Side-chaining in Adobe Audition - why you need it and how to set it up

So what exactly is side-chaining?

Simply put, side-chaining is a form of compression. The simplest way of explaining how this works, is by imagining you have a music bed or track and you want to duck that music under a voice track. Now, within Audition, there are a number of ways in which this can be done. If I am honest, there are some very simple ways too, that get the job done (manual attenuation & the Essential Sound Panel), but equally have their limitations. With a correctly set side-chained compressor you are in complete control, it will work across your entire multi-track session and can even be added to a bus too.

For some reason, many audio editors seem daunted at the the thought of setting up a side-chain compressor and instead go for the short fixes. Yes, there are a few steps you need to learn to take in order set up a side-chain compressor, but once you have learned those steps, you’ll have so much more control over your audio.

What are the secrets then?

The first thing you’ll need to do is find a compressor that actually allows itself to be side-chained. Natively, as far as I am aware, there is only one compressor that Adobe supply that would work. To find that,go to Effects > Amplitude & Compression > Dynamics Processing. Although it will work, it is missing the basic elements that you’d expect to find on any compressor such as attack, gain, ratio, gain & threshold. As such, it makes for a pretty confusing UI. By habit, I have for years now used a Waves plug-in compressor called the SSL available here Once you have bought that and added it to your plug-in’s, add that SSL compressor to the effects rack on your music track. Now, here is the most important thing of the whole side-chaining process, you’ll need to enable side-chaining. To do that is super simple and all you need do is head to the top right corner of the compressor and look for the square that you can see below that is now yellow. If you are using the compressor against a mono voice, then check it to mono.

Before leaving the effects rack, you can pretty much leave the compressor set, ready to use. The attack for voice against music is perfect at 4:1. You’ll want a quick attack so that as you speak, the music ducks immediately - I find a quick 1millisecond is great as a starting point and release wants to be somewhat slower, so you get a more natural sound (one of the benefits of creating your own side-chaining). The best way to learn how to use the threshold and make-up gain is to watch my video below.

Right then, you are set. Let's move over to the vocal track. You’ll want to go the sends function (the two blue arrows shown below). Then click on the S1 > Side-chain > SSL compressor.

You’re all set!

In essence, you are done. It really is that simple. From there it is a case of tweaking the sound to your preference. I suggest you do that in the mixer view… my video linked below and you’ll see exactly how I carry out the final part of the process.

Honestly, there really is nothing to be scared or wary of in side-chaining. The long term benefits to learning how to set this up, out weigh the negatives. You’ll particularly start to see the benefits in bigger multi-track sessions, and as mentioned above, you can even create side-chain buses so that all vocal tracks go through that one process…..but that is for another day.

Go play. Go set up your first side-chain compressor and send me your results back too so that I can listen. You’ll find an upload feature on my website

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