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Gain-Staging for In-the-Box Producers

Gain staging is a slightly controversial and confusing subject. But it’s important enough that there are lots of articles and videos made about it. Often with conflicting advice. Which makes it even more confusing to those of us with no decades of audio engineering behind us. It is important enough that it even has a Wikipedia article.

So, according to Wikipedia:

Gain staging is the process of managing the relative levels in each step of an audio signal flow to prevent introduction of noise and distortion…

In a “classic” music production scenario you work on your track, then you export stems and send them to a mix engineer who imports them into a new session and adjusts levels to the optimal values. The most severe problem that needs to be addressed in this process is when any of the outputs are going over 0dB and clipping.

However, if you are working in-the-box you have only one analog output — your Main channel. And everything before that is 100% digital. And nowadays it is quite likely that you are mixing as you go.

Most probably you are working in 24bit or higher resolution. (In Studio One you can check it in Song Setup by clicking on the Sample Rate in the Transport panel.) Make sure that you have resolution at 24 bit or higher and this means that, practically, you can’t clip anywhere before the Main output. So, if we can just lower the signal coming into the Main bus, we will be all set.

For this purpose, I create a Mix Bus and all the other buses and individual channels are routed to this bus.

Now I can just adjust the input level coming into the Mix Bus (or even just its output level) until our output is at our target -6dB or whatever you want it to be.

And that’s all there is.

Here’s a video version of this post with an example addressing a clipping issue while working on my song Back in Time:




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Alan Mendelevich

Alan Mendelevich

I run AdDuplex - a cross-promotion network for Windows apps. Blog at Author of "Conferences for Introverts"

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