Better Mixing Using Live’s Utility Plugin

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Using the Ableton Live Utility Plugin on Return Tracks. Ableton Live users can use the Utility plugin for even better control of effects. Return tracks allow you to blend uneffected audio with effected audio. A side effect of using return tracks is that they boost the overall volume of the track. However, Ableton Live users can use the Utility Plugin to fix that. To follow this tutorial you will need:

  • Ableton Live

The Solution

When you have an audio track playing and you turn up its send volume, your song’s volume gets a lot louder. But, the Ableton Live Utility plugin has a preset called Invert that allows you to turn down an audio track’s volume when its send volume is turned up. This keeps the overall song volume at the same level. For example, if you turn up the send level +4.0db, the Utility plugin will reduce the volume of the audio track by -4.0db.

The Setup

This trick requires a slightly elaborate setup in Ableton Live. The audio will be sent to Return A. Return A will process the audio using the Utility plugin. Then, Return A will send the audio to Return B. Return B will process the audio using an effect. Then, the effect sends its audio to the master audio track. (This tutorial uses Boogex as an example effect. To learn more about Boogex, click here to read a tutorial on using Distortion in Electronic Music.)

So to use this feature, you first need to create another two return tracks (Return A & Return B). Load an effect onto Return B.

At this point there should be no plugins on Return A and one or more effects should be on Return B. Next, load the Utility plugin with the Invert preset onto Return A . See the screenshot below.

You’re almost done. Lastly, you need to send the audio from Return A to Return B. Find the Return A track and turn up its send volume for Return B. See the screenshot below.


Now when you turn the audio track’s send volume all the way up, you will only hear the effected (wet) audio. If the send is all the way down, you will only hear the uneffected (dry) audio. Pretty neat huh?

(A very special thanks goes to logman on the Ableton Live forums for help with this section.)