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Tips for Setting Preset and Scene LevelsUpdated 8 months ago

Musicians face an almost universal challenge of getting levels “right.” Audiences, bandmates, and live sound technicians expect a degree of consistency when you present your sound during a performance. Fractal Audio products give you excellent control over your levels, but even with the right tools, you still need the knowledge of how to approach this problem. Volume is only a part of the equation, and tone must also be taken into consideration. Without this understanding, you might think you have things right, only to find yourself lost in a mix or suddenly too loud. Here are some points to consider.

Human hearing is variable. This due to a phenomenon called the Fletcher-Munson effect, as represented by equal-loudness contour curves.In short, when the volume changes, the tone seems to change too. At lower volumes, low and high frequencies seem relatively quieter. As volume increases, bass and treble frequencies become more prominent.Adjust at high volume levels as if you were at a performance. Be on the lookout for tones that are too boomy or too bright when you turn them up, and adjust accordingly. Conversely, recognize that changes in tone can be perceived as changes in volume: “Mids” can help guitars stand out a mix.
Context is king. When you’re in a mix, your tone can sound vastly different than it does in isolation. Competing frequencies from other instruments can impact how your level and tone are perceived.Check your levels in context of a band or track, and make adjustments based on what you hear. Also, avoid excessive sound changes. you may be able to create unique sounds for each song, but it’s usually better to start with a set of core tones that work well across your entire set and branch out from there.
Speakers matter... and they vary tremendously. Different sound systems, even those that claim to be “flat”, emphasize different frequencies, which alters tone and perceived volume for a listener. Speakers also have different directivity, so where you stand changes what you hear.Set levels on the same system you will perform with, or use the best and most accurate speakers you can find. Be prepared to make adjustments on other systems. If someone else is mixing, walk around with a wireless or long cable to see how you sound. Listen to reference material such as a favorite recording.
Rooms have a sound. Room acoustics play a role in your tone and levels. The position of the listener matters, and certain characteristics can change when an audience occupies the space. Even with high-quality studio monitors and effective acoustic treatment, most rooms still have significant dips and peaks in their frequency response.Be prepared to make adjustments based on the acoustics of the room you’re playing in to ensure your sound translates well in the space. Recognize that acoustical irregularities can influence tone sculpting. Again, listen to reference material if possible, like they do when playing a CD to dial in a concert PA.
Gain kills. Excessive gain can muddy your sound and compress its dynamic range, resulting in a uniform and less expressive tone that is difficult to distinguish.Find the right balance. Gain, overdrive, distortion—call it what you will—it can be great, but handle with care...and understand that lowering gain can improve your tone, increase dynamics, and add clarity and punch.
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