The 3 Types of Audio Effects

August 21, 2022

There are audio effects, and there are audio processors. The difference is: in audio processors, the audio signal gets changed entirely resulting in a new signal, while in audio effects the original signal is blended in with the new signal. Examples of audio processors are dynamics processors and frequency processors: these processors change the dynamic and frequency content of the audio signal entirely, also known as “destructive method”. Examples of audio effects are delays, reverb, chorus, etc. Even though the two are different, most musicians don’t make a difference between the two and simply call of them effects.

In music production, using effects can be for either aesthetic purposes or technical purposes. Effects are used to help us better shape the sound as we want it. Effects are an integral part of music production, whether we are working in the analog realm or the digital realm.

Though there are a plethora of effects available today – especially when we work in the digital music production realm – all of these effects fall in one of either three types. The three types of effects are as follows:

1. Dynamic based effects. These are the effects that alter the dynamics of an audio signal. Altering the dynamics translates into the alteration of the level. Examples of dynamic based effects are: the compressor family, including limiters, maximizers, and expanders. These are used so we can manipulate the dynamics of the performance (soften parts that are too loud, or raise parts that are too soft).

2. Frequency based effects. These are the effects that alter the frequency content of an audio signal. By changing the frequency content of the signal we can achieve a brighter or darker sound. This is helpful when the recorded audio file lacks in either of these qualities we want – such as adding “air” to a female vocal to make it sound crispier. Examples of frequency based effects are: equalizers, distortion, and the Wah-Wah.

3. Time based effects. A personal favorite of mine, time based effects are essentially delays and the derivatives. Although there are reverbs, echos, choruses, flangers, phasers, these are all derivatives of delay – the difference is in the time difference between these effects: choruses have a shorter time between two repeating signals than echos do, while reverbs are a cluster of delays. Time based delays help us to shape the depth and dimension of the sound within the mix.

I hope this article has been helpful for you to understand better about effects and their use in music production.

To your effects efficiency,


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This is a curated article that was originally posted on EzineArticles by Endy Daniyanto. Image used with permission from Pixabay.

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