How to track using virtual instruments when they are so loud

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How to track using virtual instruments when they are so loud

Post by armans »

Most my virtual instruments are very loud and when I try record audio using say a piano VI as my backing track I find my audio too soft. What is the correct way to work with VI's. Do most engineers turn them way down at the output of the actual instrument or is turning down the fader the best way? Why are the outputs so hot anyway, do they just assume that nobody will like the sounds if they are at a decent level?
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Re: How to track using virtual instruments when they are so loud

Post by Drew Stephenson »

Most VSTi's will have an output gain or volume somewhere in the GUI, just turn it down to a sensible level there. That way any following plugins or master summing will all be getting expected levels.

As to why they do it like this, you'd need to ask the developers - or their marketing departments... ;)
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Re: How to track using virtual instruments when they are so loud

Post by RichardT »

Either do as Drew says or turn down the pre-gain / trim on the channel if you have that available in your DAW.
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Re: How to track using virtual instruments when they are so loud

Post by The Elf »

I turn VSTi input gains down, so they match my -10dBFS peak - just as if they were tracks I'd recorded myself. That gives a good starting point for the mix.

I don't know which DAW you use, but a good trick with Cubase is to flatten the mixer, reset peak indicators, and allow the song to run through. Then turn down each track's gain by the amount the track has peaked over target.
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Re: How to track using virtual instruments when they are so loud

Post by muzines »

You can also have a default startup template where the first insert in all the instrument slots is a gain trim plugin to pull the channel down by +12dB (or whatever)...
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Re: How to track using virtual instruments when they are so loud

Post by Martin Walker »

muzines wrote: Thu Dec 01, 2022 9:50 pm You can also have a default startup template where the first insert in all the instrument slots is a gain trim plugin to pull the channel down by +12dB (or whatever)...

That's what I do as well, since even if you adjust the VSTi output level itself, there's a good chance that if you change the VSTi patch for a different sound the level will jump back up and deafen you (and even if you decide that the new sound doesn't work, and you switch back to the previous one, you'll probably have to manually drop its level again).

Having post-VSTi gain plug-ins in your template also means that all the faders in your mix can start life at around 0dB.
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Re: How to track using virtual instruments when they are so loud

Post by sonics »

My experience has been that quite a few VST instruments were programmed too loud, and the only real solution is to turn down the level of the offending patches in the instrument itself, at least for anything other than a rough version.

Once I've decided on the sounds I'm using, I make my own patches. There's always something I want to change, anyway! :)
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Re: How to track using virtual instruments when they are so loud

Post by armans »

RichardT wrote: Thu Dec 01, 2022 6:33 pm Either do as Drew says or turn down the pre-gain / trim on the channel if you have that available in your DAW.

Thank you. I do have something called "PRE" in Cubase. This is at the top of my mixer along with my EQ settings. Would this be the right place in my signal chain to reduce the level? When I create a midi track in Cubase I actually get two tracks in my mixer and only the VST has the "PRE" option available.
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Re: How to track using virtual instruments when they are so loud

Post by RichardT »

Yes, that’s it!
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Re: How to track using virtual instruments when they are so loud

Post by armans »

Martin Walker wrote: Thu Dec 01, 2022 11:50 pm
muzines wrote: Thu Dec 01, 2022 9:50 pm You can also have a default startup template where the first insert in all the instrument slots is a gain trim plugin to pull the channel down by +12dB (or whatever)...

That's what I do as well, since even if you adjust the VSTi output level itself, there's a good chance that if you change the VSTi patch for a different sound the level will jump back up and deafen you (and even if you decide that the new sound doesn't work, and you switch back to the previous one, you'll probably have to manually drop its level again).

Having post-VSTi gain plug-ins in your template also means that all the faders in your mix can start life at around 0dB.

Great suggestions. Is there any difference in the final sound if I reduce the level using PRE in my mixer compared to lowering the instrument level output?
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Re: How to track using virtual instruments when they are so loud

Post by RichardT »

armans wrote: Tue Dec 06, 2022 11:10 am
Martin Walker wrote: Thu Dec 01, 2022 11:50 pm
muzines wrote: Thu Dec 01, 2022 9:50 pm You can also have a default startup template where the first insert in all the instrument slots is a gain trim plugin to pull the channel down by +12dB (or whatever)...

That's what I do as well, since even if you adjust the VSTi output level itself, there's a good chance that if you change the VSTi patch for a different sound the level will jump back up and deafen you (and even if you decide that the new sound doesn't work, and you switch back to the previous one, you'll probably have to manually drop its level again).

Having post-VSTi gain plug-ins in your template also means that all the faders in your mix can start life at around 0dB.

Great suggestions. Is there any difference in the final sound if I reduce the level using PRE in my mixer compared to lowering the instrument level output?

No, both are just gain controls. I usually set a sensible initial gain inside the virtual instrument, and then if I need to tweak the entire track volume I use the pre-gain. This is a great way to adjust the overall track level if you have it automated, much easier than trimming the automation itself.
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Re: How to track using virtual instruments when they are so loud

Post by sonics »

armans wrote: Tue Dec 06, 2022 11:10 am Is there any difference in the final sound if I reduce the level using PRE in my mixer compared to lowering the instrument level output?

I think there can be. Some instruments can distort and sound different if the internal gain is too high. Set that first.
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