Gain Staging

Discussion in 'Live Sound' started by stealthy, Dec 7, 2009.

  1. stealthy

    stealthy Guest

    I know theres more ways to do it, but I normally try to keep all of my channel faders and main fader at unity or as close as possible, and get levels using gain. Only moving faders when needed throughout the night. I typically dont have to give it much gain, or any, for whatever reason. I have my crossover set pretty well, and hardly ever peak my amps.

    Now, a band a run sound for, the lead singer claims to run sound alot. He was giving me a hard time about my method, and telling me his. Saying my gain should be at about 11 o'clock, and and set the faders where needed, and claiming that you get your "warmth" from the gain.

    How do you guys feel about this?
  2. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Distinguished Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Scotland, UK
    If his definition of warmth is having a suboptimal preamp stage, possibly clipping or possibly underdriving by about 20dB, then yeah OK. That's 'warmth'.

    FWIW my gain is well under where it should be, but I'm not running with massive headroom, and the outputs are remarkably hot. If I ran the gain structure to the book then I'd have the amp knobs set to about 2, and the master on the mixer at about -20.
    (maybe that's meant to happen but it feels wrong)
  3. stealthy

    stealthy Guest

    57 views and 1 reply?!

    Thanks CM. Anyone else?
  4. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Moderator Resource Member

    Dec 18, 2008
    Western Pennsylvania, USA
    You know how I feel about that. I think you're doing it the best way possible. To suggest you run all the gains at 11 o'clock regardless of the incoming signal's strength is just idiotic.

    There is no 'warmth' knob, but there will always be some dude who thinks he knows more about running sound than you. You have to consider the source, if the band already has an expert why are they paying you?

    If you want to keep working with this band, you'll have to find a diplomatic way to tell him your system must be different than what he's been using.

    Your system may be cleaner than what he's used to, some people can't handle the way they sound through an honest PA.
  5. stealthy

    stealthy Guest

    Ok, yeah I really thought my (your) way makes the most sense. And gain is just that, to gain a hotter signal, not "warm it up". I will only be working with this band (or atleast this singer) for 2 more shows. This is the way I've been doing it for some time, and it seems to work just fine. I think I've mentioned to you in the past about not having to use much gain on my board for whatever reason, but I dont see a reason in using it if I dont need more volume. I'm running something like 4700W in my whole system, and it fills every room I've been in just fine.
  6. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Moderator Resource Member

    Mar 20, 2008
    currently Billings
    The only time that high trim is going to make a difference in warmth (saturation) is on preamps like Remy's that are continuously variable-and then you have a 20dB pad engaged to counteract the current. On the majority of current issue boards-especially small format mixers-that idea physically doesn't apply.

    I doubt your dude has ever used a vintage Neve or a Harrison or similar to have experienced the phenomenon. Outboard preamps (and not most of the pre's available in today's genre) are the only current way to achieve this "saturation" again usually with a 20dB pad engaged. Even so, I prefer the unity fader model of mixing.
  7. stealthy

    stealthy Guest

    Great, thanks for the reassurance!
  8. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Sep 26, 2005
    With "Old School" microphone preamp designs, you could vary the characteristics of the microphone preamp by "trimming" it. High gain settings usually indicated the use of less "negative feedback" in the operational amplifier. Lower gain settings usually indicated "higher negative feedback" used. Most operational amplifiers characteristics will change depending upon how much gain is incorporated in its use. Greater negative feedback for lower gain usually makes the amplifier more broadband & more stable. Whereas last negative feedback for higher gain, restricted the bandwidth high frequency response, can make the amplifier more unstable but will sound more open. So somebody telling you to place the trim settings at 11 o'clock is like somebody telling you to drive your car with your eyes closed so you don't hit anything. Tell them to screw off and that you have consulted numerous high level professionals at That ain't the way to do it. No way. No how. And that's the name of that tune.

    I can name that tune after I go to the bathroom.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  9. stealthy

    stealthy Guest

    Trust me Remy, I'd love to tell him to screw off, but they are paying me, haha. I think I will just keep doing it the correct way, and steer him away from my board for two more shows, then I probably wont have to deal with him anymore.....then on to the next person that thinks they know how to run sound.

    Well, I'm glad you guys are backing me up, that makes me feel better about it.
  10. BobRogers

    BobRogers Distinguished Member

    Apr 4, 2006
    Blacksburg, VA
    As everyone else has said, you're doing the right thing and the lead screamer should stick to what he knows - or maybe just stick it. If your mixer is made by Neve or API there may be warmth in there. The rest of us are just hoping for clean.

    Just to repeat a piece of advice I first heard from Remy - with cheap mixers it is better to push your channel faders as high as you can (and still have them usable) so that you can put your trim pots slightly lower. (That is, in the most linear, stable part of their amplification range.) I've found myself mixing with the channel faders at least 3 dB higher than I used to, and to my ears the sound is cleaner.
  11. moonbaby

    moonbaby Mmmmmm Moderator

    Feb 23, 2005
    You're fully in the right, Stealthy.
    Tell this joker that if everything should be set at "11:00" , then there wouldn't need to be a knob there. Just a "Cool/Warm" switch. Maybe HE'S the knob...:)
  12. jammster

    jammster Active Member

    Nov 30, 2008
    Lake Ki-Chi-Saga, Minnesota USA
    Sounds like the guitarist in Spinal Tap!

    Yeah, just crank it to 11 :lol:

    This guy obviously doesn't have a clue :roll:
  13. Good thread...I learneded sumtin!
  14. JoeBurge_ESP

    JoeBurge_ESP Guest

    I agree with your method, stealthy. I've done a lot of live mixing and the worst part is having to deal with musicians who want to play every part. Let the engineer be the engineer, and I won't pick up your guitar and show you something I think you should play.
  15. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Distinguished Member

    Dec 11, 2007
    Scotland, UK
    Good advice, but while you're there, can you play that Brown Eyed Girl song?
  16. sheet

    sheet Well-Known Member

    May 28, 2003
    Kansas City, KS
    Home Page:
    It is amazing how much bull crap is propagated. The best stuff comes from analog guys that have no clue how digital works. But this topic should be less common than it is.

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