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Old 2nd November 2012
Gainstaging (analog to digital path)

Hello everyone, I've posted this on the Cubase forum, but as it's a more general question of interest I figured I'd try here too.

I'll phrase my question in terms of what I'm seeking to do (hopefully this will narrow the response down a bit): I'll be recording several songs using a combination of live instruments (synths, drum machines, guitars), vst instruments, and a couple found samples. I'd like to know how to properly set levels at each stage in order to achieve optimal results (clarity, no clipping, flexibility for master house, etc.). I'm aware people vary in their opinions about gain-staging, but all I'm seeking is a workable/safe solution so I can move forward with the project. (I've never paid any heed to gain staging practices before but I want to give it a shot this time).

My signal chain is:

INSTRUMENT (analog) --> FMR PRE --> FMR compressor --> ALESIS multimix (parallel aux send --> lexicon reverb) --> RME Fireface UC (interface/converter) --> CUBASE.

Can anyone detail the amount of gain/input/output level I should apply at each stage (either that or a general working theory that I can take moving forward)?

1. Instrument
2. Pre
3. Compressor
4. Mixing board/Effects loop
5. Interface/converter
6. Cubase

With regards to Cubase: I've been reading that I'm to have my peaks be at around -12 in the meter (varies according to opinion) when the signal hits Cubase. Is that about right?

I'm confused about that part. Do I adjust input gain for each channel accordingly, so that the peaks hit -12, or do I control this by means of my interfaces mixing software (totalmix), or otherwise? What for the fader position? Trim?!

At the moment, I'm seeking a way to move forward, more of a what should I try rather than a why behind each process.