Itsy Bitsy Spiders – part I
The Idle Predators
Let’s face it, the Spider Audio Merger and Splitter and Spider CV Merger and Splitter have very long and interesting names. But you can’t say they work hard. They’re the simplest of all Reason devices; they’re grey, plain, and easily overlooked – all they do is just sit there and wait for other devices to get caught in their webs. But it’s often the simplest things that work wonders, and these babies can fundamentally change and improve your workflow. In this month’s article we’re going spider hunting – bring the magnifying glass and follow us on a field trip to the tangled forest habitat of Spider Audio.
Fields of Interest
Here’s a quick rundown of things you can do with Spider Audio:
- Creating sub-groups - routing multiple signals to a single mixer channel.
- Merging effect input signals - tapping multiple signals into a single effect unit.
- Merging carrier or modulator signals - splicing multiple sources for vocoder treatment.
- Splitting signals to alternate targets - when you need A/B/C/D alternatives for a signal.
- Splitting/merging the same signal - let ‘cloned’ signals part ways, be processed, then reunited.
- Create “pseudo” stereo effects - split a mono signal in two, apply effects, pan left and right
Now for some practical cases.
The 14:2 mixer has four auxiliary sends/returns. Depending on the complexity of your setup, this may not be enough. But oftentimes you find yourself applying the same amount of, say, aux 1 and aux 2 to a channel – for instance, if you’re using two or more DDL-1 units to create a stereo or multitap delay. Here, Spider Audio comes in handy because you can split the aux send to four separate signal, as well as merge four separate signals and send them to the aux return. In the example shown here we’ve taken four DDL-1 delays and built a multitap delay – each with an individual sequencer track for automation. And even with four delays hooked up, we still have three aux channels free. This method is useful for any setups where you want two or more effects on one Aux channel. Multiple delays is one; another example is chorus and reverb (as opposed to a chorus+reverb chain), or virtually any signal you want to make sure is sent at equal volume to two separate targets.
If you’re prepared to take it to extremes, consider using a whole army of Audio Spiders (the example here shows 14 units) to create one giant patchbay. Yes, there will indeed be lots of tricksy routing involved initially, but if you do it once you won’t have to do it again – we encourage you to save a template song once you’ve emerged safely on the other side.
The idea is to connect your instruments to Spider Audio units rather than a main 14:2 mixer. The Spiders then connect to the mixer, one for each channel – and so far everything will be normal – but the Spiders also break out to a secondary entity. Like what? We present you two scenarios:
If you’ve ever found yourself having to unplug all your devices from the mixer and re-routing them to the Hardware Interface so that they show up as channels in the ReWire host application instead, the method described here might be just the ticket. Just connect each Spider to both the main mixer and the Hardware Interface, and you have two parallel routing schemes up and running – and you won’t have to disassemble your setup when you want to move over to the ReWire domain. Just mute any channel in the Reason mixer and it will be left out of the main mix; but its signal is still going out to the ReWire host where it can be activated and get its own channel strip. If you want to switch back, unmute the channel on the Reason mixer and mute it in the ReWire host mixer. At no time will you need to mess with cables.
2. Alternate mixes
Another way to employ this “dual lane” method is to route all your devices to two separate 14:2 mixers. That way you can have two alternate mixes going, and switch between them – easily done by pulling the master level on mixer #1 down, and the master on mixer #2 up. There are many applications for this – one is to have a primary mixer where you’re doing what you believe is the perfect mix, and a secondary ‘scratch’ mixer where you try out crazy ideas without running the risk of messing up your delicate settings on the primary mixer. Or, you might want to work on two completely different mixes simultaneously, either because you can’t make up your mind which direction to go with the sound, or because you want to challenge yourself to creating a remix while you’re still working on the original.
Since each Spider has four split outputs, theoretically you can have both the ReWire routing and the standard routing, and the alternate mixer routing, and yet another one of your choosing, all active at the same time. But be aware that the cable mess will reach the boiling point in no time, so keep track of what you’re doing!
In the next article we will go on another field trip to look at Spider Audio’s close relative, Spider CV – its web threads are finer, but ever so strong.
Text & Music by Fredrik Hägglund