Gain Staging

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KVRian
1011 posts since 23 May, 2012 from London

Post Wed Apr 14, 2021 11:18 pm

but really, as Bones points out, if the mixes sound good now, there's really no need to go through all of the above just for the sake of it. Unless you are really bored or looking for a good excuse not to see anyone for the rest of the year :lol:
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KVRian
1252 posts since 10 Oct, 2018

Post Wed Apr 14, 2021 11:58 pm

Also with BONES here. I do everything by ear. Listening is 95% of the deal. When there is a problem, I try to figure out what causes it. So now and then I consult SPAN. When I listen to my old mixes the main trouble is bad EQ, badly applied fx or elements which simply don't work together.

KVRist
361 posts since 1 Nov, 2012 from England

Post Thu Apr 15, 2021 4:22 am

PieBerger wrote:
Wed Apr 14, 2021 11:17 pm
You could use something like Hornet VU Meter or TheNormalizer as these both have auto gain features; add to the channel, set your reference level (typically 0VU=-18dbfs) and a max peak level if you want (I set mine to -6db YMMV) hit play and have it analyse the entire stem and it will set the gain appropriately.

It gets more complicated if the channels already have processing on them, especially analog modelled stuff that is level dependent. Ideally what you should do here, is disable the plugins, gain stage before you go in, then reactivate each plugin, checking the VU meter as you go.

This is what I do anyway. For older projects I simply don't bother or I just bounce out stems with whatever processing on them, import them into a new session and just auto gain stage them as a batch. I'll add a Hornet VU to every channel, set them all to Auto, loop the arrangement then press play and go make a cup of tea while it plays out a couple of times to set the levels. If I want to do any further processing with non-linear plugins then I check the levels in and out as I go, from there on out.
Thanks for your reply. I bought the Hornet VU meter plugin and placed it on every track with all other plugins turned off, ran it and now everything is completely out of whack, even after turning all plugins back on....is this supposed to happen? And at this point should I be adjusting the levels with a gain plugin? And should I be setting the volume faders at 0db? And should Hornet VU meter be disabled at some point, or keep it on all the time?

Sorry for all the questions! Just really confused about this :-?
BONES wrote:
Wed Apr 14, 2021 11:09 pm
Is there anything wrong with those mixes? If not, then don't touch them. Gain staging prevents problems, it doesn't improve mixes.
PieBerger wrote:
Wed Apr 14, 2021 11:18 pm
but really, as Bones points out, if the mixes sound good now, there's really no need to go through all of the above just for the sake of it. Unless you are really bored or looking for a good excuse not to see anyone for the rest of the year :lol:
excuse me please wrote:
Wed Apr 14, 2021 11:58 pm
Also with BONES here. I do everything by ear. Listening is 95% of the deal. When there is a problem, I try to figure out what causes it. So now and then I consult SPAN. When I listen to my old mixes the main trouble is bad EQ, badly applied fx or elements which simply don't work together.
While my mixes sound 'good', they don't ever sound 'great'. I used to think it was just because I haven't had them professionally mastered, but now I believe it's because I'm losing clarity and/or resolution due to having to have some of my fader levels too low in order to get those particular sounds to sit in the mix where I want them.

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KVRAF
4184 posts since 15 Nov, 2006 from Hell

Post Thu Apr 15, 2021 4:29 am

people saying "i do everything by ear" is like a carpenter saying "i just watch out for all the bricks falling out of the sky". like, sure, you could always be careful not to stand under falling bricks, but the easier thing to do is just to take precautionary measures (such as the plastic hat) as a matter of habit, and forget about falling bricks altogether.
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KVRian
1011 posts since 23 May, 2012 from London

Post Thu Apr 15, 2021 5:08 am

d-s-m wrote:
Thu Apr 15, 2021 4:22 am
Thanks for your reply. I bought the Hornet VU meter plugin and placed it on every track with all other plugins turned off, ran it and now everything is completely out of whack, even after turning all plugins back on....is this supposed to happen? And at this point should I be adjusting the levels with a gain plugin? And should I be setting the volume faders at 0db? And should Hornet VU meter be disabled at some point, or keep it on all the time?

Sorry for all the questions! Just really confused about this :-?
If of all of the levels going in were 0VU, then in theory the mix balance should have remained the same, the fact that everything is out of whack, indicates some or all of the levels going into the channel were above or below 0VU and Hornet VU has therefore adjusted them. If you were under or over driving any non-linear plugins for example, console emulation or saturation, analog modelled EQ etc, it's like the timbre/character of the mix may have changed as well, since the input level determines the strength of the harmonics these plugins generate; the additional harmonics are what create their "vibe" in most cases.

At this point, you can just rebalance the mix using the faders. All that Hornet VU has done here is made sure that the audio passed to the channel was normalised to 0VU (approximately). What you have experience is quite expected really. Moving forward, if you gain stage as you go, you likely won't experience such drastic changes if you were to ever return to a project or work with exported stems from such projects.

In terms of what to do with Hornet VU. You can either adjust the gain of the audio clip to match the automatic adjustment each instance has made, e.g. if track 1 was adjusted by -6db, you should adjust the gain of the audio clip down by -6db and then either disable Hornet VU or reset the gain value to 0db. Or you can just leave them on with the calculated gain adjustment active. It's a very CPU-light plugin, you should be able to have dozens active without issue.
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addled muppet weed
77415 posts since 26 Jan, 2003 from through the looking glass

Post Thu Apr 15, 2021 5:10 am

Burillo wrote:
Thu Apr 15, 2021 4:29 am
people saying "i do everything by ear" is like a carpenter saying "i just watch out for all the bricks falling out of the sky". like, sure, you could always be careful not to stand under falling bricks, but the easier thing to do is just to take precautionary measures (such as the plastic hat) as a matter of habit, and forget about falling bricks altogether.
well, it's not like accidentally adding too much gain is going to leave you with brain damage.
unless you really push it :o

but i do agree, while my ears are my primary tool, i do like to keep an eye on various measurement devices too.
in carpenter speak "measure twice, cut once" ;)

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KVRian
678 posts since 7 Apr, 2019

Post Fri Apr 16, 2021 4:01 pm

You know, I just remembered I made a great free limiter for this called the esquire, it pretty much makes mastering levels easy, but anything free is easy to overlook.
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GRRRRRRR!
11358 posts since 14 Jun, 2001 from Somewhere else, on principle

Post Fri Apr 16, 2021 6:53 pm

Burillo wrote:
Thu Apr 15, 2021 4:29 am
people saying "i do everything by ear" is like a carpenter saying "i just watch out for all the bricks falling out of the sky".
You do understand that carpenters work with timber, not masonry, right? And hard hats are mandated, builders don't really have a choice but to wear them.

The reality is that you don't have to actively gain stage your mixes, it's something that 99.9% of the time just happens by itself because of the way you work. And, as I said, it is largely irrelevant when working ITB.
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