Q: I want to incorporate external hardware EQs and compressors into my mixes in Pro Tools. Should I connect them to inserts or is it better to put them on the outputs of my rig (I use a Dangerous Music 2-bus summing box, so I route 16 outputs from Pro Tools.)
A: The answer depends on how you’re using the processors, and how much level automation and fader moves you use.
Channel strip hardware inserts in Pro Tools are placed before the channel’s fader in the signal path. For this reason, if you’re using level automation or moving the faders during mixes, you’re better off putting compression into the inserts. In general, a compressor will also have more level to work with in the insert than after the fader has reduced the volume. So, in almost all cases, compressors work better in inserts.
EQ is a bit more forgiving of level, but can also be affected by the placement of other processors in the signal flow. Sometimes you’ll want the EQ before compression, in which case (based on the above paragraph), you’ll want the EQ in the insert. In other cases, you want the EQ after compression — or if you’re not using compression — in that situation EQ will work fine on your channel outs.
For maximum flexibility, connect your processors and your Pro Tools I/O to a patch bay. This way, you can custom connect and route your external hardware however you like, quickly and easily.