Gain Staging

1. We will start by discussing signal flow in terms of gain/volume so the viewer understands the many places that the gain can be changed (instrument volume, chain volume, effect volume, track volume, group track volume, send/return volume, master volume).

2. The concept of Unity gain will be discussed. We will also discuss how we should avoid having the audio on any track be louder than the volume of the track (e.g. if track volume fader is set to -5dB, incoming audio on the track shouldn't be louder than -5dB to avoid clipping/distortion). This will give us a chance to expand the mixer section in the Session view so we can see the track volume and peak volume as numbers.

3. After pointing that out, we will look at the master channel and check out the current peak volume. At this point I will mention that it is a good practice to never change the master volume level from 0dB, even if the audio going through the master channel is too loud. By leaving the master channel at 0dB (unity gain), we get a much more accurate idea of the current state of the mix. If the audio going to the master is too loud, we need to turn down some of our instruments or tracks, not the master volume. Generally, having about 6dB of headroom (master volume peaking at -6dB) is an ideal target if we intend to get the mix mastered.

4. We will go through the individual tracks and look at the device chains and point out the volume meters after each device, and that ensuring each of these meters stays green will help our overall signal stay clean and avoid unwanted clipping. I will go through the process so viewers get a sense of how to approach this (e.g. turning down individual sounds in a drum rack by turning down the volume or gain in the Simpler device that contains the drum sample instead of turning down the track volume).

Discussion

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