Gain Staging - a better way or is it a feature request?

My problem:
Correctly gain staging a project takes forever due to having to navigate into each channel to set gain with a virtual knob (yuck)

My wish:
A master “Set Gain” button on the mixer which sets all channel faders to unity and switches channel fader to control gain while button is engaged. This means I can optimize gain for each channel down the line of faders super quickly. Disengaging “Set gain” returns channel fader to normal mode.

Why:
Going thru channels to correctly gain stage a project, as I understand it anyway, so that when all faders were at unity I had a close approximation of a mix but with signals peaking at maybe - 8db.

The main reason I do this is that many projects I work with contain tracks recorded so that the signal comes as close to -0 dB without clipping to achieve the best resolution. Obviously this means without gain staging often the fader is set close to fully attenuated for things like drum overheads and fader resolution is minimal.

This process also helps avoid the summing of channel output overloading the mix buss. In my experience mixes open up and everything sounds better. Maybe I am wrong in my approach but it seems to work for me.

Current process:
Unfortunately doing this means the tedious process of selecting each the channel, making sure the fader is at unity, editing the channel, opening the channel strip and manipulating the gain knob which takes a while to do a basic 24 track project.

Maybe a feature request isnt necessary and there is a better way to do it. I thought perhaps I could set one of option for the user assignable knob on my cc121 as gain but couldnt make that work.

Thoughts?

select all audio in the project window, grab the gain handle in the center top of one of the tracks and lower gain for all channels…

It really doesn’t matter if you boost or cut at the input, or the fader, or the plugin, or the volume handle of the sound clip, it’s all the same. So a mix tweaked in a way all faders stay at unity, has exactly the same result als an identical mix not tweaked elsewhere, but with the faders all over the place. Some people prefer the input when a real live signal is too hot or soft (i.e. synth or a vocal) to get maximum resolution for recording. It has no value add in mixing.
And you indeed just link channels if you need to do mass adjustments

If you have a spare knob or slider on a MIDI device, set it as a QuickControl for “PreGain” on your tracks.

True, but most of the fader’s resolution is in the top half. Fine adjustments get trickier the lower down you go, until you’re at the point where you feel like you’re cracking a safe just to adjust by a dB or two. :slight_smile:

@op

To keep your fader resolution, just select all tracks in full screen mixer view (F3).
Q-link them and “abs” then set the PRE gain -10 db as a start point.

You can set 100’s of tracks quickly that way.

I do like the idea of having a key command switching the selected channel fader to gain whilst held down.

Depending on the bit depth of the audio, boosting the signal as close to 0dB without clipping at the recording stage could be considered outdated and not the best approach. Recording all your tracks hot lke this will exacerbate any difficulties with gain staging. If you are recording at 24-bit it is better to leave more headroom.

Alternatively, you could take a look at this new plugin for automatic gain staging from Audio Vitamins, called Structure:
https://www.audiovitamins.com/structure

IMO this could be misleading. It depends where you are in the progress of the mix. For example, if you already have effects in the inserts slots, increasing the input gain will increase the level going into the insert effects which may well have a detrimental or even disasterous effect on the result (ie. it will change the level going into compressors, noise gates and so on).

So I would ask the OP… are you doing your gain staging before you commence the mix and before you have added any inserts ?

And ditto… just use link when you want to change the same parameter on a number of channels.

Also look into these plugins for gain staging or faders up mixing-

Hornet-
https://www.hornetplugins.com/plugins/hornet-vu-meter-mk3/

Klangfreund- auto + LUFS
https://www.klangfreund.com/lufsmeter/

So this sounds great and I tried it and it seems to work but its called “volume” and doesn’t change the pre gain which I was hoping to optimise as a front front end to fader and inserts.

So question is what is manipulating the volume on the event actually doing?

I suggest that first a sort of normalize is applied to all tracks, then set your meters to hold peaks forever and playback the whole song.
Next analyze your hold peaks in the mixer and gain the channels which are to soft and lower the gain for channels playing back to hard,
after this do a total playback again and check your hold peaks in the metering per channel again.

Agree its misleading at the very least and likely just plain wrong as I read it as saying proper gain staging doesn’t matter as long as the level is right in the end. If that is what he meant he is completely wrong.

A: Yes, I am gain staging pre mix/inserts

Link is good idea/option however there are many times where I want to reduce gain differently on each channel hence my “wish”. While not perfect Link gets me closer quickly.

Regarding the plug in suggestions, those are options although not likely a way I would go as you still face issues with improper gain going to channel strip if in typical pre-insert chain.

I’m not sure I am following you as this is essentially what I do now without the normalizing step so seems to add time to my workflow rather than taking away.

Additionally normalizing would increase the noise floor on all tracks so definitely not something I am interested in.

Perhaps I am not understanding your suggestion.

Key command is even better suggestion, This would be perfect!

This method is technically identical to reducing the channel gain. It’s a perfectly acceptable thing to do.

I assume that gain staging is the first thing you do and not to clip within plugins is a given too?

No that’s not what I’m saying, when you respect not overloading inserts, it doesn’t matter where you manage your volume, as long as you are not overloading any of the stages. my point is more against the -18 is 0dBVU HYPE, which is what analogue pluggins want (biggest BS, unless the developer explicitly called it out) hype. very few plugins are actually calibrated to clip at 0dBVU and few have programmed distortion emulation above that level. so mix with your ears instead of following internet hearsay doctrine on “gain staging” It nothing more than sensible levels and don’t clip.

Hi, when I’m normalizing I estimate what level drop or increase is needed, I try to get all my waveforms at a common volume (visual wise), after that I just do a total playback and look at the peak indicators per channel at the most hot level, from there on I decide what to do next, If I recall it right there was a video on this kind of practise. I will post it if I can find it.