The No.1 Website for Pro Audio
ITB Mixing - Gain Staging vs. Fader Level
Old 15th November 2009
  #1
Lives for gear
 

ITB Mixing - Gain Staging vs. Fader Level

i am mixing in logic

everything is balanced and i am getting no clipping. the levels of everything sound good and i can bump my monitors for volume.

my fader levels are set with the snare at -6db and lots of the guitars at -15db and lower. some faders are at -30dB. everything is balanced and nothing is clipping. however most of the faders are set pretty low.

i was reading a post that led me to believe i would get better sounds if i could keep the faders all around 0dB and use a gain plugin at the beginning of each track to lower the level from there.

is this correct? do i want my faders to be around 0dB at a balanced mix, or does it not make a difference?
Old 15th November 2009
  #2
RTR
Lives for gear
 
RTR's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by mikoo69 View Post
i am mixing in logic

everything is balanced and i am getting no clipping. the levels of everything sound good and i can bump my monitors for volume.

my fader levels are set with the snare at -6db and lots of the guitars at -15db and lower. some faders are at -30dB. everything is balanced and nothing is clipping. however most of the faders are set pretty low.

i was reading a post that led me to believe i would get better sounds if i could keep the faders all around 0dB and use a gain plugin at the beginning of each track to lower the level from there.

is this correct? do i want my faders to be around 0dB at a balanced mix, or does it not make a difference?
Come om man, don't get in to deep with this crap..if every one could just leave their fader at zero then there is no need to "MIX"..keep your levels around -6 or lower and move the frickin faders to MIX!!
Old 15th November 2009
  #3
Gear Addict
 

Use the a trim plugin or a plugin with an output to set your average program level. Then use the faders for automation.
Old 15th November 2009
  #4
Lives for gear
 
SANDS's Avatar
 

not sure I follow you,

Is are these levels on playback or are they the levels that are hitting your converters at tracking?

I usually never go above -20 at tracking, I think my converters are at optimal performance up t0 -16 but I usually stay around -20, seems to work out well for me.

after it's tracked I keep master fader at 0 and have my monitors up and mix around 80db in the room. That's enough headroom for me to get what I need out of the recording.
Old 15th November 2009
  #5
Lives for gear
 

this is during mixing...playback.

i was reading a topic on gain staging in the box and thought it was suggesting to use a gain plugin at the beggining of every track to lower the output from there, and to have the volume faders higher.

i do not do this. i just take the track and keep the volume fader where it sounds balanced and does not clip, however most of my volume faders are set at -25db or below sometimes. im not talking about the level the meter shows, i'm talking about the level of the fader itself is at.
Old 16th November 2009
  #6
Lives for gear
 
Kenton's Avatar
 

One of the problems with Logic is that when your faders are set at -25dB the resolution is Β±0.5dB, when the fader is at 0dB the resolution is Β±0.1dB.
I think on older versions (I'm using 9.0.2) the low level resolution was worse that that.

So you get finer control if you set your faders near 0dB and use a trim plugin to get the required output level.

I've altered the meters on Logic to give a more useful indication of level - green to -14dB, yellow to -6dB, red above that.

It's an annoying feature that if you record audio in Logic at an appropriate level (24 bit), you get a very small audio waveform display that makes editing more difficult. To get a healthy waveform display you have to record audio too hot - not really very professional... *** I now stand corrected on this issue***

K.
Old 16th November 2009
  #7
Lives for gear
Is this something you recorded? If you need to pull down all your faders to -20 to avoid clipping your mix bus then you have recorded too hot. The "fix" is to use a trim plugin, but better to just record properly in the first place.

The biggest problem with tracking "as hot as possible" is that your preamps aren't working in their sweet spot (0 VU or +4 dBu or 1.23V). This is obscured because if you are tracking into a combined preamp + A/D box (an MBox or Duet, for example) you have no analog metering and probably don't know the significance of 1.23V (the ideal average level pro audio is designed to run at).

If you track properly then your average level will be about -20 (which is probably 10 or 12 dB lower than it is now if you track "as hot as possible") and you can probably leave your loudest track at 0dB and the rest won't be too much lower.

Main benefits (to tracking properly) if you mix in the box: 1) Your preamps are operating at their ideal level. 2) You'll probably never clip (preamp or converter) while tracking.
If you mix with outboard gear you'll get additional benefit from proper levels because you won't be hitting that outboard gear with signals way hotter than 1.23V, and you'll be able to use channel faders in the ranges where they are most sensitive.

If you've got legacy stuff recorded too hot and you need to mix in the box then (debatably) it doesn't matter to trim them down. The damage done by improper preamp level is already done, plugins don't care what level they see (this is an area of debate I believe), and the faders don't vary in sensitivity along their travel (edit: except apparently Logic as noted in the previous post). Apparently you can't actually clip plugins or tracks (despite the red lights), only the master fader (and your A/D converters coming in while tracking). So for all your old stuff you can probably just leave it alone and mix with faders down at -20 to -30.

There may be other informed opinions...

edit: Oops, ProTools faders get less resolution below -20dB as well, though of course you can always hold "ctrl" to get 0.1 dB increments.

Last edited by M4-10; 16th November 2009 at 12:41 AM.. Reason: fader sensitivity
Old 16th November 2009
  #8
Lives for gear
 
Kenton's Avatar
 

The Sonalksis FreeG plugin is another option - trim control, better metering, fine fader resolution and phase reverse.

And it's free.

K.
Old 16th November 2009
  #9
soulstudios
Guest
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kenton View Post
The Sonalksis FreeG plugin is another option - trim control, better metering, fine fader resolution and phase reverse.

And it's free.

K.
Also internally 64-bit, 192khz support and RMS + peak display.
Very f-ing good.
Old 16th November 2009
  #10
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kenton View Post
I've altered the meters on Logic to give a more useful indication of level - green to -14dB, yellow to -6dB, red above that.

It's an annoying feature that if you record audio in Logic at an appropriate level (24 bit), you get a very small audio waveform display that makes editing more difficult. To get a healthy waveform display you have to record audio too hot - not really very professional...
+1 on that.

How / where do you alter the meters? I'm still running 8.
Old 16th November 2009
  #11
soulstudios
Guest
Quote:
Originally Posted by mikoo69 View Post
i am mixing in logic

everything is balanced and i am getting no clipping. the levels of everything sound good and i can bump my monitors for volume.

my fader levels are set with the snare at -6db and lots of the guitars at -15db and lower. some faders are at -30dB. everything is balanced and nothing is clipping. however most of the faders are set pretty low.

i was reading a post that led me to believe i would get better sounds if i could keep the faders all around 0dB and use a gain plugin at the beginning of each track to lower the level from there.

is this correct? do i want my faders to be around 0dB at a balanced mix, or does it not make a difference?

No, they mean 0VU on an ANALOG board, which is around -20db digital.
Old 16th November 2009
  #12
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by soulstudios View Post
No, they mean 0VU on an ANALOG board, which is around -20db digital.
Actually -20 dBFS, which has nothing to do with the track fader being at -20 dB (except that a track audio file averaging -20 dBFS will, on the track fader, likely sit closer to 0 dB in the mix).
Old 16th November 2009
  #13
Lives for gear
 
larry b's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kenton View Post
It's an annoying feature that if you record audio in Logic at an appropriate level (24 bit), you get a very small audio waveform display that makes editing more difficult. To get a healthy waveform display you have to record audio too hot - not really very professional...

K.
Is this really true? Is that the latest version of Logic you're on? Really?? You can't just expand the waveform display like you can in PT?
Old 16th November 2009
  #14
Lives for gear
 
FireMoon's Avatar
If uyou are using Cubase and Nuendo and the stuff you are working on has a legacy of being recorded too hot.. click the wav form on the main arrange window, you want to alter, you'll see a lil blue box/square appear in the j middle of the file's display.at the top of it, that allows you to change the gain, either up or down.. Hover the mouse over the box and holding the left button down have a toy with it...
Old 16th November 2009
  #15
Gear Maniac
Most of the time my faders are kept to 0db (unless some automation jobs).
I may set some tracks to -1db, an others to -3db or -6db for example...to adjust things... But I try to get the sound at tracking, and when I'm mixing I get the sound out from gear or plugs mostly ready to fit the mix.

This because as most of people here said it already, tracking should be made properly.
Tracking near 0dbFS is a nonsense in the 24bit world. Leave headroom.

Old 16th November 2009
  #16
Lives for gear
 

There is no need to use gain/trim plugins or lower your faders or even print below -6dbFS other than for a specific circumstance:

* you are using a plugin that is set to expect a specific level and will clip or distort above it, and it does not have input trim/output gain controls.

In Logic these are relatively rare, in Pro Tools HD every plugin has only a 24bit fixed interface to it and you need to be very careful at every stage otherwise your plugins or busses will turn red and clip.

Assuming you have no or few such plugins you can go ahead and run your faders at +6 if you want to and just pull the result down with the master fader and as long as you haven't hit a converter or the filesystem along the way There Will Be No Difference Regardless Of What Everyone Else Tells You.

Try it. It's called "floating point." It works.

Old 16th November 2009
  #17
Gear Maniac
Floating point allow you to put your tracks in the red at MIXING STAGE, but on some condition: you don't use plug ins that may not support that "floating point" thing.
So, now knowing this criteria...what you shoud do if you're not sure of what's goin on? Yeahhhh, tracking at a level where you don't make any compromise on sound: around -20dbFS. thumbsup

What is the purpose of seing channels in the red on your DAW? None.
So, you would record hot? then mix hot? And possibly feed hot some plugs? To get something that might sound 'with issues' in (not all plug ins are well suited for "floating point")?
And all that to, at last, lower the master fader to print out your mix? (unless you'll print a 32bit float mix, but again what is the purpose of this?)
Non sense.

If I use external gears during mixing, all my tracks are ready to go through any gears without feeding them too hot. I save time. I use less plug ins (trim stuffs). And it is so easy to mix that way.

If a band want me to only track music, i can do it... They can take the whole project and bring it to any other professional studio with calibrated external gears. They will mix it easier, save time, save money...Thank me and pay me a beer. And sometimes see them again or send me one of their friends.

There is absolutely NO benefit to record near 0dbFS in the 24bit game.
So no need to go in the red park while mixing, etc...

Old 16th November 2009
  #18
I find using a trim plug in very useful not only because I balance my levels (I like to keep everything in the green, or just above yellow, in Pro Tools) but there is also a phase button, which is handy.
Old 16th November 2009
  #19
Lives for gear
 

I think everyone should know the whole truth about what they are doing.

In cooking, sometimes a recipe will say emphatically, "DON'T put the flour in the bowl before the water." But they neglect to tell you why not...would it mean instant death for you and your guests? Or would it produce an almost imperceptible change in texture? Would it only require a little bit more scrubbing washing the dishes?

When you read a recipe like that, so ominous in its warning, you don't make progress as a cook. Instead, you get terrified that you might make some mistake and kill off all your guests. It is totally irresponsible to write a cookbook like that, and frankly sadistic.

Similarly, it is totally irresponsible, I think, to DEMAND that people track low and trim even further when mixing in a floating point DAW. Even in miserable old HD the plugins turn red and tell you when something's wrong (er rather, clipping). Instead your advice should focus on what is actually going on and what you can and cannot get away with. Don't be like one of those cookbook authors and take shortcuts in your advice. It hurts the budding chef. tutt
Old 16th November 2009
  #20
Lives for gear
 
travisbrown's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by RTR View Post
Come om man, don't get in to deep with this crap..if every one could just leave their fader at zero then there is no need to "MIX"..keep your levels around -6 or lower and move the frickin faders to MIX!!
Well, be fair, though. No one is suggesting leaving faders at zero. It's a good place to start though. Trimming your inputs so your mix starts out with the faders start out around zero is a standard practice for good reason. Yes, you want to have tracks recorded at a good level, but sometimes you don't have control over that. Having an across-the-board mix with faders up is a good place to start.

I don't want to be trying to play with small changes in the fader way down around -28. Also, how much control do you have on the speed or shape of a full fade if you only have the bottom 30% of the fader to play with.

You want lots of throw in your fader when mixing. This is why you start out with the fader at zero. Way easier to be more accurate in your volume changes.

I'm not implying that the signal sounds better as the OP was asking, but from a control standpoint, there is very good reason to start your faders at zero.

When I bring up a new DAW session, each channel has a trim plugin on the first insert of every channel. I boost or cut each track as the first step so I have something to work with.
Old 16th November 2009
  #21
Gear Maniac
Don't track low guys... Just track at the right spot: -20dbFS.
Tracking high has no benefit.

When tracking at the sweet spot, you won't need any trim plug ins at all. Except for phase flip indeed (if not done during tracking).

Again, all this in the 24bit world.
Old 16th November 2009
  #22
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by travisbrown View Post
Yes, you want to have tracks recorded at a good level, but sometimes you don't have control over that.
No actually, you don't need to print "at a good level." You could print at -20dbFS peak with a quality modern converter and suffer no consequences.

And of course I interject this to make clear I am not a "print as hot as possible!" novice. But I am not also a "always print cold!" novice. There are good reasons in different circumstances to print at any point in the level range...you might want to heat up a compressor, or leave a preamp way down in its sweet spot, or...

Digital gain staging in floating point is freedom. Do whatever you want. Understand the consequences of specific exceptions. That way you learn command of your system and make progress.

Quote:
Originally Posted by _barnee View Post
Don't track low guys... Just track at the right spot: -20dbFS.
What is -20dbFS? Peak or RMS? Crest factor or constant? What are you talking about?

Quote:
Tracking high has no benefit.
Oh yes it most certainly does, or at least can. What if my chain, to be attenuated to your "-20dbFS" whatever that means, means increasing its noise floor considerably? Or why did I buy all this great nonlinear analog gear only to have you tell me I couldn't heat it up?

People will not make it out of larval stage blindly clinging to simplistic rules of thumb.
Old 16th November 2009
  #23
Gear Maniac
Quote:
What is -20dbFS? Peak or RMS? Crest factor or constant? What are you talking about?
I'm talkin' about tracking at 0dbVU, which means for some -18dbFS or -20dbFS... peak.

Well, you perfectly know it.... 'cause I already explained it on another thread, but here we go again:

1bit is 6db of dynamic. 24bit means 144db of dynamic (I go quiclky on this).

So you can have 144db of dynamic in your DAW.
Do you have any gears that would go up to 144db of dynamic? any mic? any preamp? any converters?

Isn't it beyond the pain threshold of the ear?
Ok...

That being said, 0dbVU is calibrated upon countries and gears to -20dbFS or -18dbFS (mostly).
When you record a signal on your DAW at 0dbFS, you are overdriving your preamp and that make really bad distorsion. You may look for some pleasant distorsion (at times only not on all your tracks)at the gain stage of your preamp but should lower it to hit your converters/DAW.

Now, back at the dynamic.
By tracking at -18dbFS, I "looooooose" 3bit of dynamic. 1bit=6db of dynamic.
So, even that "low" (which isn't as I'm goin to prove you, again) you still have 126db of dynamic. And this cover every common usage.

This is even more laughable when you consider all this will end on a CD 16bit with 96db of dynamic...

Quote:
Quote:
Tracking high has no benefit
.
Oh yes it most certainly does, or at least can.
Nope, it doesn't sorry...
Do you need 144db of dynamic to record something that will certainly go through gears with less dynamics (and so a noise floor higher than -144db)? Obviously no.

Quote:
What if my chain, to be attenuated to your "-20dbFS" whatever that means, means increasing its noise floor considerably?
Well, probably you should consider calibrate your chain then. Those are not my -20dbFS(or -18dbFS) but the 0dbVU calibrated to the digital world.
Calibrated audio system help a lot in mixing in my opinion. Especially because you put every gears of your chain operate as a whole thing. With non calibrated system, be sure to have noise floor or distorsion increased somewhere.
This is just logical.

Quote:
Or why did I buy all this great nonlinear analog gear only to have you tell me I couldn't heat it up?
When you heat it up, you actually increase your noise floor dude...
That's why it is a non sense.

You can wish to hit your preamp or compressor hard in a pleasant way for some tracking tasks... but you should be able to land on your DAW at a sweet level. Because again it is not the DAW level (high levels) that will matter but the sonic caracteristics of the input stage of the preamp. And you'll get this even if you put your tracks around -18dbFS/-20dbFS on your DAW.

I sometimes use some Tube preamp that I go hard in, but I use my output knob on it to sit nice on my DAW.

Last edited by _barnee; 16th November 2009 at 08:07 AM.. Reason: typo
Old 16th November 2009
  #24
Lives for gear
 
travisbrown's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by spicemix View Post
No actually, you don't need to print "at a good level." You could print at -20dbFS peak with a quality modern converter and suffer no consequences.
I should have typed, "at an appropriate level". I didn't mean, "a strong level" or good as in "hot".

I try to track at -18dbFS.

But heating up a compressor has little to do with the level you track at. You can always attenuate the output of a compressor before hitting the converter. I tend to run gear hot out of habit, but that doesn't have to affect the output level (unless you had a preamp with only an input gainstage straight into the converter, but that's easily remedied.)
Old 16th November 2009
  #25
Lives for gear
 

_barnee, you wouldn't make arguments about "144db of dynamic" (range) without acknowledging that there exists no production converter with 144db of dynamic range XLR to AES. So that's just one glossed over fact in your analysis...and the rest of it appears to be glossed over vague understandings of a few internet threads you've read and misconceptions about what we are trying to do with our gear in making a record.

The gear serves you, you don't need to serve the gear so much, and welcome innovations enhance rather than constrict this. The effectively unlimited headroom and footroom within a floating point DAW is a worthy example, and just one for you to understand fully so you can come back and call my posts "non sense" with more authority.



Travis, the 33609, for instance, has no gain attenuation other than compression itself if I want to drive it hot...I may want to drive an output stage hot post-gain on other comps...and I might quickly run out of inline attenuators if I thought 0VU was -20dbFS peak...

And otoh the TAB V78M has output so low trying to get to -20dbFS peak with it would be overdriving it on many sources...and with effortless and costless digital gain there's no reason to gain it up further analog unless I want to...
Old 16th November 2009
  #26
Gear Maniac
Spicemix,

i've tried to make it short, and go to the basics.
Now, the gears serve you when you know how to use them...And why.

I don't think to work with uncalibrated system is innovative.

The floating point 32bit is only valuable for mixing tasks.
It INDEED (please read 'cause I already said it many times) allows the signal to go over 0dbFS. But this DOES NOT work for TRACKING purpose...
Because of your converters limitation, first.
And even if the 32bit float allows you to mix in the red, you're not forced to do it...And there is no reason to do it.

I've been recording at 0dbFS in 16bit in the mid 90's...And when I moved to 24bit, I was goin the same for a while before understanding how all this works and that we could then calibrate things.

When you go hard in your super fantastic preamp, you increase your noise floor.
So once on your DAW, this noise floor being at -124dbFS instead of -144dbFS is a non sense to me.

And, I'm sure, to a lot of people here.

By the way, I'd be happy to read your demonstration here with your chain from mic to DAW and the way you drive the signal through... Just curious.
Old 16th November 2009
  #27
Lives for gear
 

Actually _barnee, lots of mastering and mixing and tracking engineers do intentionally clip their ADCs because they like the way it sounds!

Lots of people on the Internet hate them with a passion for doing so!

But they are making more money doing it than either of us are, or their haters!

Maybe we ought to throw out the Internet pro audio rulebook and think about all the possibilities!

Old 16th November 2009
  #28
Gear Maniac
Well... my ears has pushed me in the direction of the "do not clip, do not record too hot" probably because the sound is better that way, and it is way easier to mix too. The old days of the 16bit, record near 0dbFS are no more, I am really happy with the way we can deal with 24bit recording system, calibrated.
Damned, it was horrible to do re-take because some parts were overloading!
Now, if my levels sit around -18dbFS and if on a short instant it goes up to -14dbFS (snare, kick, whatever...) I won't redo the tracking: it is ok for me.
That's what I also see in 24bit and tracking at 0dbVU,-18dbFS...

I do know mastering and mixing engineers that do not like to clip their ADC, and who suggest to keep the levels at the sweet spot too and to operate with a calibrated system.
And some of them has their agenda full for more than 2 years in advance.

Quote:
Maybe we ought to throw out the Internet pro audio rulebook and think about all the possibilities!
You're free to do what you want in the garden, you just need to know where the garden limits are.
Rules usually set limits.
And I don't think "0dbVU=-18dbFS or -20dbFS" comes from an Internet Pro Audio Rulebook...

Still no news from the chain (from mic to DAW) you use, and how...

Last edited by _barnee; 16th November 2009 at 09:59 AM.. Reason: ..
Old 16th November 2009
  #29
Quote:
Originally Posted by walla View Post
+1 on that.

How / where do you alter the meters? I'm still running 8.
Chris, I'll send you my modded meter graphics.
Old 16th November 2009
  #30
Lives for gear
 
travisbrown's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by spicemix View Post
And otoh the TAB V78M has output so low trying to get to -20dbFS peak with it would be overdriving it on many sources...and with effortless and costless digital gain there's no reason to gain it up further analog unless I want to...

Yeah, I have a few things like that too. I wouldn't buffer things up at analogue stage unnecessarily either. Even if a piece of gear was tracked hot, I'd take it down digitally to leave room for further-processing. Hence my argument for trimming to a workable level. I'd take level like that and trim up so the level was somewhere I wanted it when the fader was at zero.

My more usual problem is live recordings where levels are all over the place. Occasionally you get a signal that is barely flickering at the bottom, or a guitarist who's stomped on a boost pedal for a song and screaming up near red.

Anyway, its a work method for me, not done as a sonic choice as the OP was asking.
πŸ“ Reply
Post Reply

Welcome to the Gearslutz Pro Audio Community!

Registration benefits include:
  • The ability to reply to and create new discussions
  • Access to members-only giveaways & competitions
  • Interact with VIP industry experts in our guest Q&As
  • Access to members-only sub forum discussions
  • Access to members-only Chat Room
  • Get INSTANT ACCESS to the world's best private pro audio Classifieds for only USD $20/year
  • Promote your eBay auctions and Reverb.com listings for free
  • Remove this message!
You need an account to post a reply. Create a username and password below and an account will be created and your post entered.


 
 
Slide to join now Processing…
πŸ–¨οΈ Show Printable Version
βœ‰οΈ Email this Page
πŸ” Search thread
♾️ Similar Threads
πŸŽ™οΈ View mentioned gear