Inserts and plugins


This is something that I’m sure everybody knows - except, obviously, me! I was wondering if you all had any thoughts about where best to insert a channel strip plugin (in my case, the Brainworx SSL 4000e). I believe the signal flow is top to bottom, so is it better to place it at the top of the signal path or the bottom? I realize that Steinberg’s own channel strip is at the bottom, so I wonder if that’s a clue.

Also, does it matter whether the channel strip plugin is placed in the pre or post position. I guess I could experiment, but I’d be interested in your thoughts.



Ahhhhh , it’s a can of worms , Cubase channel strip, i personally use it as a 'get control ’ of the sound strip so i use it ‘pre’ to the inserts but there’s no hard fast rule , then i’ll use the AA Gold 5 strip (if needed) but at the min in the first slot the Gold5 pre , but everything is subjective , everyone works differently so you need to find the best approach for you

Understood! Thanks so much.

Personally I would place it first in the chain as a pre-fader insert.

This chart of the signal flow in Cubase might be of interest.

Thanks so much! That’s what I have been doing all this time, so it’s good to know you do it too.

Also, thanks for attaching the signal flow; it confirms what I thought to be the case.

There’s a big degree of “it depends” in this question. That is, it depends on what you’re trying to accomplish on any given track, in terms of how you would get the sound on that track – assuming here you are trying to emulate an analog signal flow as if you were using the actual hardware being emulated by the channel strip plugin.

For example, let’s say you’re tracking a virtual electric guitar (or a real electric guitar that is coming into your audio interface via a DI), where you essentially just have the signal that comes out of the electric guitar, but what you really want is to be tracking an electric guitar that was played through a pedal board, amp, and speakers. In such a case, you’d generally put any guitar pedal board and amp simulation plugins ahead of the channel strip plugin.

Another case might be if you’re wanting to simulate tracking to tape. Would you be going through a console on the way to tape? If so, you might have the channel strip before the tape emulation plugin, but you might also want a channel strip after it (with different settings, the first instance being only what you want to go to tape, then the second being for post-tape, mix settings). If not, then the channel strip would be after the tape emulation plugin. (Another case might be if you’re trying to track through an outboard preamp emulator directly to tape, maybe tracking through that “to tape”, where you might then have the preamp plugin first, then the tape emulation plugin, then the channel strip.)

Of course, there may also be plugins you’d want after channel strip processing in any scenario. I tend to think of channel strip plugins as getting some basics down for the mix processing of a track, but then doing the more creating effects from there, be it still in inserts or via sends to an effects bus.

In any of these cases, though, at least for my needs, the channel strip would be pre-fader. (Not sure if you were asking about that consideration in your “pre or post position” note.)

As for the Cubase channel strip, I don’t tend to use it much, but I think its position in the signal flow may be able to be altered. Where I’ve have used it, though, is at the end, specifically because it doesn’t get frozen when freezing inserts on a track (and I frequently need to freeze tracks with inserts while mixing due to CPU considerations). It’s nice to be able to make minor EQ adjustments at the mix level (still pre-fader) without having to go back and unfreeze tracks and their inserts to make those sorts of tweaks at the plugin level. I mostly end up using that to deal with issues I’ve found after car listening tests or other early “final mix candidate” listening tests that turn up some track (or submix bus) EQ considerations where tracks may be stepping on each other a bit.

Thanks a million for that detailed response! Your examples are great illustrations of the different things one may want to do. My own guitar signal is “direct” into Cubase via Fractal FM3, but the FM3 is set up in 4CM mode, so it’s pretty much analog (tube, even). This is usually for the lead tracks, since amp models seem to be a better choice for rhythm tracks most of the time - but, as you mentioned, nothing is cast in stone.

It makes sense to put the channel strip plugin as the first in the pre-fader chain, and if you have a good plugin, I guess you can think of it as V1 in a tube amp having the most impact on tone.

Thanks again for the awesome detail!

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