You are here

Cubase 10 Artist - A few queries regarding gain staging and the "pre" section on the mix console.

For anything relating to music-making on Windows computers, with lots of FAQs. Moderated by Martin Walker.

Cubase 10 Artist - A few queries regarding gain staging and the "pre" section on the mix console.

Postby Rhys Llewellyn » Sat Jun 27, 2020 4:42 pm

Hello.

My understanding of gain staging is that it generally serves two purposes - It keeps your faders around 0, making smaller incremental adjustments easier, and it provides more headroom for the master bus. I hear that to achieve this, you should reduce each channel's gain until the audio is peaking somewhere between -18 to -12 dB

Regarding VSTs only -

Is there a difference between simply turning the output volume down on the VST's interafce compared to turning down the "gain" found in the Cubase mixer "pre" section?

Regarding audio channels -

I record my guitars/bass using a DI and then add guitar amp inserts. Reducing the gain in the pre section here is obviously a bad idea since it is affecting how the signal drives the guitar amps. What is the general approach for this? Again, I could turn down the virtual amp's output using its interface, but I'm unsure if this has a detrimental affect sonically? Other than that, I'm not sure how else I might be able to reduce the output without moving my fader down really low, which defeats one of the objectives of gain staging! (Or at least my understanding of it)

Finally, regarding the high and low cut filters found in the pre-fader section -

Is there any difference between applying hi/low cuts using the pre-fader compared to using the channel strip's EQ section?

Thank you very much :)
Rhys Llewellyn
Regular
Posts: 164
Joined: Thu Aug 24, 2006 12:00 am

Re: Cubase 10 Artist - A few queries regarding gain staging and the "pre" section on the mix console.

Postby RichardT » Sat Jun 27, 2020 5:42 pm

Hi Rhys,

Regarding VSTs - I can’t think of a difference. In practice I tend to use the pre section as it’s more convenient and more visible.

Regarding the high and low pass filters - yes, there is a difference. The filters in the pre section apply before the inserts; those in the strip apply after the inserts. That’s the default position anyway. It’s possible to configure Cubase so that the channel strip is pre-insert.

Re your audio question - someone else will need to answer that one.
RichardT
Poster
Posts: 29
Joined: Fri Aug 13, 2004 12:00 am
Location: London UK
My last album sold over a million copies - if you don't believe me, come and look in my garage.

Re: Cubase 10 Artist - A few queries regarding gain staging and the "pre" section on the mix console.

Postby The Elf » Sat Jun 27, 2020 6:17 pm

Rhys Llewellyn wrote:I record my guitars/bass using a DI and then add guitar amp inserts. Reducing the gain in the pre section here is obviously a bad idea since it is affecting how the signal drives the guitar amps. What is the general approach for this?
Set the gain into the virtual amp to get the sound you want to hear. Set the output from the 'amp' to re-establish the peak level as it went in.

In short, preserve your peak level at every stage of the chain - that way you can bypass any insert and hear what it is *really* doing for your mix.

Rhys Llewellyn wrote:Finally, regarding the high and low cut filters found in the pre-fader section - Is there any difference between applying hi/low cuts using the pre-fader compared to using the channel strip's EQ section?
They are one and the same thing. Try making changes in either place and you will see the settings will follow each other.
User avatar
The Elf
Jedi Poster
Posts: 14531
Joined: Tue Aug 14, 2001 12:00 am
Location: Sheffield, UK
An Eagle for an Emperor, A Kestrel for a Knave.

Re: Cubase 10 Artist - A few queries regarding gain staging and the "pre" section on the mix console.

Postby RichardT » Sat Jun 27, 2020 8:43 pm

Hi Elf,

Are you sure they are the same thing? Yes, you can see the pre filters in the strip, but I think they are still acting pre-insert while the rest of the eq bands work post insert.
RichardT
Poster
Posts: 29
Joined: Fri Aug 13, 2004 12:00 am
Location: London UK
My last album sold over a million copies - if you don't believe me, come and look in my garage.

Re: Cubase 10 Artist - A few queries regarding gain staging and the "pre" section on the mix console.

Postby The Elf » Sun Jun 28, 2020 9:34 am

RichardT wrote:Are you sure they are the same thing?
They are one and the same. Try to set each independently and you will see that you can't.
User avatar
The Elf
Jedi Poster
Posts: 14531
Joined: Tue Aug 14, 2001 12:00 am
Location: Sheffield, UK
An Eagle for an Emperor, A Kestrel for a Knave.

Re: Cubase 10 Artist - A few queries regarding gain staging and the "pre" section on the mix console.

Postby Rhys Llewellyn » Sun Jun 28, 2020 10:10 pm

RichardT wrote:Hi Rhys,

Regarding VSTs - I can’t think of a difference. In practice I tend to use the pre section as it’s more convenient and more visible.

Regarding the high and low pass filters - yes, there is a difference. The filters in the pre section apply before the inserts; those in the strip apply after the inserts. That’s the default position anyway. It’s possible to configure Cubase so that the channel strip is pre-insert.

Re your audio question - someone else will need to answer that one.

Thanks very much, Richard :)
Rhys Llewellyn
Regular
Posts: 164
Joined: Thu Aug 24, 2006 12:00 am

Re: Cubase 10 Artist - A few queries regarding gain staging and the "pre" section on the mix console.

Postby Rhys Llewellyn » Sun Jun 28, 2020 11:35 pm

The Elf wrote: Set the gain into the virtual amp to get the sound you want to hear. Set the output from the 'amp' to re-establish the peak level as it went in.

In short, preserve your peak level at every stage of the chain - that way you can bypass any insert and hear what it is *really* doing for your mix.

Thank you, Elf.

Sorry for being stupid, but do you mean I should be setting the amp's output to match that of the "naked" DI guitar signal?
Rhys Llewellyn
Regular
Posts: 164
Joined: Thu Aug 24, 2006 12:00 am

Re: Cubase 10 Artist - A few queries regarding gain staging and the "pre" section on the mix console.

Postby The Elf » Mon Jun 29, 2020 12:28 am

Essentially, yes. Once you've set your peak level, preserve it throughout the signal chain - up to the point where you move the fader from unity.
User avatar
The Elf
Jedi Poster
Posts: 14531
Joined: Tue Aug 14, 2001 12:00 am
Location: Sheffield, UK
An Eagle for an Emperor, A Kestrel for a Knave.

Re: Cubase 10 Artist - A few queries regarding gain staging and the "pre" section on the mix console.

Postby Matt Houghton » Mon Jun 29, 2020 9:53 am

OK...

1. As far as mixing goes, you can think of it as managing levels AFTER you've created your source sound. Your amp sim is part of creating your source sound. You then set that sound to sit where you want in the mix with your fader at unity — I'd use the amp sim's output control. Ditto any VSTi's output control. Note that most presets are really bloody loud — fine for performing live, less fine for mixing. Things you do after that to massage the sound to get a static mix balance shouldn't alter the perceived level, since you want to be able to bypass the processing to determine whether it's actually improving things.

2. Most plug-ins have both input and output level control. Use these to set the levels for each plug-in — input to hit any sweet spot in the plug-in, output to send the same nominal level to the next plug-in in the chain, so you can bypass and hear the difference without levels skewing you perception. If a plug-in doesn't have these, you can use a gain plug-in before/after. Cubase doesn't have one, but there are freebies. Alternatively, you could use an EQ plug-in's gain control, with no EQ applied, or a compressor's with threshold at max so it's not compressing etc.

3. I see a lot of talk about 'peaks' here, and seeing as you're in Cubase it's important to understand that we're not talking about measuring the sample peak level. Instead you need to use an averaging meter such as a VU/RMS meter, or (slightly better) a momentary loudness meter. Sadly, Cubase's channel meters measure only sample peaks, so if you want to go down the road of calibrating things precisely, you'll need either to use a plug-in meter (eg. TBProAudio do a free one) or to solo the track and use the master section in Cubase.

4. You can overthink this. It's a good habit/discipline to get into, but don't let it stifle your progress and productivity. Do understand that eventually, as you get deeper into the mix, you'll want to start departing from your set level — EQ moves relative to other sources in the mix, ducking, fader automation etc.

5. The dedicated HPF/LPF are in the pre section, as Elf says. But note that the EQ plug-in can be inserted anywhere and the top/bottom bands can be set as separate HPF/LPF. So you can use those after other plug-ins if you need to...
Matt Houghton
Frequent Poster
Posts: 1022
Joined: Wed Aug 08, 2007 12:00 am
SOS Reviews Editor