How do I make my Live sets as loud as other DJs?
When I DJ with Live, it's always so much quieter than the vinyl or CD Djs who go on before or after me. How can I fix this?
32 votes received20 votes
I'm going to cover the options you can use to make your laptop-based set up as loud as a traditional DJ set up, starting with the things you should try first:
- Make sure your soundcard outputs are turned up all the way. Some soundcards let you adjust the output levels of the main outs or individual outputs, so make sure they are turned up and not set too quiet. Again, watch the meters in your soundcard (if it has them) to make sure you're not clipping. Set all soundcard outputs to 0dB if you're not sure. Also, if your soundcard has the option to run the outputs at -10dBv or +4dBu, you might want to try setting it to +4dbu to get a hotter signal coming out of the soundcard.
- Turn up the channel/input gains on the DJ mixer or house mixer you're connected to. Just about every single mixer on the planet has a gain knob that's designed to compensate for signals that are too loud or too quiet. Try turning this up if you can to increase your signal.
- Turn up the PA or sound system to compensate. Ask the sound engineer (if there is one) to boost things on their end, often they still have some gain left on the house mixer they can use to increase the volume of the PA. The good news is that with so many DJs and performers using laptops these days, most clubs are prepared to deal with this issue and the sound person will already have things set up to help you. It pays to discuss this with them ahead of time if you can, ideally at a sound check. For smaller gigs where there is no sound person, check and see if the amps can be turned up more.
- Use an intermediary mixer. Sometimes a small mixer inserted after your soundcard but before the house or DJ mixer can be used to boost the signal more.
- Use plug-ins on your master channel to increase the loudness. I want to stress that this should always be the last resort, as it's by far the one option that alters your sound the most, and rarely for the better. Typically people use things like brickwall limiters to boost the signal until it is loud enough. The downside of this method is that you are reducing the dynamic range of your signal by doing so, and often this was already done to extremes when the song was mastered. So, you might end up with a louder signal, but it comes at the expense of the side-effects of such processes too. Namely this will be more distortion and a dull or weak sound that lacks the punch of the original. Decide carefully if this trade off is worth it to you, just for the sake of a little more volume!
If you do decide to go this route, use the best limiter you have, and adjust it's input gain only as much as needed to get the volume you're looking for. Personal favorites for this are Voxengo's Elephant 3 and PSP's Xenon limiters. Another common tool is PSP's Vintage Warmer, though I find it dulls transients too much myself so you'll have to look elsewhere for details on using that. I can't stress enough that you should try all other options before you resort to using plug ins.
As you can see, there's a lot of places in the signal path of a typical DJ or live set where volume can be adjusted. What's more, almost all of them can be changed (for good or bad) by the user, so it really pays to understand proper gain-staging when it comes to your signal. Doing so will insure that you present the crowd with the best sounding audio possible, and in a reproducible manner night after night.4 years ago | 0 comments
9 votes received2 votes
Or you could just use the infamous utility plug in and the limiter and make sure your source material is at optimal level3 years ago | 0 comments
14 votes received0 votes
Limiters are an option, but in all honesty putting a basic saturation plugin on the output allows for quite a bit of level boost with little perceivable transient damage.4 years ago | 0 comments
1 vote received0 votes
Waves L2 plugin can raise the volume dramatically, with very minimal loss in the transients.4 years ago | 0 comments
1 vote received-1 votes
Hi everyone, good question!
Tarekith gave a lot of info. I've been DJing with Ableton for the last 3 years. Right now I'm using an Audio Kontrol 1 sound card from Native Instruments, this is one of the loudest sound cards I've ever heard. Just as Tarekith said, the outputs volume should be turned all the way up.
I recently started using iZotope Ozone in the master channel with the compressor on, this give me even more volume.
Hope it helps!4 years ago | 0 comments
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