Can channel levels be too low?

Hey guys,

I've been working on a project that, for various reasons, has about 16db of headroom on the Master when summed. This isn't a big deal: I can trim that headroom off before sending it for mastering.

However, I'm wondering if there'll be any quality consequences to having all my channels so low. I know Ableton uses 32-bit internally, which means it shouldn't matter, but I don't know the VST protocol well enough to work out whether I'll have issues running low levels through plugins.

Is there any value in me going through each individual channel, dropping about 12db of gain reduction, and then rejigging all my channel/bus FX to compensate? It'd take a couple of hours, so I'll only do it if necessary.



willrjmarshall 3 years ago | 0 comments

1 answer

  • Near Earth Object
    820 answers
    823 votes received
    1 vote

    Personally, i'd go for the last option.
    Theoretically though, it should not matter that much in a digital environment.
    However, if you use samples or recordings that were made with hardware or analog equipment, that would mean that the recorded signal also has some hiss/rumble. So turning everything up would add more hiss/noise which you have to adjust (eq).

    So to make sure there are on 'hidden' problems, it is a good idea to try and get the volume of the whole track louder. (Maximum of 6 dB headroom is normal for most mastering).

    Having everything a bit louder also helps getting the final mix better.
    So i would try to get your entire mix louder to start with. Try to get the mix closer to the -6dB from the start, so you won't have this problem at a later stage.

    3 years ago | 0 comments

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