Academy Dashboard Forum Academy Academy Lesson Suggestions Gainstaging in a DAW

  • This topic has 11 replies, 6 voices, and was last updated 4 years ago by face (chris) Janton.
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  • #56589
    Just Lisa
    Participant

      Hi --
      So, in the recent Ditty Song livestream, I kept asking questions about volume that Warren didn't answer. It seemed that everything he 'finished' was so LOUD. Then toward the end, I see that the Main Out fader is at -11.5!
      I didn't think we were supposed to touch the main out.
      Then, in the Ken Sluiter course working with City Lights, he says toward the end that he wants nothing in the mix to touch zero.
      I'm having a hard time learning to balance different elements against each other. And some in depth discussion about the philosophy would be most welcome.
      Thanks!
      : )

      #56755
      Tony Hall
      Participant

        As long as you're not peaking, it doesn't matter where your faders are. The master sitting at and peaking at -11db produces the same signal as turning down each track equally until the master is peaking at -11 while set at 0. This is because faders are only doing basic math- moving them up and down simply multiplies or divides the signal in order to increase or decrease loudness. When you peak above zero, however, you're adding information in the form of distortion, which in the digital realm, sounds unpleasant. Gainstaging is more involved in the analog realm, as well as between various ditial plugins within a single channel, because each piece of gear is adding some kind of analog distortion, which may or may not be desired.

        I would venture a guess that Warren's master was at -11 for the same reason you see him perform other idiosyncrasies: time. He is a working professional and his goal is to meet his own balance of sound versus time because he has to move on to some other task. Once he's reached the sound he's after, he's not going to waste time going back and making sure things are technically right.

        • This reply was modified 5 years ago by Tony Hall.
        #56777
        Arthur Labus
        Moderator

          Well said Tony !

          #56893
          face (chris) Janton
          Participant

            [quote quote=56755]When you peak above zero, however, you're adding information in the form of distortion, which in the digital realm, sounds unpleasant. Gainstaging is more involved in the analog realm, as well as between various ditial plugins within a single channel, because each piece of gear is adding some kind of analog distortion, which may or may not be desired.[/quote]
            Well, in reality if you peak above zero you lose information. The distortion happens because parts of the wave form are gone.It just gets chopped off.

            #56901
            Tony Hall
            Participant

              Chris is definitely right, my mistake. The important thing is that the content is changing, not just the volume.

              #59478
              Warren Huart
              Keymaster

                Hi Lisa, thanks for your message! The Master fader is set for the Live Stream, so I can't go that loud as it distorts easily using OBS and YouTube. I print pretty darn loud! That's an old hangover from the Analog days! You'll find anyone who started on Tape and consoles tends to work that way! Ultimately Mastering Engineers say 'as loud as you like without clipping'. I know there is a huge discussion on Forums about this, what I find fascinating is that Mastering Engineers don't have a strong opinion on this.

                • This reply was modified 5 years ago by Warren Huart.
                #59507
                Just Lisa
                Participant

                  Okay! That makes sense -- youtube. And as long as there's enough headroom for a mastering engineer to work, all will be well.
                  One take away from Warren Sokol's course -- clipping is the major thing to avoid (for reasons well explained above).
                  There's so much to know in this business!
                  : )
                  Lisa

                  #59523
                  Warren Huart
                  Keymaster

                    Yes, agreed Lisa. I have to say the Warren Sokol course is pretty huge for me! He really knows his onions as they say! We are creating a full course that I believe will take many of us and create fairly credible Mastering Engineers!

                    #70118
                    Matt Graham
                    Participant

                      Lisa, did you get your gain staging sorted?

                      #70119
                      Matt Graham
                      Participant

                        Did I miss the course or has it not been released yet?

                        🙂

                        #70120
                        Matt Graham
                        Participant

                          as a Logic user, I have taken to instantiating a gain plugin on each track after I import. I leave all Faders at 0 then play the song through from start to finish.
                          Once complete I investigate each track peak and adjust the gain of every track so that -18 db is the max peak for each upon the next play through. This ensures two things straight out of the gate: 1) my plugins will not clip internally as easily and 2) my fader is still at 0 which is maximized resolution. I have better control over any subsequent moves in terms of +- DB when I set up a rough mix which is the next step before adding processing.

                          At least that's where I'm at as of today. Would love some feedback on this, let me know if its just a long way around a short cut please. LOL

                          #70131
                          face (chris) Janton
                          Participant

                            I have a number of ways that I attempt to gainstage in Logic. I used to use the Gain plugin on every track along with a play-through and adjustment, just like Matt does.

                            Currently I select all of the tracks/regions and use the 'Normalize Region Gain...' command to set the peak level to -12 dB. One step, no waiting. There is a tiny issue if one (or more) of the tracks have been normalized - 0 dB peaks - which won't get modified easily. Those tracks I open in the Audio File Editor and force the recording level to peak below 0 dB (destructive) and then use 'Normalize Region Gain...' (non-destructive). Takes less than 30 seconds in almost every case.

                            I won't do gain staging like this if the recording is 'live' with all of the players interacting with each other. The players set the appropriate gain 😉 If the gain needs to be changed up or down it's a matter of selecting all the tracks/regions and adjusting the Gain: parameter in the Region inspector up or down...this will alter all tracks, effectively turning them all up or down. Non-destructive.

                            I have a new tool to work with thanks to iZotope. The Neutron 3 'Mix Assistant' will listen to the mix and adjust levels allowing focus, etc. All I do is put a 'Relay' plugin on each track so MA has something to adjust. More typical is I bus my instruments and vocals, put a Neutron 3 on each of the buses, and let the MA work with that. Very nifty. Does a good job.

                            I'm pretty stuck on my iZotope tools - Neutron, Nectar (vox), Ozone, Insight (meters), and RX. All the tools are there...work in all of my DAWs too!

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