VCA Faders vs Group Channels

Someone please help me understand; I’m not getting the value of this.

I understand from reading other posts that one advantage of VCA Faders over Group Channels is that the proper ratio of post-fader send effect signals are preserved when a VCA Fader is adjusted, as opposed to a Group fader. However, won’t the VCA Fader mess things up as far as insert effects on a Group?

Example: A drum kit’s tracks are all routed to a Group Channel. Individual tracks, such as the snare, have some send effect room ambiance or plate reverb. On the Group Channel, a compressor is inserted to gently glue the kit together. While a VCA Fader would properly maintain the send ratio for the snare, adjusting it would also mess up the level going into the Group Channel inserted compressor. Seems like the VCA solves one problem, but creates another.

I’m new to this, so someone please tell me what I’m missing.

When using a group channel and an exclusive send channel with the output routed to that group, it should not mess up things.
A Vca fader is like a selected faders link, so not really very exciting for me.

You’re not missing anything! :wink: You’ve just outlined a situation where you’d have to watch for a particular setting when making changes. It’s no different than without VCA Fader.

That’s exactly what would happen. But, in your case, once you’ve got the kit feeding into the compressor, and you like what it’s doing, you wouldn’t want to change the faders feeding into it anyway… That would change how the compressor acts!
If you need to change just the snare, you hold down the link-defeat modifier and change just it.

VCAs really are just a “skin” for linked faders (with a cool automation add-on)

I have had several uses for VCA faders already, for example when I want to nudge something up/down without messing with the inward automation.

Yeah, they’re super-handy… As long as I can remember the faders are linked!. :wink:

  1. VCA’s have no signal passing through them they just control track faders they are linked to (thus DCA makes more sense - digital controlled amplifiers) the name VCA harks back to analog consoles (voltage controlled amplifiers)

  2. The big deal to remember IMHO and to understand is the advantage of VCA’s
    is they don’t destroy your FX balances, because …

When you normally use a track FX send it is normally post fader, meaning when you lower the track fader the amount of signal being sent into the FX send is proportionally raised or lowered.

So if you then sum ten drum tracks to a stereo group and use the group fader to control their overall level you just made all those track FX sends PRE FADER.

So now as you lower the group level the FX are still being sent out of the individual tracks at the same amount and your FX balance is destroyed.

VCA’s prevent this from happening, by controlling a group of tracks faders linked to them before they are summed into a group.

It is worth remembering if you do insert a compressor into a group and set it’s threshold, when you use VCA’s or any individual fader to change the level feeding that group that the threshold will have changed.

Therefore personally I tend to avoid using groups at all and simply use VCA’s and insert compressors on a per track (mono or stereo) basis.

For instance I’ll put a stereo compressor across my drum overheads and say an 1176 on my snare and an optical comp on my kick(s) but not an overall insert compressor on a group being fed by my drum tracks so I don’t need to worry about group inserted dynamics thresholds as I mix.

Yes you can just link the track faders using a simple link function but that won’t let you easily change an individual track level without constantly bypassing that link.

Plus you can nest VCA faders, another cool feature of VCA’s (a VCA’s controlling other VCA’s)

Also and importantly a simple track link function won’t allow you to trim already written track automation the way a VCA fader will.

VCA faders allow you to trim already written automation which is a “BIGGIE” of huge proportions.

Hope that helps a bit.

I know you meant to say ‘Voltage Controlled Amplifier’ (not “analog”). Just for clarification :slight_smile:

Oops I’ll fix that - I’m having a nice bottle of Xmas wine :slight_smile:

Thank you sir for pointing that out :smiley:

Enjoy! :slight_smile:

so for group channels: you can just send the send fx track back to the group channel and have also have a proportional fx level with no messed up fx volume.
i work like this ever since cubase v6.
on the other hand the possibility to write another automation (from vca faders) is a nice addon.


I just don’t quite understand. I use PT also at the studio where I work, and the guys there always bothered me about VCA, which I never use. But form I read here (and I am sure I missed something), Groups channels are the same, and if you don’t want to mess up with your FX sends, you can use Link Channels function, which I do most of the time, although I know I can´t automatize the link. But using Groups, I still can automatize the FX faders, or the sends… no big deal if we are talking a reduced bunch of channels. I don’t quite understand the advantage of VCA in C8 nor in PT… so probably is my ignorance…
Thanks and regards,

VCA Faders are just:

A) handy faders that are like a “skin” for linked channels. It’s nice to be able to move any linked faders with one fader.

B) a second level of automation: you can keep all your individual tracks’ automation, yet still do relative automation to the linked faders via VCA Fader. You can also merge the VCA Fader’s automation back into the original tracks’ individual automation lanes. Pretty cool!

Groups are quite different, as shown above. Groups are summing the the audio signal, and don’t “speak” the grouped channels at all. If you are sending your drums to a Group, but have the snare track going to a reverb; if you turn up the Group fader, the snare will get less wet. A VCA Fader would keep the original.

They’re just totally different tools. VCA will help some people, while others will hardly touch it though.

No it doesn’t if you send output of the reverb to the same group.

Right. Sure. There are a million ways to skin a cat. I’m simply giving one example to illustrate the difference between VCA and Group.

In your example, the reverb becomes exclusive to the drums, which is fine… unless you want to send something else to it.:wink:

Indeed. But in DAW world it shouldn’t be a huge problem. If you have powerful enough computer, you can run as many instances of the same reverb as you wish. In The Good Old Days this of course was an important issue, because one high-quality reverb box could cost $20 000 or more and you obviously didn’t have 10 of those in your studio.

But as you said, there’s many ways to skin a cat. IMO VCA faders are just a workflow thing. If you like that approach, it’s OK, but you can still do all* the same things with groups.

*) Almost all, using level-dependent plugins on post-fader insert slots of the channels have different behaviour with VCA than with groups.

Yeah, you can run all sorts of reverbs these days. For me, I like to pick one and stick with it. But, that’s my way to skin a cat.

Yeah. VCA’s just another tool. I don’t see myself using it too often, but who knows? I think the symphonic guys, with 500+ tracks will love them.

The only problem is that the VCA function is an addition (linked) to the regular Link/Group system, which it obviously shouldn’t.
A “real” VCA system has nothing to do with Grouping and/or Linking tracks.

The way it is implemented in C8, is that it works like a “Master” Group fader, with the ability to add an extra Trim automation layer.
I am not saying it’s useless, only that the label VCA is not correct in this instance. Link/Group selection and record arming across the tracks has nothing to do with VCA functions (this can be very dangerous across a large mix).

PS. Nuendo 7 will get a whole another VCA feature set, NOT linked to the regular grouping/linking at all.
Whether some of N7’s VCA features will make its way to Cubase or not were not decided. Only that the FULL Nuendo VCA feature set would not be ported over to Cubase.

Steiberg, Please seperate the VCA and the regular group/link function also in Cubase 8 (not only in N7).

I’m done with VCA Faders, at least for now. Maybe I’m doing something wrong, but here’s my issue:

I create a group with a VCA Fader. I want no linking of any kind, other than the VCA Fader itself. I make sure to uncheck everything else. I double check it. I triple check it later. Then at some point while mixing, strange things start happening. I go back and check the group settings. Sure enough, link options for Sends, Volume, and one or two others are suddenly checked. This has happened to me EVERY time. I’m about to redo a complicated mix for the second time because of this.

It’s a known issue. I believe that the workaround is to select at least one option in the VCA setup dialog box (one you won’t be using in this group, obviously) and it should work.

Thanks, that’s good to know. Sadly, that knowledge could have helped me.