Chapter 6: Managing Track FX

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6 Managing Track FX

We have already covered the basic techniques involved in using effects (Direct X and VST) with REAPER tracks. We are now going to look at some of the options available to help manage and use your FX more effectively. We'll be looking in more detail at how you use some of the more important individual effects later (Chapter 16) in this section we're mainly concerned with the broader issues of managing and organising plug-ins.

6.1 Grouping FX in Folders

FX can be grouped in any way you wish. For example, if you use chorus, delay and reverb a lot, you might wish to create one folder called Chorus/ Delay and another called Reverb. Frequently used plug-ins can be copied into special groups. You can create as many folders as you wish, and the same plug-in can be placed in multiple folders. For example, you could place the Bootsy EpicVerb plug-in (with other plug-ins) both in a folder called Reverb and in a folder called Bootsy.

To create a FX group folder:

Use the command View, FX Browser or the keyboard shortcut Shift F to open the FX browser window.

Right click over the text My Folders where shown (see above) and choose Create new folder. Type a name, then press Enter.

To add FX to a folder:

Select the category All Plug-ins in the left hand panel of the FX window. This will ensure that all FX are available to you.

Drag and drop the required FX from the right hand panel to the folder where you want the FX to be listed. To drag multiple FX, use Ctrl with left mouse click to build up a selection, then drag them all together.

To create a smart folder:

If you enable the Smart folder option when creating a folder, all plug-ins whose names include any character strings that you define will automatically be displayed within that folder.

Right-click over My Folders and choose Create new folder.

Type a folder name, enable the Smart folder option and type a filter. In the example shown, we are creating a folder called Dynamics for all plug-ins with comp or lim in their names.

Click on OK. The folder will be created and all plug-ins with comp or lim in their names will automatically be listed in it. You can still add more FX to this folder manually if you need to.

To change the order in which FX folders are displayed:

Right click on the name of the folder to be moved.

From the context menu choose Move to top, Move up, Move down, or Move to bottom.

To display and select from a folder

In the left panel of the FX window, click on the name of any FX group to display its contents in the larger right hand panel.

Double click on any FX name within that group (listed in the right hand panel) to add it to the current track.

Tip: If you leave the FX Browser open, you can add any FX to any track simply dragging and dropping to the required track in the Track Control Panel (TCP) or Mixer Control Panel (MCP).

Tip: You can add FX from an existing folder to any track directly from the TCP or MCP. Right-click over the FX button and select first the folder and then the FX.

  • From the context menu choose Move to top, Move up, Move down, or Move to bottom.

To display and select from a folder

  • In the left panel of the FX window, click on the name of any FX group to display its contents in the larger right hand panel.
  • Double click on any FX name within

6.2 Backing Up FX Chains and FX Presets

FX Chains and plug-in presets can be backed up and restored using the export/import configuration buttons in REAPER's Preferences (General settings). See Chapter 22 for more information about importing and exporting configuration settings.

6.3 Filtering Track FX

By entering a text string in the Filter list text box in the bottom left corner of the Add FX window, you can display a list of those FX which match your criteria. Before doing this, you should select either All Plugins from the list of plugin folders, or any particular folder if you wish to restrict your search. In the example shown here, we have applied the text string chorus as a filter, in order to see what chorus plug-ins we have available.

The filter list also supports Boolean search terms, e.g.:

comp OR lim finds and lists all compressor and limiter plug-ins.

eq ( cockos OR melda ) finds all Cockos and Melda EQ plug-ins.

blue cat NOT ( flange OR phase ) finds and lists all Blue Cat plug-ins except flangers and phasers. Note the spaces before and after the parentheses.

( chorus OR delay ) NOT ( DX: OR JS: ) finds all chorus and delay effects except Direct X and JS.

The Clear Filter button can be used to remove the filter and restore all plug-ins to view. In REAPER's Plug-ins Preferences (Chapter 22) there is also an option to apply a global filter to all browser views.

You also have two options (on the Options menu � see below) which if enabled will ensure that your filters are automatically cleared for you. These are Auto clear search field on folder change and Auto clear search field on close. This latter option refers to closing the FX browser window, not closing REAPER.

REAPER will remember your previous filters. You can access it from the filter drop down list, by clicking on the down pointing arrow located on the edge right of the Filter list box.

6.4 FX Browser Options

The FX browser Options menu is shown here (from the Add FX dialog). In summary, the commands are: Auto-float new FX windows. If enabled, FX will be opened and displayed in a separate window of their own when they are added, rather than within the FX browser. FX Plug-ins settings... Displays Options, Preferences, Plug-ins settings page (see Chapter 22). Remove all empty folders. Removes all empty folders. Show in left pane list. This displays as a sub-menu a list of categories of plug-in that you can choose to display (or not). Those that are chosen will be listed in the left pane of the FX browser window. You can choose as many or as few of the plug-in types as you want: DX, DXi, VST, VSTi, VST3, VST3i, AU, AUi, JS, Rewire and Cockos. Instruments causes all virtual instruments to be listed together: these will also be listed in their native folders (VSTi, DXi, etc) if these are also selected. Recent causes all plug-ins recently used being displayed here, as well as in their native folders. VST folders causes all folders with VST plugins to be listed in the left pane under My folders. Categories causes plug-ins also to be displayed grouped by function (e.g. Delay, EQ, Reverb, etc.) Developers enables plug-ins also to be grouped by developers. FX Chains will cause FX chains to be listed. Show in FX list In the displayed FX list you can show any Default preset (along with the FX name), [[#6.24 Creating and Using FX Keyboard Shortcuts|FX shortcuts, descriptions, or file names, or both for JS FX, the Video processor (see Chapter 20), and/or plug-ins whose name begins with a #. Renaming a plug-in so that it begins with a # ensures it is not shown in the FX browser's FX list. There are also two Auto clear search field (filter) options – when you change your selected folder, and/or when you close the FX browser. Enabling the option Auto-clear folder view on close ensures that the next time the Add FX browser is opened All Plugins will be selected in the left panel.

6.5 Replacing One FX With Another

To replace any FX in a track's FX chain, simply follow this procedure:

  1. Display the track's FX chain and select the FX in the chain that you want to replace.
  2. From the FX Window top menu choose the FX, Replace FX� command. This opens the Add FX window.
  3. Select the required replacement FX and click on OK.

Any pin connector assignments on the replaced FX will automatically be assigned to the new one.

6.6 Copying Track FX

Any track FX (individual FX or complete chains) can be copied from one track to any other track, or tracks. When a plug-in is copied in this way, the settings and parameter values are also copied with it. You can use standard Windows techniques like Ctrl C and Ctrl V, but the simplest way to copy an entire chain is to hold Ctrl while dragging and dropping from the FX button of one track (on the TCP or MCP) to another.

You can also select one or more plug-ins from the FX chain of one track and use Ctrl with the mouse to drag and drop the selection to any other track. This can be done from either the TCP (track control panel) or the MCP (mixer control panel). To copy automation envelopes with the FX, use Ctrl Shift drag.


For this example, open the file All Through The Night Folder.rpp that you saved earlier in this section. If you did not make this file, use any other file which has more than one track.

  1. Click on the FX Button for the track Gtr Neck to open the track's FX Window.
  2. Insert the VST ReaEQ(Cockos) plug-in into this window.
  3. Hover the mouse over the text VST ReaEQ in the plug-in window. Press and hold down the left mouse button and, holding it down, drag the mouse to point on the track control area of the Gtr Body track.
  4. Release the mouse. The ReaEQ plug-in will now have been copied into this track.

You can of course repeat this as often as required to copy the same plug-in to other tracks. When you copy an FX in this way, any settings and parameter values that you have set will be copied with it. To copy more than one plug-in at the same time from one track to another, use this sequence:

  1. Click on the first plug-in to be selected. Hold the Ctrl key down while clicking in turn on each additional plug-in that you want copied. Alternatively, if you want to copy all FX in a chain, click on the first item, then hold Shift while you click on the last item in the chain.
  2. Use the method described above to drag and drop on or near the FX button of the track to which you wish to copy your plug-ins.

Tip: FX can also be copied from the FX chain of any track to individual media items or takes anywhere in the project. Working with per item and per take FX will be explored in Chapters 6 and 7.

6.7 Adding Developers

To create groups of developers, right-click over Developers in the left pane of the Add FX window, choose Add developer then enter a name (e.g. Sony). Drag and drop from the main window to add plug-ins to a group.

6.8 FX Quick Display

Track FX are listed on a track's FX button right click menu (see right). You can open the window for any of these FX direct from this menu.

6.9 Moving Track FX

To move (rather than copy) an FX or FX chain from one track to another, hold the Alt key while you drag and drop, either from the FX button (entire chain) or FX window (selected tracks).

Tip: Hovering your mouse over any track�s FX button causes a tooltip to be displayed, listing the plug-ins present in that track�s FX bin. It displays this information even if the FX chain is set to bypass.

6.10 Managing FX Parameters

REAPER's FX interface window includes for each FX a Param button which you can use to help you manage and control the various FX parameters.

Click on any parameter control within the FX window then on the Param button to display a menu of choices. The five menu options are Show in track controls, Show track envelope, Parameter modulation, Learn and Alias Parameter.

Show in track controls. This adds a control knob for this parameter to both the Track Control Panel (TCP) and the Mixer Control Panel (MCP).

Choose this command from the menu to display a list of parameters for this particular FX. Select any item(s) from the list to add a control knob to the track control panel. An example (using two parameters from ReaComp) is shown here (below right).

To remove any of these controls, right-click over the button and choose Remove from list from the menu.

This context menu also gives you access to the four other parameter control tools, Learn, Modulate (Parameter modulation), Envelope (Show track envelope) and Alias (Alias parameter).

Show track envelope. The whole topic of envelopes and automation with envelopes is covered in depth in Chapter 18. For the time being note that you can use this command to add to your tracks automation envelopes for any FX parameters. An example is shown here.

The envelopes can be displayed in their own lanes (as shown here) or over the media item(s). To learn how to do this, see Chapter 18.

Parameter Modulation. This is a rather advanced topic. Parameter modulation allows you to define a relationship between two parameters so that one is controlled by the other. For example, you might want a threshold's ratio to automatically increase as the threshold is lowered. This topic is explained in Chapter 19.

Learn. If you are using an external MIDI control device you can assign FX parameters to controls (such as knobs or faders) on that external device. This topic is covered in detail in Chapters 12 and 18.

Alias parameter. This allows you to change (just for this instance) the name of a parameter to one that makes more sense to you.

Shown here is an example.

6.11 Changing the Default FX Name

To change the default name of any Direct X or VST FX (but not JS) plug-in:

Display the FX Browser Window (View, FX Browser)

Right Click over the plug-in to be renamed.

Choose Rename FX from the menu.

Type the new name and press Enter.

6.12 Renaming Track FX Instances

You can rename individual FX Plug-in instances so that your custom name is used for that FX in both Track View and in the Mixer. Typically this can be used to describe the purpose of the FX. For example, you might want to rename an instance of ReaEQ that has been added to a vocal as �Add warmth� or �More presence� and so on. To do this, simply select the plug-in and press F2, or follow this sequence:

Right click over the FX Item in either the FX Chain window, or the FX Bin in the Mixer view.

From the menu, choose Rename FX instance.

Type your custom name.

Press Enter.

Note that your custom name will only be applied to that single instance of the FX Plug-in in that one track. Other instances will not be affected.

6.13 Using Default FX Parameter Settings

You can specify that any set of FX parameter settings is to be used as a default whenever that FX is applied to any track or item. When you have your settings right, click on the small + button and choose Save preset as default from the menu. You will need to enter a name for the preset. The use of presets is explained more fully in Chapters 2, 12, 13 and 16.

6.14 Hardware Output FX Monitoring

To open the FX: Monitoring window you can:

Choose Monitoring FX � from the context menu of any project tab, or

Click on the Monitor FX button at the end of the project tab bar (if you are using project tabs), or

Use the View, Monitoring FX command from the main menu, or

Hold Shift while clicking on the FX button of the Master track.

This FX window is the same as any track FX window. You can specify any FX that you want to put on your hardware outputs. These do not show up in renders, do not affect the metronome and are not stored in the project file. Examples when you might use this feature might include:

When running analysis FX.

Compensating for the acoustic characteristics (perhaps with EQ or reverb) of a particular room.

Notice that:

You can right-click on the Monitor FX button to access any plug-in assigned to output monitoring, or to add more FX.

Click over the right hand end of this button to toggle bypass status. The button turns red when bypassed.

Within the FX:Monitoring window, click on the Param button then Learn to assign control of any selected FX parameter to an external control device.

6.15 Optimizing FX Performance

Some plug-ins can be quite greedy in their use of CPU. This especially tends to be the case with delay based FX, such as Delay, Chorus, and especially Reverb. REAPER provides a number of options which you can use to minimize the drain placed on your computer resources by your plug-ins. These options can be found in the REAPER Preferences window (Ctrl P) under the heading Audio, Buffering. This window is shown and discussed further in Chapter 22.

There is no �one size fits all� optimal group of settings. What is best for you depends on various factors, including which processor(s) you are using and which plug-ins. However it shouldn�t be too difficult to experiment. Note in particular the following:

Try using the default settings for Media Buffering at first. You can adjust them later.

Allow live FX multiprocessing. Try turning this on if your PC has multiprocessors.

Anticipative FX processing. This can reduce CPU usage, but too aggressive a setting can cause pops and crackles on playback. If working with UAD-1,for best results, both Synchronous FX and UAD-1 Synchronous modes should be enabled. Anticipative FX should be disabled. UAD-2, however, is compatible with Anticipative FX mode and this is recommended for best low latency performance..

Optimize buffering for low latency hardware.

If you find that any particular plug-in or FX chain gives you problems with media buffering or anticipative FX processing, you can disable either or both for individual tracks using the Track Performance Options on the Track Control Panel right-click menu. These options enable/disable media buffering, anticipative FX, track metering, and/or display of spectral peaks.

6.16 FX Notes and Comments

The REAPER FX Chain window includes an area for any Comments (or notes) that you may wish to make � see example below. Click on the � button just above the bypass tick box to add comments.

The notes are linked to the individual instance of the specific plug-in. In the example shown, the comment is only displayed when the 4 band EQ is selected for Track 2, the Vox Lead. You may add notes for all or any of a track's FX if you wish, but only one comment at a time will be displayed in the track's FX window.

You can open the comments in a separate window of their own by clicking on that � button . You may have as many as you wish of these comment windows open at any time.

6.17 Wet/Dry Mix and Bypass

The wet/dry mix control was mentioned in Chapter 2. Click and hold your mouse over the small rotary fader near the top right corner of the plug-in window to see the wet/dry balance for that plug-in displayed as text (above right). At 100% wet (the default) the plug-in is applied to the track in the way that you would normally expect. Click and drag the mouse on this to adjust this value to create a mix of the dry signal (the audio stream with no effect applied) and the wet signal (the audio stream with the effect fully applied. For example, set to 100%, this mix is fully wet. At 0% it is fully dry (effectively bypassing the FX). At 50% the dry and wet signals are mixed together in equal amount.

Notice also that the small check box to the immediate right of this control has a bypass function. Leave it ticked as shown and the effect (as determined by its various parameter settings including the wet/dry mix control) will be applied to the track. Untick this box and the effect is bypassed.

6.18 Plug-in Delay Compensation

By default, REAPER uses plug-in delay compensation (PDC) to ensure that audio remains time aligned. It does this by adjusting for any latency caused by any plug-in, such as can arise with some convolution reverb plug-ins for example. The latency for any track is displayed in the bottom left corner of that track's FX chain window. For example, a display of 256/512 spls would mean that one of the FX requires a latency of 256 samples: REAPER rounds this up to a number of blocks based on your buffer size. All other tracks will be delayed to match the track with the greatest latency.

If you encounter circumstances in which PDC is creating problems (for examples, dropouts or excessive latency) then it can be disabled for any plug-in from the pin connector button (shown here labelled �2 in 2 out�) context menu. Note too that PDC is disabled when feedback routing is employed.

6.19 Opening a File in Recovery Mode

Any computer program will crash given the right (or wrong?) circumstances. REAPER is very stable, but nevertheless there may be occasions when you experience a crash. This can be caused by a problem with some third party VST, VSTi, DX or DXi plug-in.

If this happens, you should enable the option to Open with FX offline (recovery mode) when re-opening the file from the File, Open project dialog box (see right). This will open the file with all FX set offline. By reintroducing them online one at a time, you should be able to identify which is the plug-in that is causing the problem. To then fix the problem you should remove this plug-in and replace it with another of equivalent functionality.

Another method is to hold down Ctrl Shift while you open a file from the File, Recent projects menu.

6.20 Stem Rendering

Stem Rendering is a technique that can be applied to ease your CPU load, to prevent it from becoming overstressed. The item is rendered to a new track, whilst the original track remains but is automatically muted and its FX are bypassed. If you later wish to change the FX in a stem rendered track, you can delete the rendered track, unmute the original, and make your changes. This is how you make a stem track:

  1. In the Track Control Panel area, right-click over the track number.
  2. From the menu, choose Render/freeze tracks, then one of the Render tracks to � stem tracks (and mute originals) commands. Your choices are mono, stereo or multichannel.

The first of these commands will render to a mono item (as shown here). The second will always produce a stereo item. The number of channels produced when multichannel is selected will be determined by the number of channels that you have defined for the track. By default, REAPER tracks comprise just 2 channels: in this case, both the stereo and multichannel options will produce the same result. As well as track FX, any audio or MIDI received from sends from other tracks is included in the rendered material.

Stem rendering has a similar effect to freezing tracks (see section after next). One main difference is that (unlike freezing) stem rendering leaves both the rendered and the unrendered tracks in the project. If you only wish to render the track FX without keeping both tracks in the project, you might wish to consider using one of the Render/freeze freeze actions instead. These are covered in the couple of pages that follow this one.

Stem rendering is also available with an extensive range of options (such as output format and quality) using the File, Render... command. This opens the Render to File dialog box. See Chapter 21 for details.

6.21 Freezing and Unfreezing Tracks

The Freeze tracks actions (from the Track right click menu Render/freeze tracks command) are used to freeze any track in place, replacing its contents with a single rendered audio item. The first of the freeze actions shown (above) will produce a mono audio item for each track frozen, the second stereo and the third multichannel (according to the number of track channels). If more than one track is selected, each will be rendered separately.

On line FX are applied to the rendered item, as is the content of any signals sent to the rendered channels from other tracks. Where these include MIDI data or items, they will be rendered as audio. Both on line FX and receives are then removed from the track. Note that a MIDI item with no synth attached to it will be rendered as silence. Where a synth is present, it is the output of the synth that will be rendered.

When a track has already been frozen, Unfreeze tracks will appear on the above menu as an action that can be used to restore the track to its state at the point in time that it was frozen. Both the FX chain and any receives will be restored. Other points to note are:

A track can have further FX and receives added to it after it has been frozen. In this case, if you then freeze the track again, these FX (along with audio and or MIDI material from the new receives) will be rendered together with the existing frozen material to another new audio item.

Each unfreeze action will remove the previous freeze on that track and restore it to its state at the time of that freeze action. Thus, if a track has been frozen, had more effects added and been frozen again, then you will need to unfreeze it twice if you wish to restore it its state immediately before first being frozen.

Using the Track Manager

Freezing can also be handled using the Track Manager. Choose Track Manager from REAPER's main View menu.

You can select any track(s) from the list (in the example shown, tracks 3 and 4 are selected) then click on the Freeze button for a menu of freeze choices (mono, stereo or multichannel).

The number of times any track has been frozen (up to a maximum of 8) will be shown in the Freeze column. In this example (right), tracks 3 and 4 have now both been frozen once.

The Unfreeze command will be added to the Freeze menu when that menu is displayed with a frozen track selected. Moreover, this menu will also include an option to display the freeze details for that track (see above).

You can read more about the Track Manager in Chapter 12.

Selected FX Freeze

Other options, available from a track's FX chain window, are to freeze a track up to its last on-line or selected FX, as you wish - see above. In this case, only the first two FX (ReaComp and ReaEQ) have been selected. The action Freeze track to stereo, up to last selected FX will cause the compression and EQ to be frozen on to the track. These two FX will be removed from the track's FX chain. The third (JS) effect will not be rendered to the new audio item. It will remain, and can be further adjusted, or removed altogether as the user wishes.

One useful action (accessible from REAPER's Action List window) is View: Show track freeze details. This can be used to display freeze history and details for any frozen track. Chapter 15 explains in detail more about actions and about how you can assign them to toolbars or to your own shortcut keys.

6.22 VST and VST3 FX Compatibility Settings

Various compatibility settings are available for VST FX plug-ins. These are available by clicking on the + button in the plug-in’s window (immediately left of the Param) button and choosing Compatibility settings at the foot of the menu that is displayed.

For example, you can Save minimal undo states if you wish, and/or Avoid loading undo states where possible. Other options include Inform plug-in when track channel count changes, Hard reset on playback, Save state as VST bank and Buggy plug-in compatibility mode. The Automation notification options let you over ride various VST preferences settings for specific plug-ins. For VST3 plug-ins an additional issue if using sidechaining can be a need to Request VST3 bus channel count as a way to inform the plugin how to interpret the channels REAPER is sending This is because REAPER does not have dedicated sidechain buses. This command is available on the plug-in’s right-click In/Out menu, located immediately to the right of the Param button.

6.23 Vertical/Horizontal FX Tree Display

The FX tree can be displayed in a vertical layout (the default) or horizontal layout (shown here). The display can be toggled between these two options by double-clicking on the boundary between the two sections, on the double-headed arrow mouse cursor (as shown).

6.24 Creating and Using FX Keyboard Shortcuts

You can assign keyboard shortcuts which will make inserting individual FX or FX chains into a track or item even easier. This is explained in the chapter dealing with customization. Once a shortcut has been assigned, you can simply select a track or item (or selection of tracks or items) and use the keyboard shortcut to insert the FX.

6.25 Adding FX Comments

Near the top right corner of every track FX window there is a small button displaying three dots. Clicking this opens a window where you can type any comments you wish to make about the currently selected FX and its settings.

6.26 Installing Extra JS Plug-ins

You can find more JS plug-ins that are available free of charge at

To install any of these, follow this sequence:

  1. Download the effect and (if necessary) unzip the file.
  2. If the JS effect file has a .txt extension, edit the file name to remove this.
  3. Copy the effect to your REAPER Application Data Effects folder. You can find this by giving (within REAPER) the command Options, Show REAPER resource path � If you wish, you can place it in a sub-folder within the Effects folder.
  4. Close and restart REAPER.

Some JS FX come with other files (such as data files or image files). As a rule, data files are placed in a sub-folder in the Application Data Data folder, and other files are placed relative to the JS FX file. In most cases where this is necessary, the JS effect developer will supply specific instructions with the effect.

6.27 Track Templates Revisited

Don't forget that as well as saving FX chains by themselves, you can include them with other track settings (such as name, pan settings, volume levels, etc.) into track templates. Remember too that you can use the Track, Save tracks as template command to save a whole selection of several tracks into a single track template. See also Chapter 3.

6.28 ReaEffects User Guide Supplement

You will find many examples in this User Guide of the use of various COCKOS effects, especially in Chapter 16. In addition, a free PDF Reaper COCKOS Effects Summary guide (click for accessible version) can be downloaded from the following URL:

Note that this link is case sensitive.

6.29 Drag and Drop from FX Browser

A handy way to add FX to any track or media item is to drag and drop from the FX browser. To do this:

Display the FX Browser window (Shift F or View, FX Browser). This will be displayed as a floating window but can be docked at the bottom, right, left or top of your REAPER window. Basic docking was introduced and explained in Chapter 2. A more in depth examination of the topic can be found in Chapter 12.

Simply drag any required FX from the Add FX (FX browser) window: to add the FX to a track, drop on that track in the track control panel, or to add the FX to a media item, drop on that media item.

Tips: You can use Ctrl Click to select more than one FX at a time, as shown above. Also, if you have previously created any FX chains, you can select FX Chains from the FX browser and drag any complete chain to any track or item.

6.30 Audio Signal Flow Chart: Master Track

This diagram illustrates specifically the audio flow for the Master Track.

6.31 Audio Signal Flow Chart: Tracks and Folders

The two diagrams that follow (in this section and the next) illustrate how audio signals flow thru REAPER's tracks to the master and to your output devices. Some of the items shown in these charts (e.g. Item/Take settings) have not yet been discussed in this User Guide. They will be covered throughout Chapter 7.


  1. The track mute button is shown more than once (near the beginning and near the end of the chain). This is because it does not only mute at the beginning (so that for example, all media items are effectively muted), it also mutes at the end (so that, for example, a synth in the track FX chain that is fed MIDI data via a receive from another track is also muted).
  2. If track mute and track solo buttons are both enabled, then solo overrides the mute.
  3. If the Master is soloed, direct outputs to hardware from tracks/folders will not be processed.