Gain staging before mixing with console emulation ?

maartenl945

Member
I just posted a video on my YouTube channel about using a plug-in (Britson) for gain staging and console emulation on every channel. What are the experiences in this group ? Do you use anything for gain staging and coloring ?
 
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rob aylestone

Well-known member
In the video you said "can you hear it?" Sadly, no. I tried eyes open and eyes closed and I can't. I did toy with the idea of shelling out $39 but if the end product cannot be heard, apart from in the studio - then for me, it's pointless - and the idea of introducing processing where it's on every channel, all individually tweaked and adjusted and people at home can't hear it does seem rather worrying in terms of what the thing actually does? It's like one of my clients who insists on paying for 4K origination, editing and colour tweaks that we can both see on the monitor in the edit suit - but 100% of his material is distributed to his clients on youtube - I'm not comfy wasting time and money on pointless exercises, and actually like the images the 1080 cameras produce better. 4 times the pixels, 4 times the storage, and to my eyes, a less 'impressive' picture on youtube? This is what worries me about these kind of plugins - they introduce distortion, and in the studio on the way above monitors it sounds perhaps nice. On people's home gear? Who knows.
 
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maartenl945

Member
In the video you said "can you hear it?" Sadly, no. I tried eyes open and eyes closed and I can't. I did toy with the idea of shelling out $39 but if the end product cannot be heard, apart from in the studio - then for me, it's pointless - and the idea of introducing processing where it's on every channel, all individually tweaked and adjusted and people at home can't hear it does seem rather worrying in terms of what the thing actually does? It's like one of my clients who insists on paying for 4K origination, editing and colour tweaks that we can both see on the monitor in the edit suit - but 100% of his material is distributed to his clients on youtube - I'm not comfy wasting time and money on pointless exercises, and actually like the images the 1080 cameras produce better. 4 times the pixels, 4 times the storage, and to my eyes, a less 'impressive' picture on youtube? This is what worries me about these kind of plugins - they introduce distortion, and in the studio on the way above monitors it sounds perhaps nice. On people's home gear? Who knows.
Yes I can understand your point very well. For me the difference is very subtle and in the video probably even less noticable than in the files that can be downloaded. Due to the audio compression of YouTube.
In general I feel all these small differences do add up if you have many, but I can understand it is not worthwhile for everyone.
 

TimOD

Member
I use Slate's Virtual Mix Rack on every channel as well as the master bus and submix busses. Usually set to the Trident console emulation. Even using the plugs across the entire virtual mixer, it's gonna be real subtle, but I just use them as a matter of course. It's easy to set input and output levels to where you can push it, but I rarely do that (except accidentally!). It's just there, doing it's thing, and since it can be part of a template, there's no big deal to using it. I just pretend that I'm finally using a Trident desk. You want to hear something? Get Slate's well-recommended Virtual Tape Machine. That you will hear doing something, especially if you hit it hard. There are plenty of tape emulation plugs (Acoustic's plugs are wonderful) out there now, as well as console emulation plugs. Grim Traveller is right--don't clip--there's no need to even get close to doing that. Keep the gain-staging in order and everything else is gravy.
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
I'm going to admit the video taught me something that I've already used on some projects. I did not know that the e button on each channel strip gave access to the gain. I have been for years using a compressor, with no compression to make up the gain on quiet channels. One of Cubase's features I'd just never ever knew existed despite having been a Cubase user since 1994 on a Black and white Atari 530!
 

maartenl945

Member
I use Slate's Virtual Mix Rack on every channel as well as the master bus and submix busses. Usually set to the Trident console emulation. Even using the plugs across the entire virtual mixer, it's gonna be real subtle, but I just use them as a matter of course. It's easy to set input and output levels to where you can push it, but I rarely do that (except accidentally!). It's just there, doing it's thing, and since it can be part of a template, there's no big deal to using it. I just pretend that I'm finally using a Trident desk. You want to hear something? Get Slate's well-recommended Virtual Tape Machine. That you will hear doing something, especially if you hit it hard. There are plenty of tape emulation plugs (Acoustic's plugs are wonderful) out there now, as well as console emulation plugs. Grim Traveller is right--don't clip--there's no need to even get close to doing that. Keep the gain-staging in order and everything else is gravy.
Yes I've been hearing some good things about the Slate console emulation, so may have to give that a try. Thanks for the tip (y).
 

maartenl945

Member
I'm going to admit the video taught me something that I've already used on some projects. I did not know that the e button on each channel strip gave access to the gain. I have been for years using a compressor, with no compression to make up the gain on quiet channels. One of Cubase's features I'd just never ever knew existed despite having been a Cubase user since 1994 on a Black and white Atari 530!
I keep discovering things in Cubase as well despite being a long time user. You can also show the gain control in the mixer by the way, by enabling 'Pre(Filters/Gain/Phase)' in the Rack filter top right.
 

keith.rogers

Bobby'); DROP TABLE USER
I try to get the gain set at the interface but if it’s more than just a vocal and guitar I usually find some gain adjustment on the entire track or some regions necessary to get a “dry” (or “static”) mix set to where I think it’s going to take the least amount of automation. (That can still be a lot I choose sometimes!) In Logic it’s a setting in the track info. I use it a lot.

I don’t have console emulation but there are half a dozen compressors IIRC in Logic which do have some color and pretty obvious character. I choose the one of those largely based on how it sounds/feels after the gain is set and try to use makeup gain for what it’s intended, though sometimes if I’ve got a lot of automation and just feel like an entire track needs a gentle lift or cut I might tinker with that, but the compressor plug-ins also have output gain and that’s the more likely knob I’d twist.
 
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maartenl945

Member
I try to get the gain set at the interface but if it’s more than just a vocal and guitar I usually find some gain adjustment on the entire track or some regions necessary to get a “dry” (or “static”) mix set to where I think it’s going to take the least amount of automation. (That can still be a lot I choose sometimes!) In Logic it’s a setting in the track info. I use it a lot.

I don’t have console emulation but there are half a dozen compressors IIRC in Logic which do have some color and pretty obvious character. I choose the one of those largely based on how it sounds/feels after the gain is set and try to use makeup gain for what it’s intended, though sometimes if I’ve got a lot of automation and just feel like an entire track needs a gentle lift or cut I might tinker with that, but the compressor plug-ins also have output gain and that’s the more likely knob I’d twist.
Thanks for sharing your way of doing this (y). So you don't use any special metering to set that gain level in logic ?
And yes I can imagine that the compressors in logic also provide some coloring. I actually use my (hardware) bus compressor for the same reason.
 

keith.rogers

Bobby'); DROP TABLE USER
Thanks for sharing your way of doing this (y). So you don't use any special metering to set that gain level in logic ?
And yes I can imagine that the compressors in logic also provide some coloring. I actually use my (hardware) bus compressor for the same reason.
I have the meters set to pre-fader and generally try to keep peaks below -12dBFS, plus or minus, and maybe a bit more if there's more than a couple tracks. But, that's kind of an ideal. When I set up the mics and do a short test I look at the peaks and adjust the gain on the interface. When the track is done, it could be different, of course, but if the levels work and the mix isn't too hot, I'm not going to go and adjust gain on everything just to hit a number.

I do use gain on a region if I've done a comp from multiple takes and a there's unevenness that needs fixed, i.e., instead of doing that with automation.

Honestly, the gain thing is most handy when someone is sending me a track they've done at home. They're almost always too hot, but sometimes they can be too low. Anymore, though, I almost always load anything that's been sent to me into RX and even if I did nothing, I'd probably adjust the gain there for starters. Then, if I do have to gain it up, I'll have the noise right in front of me and I can take care of it in RX and save that for import to the project.
 

TalismanRich

Well-known member
I was interested in this thread, especially after the other thread about preamp myths. I wasn't downstairs at the system where I could give things a really good listen until now.

So, listening on my JBL308s, I really couldn't hear a difference between the two. When I put on headphones, I could just hear the difference, but to be totally honest, it was more of a collapse of the soundstage, and a flattening, especially of the vocal. My preference would be the disabled version, it sounded more open and natural to me, but by the very slightest margin. That was flipping between the two takes.

Had I played them both but separateing the playback by , say 3 seconds, I doubt that I could reliably pick one over the other.

So, I thought, maybe if I put them on the big IMF monitors, I might hear a difference. On those speakers, if I listened REALLY closely, and flipped between channels I thought I might hear the very faintest of difference. Not having someone here who can flip between playbacks, I can't do a blind test.

Interesting, but I don't think I'll be pursuing that road any time soon.
 

rob aylestone

Well-known member
That’s a hugely important point. With covid, I’m doing loads of different things, each earning a little, and frankly I’m happy with the outcome, but it means I am working in two buildings. My video, office and sales is in one place and my audio studio is in an extension to my home. Half a mile apart. The office also has my gear storage. Mainly piles of flight cases floor to ceiling. Heaving one case up to 6ft I realised it was a pair of RCF 5” monitors. Heavy PA balcony fills. Capable of being loud but small. I pulled them out and found an amp. A 2x 1500W rack mount one. Connected it to the computer and loaded up some music from the NAS drive that connects the two building computer system. They sounded really good, so I left the studio monitors at home.

however, it hadn’t worked very well at all. Every mix reveals problems. Balance in the main, but the speakers clearly don’t have less bass, they have NO bass. Worst though is that things in the mid-range like twinkles or cymbals are not there, so instead of gentle tweaks back at home it’s major changes, yet the final mix when back on the second system don’t sound much different. If these differences are what ordinary people hear at home, I’m not convinced teeny weeny mic colour differences are worth all the money. My accountant advised me to spend some money, so I have just ordered my very first stupid price German mic. Maybe this is a stupid purchase. I’m not expecting it to make me money but probably it will hold it’s value as an investment. I’m not sure I’ll ever use it because it just wont be audible other than a tone shift. I’m expecting that if I A/B my 414 with it one will be bright and one wont be.
 

maartenl945

Member
I was interested in this thread, especially after the other thread about preamp myths. I wasn't downstairs at the system where I could give things a really good listen until now.

So, listening on my JBL308s, I really couldn't hear a difference between the two. When I put on headphones, I could just hear the difference, but to be totally honest, it was more of a collapse of the soundstage, and a flattening, especially of the vocal. My preference would be the disabled version, it sounded more open and natural to me, but by the very slightest margin. That was flipping between the two takes.

Had I played them both but separateing the playback by , say 3 seconds, I doubt that I could reliably pick one over the other.

So, I thought, maybe if I put them on the big IMF monitors, I might hear a difference. On those speakers, if I listened REALLY closely, and flipped between channels I thought I might hear the very faintest of difference. Not having someone here who can flip between playbacks, I can't do a blind test.

Interesting, but I don't think I'll be pursuing that road any time soon.
Yes the difference is subtle, sometimes to the level at which you wonder if you're kidding yourself maybe ;).
 

maartenl945

Member
I have the meters set to pre-fader and generally try to keep peaks below -12dBFS, plus or minus, and maybe a bit more if there's more than a couple tracks. But, that's kind of an ideal. When I set up the mics and do a short test I look at the peaks and adjust the gain on the interface. When the track is done, it could be different, of course, but if the levels work and the mix isn't too hot, I'm not going to go and adjust gain on everything just to hit a number.

I do use gain on a region if I've done a comp from multiple takes and a there's unevenness that needs fixed, i.e., instead of doing that with automation.

Honestly, the gain thing is most handy when someone is sending me a track they've done at home. They're almost always too hot, but sometimes they can be too low. Anymore, though, I almost always load anything that's been sent to me into RX and even if I did nothing, I'd probably adjust the gain there for starters. Then, if I do have to gain it up, I'll have the noise right in front of me and I can take care of it in RX and save that for import to the project.
Thanks for the explanation about how you use metering, and more ....
 
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