Just recently I had some long discussions with a Cubase using friend about Gain Staging. He suggested that I purchase PSP’s Triple Meyer and start using the VU meter on the first insert slot in an input channel. The idea being that I can make sure that the incoming signal is at a proper level and not clipping. If the signal average 0 on the VU Meyer it will be about -10db.
The diffence this has made to my guitar and bass sound has been extraordinary. I have always struggled to get clarity in the bottom end. My bass guitar was often unpleasant to listen to in isolation. (And not just the playing.) Using the VU Meter meant that it was really easy to get a consistent and well regulated signal. I have been knocked out by the punch and clarity that the bass now has.
The clean sounds with my guitar have improved beyond all expectation. The issue I had sometimes with harshness has gone. For the first time I don’t feel that I am continually having to tailor my sound and alter settings. The overdrive sounds are also much improved in that it is now easier to tell the difference between different amps and overdrive pedals.
I now apply this approach to any incoming audio. I used to think I was careful about levels - obviously not. I am sure that many of you have experienced this. If you haven’t, try it it might just change your musical life.