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  • Setting levels for low-key music


    Since I've started mixing with MIR two years ago, I'm curious about one aspect concerning levels. I have all my VSL instruments set to the proper relative levels in MIR (as per the VSL recommendations) and the balance I start with is usually very good. When the orchestra goes tutti with brass and timpani at their maximum velocity settings (I use Velocity XF), my master output in Cubase reaches 0db, sometimes going over and in that case it's not difficult to handle.

    However, when I'm writing soft pieces with fewer instruments (say a piano, a cello, a harp and a flute, or sordino strings), the level on the master fader in Cubase is very low. I have to bring the Control Room level to +12db while I work, and when I prepare the final mix for delivery I usually end up adding lots of gain (sometimes +18db) in the input stage of the main bus (if I want to have a LA2A inserted in that channel to compress the signal slightly) or bring the threshold of the final maximizer way down (if I just want to limit one or two peaks).

    Obviously my intention is not to wildly compress the mix or deliver a file with peaks at 0db all the time. But for soft pieces, if I don't do this, the output is very low, almost unusable in editing (Avid clip gain only goes up to +12db by default).

    Is this normal? Is there something I'm missing here?

  • Hi Talino,

    that's just the usual behaviour when an arrangement stays in ppp to p throughout the whole piece, and/or when no loud instrument is used at all.

    If this annoys you, just raise the volume of all the individual instruments while keeping their relative levels intact.

    Kind regards,

    /Dietz - Vienna Symphonic Library
  • Thanks Dietz, I know I can do that. I was rather wondering whether it was common to add such massive amounts of gain on an output bus for quiet pieces (whether with input gain at the early stage or maximizer/limiter plugin at the end).

  • Just imagine the difference between a violin playing flautando and a huge tam-tam being hit fff and you know that all is good. ;-D

    Kind regards,

    /Dietz - Vienna Symphonic Library
  • I don't have to imagine it, I sometimes play ppp on an English Horn in my headphones and a forgotten MIDI note somewhere hits the timpani at velocity 127. Much fun.

    Thanks a lot Dietz.

  • You're welcome!

    /Dietz - Vienna Symphonic Library