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Guru Alastair Jamieson on Understanding Master Faders in Logic 9 & Pro-Tools 9

by Ben in Bites, Music with 0 comments 21/03/2011

Guru Alastair Jamieson of LoveRock Records on Understanding Master Faders in Logic 9 & Pro-Tools 9.

While it might seem a simple thing, understanding how digital software adds all of your channels together really is very important and can make a massive difference on the quality of your mixes. There is also a difference between how various audio software deals with this problem. In the analogue world each channel will produce a voltage dependent on what signal level is going through it. This all adds up along the power rail of the console and dependent on the quality of the circuitry and design this will sum together giving varying degrees of “headroom” (the amount you can turn it up until it distorts). While this is a very basic explanation, the digital world works very differently.

Fig 1 shows a very large Logic 9 mix. While there are over 100 tracks, these ultimately need to be mixed down to 2 track stereo It is not important to know how Logic does it, What is important to know is how the signal travels through the master fader as it varies. In Logic 9′s regular audio tracks the signal travels down each fader. This means that whatever plug-in you place on a channel, any panning plug-in or gain change is pre fade. The fader meters whatever happens, before the fader. This is also the same in Pro-Tools. Where the two programs differ is how they handle the master fader. In Pro-Tools the signal travels up the fader. This means what you see on your master fader is pre any plug in you may place on it, this is already mis leading as you are not metering the actual output of your mix as you see only the summing of all your channels. Logic deals with this differently. In Logic the signal travels down the master fader just like a normal channel strip. This means that any master effects can be seen metered. However unlike Pro-Tools is does not show if the sum of all of your audio tracks has already clipped. This might mean you have added a compressor to an already clipped and distorted sum of audio channels even though your master fader seems to be in the green. This may simply be due to the gain reduction of a compressor. The best advice is to always use at the top or bottom (depending on the software you use) of every master fader, a plug-in such as a PPM, VU or gain meter to show if the summed audio is clipping. Unlike analogue audio, when digital clips, it sounds nasty and whilst you may not hear it all the time, if you don’t pay attention your mixes will begin to sound clogged cluttered and lacking in space. There are more reasons and ways to understand how it works (Floating point algorithms etc.). For anyone who is interested feel free to hit links to the label and hit the info bar…

Ben
Guru Bites Founder.

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