How to Connect Your Effects Processor - dummies

By Jeff Strong

For an effects processor to work on your sound source, you need to connect the processor properly. Regardless of the type of signal processor or recording system you’re using, you have the option of connecting your processor directly into the channel strip (called a line effect or insert effect) or routing it through your aux bus (a send/return effect).


Insert (line) effects are placed in the signal path so that all the instrument’s sound passes through the effect. Line effects alter the entire signal of the instrument and don’t allow you to mix the amount of effect that you have with the original dry (unaffected) signal at the mixer. (Some insert effects allow you to adjust the balance of dry and affected signal using a Mix dial.)

Line effects are generally dynamics processors like compression or gates, which are great for evening out signal levels and getting rid of noise on your tracks, but they can also be the useful new effects, such as amp or microphone simulators, that are available to the home recordist.



Send/return effects, such as reverb, delay, chorus, and flange, allow you to mix both the affected and unaffected sound separately. The send/return effect is connected to the aux bus in your mixer (through the aux jack), and as a result, you can adjust both the dry signal and the affected signal separately. This enables you to do the following things that you can’t do with a line effect:

  • Run as many instruments through the same processor as you want. For example, you can have your snare drum, kick drum, bass guitar, and backup vocals all run through the same reverb.

  • Have as much or as little of the affected sound in your music as you want. This can be an advantage if you want just a little reverb on your vocal track, for instance.

  • Pan the dry signal to one side of the mix and the affected signal to the other side. This can add depth to an instrument and can be used for a variety of cool effects.