Adventures In Audio
How do I set the input level control?

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of Adventures In Audio.

Monday January 30, 2006

This is a very common concern. I'm not talking about the gain control on a microphone preamplifier or a mixing console, because that is something rather different to what I would like to deal with here. I am talking instead about the many items of musical and sound equipment that feature input level controls. And of course the equipment that feeds the input level control - maybe it has an output level control. So do you set output high, input low? Or maybe output low, input high? Or maybe both of them somewhere in the middle. It's all guesswork, isn't it?

No it's not guesswork. Nine times out of ten, this is what will give you the best results...

Always set the output level, of everything, as high as it will go. Don't back it off out of caution, turn it all the way - to '11' if necessary. That doesn't include the power amplifier!

Now you've got that fixed, it's the simplest thing in the world to set the input levels correctly, starting from the signal source, working through the chain to the eventual destination. Generally speaking, you set the input level as high as you can without getting distortion.

But there is one little point to watch out for. Often, a piece of equipment will have an input stage before the input level control. If you overload this, then you'll get distortion. And turning down the input level can't help, because it has no control over this stage.

The thing to look out for is having the input level extraordinarily low. This is always a warning sign that needs checking. If this does happen, then this is the time to back off the preceding output stage. Knock it back to halfway and try again.

All of this is simple and logical. And when you have mastered level setting in this way, then you will realize that the correct position for the level control on the power amplifier is all the way up. Really. And you'll control the level of the speakers from the mixing console, which is exactly the way it should be done.

Like, follow, and comment on this article at Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Instagram or the social network of your choice.

Come on the Audio Masterclass Pro Home Studio MiniCourse - 60 great hints and tips to get your home recording studio MOVING

It's FREE!

Get It Now >>

How to choose the best key for your song

What is comb filtering? What does it sound like?

NEW: Audio crossfades come to Final Cut Pro X 10.4.9!

What is the difference between EQ and filters? *With Audio*

What difference will a preamp make to your recording?

Watch our video on linear phase filters and frequency response with the FabFilter Pro Q 2

Read our post on linear phase filters and frequency response with the Fabfilter Pro Q 2

Harmonic distortion with the Soundtoys Decapitator

What's the best height for studio monitors? Answer - Not too low!

What is the Red Book standard? Do I need to use it? Why?

Will floating point change the way we record?

Mixing: What is the 'Pedalboard Exception'?

The difference between mic level and line level

The problem with parallel compression that you didn't know you had. What it sounds like and how to fix it.

Compressing a snare drum to even out the level

What does parallel compression on vocals sound like?

How to automate tracks that have parallel compression

Why mono is better than stereo for recording vocals and dialogue

Clipping and compressing a drum recording to achieve an exciting sound texture

What can we learn about room acoustics from this image?

Can you hear the subtle effect of the knee control of the compressor? (With audio and video demonstrations)

What is the best studio microphone?

What is the Neve sound? (Using the Slate Digital FG-73)

What is the difference between recording, mixing and mastering?