I’ve got a recording session coming up soon with a fairly well-known bass player around Nashville.

As far as I know, he’ll want to record direct. What I’m planning to do is something I’ve not done before, but I’m fairly excited about.

I recently bought a Presonus FireStudio Project for my studio. It’s a simple, one-rack space interface with eight microphone inputs. One of the unique features of FSP is that the first two channels can be either microphone or instrument inputs.

Not only that, they also have balanced send and return jacks on the back which allow me to send the signal off to another piece of equipment and bring it back in before it hits the converters. This is really cool and I’ve only seen this on Presonus products.

So here’s what I’m planning to do: I’ll plug the bass directly into input number one, then use the send to send that signal to my Alesis 3630 compressor. The 3630 is a fairly cheap compressor, but it often times sounds pretty good on bass.

From here, rather than sending the signal back into channel one on the return, I’ll send the output of the 3630 into ANOTHER input on the interface. What this does is allows me to record both signals — a direct signal from the bass and also the compressed signal from the Alesis — on separate channels in my DAW.

Why would I do this? Well, three reasons:

1. Nice tight sound for tracking.

The bass player wants to hear himself as close to how he will sound in the mix as possible, so having a nice compressed sound just for listening back can be beneficial.

2. Two options for mixing.

Having two tracks there gives me flexibility when it comes time to mix tracks. I can use the compressed signal, I can use the dry signal, or a combination of both.

3. Potential awesome discovery for the future.

Let’s say I find the perfect setting on the 3630 for bass. In the future, I can go back to that setting, record that whenever I record bass. That way, I’ll have a nice compressed bass sound and won’t have to use compression during midown.

So do you have any fun tricks that you do in your studio with analog equipment?

  • Mitchell Lodge

    At first these sends and returns seemed useless, more like an insert, no way to only route the return to the headphones, not in the recording. I need direct monitoring with effects but dry recorded. A simple switch in Universal control would of enabled this. I never thought of doing your technique, thank you!!!. I have 2 so i’m currently sending, mono mic input 1, rear Send to the in on an LX400, back out in stereo into the 2 returns of the second Firestudio. Previously having 4 Mic/guitar ins where a waste for me, I need more lines, now they are utilized. Plug the headphones in the 2nd firestudio and now we get direct monitoring with effects and a dry recording…

    • Glad it helped!! It’s funny, I never actually used the send and return when I owned it. Haha.

  • Mattd546

    great idea buddy! if you have 2 bass tracks try to pan 1 track to the left and then pan the other to the right, you will get a tight sterio sound, you can also eq both a little different! cheers!

    • I don’t personally like panning bass-heavy material left and right. I like to leave it right in the center. But nothing wrong with doing it if you like the results!

      • mattd546@aol.com

        I got a question. now what if you wanted to use your outboard compressor on vocals that was already recorded? any ideas to that? Yeah I don’t usually pan bass either I usually make them dead mono to. but sometimes stereo works. I seen pensada do something like that. but I really want to know hot to use your idea as a plugin type.

        • Just route the vocal out a line output, run it to the compress, and then route the compressor output to another line input. Then you’ll just record the compressed vocal signal onto a new track in your DAW.

  • Jerry Mateo

    im planning on buying the firestudio that sounds like a great idea i will have to try that

  • Just had a thought for those of us who don’t have the PreSonus. A DI box would let you do pretty much the exact same thing with a 2-in interface.

  • SOUNDS AWESOME! i have done it for bass! 
    but i plugged it direct into the presonus, then back out to a Tube pre -> DBX 266xl -> EQ -> back in to a new input on the presonus, soo helpful to have two sounds right away!! you’re going to be stoked on that! 

  • Started reading this post, and was so happy to see your using the FSP and 3630, as theyre the only rack units i have!! 🙂 Ive never thought of doing this with the sends before, great idera and im gonna be abusing this so much now!! 

    Do you reckon the same could be done with a stereo pair of mics, being stereo compressed, and then put back into two other inputs?? Might not be a lot of use, but would be cool for me to be able to use my compressor more, as it is an excellent cheap un it to use to learn to listen for compression rather than look at it on a screen!

    Cheers Joe!

  • No, you’re just splitting the input signal and recording it twice, once with compression and once dry. There’s no output->input in the chain, so no feedback to worry about.

    I think you’re confusing an Insert with an Aux Send, which could create feedback. But no, this is an Insert.

  • Aussiebail

    +1 for the FSP!  I have had one for several yrs and I love it!

  • Can you do a quickie video showing how you would do this? 

    • It sounds more complicated than it actually is. The bass direct signal is going into Input 1, then it’s being split and routed to the Analog-Digital Converter and hence into the computer, and also to the (pre-ADC) insert Send. The trick is that on most analog send/inserts, the insert doesn’t become active until something is jacked into the Return socket, but the signal is ALWAYS* being routed to the Send. If Joe takes that signal from the Send, routes it through a compressor, and routes the compressor output to another channel on the interface, he’s simultaneously recording the dry bass direct, and the output of the compressor.

      You could rig up something in Pro Tools to do this using busses and Aux channels, but the beauty of the PreSonus gear is that the signal is still analog when it hits the insert Send. Unmolested by digital conversion, so the compressor is acting on an undistorted signal straight from the bass. Well ok, apart from the PreSonus preamp 😛

      * I said ‘always’… Things like a Neve desk will give you the option of turning an Insert off altogether, i.e. removing it from the signal flow. But that’s a Neve desk; on the vast majority of  analog desks the Inserts are hardwired in, and a copy of the signal is always routed to the Send.

  • Have you done a post on balanced vs. unbalanced IO ports yet? I’m totally lost on that concept. What exactly is being balanced or unbalanced? Is it just a matter of tying grounds together or something? Why should I care? 🙂

    • Frank Adrian

      It’s not just tying grounds together. It matters because unbalanced is noisier than balanced. 

      Here’s how it works – unbalanced is a two wire connection, one wire signal and the other grounded. You amplify whats coming out of the signal wire and all’s good, right? Well, maybe not. If you have an external noise source, you may pick up some of that noise on the signal wire. Then, when you amplify the signal, you amplify the noise, too. That’s bad.

      In a balanced cable, you have three wires – a signal wire, another signal wire that caries what’s on the signal wire, but inverted, and a ground wire. When an unbalanced signal goes into an input stage, you take the signal and add it to the opposite of the inverted signal (so it’s like subtracting a negative number) and then amplify the sum of the two.

      OK, so what’s the big deal? Let’s assume that, as with the unbalanced example above, some noise is picked up by the signal wires in a balanced line. The same noise will be picked up by the inverted and the non-inverted signal wire. When you add the signal to the inverse of the inverted signal, you’ll be adding the inverse of the noise (on the inverted wire) to the normal polarity noise (on the original signal wire). These two noise signals cancel and the amplifier output is less noisy.
      In unbalanced cabling, the signal wire goes to the tip and the ground wire goes to the sleeve. In balanced cabling, the signal goes to the tip, the inverted signal goes to the ring, and the ground (again) goes to the sleeve. This allows one to plug balanced equipment outputs into balanced equipment jacks – the positive input to the balanced signal gets the signal from the output of the unbalanced gear and the inverted signal gets nothing (and subtracting negative nothing from the positive signal leaves it the same) – no noise cancellation, but you’re using unbalanced cabling. Similarly, you can take the balanced output of a piece of gear and plug it into an unbalanced input – the positive signal will still go through – a bit noisier, perhaps, but…

      Anyhow, that’s the difference and that’s how it works.