Gain Staging Questions

Hi all,

My first post on here, so hello! If you dont mind, I’ll start off with a couple of fairly nooby questions. Gotta start somewhere though, right! :wink:

I’m a musician and have been getting into recording over the past couple of years. Recently I have been reading up about proper gain staging in Cubase as I want to increase the quality of my recordings. I found this very helpful thread from a couple of years ago: https://www.steinberg.net/forums/viewtopic.php?t=57467

I understand that 0VU = -18dBFS. I also understand the reason why this should be set. However, I have 2 main questions.

  1. How is best to control the gain of an input? Via the controls on the interface? Or via the input fader on the interface software / input channel within Cubase?

  2. Where would I be reading -18dBFS? Would this be on the input on interface’s software (I have a Liquid Saffire 56) or on the input channel within Cubase?


    Sorry if I have confused anything. If I have, please point it out! :slight_smile:

Thanks in advance.

Vex

Welcome! :slight_smile:
I could be wrong, but here’s my take on it:

  1. It’s best to use the controls on the interface so you make most use of the dynamic range of your AD converter, and you can be sure you won’t clip it.
  2. I don’t think it makes a difference, I expect both meters to show you the same values.

Good luck!
By the way, I wouldn’t call those nooby questions, most questions here are far noobier :wink:

Here’s is what I do:

When tracking I change global meter settings to meter input so the channel meters reflect the incoming signal level.

I have also changed my meter colors so that my the desired level I want to record at is reflected in the meter color. It crosses from green to red at that value. That way I can have a look to see how levels are without having to read actual values. Even though the meters in the version of Cubase that I use only show Peak levels, I can see the RMS value for having done it this way for quite some time!


There’s also a separate pane for your sound card inputs as well available in the mixer which will show you the incoming levels. It’s just always been easier for me to work the way I outlined above as my inputs are always different with every artist. It’s easier to look at the track names so I can adjust the appropriate input levels on my preamps.

one last thing… adjust your input levels from your preamps. If you adjust your input levels from within Cubase, you’re preamps and converters may be clipping on the way in.

Hello and thank you for the warm welcome! :slight_smile:

That makes sense to me, may as well use the hardware as efficiently as possible before getting to the software.

Good luck!
By the way, I wouldn’t call those nooby questions, most questions here are far noobier > :wink:

Haha, thank you! Comforting to know I could have been noobier! :stuck_out_tongue: Means the past 2 years haven’t been spent learning nothing!

That sounds very useful. If you dont mind, would you be able to tell how to do that? Or point me towards a source that shows me how to do it?

I have also changed my meter colors so that my the desired level I want to record at is reflected in the meter color. It crosses from green to red at that value. That way I can have a look to see how levels are without having to read actual values. Even though the meters in the version of Cubase that I use only show Peak levels, I can see the RMS value for having done it this way for quite some time!

I may follow suit with this! Seems like a much more useful way to use the meters in Cubase. In fact, I think i had done this with a previous version at some point. Not sure why I haven’t carried it forwards on to Cubase 8.5.

one last thing… adjust your input levels from your preamps. If you adjust your input levels from within Cubase, you’re preamps and converters may be clipping on the way in.

Ah, I wondered if there would be an issue like this. Thanks for the useful info.

Another question: I have read that different levels of gain are better for different instruments (-18dBFS for Electric guitar, -6dBFS for Drums), is this true?

Be prepared, I could be here for hours, asking questions… :open_mouth: :laughing:

To change metering type, right click on the meter and select global meter settings.

As far as different levels of gain:

Again, I “see” rms in the peak meters. I hear it too. In cubase 6.5 that I use, it is only peak metering. I have 8.5 but don’t use it but I think it is different as far as metering types go. My red zone on my meter coloring is around -14 in peak metering. Somewhere around there. That is where I eyeball and interpret wanting my RMS levels. That is where I want it to be, on average. My goal in recording levels is part visual and part audible. I look to have “faders up” across the board at “0” (fader position) and have a mix that sounds balanced with all the instruments. There is a lot involved though for me as I run a variety of outboard preamps. They sound different when driven differently by different sources. There is no fast rule I go by.

I have to confess that the rules have left me long ago. I’ve been doing this for 25 years and a lot of this is habit and instinctual. I just go about doing it without thinking so I may be missing some content related to your questions. I will say that my master buss meter isn’t blowing up with this approach though!

None of that helped you, or did some of it? :laughing: Perhaps some others will chime in with more scientific answers!

Vex,

Read and apply from tech docs. Take what you read as a grain of salt if it is from a forum of users as there is so much incorrect information spread across the internet. You can learn on forums too. You seem to be trying to go about this with a lot of thought. That is awesome! My supreme advise is “Faders Up At Unity” should create a balanced mix in the raw before you start chopping the sound up with eqs and effects. Good recording techniques get you there too as you focus on the individual content you are capturing that fills 20Hz-20kHz. Faders up should not be anywhere near clipping individual channels and you should have headroom. For me, -14 RMS works well. I will have to look at a session to see how levels related to other from source to source.

What I have written here is how I do things every session.

I keep levels at about 65-80% and handle the make up gain during my approximation of mastering. By the time you add mix buss compression, EQ, and saturation you’re going to get a final output that is close to 0 on the K-14 scale. (Or EBU-R128 if you use that instead.)

Just something to consider when it comes to reading and adjusting the meters:

There is a setting called “meters fallback” which is measured as dB/second. So the meters rise following the increase of signal and once the signal drops you’ve reached the peak and peak hold takes place. That increase is very fast in peak meters.

The fallback time however is different from the peak hold time. So what I did was set the fallback time and colors in a way where I feel I get the visual feedback I need, in a sense closer to a VU meter. My meters go from green to yellow to red to white. Green is low, yellow is what I aim for, red is fine for occasional medium term signals and peaks of course, and white is the danger zone. With the fallback I find that if I look at a signal that I feel is mostly yellow I end up with a signal that sits exactly where I want it (I’m in post-production btw).

So I would recommend looking into the fallback time as well as a way to further make the metering more intuitive.

It would be handy if we were able to flick between Peak/RMS metering with a single button click don’t you think?

As i’m aware this isn’t currently possible in cubase?

I see where you’re going with that mattias… That’s one of the things i love being able to do with the uad ampex, it’s much easier to work with ‘from the corner of your eye’ too.

You’re right that it’s not possible in Cubase/Nuendo, as far as I know. I mean, personally I think lowering the fallback time is sufficient to approximate the behavior of a VU meter. After all, it’s not like it’s part of any standard since our perception is too imprecise for it to be useful (other than for calibration).

VU’s have a rise time as well.
"The rise time, defined as the time it takes for the needle to reach 99% of the distance to 0 VU when the VU-meter is submitted to a signal that steps from 0 to a level that reads 0 VU, is 300 ms.

The overshoot must be within 1 to 1.5%.

The fall time is the same as the rise time, 300 ms."