Gain Staging workflow

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Gain Staging workflow

Post by Randlefern »

Hello, everyone

I would like to talk about gain staging and what could be a proper way to do it based on my workflow.
So, first off, I use Klanghelm VUMeter as first and last plugin of a track’s chain. The first instance is for making sure that the level of my software instrument/audio recording is around 0VU/-18dbFs.
Doing that, I ensure the level feeding the plugins is around -18dbFs, which is the so called “sweet spot” for analog-modelled plugins. Then I check the VUMeter inserted as last part of the chain so that I can manage to add or remove gain according to the various plugins (EQ, Comp, Sat, etc). Doing so I ensure the level remains the same or, if I want, I can set the last VUMeter reference to 0VU/-12dbFs if I want to raise the overall volume of the track from those initial -18dbFs.
Do you think this is a better way to do it than using different stuff? I am talking for example about using HorNet Normalizer of GainMatch for achieving the “same” result.

Could anybody tell me what are their thoughts about this and if the workflow example I wrote is a good, “proper” way?

Thank you very much, guys.
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Re: Gain Staging workflow

Post by Hugh Robjohns »

It works for me! :thumbup:
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Re: Gain Staging workflow

Post by RichardT »

Sounds sensible to me! I think you don’t need those extra tools.
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Re: Gain Staging workflow

Post by Martin Walker »

Agreed - Klanghelm's VUMT is used here on a daily basis.

I have tried Gainmatch, and although I found that useful with pre/post routing for automatically adjusting gain to a desired level during tests, it does so by measuring the loudness over several (user-definable) seconds, so unless you're inputing steady test tones this loudness gets slowly but continuously adjusted.

I found this a bit fiddly, whereas you can just drag VUMT's Trim control to that the VU reading ends up where you want it, and then forget about it.

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Re: Gain Staging workflow

Post by Airfix »

It's so simple - do what Mom says
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Re: Gain Staging workflow

Post by Randlefern »

Martin Walker wrote: Tue Nov 23, 2021 10:14 pm Agreed - Klanghelm's VUMT is used here on a daily basis.

I have tried Gainmatch, and although I found that useful with pre/post routing for automatically adjusting gain to a desired level during tests, it does so by measuring the loudness over several (user-definable) seconds, so unless you're inputing steady test tones this loudness gets slowly but continuously adjusted.

I found this a bit fiddly, whereas you can just drag VUMT's Trim control to that the VU reading ends up where you want it, and then forget about it.

Martin


That's great. I also find Klanghelm's VUMT to be really useful and almost a must, as I use that on every single track of my template, first in chain and last.
It allows you to see True Peak for dbFs as well as the VU peaks and you can also set it as RMS meter among others.
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Re: Gain Staging workflow

Post by Martin Walker »

VUMT (and the Deluxe version) can certainly display (and retain) the digital peak value, but as far as I know they don't offer 'True Peak' values (which include possible intersample peaks).

However, to me this only really matters during mastering, when you really do need to know if any combination of samples could generate a true peak above 0dBFS. For real-time tracks metering the difference is largely irrelevant.

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Re: Gain Staging workflow

Post by Randlefern »

I was in fact checking that by inserting both Klanghelm's VUMT and Logic's stock Level Meter, which offers TP. Both the values form Logic's Level Meter and Klanghelm's match. So I guess, if I am missing something, that it can actually display TP values as well. What do you think, Martin?
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Re: Gain Staging workflow

Post by Randlefern »

Martin Walker wrote: Tue Nov 23, 2021 10:14 pm Agreed - Klanghelm's VUMT is used here on a daily basis.

Hey Martin! Also, if I may ask, how do you usually set your Klanghelm VUMT and what levels do you a for to get a proper gain staging? I know how I do it, but I am just curious about other people’s workflow
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Re: Gain Staging workflow

Post by Martin Walker »

Randlefern wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 10:15 pm I was in fact checking that by inserting both Klanghelm's VUMT and Logic's stock Level Meter, which offers TP. Both the values form Logic's Level Meter and Klanghelm's match. So I guess, if I am missing something, that it can actually display TP values as well. What do you think, Martin?

Tony at Klanghelm doesn't mention having a True Peak function on his VUMT plug-ins, but the whole point of TP is to catch any 'inter-sample peaks' that can go above 0dBFS when reconstructing the analogue signal in the D/A converter, by interpolating between high-value consecutive sample values. This what True Peak is designed to avoid, and why it's important when mastering in particular, since you definitely want to avoid any possible clipping during analogue playback.

However, unless you are running close to clipping, True Peak is less important, and in practice the Digital peak and True Peak values tend to be vanishingly close (as an example, I've just measured my most recent completed project, set to peak at -1dB True Peak, and while the True value measures -1.0098dB, the Digital peak measures -1.0121, or as near as dammit ;) )

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Re: Gain Staging workflow

Post by Martin Walker »

Randlefern wrote: Sat Nov 27, 2021 7:27 pm [Hey Martin! Also, if I may ask, how do you usually set your Klanghelm VUMT and what levels do you a for to get a proper gain staging? I know how I do it, but I am just curious about other people’s workflow

I use VUMT in two main ways:

1. In its RMS +3dB mode to monitor ongoing RMS and Peak levels, with the maximum values of both also displayed numerically. This is mainly to make sure my audio peaks never stray above 0dBFS when testing out plug-ins that are designed to clip or limit at this point. In my projects I also use Airwindows Console7, whose effects tend to be optimum when audio at the mixing buss peaks around -10dBFS, so this is the meter setting I use for this. You don't need set any calibration in this mode.

2. However, for general-purpose gain staging within projects with non-linear plug-ins (preamps, saturation, compression, limiting etc.) I use VUMT with its VU setting and calibrated to -18.0dB, with the VU-mode (ballistics) set to Ideal. The VU value if far more determined by the envelope of your audio, so transient-rich drums can be pushed to higher levels than more continuous pad sounds for instance. I do have several plug-ins designed around -14dBFS levels, but they incorporate their own meters, so I don't need VUMT in these cases.

Hope this helps!

Martin
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Re: Gain Staging workflow

Post by Randlefern »

Martin Walker wrote: Sun Nov 28, 2021 3:29 pm
I use VUMT in two main ways:

1. In its RMS +3dB mode to monitor ongoing RMS and Peak levels, with the maximum values of both also displayed numerically. This is mainly to make sure my audio peaks never stray above 0dBFS when testing out plug-ins that are designed to clip or limit at this point. In my projects I also use Airwindows Console7, whose effects tend to be optimum when audio at the mixing buss peaks around -10dBFS, so this is the meter setting I use for this. You don't need set any calibration in this mode.

2. However, for general-purpose gain staging within projects with non-linear plug-ins (preamps, saturation, compression, limiting etc.) I use VUMT with its VU setting and calibrated to -18.0dB, with the VU-mode (ballistics) set to Ideal. The VU value if far more determined by the envelope of your audio, so transient-rich drums can be pushed to higher levels than more continuous pad sounds for instance. I do have several plug-ins designed around -14dBFS levels, but they incorporate their own meters, so I don't need VUMT in these cases.

Hope this helps!

Martin

It certainly helped, Martin! Thank you very much for your time and the thorough explanation!
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