Understanding the Digital Tools / Plugins


In Audio Post Production, the tools and plugins that are included with each DAW program are essential to making your project sound as clear as you want. Between the different DAWs, the tools and plugins used may look different, but all function in the same way. Here I'll share the tools' functions as well as some idea of how they work in towards getting your final mix.


    • Compressors - Helps to adjust the dynamic range of the track, making it easier to control audio levels and maintaining an average loudness level

         7-Stock-Pro-Tools-Plugins-Covering-All-the-Basics_3.png          Compresot.jpg

                         Pro Tools Compressor                                            Ableton Compressor 

  • Controls (Will Vary Depending on Which)
  •  Compression Ratio - The amount gain reduction the compressor applies

        • 1:1 = No Compression / Infinite : 1 = Harsh Compression (Almost like a limiter) 
        • The higher the ratio, the stronger the compression 

    • Ratio: This knob sets the ratio of compression between the input and the output.
    • Attack: This knob sets how long it takes to reach maximum compression after the signal exceeds the threshold.
    • Release: This knob sets how long it takes compression to stop after the signal has fallen below the threshold.
    • Auto: When this option is engaged, the attack and release times are automatically adjusted based on the incoming audio signal.
    • Threshold: Sets the input level at which the compression will start.
    • Out: This knob sets the amount of gain applied to the signal after compression.
    • Knee: This control adjusts how quickly the compressor responds as the input level approaches the threshold.
    • Lookahead: This control sets the amount of time that the input signal will be delayed.
    • Makeup: When this is engaged, the output level compensates automatically as the threshold and ratio values change.
    • Modes:
      • Peak: When selected, the compressor responds to short peaks within the signal.
      • RMS: When selected, the compressor responds is less sensitive to short peaks.
      • Expand: When selected, the compressor acts as an upward expander.
    • Dry/Wet: This knob adjusts the balance between the compressed and uncompressed signals.


  • EQ or Equalization - Adjust the output of certain frequencies (20hz - 20,000hz) to either boost them or lower them. A tool to help adjust the audio and clean any unwanted frequencies

   EQ.jpg       EQ.jpg

                         Pro Tools Equalizer                                                    Ableton Live Equalizer

  • Equalization is an essential mixing tool for further separating tracks and clarifying a mix. EQ is really just frequency-specific gain. With EQ, you can reduce or boost certain frequencies of a track, or remove them completely.
  • TIPS for Frequency
    • 20 - 60hz - Superlow / Subbass
    • 60 - 250hz - Lower Mids / Bass
    • 250 - 1500hz - Mid
    • 1500 - 6600hz - Upper Mid
    • 6600 - 20000hz - High



  • Gate - Processor that eliminates sounds under the given threshold (Best way to remove unwanted or needed noise) (Similar to Compressors). Once the audio signal goes above the threshold, the audio is then able to play. Once the signal falls below the threshold. All sound coming from that channel with stop going through.

    image12.png          gate_2.png 

                      Pro Tools Gate                                                             Ableton Live Gate


Controls (Will Vary Depending on Which)

  • Threshold: This knob sets the threshold levels that incoming signals must exceed in order to open the gate.
  • Return: This knob sets the difference between the threshold level that opens the gate and the level that closes it.
  • Flip: When this is ON, the Gate behavior is inverted. Signals will only pass if the level is below the threshold.
  • Look-ahead: This sets the amount of time that the input signal will be delayed.
  • Attack: This knob sets how long it will take for the gate to open after the threshold is reached.
  • Hold: This knob sets the minimum time that the gate will remain open after the signal exceeds the threshold.
  • Release: This knob sets how long it will take for the gate to close after the level has dropped below the threshold.
  • Floor: This knob sets the amount of attenuation when the gate is closed.




  • Multiband Dynamics - Split the audio signal into frequency bands and adjust the processing of each band. Express or tame the different frequencies.

                  MB.png -

                                                            (Ableton's Version)

Controls (Will Vary Depending on Which)

    • High and Low band ON/OFF: These switched turn ON/OFF the high and low bands. When both are OFF, only the MID band is on, acting as a single band dynamics processor.
    • Mid-High Crossover: This knob sets the bottom of the frequency range for the high band.
    • Low-Mid Crossover: This knob sets the top of the frequency range for the low band.
    • High/Mid/Low band activators: These buttons toggle the gain control and dynamics processing of each band ON or OFF.
    • Solo buttons: These buttons solo each of the bands.
    • Input gain: These three knobs can control the input gain for each of the bands.
    • Soft Knee: When this switch is ON, compression and expansion will happen gradually as the threshold is approached.
    • Peak/RMS: This button toggles between the two envelope follower modes. When RMS is selected, the processor is less sensitive to short peaks and allows the processing to only happen when the level crosses the threshold for a longer time. When PEAK is selected, the device automatically reacts to shorts peaks of the incoming signal.
    • Output gain per band: These three knobs control the output gain of each band after the dynamics processing has been applied.
    • “T” button: When selected, the time controls are displayed and the user can set attack and release for each band.
    • “B” button: When selected, the below threshold and ratios are displayed and the user can set them for each band.
    • “A” button: When selected, the above threshold and ratios are displayed and the user can set them for each band.
    • Master Output: This knob controls the overall output gain of the processor.
    • Time: This knob scales the duration of all attack and release controls, maintaining the same relative envelope times.
    • Amount: This knob adjusts the intensity of the processing applied to all bands.



  • Reverb - Simulate a room and its treatment to create reflections and the persistence of sound after the initial sound is produced

          Reverb_Plugin.png             Reverb.png

                          Pro Tools Reverb                                                           Ableton Live Reverb



    • PreDelay - This is the amount of time it takes the sound to reach the first reflective surface. Obviously if the room is huge, it will take longer for the sound to reach its first wall and bounce back. Most “natural” settings use a pre delay between 1ms and 25ms.
    • Decay -
    • Lo Cut/Hi Cut - These two filters are used to cut off the highs (hi cut) or lows (lot cut). If the high end of the signal is cut off coming in, you will lose any of the “sparkle” in the reverb, making for a darker sound.

      While on the other end, cutting out the lows, will only allow high frequencies to pass through, creating a thinner reverb sound. Both can but turned off to save on CPU power.

      Below is an example of the reverb Dry/Wet turned to 100%, the first sound using lo cut, the other using hi cut.

    • Reflect – Changes the amplification of the early reflections section. This allows you to blend the early reflections with the rest of the reverb’s overall mix.
    • Diffuse – The same idea as the reflect knob, only used for the diffusion network sections.
    • Dry/Wet – Blends between the untreated sound and the fully treated sound. Turned down to 0% you will hear no reverb at all. Turned to 100% you will hear only the reverberated sound coming through.
      • Helpful Tip - When mixing and editing, try to never have the Dry to Wet amount get past 49% (keeps the dry signal the strongest and clearest)
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