Old 04-19-2019, 06:04 AM   #1
DrFrankencopter
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Default ReaInsert Trick: Direct monitoring w/Time based FX buss

Maybe this is old news to veteran Reaper users, but it's a recent discovery to me and I thought I'd pass it on.

The Problem:
For vocal recording with headphones in particular I find that direct monitoring from my interface is necessary, otherwise I get some pretty noticeable phase artifacts on the monitored sound. This is the case even at a buffer size of 32. Fortunately, the direct monitoring from the interface (RME 9652) works fine for this and I can just make sure that my track is not checked for monitoring within Reaper. The downside to this is that I can't hear any bussed FX like delays and reverbs while I'm recording the parts. Sometimes its really nice to have the FX in your headphone mix to help set the vibe, and let the performer play off of the effect.

The Old Solution:
I used to use a hardware based delay/reverb for live vocal FX, but this was a bit of a pain, since the monitored effect wasn't the same as the effects that I was using in the mix, and if I changed song, etc, I'd need to dial up a new bunch of hardware settings (tempo especially) to match. It just got in the way of having a rapid workflow.

The New (to me) Solution:
It occurred to me this week that I could use ReaInsert as a way to feed my live vocal sound into an FX buss. Here's an example of how you do it:

Suppose you have a project where:
Track 1 is the Vocal track you are trying to record.
Track 2 is empty (for now). Label it as 'LiveVocalFX'
Track 3 is an FX Buss with Delay or Reverb (or whatever) on it.

Step 1: Set Track 1 (the vocal) up with input monitoring turned off. Use your interface to set up the appropriate direct monitoring volume level for the performer.

Step 2: On your interface you will need to set up a loopback from one of your outputs back to one of your inputs. If you have digital I/O to spare this might be preferred, but analog is fine since this is only for monitoring the effect in real time. On my interface, for example, I've looped output 20 back to input 20, and set up the mix of output 20 using the direct monitoring mixer (RME Totalmix) so that it has just my vocal on it. At this time, you should have your headphone mix with the audio from Reaper,, plus your direct monitored vocal, and on that second output a pure vocal only send. Set the levels to make sure there's enough headroom for your performance.

Step 3: On Track 2 (LiveVocalFx), route the track to the Vocal FX buss (Track 3). Now, insert a ReaInsert plugin on Track 2. You'll want to set it up as follows:
- Hardware send Left/Right, set to 'none'
- Hardware return Left/Right, set both to the input channel on your interface that you used in your loopback of step 2. In my case this was input 20. It's important to set both left and right returns, otherwise you might end up with FX only coming back on one side of the mix (guess how I found that out). Obviously, if you are doing a stereo recording, you can modify this technique and use 2 hardware loopbacks.
- Delay compensation can be left off. This technique is intended for buss effects (time based, especially), and is for real time use so latency compensation just won't work. Besides, with no hardware send in use I'm not sure what Reaper would do when trying to establish the latency of the loop.
- Now, when you sing into the mic, if you have the routing set up correctly you should see activity on the return level meter in ReaInsert, and on Track 2.

Step 4: Set the level of the fader on track 2 (LiveVocalFx) to whatever level the performer likes.

Step 5: Set the send level on Track 1 (the recorded vocal) to whatever level the producer/engineer likes for playback.

Done!

Now you can monitor direct, and have the same time based FX on your monitor mix as you do in your project. I think it's pretty sweet.

In the words of Kenny Gioia, 'I hope you learned something, I hope you can use it'.

Cheers

Kris

PS: This would be easier if Reaper offered a way to monitor an input signal without having it in record arm. This way you could skip the ReaInsert step, and get rid of the need to make a hardware loopback.
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Old 04-19-2019, 07:52 AM   #2
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Reading it it sounds like a cool concept, but I wonder what the overall latency has dissolved into ReaInsert itself doesn't, per your findings, induce any latency?

Is there a difference if, in Totalmix, you route your Vocal channel to an SPDIF output and use this as the input for your FX track?
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Old 04-19-2019, 08:28 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beingmf View Post
Reading it it sounds like a cool concept, but I wonder what the overall latency has dissolved into ReaInsert itself doesn't, per your findings, induce any latency?

Is there a difference if, in Totalmix, you route your Vocal channel to an SPDIF output and use this as the input for your FX track?
Yes, there is still latency on the FX buss...in my case its about 0.75ms for the initial A/D conversion, plus probably another 1.5 ms for the A/D and D/A loopback, then at 32 samples buffer it's about 3ms for Reaper itself, and finally another 0.75 ms for the output to the headphone amp. So, there's:
-about 1.5 ms on the direct monitored sound (pure converter delay...I'm just guessing at this value, but its probably close)
-about 6ms latency on the live FX themselves

The effects that I'm using for monitoring through are all time based, bussed effects running in full wet (parallel), so the extra 6ms of latency is like additional pre-delay, and doesn't really result in phase issues. I can hear the latency if I run a reverb at 0ms pre-delay, and this setup would not work at all for doing a parallel compression, or anything like that, but it works like a charm for time based FX, which are typically the ones that I'm trying to add to a vocalist's headphone mix.

The difference with this setup, as opposed to just using the 'Record monitoring' from the vocal track itself is that I don't have the extra 3ms of latency that the Reaper mixer introduces on the dry/un-effected vocal. This means it sounds 'right' in my headphones, whereas I find it sounds 'phase-y' with that extra 3ms of latency when monitoring through the Reaper mixer.

I'll try doing a SPDIF loopback....that probably makes the most sense from an audio fidelity standpoint, and it might eliminate about 1.5ms of converter delay.

Cheers

Kris

PS: I was really hoping to be able to get monitoring with Fx using only Reaper and not having to use direct monitoring...even bought a new PC so I could run at the lowest buffer settings. But it doesn't sound right when monitoring vocals. The approach outlined above at least allows me to add time based FX on a buss. If I want compression or EQ on my vocal on the way in, I'll need to do that using my outboard gear (looks like I'll be keeping it).
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Old 04-19-2019, 09:19 AM   #4
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I found a different way to do this that doesn't require a ReaInsert or loopback....

I found the method in this thread: https://forum.cockos.com/showthread.php?t=16432

Here's the steps:
- Select the input to monitor from the input dropdown in the TCP. In my example, on Track 2 (LiveVocalFx) I set this to the same input as the input feeding my vocal track to Track 1.
- Select monitor input to ON
- Arm the track for recording
- Right click on the VU meter and select 'Record: disable (input monitoring only)

As mentioned the only downside with this is that the track now looks like it is recording, where it actually isn't...but hey, it works!

I suspect this gives me even lower latency than the loopback/ReaInsert approach. Cool. Would be nice if Reaper had this as a monitor mode, rather than requiring right clicking the VU meter, as it wasn't exactly intuitive that the VU meter would be where I'd tell it not to record my track.

Cheers

K
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Old 04-19-2019, 10:54 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DrFrankencopter View Post
- Right click on the VU meter and select 'Record: disable (input monitoring only)
Ah! I thought the original post referred to a "better" workaround to this
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Old 04-19-2019, 11:13 AM   #6
DrFrankencopter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beingmf View Post
Ah! I thought the original post referred to a "better" workaround to this
Nope...it seems you are ahead of me! Sorry to get your hopes up

Cheers

K
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