How to Set Gain on Your Mixer

Have you ever accidentally overlooked something
important? Yeah, me too. And when it comes to mixing, gain happens
to be one of those things. So, let’s talk about it. This video is brought to you by Behringer
X32 Mastery, the fastest way for church sound techs to master the X32. And, with a team license, you can enroll unlimited
team members now and in the future. Finally, everyone will be on the same page. Visit or click the link in the
description to learn more. If the knobs on your mixer could talk, gain
would definitely be throwing a fit about feeling misunderstood. You see, gain has this great purpose, but
often gets mistaken as simply volume control. The purpose of gain on any mixer is to regulate
the amount of input coming from the device that’s plugged in. This could be a microphone, instrument or
some other device. Now it would be nice if all these different
devices sent out the same level of signal, but, they don’t… which is exactly why
gain exists. [B-roll: Kade messing with water faucets trying
to get the right temp] So imagine that your bathtub has two different
faucets, one for hot and one for cold. To get the perfect temperature for your relaxing
bath, you have to get same flow of water coming out of both of them. This is the picture you want to have in mind
when thinking about gain. Gain is not volume control, it’s a regulator. The goal is to get all inputs operating at
the same level before they travel through the rest of your mixer. So here’s how you set gain. [Overhead] When setting gain for a vocal or instrument,
its best to do so while the full band is playing. Otherwise, if you single them out, they’ll
probably be a little shy and you won’t get an accurate level. Adjust gain until you are consistently hitting
the first couple of orange lights on the gain level meter. In other words, the signal should always be
crawling over the -18dB mark when the vocal is singing or instrument is playing. [Primary] In my experience, setting gain like this gives
you a nice, strong signal with plenty of headroom so you don’t have to worry about clipping
and distorting the signal. Now, I am not saying that it should never
go above -18dB because it probably will in the louder moments. But for the most part, you want it to hang
out around -18dB. Now, just because you set gain once doesn’t
mean you can neglect it from then on. [Overhead] On most digital mixers, you actually have
a level meter for each channel, so it’s pretty easy to see when a channel needs a
gain adjustment. [Primary] So keep an eye on things and adjust as needed. If you still have questions about gain, drop
them in the comments. I’d be glad to answer. If you’d like to see more videos like this,
give me a thumbs up to let me know. And if you haven’t already, be sure to subscribe
to our channel and ring the little bell so we can let you know when a new video comes
out. See ya next time.

33 thoughts on “How to Set Gain on Your Mixer

  • Thanks for starting a YouTube channel Kade! I've been following you for a couple years now and am looking forward to the good things to come in your new videos.

  • Suggestion: for a site stressing sound, the sound on your videos is poor. I like the content very much, but hope for improved voice audio.

  • Great video in one of the most miss used knobs… The start of the video could have a little more time before you start talking….

  • I agree with Dick A. The sound on your video is not good. Too much echo probably because you are too far away from the mike or camera. Wear a head mike or put one on your collar…uh oh, you don't have a collar! Oh well, clip it on your t-shirt somewhere. Thanks!

  • This is very useful information, since I usually feel somewhat clueless in adjusting gain, EQ, and fade. Can I safely assume that this information applies to analog boards as well? Please keep the videos comiong!

  • My soundcraft 16 mixer gain knobs are at MAX for my sure SM-58 passive mics. (but they have plenty of head-room for all of the active inputs)
    Is there a supplemental pre-amp I can buy to correct for less than perfect mic adjustments?

  • First, thanks for sharing the content Kade! Been following you for a while and you always do a great job. Hope your subscriber count sky rockets! Now to the question… Do you set the channel's fader to unity before adjusting gain or do you set it at it's lowest position?

  • Hi, so I was told to get the gain to go to 0 using a Qu-32. However, you mentioned -18. Any reason why I should try and hit -18 instead of 0?

  • I honestly thought gain was for those moments when the piano is blazing and higher than others. This was good! Just started X32 course!

  • I love your videos! I'm the sound tech at our church and had to learn on my own from the beginning (2 1/2 years ago). I have so much more to learn. I've signed up for your Collaborate Worship Academy and bought the license so I can sign up the new people. I highly recommend your x32 course!!! Thank you!

  • Great video! Simple and clean. What is your process with channel faders on a digital mixer when setting gain? Should all channel faders be set to "unity" before adjusting gain? I have seen it done several different ways in my church.

  • How do you set gain for instruments that have their own volume sliders rather than just a microphone? If they have their volume low, then you would need more gain but if they turn their volume all the way up, it will give more output and require less gain. So what’s the happy median?

  • After shooting this video, we realized the need for sound treatment in the room. Problem has been solved for future videos, but unfortunately, you cannot update a YouTube video so this one is here to stay. 🙂 Lesson learned!

  • Hey Kade,
    When setting gain, do you set your mains, DCAs, and individual channels to 0? If not, what do you recommend?

  • Kade, if the band is using in-ear monitors wouldn't adjusting the gain while they are playing produce an uncomfortable effect mid-song, or is it pretty negligible?

  • I have a really stubborn sound tech, he uses the gain instead of the volume, and it distorts the sound quality of the instruments, especially my guitar, I’ve tried to explain to them that but they don’t listen. 😞

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