the master fader + track fader questions


I know the general rule of thumb is never ever touch your master fader but I have a question relating to this. Recently (as in yesterday Roll ) I have been putting the master fader up to full (+6 dbfs on my DAW) before I start doing anything on a new project.

I've switched to this because I've only had headphones for years with a low volume output on the computer (hard times etc) and I was using a limiter on the master to 'bring the levels up'. The idea was to a/b with the limiter but addiction set in and the limiter stayed on resulting in a very distorted picture of how the song was sounding. This wasted many hours as I would switch the limiter off and have to delete all processing and start again Grin

So yeah started using the master fader on +6 instead. The nice side effect of this has been the lack of headroom on the master channel (as the sum of all parts can never go above 0). The even nicer side-effect is when I'm done with a song I just set the master fader back to 0 and export a file that peaks at -6dbfs. I've found this has really helped me stop over processing sounds and seems to give a clearer picture of when something needs adjusting.

My question is does this master volume raise affect the sound drastically? (I realise I will hear a perceived difference but is this just the same as turning up your speakers?) I've been switching between 0 and 6 and can't hear anything obvious but I'm only on headphones so my opinion is sketchy.

Now I also make sure each audio/midi track is giving close to 0dbfs from the original source (audio file/midi instrument etc) and use the track faders to set the levels of the mix. Every time I think a sound needs something altering I put something (for example an eq) on the track and any alteration I make really shows up as the eq is receiving full signal from the source (as it is pre-fader). This has 2 good side-effects, it makes it a lot easier to see if a plugin is clipping from the signal or clipping the track from its output (you just look at the set value (level) of your track fader and see how much above or below the signal is and make adjustments so it's close enough to the set value again). The other good thing I've found is you end up only making small adjustments on added effects to achieve the sound you were looking for instead of turning down the source to give the track headroom to process the life out of it (if you have to do this maybe the sound just isn't gonna work on that song)

My other question is about the above method. I've not researched this method I just came up with it, is this just a crazy pointless method for the digital domain or is it useful?

I'm not looking for set rules just a good starting point that can be tweaked.

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