How to Set up a Sidechain Signal in All Major DAWs

April 3, 2024 | How-to

This guide was written for users of pure:unmask, our simple and effective AI-powered plugin for helping two tracks to sit well together in the mix. For correct usage, pure:unmask needs a sidechain routing to be set up. This is simple in almost every DAW, but each has its own method for setting up the routing.

What is sidechain routing?

Whatever kind of music you make and whichever DAW you use, you’ll likely have come across sidechain processing at some point or another. Sidechain processing refers to using an audio signal to control an effect parameter. The trigger could be internal (if the processing is happening on the same channel as the signal) or external (if the processing is happening on a separate channel from the signal).

In This Article

How to Set up Sidechaining in Ableton Live 12

Setting up sidechaining in Ableton Live 12 is extremely simple. In the latest version of Ableton Live Suite, 12.0.1, sidechain-enabled native devices and third-party plugins display a small sidechain section on the left of the Ableton Live Device.

Simply click on the external source drop-down menu and select a source.

You can then use the next drop-down menu to select the point at which the external signal is tapped from Pre FX, Post FX and Mixer. You can also adjust the sidechain signal’s Gain and Mix Amount, or you can mute it altogether. 

How to Set up Sidechaining in Apple Logic Pro X

Setting up sidechaining in Logic Pro X is similarly straightforward. Native and third-party plugins that are sidechain-enabled will show a Sidechain drop-down menu on the right-hand side of the plugin’s top banner. Within the Sidechain drop-down menu you can set an Audio, Input, Instrument or Bus as the sidechain signal.After selecting a channel as the sidechain source, the signal is routed into your plugin and will trigger a change in effect parameters as per the settings you configure in the plugin.

How to Set up Sidechaining in FL Studio

Applying sidechain processing in FL Studio 20 is a little more complicated. Let’s say you want to use a kick to sidechain compress your bass sound, you’ll first need to route each sound to their dedicated mixer tracks. Now with the kick track selected, right-click the arrow at the bottom of the bass channel and select ‘Sidechain to this track’. A piece of wiring will then appear to demonstrate the routing between the kick and bass tracks.

Now, when you load a sidechain-enabled FL Studio native device on the bass track, the kick track will appear as an option within the plugin’s sidechain drop-down menu. On third-party plugins, the placement of the external sidechain settings vary, but the principle is the same.  

Check out the tutorial below for more info.


How to Set up Sidechaining in Reaper

The latest version of Reaper, Reaper 7.11, brought with it some subtle changes in the way you apply sidechain processing. Once you’ve loaded the device or plugin you wish to send a sidechain signal to, locate the track you wish to use as a sidechain signal, then click and drag the routing button onto the plugin to open the routing controls window.Within the routing controls window, you can alter the send amount, audio channel routing and where the sidechain signal is routed in relation to the channel fader. With the routing set up, you can then set the Detector Input to Auxiliary Input if using a Reaper-native device, or the external sidechain input if using a third-party plugin. 

How to Set up Sidechaining in Studio One

To set up sidechain processing in Presonus Studio One 6, first place the plugin or device on the track that you wish to apply sidechain processing to. Press the sidechain routing button at the top of the plugin window, then tick the Send box for the track that you wish to use as the sidechain signal.

This automatically creates a Send routing from the sidechain you’ve chosen, and you can change the gain on this through the mixer if desired. The routing is now set up, and you can adjust the parameters within the device or plugin in order to achieve your desired sidechain processing.

How to Set up Sidechaining in Cubase

Setting up sidechain in Cubase is a relatively quick process. With a sidechain-enabled device or plugin loaded on the track you wish to sidechain process, click the cog icon at the top of the plugin window. This opens the Set up Side-Chain Routing window. Then click on the Add Side-Chain Source button and select a sidechain source.

Using this method, you can add multiple sidechain signals to the same sidechain channel. You can also set up to eight sidechain channels, all going to one device or plugin. This is particularly useful for more complex sidechaining such as multiband processing.

How to Set up Sidechaining in Bitwig Studio

If you want to set up sidechaining in Bitwig Studio 5, first load a native device or third-party VST plugin that is capable of receiving a sidechain signal onto the channel you wish to sidechain process. Plugins that accept a sidechain signal will display the sidechain icon, with a Device Input drop-down menu on the right of it.

Within this menu, you can not only select the sidechain source, but whether the signal is routed pre- or post-fader.

The tutorial below shows you in further detail how to set up the sidechain routing you need for pure:unmask in Bitwig Studio.

How to Set up Sidechaining in LUNA

The steps for setting up sidechaining in Universal Audio’s LUNA vary slightly depending on whether you’re using a native UAD plugin or a third-party plugin, but the principle remains the same. At the top of native sidechain-enabled UAD plugins, click on the Sidechain:Assign or SC button. For third-party plugins, click on the Sidechain Enable, Sidechain, or SC button.Clicking on the relevant button opens a drop-down menu within which you can choose the source track that you wish to set as the sidechain signal.Once the sidechain routing is set up, you can adjust the level of the sidechain signal, solo the sidechain source, disable the sidechain, or if your sidechain is being sent to a stereo destination, you can link or unlink the left and right channels. 

How to Set up Sidechaining in Pro Tools

In Avid’s Pro Tools 2023.12 software, a sidechain signal is referred to as a Key Input, but the process for setting it up is similar to that of other DAWs. First, place a sidechain-capable Pro Tools device or third-party AAX plugin on the channel you wish to apply sidechain processing to. Then send the track you wish to use as a sidechain signal to an unused Bus slot by clicking on an empty Send slot. You can now select the corresponding Bus slot within the Key Input selector in the sidechain device, and bring up the Bus fader in order to control the sidechain signal’s level.

How to Set up Sidechaining in Waveform

Now on version 12, setting up sidechaining in Tracktion Waveform couldn’t be simpler, thanks to some updates that were made in version T7 onwards. With a sidechain-enabled plugin open, click on the Sidechain assignment list at the top left of the plugin’s interface. You can now select the sidechain signal from the drop-down menu.

How to Set up Sidechaining in Reason

Applying sidechain processing in Reason is a little different to the other DAWs covered here, owing to its patching-based functionality. Start by placing the sidechain-enabled effect on the track you wish to sidechain process. Press TAB to view the rear panel of the device, and you can identify the device’s sidechain inputs from here.

The exact wiring will be different per device, but for example, the MClass Compressor has very clear Sidechain In inputs (Left and Right).For your sidechain source, you may wish to use an Audio Out from a device, a Send signal from the mixer, or a signal taken from a parallel channel.