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A little something about gain-staging, for those who don't know

Discussion in 'F.O.H.' started by AudioPhile777, Sep 7, 2010.

  1. jval

    jval Member

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    It's funny though... I read this article right before going to track in an SSL room for a project that was going to a somewhat more 'old school' engineer for mixing. I tracked everything super conservatively, probably not much in the sessions peaking more than about -10 or -12db. I talked to the mix engineer on the phone a while after and he had a totally different opinion... said I recorded everything too low and he struggled mixing it because he wanted more character from the analog gear... said I should have pushed the preamps hotter etc. Talking to him didn't really make me change my approach but it's interesting how everyone looks at this stuff differently.
     
  2. Trevoire520

    Trevoire520 Member

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    Thats more to do with running high end analogue gear though. If you're using a £50,000 analogue board that sounds nice when you push it then yes, track hot and get that character. It's the same as running a API preamp into distortion, you get a nice character going (though you have to pad the output so you dont hit your AD so hard)

    The analogue components on your cheap ass AD converters that are in your Profire/Saffire/Firebox however, are very unlikely to impart any desirable character when pushed into distortion. Generally AD converters are designed to be as flat and clean as possible, not to give distortion and character, so are much less likely to add anything nice when driven hard compared to expensive analogue boards or preamps.
     
  3. Zozobra

    Zozobra Member

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    Great info, thanks for sharing.

    Its something I learned about the hard way with tracking DIs too hot.

    I've since experienced benefit in everything from setting gain on pres with faders @0 to get levels round -16 nominal, -10 or 12 absolute peak (depending on source). Far clearer sounds.

    You do indeed have to crank the shit out of your monitors, but wheres the problem in that?
     
  4. Arsenu,

    Arsenu, Member

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    one thing i'd like to know...

    ever since i raed that article a few years ago and started recording at unity gain my recordings sound much better, but:

    at what link of a signal's chain do i go over the -16db for the ectual balance? do i keep all the plugins at unity gain and eventually just use the track's fader?
    i guess what i'm asking is at what part of mixing my project i need to ditch the -16db area? and at what livels my tracks outta be just before mixing down o start the mastering process?
     
  5. bryan_kilco

    bryan_kilco Member

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    Well I'm no pro, but from what I gather:

    you try to keep everything at about -18 dB or so during mixing, and your Master should be peaking around -12 or so, leaving you about 12dB headroom. This gets eaten up during the master stage. I think this is what you are referring to?
     
  6. Arsenu,

    Arsenu, Member

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    eventually the master ends up at around -0.3 or so and i read in a thread here that in order to get louder masters you should mix louder so it's starting to get quiet confusing...
     
  7. bryan_kilco

    bryan_kilco Member

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    If your master is peaking that high while all your tracks are peaking around -18, then something is wrong or you're mixing into your master bus with FX on it??!
     
  8. Arsenu,

    Arsenu, Member

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    you got it wrong...
    i meant that AFTER the whole mastering process when track is done it will be -0.3 if not 0.0 which is the industry standart and is achived at the mastering stage.

    my question is, when a project is mixdowned and sent to mastering, how loud is each track?
    i mean, you record at -18 and keep all the plugins at -18 but obviously you can't mix when all tracks are playing equally loud right?
    so at what stage do you decide: "ok, i'll put my bass drum fader at -6db and balance the rest of the project from that volume"?
     
  9. Trevoire520

    Trevoire520 Member

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    There's no rule for this, just get everything balanced and leave yourself some room to breathe on the master.
     
  10. AudioGeekZine

    AudioGeekZine arsehole know-it-all

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    See above
     
  11. bryan_kilco

    bryan_kilco Member

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    Arsenu, why couldn't you just let the bass drum fader be at -18? If you have mastered tracks , they'd be peaking at whatever you limit them at, correct? If you have a limiter on the Master, and its ceiling is -0.3, then your track(s) won't exceed -0.3. Maybe I'm misunderstanding the question.
     
  12. jimwilbourne

    jimwilbourne I try.

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    okay. so with that being said & corrected.
    exactly where should my mix's master bus be peaking?
     
  13. AudioGeekZine

    AudioGeekZine arsehole know-it-all

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    -12dB to -6dB is a safe target
     
  14. Arsenu,

    Arsenu, Member

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    no, got it wrong again...

    i'm not mixing mastered tracks, i'm asking at which phase of working on a project should i abandon unity gain and start balancing? and at which level does the track's (any instrument) should be around after balance is done?

    also, if i stick to unity gain through my entire chain my, let's say, bass drum output should be around -18db right?
    now if i want to start balancing when the BD is at -6db, i have to raise 12 db while the fader phsically max's at +6! (increases volume from -18 to -12)
    so what do i do?

    (anyone following?)
     
  15. bryan_kilco

    bryan_kilco Member

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    I'm still just not grasping this here. Why cant you keep unity gain and keep everything balanced at -18?
     
  16. AudioGeekZine

    AudioGeekZine arsehole know-it-all

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    you mean mixing? :err:

    after its recorded correctly the fader can be moved anywhere (as long as its not clipping something further in the chain).
    Don't overthink it. It's not a formula, you have to do what sounds good. This is all about preventing you from distorting your recordings and mixes out of ignorance.

    A good way to start is bring the snare up (just the snare all other faders down) Get that to -15dB on your master. Turn up your speakers until that seems loud. Build your mix from there.
     
  17. jimwilbourne

    jimwilbourne I try.

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    this may have been the single most useful thing that has been said on this thread so far.
    it's nice to hear a good starting point instead of confusing talk about exact numbers.

    since I've started focusing on gain staging, my mixes have actually gotten worse. haha
     
  18. NSGUITAR

    NSGUITAR Member

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    The link is broken :(
     
  19. metalfanat1c

    metalfanat1c Member

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    So you necrobumped the thread to point out the obvious? Nice use of your brain there.
     
  20. NSGUITAR

    NSGUITAR Member

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    .. Yes that's what I did... That's exactly what I did.. It's not like I was interested in reading the article or anything...You know? Some people like to read a learn. Don't be a dick just to be a dick.
     

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