How do I best set levels for presets?


Does anyone know how to create the optimal setting for using presets for things like
compressors and similar effects. I mean if I record a weak signal and use a preset for a compressor
nothing will get processed. But what levels are actually optimal, and is there a way to get them quickly. Should I use
the function normalize for example? or any other strategy?

thanks for any help!

Well if it is modelling hardware then -18db is the old standard

The best I know is just to slowly boost the input or lower threshold, until I hear the compression, or until it just looks like too much meter activity - which would make me question the attack and ratio of the preset.

The optimal settings will be related to what you’re sending it and what you want to achieve by using it – whatever it is, compressor, EQ, Reverb, Delay, etc.

Compression is control of dynamic range, but what that control is used for depends on what sort of signals you’re compressing. Vocal compression is a lot different than a snare drum, or a Bass, or Piano or an entire mix.

Just keep working with it and you’ll improve. Use the Presets and don’t worry about anything except protecting your hearing and your speakers. Monitor (speakers for playback) at low levels, I suggest at or near -83 dB SPL or so. That will help you find levels for any plug-in or sound you’d like to find.

Thanks for the replies!

maybe I got what I needed. However juat want to clearify the question. If I set the levels myself then ofcourse I will
tweek the parameters as I’d like. But when I’m using a preset I would like to quickly get an idea about what the creator (steinberg) had in mind and then I would like to know if there is a standard level which they set their presets to control, and in that case if there is a way to set my levels to that setting?

thanks for all the help!

btw Keith responded with -18 dB, is there a way to get that level? I am not 100% sure what your answer means, sorry.


The Strip or Channel Presets are pretty clear as to what direction they are aimed at, but the actual source will determine the optimal settings for them according to taste. That takes time and patience, at least that’s what I tell myself in my own on-going efforts to learn to Mix and at least quasi-Master in Cubase.

Try spending some time with a Strip Preset, say for, “drums” and another for “bass” and observe how the sound changes when you enable and disable various parts of it – turn the EQ off and on, same for Compression, Saturation, etc. Learn to use the A/B features to make comparisons as well.

Study the fundamentals and of human hearing, how the ear works. It’s a very interesting topic and once you start to listen to the world more like an engineer – in terms of amplitudes, frequency ranges, phase distortions or phase shifts and so on – the Presets will become clearer to you. That’s been my experience. There’s really no magic formula or magic piece of kit, it’s more like there are big cook books and all of them have some good recipes in them. Some you’ll like, others you won’t, but even those you don’t personally like may still be very popular with a particular audience. The “ingredients” may include instruments, studio equipment, effects, artists’ performances, studio spaces designed for music and sound recording, but, if the recipe calls for “filet mignon” and you can only get a lesser cut, then you modify and use what’s available.

Turn things on and off, note the differences – brighter, darker, warmer, more distant, more up front. Set radically and then come back to reality to find the various “sweet spots” on things; do that the other way, start very conservatively and then add – some compression, an EQ boost or cut, etc – and A-B that in the mix.

There are some truly excellent engineers who post here and on youtube, Sound on Sound Magazine, etc. Just keep working on it and you’ll get better with practice. Good luck. :sunglasses: