Tomás Mulcahy wrote:But seriously- there's nothing wrong with working that way (lowering the master fader- not using a limiter!) there's a massive amount of headroom in the mixer, it's very convenient to use it and it won't cause clipping.
Yes... and not really... :D
If you're simply talking about replaying tracks where the summation happens to go above 0dBFS, then yes, you can just pull back the master fader and all will be well... at least from a distortion point of view.
But if you're mixing with plugins -- and especially emulation plugins -- your source tracks will all be very hot and way above the nominal operating level for the emulated plugin devices, so although you can avoid output clipping the mix itself will probably already have suffered unintentional damage.
You also have the potential problem that your peak signals are probably still banging close to 0dBFS which means you're still trying to shove levels averaging around +12 with peaks to +24dBu down your analogue monitoring chain... which was never designed to handle sustained levels like that!
It's just so much easier and better to work with decent headroom margins on the source tracks in the first place, and then you'll never need to pull the master fader down just to avoid output clipping! And it will all sound so much better....