You are here

Decibels and volume automation

For everything after the recording stage: hardware/software and how you use it.

Decibels and volume automation

Postby Azlan1 » Sun Oct 06, 2019 7:43 pm

Hi everyone!

I'm new to the forum and I'm hoping someone can help me with a question I can't figure out the answer to.

I work in Cubase, but I don't think this is an issue specifically related to cubase.

When I do a fade from, say, -24 dB to -12 db over two bars (with a straight line in the automation field), I would expect the middle of that fade to be at -18 dB, but it's not in Cubase. Instead the middle's at -17.1 dB.

If I do the fade at lower volumes, the middle is even further from where I'd expect it to be.

Does anyone have any idea why this is the case? I'm very greatful for any help.
Azlan1
New here
Posts: 4
Joined: Sun Oct 06, 2019 7:36 pm

Re: Decibels and volume automation

Postby CS70 » Sun Oct 06, 2019 9:41 pm

Not sure what cubase automate, but if it's the fader movement (from one marker to another), a linear downwards fader movement will correspond to a non-linear change in decibels as fader runs are logarithmic.
User avatar
CS70
Jedi Poster
Posts: 4968
Joined: Mon Nov 26, 2012 1:00 am
Location: Oslo, Norway
Silver Spoon - Check out our latest video and the FB page

Re: Decibels and volume automation

Postby Azlan1 » Sun Oct 06, 2019 11:33 pm

Thanks for the response! A few follow up questions:

1. Why is it non-linear? Is it to give more detail closer to 0 dB or is it actually based on how the ear percieves volume (meaning that a linear down/upwards fader movement will sound like it's linear even though it isn't)? I'm assuming that most or all DAW's work the same way in this regard.

2. In your DAW, is there a setting to make these fader movements linear, or do you need to do it by adding multiple points?
Azlan1
New here
Posts: 4
Joined: Sun Oct 06, 2019 7:36 pm

Re: Decibels and volume automation

Postby CS70 » Mon Oct 07, 2019 12:03 am

Azlan1 wrote:Thanks for the response! A few follow up questions:

1. Why is it non-linear? Is it to give more detail closer to 0 dB or is it actually based on how the ear percieves volume (meaning that a linear down/upwards fader movement will sound like it's linear even though it isn't)? I'm assuming that most or all DAW's work the same way in this regard.

2. In your DAW, is there a setting to make these fader movements linear, or do you need to do it by adding multiple points?

Yes- a logarithmic(-ish) fade down sounds smoother, so consoles of old began implementing it in that way. People tend to be good in keeping their finger in more or less constant motion, and it's desirable that such motion produce a smooth fade. So when faders came about (think it was stepped rotary controls before, but honestly I've only see them in plugins :-)), they got made so that - by moving a fader down with linear speed - you actually achieve a curve.

Now I don't know but I wouldn't be surprised if actual console faders aren't exactly logarithmic, but just close enough. They are mechanical devices. Virtual faders likely are very mathematic. :)

A side effect, anyways, is that you have much more control finesse around unity gain (zero). As you move down, the same millimetre of movement corresponds to a greater change.

I repeat, I don't use Cubase so not sure what its volume automation does, but if it's like Cakewalk, where automation records/controls the actual (virtual) "movement" of the (virtual) fader, with linear-speed movement the decibel decrease going down won't be linear.

I am also not sure if Cubase or Sonar allow to change that behavior - after all their "mixer views" want to emulate an actual console desk. Perhaps other DAWs less bound by the traditional console desk metaphor may be more likely to do so.
User avatar
CS70
Jedi Poster
Posts: 4968
Joined: Mon Nov 26, 2012 1:00 am
Location: Oslo, Norway
Silver Spoon - Check out our latest video and the FB page

Re: Decibels and volume automation

Postby Azlan1 » Mon Oct 07, 2019 4:46 pm

CS70 wrote:
Azlan1 wrote:Thanks for the response! A few follow up questions:

1. Why is it non-linear? Is it to give more detail closer to 0 dB or is it actually based on how the ear percieves volume (meaning that a linear down/upwards fader movement will sound like it's linear even though it isn't)? I'm assuming that most or all DAW's work the same way in this regard.

2. In your DAW, is there a setting to make these fader movements linear, or do you need to do it by adding multiple points?

Yes- a logarithmic(-ish) fade down sounds smoother, so consoles of old began implementing it in that way. People tend to be good in keeping their finger in more or less constant motion, and it's desirable that such motion produce a smooth fade. So when faders came about (think it was stepped rotary controls before, but honestly I've only see them in plugins :-)), they got made so that - by moving a fader down with linear speed - you actually achieve a curve.

Now I don't know but I wouldn't be surprised if actual console faders aren't exactly logarithmic, but just close enough. They are mechanical devices. Virtual faders likely are very mathematic. :)

A side effect, anyways, is that you have much more control finesse around unity gain (zero). As you move down, the same millimetre of movement corresponds to a greater change.

I repeat, I don't use Cubase so not sure what its volume automation does, but if it's like Cakewalk, where automation records/controls the actual (virtual) "movement" of the (virtual) fader, with linear-speed movement the decibel decrease going down won't be linear.

I am also not sure if Cubase or Sonar allow to change that behavior - after all their "mixer views" want to emulate an actual console desk. Perhaps other DAWs less bound by the traditional console desk metaphor may be more likely to do so.

Thanks so much! So if I'm understanding this correctly, the logarithmic fade is there to make the linear-looking movements sound linear (smooth, straight)?

If so, that's really what I'm after. I don't do manual fader movements so the alternative for me would be just adding more points in the automation, for example 1.5 dB per fourth if I want to move 12 dB over two bars. Do you think that would sound more or less straight/smooth. I've been trying it but it's hard for me to tell.
Azlan1
New here
Posts: 4
Joined: Sun Oct 06, 2019 7:36 pm

Re: Decibels and volume automation

Postby CS70 » Mon Oct 07, 2019 6:02 pm

Azlan1 wrote:Thanks so much! So if I'm understanding this correctly, the logarithmic fade is there to make the linear-looking movements sound linear (smooth, straight)?

Yeah . As a pedantic note, "make a linear-looking movement sound smooth and straight" (not "sound linear", because using the term "linear" with two meanings confuses things a little bit). But you've got the gist :D

If so, that's really what I'm after. I don't do manual fader movements so the alternative for me would be just adding more points in the automation, for example 1.5 dB per fourth if I want to move 12 dB over two bars. Do you think that would sound more or less straight/smooth. I've been trying it but it's hard for me to tell.

Most DAWs offer different line choices for connecting two automation points. Personally I tend to use fast up/slow down curves for automation moves rather than linear (which I use only for "constant" horizontal lines, i.e. no moves). When mixing, to my ears, it sounds better.

I've never really measured the specific decibel change, but that's just because when mixing what matter are not so much absolute values, but how things sound.. the less you look, the better you hear! :)
User avatar
CS70
Jedi Poster
Posts: 4968
Joined: Mon Nov 26, 2012 1:00 am
Location: Oslo, Norway
Silver Spoon - Check out our latest video and the FB page

Re: Decibels and volume automation

Postby Azlan1 » Mon Oct 07, 2019 6:12 pm

Haha, pedantic note taken :)

I think that's all I needed to know. Thanks again for helping me out with this. I really appreciate it.
Azlan1
New here
Posts: 4
Joined: Sun Oct 06, 2019 7:36 pm

Re: Decibels and volume automation

Postby CS70 » Mon Oct 07, 2019 6:25 pm

Cheers man, happy about that!
User avatar
CS70
Jedi Poster
Posts: 4968
Joined: Mon Nov 26, 2012 1:00 am
Location: Oslo, Norway
Silver Spoon - Check out our latest video and the FB page