Fader before or after plugins?

Sorry for the silly question but is it better, worse, the same, to put plugins in each track before or after the fader?
Thank you

Before the fader is default on most consoles. If you have a dynamic processing pre-fader, the fader movements do not affect the processing. It’s not forbidden to put post-fader but pre-fader is normally preferred.

Effects that vary depending on the signal-level (e.g. compressor, distortion) should be pre-fader, so that the fader does not change their sound and behavior.

As example: if you put an overdrive-effect after the fader on a guitar-track and then lower the fader, the input is lower and you’ll get less distortion. Usually you’ll only want to use the fader to set the volume of the guitar but keep the same overdrive. So you place the overdrive-FX pre-fader.

Sends to reverb-busses on the other hand should be post-fader. The amount of reverb depends on your artistic mix decisions.

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Robin is dead on accurate here for the norm, however as someone that teaches, I will say there are times when eschewing the norm can be desirable as well. It all depends on what precisely you are trying to receive, and the best option is to truly understand the signal flow and what is happening to your signal at the various stages/plugins.


Thanks all folks. I usually use the same plugins, compressor, EQ, distortion, delay and reverb. When I use my guitar effect I know how to place them in a chain since apart the volumes on the effects, there are just two volumes, on guitar and on amp. I was wondering here how it works. I thought, as Robin wrote, the fader allows more or less volume going through the plugins that follow in the chain, hence modifying the quantity of signal that passes through a certain effect.
I tried it once, but real quickly so I haven’t spent enough time doing it.
Talking about mastering. I tried a couple times and I had in the chain the fader, the wav file (song) and let’s say the compressor. Also in this case would it be preferable to put a compressor at the start of the chain, before the fader and the wav file?

I guess that depends on whether you want the compressor algorithm to be applied to the wav.

Also keep in mind that there is a “Trim control” at the top (the small knob top-right in each audio mixer-strip, next to the input connector), that allows to add gain before the first pre-fader effect and move signal-level into the right ballpark.

From http://manual.ardour.org/signal-routing/signal-flow/

As for mastering, I’d put a Limiter after the fader on the master-bus and a multi-band compressor pre-fader on the master-bus. That way the sound is affected by a fade-out and yet the signal still is limited regardless of master-gain.

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Thank you all. I usually never touch faders, both the master and the various track ones.
I only act on the different plugins setup, volumes and/or other regulations.

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