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Which is the best Sidechain Modulator in Bitwig?

Tutorial | Feb 26, 2024

In today's video, I discuss the importance of high precision and latency-compensated sidechain compression on the bass for bass music producers. I explore different methods, such as audio sidechain, note sidechain, and segments, and demonstrate their effectiveness in achieving precise sidechain compression. However, I also highlight a bug when introducing latency within the FX chain of a device.

You can watch the Video on Youtube - support me on Patreon

In today's tutorial, I explored high-precision, mathematically correct, and latency-compensated sidechain compression for bass in Bitwig Studio, highlighting its critical importance for bass music producers in genres like drum and bass or dubstep. Here's a concise summary:

This tutorial provides a comprehensive guide for effectively using sidechain compression in Bitwig Studio, addressing common concerns and offering practical solutions for optimizing bass tracks in electronic music production.

Questions & Answers

Maybe you dont watch the video, here are some important takeaways:

What is the main topic of the video?

The main topic of the video is high precision mathematically correct and latency compensated sidechain compression on the bass, specifically for bass music producers like drum and bass or dubstep producers.

Why is sidechain compression important in bass music production?

Sidechain compression is important in bass music production because it helps create space for the kick drum to cut through the mix and adds a rhythmic pumping effect to the bassline. The more overlap there is between the kick drum and the bass, the less loudness and impact the bass will have, which can affect the overall quality and success of the track.

What are the different methods of sidechain compression discussed in the video?

The video discusses three different methods of sidechain compression: audio sidechain modulator, note sidechain, and using segments as a modulator on the track level. Each method has its own advantages and can be used depending on the specific needs and preferences of the producer.

What are the challenges when introducing latency in the FX chain of a device?

When introducing latency in the FX chain of a device, there can be issues with the accuracy and alignment of the sidechain compression. The video highlights that when using VST plugins that introduce latency inside the device's FX chain, there can be offset and misalignment between the kick drum and the sidechain compression. This is an issue that needs to be addressed and potentially reported as a bug to the software support team.


This is what im talking about in this video. The text is transcribed by AI, so it might not be perfect. If you find any mistakes, please let me know.
You can also click on the timestamps to jump to the right part of the video, which should be helpful.

[00:00:00] In today's video it's about a very important and very serious topic.
[00:00:04] It's about high precision mathematically correct and latency compensated sidechain compression
[00:00:09] on the bass.
[00:00:11] And it's very important for bass music producers, let's say drum and bass or dubstep.
[00:00:16] And it's more important than boring stuff like chord progressions and melodies or whatever,
[00:00:22] content, stuff like this.
[00:00:23] So sidechain compression is very important and the more overlap you have from the kick
[00:00:28] drum and the bass, the less loves you get, the less loudness you get, the less sales
[00:00:34] you get, the less plays and rewinds you get from DJs.
[00:00:38] And before you know it, you land on the streets, you hit rock bottom and you live from one
[00:00:42] sample pack to the next MIDI pack and nobody wants that.
[00:00:46] So it's very important that you know the numbers and how precise some of the sidechain methods
[00:00:51] in Bitwig Studio are.
[00:00:53] So we want to check this in this video.
[00:00:55] So I use here a bass sound and basically a kick drum sound sounds like this.
[00:01:03] Sounds like shit, but we haven't applied sidechain compression yet.
[00:01:07] And we want to do this here with the first modulator and this one is called Audio Sidechain
[00:01:13] Modulator, right?
[00:01:14] It takes basically an audio input from a different channel.
[00:01:17] In this case here, it's the kick drum.
[00:01:19] So we use post.
[00:01:21] And then we convert this audio signal into a modulation signal.
[00:01:27] And then we can apply it here to the volume of the synth, of the bass synth.
[00:01:32] It sounds so much better.
[00:01:37] It's so much better than before.
[00:01:38] It's actually, I mean, track is nearly finished in my opinion.
[00:01:42] It just needs some more sidechain compression, but for now it's good.
[00:01:46] So we want to check this here in the WAV file how much overlap we get.
[00:01:52] So we bounce here the bass sound, post-fader, no dither, 32 bits, right?
[00:01:58] And we then compare where the kick drum hits here and the bass sound.
[00:02:05] As you can see, there is some kind of overlap.
[00:02:07] It's actually 0.005 seconds.
[00:02:11] And this is way too long.
[00:02:12] If you are bass music producers, this is basically ages.
[00:02:15] It's a complete track already.
[00:02:18] So it's too long.
[00:02:20] So what we can do in this case here is first we can use a different modulator.
[00:02:26] But sometimes you want to stick to the audio sidechain modulator because you use a drum
[00:02:30] loop and you don't want to cut the drum loop in different pieces.
[00:02:34] Or you don't want to use a separate kick drum track, some notes on it.
[00:02:39] Some people do that actually.
[00:02:41] So let's say you want to stick to the audio sidechain modulator because you really like
[00:02:47] it and you want to extract the kick drum from an audio file.
[00:02:51] So what you can do is you can actually just use a time shift device and shift this here
[00:02:57] into milliseconds, let's say minus 5 milliseconds.
[00:03:01] So we shift this track backwards in time.
[00:03:04] But what you actually do here with this device, it says also in the description, indicates
[00:03:10] that the delay compensation mechanism is used to delay all other chains to move this one
[00:03:15] forward in time.
[00:03:17] So you don't move this here backwards in time.
[00:03:20] You actually delay all the other tracks.
[00:03:22] So the kick track by 5 milliseconds.
[00:03:25] So this one stays basically at the same point in time because you can't move something backwards
[00:03:30] in time.
[00:03:31] That means basically that the bass sound should be playing before you hit the play button and
[00:03:36] then it doesn't make any sense.
[00:03:39] So now we compare here the waveform of this one.
[00:03:44] Let's bounce it.
[00:03:46] Oh, that's the wrong track.
[00:03:50] So this one here.
[00:03:53] So you can see this is much closer.
[00:03:56] This is the first one here without compensation and this one is with.
[00:04:00] You can see here the kick drum hits here exactly at 1.3 and there's basically no overlap.
[00:04:06] It's completely clean.
[00:04:08] So when you basically want to use this audio sidechain here, you can just apply minus 5
[00:04:12] milliseconds to compensate you for the rise time and maybe for the analyzer part of the
[00:04:18] sidechain and basically get rid of this overlap.
[00:04:24] And you can also watch here the first initial seconds.
[00:04:28] You can see here with the non-compensated one, we get some amplitude and you basically
[00:04:33] have no amplitude whatsoever.
[00:04:36] This is pretty clean actually in my opinion here.
[00:04:39] So you can use the audio sidechain if you want to use it for some drum loops and if you
[00:04:45] apply actually minus 5 milliseconds of negative delay, then you can get rid of the overlay.
[00:04:52] Really fine in my opinion.
[00:04:54] So let's move this time shift device here in front of the polymer and let's see what
[00:04:58] this, what now happens.
[00:05:00] So let's bounce you the bass again, post-fader.
[00:05:06] So now you can see we are back here with the overlap again.
[00:05:09] The compensation is gone.
[00:05:10] It's basically the same as the initial test here.
[00:05:15] So using the time shift in front of the bass synth actually doesn't do anything.
[00:05:20] So you need to apply it at the end of the chain.
[00:05:24] So let's say we have here this sidechain and we want to introduce some latency from some
[00:05:28] plug-ins.
[00:05:29] So you take here a mastering limiter, newfangled elevate and this one introduces actually 120
[00:05:38] milliseconds of delay.
[00:05:40] So let's duplicate this here.
[00:05:42] So we have now 348 milliseconds of delay.
[00:05:46] So now let's bounce this here again and see what happens.
[00:05:53] And it's still pretty spot on.
[00:05:57] Let's know, it's actually like the other one here.
[00:06:01] Yeah, it's kind of the same.
[00:06:03] So the latency compensation graph here of Bitwig Studio takes care of this delay of
[00:06:08] these plug-ins and counters everything and it looks fine to me.
[00:06:14] So time shift device at the end here and audio sidechain in the beginning, ducking actually
[00:06:19] this polymer here works.
[00:06:21] So let's say we don't want to use this here on this output and we want to use a tool device
[00:06:26] that's here after these two VST plug-ins, right?
[00:06:34] Or three plug-ins.
[00:06:35] So put here, I put this audio sidechain on this one.
[00:06:39] Let's move it here and then modulate here the volume.
[00:06:43] Let's see how this looks like.
[00:06:47] Balance.
[00:06:52] Also spot on.
[00:06:53] So this also works.
[00:06:54] It's kind of the same.
[00:06:55] There's actually no difference here.
[00:06:58] So also using the tool device here with the audio sidechain and a time shift at the end
[00:07:03] works perfectly fine in my opinion.
[00:07:06] So let's put this here into the FX box, all these three VSTs and we put this here back
[00:07:16] at the front of the polymer and now we modulate instead of this volume here of the output of
[00:07:23] the device, we modulate here inside this tool device, right?
[00:07:29] So we have the modulator on the device itself, but we modulate the volume inside of the chain
[00:07:35] after the VST devices with all the delay and then we apply this to the tool.
[00:07:42] So the modulation signal actually needs to compensate for the latency of the VST devices.
[00:07:47] So let's see how this works.
[00:07:51] Just wait a minute.
[00:07:54] And it's still pretty fine, my opinion.
[00:07:57] So yeah, we can also try and actually delay here the kick drum also with an elevate.
[00:08:09] So we have an elevate on the kick drum and also on the bass.
[00:08:11] We have three ones here.
[00:08:12] So we have a lot of latency in different places.
[00:08:16] Let's bounce this again.
[00:08:22] Also pretty spot on.
[00:08:23] It's actually basically the same.
[00:08:26] Nice.
[00:08:28] So it doesn't really matter where you introduce the latency in this case here.
[00:08:34] It's only important that you offset basically with the time shift device at the end and
[00:08:39] you can perfectly fine use an audio side chain to duck your bass sound to something that
[00:08:46] happens on the other track and it's fairly spot on, my opinion.
[00:08:52] So let's exchange this actually here for a note side chain.
[00:08:58] It would be actually nice to have this time shift here then on this modulator itself.
[00:09:06] Would be nice feature.
[00:09:08] So let's use this note side chain.
[00:09:10] So this one is not driven by the audio signal by the amplitude.
[00:09:13] It uses actually the note informations, right?
[00:09:16] We have a note in here.
[00:09:17] It's not an audio file.
[00:09:18] It's a media or a note clip.
[00:09:22] So here we grab the e kick note clip and then we apply this here to the volume.
[00:09:28] Okay.
[00:09:29] So it's pretty straight.
[00:09:33] Let's bounce this.
[00:09:43] So this is very wrong in my opinion.
[00:09:47] So let's move here this this away and let's do this again.
[00:09:57] So you can see here this doesn't work correctly because we have here some plug ins in there.
[00:10:05] We get a lot of delay and it's compensated in some way and this moves way off.
[00:10:10] So my opinion, this is a bug.
[00:10:12] This is not correct.
[00:10:14] So this should be removed.
[00:10:19] So using a lot of plug ins here using the note side chain.
[00:10:23] No, don't do that.
[00:10:26] It's completely wrong.
[00:10:27] So let's apply this here to the volume of the tool device.
[00:10:33] So it's after these three plug ins.
[00:10:36] Let's bounce this.
[00:10:41] So this looks more correct.
[00:10:46] And you can see there's basically no overlap.
[00:10:49] It's just a fade out.
[00:10:51] So I would say here this part is basically the pitch envelope, right?
[00:10:58] Where you pitch down from an octave or two octaves higher down to your root frequency.
[00:11:03] So my opinion, this is pretty fine here.
[00:11:06] You still want to have some kind of overlap.
[00:11:08] So if you don't want to have this overlap here, you can probably attach here again a
[00:11:16] time shift if you want to do it.
[00:11:21] But it's not really needed in my opinion.
[00:11:23] And maybe choose your one millisecond or something like this and then bounce it again.
[00:11:34] And you know, there's basically no overlap.
[00:11:36] So it's just offset a bit here.
[00:11:39] So this is fine.
[00:11:41] So using here this kind of note side chain on the device itself and using some plug ins
[00:11:50] inside of the chain of the device itself with a lot of latency, it doesn't work.
[00:11:55] You get into trouble, right?
[00:11:57] Don't do that.
[00:12:00] Side chain here, note side chain on the tool device at the end of the chain.
[00:12:03] That's how I do it.
[00:12:04] Most of the time, it works perfectly fine.
[00:12:07] If you want to get rid of these milliseconds of overlap, then you use time shift for that.
[00:12:14] You can get rid of this.
[00:12:18] You can also try, let me make you this test again.
[00:12:23] Let's actually remove the tool device and choose these three FSTs out of the device
[00:12:29] and then modulate this here again.
[00:12:33] Okay, let's bounce this again.
[00:12:36] Bounce.
[00:12:40] This works.
[00:12:41] Okay.
[00:12:42] So it only happens when you put these VSTs into the FX box and when these VSTs introduce
[00:12:51] a lot of latency, then you run into problems.
[00:12:54] Actually, I'll do this again, put this in here.
[00:12:57] Bounce it again.
[00:12:59] Yeah, that's a problem.
[00:13:03] That's not correct.
[00:13:04] So this is a bug here.
[00:13:05] And this is also what I probably report today to Bitwig at the support mail.
[00:13:12] Okay, so this is the, yeah, this is the note side chain.
[00:13:18] Then there's another way and I think this is the most precise way.
[00:13:22] So if you're a bass producer, bass music producer, this is your way probably of doing it.
[00:13:28] You can use segments as a modulator on the project or on the track level actually, right?
[00:13:36] And we use here no smoothing and we use seconds.
[00:13:42] We use one shot and pull this down.
[00:13:46] Make this super steep.
[00:13:49] Remove this here.
[00:13:50] Something like this, right?
[00:13:51] And then now comes the trick.
[00:13:53] You can select here the track itself and then you switch it to sources or modulation mapping
[00:14:00] by source.
[00:14:01] Then we can choose here the e-kick.
[00:14:05] And this is also driven by the notes, not by the audio, right?
[00:14:10] So now if I play this here, you can see we actually trigger this.
[00:14:15] So now we apply this here to the output itself.
[00:14:18] Let's see how this behaves.
[00:14:22] Also bounce.
[00:14:27] Also here you can see it's completely offset.
[00:14:29] So there's always a problem when you have these latency introducing VSTs inside of an
[00:14:38] Xbox of this polymer.
[00:14:39] I don't know if it works.
[00:14:41] It's the same for all the other devices, but probably.
[00:14:44] So let's put this out here and maybe make this here a bit longer so we can see it better
[00:14:50] on the graph.
[00:14:52] Bounce this again.
[00:14:59] And you can see this one here is pretty steep, pretty steep cut.
[00:15:05] It's even earlier than the kick drum itself, right?
[00:15:09] But this is really, really nanoseconds here, probably.
[00:15:13] Not milliseconds anymore, nanoseconds.
[00:15:15] So this is pretty fine, pretty spot on in my opinion.
[00:15:20] So using here the segments on a track level, modulating the device volume here and using
[00:15:27] VSTs that introduce latency but after the device itself.
[00:15:32] We can then remove this here and again use a tool device and then modulate here the volume.
[00:15:43] I think this should be the same outcome.
[00:15:49] Yeah, it's pretty nice.
[00:15:54] I like it.
[00:15:56] Look, this is the kick drum here.
[00:15:58] It's perfectly aligned.
[00:16:00] So to recap this video more or less, you can use any method of side chaining, audio side
[00:16:08] chain.
[00:16:09] You can use the note side chain.
[00:16:11] You can use segments, which is the most precise of all of them.
[00:16:16] And they are fairly compared really well and also compensate for the latency pretty okay
[00:16:22] and good or pretty perfect actually.
[00:16:27] The only problem we have is when we introduce latency inside of the FX chain of a device,
[00:16:33] you probably want to do this.
[00:16:35] And I report this today and maybe it's just a bug.
[00:16:37] I don't know.
[00:16:38] We will see.
[00:16:39] So this is the video for today.
[00:16:43] I want to look into these side chain methods and there were a lot of rumors and myths surrounding
[00:16:50] in the community which modulators actually more correct than the other.
[00:16:55] And I think you can use all of them for the audio side chain.
[00:16:58] Like I said, you have to offset a bit by five milliseconds, but then you get it fairly straight
[00:17:04] and fairly clear as a side chain.
[00:17:08] Okay, that's it.
[00:17:10] Thanks for watching.
[00:17:11] If you like the video and I was a bit ironic and sarcastic in the beginning.
[00:17:18] I hope you are not mad about this, but thanks for watching and I'll see you in the next
[00:17:23] video.
[00:17:24] Bye.