VCA Alternatives

While VCA’s are a good enough solution, they only fix half of the problem, in my opinion.

A typical simplified scenario:
Let’s say you have 2 tracks, each with their own reverb send. Both tracks are linked to a VCA. So far so good.
But what if I need to bus them so I can compress them together?
Whether this is the best practice or not, that’s a different aspect, but what if I need each track to have it’s own reverb, or maybe I want a delay on just one of them, while being able to process them together through a bus while keeping the send level in line with any volume change?

To my knowledge, VCAs are no help here, and the bus volume or any inserts I may have on it will obviously change the sends wetness.
There are ways around it, but all of them require bigger or smaller compromises.

So, my question/suggestion is, why couldn’t the bus volume fader be used as a sends multiplier?
I am not aware of any DAW that has this functionality, and I wonder why not.
I am probably missing something, but what?

What do you guys think?

Via Direct Routing, summing mode?

Someone posted a while back about this ( and here’s what I suggested that hopefully more or less gets you there:

“Instead of routing your synths to the group, use an Aux send to send them to the group, and set this Aux send to Pre-Fader. Set the output to No Bus. Now you can setup a VCA fader linked to your compression group and your synth tracks. When you automate the VCA fader, it will change the volume of your compression group and also change the level of synth signal sent to your FX. Because you are sending to your group via a Pre Fader send, the compression will remain the same.”

Yeah that could be a workable solution I guess. So the bus fader would kind of act like a VCA controlling the aux send levels of any track that’s routed to the group? Yep, I can see the sense in that.

Thanks for your replies guys.

Could you please go into a little more detail? I’ve tried everything I could think of and, to be honest I don’t see how this could work, unless I don’t understand Summing Mode, which may very well be.

Thanks, that’s a neat trick, but it’s not quite what I am looking for since any compression on the group still changes the send wetness.

This is what I did.
Track routed to no bus, pre-fader send to the compression bus, post fader send to reverb.
VCA-linked the track and the bus.
Add a compressor to the compression bus and turn its output to 0. You will still hear the reverb.

After reading my own post, I think I know what the problem is. I said “why couldn’t the bus volume fader be used as a sends multiplier”, but this is not really the problem. It’s not the bus volume fader (a value that can be used as a multiplier), but the actual loudness that leaves the bus (thus taking into account any processing-related volume changes ) that would need to control the sends of the tracks that are being routed through it. Not only would this be tricky to achieve, but it would create an even bigger problem since loudness is not a constant.

Unless again, I am missing something.

On another VCA related issue, how do you guys find the fact that VCAs in Cubase are moving the faders of the linked channels? Personally I would rather have them not do that. If I am not mistaken, this is how a real VCA should behave, since it’s not actually controlling the fader, but voltage.
Reaper and Logic (I think) has it right (in my opinion).

Anyway, thanks for your thoughts.

Yeah for sure, this technique does have the drawback that your sends are going to be ‘pre compression’.

Yeah I think it’s a good idea in theory but I’d guess it’s difficult/impossible to make it a useable reality. Imagine what your send levels would be doing when you start using radical processing on your group track, like heavy distortion plugins. The sends would probably be going to all sorts of places you don’t really want.

The only way I can think of where this could work is if you were somehow able to send a track to the sidechain of a compressor inserted ON THAT SAME TRACK. Then you could have two tracks, with the same compressor plugin (with identical settings) and send BOTH the tracks to the sidechains of BOTH the compressors. Then you would have the same compression on each track but they would still have completely separate signal paths. This would require a bit of an overhaul of the sidechain function though.

Would probably be a nightmare to implement and I doubt if it will ever happen! lol :slight_smile:

For now I do not touch the VCA feature even with the thickest security gloves (both Cubase and Nuendo).

If you can’t rely on your tools while mixing, you better leave the broken tools in the shed.

I will continue to do as I sometimes did in times before the whole VCA debacle:

  1. I set up a dummy track for use as a “master vca fader”.
  2. Link it to whatever combination of tracks you want to control. But do NOT route any audio through it.
    This is just a dummy for group adjusting whatever link option chosen across the linked track.

You will of corse miss the second layer of automation, but you can at least put all linked tracks into write mode and adjust the lot with one fader (whatever you choose of the link options).

This will work for your post send effects (output follows track level).

From there, use your imagination (many ways to skin a cat).

As always a good tips is to NOT starting with automation to early in the production. And the VCA is just to forget at this point IMO.
Steinberg should start over, and concentrate on ONE common solution for both Cubase and Nuendo IMO.


This is pretty much the way i’m doing it at the moment too…

Why is this such a issue? I can’t reliably get Cubase to read and write automation,I’ll write automation,then save the session,then open it back up and it’s gone !
Mixing in Cubase has been a challenge for me,I come from PT HD where mixing is a diffent strong point,but Cubase, is
making easy task hard,like sometime I happen to click on a track and the fader will jump to “0” and my automation is gone, and then there is no un do in the mixer,and it’s more than frustrating.
I really like Cubase,it 's sound engine sounds better to me than PT, but mixing is a un relaible pain in the ass for me.
I really hope in CBP 9 they make mixing a top priority,because IMO it’s a weak point
Would like to see select a clip region and drag down or up the volume in automation lane like PT,there are ways of working automation,but it is so half baked, have a more universal tool for editing would be helpful as well, so you don’t have to keep switching between pointer,the highlight tool,then dragging little icons in the clip to trim etc


There is something seriously wrong with your setup or workflow! Have you opened the automation lanes to see that your automation was written as expected? I never have issues like this and I rely on the accuracy of automation for all my mix projects. I have never encountered any automation missing upon reopening a project.

Tell me this…do you save your projects incrementally (new number for each save - keeping all older versions)? It’s a good way to go back incase something strange happens with a project; corruption, etc. I usually end up with at least 20-30 versions while working on a single mix.

No I don’t usually I’ll do say Mix 1, mix 2 etc, but to increment each time when I’m not yet satisfied is a pain, but perhaps your suggestion is a good point ,and it might be worth doing considering my situation.
Yes I see the automation written in the automation lane, then when it’s in read , it will read back, but sometime I save the project come back the next day and it’s gone ! So perhaps it is my system if no one else has this happen
What about selecting a fader and the fader jumps up to unity gain,even when read is enabled,that doesn’t happen to you?
Also do you have a way of reverting back to a fader move with out having to re write the automation,if your in the mixer only?
yes I do have issues with automation being relable,but I’m totally open to suggestions as to what I could possibly be doing wrong, it’s pretty simple put track in write and make your moves, but it doesn’t always perform as expected.
And when using VCA sometimes 2 channels that where linked and have the same gain, get moved independently of one another, even though they are linked, again it’s so simple but it’s really buggy for me,so I open to more suggestions
Also is there way to write to end ? example, lets say i want -3db at start of song all the way to the end and I don’t want to put track in auto latch,and playback in real time, or I want to punch say measure 3 to end with new volume?
System CBP 8.5 Win Pro 10 64 bit,32gb DDR4 ram
Lynx Aurora 16 with Thunderbolt

You’re talking about various different issues and not all of them are 100% clear, but…

RE: Faders jumping to unity gain… I’m wondering if you have Trim mode enabled here?

RE: Writing automation to end…Open the Automation Panel and you have various fill options: Fill Start, Fill End, Fill Loop etc.

RE: Automation not saving properly with your project… Highly likely it’s some kind of user error because I’ve never experienced that and never heard of anyone else experiencing it. I guess you should try and post more details about it or try and figure out exactly when/why it’s happening.

RE: VCA’s… not sure if this is your problem but in the latest version of Cubase there is a bug whereby you cannot use the mouse wheel to adjust fader volumes on tracks that are linked to VCA’s or you will experience some strange things with your fader levels.

I think a lot of what you are saying is probably down to you needing to familiarise yourself with the ways of Cubase! Probably best to create some different posts about individual issues/questions with a more detailed description of the problem.

Good luck. :slight_smile:

Nobody said it was an issue. The current Cubase implementation of VCA is, but this is not what this thread is about.
We were just bouncing a few ideas around.

If you’re actually looking for answers and you did not hijack this thread just to vent, I suggest starting a new thread stating your problems in the title.