manwilde wrote: Do you normalise your clips and then start mixing, or rather mix as it is and then pump up the volume on your master channel with plugins?. And if so, how?. What´s the best practice not to stress the converters?
If the audio track is a bounce of a plugin, the level in the clip is usually going to be high enough, I'll leave it alone. If it's a recorded instrument, I might adjust the level of the clip if it's too low. I would not normalize to -1dBFS specifically, but just get something in the -30dBFS to -1dBFS range as a ball-park.
The simple advice is to bring the bass & kick channel faders up until you get around -20dBFS on the master bus. This is a rough place to start the mix. You must leave the master bus fader at it's zero gain / default position. You will have to adjust your monitoring volume levels, that is to say, not in the DAW but using monitoring controls on your audio interface or hardware mixer, to listen at a comfortable level.
Once all the elements have their faders up, you should be able to play through the mix without clipping the master bus. If not, select all the channel faders at once and drag them down a few dB to create more headroom. Careful not to drag down any bus or master bus faders in the process.
Once this mix is bounced to disk, there will be a certain amount of headroom, from the loudest peak to 0dBFS. It does not matter how much headroom there is, just as long as there is some and you have not clipped the master bus.
Open a new session in the DAW and bring the bounced stereo pre-master in. Now, using a combination of gain plugins, compressors, EQ, multi-band compressors and final limiters, you will bring the levels up to the required delivery target, -14LUFS (Spotify/YouTube) / -12 LUFS / -0.5dBFS (for CD mastering) etc. It's using simple gain plugins one can bring the level up, and it's the final limiter which is used to prevent clipping, the drive will be adjusted in the limiter to hit the -14LUFS target.
The other compressors, EQs and multi-band may be adjusted so they are not adding to the peak levels, and can be turned on and off without the level being raised or lowered significantly.
One trick is, if you are working on a style which relies on heavy amounts of mastering compression, say dance music, you can apply a mastering compressor/limiter on your master bus during mixing. This is only to get a feel for how it will sound after mastering. Make sure to disable any such plugins before bouncing the stereo pre-master. If you really like the sound of that compressor/limiter you had during mixing, then you can save the preset and then load it into the same mastering compressor/limiter during the mastering session.
The reasons for separating the mix and master processes are many. Giving your ears a break between mixing and mastering is one reason. Being able to give the pre-masters to someone else to master is another. Yet another, you might have a bunch of tracks for an album, and you will want to master these in one mastering session, so that they fit together and sound similar. If you had applied the mastering limiter and other processors to the mix as you were doing it, you may not be able to go back on those decisions.
You cannot "stress the converters". Line inputs have protection diodes to protect the A/D, line outputs don't care how high you drive them. Mic inputs or instrument inputs, OK, these have more gain and if you are feeding in a line level signal, start low and raise the level to avoid damaging the pre-amp.
Just be careful of your ears and don't monitor at too high volumes for too long. These are the converters which can be stressed! ;)