Old 02-28-2021, 10:13 PM   #1
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Default PA bx_console(s) Gain Staging vs Britson

I've had the Neve channel for awhile, but I picked up a second-hand copy of the Focusrite SC channel. Both sound really cool, but the gain staging isn't clear.

Britson trains you to set all individual tracks at 0vu (-18dbfs). My question is, do the BX consoles function in a similar way? If I calibrate the VU meters at 0vu=-18dbfs, then set the output level to 0vu, is this correct gain staging?

Theoretically, I should be able to use only BX channels on all tracks, if I follow this method. Am I missing anything?

Has anyone noticed the bx_console plugs have odd scaling behaviour in Reaper? I can't increase past 75%.
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Old 03-01-2021, 12:47 PM   #2
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Turn the knobs til it sounds good.
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Old 03-01-2021, 06:38 PM   #3
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Turn the knobs til it sounds good.
lol! Awesome.
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Old 03-01-2021, 07:15 PM   #4
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I'm sorry, I do normally try to answer questions before I get all philosophical because I do know how frustrating that is. I'm kind of over "gain staging" questions, though. If it's too hot, it'll distort more than you want. If it's not hot enough, it won't distort enough. If you can't hear the difference, then it probably doesn't matter. If you want to be sure it doesn't distort, you should maybe consider using something else that you know won't.

Even (maybe especially?) in real analog, this is the way it actually works. Gain staging is about getting your signal as far out of the noise floor as possible without unwanted distortion, but frankly distortion is half the fun, so...

Turn the knobs til it sounds good.
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Old 03-01-2021, 08:35 PM   #5
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I'm sorry, I do normally try to answer questions before I get all philosophical because I do know how frustrating that is. I'm kind of over "gain staging" questions, though. If it's too hot, it'll distort more than you want. If it's not hot enough, it won't distort enough. If you can't hear the difference, then it probably doesn't matter. If you want to be sure it doesn't distort, you should maybe consider using something else that you know won't.

Even (maybe especially?) in real analog, this is the way it actually works. Gain staging is about getting your signal as far out of the noise floor as possible without unwanted distortion, but frankly distortion is half the fun, so...

Turn the knobs til it sounds good.
Excellent summation. I get you.

I was really asking if I am meant to use the bx_console channels in the same manner as the Britson/Satson channels. Each individual channel is levelled to -18dbfs or thereabouts, which when summed together create the harmonic saturation associated with an analogue console. The saturation/distortion of an individual channel should be felt more than heard.

Mostly, I'm concerned with getting the same levels to the mix buss as I'm accustomed.
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Old 03-02-2021, 03:35 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by ashcat_lt View Post
I'm sorry, I do normally try to answer questions before I get all philosophical because I do know how frustrating that is. I'm kind of over "gain staging" questions, though. If it's too hot, it'll distort more than you want. If it's not hot enough, it won't distort enough. If you can't hear the difference, then it probably doesn't matter. If you want to be sure it doesn't distort, you should maybe consider using something else that you know won't.

Even (maybe especially?) in real analog, this is the way it actually works. Gain staging is about getting your signal as far out of the noise floor as possible without unwanted distortion, but frankly distortion is half the fun, so...

Turn the knobs til it sounds good.
That's absolutely on point.
Also people really get stuck on the "0VU = -18dbFS" and they get this in a messed up way, just because of the many misleading info and videos on the internet.
Fist of all VU and dbfs measure different things.
VU refers to "volume units" that are a measurement that involves electric signals measured over a period of time.
dBfs refers to the instantaneous value of a SAMPLE in a precise moment.
They are no comparable, they measures different things in different domains.
But they can relate to each other by making conventions.
VU has the 0 value as the "center" of the scale and indicate the preferred and most useful working level to achieve optimal Signal-To-Noise value while NOT pushing analog components into saturation.
Everithing Above is called "Headroom" and that's the amount of extra dynamic range over 0VU that an analog device can handle before a really bad distortion (over 0VU you begin to break into saturation usually, until becomes distortion).
For headroom and dynamic range measuring we use dBu, and 0dBu are referring to a VOLTAGE of 0.774V and since most PROFESSIONAL analog equipment are nuilt to have an optimal operating level at +4dBu (1.23V) we can say that 0VU is usually 1.23V

On the other hand, dBfs use a value of 0dB to define the MAXIMUM value a digital device can handle.
You have NO HEADROOM above 0dBfs vo it's impossible to assume that 0VU and 0dBfs can be related.

So why -18dB?
It's a "convention" (an European one made by EBU), american standard value for post is -20dbfs = 0VU (if i recall correctly)
But is not really a "rule" since there's a lot of analog devices with a lot more than 18dB of headroom (most provessional analog desks boast a 22 to 24 extra dBu of dynamic over 0dBu.

What's the conclusion?
Plugin developers for sure MUST define a certain headroom because they need to replicate the behaviour of the modeled device and because 0dBfs is a barrier that (ideally) no-one should cross (that's true for 24 and 16 bit, but that's another topic).
So they give them to you tuned following a "convention" (EBU -18dBfsRMS = 0VU) but most of the time they give you the opportunity to decide an headroom for yourself (VU and THD calibrations are there for that purpose).

It's important to understand that -18db (or any other headroom setting) should be an RMS measure, not a peak one.

Also, i own myself a copy of Focusrite Channel by Brainworks and, if you take a look to the settings, you can observe that it's default value is -10dB = 0VU...so it's tuned for louder signals.
Also the meters are (obviously) RMS, so they are slow and shows low values... you need to get used to them to read properly.

Sorry for the long post

EDIT: you can enter and alter the PPM and VU Scale by clicking the Brainworks Logo above the high shelf EQ
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Old 03-02-2021, 09:44 AM   #7
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No apologies pls. I appreciate the input.

I understand the convention of -18dbfs. I realize it's mostly random, but I like to have a rule-of-thumb.

Mixing without Britson feels like flying wothout a parachute, but I should try it.
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Old 03-02-2021, 10:32 AM   #8
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Little bit of googling led me first to the PA website and manual neither of which answer the question but definitely do show that the VU vs dbu meters are wonky and IDFK why. One usually expects 0dbVU to line up with +4dbu, but it sure ain’t.

Then I found this:
“The default on the Focusrite is the same as the SSL.

dBu PPM Meter Reference -20dBFS
Vu Meter Reference -10dBFS”
Which seems to match the wonkiness I’m seeing in the pictures but doesn’t make much sense to me. What consoles are calibrated so that 0dbVU = +10dbu?!? But I guess that’s what they’ve decided to do. Does this help answer your question? I guess basically if you’re used to VU meters calibrated to 0VU = -18dbFS, you should look at the dbu meter and shoot for +2, or else shoot for -8 on the VU meter. Or something...
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Old 03-02-2021, 01:30 PM   #9
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J
Quote:
Originally Posted by ashcat_lt View Post
Little bit of googling led me first to the PA website and manual neither of which answer the question but definitely do show that the VU vs dbu meters are wonky and IDFK why. One usually expects 0dbVU to line up with +4dbu, but it sure ain’t.

Then I found this:
“The default on the Focusrite is the same as the SSL.

dBu PPM Meter Reference -20dBFS
Vu Meter Reference -10dBFS”
Which seems to match the wonkiness I’m seeing in the pictures but doesn’t make much sense to me. What consoles are calibrated so that 0dbVU = +10dbu?!? But I guess that’s what they’ve decided to do. Does this help answer your question? I guess basically if you’re used to VU meters calibrated to 0VU = -18dbFS, you should look at the dbu meter and shoot for +2, or else shoot for -8 on the VU meter. Or something...
Or change the internal calibration?

I could also use a separate metering plugin, either pre or post BX.
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Old 03-02-2021, 01:35 PM   #10
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Or change the internal calibration?
Does it have that? Then yes, I guess. What was the question then? Set it where you want it, right?
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Old 03-03-2021, 12:39 AM   #11
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Well, i just wrote how to do it in focusrite SC plugin (end even the calibration default)but no one bothered to read my post until the end 😁

Just click on the Brainworks logo, from there you can change the calibration to your own liking
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Old 03-03-2021, 08:52 AM   #12
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Well, i just wrote how to do it in focusrite SC plugin (end even the calibration default)but no one bothered to read my post until the end 😁

Just click on the Brainworks logo, from there you can change the calibration to your own liking
I read it. I promise! 😁

I do intend to change all my bx_consoles to -18dbfs. I like that amount of headroom. I can always drive the plugin harder if I want the saturation.
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Old 03-03-2021, 10:05 AM   #13
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I read it. I promise! 😁

I do intend to change all my bx_consoles to -18dbfs. I like that amount of headroom. I can always drive the plugin harder if I want the saturation.
That's absolutely legit and a wise choice, just save as default settings and you're good to go.
BTW take into account that some plugins are not really "tied to an operating level".
I like to analyze the amount of saturation they add with a sine at -18dfbs and then i rise the level of the test signal until -3dbfs, just to know how much i can push them if i want to and how much they affect the sound at nominal level.
But that's just me.
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Old 03-03-2021, 11:40 AM   #14
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That's absolutely legit and a wise choice, just save as default settings and you're good to go.
BTW take into account that some plugins are not really "tied to an operating level".
I like to analyze the amount of saturation they add with a sine at -18dfbs and then i rise the level of the test signal until -3dbfs, just to know how much i can push them if i want to and how much they affect the sound at nominal level.
But that's just me.
Do you do that with a tool, or your ear?
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Old 03-03-2021, 08:55 PM   #15
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That's absolutely legit and a wise choice, just save as default settings and you're good to go.
BTW take into account that some plugins are not really "tied to an operating level".
I like to analyze the amount of saturation they add with a sine at -18dfbs and then i rise the level of the test signal until -3dbfs, just to know how much i can push them if i want to and how much they affect the sound at nominal level.
But that's just me.
Okay, what is that PPM/dbu meant to be measuring? What would the relative dbfs level be to the -18dbfs = 0vu?
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Old 03-03-2021, 09:38 PM   #16
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Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think the PPM is kind of arbitrary. Like, if you're looking at the VU and make that align with your other VUs, the PPM can just go where it wants. It says the same thing just plus or minus some offset amount. I think if it was me, I'd set it to match either my ADC or DAC specs (they don't always match!), but not for any good reason since I'm almost never interfacing with outboard gear whose meters matter to me. If you don't want to go digging through manuals, just set it so that 0dbVU = +4dbu = -18dbFS, which would make 0dbu = -22dbFS
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Old 03-04-2021, 01:30 AM   #17
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PPM is a bit of a mess to deal with, just because there are so many types and scales and they are measuring even different things in different amount of times.

Peak Program Meters can measure sample peak (for example the meter in reaper is a SPPM, S stands for "sample") or they can meausure the maximum audio peak in "a certain amount of time", they can even respond to True Peak...

Sadly enough, while in digital domain we have a solid full scale with a maximum value of 0dBfs, in the analog world PPMs are really ruled only by manufacturer or standard conventions.
Also, because in the analog world PPMs need time to measure a value, analog PPMs give an approximated read, causing really short peaks to appear lower than they are and longer peaks appear more like a correct read.

There are so many of them (DIN, Nordic, EBU, BBC...) with different integration times, different scale and decay time and they are really tied to the device they are built-in.

My rule of thumb, when it comes to mixing ITB is: USE THE DAW PPM (wich is instantaneous and sample accurate) and VU Meters, but that's just me.
I really don'l like PPM emulations just because, no matter what scale or PPM you choose, they will always give you "relative" reads since the +4dBu mark is REALLY different from one type to another.
The most useful is (for sure) the EBU PPM, just because TEST is 0dBu and 4 is +4dBu (which is 0VU).
BTW yes... analog modeled PPMs are "kind of Random"

Sorry for my english, i hope this is useful.

Last edited by bigjoe; 03-04-2021 at 01:31 AM. Reason: typo :P
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Old 03-04-2021, 05:18 AM   #18
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If you are looking at gain staging for the sake of saturation, you can adjust the THD amount on the plugins themselves. Turn it down if you want to drive the plugin harder without it being too in your face and vice versa.

Huge fan of PA plugins here. I have a lot of purchased licenses and joined the Mega subscription on release.

I didn't know about the meter calibration by clicking the bx logo though.
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Old 03-04-2021, 09:43 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by bigjoe View Post
PPM is a bit of a mess to deal with, just because there are so many types and scales and they are measuring even different things in different amount of times.

Peak Program Meters can measure sample peak (for example the meter in reaper is a SPPM, S stands for "sample") or they can meausure the maximum audio peak in "a certain amount of time", they can even respond to True Peak...

Sadly enough, while in digital domain we have a solid full scale with a maximum value of 0dBfs, in the analog world PPMs are really ruled only by manufacturer or standard conventions.
Also, because in the analog world PPMs need time to measure a value, analog PPMs give an approximated read, causing really short peaks to appear lower than they are and longer peaks appear more like a correct read.

There are so many of them (DIN, Nordic, EBU, BBC...) with different integration times, different scale and decay time and they are really tied to the device they are built-in.

My rule of thumb, when it comes to mixing ITB is: USE THE DAW PPM (wich is instantaneous and sample accurate) and VU Meters, but that's just me.
I really don'l like PPM emulations just because, no matter what scale or PPM you choose, they will always give you "relative" reads since the +4dBu mark is REALLY different from one type to another.
The most useful is (for sure) the EBU PPM, just because TEST is 0dBu and 4 is +4dBu (which is 0VU).
BTW yes... analog modeled PPMs are "kind of Random"

Sorry for my english, i hope this is useful.
I understand you completely. I was just looking for a general number to calibrate the PPM meter to. If I've changed the VU meter to -18dbfs, what's a good number to set the other to?
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Old 03-05-2021, 12:53 AM   #20
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I understand you completely. I was just looking for a general number to calibrate the PPM meter to. If I've changed the VU meter to -18dbfs, what's a good number to set the other to?
That's where start the mess
Assuming you are doing -18dBfs = 0 VU = 0dBu (for reference) you must consider that Focusrite SC plugin has a PPM with his full scale set to +24dBu.

+24dBu is, in this specific plugin, the highest peak, so you can assume that is equal to 0dBfs.
This will tell us that 0dBu on that meter should be -24dBfs and the PPM which is tied to this scale is the SMPTE Digital PPM (which probably is what brainworx used).
Since on that scale 0dBu IS -24dB the best setting should be:

0VU = -18dBfs
0dBu = -24dBfs

That's two pretty standard values, but again...you can really set the PPM to your liking unless your working in an hybrid setup (digital and analog) and voltages come into the equation.

Last edited by bigjoe; 03-05-2021 at 12:55 AM. Reason: typo :P
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Old 03-05-2021, 05:57 PM   #21
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That's where start the mess
Assuming you are doing -18dBfs = 0 VU = 0dBu (for reference) you must consider that Focusrite SC plugin has a PPM with his full scale set to +24dBu.

+24dBu is, in this specific plugin, the highest peak, so you can assume that is equal to 0dBfs.
This will tell us that 0dBu on that meter should be -24dBfs and the PPM which is tied to this scale is the SMPTE Digital PPM (which probably is what brainworx used).
Since on that scale 0dBu IS -24dB the best setting should be:

0VU = -18dBfs
0dBu = -24dBfs

That's two pretty standard values, but again...you can really set the PPM to your liking unless your working in an hybrid setup (digital and analog) and voltages come into the equation.
All ITB here. I actually follow this reasoning for once.
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Old 03-06-2021, 01:58 AM   #22
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All ITB here. I actually follow this reasoning for once.
This is something that "youtube" screwed up.
So many people talking about gain staging can't even read a VU meter the right way!!
So we ended up with wrong informations given to people who were genuinely searching for answers.
But they don't give you any... they give you "rules", wrong ones (most of the times) and a lot of bad practices and false information are spreading out because of this.

I'm honestly not completely educated on the subject, i'm still searching some answers for myself, so in a sense you made me realize something with this thread : i finally get to realize i want to ditch EBU PPMs in VUMT Deluxe, because they don't switch to a "relative value" when going back and forth from VU to PPM, they stick to the same value of the VU Meter (and that's really unpractical since 0VU is +4dBu and on an EBU PPM i want to read +4 instead of TEST).

I ended up with the conclusion that i'm going to use Dorrough Meter because the PPM and VU are working toghether and the Scale for both VU and PPM is the same (digital full scale).
This now seems more practical to me
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Old 03-06-2021, 08:07 AM   #23
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Lol. I donít use this kinda fancy bullshit to begin with.

Honestly, I donít much care about absolute levels until Iím mastering. At every step along the way before that, level is relative. Relative to the noise floor. Relative to whatever artificial limit the plugin imposes. Relative to other elements in the mix. Iíll peek at meters to rough things in or for sanity check, but Iím not usually worried about the actual number. Where I set whatever Iím setting depends on how it sounds when I do that. That is, I turn the knobs til it sounds good.
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Old 03-06-2021, 08:55 AM   #24
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Lol. I donít use this kinda fancy bullshit to begin with.

Honestly, I donít much care about absolute levels until Iím mastering. At every step along the way before that, level is relative. Relative to the noise floor. Relative to whatever artificial limit the plugin imposes. Relative to other elements in the mix. Iíll peek at meters to rough things in or for sanity check, but Iím not usually worried about the actual number. Where I set whatever Iím setting depends on how it sounds when I do that. That is, I turn the knobs til it sounds good.
And so i do.
But it's not "BS" to read a meter, that's some big misconception.
Of course it's better to ignore numbers but not meters. They give you informations but you have to know how to read a meter in order to use the readings.

Absolute values are also REALLY important if you exit out of the box and you need to align analog hardware to a DAC or an ADC, but i know...most people just feels like everyone is doing the same things in the same way with the same tools this days.

So please, don't generalize like that.
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Old 03-06-2021, 09:10 AM   #25
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Also, i own myself a copy of Focusrite Channel by Brainworks and, if you take a look to the settings, you can observe that it's default value is -10dB = 0VU...so it's tuned for louder signals.

EDIT: you can enter and alter the PPM and VU Scale by clicking the Brainworks Logo above the high shelf EQ
Same in the SSL 4000 E/G and SSL 9000J plugins.

Personally I lowered them to match my Reaper meters so that both are at -12. :>
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