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When audio is recorded, it seldom sounds exactly as we want it to sound. Either it doesn't gel with the other elements it's being mixed with, there is some other problem or we simply want to make it sound different in some way, perhaps by making it larger than life. Effects come in many different categories and can be used to affect just about any property of the sound including pitch, frequency spectrum, volume, timbre and so on. Sometimes the goal of applying an effect is for its presence to go completely unnoticed. Sometimes we want to make the instrument or whatever we're recording sound its best with effects so that the listener believes that's just how it sounded when we recorded it. Sometimes we want the presence of the effect to be much more dramatic and in your face.

The following page of links will take you to articles describing the purpose and operation of many of the most common effect types. Please note that these articles are not intended to instruct you in the use of a particular plug-in in a particular situation; this information is just to introduce you to the principals behind each effect, which may help you decide what to use in what circumstances.

Many of these links will take you to third-party resources for whose maintenance we are not responsible. We have reviewed these articles for accuracy at the time of writing, however they may be changed or removed afterwards. Please notify us of any broken links.

The Frequency Domain

There are effects that alter the frequency spectrum of sounds. This section describes them.


This article provides a brief introduction to equalizers

Here are some Youtube videos demonstrating some of the applications of equalizers.

This video doesn't talk much about exact settings, leaving viewers to watch what he does. However, it's an excellent whistle-stop tour of how EQ can be made to sculpt a song exactly how you want it. It assumes an understanding of the different filter types - shelving, parametric band EQ and high-pass filters.

Harmonic Exciters

This forum thread provides a good introduction to harmonic exciters and also demonstrates how helpful the audio community can be as a rule.

This harmonic exciter tutorial contains recommendations for free harmonic exciter plug-ins.


This article provides a dense introduction to compression, including what compression does, the most common parameters a compressor will include, examples of different types of hardware compression and audio examples of the effects of compression, i.e. how a compressor can be used to change the character of the sound.

This All About Compression Youtube video divides the parameters of a compressor into three catagories. It features a good demonstration of makeup gain and briefly mentions autorelease as well as the knee function.

The video also makes repeated reference to the gain reduction meter, which is the means by which sighted people measure the amount by which their audio is being compressed. Bear in mind that gain reduction meters are usually inaccessible and that therefore we have to find other means to obtain the appropriate amount of gain reduction.


this article explains limiters]] and their various applications including audio examples. It is quite dense and makes reference to side-chaining, a process which is beyond the scope of this article, but that will be explained towards the end of the Reaper module. For those not taking the Reaper module, feel free to Google terms such as side-chaining and side-chain compression for more information.

This Youtube video on limiters provides an example of limiting in action and uses our personal favorite limiter.


this noise gate article]] gets pretty advanced. We recommend it once you have listened to and thoroughly understood the lecture on effects and have an understanding of at least one noise gate plug-in.

It too makes reference to side-chaining and another type of dynamics processor the expander, which will be covered in the next section.

This Wikipedia article on noise gates]] details a fair few use-cases and cites people and albums where their use is particularly prominent.

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Page last modified on September 25, 2016, at 02:20 PM