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Gain Staging: Setting Your Meters

The visual nature of computer-based DAW software has given rise to the axiom that you should mix with your ears, not your eyes, a temptation that’s easy to understand as we buy ever bigger monitor screens to view our mixes in glorious Technicolor – why else would plug-in manufacturers go to such lengths to make the front panels of their products so visually distinct and appealing?  However, when you’re actually recording into your DAW, there’s a way in we can turn our tendency to sometimes trust our eyes over our ears into an advantage.

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Introduction to Gain Staging

When you record in a DAW, most of them give you a give image of your waveform on the track.  The louder you record, the more visible the waveform, so there’s a sub-conscious visual cue that’s telling you that “more=better”.  If, like me, you started in the era of tape machines where you wanted your recorded signal well above the noise floor, this is perfectly logical.  Only, in this digital age, it isn’t logical at all, it’s comparing apples and oranges.  In this video, I look at the issue of levels and where I suggest you set your recording level at may surprise you…