Send & return effects using a spare soundcard (Mac only)

Korg Kaoss Pad 2I was changing some things around in my studio when I noticed I haven’t used my Korg Kaosspad in quite a while. I started wondering what I could do to integrate it into my everyday producing workflow. I always used the device as a send/return effect on my DJ-mixer, or as a master effect after the mixer. But since I hardly DJ at home anymore I figured I’d reinstate it’s purpose on the production side of things: How to use the Korg Kaosspad (or any external sound-effect) as a send & return effect in Ableton Live. And then I remembered I still had a (cheap) spare sound-card lying around somewhere…

Griffin iMic

I bought this simple USB audio-interface when I still had one of those iBook G4’s with only a line-out but no line-in. (What were they thinking at Apple HQ?) You can get one for about €35,-/$40,- but any soundcard with at least one line-in and out will be able to pull this simple trick off.

Now, before we start I wanna mention that this will only work on a Mac, since they’re able to use multiple sound-cards at the same time as an aggregate device. Once you’ve got such an aggregated device up and running, you should have at least 4 outputs (or 2 stereo outputs) and 2 inputs (1 stereo line-in.) I did this by combining the Griffin iMic and the build-in soundcard (Figure 1).

Aggegrate Device

Figure 1: Aggregate Device

Connect the line-out of the external effect to the line-in of the sound-card and the line-in of the effect to the line-out of the sound-card. When using a simple device like the one above together with the a Kaosspad, use a stereo RCA cable with a stereo mini-jack at the other end. But this might vary depending on what audio-interface you are using as well as what effect you are connecting it too. A mono effect like a distortion pedal (for a guitar) works a little different, but it’s perfectly possible with most sound-cards.

Now set-up a channel in Ableton and use the “external effect” device. And select your freshly created send and return channels Like this (Figure 2):

Ableton - External Effect

Figure 2: External effect in Ableton Live (Click to enlarge)

Now you should be able to use the effect. If not, try different channels but watch out for creating feedback loops! If you have any questions, feel free to ask me in the comments!

 

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