As most of you already know, side-chain compression is a widely used technique for producers in a variety of genres, particularly EDM. It’s most often employed on bass lines, automatically ducking the volume of the bass to let the kick drum through without muddying up the low end. However, there’s more to side-chaining than this, and in this blog I will talk about side-chain return effects.

When a return effect is masking the original signal too much, making it unclear and muddy in a mix, we can use a couple of techniques in order to address this issue.

~ Dry Vocals solo


~ Dry Vocals with the Song

Let’s begin with using an EQ to sculpt the return effects WET portion of the signal, so that it does not intrude on the original in the mix. This is a path frequently taken by many producers. An EQ on the return channels is quite common to help those WET signals fit better into the mix, as any other element we would add into the mix.


 ~ This is how the Return of the Reverb sounds without the EQ


~ And this is how it sounds with an EQ on the Return


~ Listen to the Vocal with this Reverb applied

Another useful technique that can be implemented is side-chaining the return channel while using the original DRY signal as a trigger for the side-chain compression.


As you can hear, by using this side-chain return technique, we get a WET signal (delay, reverb) that is attenuated every time the DRY signal is present.

~ Listen to the Returns Delay and Reverb without Sidechaining


~ And with the Sidechaining Compression applied


~ Now to put it all in context let’s hear it mixed in with the DRY Vocals

Although this kind of compression might not seem so audible at first, it makes the overall mix and the vocals sound so much cleaner. Side-Chain Return effects help immensely in aforementioned situations. What’s more, this is particularly useful on vocals because sometimes the reverb that makes the vocal fit very well in the song and sound stage-wise, does not really let the vocal be understandable. In these kinds of situations the side-chaining trick helps a lot.


~ Final Version of the song with processed Returns

Feel free to also check out our Side-Chain Settings article to learn more about different compressor, expander and noise gate settings in Lumit.