How to Use Common Digidesign Mbox 2 ProTools Sound Effects

The Digidesign Mbox 2 Pro Factory Bundle software is one of the most common industry standards in the music recording world. Renowned for its in-depth effectual qualities, expansive editing abilities, and therefore, a rather non-user-friendly interface, ProTools proves itself to be one of the most difficult programs to learn. But once acquainted with its most basic nuances, the learning curve decreases drastically, allowing the user to master it without further hassle.

The ProTools software comes with some of the most simplistic sound effects, also known as plugins. These basic plugins are nothing fancy, but are much like the add-ons available on many mixing programs. But deciding which ones to use and how to use them can be a challenge, so I’ll delve into some of the frequently used ones here.

The Expander/Gate: When we first began to record drums, we were disappointed with how mushy they sounded. The snare taps bled into the cymbals, which in turn spilled onto the bass, and finally died with the crash. I’m sure you fellow first-time recorders can relate to this very circumstance. What’s the fix? An effect called Expander/Gate. To use this impression, select the audio track you wish to fix, hover over the “Audio Suite” button on the menu bar of the ProTools window, and scroll through the window until you find “Expander/Gate.” Once selected, a pop-up window will appear, presenting you with all kinds of input, output, hold, threshold, and other buttons. The two I usually use are the hold and threshold selections. As a general rule, I scroll the hold button to a high setting, and the threshold to a low setting. What this does is make each beat of the snare drum sharper, while at the same time allowing the threshold to monitor how much extra noise is allowed to stay in the track. In my case, there’s not much crunchy noise left once I’m through with it.

The Reverb: For those of you who love to play with ricocheted sound, I give you the reverb. From the hall to the church to the lavatory, there’s a little something for everyone with these few basic effects included with the ProTools software sans the plugins package. To try out these sounds, choose “Audio Suite”, scroll down to “Reverb” and bounce to “D-Verb.” Another pop-up window will appear with each sound effect and its corresponding gain/decibel settings. Here are two of my favorites:

Hall: This one is a thick, bass-like reverb with a fluid tonality. Best when added to vocals and the guitar, you can apply this setting to a track that’s slightly imperfect and many of the imperfections fade into an echoing wave.

Church: We used this setting when recording a Spanish-style song. Applying the church setting to the electric guitar and vocals made the music seem to come from the back of a cathedral. This is also a good choice for masking flaws in the track, as it makes everything sound deliberate.

Normalizer: Have you ever had an instance where one instrument is blazingly louder than the rest of the song? We sure have. To corral the runaway sounds, apply the Normalizer/Equalizer,(also found in the Audio Suite section), which automatically softens the sound.

There are more effects that serve their purposes for the guitar and drums. But avoid applying certain ones to the vocals. Some of them, the Room 2 and Non-Lin effects, make the vocals sound like they’re sung in a drippy bathroom. Others, like Ambient, make the room seem empty and lifeless, which rubs off on the vocals. All in all, playing around with the effects will likely produce the best results. This way, all settings can be applied to your liking, and you’ll produce a great track.