This is one posting of a series of issues related to volume and gain control with Ableton Live and music production in general. Funny, it’s the most obvious thing, but there’s lots to talk about it.
One of the unfortunate facts of Ableton Live is that one of their best 6.0 features is not visible by default. If you resize in the mixer section the view for the volume sliders, suddenly you could see the additional info fields as shown in the picture above. You now have a peak max field showing how high the max peak of the track is reaching, as well as longer volume sliders and a field where you could type in directly the values.
I learned my way that having the default 0dB values for starting tracks is not good — even if the internal audio engine is supposedly 32-bit and has some over head, it’s easy to overdrive the combined output of all the tracks, especially if there are many, causing the known mush that is not pleasant. So to avoid this, my new production template has all the tracks by default -3dB so there’s plenty of overhead.
My mastering plugin, Izotope Ozone, will then maximize the output to the brickwall waveforms that we all have to produce nowadays, but at least it also has some headroom to operate in. Again, I think it’s never good to feed in multiple tracks with loud values to the final mixdown inside the actual audio engine. Subtle digital distortion is nasty.
Also, the nice thing with the peak value indicator is that you could see along the track how high the track reaches, let’s say it goes peak-wise up to +3.6dB. That means that you should either take down the track -3.6dB down to the zero level, use a limiter that takes the peaks to 0dB, or do something else to take down the signal.
Remember that in Live there are so many ways to control the volume, even on the clip level, so more about this three-dimensional volume handling in Live next.