Gain staging tricks - does this make sense

Hi, if this makes sense I’d probably need to change EVERYTHING… go to 4:30…

Adrian, whaddaya reckon?


I think it’s good advice for the most part. Master bus usually stays at Unity (0 dB), no reason to move it except fader automation usually, like subtle volume levels of whole mix during sections, or song fade-in/fade-out (though a Submix buss is usually better). I saw that trick about using a Trim plugin in a Pro Tools forum. Some people like to set all tracks to -18dB (which may be visually pleasing), and use Trim to adjust the actual volume level to even them all out to the same volume (i.e. actually -18 dB, not just the fader visual). I’ll usually just put all tracks down to -12dB or so before I mix, unless everything was recorded quite loud, and take individual faders down even more if they’re poking out.

It’s all a matter of preference and workflow. He made a good point about input volume to plugins though. It’s something to keep an eye on, and some plugins could really be sensitive to the input level in terms of how well they respond and how good they sound. So you can play with volume levels going into specific plugins on specific tracks if you don’t think they’re working or sounding the way they should.

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I reckon he doesn’t understand gain staging (in any case there isn’t really any gain staging to be done in a mix, because it’s essentially a recording discipline).

If you drop the gain on individual channels you are going to affect all the plugins on that channel, and your mix will be compromised. Just select all the faders and drop them - like the guy does anyway, but only AFTER he has dropped the individual gains. Bizarre.

OK you can insert a trim as the final plugin, but what is the point in that, when you have faders?

Stan, faders are designed to be used at or around unity. What is the advantage in deliberately setting them all to anything other than unity in the first instance?

If everything was recorded loud, or ‘hot’, then the clip gain needs to be reduced before the mix commences so that inserts are driven correctly, and so that the faders can be set somewhere near unity.

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The only real purpose I can think of is that I like to have my mix sound “good” with all faders at unity gain. Then I can use that as a reference point when I’m doing automation.

The reality is that in a real mix, the idea of keeping faders at unity gain falls apart and is too much to keep up on when I’m actually getting into it.

The idea is really handy for live mixing though, so you can pull mics up and down quickly without having to memorize where a good level is. Unity gain is the “right” spot, and you can make fine adjustments from there.

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Thanks, I feel better now.
It does seem unusual not not use the big controls (faders) but instead use some obscure little switch somewhere, but Boz’s thought for live mixing makes sense…

The technique, as I understand it, is to insert the Trim plugin as the first plugin. It is setting the level (i.e. -18dB) so that there are not high levels going into the other plugins on the track. If possible with a given mix, they may leave all faders at Unity and get to -18dB with the Trim.

There’s no advantage to bringing the faders down, just a mixing style/habit/workflow. Now if there is truly a disadvantage to it please let me know. I understand that Unity is ideal, and that may be why some use the Trim technique to achieve that. I’m not aware that having faders at less than Unity yields an inferior result, but again if you have evidence that is the case please explain. Perhaps there is a difference in this Unity function between hardware and DAW? I know hardware mixers operate that way by design. I haven’t heard anyone make a fuss about it in DAW-land. For me, bringing the faders down is a quick and effective way to get moving. Many or most will be going back up some degree to balance the mix while keeping the Master level reasonable.

What exactly do you mean by “clip gain”? I’m familiar with the term as how Pro Tools uses it. Probably most DAWs do it now as well. That would involve the audio files themselves, or their regions on the track. Used more for editing than mixing IMO.

Yes but that is done with the gain pot, not by inserting an extra gain control as the final processer of a channel strip.

This reminds me of something on my free plugin wishlist (that doesnt exist yet).

Im forever normalizing (then pulling the gains back down) of tracks I’ve recorded to see the waveforms better in the mix.

I deliberately recorded the thing at -18dB but that doesnt mean I want it to stay there forever.

Would be cool if the average of the waveform was more consistent on screen - I dont need to see how loud it is…

Snap. :wink:
I’ve often wished for the same facility as you describe, but these days, I think actually seeing how loud it is does help me, so for now, I’m ok with normalising and then de-normalising. (De-normalising: is that even a thing?)

ssshhhh… Boz will come out with a plugin next week with ‘normalize/ de-normalize’ buttons on it. :wink:

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