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Lowering the master bus for headroom? DAW Software
Old 2nd August 2014
  #31
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you really should get into the habit of not needing to touch your master fader. If you check levels properly and keep an eye on sub-bus levels that stuff will take care of itself. Workflow will improve and end result possibly will too. Think how you are hitting the plugins on your groups too - GS doesn't just stand for 'gearslutz', it also stands for gain staging!
Old 2nd August 2014
  #32
Gear Nut
Quote:
Originally Posted by qb748t394 View Post

Same for hardcoreCAP... read this.

link: http://www.centerforlydteknik.dk/dow...ital-audio.pdf
thanks for the read, much appreciated!
Old 2nd August 2014
  #33
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pro5 View Post
you really should get into the habbit of not needing to touch your master fader. If you check levels properly and keep an eye on sub-bus levels that stuff will take care of it'self. Workflow will improve and end result possibly will too. Think how you are hitting the plugins on your groups too - GS doesn't just stand for 'gearslutz', it also stands for gain staging!
Exactly. If you need to lower the master fader - your channels are hitting it too hard. Unless you've pushed everything up as far as it will go, this would suggest that things are also hitting your plugins hot as well, and might extend back as far as how hot things are tracked.

It's not that trimming the master fader is bad per se, it's more that it's indicative of other issues.
Old 2nd August 2014
  #34
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BAM! That's it right there.
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Elf View Post
Regardless of whether it's 'OK' to lower the master fader, it's not good practice. It suggests you're tracking too hot
basically all my tracks are pumpping at no more than -15 dB...I'm not an audio engineer but this is a good practice i think...from just lots of experience

you can lower or raise the mfader during mixing as long as you have all your tracks properly gainstaged...but you still can get distortion even if it's all digital..the actual audio output is not digital...audio can always become distorted. Just because it's all inside the box doesnt mean you cant get distorted signals.... itb means it's not passing through airwaves, its still an audio signal though...personally i always turn up and down the master and even the master compressors, those levels really dont matter until the final cut....it's all the pre-master tracks that you have to be surgically accurate with.


Quote:
Originally Posted by chainrule View Post
The master bus can be lowered. If it was not intended to be lowered then you wouldn't be given the capability to lower it. I'm not implying you want to run it low but does it really matter? It's all relative.

It's digital........ if you are running 24 bit it's not going to matter. On an analog desk it mattered. By all means if it's clipping then go through your tracks and find what is causing clipping/overloading and lower it. In the event one is too lazy to do so, it's not going to matter if they lower the master buss a couple db.

If you mix otb then you probably do not want to lower it since you are calibrated around it, but if you are ITB it's not really going to matter. You are going to normalize later anyway. Is it preferred to lower it? no , but it's not going to affect anything in the grand scale of reality.
Old 2nd August 2014
  #35
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The Elf's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Pro5 View Post
you really should get into the habit of not needing to touch your master fader. If you check levels properly and keep an eye on sub-bus levels that stuff will take care of itself. Workflow will improve and end result possibly will too.
Spot on.

I don't know why people feel the need to wriggle around, caveat and carp about this.

If you even have to *think* about touching the master fader you are either tracking too hot, or you have messed up your gain staging (or you have one of those annoying virtual instruments that don't understand the concept of headroom!). It really is that simple.

Lower the master fader, and justify doing it, if you want to - it's no skin off my nose!
Old 2nd August 2014
  #36
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Analogue Mastering's Avatar
master fader is nothing else than a digital volume knob, turning it down means you will lose resolution and s/n on your final print.
the resolution and s/n is optimal at unity. what's so hard to understand about that?
every change to your mixbus is an additional manipulation to the signal, you want to keep these on channel or subgroup level BEFORE entering the mixbus.
Old 2nd August 2014
  #37
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Elf View Post
If you even have to *think* about touching the master fader you are either tracking too hot, or you have messed up your gain staging (or you have one of those annoying virtual instruments that don't understand the concept of headroom!). It really is that simple.
It's really not that simple. Large sessions, high track counts, and certain types of routing techniques (parallel processing, in particular) can easily lead to a need to lower the master fader. If you find yourself 3/4s of the way through a complicated mix, and your master is showing the occasional clip, lowering individual channel faders is, frankly, a terrible idea. There's way too much that can go wrong in terms of changes to balances.

Not to mention that for those of us working professionally, we often have little say in our mix projects' tracking levels.

And a final note: don't discount the validity of manipulating a master fader for creative purposes (for example, riding it up a db in the choruses to not only get a bit more volume, but also to dig into 2buss compression a bit harder. You can't accomplish those sorts of effects without giving that fader a wiggle.

Quote:
Lower the master fader, and justify doing it, if you want to - it's no skin off my nose!
Likewise, keep your master fader static, and justify doing it. If you want to make things needlessly complicated out of some sort of misguided recordist's pride, it's no skin off my nose either

Quote:
Originally Posted by Analogue Mastering View Post
master fader is nothing else than a digital volume knob, turning it down means you will lose resolution and s/n on your final print.
the resolution and s/n is optimal at unity.
This is 100% wrong. I would expect a mastering engineer would have a better grasp on how digital audio works.
Old 2nd August 2014
  #38
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Analogue Mastering's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by bgrotto View Post
It's really not that simple. Large sessions, high track counts, and certain types of routing techniques (parallel processing, in particular) can easily lead to a need to lower the master fader. If you find yourself 3/4s of the way through a complicated mix, and your master is showing the occasional clip, lowering individual channel faders is, frankly, a terrible idea. There's way too much that can go wrong in terms of changes to balances.

Not to mention that for those of us working professionally, we often have little say in our mix projects' tracking levels.

And a final note: don't discount the validity of manipulating a master fader for creative purposes (for example, riding it up a db in the choruses to not only get a bit more volume, but also to dig into 2buss compression a bit harder. You can't accomplish those sorts of effects without giving that fader a wiggle.



Likewise, keep your master fader static, and justify doing it. If you want to make things needlessly complicated out of some sort of misguided recordist's pride, it's no skin off my nose either



This is 100% wrong. I would expect a mastering engineer would have a better grasp on how digital audio works.
please elaborate, no digital volume manupilation always wins in my book. Besides staying on unity being a best practise anyway. I understand your plea for flexibillity/creativity, but being a purist I rather go for sound quality, which means no altering.
Old 2nd August 2014
  #39
Quote:
Originally Posted by Analogue Mastering View Post
please elaborate, no digital volume manupilation always wins in my book. Besides staying on unity being a best practise anyway.
You can easily test this for yourself:

- print a track of pink noise in your DAW
- add a bunch of trim plugins boosting the signal (I usually do five Avid Trim plugins at +12db each, for a total of 60db) so that it is completely distorting the channel
- duplicate the track a few times
- create a master fader, and note how it's getting completely destroyed
- turn down the master fader till you're no longer clipping
- you'll need to turn it down probably 70 or 80db; surely enough to affect resolution or sound quality...right?
- print the result

- next, import the result into a session with the original pink noise you printed; make sure there are no gain plugins left in your session
- carefully match the levels
- flip the polarity on one, and the sound will cancel completely
- ergo, lowering the master fader in a modern digital system yields no change in sonics, "resolution" (to use your terminology), or noise floor
- this also demonstrates that clipping a DAW internally is impossible; the red lights are virtually meaningless

This takes about five minutes to set up and try for yourself. I strongly encourage anyone who's curious about this sort of thing give it a try. Just be VERY CAREFUL to leave your monitors muted when setting up the first part of the experiment.

Quote:
I understand your plea for flexibillity/creativity, but being a purist I rather go for sound quality, which means no altering.
This is a commendable trait for a mastering engineer. One that I frankly wish was more common. However, try the experiment above and you'll find that digital gain adjustments bear no sonic impact beyond changes in volume.
Old 2nd August 2014
  #40
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Analogue Mastering's Avatar
This is an interesting example indeed, i've always done it "by the book" but it seems you might be right.
For production I use Cubase, I can test your exanple there, mastering is done in Wavelab, but i guess gain staging +60dB and turning the master down. Null is Null no much to debate there, I want to test it with actual musical material too. I'm always listening out for the more abstract kind of things like stage, 3D, harschness etc. These don't nessecarily leave a residu while nulling, but are noticeable.
Old 2nd August 2014
  #41
Quote:
Originally Posted by Analogue Mastering View Post
This is an interesting example indeed, i've always done it "by the book" but it seems you might be right.
For production I use Cubase, I can test your exanple there, mastering is done in Wavelab, but i guess gain staging +60dB and turning the master down. Null is Null no much to debate there, I want to test it with actual musical material too. I'm always listening out for the more abstract kind of things like stage, 3D, harschness etc. These don't nessecarily leave a residu while nulling, but are noticeable.
If you do take a moment to preform the test, note that some DAW's faders don't provide enough resolution to precisely match levels. For example, in Pro Tools (which only provides fader resolution down to tenths of a db), I was only able to null to about -60db using faders alone. In order to get a complete null, I had to use a plugin that offered gain resolution of hundredths of a db.
Old 2nd August 2014
  #42
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The Elf's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by bgrotto View Post
It's really not that simple. Large sessions, high track counts, and certain types of routing techniques (parallel processing, in particular) can easily lead to a need to lower the master fader.
...or maintain peak levels - which means no need to touch the master fader. If you use parallel processing then group the result and maintain the peak level.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bgrotto View Post
If you find yourself 3/4s of the way through a complicated mix, and your master is showing the occasional clip...
...then you're not maintaining peak levels. I've worked with 100s of tracks, often with dynamic orchestral arrangements, and not once have I hit the red light.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bgrotto View Post
lowering individual channel faders is, frankly, a terrible idea.
I never mentioned lowering channel faders, just tracking sensibly and maintaining peak levels. It would, indeed be a bad idea, and not one I'd advocate.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bgrotto View Post
Not to mention that for those of us working professionally, we often have little say in our mix projects' tracking levels.
I am a professional. The first thing I do with a project I haven't tracked is set gains to give me sensible peak levels. Then I maintain those peaks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bgrotto View Post
And a final note: don't discount the validity of manipulating a master fader for creative purposes
True, but I'd typically do this at group level, not at the overall master.

Quote:
Originally Posted by bgrotto View Post
Likewise, keep your master fader static, and justify doing it. If you want to make things needlessly complicated...
I set my peak levels and I maintain my peak levels. My master never goes into the red. Nothing complicated about that.
Old 2nd August 2014
  #43
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Quote:
- this also demonstrates that clipping a DAW internally is impossible; the red lights are virtually meaningless
yea i know, i had a discussion with someone on another forum because they kept saying that ableton "clips", and I was like "no...no it doesn't "clip"......you can't clip in a daw, i can't explain it like you can, but i just know it..
Old 2nd August 2014
  #44
Quote:
Originally Posted by The Elf View Post
...or maintain peak levels - which means no need to touch the master fader. If you use parallel processing then group the result and maintain the peak level.
Grouping the result isn't always applicable. If I'm feeding my kick, snare, and bass together to a parallel compression chain (something I do commonly), I can't necessarily group those things with the parallel compression return and make fader adjustments without upsetting the balance either to or from the compression, and/or either to or from the drum submix. That's just one example, but it's a clear illustration.

Furthermore, if I group a compression return with a subgroup, and lower them together, any wet/dry balances from channel effect sends will be disrupted.

Quote:
...then you're not maintaining peak levels. I've worked with 100s of tracks, often with dynamic orchestral arrangements, and not once have I hit the red light.
That's true: you're not maintaining peak levels. Which is precisely why you would lower the master fader in that instance; that is very much exactly maintaing your peak levels!

Quote:
I never mentioned lowering channel faders, just tracking sensibly and maintaining peak levels. It would, indeed be a bad idea, and not one I'd advocate.
Again, tracking sensibly isn't always an option when you're hired on as an after-the-fact mixer. But you're absolutely correct about maintaining peak levels. To clarify: I agree that where possible, maintaining peak levels (indeed, ALL levels) is preferable, and certainly better practice. But in those instances where -- for whatever reason -- they've gotten away from you, the best solution is to turn down the master fader. NOT to go back and destroy your existing mix balances in an effort to play lip service to some dogmatic concept of best practices. Because, functionally, turning down the master fader doesn't effect sound quality, will likely do LESS damage than any alternative measure, and is very much arguably best practices in this scenario.

Quote:
I am a professional. The first thing I do with a project I haven't tracked is set gains to give me sensible peak levels. Then I maintain those peaks.
I apologize: I did not mean to suggest that you were not. I was speaking generally, not meaning to imply anything specifically about you.

Anyway, peak levels are largely irrelevant at a certain point. Even conservatively-tracked audio will eventually light up the master meter's clip indicator, if you send enough tracks to it. Proper recording levels are far more useful to avoid clipping plugins, IMO.

Quote:
True, but I'd typically do this at group level, not at the overall master.
Depends on if you're after pre- or post-fader effects, and it also depends on your particular bussing and routing scheme.

Quote:
I set my peak levels and I maintain my peak levels. My master never goes into the red. Nothing complicated about that.
Old 2nd August 2014
  #45
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Quote:
Originally Posted by inversound View Post
yea i know, i had a discussion with someone on another forum because they kept saying that ableton "clips", and I was like "no...no it doesn't "clip"......you can't clip in a daw, i can't explain it like you can, but i just know it..
ableton's master buss can be clipped...the only daw i tested that does...may be another but i can't test them all...
Old 2nd August 2014
  #46
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stinkyfingers View Post
ableton's master buss can be clipped...the only daw i tested that does...may be another but i can't test them all...
I doubt it, unless it's master bus is 24-bit, which would be bizarre. More likely your testing is flawed. Does Ableton have post fader slots on the master bus? If so, smash the master and then trim it post fader. As far as I know, all modern daws are at least 32-bit float right up to the 24-bit path to the DAC. You'd have to be +1500dB to clip the signal, or be clipping a plug like some of the old Waves plugs that actually will clip.

And to be clear, I don't own Ableton so i'm not defending it.

At any rate, the S/N ratio stuff about the master ... it's just pure digital amplitude, it's not like analog where a certain gain level has better S/N ratio than another gain level, it's pure gain, as the guy above said, slam a mix +100 and trim the master or the 32-Bit float mix -100 and you'll get the exact same result.

P.S. There's two reasons why people push their master levels way up...

1. The monitors aren't gained up loud enough so they push the mix levels... and...
2. The worst reason, the nutty "filling up the bits sounds better" thing.

Turn your monitors up.
Old 3rd August 2014
  #47
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lawrence View Post
I doubt it, unless it's master bus is 24-bit, which would be bizarre. More likely your testing is flawed...
testing was not flawed, i measured the output stream of the daw, pre-dac.
ableton's master bus clips overs.
Old 3rd August 2014
  #48
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How did you "measure" it? Just curious. I still suspect your test was flawed.

Again, as far as I know all of these workstations are 32-bit float (minimum) from end to end so the clipping point is way, way up there, far above 0 on the 24-bit meter scale. I'd have to actually see that test - how you approached that test - to believe it, and even then I'd suspect something else might be going on, some wacky option engaged like automatic limiting or something.

But again, if Ableton's master bus is 24-bit, that would explain it and would be somewhat bizarre. Not making an argument, just saying.

Do this: Run a sine wave at like +20 over 0 into the master and render an offline mix of that as a 32-bit float audio file. If the file is visibly clipped (if that was a 24-bit file it would be visibly flat-topped) when you look at it in another editor, and it actually should not be, yeah, something's terribly wrong.
Old 3rd August 2014
  #49
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for measuring the daw output i use a chain like:
daw > soundflower > analyzer app (usually signal scope).
soundflower will pass 32 bit float audio 'transparently'.
this is 'realtime' playback, not audio file rendering.
(you would hope) rendering a 32 bit float audio file should not clip, but i never tested that. i only checked the 'live' output stream.

edit: don't mean to side track the thread, just saw the ableton comment and wanted to give my 2 cents about it.
Old 3rd August 2014
  #50
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Render a file. Every mixdown or render of the master bus is - completely after - the master bus, the output of the master bus, so if audio is clipping anywhere along the way you'll still see it, even in a 32-bit float file. The 32-bit file is just a container with more headroom. It won't stop audio that's already been clipped from not being clipped.

Do the +20 sine wave test twice, once with a 24-bit render and once with a 32-bit float render. Open them both in an audio editor or daw (that can load 32-bit float obviously) and look at them. If they're both visually clipped, I'll be really surprised, and i will agree with you.

Note: When you open that 32-bit float file in a daw, it might - look - clipped at first. You may have to trim the clip gain to see the tops of the waveform peaks, like trimming the clip gain -20, then the waveform should look normal, not flat-topped.

That's the thing about digital clipping, you don't have to measure it, you can actually see it, even with occasional minor clipping that you can't even really hear. Once a waveform peak gets chopped off it's gone, no matter what file format it's being written to.
Old 3rd August 2014
  #51
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I would leave it .I have started having my faders at -18 as much as poss using gain plug and plugs seem to like that level also.
It seemed really low when I started doing it but I found my mixes sounded so much better.
Before I was having to often bring my master down but now it stays put.
Old 3rd August 2014
  #52
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fingers View Post
for measuring the daw output i use a chain like:
daw > soundflower > analyzer app (usually signal scope).
soundflower will pass 32 bit float audio 'transparently'.
this is 'realtime' playback, not audio file rendering.
(you would hope) rendering a 32 bit float audio file should not clip, but i never tested that. i only checked the 'live' output stream.

edit: don't mean to side track the thread, just saw the ableton comment and wanted to give my 2 cents about it.
ahh this is all over my head i just mean ableton doesnt "clip"....like no matter how high you turn it, the audio signal doesnt cut out......but my "test" is just using my ears so i never even make it go too loud or it f&77*s up my ear. This is compared to cubase that i used along time ago...and cubase would always clip....especially when you had alot reverb on a pre fader send. it would litereally cut out...the audio would cut out....(silence)...this never has happened to me in ableton....so thats all im talking about, i dont even know if what im talking about is what your all are talking about. i said it before but im not an audio engineer, i'm a musician who has a good amount of experience with making daw music. i know that 32 bits is more than 24, so the more space you have the less chance that a didgital signal will run out of space, so less chance of clipping
Old 5th August 2014
  #53
Quote:
Originally Posted by stinkyfingers View Post
for measuring the daw output i use a chain like:
daw > soundflower > analyzer app (usually signal scope).
soundflower will pass 32 bit float audio 'transparently'.
this is 'realtime' playback, not audio file rendering.
(you would hope) rendering a 32 bit float audio file should not clip, but i never tested that. i only checked the 'live' output stream.

edit: don't mean to side track the thread, just saw the ableton comment and wanted to give my 2 cents about it.
While it is curious that the master would clip pre-DAC, it doesn't really matter because I am not aware of a scenario where there is no hardware after the master. Above 0 dBFS in the master = clipping.
More interesting is whether tracks or groups/internal busses clip, which is not the case with any native DAW AFAIK.
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