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Discussion Starter #1
Me and a few friends are setting up a studio and well, we have a lot to learn. I'm wondering about volume levels though. Right now the signal path is:

Mic > Mixer > PC > Ableton Live

It may not be ideal, but it's all we have for now. Anyways, there's a volume level on the mixer channel, and the master volume. There's also a volume level on the recording program. So, should I max out the volume levels on the mixer, then only adjust the one on Ableton Live? Or, have the channel volume maxed, but the master down lower?

Also, would there be any sound quality loss with longer RCA cables?
 

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Too much gain in the first stages of your system can result in allot of hiss and noise, and possibly signal distortion.

You want to get a good level on the mic input and the output of the mixer and feed it into the next stage of the signal chain. The mixer is where everything happens so you usually want the rest of the chain to simply recieve the signal (and in your case record it). Having too much gain in the later stages can result in a bad signal to noise ratio as well as a loss in dynamic range.

If you google unity gain, it will give you a general idea of gain structure.

With all this said, there are many rules in audio production, and sooner or later you will break all of them. Every system has a sweet spot, sometimes it is running hot to get into that zone, other times your meters may not be hardly moving at all on the mixer. Mix with your ears and not by a set of rules or visual indicators. Take the time to suss everthing out and learn how 'your' system behaves.

As for your RCA cables, if they are analog then yes the length matters. If they are digital (SPD/IF) then there is a limit to the maximun length but there is no signal degredation with anything shorter than the max.
 

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Hamm's got it right - each situation may present a different requirement.

As a general starting point, though, you basically want to get the signal strong as it enters the mixer channel - right to the point where it just goes into clipping with the mic input at it's loudest, and then back off the channel gain a touch.

Then the channel faders set the volumes (post eq and effects) relative to each other. The master volume is the control of the SUMMED output. Again, this is a general guideline that may be altered depending on the desired effect.

What's important, though, is that each stage needs to be watched to ensure it doesn't go into clipping - especially once the signal is converted to digital - clipping/overload of a digital signal can't be undone after it's recorded. Don't ask me how i know this:smile:

Again, as Hamm said, start with this, and then use your ears to tweak and adjust from there. Experiment with different gain structures and listen to the results - you'll hear more noise with some settings than others, and this is the best way to learn.

Hope this is helpful.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Thanks for the replies. I've learned a lot this past week about this stuff. Another question though...why are my recordings so quiet? I make sure every channel's peak is 0db, but apart from that I'm not mastering anything.

Does it have to do with compression or anything like that? Or maybe the quality of the stuff I'm using?
 

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hi
your recordings are quiet because you will want to make them louder during the mixing and mastering stage- using eq, compression, whatever.
this is why it is important to do the initial recording properly in the beginning.
with tape, you set your levels to clip, then back off a hair, to hit the tape hard with the music-
with pc recording, you can record at lower levels-(i like acoustic guitars between -6db and -12 db, and never record anything louder than -3db)
leaving you headroom to work with- your dynamics are intact and not muddied, and the recording responds to much subtler eq manipulation later on.
the trick is to get the best signal to noise ratio as possible otherwise when you increase its volume you hear more noise-
so concentrate on getting a good sound first, then work with the tracks to increase theyre volume. and its not important to get your stuff as loud as most commercial tunes.
you can get good results with most any equipment, as long as you learn to get the most out of it- to do this you have to do a lot of trial and error on your own
 
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