Gain Stage - A couple of questions


I am deep diving into the Gain staging world. Need some answers to a couple of questions i simply cannot find anywhere on internet. At least not on the youtube videos I have watched.

So, I try to keep my tracks at -18dBFS - -10dBFS. (This goes for tracks, group channels and all the way to my 2Bus)
Question 1: Should I try to keep at -18dBFS RMS and Peaks at max -10dBFFS?

Question 2: Should I have my meter position for each channel set on “input, Post-Fader or Post-Panner” when gain staging?

If you look at the picture my meters audio track meter for the kick shows -4.9dB. The VU meter shows 0dBVU. So I dont know if I am in the ballpark or not here?

If I want to have say 6dB headroom in a final mix for the mastering I am then only with the Kick above that already. So I presume that my input level is good. But I need to turn down the Output level.

So this brings me to my next question.
Questions 3: In order to keep my knob at Unitiy level, or as close as possible, should I have a gain plugin inserted last in the plugin chain of each track in order to keep me 2Bus at around -6dB?

Another thing with the Gain function in PRE. Changing that does not affect the track meters at all when in Input mode. So maybe when mixing I should always have my meters in Post-Fader/panner mode?

Edit: I missed this line, so I edit the post.
I would do it only for tracks. For group channels wouldn’t make sense for me, as this groups take additions of several tracks. Set good levels for your tracks, spend a couple of minutes in it, and move on to the mix.

You can just use the channel peak meters and aim for -18 dBFS as an more or less-“eye” estimated-approximate mean value, using the gain in the PRE section. But it can be more, too. If you are at -18 mean or -15 mean you are in a good starting point. Some few peaks can be higher, too, and it is no problem, so far they are at a safe distance from 0. Gain stage is for a starting point, so that you don’t end burning your master.

You can use post fader position. If you are gain staging at recording (not before mixing but before recording) you can set the position to input. I personally don’t care about that position at recording, as I set the faders at 0dB and set the gain with the hardware knob of my interface and don’t touch the faders. By the way, if you set good recording levels, you will have very little work at gain staging before mixing.

It is hard to say: when you take that picture you capture the value in your channel meter that was exactly in this moment. The VU meter, on the other side, has a value that consist in a root mean square (rms) value, taken in a long time window. You can’t compare both. Some people uses a VU meter (rms reading) to gain staging. Personally I don’t care so much, as I need just an initial approximate and, as said, don’t want to burn the master.

You could do that if you want, but honestly I don’t care so much about that. If at mixing you ended moving the fader a lot, so be it. Don’t freak out about gain staging. It just a starting point. After that comes the static mix (balancing levels and panning without FX), where you will need to move faders. If you put a gain insert to avoid moving your fader, then what would be the point of having a fader.
But it is true that if your fader is too, too low you lose resolution of movement. If you have inserted FX in your channel, you could adjust the output volume of one of them, taking care that you don’t affect a dynamic FX as a compressor, for example. And if you still haven’t inserts, you can move the PRE gain in the channel.

Answered above.

Thanks a lot knopf for detailed answer. Seems like this is nothing you put to much attention to.

Maybe I should have been more clear on some points but this is something I am using only when mixing. But in order to put as little effort doing the gainstaging I would like to do it right from the beggining so that when time for mixing comes I do not need to work with every single track gain staging it.

The Gain in insert was more to set and forgett and afterwards work more with the fader adjusting the right amount volume and with the fader close to unity level.


Oh, I put a lot of attention in it. At the recording stage and before mixing. If I do it carefully at the recording stage, then before mixing I have to work less with gain staging, but I do it before mixing too. But this is a stage that serves at starting point and nothing more than that. I put a lot of attention, but try to spend just a couple of minutes in it. A well used and well worked couple of minutes, though.