How to Gain-Stage Plugins

Years ago, when working in an analog studio it was very important to make sure that you gain-stage all of your equipment properly. That simply means that the signal running from one piece of equipment to the next piece of equipment was at an ideal level, so that all the pieces of equipment were working together to give you the best sound.

If the signal was too low, you had problems, if the signal was too high, you had problems. You had to be constantly aware of this, because you were using a lot of analog equipment. You had a console, out-board equipment, effects processors, EQs, compressors, all of these things that were working together. Every time you sent a cable from one piece of equipment to the next, you had to make sure that the gain-staging was happening correctly.

You may think that if you’re using plug-ins in a digital environment you don’t have to do gain-staging anymore. That is not necessarily the case, especially when you are using multiple plug-ins on a single track.