In this article, I will have a closer look at the Inspector Channel Strip, which most users have visible in their Logic Window all the time. However, many users might not know its hidden features and functionality ... until now.
Let's start with some basic functionality of the Inspector Channel Strip and the fact that there are actually two Channel Strips.
Inspector Channel Strip (left)
The one on the left:
- The Inspector Channel Strip ➊ is part of the Inspector Pane ➋ in Logic's Main Window.
- Selecting a Track ➌ in the Tracks Area (not a Channel Strip in the Mixer!) will automatically display the Channel Strip that is assigned to that selected Track in the Inspector, as the "Inspector Channel Strip" (the one on the left).
- This Inspector Channel Strip provides quick access to all the Channel Strip controls of the current Track you are working on without having the Mixer Window ➍ open and scroll to that Channel Strip.
Signal Flow Channel Strip (right)
Although the official term is "Inspector Channel Strip", the one linked to the selected Track ➌, there is always a second Channel Strips right next to it. This one on the right is referred to as the "Signal Flow Channel Strip" ➎, because it shows a Channel Strip that is receiving an audio signal ➏ from the Channel Strip on the left ➊. It is part of its signal flow, for example, the Output Channel Strip or an Aux Channel Strip the signal on the left is routed to.
Library Browser Functionality
This is an often overlooked, but very important function of the Inspector Channel Strip. It is the "Gatekeeper" for the Library Browser ➐. More about that below.
A few things about the interface:
- You can set the Channel Strip Components independently from the setting of the Mixer Window, so you can choose which controls you want to see on the Inspector Channel Strip. Ctr+click on the Channel Strip background and select from the Shortcut Menu ➤ Channel Strip Components ➤ ➊.
- This way, the Channel Strip can display only the basic controls ➋, all the controls ➌, or whatever controls you need to see.
- The Channel Strips are always displayed in wide mode.
- The Name Field ➍ is fixed to 1 Line and cannot be set to 2 Lines or 3 Lines like in the Mixer Window.
- The Track Notes ➎ always display all three Lines and you cannot reduce it to 1 Line or 2 Lines like in the Mixer Window (Tip: if you want to force a line break in the Notes Field, press opt+return).
- The components "Track Stacks" and "Control Surface Bars" are not available for the Inspector Channel Strip.
- Of course, adjusting any onscreen control or elements on the Inspector Channel Strip is the same as using the controls on the corresponding Channel Strip in any Mixer Window. They are all linked.
Signal Flow Channel Strip
Logic Pro X users are often not clear about the functionality of this second channel strip, the Signal Flow Channel Strip, especially about its flexibility.
Usually, during the mixing process, you route the signal on a specific channel strip (i.e. your guitar track) to different destinations. The main destination, of course, is the Output Channel Strip, or you might use the Aux Sends to route it to Aux Channel Strips that have various FX Plugins loaded. The bigger and more complex your mix is getting, the more you have to keep an eye on those routing paths, the destinations, if you need to make adjustments along the signal path.
And that is where the power of the Inspector Channel Strip, your mixer-mini-me, comes into place. You can click on a specific control in the Inspector Channel Strip (on the left) to determine which destination, which channel strip, the Signal Flow Channel Strip (on the right) should display.
As a default, the Signal Flow Channel Strip shows the Output Channel Strip, but it can display many more different types of channel strips.
Destination 1 - Output
If you click on the Output Button ➊ of the Inspector Channel Strip, then the Signal Flow Channel Strip on the right shows the Output Channel Strip ➋. Please note that the actual Channel Strip that is displayed depends on the exact output routing that you selected on the Output Button.
- Output Channel Strip ➋: If you've selected any of the Output Channels ➊
- Aux Channel Strip ➌: If you've selected any of the Busses ➍
- Master Channel Strip ➎: If you've selected Surround ➏
Destination 2 - Aux
If you click on any Sends Button ➐ of the Inspector Channel Strip, then the Signal Flow Channel Strip on the right shows the Aux Channel Strip ➑ that uses that Bus as its input.
Destination 3 - VCA
If you click on an assigned VCA Slot ➒ of the Inspector Channel Strip, then the Signal Flow Channel Strip on the right shows the VCA Master Fader ➓ of that VCA Group.
Destination 4 - Drum Kit Piece
This is a special and very powerful functionality for the Signal Flow Channel Strip. Follow this example:
- Load a Drum Machine Designer ➊ on a Track.
- The Inspector Channel Strip now shows the special Main Track of that Summing Stack (that's what a Drum Machine Designer is!) and the Signal Flow Channel Strip on the right shows the Output Channel Strip as default.
- Open the Drum Machine Designer Window ➋ (by clicking the Instrument Button on the Channel Strip).
- Now when you click on any Cell in the Drum Machine Designer Window (in this example the Kick 1 ➌), the Signal Flow Channel Strip shows the Channel Strip ➍ that specific Drum Kit Piece is routed to. This way you can quickly adjust the sound of individual Drum Kit Pieces on the Signal Flow Channel Strip without opening the complex Summing Stack in the Mixer Window.
- The Track Icon ➎ even shows the corresponding icon for the currently selected Drum Kit Piece.
- Another powerful "side effect" is that now the Library Browser automatically displays the available Patches ➏ for that Drum Kit Piece. Just click on one and you swap out that sample.
- The Setting Button ➐ usually displays the name of the loaded Patch or Channel Strip Setting, which is, in this case, the name of the Drum Kit Piece.
Destination 5 - others
Here are a few other variations for the Signal Flow Channel Strip just in case you wondered.
- External MIDI Track ➑: If you selected an External MIDI Track in the Tracks Area, then the Inspector Channel Strip will display that special "MIDI" Channel Strip. But remember, there is no audio signal passing through an External MIDI Track (only MIDI). In this case, the Signal Flow Channel Strip shows the Master Channel Strip ➒.
- Blank ➓: If the currently selected Track is assigned to a Folder, any non-audio Objects, or just set to "No Output", then there is no Inspector Channel Strip displayed at all in the Inspector.
Gateway to the Library Browser
The Inspector Channel Strip has one special functionality. It determines what is displayed in the Library Browser on the left. I wrote a separate article about that topic a while ago ("Library: Controlled by a Tiny, Mysterious Triangle"), but I want to point out that important functionality in the context of the Inspector Channel Strip.
- A tiny blue triangle (I call it the "Display Indicator") pointing at a component on the Channel Strip tells the Library Browser to only display files (Patches, Channel Strip Settings, Plug-in Settings, etc.) that are relevant to that component.
- As a default, the Setting Button ➊ is selected, meaning that Patches for that Channel Strip Type are displayed in the Library Browser ➋.
- You can select any of the following components by clicking slightly to the left of those buttons or sh+clicking ➌ on any of the relevant Buttons (to position the blue triangle there): Setting Button ➍, MIDI FX Button ➎, Instrument Button ➏, Audio FX Button ➐.
- In addition to the Display Indicator, the button has a white frame to indicate its selection and makes it clear that clicking on any file in the Library Browser ➋ will load that file into that destination (always be careful with an open Library Browser!).
- You can also select one of those buttons ➑ ➒ on the Signal Flow Channel Strip (if available) to load settings into those components.
- If the Inspector is closed (and, therefore, there is no visible Display Indicator), then the selection in the Library Browser defaults to the Setting Button, which means, the Library Browser displays Patches for the selected Track/Channel Strip.
I hope you found this information about the Inspector Channel Strip useful. If you incorporate its flexibility into your workflow, you might speed up your mixing process quite a bit and not waste a lot of your time scrolling left and right along an endless row of channel strips in your mixer in the quest of finding the one channel strip that you want to adjust by 1dB.
Graphically Enhanced Manuals
If you are interested in learning more about Logic Pro X, check out my books in my "Graphically Enhanced Manuals" series, especially the brand new book "Logic Pro X - What's New in 10.3" that explains and demonstrates all the new features and changes on 150 pages for the Logic Pro X v10.3 update. The book provides the most comprehensive and most detailed coverage available (now also as interactive multi-touch iBook).
All books are available as PDF, printed books on Amazon and interactive multi-touch iBooks on Apple's iBooks Store. For an up to date list of all my books in my "Graphically Enhanced Manuals (GEM)" series and all the links, go to my website.
Thanks for your time and interest,