1. #1
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    Default Gain staging, parallel processing and fader positions

    So,

    I have noticed that when i am mixing on my console its is relatively easy to get a mix around 0 vu (or a bit more) with fader positions ending up more or less around their optimal range (+- 5db). Every DA out send a level of around -18dbfs.

    But, when i start adding parallel processing either on specific channels or the stereo buss ( by using both of the consoles stereo busses ) i have to lower the faders a lot to get same output level. This forces the fader positions to a range that is not meant for fine tuning and its a bit troublesome.


    Some additional points:

    The console has no vcas so i cant trim everything down from a master fader.

    I use subgroups so i can have most of the faders in an optimal position, but the subgroup faders themselves have to be really low, presenting the same problem of finetuning.

    Lowering the master fader will obviously work but the console's sweetspot is when you are not hitting the master buss hard.


    How do you approach this?

    Alex
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    Default Re: Gain staging, parallel processing and fader positions

    I'm not sure I totally understand your problem here, but I'll give it a shot until someone else chimes in...

    So,

    I have noticed that when i am mixing on my console its is relatively easy to get a mix around 0 vu (or a bit more) with fader positions ending up more or less around their optimal range (+- 5db). Every DA out send a level of around -18dbfs.

    But, when i start adding parallel processing either on specific channels or the stereo buss ( by using both of the consoles stereo busses ) i have to lower the faders a lot to get same output level. This forces the fader positions to a range that is not meant for fine tuning and its a bit troublesome.
    By "parallel processing" I'm assuming you mean you keep the original sound playing at full mix level, and use something like a send to "create another track" which you process differently and bring in. Without turning the original track down, or keeping the parallel track muted, that's going to be louder, that's just the nature of it.

    If I understand what you're saying, it's that when the parallel track is blended with the original - presumably to create one sound - the resulting combined sound forces the faders to be out of their "optimal range for fine-tuning" when the combined sound is at an appropriate mix level. Which leads me to question where you got this optimal range from, and if it's really necessary. There's no reason you shouldn't be able to get a good balance for your tracks on your console - that's what they are for, and why they're commonly called mixers.

    I use subgroups so i can have most of the faders in an optimal position, but the subgroup faders themselves have to be really low, presenting the same problem of finetuning.
    I'd suggest that if you know you'll be doing lots of parallel processing, trim back your outputs from the DAW/DAC a bit so that you have room to bring in the parallel track. Then use either the subgroups or the individual faders for fine-tuning, and use the other to drive the mixbus at an appropriate level.

    In short it sounds like you might be starting with levels that are too hot. Also it might just not be realistic to expect every fader on the board to be exactly in their optimum range.
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    Default Re: Gain staging, parallel processing and fader positions

    I'd suggest that if you know you'll be doing lots of parallel processing, trim back your outputs from the DAW/DAC a bit so that you have room to bring in the parallel track. Then use either the subgroups or the individual faders for fine-tuning, and use the other to drive the mixbus at an appropriate level.

    In short it sounds like you might be starting with levels that are too hot. Also it might just not be realistic to expect every fader on the board to be exactly in their optimum range.
    That's pretty much what my thoughts were when I read his post. If you're parallel processing and summing the dry and wet channels together at equal level settings that'll automatically be the same as a +3dB gain increase, plus any additional level that might be added by compression, EQ boost, etc. If you're doing a lot of channels that way it's really easy to end up with a mix level that's way too hot. If you're just processing the 2 buss the problem is much less, but if you're doing both a number of channels plus the 2-buss, the problems will be additive (or is it multiplicative?)

    Might want to trim back the inputs or be a bit more conservative with the channel levels.

    Might also want to watch the levels returning into the console from the processing a bit more closely.

    Why does it feel like I might be missing something somewhere?

    I'm also thinking that you might be a little too hung up on the visual "nominal fader positions" printed on the console... running all the channels 3dB down from the visually indicated range shouldn't really be any problem.

    This is a physical, non-digital console, I assume?
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    Default Re: Gain staging, parallel processing and fader positions

    I'll make it easier.
    It's rare to need 'parallel' processing

    Just stop.
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    Default Re: Gain staging, parallel processing and fader positions

    Thank you for the replies.

    Some quick points to clarify some things.

    This is indeed a physical console, and i am talking about analog hardware.

    My levels coming into each channel are are pretty conservative. As stated in the original post, around -18dbfs which is the studios 0vu. Some are lower even. Its relatively easy to trim back the outs more, either from the DAW, or from the calibration settings of the converters, but i usually didn't like the result.

    I am not hang up on looking at the faders be around zero, i don't really care where it lands at. I only have one specific problem. I sometimes end up with the fader around -20 or even less. when the mix is near its end, my level changes are usually around 0.5 of the db. so its kinda difficult to do. That's what i am asking.

    The level coming in from external processing is never "hot" by any means. That excludes some gear that don't have an output trim and sound their best when pushed hard. I trim the faders back a lot on the returns of that gear. But as john stated, it adds up, no matter how much you gain stage.

    I was wondering if somebody else had run into the same problem while working this way, not on suggestions of why i'm doing it wrong.

    So, I don't have a sound issue. The ergonomics start getting a bit difficult if i want to do tiny fader adjustments near the end of the mix.
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    Default Re: Gain staging, parallel processing and fader positions

    I am not hang up on looking at the faders be around zero, i don't really care where it lands at. I only have one specific problem. I sometimes end up with the fader around -20 or even less.
    It's really quite simple. If your original signal is coming in at around 0VU, having to pull down the fader by 20 dB means you are affecting a massive gain increase somewhere in the processing chain. Make sure your makeup gain (in, say, a compressor used in parallel) does not change the apparent level of the signal.

    Depending on the speed of your meters (and I haven't seen many console meters that are that fast) you may also be getting overshoots depending on your attack settings and the circuit type of the compressor.

    Weedy also has a point, albeit tangential to the problem at hand - the necessity and advantages of actually using parallel processing is a matter of much debate, and I can certainly see a trend towards over-using the technique in recent years.


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    Default Re: Gain staging, parallel processing and fader positions

    I'll make it easier.
    It's rare to need 'parallel' processing

    Just stop.
    I've been trying to minimize my use of parallel processing lately. Not sure about my overall sounds, I don't think it matters much, but if anything it makes my sessions more manageable. No more, "I'm pulling down this fader, why it doesn't get much quieter"... because there are three more parallel tracks
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    Default Re: Gain staging, parallel processing and fader positions


    My levels coming into each channel are are pretty conservative. As stated in the original post, around -18dbfs which is the studios 0vu. Some are lower even. Its relatively easy to trim back the outs more, either from the DAW, or from the calibration settings of the converters, but i usually didn't like the result.
    Erm, but what LEVEL are you coming in at?

    Maybe someone else has covered this already, but saying "around -18dBfs which is the studio's 0VU" doesn't MEAN anything, because -18dBfs isn't a voltage level, it's just a reference to digital; full scale in your computer. That has to be referenced to a real world voltage level in dBu for it to mean anything relative to the gain structure of the console. This has to do with the output level calibration of your converters feeding the console

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decibel#Voltage.
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    Default Re: Gain staging, parallel processing and fader positions

    It seems to me that in order to take advantage of the headroom of some really good consoles, converter output levels would have to be calibrated much lower than is generally talked about.

    Or people would (should) record much softer.


    otek
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    Default Re: Gain staging, parallel processing and fader positions

    I've been trying to minimize my use of parallel processing lately. Not sure about my overall sounds, I don't think it matters much, but if anything it makes my sessions more manageable. No more, "I'm pulling down this fader, why it doesn't get much quieter"... because there are three more parallel tracks
    In a DAW that could be addressed by grouping the tracks together so that one fader controls them all.

    The question is, what, if anything, is being gained by parallel processing?

    I've been experimenting lately with using parallel compression on drum tracks, having no compression on one bus and smashing it with Nomad Bus Driver in the other, sending the outputs of both to the master bus.

    Results so far are inconclusive.
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    Default Re: Gain staging, parallel processing and fader positions

    In a DAW that could be addressed by grouping the tracks together so that one fader controls them all.
    Yes, but soon it becomes group over group over group, at least for me.
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    Default Re: Gain staging, parallel processing and fader positions

    What, your DAW's don't have VCA faders?

    (or faux digital versions, I should probably say)
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    Default Re: Gain staging, parallel processing and fader positions

    Erm, but what LEVEL are you coming in at?

    Maybe someone else has covered this already, but saying "around -18dBfs which is the studio's 0VU" doesn't MEAN anything, because -18dBfs isn't a voltage level, it's just a reference to digital; full scale in your computer. That has to be referenced to a real world voltage level in dBu for it to mean anything relative to the gain structure of the console. This has to do with the output level calibration of your converters feeding the console

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decibel#Voltage.

    I thought i didn't need to clarify more, our console is calibrated for 1.228v=+4dbu=0vu which in turn you choose what to turn it to in digital. in our case that is -18dbfs for ins and outs. we have then recalibrated the metering to something more comfortable to the eye ( they are decca style meters)
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    Default Re: Gain staging, parallel processing and fader positions

    I've been trying to minimize my use of parallel processing lately. Not sure about my overall sounds, I don't think it matters much, but if anything it makes my sessions more manageable. No more, "I'm pulling down this fader, why it doesn't get much quieter"... because there are three more parallel tracks
    That is easily solved and managed by sending post fader outputs and have the returns be solo safe. When you solo in place something, you instantly hear the whole chain. when you drag the fader down you drag everything down. just watch for compression levels being altered and where you send your fx from. With a little pre planning its easily manageable.
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    Default Re: Gain staging, parallel processing and fader positions

    It's really quite simple. If your original signal is coming in at around 0VU, having to pull down the fader by 20 dB means you are affecting a massive gain increase somewhere in the processing chain. Make sure your makeup gain (in, say, a compressor used in parallel) does not change the apparent level of the signal.

    otek
    Yes, i know exactly why i need to attenuate the fader to -15 or -20. Its not like i don't have everything in front of me.
    My question was not a "what am i doing wrong? i don't want to have the fader all the way to -20"
    but rather if any of you had done this out of choice, ended up with something they liked but found a way to be able to fine tune everything after the fact. For example if the console had vcas i could easily solve the fader position problem regarding rides and fine tune. The vca would stay static at -20 and i could ride the faders, or the opposite.
    Last edited by Phase shift; March 16th, 2016 at 11:21 AM. Reason: typo
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    Default Re: Gain staging, parallel processing and fader positions

    My general thought on parallel compression. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. When it does, it helps me to achieve the sound i have in my head easier. I tend not to be dogmatic with stuff like that. The only "problem" i find with it is the greater number of things you have to keep your eye on, which i really don't mind. Oh and that pesky thing with fader position when you compound lots of parallel processes.
    Thinking back, i think i use parallel processing about 70% of the time. Usually on drum subgroup, since a rarely like compression on individual drum elements, and sometimes on vocals. Especially if I have a large number of vocals but a limited number of specific processors i want to use. Using the group outs to drive parallel processing, i can send all of them to the processor that i want to with varying amounts and tuck the effect under.
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    Default Re: Gain staging, parallel processing and fader positions

    Yes, i know exactly why i need to attenuate the fader to -15 or -20. Its not like i don't have everything in front of me.
    My question was not a "what am i doing wrong? i don't want to have the fader all the way to -20"
    but rather if any of you had done this out of choice, ended up with something they liked but found a way to be able to fine tune everything after the fact.
    Which is why I think you probably have a massive calibration problem with your converters. They're spitting out a signal that's way too hot.

    For example if the console had vcas i could easily solve the fader position problem regarding rides and fine tune. The vca would stay static at -20 and i could ride the faders, or the opposite.
    Since most VCAs generally sound like crap that's putting a leaky band-aid on a potentially fatal stab wound.

    The solution is to figure out the problem with your gain structure and fix it.
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    Default Re: Gain staging, parallel processing and fader positions

    I assure you there is no problem with the converters. The massive gain increase on this particular mix i am doing is a by product of compounded parallel processing. If you like i could take a picture of the converter meters, along with our metering software, along with a voltage meter strapped across the outputs.

    Regarding the vca degradation, i couldn't agree more, though i am told that newer vcas don't suffer from the problem as much. That is another topic altogether. But if true, it could give me one more way to control everything.
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    Default Re: Gain staging, parallel processing and fader positions

    The massive gain increase on this particular mix i am doing is a by product of compounded parallel processing.
    Which I think is the problem otek alluded to. You shouldn't have a massive gain increase by using parallel processing, at least not something like 20dB which is HUGE. I mean, if your parallel chain really does give you a 20dB gain increase, then it is a safe bet to assume that most of the resulting signal IS the parallel chain and that the original one is almost irrelevant and useless in the mix...

    And by the way, I have some difficulty understanding your logic when you say you don't want to be told what you're doing wrong when you come ask a solution to a problem. No offence but it has to be something wrong when you have a problem to fix isn't it ?
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    Default Re: Gain staging, parallel processing and fader positions

    hello globule_655,

    The problem that you refer to is not really a problem. I was merely asking if other people had come across this situation. Granted, i do not expect anyone to know the particularities of the mix or the setup, that is why when someone has asked me something i am quick to explain and give info. Sorry if i came off as being dismissive, i meant that the issues that people have pointed out so far are known to me and are not really part of my "problem". I consider these a given for the present mix and i was asking for similar experiences. Also, there is nothing technically wrong with the setup. I kinda landed to this situation while mixing. I like the result, I don't mind that i have bent the laws of gainstaging since the result is what i am looking for.

    I would say that right now it is a 50% of dry signal vs 50% for the parallel processing. By the way, that is regarding vocals, not the rest of the mix. One of my favorite parallel processors for this task, the early ridge farm boiler is mainly responsible for the gain increase.

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