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Changing sound levels: Hardware vs Software


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For them as interested in the analogue vs digital sound desks debate I saw this on the "How-to Geek" website. Being primarily a computering site the article is not strictly related to sound desks per se but possibly of interest to those who are happy to argue the merits and demerits of sound desk technology?




(Unfortunately the link to the PDF allows only a portion of the presentation. Esstech appear to live in the US and do all things digital.)


It seems (to me) that it all depends on the vintage of your digital kit...like everything else...being ancient I'm just happy to hear the output...any output.

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My personal method.


  • Get all samples around the same level, generally about -4 to -6dB
  • Load all samples into software at approx 3/4 of the maximum permitted level, and choose one "main" sample to set overall desk level with, taking fader to -6dB and using gain pots.
  • Ride fader during rehearsal and note down amount of change made to each effect.
  • Make these changes in software and rerun all samples to check it sounds ok.
  • Bring fader up to 0db and reduce gain to compensate (or possibly leave at -6db depending on gain structure.)

You're then left with adjusted samples, and an easy to remember fader value for if, like me, you get paranoid of accidentally triggering the samples while fiddling during techs, and equally paranoid about not noticing a mute button.

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when using pc playback, I run the desk wide open (or, as loud as I think loudest cue will be) and set levels in software. Less likely for change or accidental fiddling, more repeatable.





I prefer the other way around. Unlike lighting where "repeatable" means "repeatable" (except when the actor doesn't stand on his mark of course) I find that every show is different. A full house needs more audio welly than a half full one. If the ventilation fans are running at full, I need more level than if they've just cut out. Same with whether lighting has decided to cycle some gel scrollers or not. Basically, I have target levels marked in my script but the final decision is by ear.


Yeah, I'm a boring old fashioned old git.

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A bit of both really.


I'd like to start a run with all the SFX levels set relative to each other. If the house is different, or the AC running or whatever, then a bit of boost / cut can be applied to the whole show. In my case, "by ear" is impossible due to the glass between me and the stage. :unsure:


Obviously, in a show with mics this is different, I'm talking effects only!

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