it sound richer, warmer, fuller. One old trick is to duplicate the track and run the duplicate track a few ms behind the original, but panned differently. Fed back into the main mix, this can almost make the one instrument sound like two instruments at times.

The TimeDifference Pan plug-in effectively does all this for you ' with much less time and trouble on your part, and with very, very little CPU overhead. If you want to experiment with this plug-in to try out the effect for itself, the Bouzouki track on All Through The Night.RPP lends itself to this quite well.

16.19 JS: Exciter[edit]

The JS Exciter plug-in is a simple way of putting some high end sparkle back into an otherwise possibly dull mix

Problems with individual instruments should be fixed on their own tracks. However, you might still wish to add some vitality to the overall mix Place the Exciter at or near the beginning of the Master FX chain and see for yourself. Note these parameters:

Frequency ' the frequency above which you want to add the sparkle. Try experimenting in a range of about 2000 Hz to 4500 Hz. Sometimes, you may need to go even higher for the best results.

Clip Boost ' the amount by which you wish to boost the volume above this frequency. Be gentle at first.

Harmonics ' the amount of Harmonics you want to add to the mix (go easy on this one).

Another plug-in in a similar vein is the JS: Exciter (treble enhancer).

16.20 JS: Huge Booty Bass Enhancer[edit]

This is a simple plug-in that can be used to enhance the bass frequencies on any track.

Try setting the required frequency first, then gradually increasing drive and mix until you like what you hear.

16.21 Some Unusual JS Plug-ins[edit]

16.21.1 Utility/bufsave[edit]

Placed as the first FX chain item (or, for MIDI tracks, immediately after the synth) and at the end of the chain, this adds feedback to the chain (see example below). Up to 100 buffer slots are available. Use the same slot for both instances of bufsave on the same track, and do not use that same slot number on any other track.

The FX In between the two instances of bufsave could be a solitary simple effect (such as a simple delay, or remaincalm's floaty delay) or, as shown here, a whole sequence of effects.

The other four faders manage the audio flow. They determine separately for each bufsave instance the levels of source to buffer mix, buffer to buffer mix, buffer to destination mix and source to destination mix. In particular, source to buffer mix acts as a feedback control. When working with feedback, be cautious. As a precaution, initially set both source to buffer mix faders some way to the left. You can then slowly fade these up more as required.

Interesting sounds can be obtained using more than one pair of bufsave plug-ins in an FX chain, with each pair being allocated its own unique slot.

16.21.2 JS: Thunderkick[edit]

This one can be positively scary! It adds a bottom end thunder-like sound to a track. You could try using it on a bass drum, or a synth or even an electric bass ' or anywhere where you want to create that atmosphere.

Its four faders are quite easy to work with. You'll likely get the best results without too much experimenting.

16.21.3 JS: Tonegate[edit]

Tonegate is a tone generator triggered off a gate, to add sine, square or noise tones. It is made more interesting by the addition of pitch and fade in/fadeout controls. This plug-in really gives you plenty of opportunity to be creative.

Originally intended for use with kick or snare, it is remarkably versatile. Try it out on your electric guitar, for example.!

Experiment at first with the Frequency fader and the Waveform options, then let your ears be your guide as you adjust the other controls.

You can learn more about this and other great remaincalm JS plugins by visiting remaincalm.org.

16.22 Some Guitar FX Plug-ins[edit]

There's a whole series of Jesusonic plug-ins especially designed to help you shape your guitar sounds. By and large, they work in much the same way as your guitar pedals do. Here is a selection:

Plug In Description JS Convolution Amp/Cab Modeler Lets you select an amplifier to be simulated, such as a Fender or a Marshall. Lots of parameters for you to tweak! The dual version of this plug-in lets you choose different left-right speakers!
JS Chorus The waveform is fed thru a series of delays whose delay times are slowly modulated. The shape of the chorus sound is moulded primarily by the Length, Number of Voices, and Rate settings.
JS Distortion This plug-in works by distorting the shape and frequency content of the waveform. The degree of distortion applied is determined principally by the Gain and Hardness settings.
JS Flanger Flanging is produced when a signal is mixed with a delayed copy of itself, while the delay time continually changes. The flange effect is set by adjusting the Delay Length, Rate and Feedback parameters.
JS 4-Tap Phaser This four allpass filter stereo phaser effect settings include Rate (Hz),Range (Min and Max), and Feedback.
JS Wah-Wah The wah effect is a filter effect, produced by the Position, Top Resonance, Bottom Resonance and Filter Distortion settings.
JS Tremolo Tremelo is produced by low-frequency variation in a sound's amplitude envelope, achieved by setting Frequency (Hz) and Amount (dB).

It is not suggested that you will want to use all these effects at once, but if you do use more than one of these, then the effect is cumulative. The order in which you apply them will determine how the output sounds. As a starting point, one possible order is shown on the right.

This does not mean that you shouldn't hold back from experimenting with other FX ordering, to see what creative sounds you can produce!

Filter (e..g.Wah or Phaser)

Compressor

Distortion

EQ

Pitch Change (e.g. Vibrato)

Modulator (e.g. Flange or Chorus)

Level Controller (e.g. Tremelo or Limiter)

Echo (such as Reverb)

16.23 Some Other REAPER JS Plug-ins[edit]

This next part of this chapter will give you an overview of some of the other wonderful Jesusonic plug-ins supplied with REAPER. It is only a small selection, and the fact that any plug-in isn't included in this table in no way implies that it is inferior to any of those that are included.

Plug In Description JS Channel Polarity Control Four choices, Normal Phase, Invert Left, Invert Right or Invert Both.
JS Channel Router w/Polarity A stereo phase inverter with the addition of selectable input and output channels. This can be used, for example, to create a fuller, more vibrant sound from a single mono track.
JS Digital Drum Compressor A custom designed compressor suitable for use with Digital Drums.
JS LOSER/Simple Peak-1 Limiter A simple peak limiter with a single control, Threshold. This can be used to prevent an individual track from clipping.
JS Goniometer Place it at or near the end of the FX chain of a stereo track, folder, or the Master You will see a visual representation of the movement of the sound within the stereo field.
JS Stereo Enhancer Used to create an enhanced stereo effect in a stereo track, folder, bus or Master. Works by adjusting the width panning of high and low frequencies independently, and to define the crossover point between the two. Other JS stereo manipulation plug-ins include MDA Pseudo Stereo and Stereo Width.
JS Waveshaping Distortion A delightfully easy to use plug-in that adds distortion to a track.
JS Meters/tuner Insert this into a new track and arm for recording, then tune your guitar.
JS Meters/vumeter Insert this into any track when you want monitor its VU levels closely.
JS Tonifier An interesting plug-in that creates sound effects by shifting pitch or frequency for audio blocks of a determined size.
JS Ozzifier Chorus Especially good for fattening or doubling a vocal track.
JS Downward Expander The opposite of a compressor! Can restore dynamics to a mix that sounds overcompressed. This works by further attenuating the volume of the signal when it falls below a given threshold.
JS RBJ Highpass/Lowpass Adds a high pass filter and low pass filter to a track or Master. Useful, for example, for removing bottom end rumble.
JS Bad Buss Mojo Waveshaper A nonlinear waveshaper with a difference. Use in particular the nonlinearity, knee and mod settings to make a piece sound a little less perfect and a little more 'rootsy' and authentic.
JS Louderizer A simple plug-in with two controls, used to make a track or mix louder.
JS Pitch Shifter 2 One of a number of plug-ins that can be used to change pitch.
JS FFT Peak-Following Filter A neat plug-in that lets you create autowah type effects, essentially by adjusting center frequencies and filter width. The closer together are the values of the min and max center frequency and the lower the octave width setting, the more dramatic will be the effect.
JS DC Filter A DC offset removal plug-in.
JS Volume Adjustment A simple plug-in that increases or attenuates volume. Place it at the start of an FX chain to adjust track or item volume before FX are applied.
JS Phase Rotator Another very simple plug-in, used to adjust the phase of a track or item.

Over 200 Jesusonic plug-ins are supplied with REAPER. Hopefully, this chapter has given you more than a few good pointers, but it is not possible to document them all in this User Guide. For more information check out REAPER's Wiki ' go to wiki.cockos.com/wiki/index.php/Category:Jesusonic.

16.24 Controlling FX Parameters on the Fly[edit]

If you have a controller such as (but by no means necessarily) a Presonus Faderport, you can assign a control on the fly to a VST FX parameter. Just do this:

In the Action List, find the action Adjust last touch FX parameter.

In the Shortcuts for selected action panel, click Add.

Twiddle the required knob on your controller.

Set other actions as required and Click OK.

16.25 Sending FX Output to a Different Track[edit]

REAPER’s routing capabilities allow you to send the output of any track’s FX directly to any other track, instead of or as well as to the track itself. The secret lies in using REAPER’s pin connectors. These are explained in detail in the chapter immediately following this one. On the left is shown an FX chain for (say) Track 1 of a project. Reverb is applied after the EQ and compression. You might wish to send the reverb output direct ly to another track instead of track 1, so that you can further work on it there. To do this, click on the 2 in 2 out button on the FX interface, and redirect the output to any pair not currently used by that track (in the example shown on the right, this is 5 and 6).

We can then create a new track – for example, Track 2 immediately after the current track) and create a send from (in this example) channel 5/6 on the source track to channels 1/2 on the destination track. If you wish to hear the reverb by itself, you simply need to solo track 2.

16.26 Bridging and VST Plug-in Run Mode[edit]

If you are running the 64-bit version of REAPER and wish to use older 32 bit plug-ins you will need to use bridging. By default, REAPER will attempt to work out for any plug-in that you use whether this bridging is required (Options, Preferences, Plug-ins, Compatibility). However, for any plug-in you can override this setting by right-clicking over the plug-in in the FX browser and choosing from the context menu Run as, and selecting one of three options which allow you to specify just how a plug-in is to be bridged. These options are:

Separate process: all bridged plugins for which this option is selected will be put into a single process, external to the main Reaper process. This has the advantage of minimising the resulting CPU load, but also carries a significant disadvantage: if one plugin is buggy and crashes the bridge process, all the other bridged plugins will die too.

Dedicated process: this puts each bridged plugin into a separate bridge process of its own. This will prevent a buggy plug-in from crashing the entire bridge, but it has the downside of increasing the overall CPU load.

Native only: is the default; the plug-ins are run inside the main Reaper process.

Bridging can serve another useful function. Even though it is primarily intended for use with 32 bit plug-ins, you can if you wish also bridge (most likely in a dedicated process) any 64-bit plug-in. This has the effect of firewalling REAPER against any adverse effects that could potentially arise from a buggy 64-bit plug-in.

A further choice, Embed bridge UI, determines whether the bridged plug-in GUI is displayed in the FX Chain wrapper window (or as a floating window) or is displayed in a completely separate (Windows / OSX) window. The choice is provided as some bridged plug-ins behave better in one context than in the other.

Remember! You should not store 32 bit plug-ins in the same directory as 64-bit plug-ins.

16.27 Third Party Plug-in Presets[edit]

You can use your favourite third party VST and DirectX plug-ins with REAPER, such as Sonitus, Wave Arts, Sony, and so on. Many of these plug-ins are supplied with a number of Presets. The method of accessing these will vary depending on such factors as the plug-in's native interface and which type of plug-in it is. In this section, we will look at three examples. Armed with this information, you should be able to figure out where to find the presets for any of your plug-ins.

Example 1

This example is of a popular DirectX Sonitus plug-in, Phase. In this case, the plug-in interface includes its own native Presets section. Clicking on that (shown above) displays a menu of supplied presets. You can also store your own presets here if you wish, as the Sonitus range of plug-ins includes its own preset manager.

Notice that you can also use REAPER's own Preset Library to store your presets with REAPER rather than with the plug-in. This is accessed by clicking on the small + button shown just to the left of the Param button. This is especially useful when you are working with plug-ins that might not have their own native Preset Manager.

Example 2 (right)

This example shows a TWest VST plug-in, STEADY Pro.

This plug-in does not have its own native preset manager. However, as with other plug-ins you can use the REAPER VST program interface to create and manage your own presets.

Example 3 (left)

A Direct X plug-in this time, Sony's Vibrato.

In this case, native presets do not appear when clicking on the REAPER Preset drop down list arrow. This will only display any presets that you have created yourself.

In this example, right-click over any vacant area of the plug-in's GUI interface to display a list of factory presets.

16.28 Losing the Graphic User Interface (GUI)[edit]

There might be times when you might want to lose a VST plug-in's graphical user interface (GUI) and instead display its parameters as a simple series of faders. This is when the UI button in REAPER's plug-in interface comes in. Clicking this button causes the plug-in and its various controls to be displayed in a simpler format.

Here's an example, using the Terry West VST Voc-EQ PRO ST plug-in. You might like this plug-in, but perhaps not its rotary controls. Some people find rotary controls quite difficult to control with a mouse.

In that case, you might want to click the plug-ins UI button (see position of mouse cursor), and turn that graphical interface into this:

In REAPER's generic interface, every parameter is controlled by a horizontal fader.

There is also an option on the Plug-ins, VST page of your preferences settings to Default VST to generic UI (instead of plug-in UI).