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peak level and fader question

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peak level and fader question

Postby charlie chalk » Fri Jun 22, 2012 6:02 pm

Hey peeps,

(i'm currently working on some drum n bass tracks in cubase 6 on a PC)

when mixing drums for example, I tend to leave the channel fader at -10db and make sure that the signal does not go over this level thus giving myself plenty of headroom to work with.
Recently, I've been experimenting with different methods of getting my drums to sound even fatter using a variety of different plugins. In no particular order, vintage warmer, sausage fattner, eq and limiting are the regular contenders..

The issue that I've been wondering about for a while is that is that I'll get my drums sounding great but my peak level is a few db above the fader level but there's no clipping or distortion. Should I reducing the gain knob at the top of the channel to bring the peak level back down under the fader level? Or do I simply need to match the re-match output levels on the plugins I'm using to get the gain structure correct.

Hope that makes sense....

thanks

Charlie
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Re: peak level and fader question

Postby Wiseau » Fri Jun 22, 2012 7:19 pm

not really to be honest, at least to me.
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Re: peak level and fader question

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Jun 22, 2012 7:30 pm

There is no specific relationship between the fader setting and the peak level.

Ideally the fader should sit at or close to unity gain (0dB) when the mix is roughly right, because that provides the best fader resolution and controllability.

With the fader in that position, the audio should be peaking somewhere around -10dBFS so that you have some channel headroom, and when all the tracks are combined you will hopefully still have some mix bus headroom.

If the channel level is a bit hot with the fader at unity, then put an attenuator plug-in at the top of the chanel strip and wind the level down there.

A lot of samples are recorded with the levels banging the end stops, which isn't very helpful when it coems to mixing, so it's not unusual to have to wind the gain down at the top o the channel strip.

Hope that helps

hugh
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Re: peak level and fader question

Postby charlie chalk » Fri Jun 22, 2012 7:53 pm

HI Hugh,

thanks for your amazing explanations as always

so the situation I'm in at the moment is ok? thats what I'm trying to work out really...

I've also tried turning the gain knob down so that the signal is peaking to the same level as the fader position, but the drums just sound just loses all they're power.

thanks again

charlie
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Re: peak level and fader question

Postby Bossman » Fri Jun 22, 2012 8:11 pm

charlie chalk wrote:I've also tried turning the gain knob down so that the signal is peaking to the same level as the fader position, but the drums just sound just loses all they're power.

If one of your plugins is level dependant, like a compressor, then adjusting the gain knob will affect the level going into the plugin and thats why it sounds different.

you should start off, with your fader at 0dB, with no plugins yet, and set your gain at the top of the channel so that the level is peaking around -10dBFS. Then don't touch the gain after that (after you've started to apply plugins).

When you apply a plugin effect, use the output gain in the plugin to level match it so that it doesn't get louder when you bypass the plugin.. use your ears to judge this, not the level meters.
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Re: peak level and fader question

Postby charlie chalk » Fri Jun 22, 2012 8:29 pm

Hey Bossman,

thankyou! I'll try that....

thanks again

charlie
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Re: peak level and fader question

Postby charlie chalk » Fri Jun 22, 2012 9:25 pm

WOW

drums sound instantly better

thanks all!
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Re: peak level and fader question

Postby Wiseau » Sat Jun 23, 2012 9:26 am

Oh,gotcha now. The way you worded it made my brain do a backflip, although it seems no one else had a problem with it.

I record one drum track at a time from the mpc, rather than using the 8 outs, pushing some even up to between -2 -1db.
So sometimes sqeezing some energy out of your drums before you get to plugins, eq can work.

Ask that question on gearslutz for giggles. Although be prepared to buy an ampex recorder, and book studio time at Record One.
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Re: peak level and fader question

Postby Guest » Sat Jun 23, 2012 2:32 pm

Could you explain why gain should be adjusted to manage the audio level. Isn't the maths behind it the same, and does the same thing happen in floating and fixed point?

I thought that it's only when the master output is distorted that things matter.

Thanks
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Re: peak level and fader question

Postby Bossman » Sat Jun 23, 2012 3:16 pm

Music Manic wrote:Could you explain why gain should be adjusted to manage the audio level.


how else would you manage the audio level?

Music Manic wrote:Isn't the maths behind it the same


the same as what?

Music Manic wrote:and does the same thing happen in floating and fixed point?


pretty much.. floating point and fixed point numbers are just different ways of expressing a number. If you add 2dB to a signal, the result is the same signal 2dB louder than the original - it doesn't matter if you use floating point or fixed point maths (as long as you don't exceed the maximum value of a fixed point system).

Music Manic wrote:I thought that it's only when the master output is distorted that things matter.


Its about good gain structure. Unintended distortion anywhere on any channel is something that matters.
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Re: peak level and fader question

Postby Guest » Sat Jun 23, 2012 4:27 pm

how else would you manage the audio level?


With the Fader! There's a gain knob and a fader??

the same as what?

What I meant is, if I adjust the gain or the move the fader on my channel strip.


Its about good gain structure. Unintended distortion anywhere on any channel is something that matters.


Well in Roey Izhaki's Book - Mixing Audio he states, that it doesn't matter if your channel strips distort in your DAW, as long as your master doesn't. This is because processing is still 64 Bit.
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Re: peak level and fader question

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sat Jun 23, 2012 4:38 pm

Clearly if the output is overloading then the d-a is overloaded and it's going to sound grim. So in most digital desks you can pull the master fader back to reduce the output level and it gets better... Even though the mix bus itself is handling a huge amount of level. You can't do that in an analogue desk because it won't have anything like the potential headroom available in a digital system.

However... Not all floating point implementations are the same, and the mantissa has a fixed resolution in most systems, which means that there is always scope for distortions to creep in through truncation or rounding errors.

Add to that the fact that not all plugins deal with floating point in the same way, and you come back to the simple fact that maintaining a healthy headroom margin through the processing chain makes sense theoretically, practically and sonically.

Which means optimising levels through the channel path starting at the top witha gain control, just like we always did in analogue desks.

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Re: peak level and fader question

Postby charlie chalk » Sat Jun 23, 2012 5:48 pm

Hey wiseeau,

Sorry about the brain flipping, it took me a good half hour to work out how to word the question as I did not really know whether what I was doing was right or wrong.

charlie
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Re: peak level and fader question

Postby charlie chalk » Sat Jun 23, 2012 5:51 pm

With the the tune I am now working on, I've reset all my channel faders to 0db and now pretty much using the gain knob's to control the levels. I have to say that everything is now sounding much better...
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Re: peak level and fader question

Postby Bossman » Sat Jun 23, 2012 7:57 pm

Music Manic wrote:There's a gain knob and a fader??

The gain knob (as found in Cubase and on a mixing desk) is pre inserts/EQ. The Fader is Post Inserts/EQ. So, although they both do the same thing as far as adding/attenuating the gain, they do it at different places in the signal path.

Use the Gain knob to set the gain structure correctly.. and use the fader for fine adjustments in the mix.
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