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I have done a lot of research on the subject and I think that I am finally settling into a workflow that I'm comfortable with though it's continually evolving as I read and you tube and simply learn from others.

I know that I still have so much to learn on the subject and would really appreciate whatever knowledge the forum community would share with me. I don't know if it's useful information to provide but I have added the blue cat gain suite plug-in which has helped a lot.

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by matthewgorman on Tue Aug 11, 2015 1:52 pm
Well, one thing you will find is that there will be many opinions on this, and strong ones at that. I'll keep it simple, and describe what works for me.

For me, I have found the sweet spot for gain is around -12 db peaks on the input meters when recording. For tracks that I did not record, I use the S1 mixtool as the first plug in the track, and adjust the level with that to reach the same result. -12 db is what I use. You may find a different value works for you. The main objective IMHO, is to have SOMETHING consistent, whatever that number is.

I use the main out meter (fader at 0db, and channel fader at 0db) to read the gain of the track. As you start the add processing to a channel, use the output gain of the plugin to reset the track level to the level you started with, and so on down the line.

The reason I use -12 is that I found I get the best response from the plugins that I use, at that level. Especially when you get into analog simulators and such, too hot or too cold of a signal, and you aren't maximizing the processing of the plugin. Just like in the analog world. Some plugins have input gain and metering, as well as output, so you can use those tools as well to keep your signal consistent. You will find after putting this into practice, that your mixes almost mix themselves.

Good luck in your search.

Matt

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by frank.crow on Tue Aug 11, 2015 8:27 pm
Thanks for the info; I agree there are so many different schools of thought on this issue. I have tried to remain objective and approach each with an open mind. Case in point I only recently discovered the gain plug in method. I was previously keeping my master fader at "0" with K-20 metering.
My channel faders at -18 (yup read something about optimal plug in volume)
My Bus Faders somewhere in between
A book I read by a pretty respected guy taught to keep this ascending pattern consistent.
But more recently I've learned about using my gain plug in to control the overall channel level to keep the character of my fx chain/channel mix.
From another source I learned about using the channel faders more for depth as a partner to panning.
And it goes on and on. Some of the stuff I've adapted has been great while other stuff I used just because the person I heard it from was a big name (so it had to be right huh?). But after much struggle and denial had to finally admit to myself that it just didnt sound good to me. In the end I had to fall on the all too true philosophy of "relying on my ears."
I have finally figured out that the best part of this is that it never ends. I mean the learning and evolving. Just when you get your flow down some obscure guy from the middle of nowhere will come up with the coolest idea and then the whole game starts over.

Mac Mini (Late 2014)
Processor: 3.0 GHz Intel Core I7
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by matthewgorman on Wed Aug 12, 2015 9:09 am
Gain staging can be boiled down to a very simple concept. You don't want one stage to go too hot into the next stage, unless for effect. By effect, things like distortion. Distorted tube amps are the exact opposite of proper gain staging. You overdrive the pre going in to the post, with the post controlling end volume. Gain staging really is nothing more than keeping the volume consistent and predictable at every point in the chain.

Do your research, but always do what works and sounds best to you.

Matt

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by Funkybot on Thu Aug 13, 2015 6:20 am
One thing I find really works for me it's using a VU like Klanghelm's VUMT as the first insert in the chain. I set a recording target level around 0db on the VU and a reference level of -18. Works for everything except drums where the transients are to fast for the VU. Using VST instruments, I do the same thing, only here, changing presets can be a nightmare as levels vary, so keep an eye on the VU and a finger on the output knob.

Then when mixing, I'll often put a second VU after the EQ and compressor to make sure I'm not increasing our decreasing the gain anywhere in the chain. If so, it's a matter of adjusting the output gain in the compressor or EQ, or even using VUMT as a trim plugin if I don't want to alert the tone.
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by oldblood on Thu Aug 13, 2015 8:03 am
Funkybot wroteOne thing I find really works for me it's using a VU like Klanghelm's VUMT as the first insert in the chain. I set a recording target level around 0db on the VU and a reference level of -18. Works for everything except drums where the transients are to fast for the VU. Using VST instruments, I do the same thing, only here, changing presets can be a nightmare as levels vary, so keep an eye on the VU and a finger on the output knob.

Then when mixing, I'll often put a second VU after the EQ and compressor to make sure I'm not increasing our decreasing the gain anywhere in the chain. If so, it's a matter of adjusting the output gain in the compressor or EQ, or even using VUMT as a trim plugin if I don't want to alert the tone.

Pretty much the same as me, works well. :thumbup:

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by Bub on Thu Aug 13, 2015 12:57 pm
oldblood wrote
Funkybot wroteOne thing I find really works for me it's using a VU like Klanghelm's VUMT as the first insert in the chain. I set a recording target level around 0db on the VU and a reference level of -18. Works for everything except drums where the transients are to fast for the VU. Using VST instruments, I do the same thing, only here, changing presets can be a nightmare as levels vary, so keep an eye on the VU and a finger on the output knob.

Then when mixing, I'll often put a second VU after the EQ and compressor to make sure I'm not increasing our decreasing the gain anywhere in the chain. If so, it's a matter of adjusting the output gain in the compressor or EQ, or even using VUMT as a trim plugin if I don't want to alert the tone.

Pretty much the same as me, works well. :thumbup:

+2

I use free VU's from Sleepy Time although I hear the Klanghelm's are very inexpensive. The one I use has a lot of nice channel options right on the VU. You can also adjust the attack/decay time of the needle which is nice. Maybe the Klang's do that too, I never used them so I don't know. When you download the VU plugin it comes with a Mono one as well. Here's a link to their web page. They shut down but still have their downloads available for the time being.

Image

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by oldblood on Thu Aug 13, 2015 1:11 pm
The Klangs are deffo worth the 8 or 9 dollars.

Clive

i5 @4.4Ghz, 16 GB Ram, GTX 550TI graphics OS:Win7 64
Focusrite Sappire Pro 24DSP,Nektar Impact LX88,
KRK Rokit 6, Cakewalk MA-150.
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by Jemusic on Thu Aug 13, 2015 1:52 pm
You may or may not have read what I have said about ballistics. The way a VU meter needle dances to the music is what we call ballistics.

I have real VU's and they are expensive but amazing. There is something about the real ballisitic that is hard to copy. Ballistics also reveal a lot about the signal too but that is another whole story.

I have devised some rather complex ballistics tests for VU's that are VST's. They all read the same the 0 dB VU when they are all set for the same reference level and you have a sinewave running through them but that is about where it stops though.

The Sleepy Time free VU is not good in the ballistics department. One of the worst actually especially in how it falls, not how it rises either. The Klanghelm is not perfect either but the closest I can get to the real thing though with some fiddling of settings etc.. The free Presonus VU meter is also very poor in the ballistics department and does not even come close to how a real VU moves.

It obviously is harder than you think and requires the same clever coding that for example what some plugins do for making nice analog sounding things happen such as analog synths in VST mode or plugs that emulate tape or mixing consoles such as Harrison does in Mixbus.

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by matthewgorman on Thu Aug 13, 2015 2:13 pm
Come on gang. Let's help Frank out with gain staging. We can talk about ballistics in the ballistics thread, if/when that topic is ever started.

Matt

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by Jemusic on Thu Aug 13, 2015 2:26 pm
Ballistics ties in with gain staging. If the ballisitic is wrong eg suppose the VU meter is overshooting a lot for some reason. You will lower the rms level at the point of metering because you will think the level is too high when in fact it may be right or even lowish.

If a ballistic is too slow the needle will take too long to reach 0 db VU so then you may think the meter is showing you a low rms level so you may push the gain a little high at that point.

Ballistics does not effect gain hugely but it can effect it none the less and to the point you may get a very transient signal clipping when in fact if set correctly it does not need to.

Anyway to avoid confusion use the Klanghelm VU meter and you will be right on the money. But you dont have to spend a penny either. The included Presonus Meter plug-in is excellent in any of the K system modes. It does the job super well too. I just like the whole VU look and the fact I get more information about the signal via the VU meter needle and its ballistic than I get from the bar display but the bar display is still showing you the right information.

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by oldblood on Thu Aug 13, 2015 2:52 pm
I do know what you mean about VU's, they seem to indicate something where as bar graphs just are dancing lights that you need to think about before digesting, VU's give you instant feedback.
Anyway Frank is waiting for an answer to "The World, Universe and Everything". (answer is 42 BTW according to Douglas Adams)

Clive

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Focusrite Sappire Pro 24DSP,Nektar Impact LX88,
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Plugs: Waves, Slate,Soundtoys, Eventide, Lexicon, Melda and various.
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by Lawrence on Thu Aug 13, 2015 3:06 pm
frank.crow wroteI have done a lot of research on the subject and I think that I am finally settling into a workflow that I'm comfortable with though it's continually evolving as I read and you tube and simply learn from others.
I know that I still have so much to learn on the subject and would really appreciate whatever knowledge the forum community would share with me. I don't know if it's useful information to provide but I have added the blue cat gain suite plug-in which has helped a lot.


You're the right track imo. As relates to audio quality and recording, 24-bit digital is very forgiving. You'd have to record pretty high (clipping) or pretty low, to permanently screw up a good source signal.

I think the other comments have you covered on the post front so, happy music making. :thumbup:
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by Bub on Thu Aug 13, 2015 3:31 pm
I just noticed I made a typo. I meant to say "aren't" not "are" expensive. I knew they were only a few bucks before you mentioned it Oldblood but after seeing my typo I see why you mentioned it. Thank you.

It would be interesting to see how similar these two plugins are with some side by side video. If you go in to options of the Sleepy Time Vu's (it's not part of the screen shot I linked to but another screen that comes up) you can adjust the needle behavior if I remember correctly. I've never had a problem using them and I like all the options they offer and they seem to be accurate with the embedded digital meters so I use them.

I have to be honest though, it's a bit of a pain dealing with VU's in a 'plug in' state. So many to pull up and close all the time. I do like to use them but in larger mixes I was starting to lean toward just using the stock embedded digital meters. They just kept getting in the way.

As for the Gain Staging I choose to go with -18 (with the occasional spike) with my faders at 0. If I'm working with samples I'll adjust their level so they peaks at -18, and the same with vst synth's. You have to be careful with synth's if you use their internal output control. Sometimes they reset when you reload your project at a later time. I've noticed that most of the plug-in's I use, some are old, some are new, they all seem to be calibrated/coded to receive a -18 level when set to default. And you'll also notice that the Klang and Speepy Vu's are calibrated to be -18 when they are showing 0.

Edit: I just noticed I misread my own post. Ey yi yi. Guess I should have listened to the doc and got those bifocals she told me I needed.

Shane

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by Jemusic on Thu Aug 13, 2015 4:23 pm
You don't have to insert VU plug-ins everywhere either. I know there can be a tendency to think so but there is a more clever way to do it.

A good start is using a pair of VU's at the very input and output of your DAW system. Input I mean the input channels coming into tracks can have plugs inserted there. VU plugin is a handy thing to have sitting there. The very output could the post master fader insert. Have a pair of VU's right there.

When you solo a buss those stereo output meters are only showing you buss rms levels so the VU now changes its role. Same as solo tracks will only be sending the track level direct to the output stereo VU's. The output VU's can be used quickly to set track and buss and main mix rms levels.

Now if anything shows up strange eg a buss level is now 4 db louder for some reason or a track very low etc. Go in and find the trouble and insert the VU plug-ins around the suspected areas of gain change to ensure the right rms level is entering a plugin and leaving from that plugin. Many plug-ins have VU's or rms indicators already. Know what they are calibrated at.

Just like to add my fave VU meter right now is the PSP Triple meter. It is very nice. There are three types of VU's that show different things. The normal one is larger than the Klanghelm and I can get the ballistic scary close to my real meters. You just have to tweak the integration time a little faster than 300 ms until it matches what the real VU does.

The Bluecat DP meter is also excellent. It has a nice VU reading system as well. I like the fact it tells you a lot more. Nice large display for accurate control over level setting. You can see peaks at the same time. Very handy all in one device. One complaint though. The 0 dB VU mark is not immediately clear. More like somewhere between -2 and +2. There should be a nice clean white line going right through that point. (I am running 3.42, about to update it into Win 7 machine)

Update

Got version 3.5 installed of DP Meter Pro on Win 7 and 64 bit. There is a cheap upgrade right now taking it up to the latest V4. This is well worth it. You get many more features for this meter now. It is a real great measuring tool. The GUI is customisable now. Also you can scale the meter out now showing more level resolution. When you do this now the 0 dB VU mark appears! Wonderful, worth the upgrade for that alone!

Please add your specs to your SIGNATURE.
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by frank.crow on Wed Dec 09, 2015 2:47 pm
Funkybot wroteOne thing I find really works for me it's using a VU like Klanghelm's VUMT as the first insert in the chain. I set a recording target level around 0db on the VU and a reference level of -18. Works for everything except drums where the transients are to fast for the VU.



I actually just started using this method and it really made a big difference in my mixing. I first use the VU at the end of the signal chain (it seemed logical). I do this and target 0db with ref level of -18 to even the playing field. I then eyeball the VU meter and Blue Cat DP meter on the Master Fader as I begin to layer in tracks by order of importance relevant to the song. I then isolate groups (like strings) and use track faders to establish depth. Finally I use the Bus Faders to balance the relationships between groups.

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Hardware DBX 160XT
Hardware DBX 231 EQ
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Presonus. V2 Monitor Station
Presonus. FaderPort 8


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by WaterlooSunset on Thu Dec 10, 2015 6:17 am
I have been doing a similar thing soloing tracks to look at output at the last out in the signal (end of master pre or post). My track sliders are always all over the place as this is where i control how much goes to the master buss. I record in at -18 to-12. Then after Guitar all the VSTs on that track, i have to fiddle with VST volumes not to have that tracks end signal too hot going into the master out..

Is it normal for you to have you track sliders all over the place. I am asking this because of this statement from above.

" I do this and target 0db with ref level of -18 to even the playing field"

What does this mean in terms "how do you do this" Do your track sliders go to or are always at 0 and you get this -18 some other way (mixtool or what?).

I guess i am confused by this statement as to what it exactly means. 5 years in and I still don't get some of this. I have had some good sounding stuff though, just wondering your way vs my way, your way being better, or should I say more preferred.

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by WaterlooSunset on Fri Dec 11, 2015 10:22 am
I popped for the Klanghelm meters as i think you are referring to the settings on a calibratable meter.
9 dollars US. I am so used to the other linear style meters, we shall see..

Win 8.1, MSI G41 Z87, I4770K (no OC), 16GB, NVIDIA 710, 2x27" Monitors 480Gb SSD, 2x1TB WD Blacks. SYBA Firewire SD-PEX30009, FS Mobile. Monitor2USB, S1 Pro 4.something
Hobbiest - Mainly Guitars, UVI, Soundtoys, NI, IK, EZ2, SD3, BFD Eco GR5, TH3, Amplitube 4, Waves GR,
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by Morticia on Fri Dec 11, 2015 10:29 am
WaterlooSunset wroteI popped for the Klanghelm meters

I use these as inserts on my audio inputs in S1 when I'm tracking audio.
I find it really useful for getting the initial signal at just the right level.

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by Lawrence on Fri Dec 11, 2015 11:04 am
WaterlooSunset wrote5 years in and I still don't get some of this

Because the Internet confuses it all and newer people trying to understand it, making it all sound more complex and critical than it is.

The "acceptable range" is wide enough to not worry about it much but the discussions seem to confuse that reality and new people trying to understand it all. The overwhelming majority of affordable (real) mixers (analog and digital) don't have VU meters on every channel, and often enough, maybe not even a meter bridge at all, and nobody is producing inferior mixes because of it. I recorded and mixed on this console below for 10 years, and there's not a VU meter or RMS meter anywhere on it ...

Image

... so they're handy for sure, VU meter plugins, but not nearly as critical as the net often implies, imo. Shown below is arguably the most successful affordable recording console in history, the Mackie 8-Bus, and it only has VU's on the master bus...

Image

Neither did the digital recorders most often used with those desks, ADAT's or other hard disk recorders.

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