Help me understand setting up GAIN STAGING in Cubase 8

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Re: Help me understand setting up GAIN STAGING in Cubase 8

Post by stingray »

profdraper wrote:The general idea is that the gain staging (& matching of input levels is about setting a schema such as 0dbVU = 18dbFS or similar depending on your persuasion; Bob Katz also refs sine wave as 0dbVU = -20dbFS). Whichever, the point is to provide the channels with some headroom...
Agree. That's the general idea.
profdraper wrote:Unfortunately, the Cubase PRE function is actually set as a post-fader function. Stupid really.
FYI the PRE section is not post fader.

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Re: Help me understand setting up GAIN STAGING in Cubase 8

Post by Jalcide »

I'm a big fan of James Wiltshire's K-Metering (and gain staging) advice as it applies to circuit modeled plugins.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7WigF9IDdcQ

Honestly, I consider tracking to a K-14 spec somewhat of a secret weapon.

(And by tracking I mean either recording or generating sound via VSTis.)
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Re: Help me understand setting up GAIN STAGING in Cubase 8

Post by peakae »

And just as a side note, many VSTi's have a really hot output. It is perfectly ok to dial down the output on the VSTi itself.
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Re: Help me understand setting up GAIN STAGING in Cubase 8

Post by stingray »

SuStudio wrote:The output of your interface as it hits the input buss in Cubase should be between -18 and -12.
Just to be clear. Do you mean in the channel meter of the input buss? Are you talking about peak levels or average RMS level?

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Re: Help me understand setting up GAIN STAGING in Cubase 8

Post by mikemandt »

Well this got interesting! I've got my coffee in hand and i'm about to catch up on all of this including Bob Katz's paper.
profdraper wrote:Unfortunately, the Cubase PRE function is actually set as a post-fader function. Stupid really.
FYI the PRE section is not post fader.[/quote]


So which one of you is right? I'm not quite grasping this part. The way profdraper described it is really unfortunate if true

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Re: Help me understand setting up GAIN STAGING in Cubase 8

Post by mikemandt »

roy_mattie wrote: 2) If you want a target goal for input levels, use the K-14 or K-20 options in the metering options. That's what they're there for! This will drop your 0 dB on the meter to -14 or -20dB. Just to be clear, it won't drop the levels but will just move the line lower so when you target 0 dB, you'll have sufficient headroom when it comes time to mix. I use the K-14 system. Another great read is the white paper by Bob Katz on the K-metering system. It should help to clarify things more.
In preferences -> metering I dont see anything about k-14 or k-20 system. am i close enough to this by using sustudio's metering setup described earlier in the thread?

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Re: Help me understand setting up GAIN STAGING in Cubase 8

Post by mikemandt »

roy_mattie wrote:\
If you're using soft-synths, I would go through each instrument you're using and set the output levels so that everything in your daw is at a nominal level you're happy with.

You mean set the output of the synth so that the level hits around -18sh WHILE my channel fader for that track is left at the default 0 position, correct?

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Re: Help me understand setting up GAIN STAGING in Cubase 8

Post by roy_mattie »

I'm including a screenshot and will explain where to find it:
ImageUploadedByTapatalk1427043414.494552.jpg
(104.89 KiB) Not downloaded yet
Where it says 'Digital Scale', click on it - the metering options are there in a drop-down menu.
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Re: Help me understand setting up GAIN STAGING in Cubase 8

Post by roy_mattie »

mikemandt wrote:
roy_mattie wrote:\
If you're using soft-synths, I would go through each instrument you're using and set the output levels so that everything in your daw is at a nominal level you're happy with.
You mean set the output of the synth so that the level hits around -18sh WHILE my channel fader for that track is left at the default 0 position, correct?

That's one way to set them... Cubase faders at 0 dB and soft-synth outputs hitting your target level.

The cumulative effect of running everything at -18 will add up to a much higher number if you're mixing your own stuff.

I find -18 a bit too quiet for monitoring, and levels print way too quiet when exporting multi-track stems, as you're treating -18 as 0.

I would record a bunch of test tracks with your soft synths and see where they land on the output. You may find a different target more useful for your application.
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Re: Help me understand setting up GAIN STAGING in Cubase 8

Post by SuStudio »

stingray wrote: Just to be clear. Do you mean in the channel meter of the input buss? Are you talking about peak levels or average RMS level?
Yes, I monitor using the meter on whatever input channel I'm using. Since the meter colors are universal (except the master), it works out fine. This guy did a great job demonstrating gradual cues on the meter versus abrupt cues.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2uD6O62 ... D_&index=3
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Re: Help me understand setting up GAIN STAGING in Cubase 8

Post by BriHar »

Channel metering as used in the technique shown, whether pre or post fader (Cubase's metering are post fader by default (perhaps this is the cause of the discrepency), but can be changed e.g. when tracking) should not be an issue here as the faders are all set at unity gain i.e. 0.
Perhaps if -18 had not been used...
Here's another example of the same technique https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tZ8-RFPsgI
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Re: Help me understand setting up GAIN STAGING in Cubase 8

Post by SuStudio »

BriHar wrote:Channel metering as used in the technique shown, whether pre or post fader (Cubase's metering are post fader by default (perhaps this is the cause of the discrepency), but can be changed e.g. when tracking) should not be an issue here as the faders are all set at unity gain i.e. 0.I
Of course adding to the confusion is that you have to seek this out instead of simply having a Pre/Post position on the channel itself. But, as you point out, a fader set at unity gain will produce negligible results regardless of the meter position - all else being equal. Spending a bit of time setting up your meter coloring is sort of a "set it and forget it" approach IMO and saves me having to monkey around with those pre gain knobs in pursuit of some arbitrary dBFS range.
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Re: Help me understand setting up GAIN STAGING in Cubase 8

Post by stingray »

mikemandt wrote:
profdraper wrote:Unfortunately, the Cubase PRE function is actually set as a post-fader function. Stupid really.
FYI the PRE section is not post fader.

So which one of you is right? I'm not quite grasping this part.
The PRE section is pre-fader, not past fader, and comes first in the signal chain. It's in the user manual. The basic signal flow through a channel is in the following order:

PRE section (Phase, Trim, Filter)
Inserts 1-6 pre (position exchangeable with Strip)
Strip (position exchangeable with Inserts 1-6)
Sends pre
Channel Fader / Mute
Inserts 7-8 post
Sends post
Pan
Channel Output

Note that when you set the channel meters to "input" you are metering the signal BEFORE it passes through the channel... in other words you are metering the channel input (or what is recorded on the hard disk) BEFORE it arrives at the PRE section.

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Re: Help me understand setting up GAIN STAGING in Cubase 8

Post by roy_mattie »

You shouldn't have to monkey around with the Pre at all. You should be able to get the desired levels straight from the preamp, with or without a pad, same with whatever mic you're using.

Glad to see more and more people asking the right questions!
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Re: Help me understand setting up GAIN STAGING in Cubase 8

Post by stingray »

roy_mattie wrote:The cumulative effect of running everything at -18 will add up to a much higher number if you're mixing your own stuff.

I find -18 a bit too quiet for monitoring, and levels print way too quiet when exporting multi-track stems, as you're treating -18 as 0.
Just to be clear. What -18 are you talking about? Presumably peaks at -18dBFS?
Last edited by stingray on Wed Dec 21, 2016 11:33 am, edited 1 time in total.

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Help me understand setting up GAIN STAGING in Cubase 8

Post by roy_mattie »

Read this article from Bob Katz. It lays it out plain for almost all to comprehend :)

http://www.digido.com/how-to-make-bette ... art-2.html
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Re: Help me understand setting up GAIN STAGING in Cubase 8

Post by stingray »

Yeah I know about K system meters. Thanks, they're very useful, but I was just asking you for clarification as to what specifically you were referring to, as it wasn't entirely clear how and why you were doing things. I would have thought an average level of -18dBFS RMS should be OK for stems.

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Help me understand setting up GAIN STAGING in Cubase 8

Post by roy_mattie »

I personally shoot for peaks at -12 for my main mix, not for every individual track. I build my mixes in context as I go.

In context, a pad may end up being significantly lower, and printing a stem may result in a file with barely a visible blip. That's why I shoot for a higher target.
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Re: Help me understand setting up GAIN STAGING in Cubase 8

Post by stingray »

mikemandt wrote:In preferences -> metering I dont see anything about k-14 or k-20 system. am i close enough to this by using sustudio's metering setup described earlier in the thread?
You can't set the channel meters to the K system. This applies to the master meters only.

If, as sustudio suggests, you aim for channel meter activity between around -18 to -12 (for the main body of the metering, NOT the extreme peaks), then yes, you will be aproaching something close to k-20... in other words the average RMS signal level will probably be around -22dBRMS to -18dBRMS (this is also highly dependent on the dynamic characteristics of the signal).

Remember that you cannot see RMS level on the channel meters (they are strictly peak ONLY). These are showing the average peak activity in the main body of the meter display with the fast transient peaks in the upper part of the meter display (the narrow peak hold bars).

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Re: Help me understand setting up GAIN STAGING in Cubase 8

Post by 501dubz »

Ive never understood gain staging to get a consistent workflow from track to track so I've had to find my own way out of the puzzle. I'm not even joking, I just use my ears. And I clip almost every group/buss too + certain individual channels without exception.

I guess anyone with a degree would say that's *flower*/amateur/crap but it's worked for me. Granted, I've not won a Grammy. Yet.

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Re: Help me understand setting up GAIN STAGING in Cubase 8

Post by peakae »

Why are we talking RMS levels ? Peak levels should be the only thing one should focus on when we are talking gain staging. If we are talking delivering for broadcast then EBU should be the focus.
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Re: Help me understand setting up GAIN STAGING in Cubase 8

Post by profdraper »

stingray wrote:
mikemandt wrote:
profdraper wrote:Unfortunately, the Cubase PRE function is actually set as a post-fader function. Stupid really.
FYI the PRE section is not post fader.

So which one of you is right? I'm not quite grasping this part.
The PRE section is pre-fader, not past fader, and comes first in the signal chain. It's in the user manual. The basic signal flow through a channel is in the following order:

PRE section (Phase, Trim, Filter)
Inserts 1-6 pre (position exchangeable with Strip)
Strip (position exchangeable with Inserts 1-6)
Sends pre
Channel Fader / Mute
Inserts 7-8 post
Sends post
Pan
Channel Output

Note that when you set the channel meters to "input" you are metering the signal BEFORE it passes through the channel... in other words you are metering the channel input (or what is recorded on the hard disk) BEFORE it arrives at the PRE section.
This is incorrect, and the manual is incorrect. Easy to verify: run a 1k sine wave test tone through the system [also good to calibrate & see what's happening with the summing, groups etc generally, set at -20 as per Katz for that use]

In VST devices, create a mono group set to no output;
Insert the Steinberg Test Generator plug on this group & select a 1k sine wave (max it out at 0.00db for this purpose);
Create a mono audio track with its input set to the tone group & its output set to the stereo output bus.
Set the mixer meter positon to Input; put the Audio track in input monitoring or record.
Now try to pull that Pre gain down on the audio track and it is clear this has no effect on the input level (only the master fader output).
Similarly, record that tone on the same audio track, playback, same results.
The PRE function does not effect input levels, is only a gain stage first in the output chain.

Poor implementation of that feature & its terminology.

Meanwhile, the capacity to see and use audio input faders works very well (unlike many other DAWs); if recording for headroom here, no problem. However in 'gain staging', this takes on at least three different functions and meanings in this context: i) new audio recordings as above, fine; ii) stems from elsewhere as too hot (use the region audio handle first up to drop the level & before strip silence or similar; iii) VIs too hot, drop the level at their master output.
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Re: Help me understand setting up GAIN STAGING in Cubase 8

Post by peakae »

No the PRE section is pre fader, now you are confusing the input gain with the pre gain. It is like the manual describes.
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Re: Help me understand setting up GAIN STAGING in Cubase 8

Post by roy_mattie »

501dubz wrote:Ive never understood gain staging to get a consistent workflow from track to track so I've had to find my own way out of the puzzle. I'm not even joking, I just use my ears. And I clip almost every group/buss too + certain individual channels without exception.

I guess anyone with a degree would say that's *flower*/amateur/crap but it's worked for me. Granted, I've not won a Grammy. Yet.
No offence intended towards you personally, but I would highly recommend re-training your ears to discern digital distortion. Red-lining a fader in a digital realm is distortion, plain and simple. It's not like an analog console where you could push a channel strip well into the red before it would distort, depending on the specs of that console.

I would suggest trying out a cut where the tracks are printed with peaks at -12, and mix it and makeup the gain at the final stage of your main stereo bus. If everything's too quiet while you're working, turn your speakers up louder.

I'd be curious to hear your feedback once you've done this.
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Help me understand setting up GAIN STAGING in Cubase 8

Post by roy_mattie »

peakae wrote:Why are we talking RMS levels ? Peak levels should be the only thing one should focus on when we are talking gain staging. If we are talking delivering for broadcast then EBU should be the focus.
You're absolutely right re: managing peak levels for proper gain staging. I usually eyeball RMS levels when tracking a lot of instruments and when building a music mix, as I like to keep an eye on the overall dynamic range dynamic range.

I edited my post to avoid confusion for other readers. Peaks are all that matter when recording tracks to DAW.
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