Groups vs VCA's

I currently use groups such as toms/drums; guitars; keys; bvs; lead vocals etc - average stuff. But I also use a group called “phones” which I put all those groups into just for tracking vocals and live drums - so I can lower the volume of everything easily for the singer and drummer. I have felt that somehow subgrouping like this affects the sound of the instruments - not sure if this is real or just a perception but anyway; I have started experimenting with VCF groups however this seems a bit more complex than I expected - I understand the flexibility but they are not as easy for me as groups.

What’s your opinion of groups vs VCA’s? What are you using and why? Do you think there is any sonic difference? What do you use to create monitor mixes or perhaps you don’t need to?

If you’re using groups, and you have sends in them, then it’s best not to touch the group faders since that will definitely change the relationship between the wet/dry signal, and thus the sound of your tracks. This is where VCA faders are useful, since they do not add any routing paths to your signal. They merely act on the volume of the tracks linked to them, even when there’s automation in these tracks.

As for monitor mixes, I suggest you enable the Control Room and use it for that. It’s easier to create them there. Actually, I suggest you use the Control Room anyway since it provides so many benefits besides having the ability to create monitor mixes.


Thanks very much for that. Will do.

what a fantastic reply . well explained
wish every reply was like yours…

Thanks Tony :slight_smile:

True in traditional analog studio (when you had limited number of FX boxes). But in DAW world you can route FX back to the same group too. After doing this group fader does not alter dry/wet ratio.

Great trick… But only if that FX is exclusive to that group! [emoji12]

True. And that’s why I said this was a real problem in analog studio world where you couldn’t afford to have exclusive FX boxes (real hardware often costing more than $10 000) for every group.

In DAW world if you want to use FX A on multiple groups you can just run multiple instances of FX A. Costs you nothing, if you have enough power in your DAW CPU.

Groups vs VCAs is mainly a workflow issue, IMO. If you like VCAs, use them, if you like groups, use them.

Both good points.

Most of the time, I use 1 FX for several tracks myself (the old skool way) in order to minimize track count. Having said that, the workflow described by Jarno is also valid, and I used to use that method when doing parallel processing, which has now been replaced by the use of VCA groups. I agree it is mostly a workflow preference, except for certain situations where VCA groups are clearly the better option (mostly where automation is involved).

Setting the sends to pre-fader mitigates that issue.

Of course, but you wouldn’t normally set your Sends to pre-fader when using time-based FX. Yes, there are ways around pretty much any routing situation. VCA groups are just another option that may simplify your workflow, such as in the case I described earlier.