Raising overall mix volume: possible master bus option?

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Thousand Ways
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Post 04 Jan 2021

Happy new year, all.

Wondered if anyone has any thoughts on this: I've been working on a 9-minute track that has 25 channels. While making this piece I've tried to set a reference level for -12dB for each channel when each channel's fader is at 0db. But many of the channels are much quieter than 0dB for much of the track, and I've ended up with a track whose overall volume varies between around -24 and -16dB – far below the -4dB that I'd be aiming for.

(Side note: I've tried to use Selig Gain at various points in the rack, but the peak readings it gives for individual instruments do not tally at all with those instruments' peak levels as shown on the big meter. For instance, Selig Gain shows a peak hold reading of around -24 to -16 for one of the drum tracks, whereas on the big meter this track never peaks above -18, and is usually much quieter than SG reckons. So I've stopped reading SG for now. Anyone else experienced this discrepancy?)

My problem now is that all of the channel volumes are now where I want them in relation to each other, but the overall volume is lacking. I'd considered directing all of the channels to a separate bus and then just whacking the volume up on that. Would that be the wrong way to resolve this? Is the only "right" way by going back through all 25 channels and increasing the volume of each? (The downside of the latter option is that many of the channels include automated increases and decreases of volume, and altering each channel's volume will mean redoing all of those automated changes too.)

Any thoughts appreciated.

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Billy
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Post 04 Jan 2021

You can select all the ssl master faders and raise them, but your automation would need fixing.

You can put a maximiser on the master.
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PhillipOrdonez
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Post 04 Jan 2021

Painting by numbers seldom works, man. For your next song: do not automate the mixer fader. Use a utility device for gain automations after any sound design elements.

For this one, it really depends on what you got. You could increase the level from the mixer, or from the instrument or from the latest device on each instrument chain, and it all depends on what exactly you've got...

Thousand Ways
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Post 04 Jan 2021

PhillipOrdonez wrote:
04 Jan 2021
Painting by numbers seldom works, man.
Agreed, but this is just the way that this particular track went – probably because there were a lot of elements that were added and taken away and added and taken away. I'm not accustomed to creating long tracks, and in this case automating faders and so on seemed a safer option than trying to keep it all in my head throughout the process :?, or writing mixing notes and then using them at the end.
PhillipOrdonez wrote:
04 Jan 2021
For your next song: do not automate the mixer fader. Use a utility device for gain automations after any sound design elements.
Are you saying that the mixer channel faders themselves should stay static for the whole duration of each track? I've read other posts where people say similar things, but am left wondering whether those people then don't use the mixer channel faders for anything at all, beyond setting a static level and leaving it there. Is it really bad to use the faders?

PhillipOrdonez
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Post 04 Jan 2021

Thousand Ways wrote:
04 Jan 2021
PhillipOrdonez wrote:
04 Jan 2021
Painting by numbers seldom works, man.
Agreed, but this is just the way that this particular track went – probably because there were a lot of elements that were added and taken away and added and taken away. I'm not accustomed to creating long tracks, and in this case automating faders and so on seemed a safer option than trying to keep it all in my head throughout the process :?, or writing mixing notes and then using them at the end.
PhillipOrdonez wrote:
04 Jan 2021
For your next song: do not automate the mixer fader. Use a utility device for gain automations after any sound design elements.
Are you saying that the mixer channel faders themselves should stay static for the whole duration of each track? I've read other posts where people say similar things, but am left wondering whether those people then don't use the mixer channel faders for anything at all, beyond setting a static level and leaving it there. Is it really bad to use the faders?
The faders come into play when it comes to mixing once the composition and arrangement are done. Then you balance everything with the faders and the other tools of the trade. You can then do further volume automations using the faders if you're so inclined, but even then any automations should be done with utilities and the faders static. Why? Cause if down the line you need to adjust the levels for whatever reason, you don't find yourself in the situation you're in right now. 😂

Thousand Ways
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Post 04 Jan 2021

PhillipOrdonez wrote:
04 Jan 2021
You can then do further volume automations using the faders if you're so inclined, but even then any automations should be done with utilities and the faders static.
1) What "utilities"?
2) If the mixer faders are to remain static, then why have them at all?
3) If the balance between different channels is already correct, and only the overall volume is lacking, then exactly what is wrong with just sending all of those channels to one bus and raising that? If I go back and individually raise the channels and rebalance them against one another, all I'll be doing is imitating the result I've already achieved anyway, and merely making it louder. Surely the bulk of the work is achieving the correct balance between the channels. The overall volume can be adjusted later.

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Post 04 Jan 2021

Thousand Ways wrote:
04 Jan 2021
PhillipOrdonez wrote:
04 Jan 2021
You can then do further volume automations using the faders if you're so inclined, but even then any automations should be done with utilities and the faders static.
1) What "utilities"?
2) If the mixer faders are to remain static, then why have them at all?
3) If the balance between different channels is already correct, and only the overall volume is lacking, then exactly what is wrong with just sending all of those channels to one bus and raising that? If I go back and individually raise the channels and rebalance them against one another, all I'll be doing is imitating the result I've already achieved anyway, and merely making it louder. Surely the bulk of the work is achieving the correct balance between the channels. The overall volume can be adjusted later.
1 gain utilities, there are several free ones on the shop. They are just a knob to deal with gain automation.
2 static meaning not automated, not that they remain at zero, just because it is easier that way especially when you're learning to mix. I'm one of those who mixes at the end of the production as a separate step, even though I mix as I write, I do have a stage where I mix the track at the end and I want my faders to be there to get things done, not being taken over by automation and don't want to make more buses. I've already done the buses I want to have and don't want to be arsed with that, my automation done already and my faders are available. Know what I mean? Ease of life.
3 sure thing you can just bus them and up the gain there, no worries.

visheshl
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Post 05 Jan 2021

PhillipOrdonez wrote:
04 Jan 2021
Thousand Ways wrote:
04 Jan 2021

1) What "utilities"?
2) If the mixer faders are to remain static, then why have them at all?
3) If the balance between different channels is already correct, and only the overall volume is lacking, then exactly what is wrong with just sending all of those channels to one bus and raising that? If I go back and individually raise the channels and rebalance them against one another, all I'll be doing is imitating the result I've already achieved anyway, and merely making it louder. Surely the bulk of the work is achieving the correct balance between the channels. The overall volume can be adjusted later.
1 gain utilities, there are several free ones on the shop. They are just a knob to deal with gain automation.
2 static meaning not automated, not that they remain at zero, just because it is easier that way especially when you're learning to mix. I'm one of those who mixes at the end of the production as a separate step, even though I mix as I write, I do have a stage where I mix the track at the end and I want my faders to be there to get things done, not being taken over by automation and don't want to make more buses. I've already done the buses I want to have and don't want to be arsed with that, my automation done already and my faders are available. Know what I mean? Ease of life.
3 sure thing you can just bus them and up the gain there, no worries.
yeah this is what i do, i use utility plugin in live for gain automations and keep the faders for the mixing step which is balancing the overall levels. that way all my gain automations are preserved even if i pull the fader up or down later on

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spiralized
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Post 05 Jan 2021

It seems you have some gain structure issues here...You're talking about a reference level of -12db on single channels, but it's not clear if it's RMS or peak; -12db RMS on a single channel are quite high in digital domain, while -12db peak is a quite low level in my opinion, for example in drum tracks where -6db peak are normal.
Using a reference level of -14/-18db RMS on single channels (with a K-14 scale on the VU meter), I usually get -9/-6db peak on the master bus, and that's before applying any eq, compressors, effects, etc.
Consider the use of a good VU meter while doing the gain structure, before approaching the whole mix!
Forgive my "poor" english language, I'm italian :puf_bigsmile:
Anyway, feel free to ask if you have some questions

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selig
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Post 05 Jan 2021

Thousand Ways wrote:
04 Jan 2021
(Side note: I've tried to use Selig Gain at various points in the rack, but the peak readings it gives for individual instruments do not tally at all with those instruments' peak levels as shown on the big meter. For instance, Selig Gain shows a peak hold reading of around -24 to -16 for one of the drum tracks, whereas on the big meter this track never peaks above -18, and is usually much quieter than SG reckons. So I've stopped reading SG for now. Anyone else experienced this discrepancy?)
Selig Gain's peak hold meter precisely aligns with the Big Meter in every case I've ever tested. Just did a test minutes ago to make sure… ;)

Of course, there are many potential gain stages between a channel input and mixer output, especially if buses (sub groups) are used. As always, know your signal flow - where you measure peak levels CAN affect the reading you get. For example, Reason's (odd IMO) pan law of +3 dB when fully panned can change the reading on the Big Meter by +3 dB, but in this case the Big Meter would be reading higher than SG, not lower as in your example (so I'm still not sure what caused the discrepancy you saw). Also keep in mind that any change to the channel fader will ALSO affect the Big Meter, as would any FX added via sends and obviously any master insert/master compressor/master fader changes.

Also, you say you see a reading of -24 to -16 on one track, which is a huge range. Try instead to use the HOLD mode to find the highest peak, which is the important thing to know in a digital audio system.

Otherwise, there is no reason why -12 dBFS peak on one meter should not align with every other meter - there's no "wiggle room" with regards to audio level, it is what it is! :)
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selig
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Post 05 Jan 2021

spiralized wrote:
05 Jan 2021
It seems you have some gain structure issues here...You're talking about a reference level of -12db on single channels, but it's not clear if it's RMS or peak; -12db RMS on a single channel are quite high in digital domain, while -12db peak is a quite low level in my opinion, for example in drum tracks where -6db peak are normal.
Using a reference level of -14/-18db RMS on single channels (with a K-14 scale on the VU meter), I usually get -9/-6db peak on the master bus, and that's before applying any eq, compressors, effects, etc.
Consider the use of a good VU meter while doing the gain structure, before approaching the whole mix!
Forgive my "poor" english language, I'm italian :puf_bigsmile:
Anyway, feel free to ask if you have some questions
I wouldn't mix peak and RMS levels in this context - if your goal is peaking at a certain level, then you can only get a consistent result in my experience using peak reference levels for individual tracks. In fact, VU/RMS meters are good for judging loudness, but not for setting levels in a digital audio system. This is because you are ignoring the peak levels which in a digital system are critical since there is only "clean" and "clipped" (unlike analog where you often get a nice progression from clean through saturated and on to distorted and finally clipped).
I've used the "Reason Standard" peaks of -12 dBFS (or lower) for many years now with excellent results. Some folks insist on using even lower peak levels if you are routinely mixing more than 32-48 tracks per song (not at all that uncommon in my experience). My projects tend to have 16-32 tracks on average and that's where my -12dBFS peak reference level comes from. Conversely, if you only record solo piano or guitar/vocal songs, you can use a higher peak level reference since you won't be summing as many channels at the mix bus.
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Thousand Ways
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Post 05 Jan 2021

PhillipOrdonez wrote:
04 Jan 2021
1 gain utilities, there are several free ones on the shop. They are just a knob to deal with gain automation.
Thanks – I didn't know there were any of those in the shop; will have a look.

Your mixing rationale sounds sensible, and is probably a lot cleaner than mine.
spiralized wrote:
05 Jan 2021
You're talking about a reference level of -12db on single channels, but it's not clear if it's RMS or peak; -12db RMS on a single channel are quite high in digital domain, while -12db peak is a quite low level in my opinion, for example in drum tracks where -6db peak are normal.
I meant peak levels. Regarding how many -dB each channel should be, a reference level of -12dB was mentioned by lowpryo, selig and others on this very useful thread. See especially the third page (the posts from early October 2015).

Personally, I've taken -12dB as the uppermost peak level for every channel, so the example you give (up to -6dB for drum tracks) isn't something I've used myself. Has anyone else found -6dB a useful peak level for drums?
selig wrote:
05 Jan 2021
Selig Gain's peak hold meter precisely aligns with the Big Meter in every case I've ever tested. Just did a test minutes ago to make sure… ;)
Thanks for pitching in. I owe you an apology for dragging you into another explanation of something you've already patiently explained on earlier threads.

It might be that I'm not reading the Big Meter correctly, or that something's awry with it in my Reason. (When the Big Meter is in VU+Peak display mode, those two levels should presumably be different to one another – as you've explained before, the Peak level is likely to be significantly louder, and the discrepancy between VU and Peak readings is the "crest factor". Well, on the Big Meter here the VU+Peak levels remain exactly the same as each other throughout the track. Something seems amiss.)
selig wrote:
05 Jan 2021
you say you see a reading of -24 to -16 on one track, which is a huge range. Try instead to use the HOLD mode to find the highest peak, which is the important thing to know in a digital audio system.
Looking at this again, it's the "peak hold" reading on the Selig Gain which is so different to the levels on the Big Meter. Where the peak hold on the SG might say, for example, -09dB under peak hold, the little output meter looks as though it isn't going above -24dB at any time. But perhaps it's just that the peaks charted on the output meter rise and fall too fast to see (this is on a drum track)?

By HOLD mode do you mean the "infinite" peak hold option on the Big Meter?

Also, is 24 to -16dB that big a range on a drum track? This being mainly short drum sounds with spaces in between, as opposed to, say, a continuous sustained synth pad, isn't it okay for the level to rise and drop to this extent?

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QVprod
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Post 05 Jan 2021

Simplest solution: add gain to the master until it sits where you want. Since you’re dealing with digital gain, there won’t be any negative affect from doing so.

This avoids you going back through the individual channels and changing any gain structures that may alter your current balance. That’s not to negate any of the other discussion here, as it’ll be useful on any other projects you do, but this would be the quickest fix to your current problem I believe.

Also: automating faders is fine. They have that capability for a reason.

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spiralized
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Post 06 Jan 2021

selig wrote:
05 Jan 2021
I wouldn't mix peak and RMS levels in this context - if your goal is peaking at a certain level, then you can only get a consistent result in my experience using peak reference levels for individual tracks.
You're totally right here, in fact my goal is not peaking at a certain level, but obtaining the maximum loudness i can from the mix, before the mastering stage (while peaking at -6/-9db to leave headroom, obviously). I don't like to crush my master with too much limiting.
In my experience, approaching the mix this way (with a gain structure based on a VU level) leads to better results, but maybe it's just me. And I know all this comes from the analog world and may sound dated and not necessary today, but it works for me.
All in all, I think there's not a good way and a wrong way, it's a matter of taste.
The only goal is having a great sounding final mix

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drk73
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Post 06 Jan 2021

You can use one of the three methods below to increase the volume of your song:

1. Increase your volume through the "Master Level" on Reason's mixer.

2. Use build-in effect "MClass Maximizer" as insert effect in "Master Section".

3. Use one of the two free gain RE's avaliable in the "Reason Studios" shop and put it in the "Master Section" as insert effect.
I use "kHs Gain".

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selig
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Post 06 Jan 2021

Thousand Ways wrote:
05 Jan 2021

Thanks for pitching in. I owe you an apology for dragging you into another explanation of something you've already patiently explained on earlier threads.

It might be that I'm not reading the Big Meter correctly, or that something's awry with it in my Reason. (When the Big Meter is in VU+Peak display mode, those two levels should presumably be different to one another – as you've explained before, the Peak level is likely to be significantly louder, and the discrepancy between VU and Peak readings is the "crest factor". Well, on the Big Meter here the VU+Peak levels remain exactly the same as each other throughout the track. Something seems amiss.)
selig wrote:
05 Jan 2021
you say you see a reading of -24 to -16 on one track, which is a huge range. Try instead to use the HOLD mode to find the highest peak, which is the important thing to know in a digital audio system.
Looking at this again, it's the "peak hold" reading on the Selig Gain which is so different to the levels on the Big Meter. Where the peak hold on the SG might say, for example, -09dB under peak hold, the little output meter looks as though it isn't going above -24dB at any time. But perhaps it's just that the peaks charted on the output meter rise and fall too fast to see (this is on a drum track)?

By HOLD mode do you mean the "infinite" peak hold option on the Big Meter?

Also, is 24 to -16dB that big a range on a drum track? This being mainly short drum sounds with spaces in between, as opposed to, say, a continuous sustained synth pad, isn't it okay for the level to rise and drop to this extent?
Yes, the peak levels for each drum/hit can be different and cover that range - but for the sake of this discussion you're only interested in the highest peak because that tells you how much headroom you have with regards to raising the entire mix.

By Hold I was thinking on Selig Gain, but equally on the Big Meter. I like a numeric display for such things, which I felt was missing in Reason, but I still connect a Selig Gain (and Ozone Elements) on the output of the Master Section, before the hardware interface. That way I get a 100% accurate reading of the peak level, to ±0.5 dB. I eventually had planned to add a decimal point to that display, something I'm currently looking into. This would allow a ±0.05 dB precision!

As to your first question about the Big Meter's levels staying the same, I'm not sure I'm following you. Do you have a song file or video example you can share?
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selig
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Post 06 Jan 2021

spiralized wrote:
06 Jan 2021
selig wrote:
05 Jan 2021
I wouldn't mix peak and RMS levels in this context - if your goal is peaking at a certain level, then you can only get a consistent result in my experience using peak reference levels for individual tracks.
You're totally right here, in fact my goal is not peaking at a certain level, but obtaining the maximum loudness i can from the mix, before the mastering stage (while peaking at -6/-9db to leave headroom, obviously). I don't like to crush my master with too much limiting.
In my experience, approaching the mix this way (with a gain structure based on a VU level) leads to better results, but maybe it's just me. And I know all this comes from the analog world and may sound dated and not necessary today, but it works for me.
All in all, I think there's not a good way and a wrong way, it's a matter of taste.
The only goal is having a great sounding final mix
Totally agree, we're hear to share what works for us and maybe to find new ways of working in the process - or at least to confirm our current approach! But even then, different strokes for different folks, no? :)
I too come from the analog world, working in Nashville for most of my early years. Nashville was 100% analog when I arrived in 1980, but quickly went digital by the mid 1980s. I was lucky to work at the first studio to install both an SSL AND a 32 track digital recorder (the second SSL and the second 32 track in town). So I was lucky to learn to align analog machines, record on both, and bounce between analog and digital. This last bit taught me the difference between VU meters (on the Studer analog machines) and Peak meters (on the 3M digital machines). Working 15 years with peak levels on digital machines helped ease me into going fully ITB by the end of the 1990s.

I can only imagine the confusion over some of these different metering options (and levels) for someone new to this world. And with floating point systems it may feel like there's less of a need to care about levels and such, but "level" (gain, volume) is still the foundation of audio processing; analog, digital, and whatever comes next!
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Thousand Ways
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Post 06 Jan 2021

selig wrote:
06 Jan 2021
Yes, the peak levels for each drum/hit can be different and cover that range - but for the sake of this discussion you're only interested in the highest peak because that tells you how much headroom you have with regards to raising the entire mix.
Am probably misreading things. Here's a sequence of screengrabs from various points within one track – hopefully the image is large enough to read. The drum track, which is mono, is soloed. The Big Meter is set to Peak/Peak. Mono is switched on in Selig Gain.
Image

From left to right, these moments read as follows:
1) Big Meter: current level @-28dB, peak left over from @-18 / Selig Gain current level @-28dB
2) Big Meter: current level @-18dB / Selig Gain current level @-24dB
3) Big Meter: current level @-30dB / Selig Gain current level @-24dB
4) Big Meter: current level @-28dB, peak left over from -26dB / Selig Gain current level @-24dB
5) Big Meter: current level @-27dB, peak left over from -25dB / Selig Gain current level @-20dB

Maybe there's something obvious that I'm missing. Maybe the Big Meter reading simply rises and falls faster than the little vertical output meter on the SG.

Re. an earlier comment:
selig wrote:
05 Jan 2021
a reading of -24 to -16 on one track, which is a huge range.
Is this range too wide, ie. should any given single channel fluctuate much less than this? I'm constantly worried about applying too much compression to individual channels in case it makes them sound flat and monotonous to other people. Presumably if one was mixing, say, a long classical piece, then this much variance on a single instrument wouldn't be too much. But is it too much for the usual standard in pop / rock / electronic music?
Thousand Ways wrote:
05 Jan 2021
the discrepancy between VU and Peak readings is the "crest factor". Well, on the Big Meter here the VU+Peak levels remain exactly the same as each other throughout the track. Something seems amiss.)
Did anyone have any thought on this? When the Big Meter is set to show both VU and Peak in its two strips, shouldn't those two readings always be different to one another? Is there a setting or button that can cause them to display the same reading by mistake?

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Carly(Poohbear)
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Post 06 Jan 2021

Sound like you are reading the Big Meter incorrectly.

vu+peak mode, the top/bottom are showing the left/right of the signal, the solid part (left) is VU (scale at the top) and peaks (scale at the bottom) are shown to the right of it.
I have my Big Meter VU offset so 0 VU = -18db peak, as you can see in this picture the values are all correct. Peak drop off times between meters vary, so don't try and match them up e.g. one reads -12db peak and another meter at -4db peak, it really means your signal peaked at -12db peak last (and does not mean it's still that) and the other meter has not dropped (reset/get it's next calculation).

Capture.JPG

I use a lot automation on my faders however I will always create a bus for that automation, so I can change the original base level and 9 times out of 10 I don't have to change the automation. e.g.
Capture.JPG
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Thousand Ways
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Post 06 Jan 2021

I understand most of what you're saying, I think, but if the Big Meter is set to VU+Peak then shouldn't it be giving VU and Peak as two separate, independent readings? Eg. the top line should display VU and the one below is should display Peak? If this doesn't happen, then what's the point of the VU+Peak mode on the Big Meter? Why aren't there just two display modes – VU or Peak, and not VU, Peak and VU+Peak?

I seem to recall another thread where Selig mentioned that Peak values are supposed to peak much more easily than VU ones, and that due to this VU has sometimes been called "Virtually Useless" …

After getting more and more confused about what the Selig Gain is actually telling me – I mean that the numbers that pop up in the "Peak Hold" display are significantly higher than any of those reached by the peaks on the Big Meter at any point in the track – I've just had to disable it. It's beyond me.
Carly(Poohbear) wrote:
06 Jan 2021
I use a lot automation on my faders however I will always create a bus for that automation, so I can change the original base level and 9 times out of 10 I don't have to change the automation.
Seems a good system.

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Post 06 Jan 2021

Thousand Ways wrote:
06 Jan 2021
I understand most of what you're saying, I think, but if the Big Meter is set to VU+Peak then shouldn't it be giving VU and Peak as two separate, independent readings? Eg. the top line should display VU and the one below is should display Peak? If this doesn't happen, then what's the point of the VU+Peak mode on the Big Meter? Why aren't there just two display modes – VU or Peak, and not VU, Peak and VU+Peak?
Left = VU
Right(middle red circle) = Peak
Top = Left Channel
Bottom = Right Channel

The Big Meter is showing 4 bits of information.
Capture.JPG
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Thousand Ways
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Post 06 Jan 2021

Ah. Now I get it. Duh. Many thanks.

PhillipOrdonez
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Post 06 Jan 2021

😂

Thousand Ways
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Post 06 Jan 2021

:lightbulb:

Thousand Ways
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Post 07 Jan 2021

Did anyone have any thought on the discrepancy in meter readings here?
Thousand Ways wrote:
06 Jan 2021
A sequence of screengrabs from various points within one track. The drum track, which is mono, is soloed. The Big Meter is set to Peak/Peak. Mono is switched on in Selig Gain.
Image

From left to right, these moments read as follows:
1) Big Meter: VU @-28dB, peak @-18 / Selig Gain current peak @-28dB (so here the two meters match)
2) Big Meter: VU and peak @-18dB / Selig Gain current peak @-24dB
3) Big Meter: VU and peak @-30dB / Selig Gain current peak @-24dB
4) Big Meter: VU @-28dB, peak -26dB / Selig Gain current peak @-24dB
5) Big Meter: VU @-27dB, peak -25dB / Selig Gain current peak @-20dB
Are these discrepancies caused by the SG being more sensitive than the Big Meter, or showing rises and falls faster than the Big Meter?

On the screenshots, the highest peak recorded by the SG is -06dB. But the Big Meter doesn't display a peak as high as that at any point during the song – unless such a peak is appearing and disappearing so fast that it can't be seen. But even then the Big Meter would leave a peak reading hanging over for a few seconds.

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