Gain Staging VST Instruments

How do you gain stage your VST Instruments in Cubase?

Do you use the instrument level control in the VSTi, the mixer level in the VSTi (if it has one, e.g. Halion Sonic SE), the overall output level control for that VSTi (e.g., overall output level control in Halion Sonic SE), or do you use the pre-gain on the channel in Cubase?

I use all of the above, it depends on what stage of workflow I’m at.

Inside of something like Halion, I do prefer the program faders (not the mixer), I think it’s a better visial aid for the relative levels of my programs… rather than digging around into the edit settings. Of course that still depends on the particular instrument setup at the time.

I rarely use the ‘edit’ (e) button in cubase, so the pre-gain is not quite ergonomic enough, but lately i have been getting into the pre-gain workflow a bit to control VSTi output from some of these ultra loud VSTi.

I generally send all VSTi outputs to different mixer channels outside the VSTi, then I balance them there. This I find is easier especially when I’ve got several multi-sound instruments because it brings all the instruments out into the Cubase mixer, i.e. into one place where I can balance them together. Some instruments give very hot outputs, e.g. Omnisphere which at times can be over 0dBFS(!), and for those I will turn down the output within the VSTi so that it’s feeding the Cubase mixer with a better level. I guess If I’ve got a sound that’s really low then I’ll turn it up as well, but I don’t seem to do this much in the VSTi’s themselves. So, mostly I use the mixer and also I’ll probably tweak the gain of effects in the inserts to match what I need.

Mike.

I tend to use the mixers gain setting first, mainly because if I change the volume directly on the VST instrument and then later on change the patch, the volume obviously jumps. However, many of my VSTs can be crazy loud so I sometimes have to trim volume at both the mixer and the VST!

All part of the fun I guess :wink:

Does anyone turn on Cubases pre fadering mode to do gain staging?

https://youtu.be/INUVVcPguLk

It would be handy to have a button with visual feedback for quick access to pre fader metering which would also give a visual indication that it’s turned on. Right now if I understand correctly in Cubase it’s just a drop down menu. Please see video link above.

I agree! This would be a helpful addition.

I have tended to use the output as close to the source as possible to gain stage VST instruments. I more often turn the faders down in HS’s internal mixer. The small meters are just about adequate to see if the output from the VSTi is too high or going above 0. I try to do the same with other VST instruments.

My thinking in this is that I want the sound/data to hit the Cubase channel in that state, at that level - before the channel pre-gain.

I can check in more detail by changing the fader meter in Cubase to input, but I find that unnecessarily fiddly with it being on the drop down menu (and if you leave a session and come back, you can unwittingly forget you left a channel meter on that setting, as there’s no visible indication).

The other aspect of this is how/where to set the levels at this point.

To start a mix off, with faders at 0dB, I try to have my peaks between -18dBFS and -10 / -12dBFS - I’m never quite sure where the ceiling of that window should be… or if I should have my faders lower?

Where do you aim to get your peaks at this point in the process on the Cubase channels and master meters?

There is a case for breaking with traditional mixing console visuals - I’d quite like to see (an option for) both pre and post, say side-by-side.

Mike.

A toggle button on the top of the mixer like Logic X has would be so quick and easy! :slight_smile:

I’ve been trying to develop a system to be consistent with kick and bass (sometimes snare too) initial staging using VU meters.

I solo those and try to aim for -3dBVu to 0dBVu if they are playing simultaously. Plugins seem to like that kind of level, and there’s enough room for everything else to slot in. But I am still fine tuning this method. VU alone can sometimes fool your eyes with staging, depending on exactly what kind of kick character it is, so I also am implementing with PPM meter (Klanghelm VUMT) and getting used to what a good relationship ‘looks’ like.

This, I think will provide me a solid trusty backdrop, to which I can then safely balance the music in without technically staging, but balancing by ear.

Any views/comments on:

The other aspect of this is how/where to set the levels at this point.

To start a mix off, with faders at 0dB, I try to have my peaks between -18dBFS and -10 / -12dBFS - I’m never quite sure where the ceiling of that window should be… or if I should have my faders lower?

Where do you aim to get your peaks at this point in the process on the Cubase channels and master meters?