HOW TO PERFECTLY ADJUST THE VOLUMES AND GAINS?

Reading the title, we could say that the question is not very complicated and does not really deserve a chapter on this theme, and think again!
Adjusting volumes and gains is not that easy for someone uninitiated to studio mixing techniques, in other words, a deejay No doubt you have already noticed that after recording a deejay mixing session, the volume of your music tended to rise and saturate at times, or even lack the height of volume at certain times of your session.


Because there are several things to understand, in particular, the mastering stage when finalizing a production of music which has one of its functions to compress the sound to get as much volume out of it. sound without degrading the hearing quality I am not talking about compression of computer files such as Wav to MP3, but of audio peak compression device

Apart from, the way to chain several pieces together, it is the regularity of the sound volume which is often lacking among amateurs.
This is why there is every interest in carefully studying this question which may seem trivial to finally come out with professional-quality mixes.

THE NOISE FLOOR, THE BACKGROUND NOISE

Let’s start with the first problem which will direct us to a way of regulating its volumes and its gains. Noise Floor, called “Noise Floor” in English, is unwanted noise that affects the output of audio material regardless of the input signal. When you turn on the amplifier for your speakers and set it fully, you will hear a hum that matches the background noise of your amplifier and also the noise perceived by the cables connecting your speakers. When you turn on your mixer with all volumes fully and connected to your amplifier, you listen to the background noise of your amplifier associated with that of your mixer. The more devices there are connected between an audio source and your speakers, the more the background noise increases.

This is why the first objective of good volume control is to cover this background noise by overwriting it with a much stronger audio signal.
In other words, the goal is to try to get an audio signal at the strongest level possible to attenuate the perception of background noise.

The problem is that the audio signal must not exceed a certain volume which will risk damaging the equipment and obviously considerably distorting the quality of the original audio signal. This maximum level depends on each material, and there is not a single material with the same characteristics, which is why, to facilitate the adjustment of each device without knowing its technical characteristics, the Vu-meter was invented.

THE VU METER

The vu-meter is a modulometer and its function is to show by a needle or LEDs, the level of an audio signal.
In professional use, the Vu-meter means “Volume Units Meter” (in French, volume unit meter).
It was designed not to measure an audio signal, but to indicate that it is approaching a normal value. This normal value is indicated as 0 dB or 100%, which is why it can also be called SVI which stands for “Standard Volume Indicator” (ie in French, standardized volume indicator).

The level meter is a very effective display for audio applications, as it gives a level quite close to the perception of volume perceived by the human ear. Usually, it is graduated from -20db to + 3db and it has a rise/fall time of around 300ms, so it does not show peaks and very fast events, but rather an average.

In summary, a good volume setting should correspond to a maximum volume aligned with the 0db value of the meter. The + 3db of this must be used as a margin of error, that is to say, that a volume should only exceed 0 dB in exceptional, unintentional, or unforeseen ways. Contrary to what many think, normally, you should never see a volume exceed the 0db threshold of a meter.

VUMETERS IN DIGITAL SOFTWARE

Unlike the meters present on analog equipment, the meters present on digital software are generally not. They are called so by abuse of language. Most of the time, it is a Peak-meter, although they are different in their standard, their use is similar, to adjust them properly, as for the meters, you should never exceed the 0db threshold.

When using the virtual mixer of a deejay software, in theory, and in practice regardless of the level of the volumes of the tracks, the sound will never be saturated internally by the software, in the event of exceeding, only the indicators can be frozen at their maximum and therefore prevent us from visualizing the dynamics of music and compare one volume with another objectively.

The only element that can distort the sound, distort it, damage it, is the software output level which may be too high for the sound card used by the computer. That is to say that if the software asks the sound card to release a volume exceeding its technical capacity, it will saturate very excessively, even going so far as to physically damage the card. This is why all audio software includes a limiter to protect the circuit of the card. Also, to view the general volume level of the software and warn if the limiter is compressing the sound or not, a Vumeter and a Limiter activity indicator are always present at the master output in the software and/or for each track. when

ADJUSTING THE TRACKS EARNINGS

The Gains of the tracks or shall I say the gains of the channels must be adjusted so as to equalize the volumes. In practice we adjust the Gain of one track in relation to another, that is to say, that when we listen to a track A and that we want to mix the track B, we adjust the gain of the track B for that the volume is at the same level as track A. For this, you must browse the music of track B to identify the loudest parts in volume to adjust its gain to the same level as track A.

To do this as perfectly as possible, you have to start by adjusting the gain of the very first music you want to mix so as to leave room for adjustment for the other tracks. That is to say that we must not adjust the gain of the first music too high or too low, which could prevent us from properly adjusting the gain of the other track that we want to mix. The ideal is to start mixing with again adjusted in the middle so that thereafter we can have as much margin of correction upwards as downwards for the other music.

Firstly, when the gain of the general output of a mixer is not strong enough, it may be necessary to increase the gains of all the tracks by default to compensate for this lack of power.

Secondly, in a digital configuration like a deejay software, we can have to adjust differently from the middle to adjust the maximum height of the level displacement of the LEDs of the “false” meters, this is very rare and is most of the time due to a poor configuration of the Midi hardware, for example, a midi dj console which would have been reconfigured to be usable with a dj software not pre-configured for this console.

ADJUSTING THE GENERAL MASTER MAIN GAIN

To adjust the general Master / Main volume, you must strictly follow the rule for using a meter, namely adjusting the maximum volume level to 0db. Make sure that the sum of all the channels (of all the tracks) does not exceed this threshold. Or exceptionally, and in this case, the maximum volume must absolutely never exceed half or even at most 3/4 of the maximum value of the general Main / Master meter.

That is to say that if your meter is graduated to a maximum of + 3db, you must ensure that the volume never exceeds + 1.5db and especially not + 2db. (even if theoretically + 2.9db should be good).
If your vu-meter is graduated to + 10db, you must ensure that the volume never exceeds + 5db and especially not + 7.5db. (even if theoretically + 9.9db should be good).

When you mix on 4 decks, I advise you to adjust the Gain of your Master / Main by playing the 4 tracks at the same time and this at a sustained moment of each song, without modification of the equalizers, to define the maximum possible volume.

WHY IS A MARGIN OF ERROR ESSENTIAL EVEN IF WE NEVER EXCEED THE 0db OF VU METERS?

Yes, the question is oriented, but it allows me to explain a very important phenomenon that many deejays hide. It is imperative to keep a margin of error, because all the music is not “mastered” in the same studio and at the same time. And therefore, the perception of the sound volume of a music may vary from one artist to another, even though the Vu-meter indicates a similar level.

Also, music on track A, for example, may sound louder than other music on track B, while the meter on track A displays a lower level than track B. And that is why it is essential to have a margin of error to leave room for an increase in the gain. But this phenomenon is not possible you will say to me, to which I answer you yes it is quite possible, and I will prove it to you just after.

WHY CAN A MUSIC HAVE A LOUDER SOUND VOLUME THAN
ANOTHER WHEN THE VU METERS INDICATE THE OPPOSITE?

Because of the MASTERING! During the finalization of a piece of music, before being able to burn it on a CD, on vinyl or even to make an MP3 of it, it is necessary to standardize the Sound to adapt it to support and a type of speaker. As part of a mastering intended to be listened to on your hi-fi system or your MP3 player, the sound is compressed to enhance the sound level to the detriment of the dynamics. Everyone has already noticed this volume enhancement work on television or radio with the passage of advertising.

When you hear the advertisement you have the impression that the sound volume is louder, in reality, the volume is not louder, it is the dynamics that have been compressed, sometimes even crushed, to enhance the volume’s less strong. In other words, loud volumes are compressed and therefore reduced, and low volumes are increased, resulting in a sound that is on average higher.

ADJUST THE RECORDING VOLUME

Record the sound of a deejay software with the same computer

When the recording is done digitally on the same computer producing the original sound, there is in theory no background noise and therefore, it is in this case smarter to adjust the virtual input volume well. below 0db, leaving us with more room for error. However, to perfect the result of the recording, it was preferred after recording at low volume, to enhance the signal in sound processing software by using a mastering compressor.

Record sound from an analog source with a computer or an external digital or analog recorder

In this case, it is necessary to apply to the letter the rule of the use of a Vumeter. It is necessary to record with a maximum volume adjusted to the 0db of the sound output meter and to the 0db of the input sound of the device which records it. Everything must be done so that the volume never exceeds this threshold, or exceptionally, and in this case ensure that the maximum volume absolutely never exceeds half or even at most 3/4 of the maximum value of the view. meter.

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