Output Level of a stereo final mix

Cubase 11
I have a question about the levels given by the mixer in Cubase. The max on the faders is 0. Does that mean 0db or what??
When I export my final mix, should I put the fader on 0 -so the max level - or on -4. When I work outside in professional studios I hear sometimes that the reference level is -4. But I don’t know how that applies to Cubase.
Also , if somebody sends you a stereo track, on which you have to play and send back. At what level do you import this track?
Thanks for the help

there are so many things that could be discussed about this topic and your questions because in my mind it all depends on what you want to achieve.

there are many different ways to set the mixer levels in Cubase. My mixer has +6 as max level, but the 0 is 0 db.

as for the reference level, you don’t state what it is the reference level of? if you are talking about making a mix ready for mastering I’d say most engineers would prefer to receive your mix with peaks within -3 to -6 db.

as for importing a track the volume would be determined by how loud it is to begin with. You would want to leave some headroom so you can hear and play clearly on top of it. Just import the file and adjust the volume in the “pre” section of the mixer to set a volume that works for you to play on top of

just trying to answer you assuming I am understanding what you are asking for answers on. When you talk about your final mix I don’t know if you want to make a final mix for a podcast, tv, Spotify or anything else!

your master fader shouldnt be touched it should be at 0db and leave it at that you dont want too peak past 0db so you do this by gain staging …i usually set up templates now were by all the audio tracks/instrument /fx /group tracks are set too gain staged -10.5db…i love working like this because it gives me plenty off headroom on my master channel and if it does peak its easier too fix as i go along…another tip is if your worried stick a limiter on your master channel set it too -1db that way you wont go distort your tracks…with a daw its not really distorting its digital clipping but that sounds way worse than normal distortion.

the -4 is how much headroom they give the mastering or mixing engineer thats why you gain stage your final render should give you -6-4 db of headroom too play with which is ok too then add limiters/ozone…etc to your mix too bring the true loudness back…theres a big difference between percieved loudness and true loudness you can percieve a track too be loud but when you compare it too commercial tracks your songs dont fit in thats were you need to check your true loudness thats were you will see what you should be mastering at.

reference level in analog world was 4dBu
if you assume that the output of your converters have 22dBu peak level capabilities (that’s a common level)
you have a headroom of 18dB from reference to max (0dBFS)
this was the working level for many years in broadcast
but changed with the use of DAW in millions of homes…

to exchange tracks for playback use in overdub situations it doesn’t really matter which level do you use since you are aware that you need more headroom during the recording situations then on the mix
I would start with peak levels not greater than -6dBFS trying to have the RMS in the range from -15dBFS to -18dBFS
after the mix is done you can provide a level that goes up to 0dBFS but you should really avoid peaks over 0 so it would be a good idea to respect a bit headroom, as Glenn already suggested -3 to -6 as peak level would be fine.

0dB on the fader means no amplification, -6dB means half the level
if you have a really low signal that needs amplification you can bring up the fader over 0

dBu is very different from dBFS

In general, if you mix and then master yourself, you’ll want the output to be close to 0 dBFS in the final output file render. If you just mix, and someone else masters, ask them what they prefer, although they can easily adjust if you get it off a little bit.

Going ABOVE 0 dBFS is very bad, because while it might work temporarily in a floating point pipeline, and then get limited by some final limiter, it will absolutely clip and sound crackly in an integer pipeline. No single sample should be above 0 dBFS “voltage.”

How you treat the gain stages before that is up to you. Some people love running each channel hot, and turning it down in the groups. Some people like leaving plenty of headroom in the individual channels, and turning it up in the groups or even final level (or a maximizer inline on the output master.) As long as your system runs in floating point (and pretty much any VST host does) and you don’t “bounce” to integer based file formats in-between, it doesn’t “really” matter.

If you work with other people, just do whatever works best for everybody.

the difference is obvious

Hello all,
Thank youso much for your answers.
I do record in my small basement studio, and mix to put on Bandcamp and YouTube.
I understand now what I have to do. Working in the range -15 to -18db, and then when ready to mix, keep in between -6 and -3db.
I understand that my souvenir of 4db was good old time analog level on tapes.

I work often with Indian musicians and they send me a recording on which I play, and then mix the final result.
Thanks again