Insert, System, and Master Effects 101

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Insert, System, and Master Effects 101

#1 Post by hunz » Wed Nov 15, 2017 2:53 pm

Even participants with a basic knowledge of the MOTIF series are sometimes uncertain in this respect. For this reason, I pick up on the topic today and will try to bring a little order into the imaginary confusion of cables, which can be created by linking up to 37 virtual Effect devices in a Performance.

Uncertainty may already begin with the number of "up to 37 Effects" mentioned above. This number is summed up as follows:

• Two Insert Effects per Part x 16 Parts
• Two Insert Effects for A/D Input
• Two System Effects (Reverb, Variation)
• One Master Effect

In order to better understand the different Effect Units and to be able to use them in a meaningful way, I will try to do some kind of history lesson in the following section.
However, without claiming to be complete, but within the scope required in our context.

In today's age of almost limitless DSP power, it's hard to imagine that there were times when neither electronic musical instruments nor analogue mixing consoles had integrated effect devices. Back in the eighties, those who wanted to have a Chorus for their DX7-E-Piano had to connect one externally.

If you wanted to add an effect to the vocals or instruments for a live mix, at least one additional effect device had to be connected to the mixing console separately. I would like to use this "bare" mixing console as a start and go into some detail. Although equalizers are not part of the effects category, I will include them. Now, imagine that inbetween the MONTAGE sound generation system - which takes place within a Part - and the analog outputs of the synthesizer there is a virtual mixing console, which provides various equalizers and effect devices.
The central unit of the following example is a mixing console that does not offer any integrated effects. To use an effect such as Reverb for vocals, such a basic configuration requires at least one external effect device. It is usually connected via an Aux path. A cable connects the mixer's "Aux Send" to the effects device's input. If it's a stereo effect device, two cables are fed back from its output to the mixer's "Aux Return" input (stereo).

This Effect is now available for each mixer channel. A control for the corresponding Aux path determines how much of the channel's signal reaches the Aux path and thus the connected effects unit. This connection situation - a Reverb effect for all channels - is represented in the MONTAGE as the System Effect "Reverb".

With a second effect device connected in the same way, for example a Chorus could be integrated on a second Aux path, which is then also available for all channels. The counterpart in the MONTAGE is also a System Effect, in this case "Variation".
In the MONTAGE, the parameters "RevSend" (Reverb Send) and "VarSend" (Variation Send) correspond to the controllers for the Aux paths in the mixing console. These parameters are available in every Part, including the A/D Input.

• EDIT] > Part … - Common > Part Settings > General


Back to our retro mixing console. If you want to add an effect to a single channel, so that it is not used by any other signal, you are talking about "inserting" an effect. For this purpose, the mixing console provides an "Insert" connector for each channel, this Insert is equipped with a stereo jack connector. However, it was not used for stereo signals, but for the signal's send and return. Using a Y-cable (a stereo jack plug to two mono jack plugs) it was possible to connect an effect device directly into a channel.

The Insertion Effect's circuitry and intensity was controlled directly in the external effect device. In this case, we have identical names, in the MONTAGE we speak of Insert Effects, too. Two Insert Effects are available for each Part - again including the A/D Input. And here, too, the intensity
of the Insert Effect is determined within the Effect by a socalled "Dry/Wet" control.

• [EDIT] > Part … - Common > Effect > InsA/B > Dry/Wet


Before I put the historic mixing console aside, one last, brief glance: If you were to send the mixing console's sum signal into an effect device such as a Compressor, this would be the function of the Master Effect in the MONTAGE.

• EDIT] > Common/Audio > Effect > Master FX


It would go too far to explain the use and operation of Equalizers. Anyone who recognises the need to catch up on this topic will certainly find plenty of material on the Internet. I would like to point out the places in the MONTAGE parameter universe where Equalizers can be found.
In the Sample-based AWM2 sound engine, each Part can consist of up to eight Elements. Each of these Elements has its own Equalizer, which can be configured independently.

• [EDIT] > Part … > Element … > Element EQ


One "floor" higher, two more Equalizers are available for each Part. A "3-Band EQ" with parametric Mids is positioned before the Insert Effect, and a parametric "2-Band EQ" behind the Insert Effect. In addition, on the 2-band EQ side, there is also the possibility of increasing or decreasing the Gain by up to +/- 12.0 dB.

• [EDIT] > Part … - Common > Effect > EQ


In the signal flow the Part EQ is located behind the Insert Effect.
Finally, there is a Master EQ available for the entire Performance. It has five Bands and offers various parameters.

• [EDIT] > Common/Audio > Effect > Master EQ


In the penultimate issue of the Music Production Guide, we reported on the Firmware Update to version 1.60 and the new Effects available with it.

The updated Datalist shows all Effect Categories and Effects. I therefore deliberately avoid a list of these.
Basically, it would be possible to use every single Effect in the Master, System, or Insert path. However, since certain Effects are less useful in certain positions of the signal flow, there are some preconfigurations.

Classical Insert Effects are tailored to the signal - or instrument - that is output by the Part. A typical example is the Rotary Speaker (Leslie simulation). The main use of this Effect are Organ sounds, but this Effect is also used for Electric Guitars. Further examples would be Distortion,
Amp Simulations, and their relatives. Here it is exactly the opposite. The main use is the Guitar, but also for Rock Organs such Effects are very suitable. In this style, I could continue to write endlessly. However, I would like to leave it at these examples and rather explain the distinction to
the System Effect.

Since each Part has two Insert Effects (Insert A / Insert B) available, the question of linking them to each other arises. Here there is a distinction between AWM2-Parts and FM-X-Parts. In the AWM2-Part, up to eight Elements can be active, which may contain Waveforms of completely different instruments. This means that you can first select for each Element which of the two Insert Effects you want to route the Element to. Another setting determines whether the Insert Effects are connected in parallel or in series. In addition, the signal flow A>B or B>A can be selected for series connection. Of course, with the setting "Thru" there is also a circumvention of the Insert Effects available.

The following graphic shows the possible connections for the first three Elements.




In an FM-X-Part, the sum signal of all Operators is sent through the Insert Effects. Accordingly, there is no parallel connection. Only the signal flow A>B or B>A is selectable. If both Insert Effects are inactive, this corresponds to the "Thru" setting of the AWM2 Element.


For the "Reverb" there is no need for further instructions on how to use it. Since Reverb is certainly one of the Effects with the largest range of applications, it has been given a fixed place in the System Effects. In fact, there are only different Reverb versions here. The selected Reverb sets
the whole Performance in scene. As already described, the Send value of 0-127 can be set for each Part.

With the "Variation" Effect, on the other hand, the name is the program. Basically all Effect Categories which are available in the MONTAGE are represented here, as well as various Reverb types. At this point it makes sense to consider where a certain Effect is used - as an Insert or as Variation. The answer is relatively simple, but I still find that the Participants of my workshops are uncertain.

The important question at this point is: Do more than one Part of the Performance need the same Effect?
Assuming that there are two Parts in a Performance with a Rock Electric Guitar sound each. If the aim of the Performance is to simulate a live band, hardly two guitarists would play over the same amplifier or effect device in real life. Distortion, Amp Simulation etc. would thus be arranged in the respective Insert path.

If I have multiple synthesizer Parts in one Performance, a tempo-synchronised Delay in the Variation Effect may be sufficient, and the Inserts would be available for other Effects such as Compressor or Effects from the "Tech" Category. There may also be situations where prioritisation requires two distinct System Effects, including two different Reverb variants. This means that all less important Parts have to get by with their Inserts only - which is no problem, since there are two Insert Effects available for each Part in the MONTAGE.

The Master Effect is the final link in the Effect chain and the signal flow is located just before the analog outputs.
The really last instance of signal processing in MONTAGE is the Master-EQ. The Master Effect section includes a smaller selection of different Effects such as Delay, Compression, and some Effects from the "Tech" and "Lo-Fi" Categories. Depending on the type of Performance, you can actually "master" the Performance, which will be the main use of the Masster Effect's Compressor. With the other Effects, an entire Performance can be stylistically "coloured". This is in fact comparable to image processing, in which a sepia effect is used, for example, to make the image appear nostalgic.

To be moderate is also required for the use of Effects. You can alienate every signal almost beyond recognition with Modulation Effects and Reverberation that linger until the next morning. If alienation is a declared goal, that may be perfectly justified. However, if the sound - for example that of a Church Organ - is to remain recognisable and leave enough room for musical interpretation, a Reverb Send at the maximum stop is certainly not the right choice.
Especially in sound programming, I often start to work with no effects at all. Some subtleties - for example, an Envelope - cannot be heard in detail with activated effects. If an Element, Part, or Operator Stack from the FM-X Engine sounds good without any effects, discreetly applied effects can be the icing on the cake. Conversely, a bad basic signal is usually not salvageable even with as many effects as it has. The great album "Kamakiriad" by Donald Fagen is highly recommended for anyone who wants to hear a schoolmasterly example of how excellent a production can sound with really extremely few effects.
Corresponding search terms at the music dealer of your trust will surely lead to relevant results.
I hope that my explanations will be helpful in your future work. For now, be "effective" with your MONTAGE.

(Credit: Hans-Peter Henkel, Yamaha MPG)

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