Academy Dashboard Forum Production Analog Recording Reading VU Meters & I/O Level Reply To: Reading VU Meters & I/O Level

John Gleason

    Basically, use your DAW peaking meter to set the output level on your outboard gear rather than relying on the gear's needle meter (don't ignore it, just use it as a guide). For example: if you have a single piece of outboard gear as an insert, set the DAW output level to the insert at 0 VU, set the gear input level at 0 VU on its meter or just below the clipping light, and then adjust the gear output so the insert channel in and out meters in the DAW are at the same level. This should get you close.
    You also need to watch the levels BETWEEN your outboard gear (if you are using, say, both a separate compressor and EQ), since the DAW meter can't tell if you clipped anything before it got into the DAW. If every piece of gear doesn't have an input meter or at least a clipping light (some don't), then you will need to listen to the to the signal coming into the DAW and adjust each piece of gear until you are comfortable that the levels are OK (up but not clipped). The more scientific approach is to insert a test signal (say a 1 kHz sine wave at 0 VU) into your channel line input and adjust everything down into the DAW (ins and outs) to read 0 VU. That will give you some confidence in your gear and a reference point that you can adjust from. (If your DAW doesn't have an audio test signal, you can download one from the internet.) Of course, all of this won't make anything sound better, but it can keep it from sounding worse!

    I hope this makes sense.