Gain Staging vs Using Track Faders

Okay just to start off, this probably isn’t the typical question you are expecting regarding this topic. And just as a foreword - everything I’m referring to here is in the digital world of DAWs.

I understand the importance of proper gain staging, and managing the gain of a signal before it goes into any plugins/FX/inserts, etc. Different gain levels before the effects chain can change how the effects respond to the signal, and keeping it at around -18dBFS before plugins is typically optimal, and try to keep it at that level throughout the plugin chain. Got it.

Now this next bit is the part that’s confusing me - a lot of people/tutorials/articles etc, that talk about the importance of gain staging, often point out that you should have another gain stage (aka a gain plugin or similar) at the very end of your effects/inserts/channel strip, before it hits the track fader, and to use this to reduce gain instead of bringing the channel fader down.

The apparent reason for doing this is to maximize the fader ‘resolution’ by being able to keep it closer to unity gain (0dB) on the mixing console, because for example making a small 5dB change from 0dB to -5dB is much easier to physically move/more precise than going from -30dB to -35dB (since the lower you go, the more drastic small changes make).

Aside from this strictly being a workflow optimization, is there a technical reason relating to audio quality as to why this would be beneficial? I’ve heard that bringing down the faders on a digital mix console can have an adverse affect on the audio ‘quality’, or bit depth, etc etc.

Is there any truth to this? I can’t seem to find any solid answer on this, just endless forum posts of people arguing with each other on audio forums… how is there not a mathematically/scientifically definitive answer?

Our Cubase buddy Dom Sigalas who does all the tutorials on new Cubase releases made this video on gain staging in Cubase recently, which is what got me thinking about this initially. While giving some great info on how to gain stage effectively, he didn’t really go into detail about the whole fader thing.