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Master fader low when mixing DAW Software
Old 23rd December 2009
  #1
Gear Head
 

Master fader low when mixing

when I'm mixing down with lots of tracks (30+), I always end up lowering my master fader significantly to keep the master buss from overloading. My question was is there some sound quality degradation as a result of lowering my master fader when I'm summing?
Old 23rd December 2009
  #2
If you're on a console, you're still overloading your mix buss.

If you're on a DAW, the affects - if there are any (which is arguable, and will likely spark a debate here on this thread) will likely vary from program-to-program.

Why not do a test for yourself: put up a balance, pull the master fader down. Print it. Put the master fader back at unity, and pull the channel faders down till the level is the same as the previous mix. Then see if you can get the files to null completely. If they don't null, listen closely to hear the differences.
Old 23rd December 2009
  #3
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by bgrotto View Post
If you're on a console, you're still overloading your mix buss.

If you're on a DAW, the affects - if there are any (which is arguable, and will likely spark a debate here on this thread) will likely vary from program-to-program.

Why not do a test for yourself: put up a balance, pull the master fader down. Print it. Put the master fader back at unity, and pull the channel faders down till the level is the same as the previous mix. Then see if you can get the files to null completely. If they don't null, listen closely to hear the differences.

thanks bgrotto very interesting about "nulling"...i'll have to figure out how to do this.

FYI also i'm in DAW.

Anyone else?




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Old 23rd December 2009
  #4
Quote:
Originally Posted by YoYo Mel View Post
thanks bgrotto very interesting about "nulling"...i'll have to figure out how to do this.

FYI also i'm in DAW.
Reverse the polarity on one mix, and play them both side by side. Make sure they're matched in time down to the sample.

If you end up with total silence, that means it doesn't matter that you're pulling your master fader down. If there's some signal left, listen closely between the two files to see if one shows a noticeable improvement over the other.

Also, what DAW are you using? I know that in Pro Tools, pulling the master fader will leave your audio unclipped. I can't say the same for certain with other DAWs, as I don't use anything other than PT HD.
Old 23rd December 2009
  #5
Lives for gear
Are you tracking this material? You're probably doing it too hot. O VU RMS! Also, lowering the channel faders instead of the master fader is usually the way to go.

I'm a sub-group/bus junkie both ITB and OTB, and it's easier to pull down 5 group faders instead of 30 channel faders.

Analog: leave your master fader at zero. It's double-bad gainstaging to attenuate your master fader if you've boosted any channel faders. And as mentioned above, you may be clipping your mix bus but you may not be given any visible warning.

Modern digital: apparently lowering the master fader (and clipping anything but a master fader) is okay, but I don't see any reason to not just lower the track or sub-group faders. And if you track at proper levels your tracks will sound better (operating at your preamps' optimal level), you'll be better prepared if you take your tracks back outboard to mix, and you won't have to lower the master fader.
Old 23rd December 2009
  #6
Gear Maniac
 

It would be interesting to do a null test, but if you don't really care to go through the trouble of testing I think the best solution would be just to bring your individual faders down so as to not overload the master fader. In a DAW it may or may not make a difference, audible or otherwise, but it's good gain staging practice.
Old 23rd December 2009
  #7
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by bgrotto View Post
Reverse the polarity on one mix, and play them both side by side. Make sure they're matched in time down to the sample.

If you end up with total silence, that means it doesn't matter that you're pulling your master fader down. If there's some signal left, listen closely between the two files to see if one shows a noticeable improvement over the other.

Also, what DAW are you using? I know that in Pro Tools, pulling the master fader will leave your audio unclipped. I can't say the same for certain with other DAWs, as I don't use anything other than PT HD.

bgrotto i'm using Nuendo. thanks for the nulling tip I'll have to try it.

it sounds like from the few responses so far that leaving the master at unity would be the best way to go in digital?
Old 23rd December 2009
  #8
Quote:
Originally Posted by YoYo Mel View Post
it sounds like from the few responses so far that leaving the master at unity would be the best way to go in digital?
It's certainly the approach taken by those of us who learned gain-staging the old-fashioned way (analog console).

I'd hesitate to say it's the best way to go in today's DAW without comparing the sonic impact of each approach; the important thing is that you understand the "why". If you know the rules and theories, you can bend em and break em all you want. Just understand what you're doing and what the outcome will be.

I personally always try to keep my DAW masters at unity, but this is largely out of habit (most of the work I do is on an analog console, and I learned on an analog console, so it's just where my head's at). However, there are the occasional ITB sessions where the gain staging, routing, and other tid-bits push the master up into the red, and there's no way to create a group to pull down the channels without changing the balance. In those cases, I (somewhat begrudgingly) pull down the DAW master.

In real-world usage, you do what you gotta do to get the job done. Again, and I can't stress this enough, knowing exactly what it is you're doing is all that matters at the end of the day (well, other than the results, of course).
Old 23rd December 2009
  #9
Gear Head
 

Thanks...cheers



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Old 23rd December 2009
  #10
Gear Addict
 

If you're using any plugins on your master bus, then those are would be clipping as well
Old 23rd December 2009
  #11
Quote:
Originally Posted by jbsg02 View Post
If you're using any plugins on your master bus, then those are would be clipping as well
Plugins on the master fader in PT are post-fader, so pulling the fader down actually will prevent clipping them. Not sure about other DAWs.
Old 23rd December 2009
  #12
Gear Addict
 
jono_3's Avatar
Sounds like an analogue summing unit might be able to help you out a bit
Old 23rd December 2009
  #13
Gear Maniac
 
ChrisCummins's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by bgrotto View Post
Plugins on the master fader in PT are post-fader, so pulling the fader down actually will prevent clipping them. Not sure about other DAWs.
In Nuendo (what the OP uses), all but the last two plugins are always pre-fade.
Old 23rd December 2009
  #14
Quote:
Originally Posted by ChrisCummins View Post
In Nuendo (what the OP uses), all but the last two plugins are always pre-fade.
Cool, good to know
Old 24th December 2009
  #15
Gear Maniac
 
papawhitehead's Avatar
whenever this happens to me, I select the ALL group and lower all faders a few dbs, turn off the ALL group and put Master fader back up to 0.
Old 24th December 2009
  #16
Quote:
Originally Posted by papawhitehead View Post
whenever this happens to me, I select the ALL group and lower all faders a few dbs, turn off the ALL group and put Master fader back up to 0.
But this also affects aux return tracks (which upsets wet/dry balances), subgroups (you'd in effect be turning down the individual channels as well as the subgroup fader), VCAs, and so forth.

In an ITB session, or a session where I have made extensive use of bussing, send/return effects, etc, I'll create a group called "mix" to minimize these problems. But as a complex session progresses - multing/duping tracks, elaborate send/return bussing schemes, subgrouping, etc - the tracks I need to add or remove to/from the "mix" group can get hard to keep track of, and certainly interrupt the flow of a mix.
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