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VSTis at different volumes out of the box

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VSTis at different volumes out of the box

Postby kingy75 » Sat Oct 05, 2019 2:52 am

Hi all,

I wanted to ask a question about mixing VST levels within the one project.

Some of my VSTs are at very different volume levels ‘out of the box’, (e.g. Mojo Horns, Session Horns, Broadway Lites all seem to be quite soft compared to some others), meaning I have to raise their volume to match other VSTs in the mix. I obviously want to avoid audio clipping but it’s sometimes hard to know what the end result is going to be like throughout the mixing process.

Does you have any advice/tutorials for mixing/balancing out a range of different VSTs? I hope this makes sense!

Thanks :)
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Re: VSTis at different volumes out of the box

Postby Wonks » Sat Oct 05, 2019 7:56 am

This all comes down to correct gain staging and there are many threads on that on this forum.

The general consensus here is to start off with all your tracks initially at the same average level when soloed; with channel, group and master faders at unity gain. And that level should be around -18 to -20dBFS as this equates to around 0dBu on mixing consoles leaving a similar amount of headroom in the system as if going to tape. It also means that plug-ins accurately modelled on hardware units then work as they are supposed to, rather than having an input signal that's too hot and is always adding some level of distortion/harmonics.

To do this level setting means adjusting the gain of the track accordingly. Some DAWs, e.g. Cubase, have a channel gain control (just like a mixing desk) as part of the channel strip structure. You just have to enable this to be viewed. Other DAWs, like Logic, don't have an inbuilt input gain control, so you need to use a gain module as the first insert plug-in.

You can obviously use the instrument output level control to do this, but it's often easier if you leave them at default and always adjust the channel input gain. It's certainly a more consistent way of working.

Now this may leave your output sounding quiet compared to before, but that's what the monitor volume control is for.

If you have group channels, then try and run those at a similar level and your master output channel - again using gain control on the channel input.

You'll find that your mixes sound a lot cleaner and open.

Mix your track like that, save the mix like that, and only then at the mastering stage start to adjust levels to suitable for the final medium - CD, YouTube, streaming etc.
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Re: VSTIs at different volumes out of the box

Postby kingy75 » Sat Oct 05, 2019 8:07 am

Thanks so much for your reply :)
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Re: VSTs at different volumes out of the box

Postby The Elf » Sun Oct 06, 2019 8:13 am

I suspect you have it the wrong way round. I most often have to turn down VSTis to get them to sensible levels, rather than turning others up, but in my tutoring I do this situation many times, and a lot of people turn other stuff up to compensate, leading to an arms war that kills their mixes.

Same as any other audio source, aim for peaks absolutely no higher than -10dBFS on any track and your mixes will thank you for it.
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Re: VSTis at different volumes out of the box

Postby kingy75 » Sun Oct 06, 2019 9:10 am

Does anyone have any suggestions for online mixing tutorials? I think something like that would help me understand the process and produce better tracks.

All my tracks use virtual instruments only but I can't seem to get them sounding as good as commercial/broadcast tracks, if that makes sense. Particularly volume-wise.
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Re: VSTs at different volumes out of the box

Postby The Elf » Sun Oct 06, 2019 9:36 am

kingy75 wrote:Does anyone have any suggestions for online mixing tutorials? I think something like that would help me understand the process and produce better tracks.
There are literally hundreds, but I can't say I'm enamoured of many I've seen.

Ah, maybe this: https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/samplecraze-video-tutorials

SOS itself has a repository of many video tutorials.

The advice most often given around here is to get hold of Mike senior's 'Mixing Secrets' book, or invest in some personal tuition.
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Re: VSTis at different volumes out of the box

Postby CS70 » Sun Oct 06, 2019 3:44 pm

kingy75 wrote:Hi all,

I wanted to ask a question about mixing VST levels within the one project.

Some of my VSTs are at very different volume levels ‘out of the box’, (e.g. Mojo Horns, Session Horns, Broadway Lites all seem to be quite soft compared to some others), meaning I have to raise their volume to match other VSTs in the mix. I obviously want to avoid audio clipping but it’s sometimes hard to know what the end result is going to be like throughout the mixing process.

Does you have any advice/tutorials for mixing/balancing out a range of different VSTs? I hope this makes sense!

Thanks :)

Simple: make sure your track peaks far below the top of the scale. Your meters should never ever remotely see the yellow. You can read https://www.theaudioblog.org/post/how-d ... recordings about the why.

In practice that means that many VST synths need to be turned down quite a bit.

Best way imho to do that is to turn down the track gain (or use a gain plugin right after) so that you can keep the fader around unity when you start, and you have comparable wiggle room for balancing every track.

That’s since faders use a logarithmic scale, not linear, so a small movement when the fader is around say -10 means a much bigger absolute change than if the fader is around 0.
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