Using Groups and VCAs

I’ve long avoided VCAs because I didn’t feel that they brought much to the party. I often add inserts to groups, which you can’t do with VCAs, so I just wrote them off.

Recently I’ve realized that they solve a problem with post fader fx sends, that scenario where you mute your group but still hear the reverb because the fader’s still sending signal to the insert. So, I’m trying to add them to my workflow.

Now I’m trying to get a feel for the best way to use VCAs and groups together so that I leverage the strengths of each. I’d be interested in how you’re using the two, what kind of relationship they have, when you reach for one rather than the other, etc.

Always something new to learn.

I use VCA’s for stems. Publishers generally want stems, so I put like instruments in to folders and route them to a group. Any FX tracks for the stem are put in to the folder and routed to their group as well.

VCA’s are assigned to each stem group, and mix console 1 is just for for VCA’s so I can use a midi controller to easily adjust the stems. (I found i wasn’t using the faders on my Nektar P6 because it wasn’t always obvious what channels they were manipulating.) Visually I can easily see the levels for the stems on the mixer and I have a workspace set up which has the Cubase main page on one monitor, and mixconsole 1 and 2 on the other monitor. Mix Console 2 is the usual audio tracks, groups, insturments, output etc.

Thanks, Manike.

That’s a good point on using additional mixers as I’ve ad the same problems of clutter with my MCU.

When you say “stem group” are you talking about a collection of faders controlled by VCA, or do you mean an actual Cubase group track to which all faders for the stem are routed?

Each VCA only controls the stem group - not the channels within it.

I do find VCA channels a bit fiddly. Probably wouldn’t want to use them beyond this setup as I think there’s still some bugs.

I use VCAs when I know I’m not going to need inserts or sends on the group of tracks. So if I have a piece with a number of sections or ´movements´ and I want to control their relative volumes after they are mixed, I will create a VCA per section and route all the tracks of the section to it.

The advantage over group tracks is quite small, it’s just that I know I can ignore the VCA tracks when looking for how a tracks is being processed.



I find them a bit fiddly as well, certainly the setup.


Yeah, I haven’t sensed a lot of difference, either. I know the proportional relative volume compared to groups is something that can be measured, but it’s not something that’s jumped out at me when listening. The main value for me was to keep the post fader effects sends consistent when raising or lowering the volume of associated channels, which a group wouldn’t do. If it wasn’t for that I’d probably stay with just groups.

I do need to start making better use of the additional mixers, though.

I tend to use VCAs, when I want to automate group levels but still keep the group faders moveable for overall mixing/level adjusting. I add a VCA to every group (or single channel) I want to automate.

The problem I have with VCAs is that they’re great… until they’re not.

They seem to work fine so long as you set them up and don’t try to change anything. The moment I need to change assignments… unlink a track… link another, undo or redo… SOMETHING goes wrong. I dunno if it’s -me- (not groking the paradigm) or -what- but when it doesn’t ‘undo’ as I expect I get frustrated and ditch them for that project.

I dunno -what- it is. I really want to like them. But frankly, I fear them.

The VCA’s in Cubase has never worked as intended IMHO. Fiddly at best… I have only used them as a temporary tool for some automation stuff (merge the automation and removing afterwards).

I am just learning still and will have to see if this will be the way to continue, but - I put all my inputs into mixCon1, all outputs in misCon2, all my channels into mixCon3 named and saved the configs as 1.2.3 correspondingly, so I can get it all back, move to diff monitors. Put the VCAs to link fader control to channels mixed and leveled then the VCA to a group to have inserts. I don’t see any automation available with the VCAs. I already am automating the group channel and with that set of channels will try not to volume automate with the individual channels. will try to do volumes automation with the group channels. I think you want to avoid doing automation on different places on linked levels of channel sets and maybe even just avoid linking more than just one level of links, the automation just get stupid complex if you try to automate across more than one level of linked faders. I will likely want to automate pans and effects changes on the channels tho. Then I send all the groups to a GrpMetrics channel group to test loudness w/ dynamics plugs to see how they compare to each other till I get a good understanding of those plugins. I am thinking I can route whatever group I want and change routes a needed in direct routing to GrpMetrics then goes to GrpMasterBuss for the piggish plugins to master with and then to the MONITOR channel for what ever to finish up with final loudness dynamics what ever needs to be polished with brainworx_bx checking image mid/sides/mono / IZotope Tonal Balance Control suite. I don’t think I like the way Ozone wants to automate channel levels that won’t show up on the channel faders, just seems hard to track, maybe as a totally final step in a Master Project or something. I added the GrpMasterBuss because was running out of inserts and monitor space. Haven’t worked with it, tested it out yet, just set it up. (sorry went on too long)

Conversation’s what it’s all about, I appreciate your thoughts. I’ve been using Cubase longer than some, not as long as others, and I’m still learning all the time.

I’m still getting a feel for where VCAs best fit in to the workflow. My perspective at this point is to let groups do the work they usually do and just employ VCAs when they bring something additional to the party. Like tequila.

ahh ha ha - makes me stupid!