Clipping on master without any track clipping


I’ve found some similar questions without finding a solution for my problem.

all my tracks are below 0db so there’s no clipping on any of them, but I get heavy clipping on my master bus.

I’ve tried changing the meter on master and adding some limiters on my tracks, but problem persists.

I’m not talking about exporting, just mixing.

thanks in advance.

The sum of your tracks is loud enough to clip. You need to turn down the faders on your individual tracks.

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From a scientific view, if you add two channels that simultaneously peak at -3db they will send your master bus to 0db. So it is no surprise that you will hit the red zone when you send several 0db tracks to the master.
From a practical point of view, if you are mixing tracks to create pleasant sounds you will probably not want equal loudness from all tracks. It is entirely practical that some tracks will peak very low.
When you add in the fact that the master buss may be stereo or even 5.1 then you can see that mixing is more an practical (or artistic) decision more than scientifically distributing streams of sound. But in any case you have to regard track levels as adding logarithm numbers. Luckily it’s built into the meters.

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So just to add a little more onto what you have already been told, what you are discovering is exactly why I teach my students that the first thing they should do when working with multitrack audio is to look at gain staging, usually resulting in lowering the trim on tracks in Mixbus or Region Gain by 10dB-20dB or so before they put any plugins on the track if the tracks are normalized to -1dB (As adjusting trim or region gain after putting plugins on the track mean you will need to adjust your plugin settings).

If the tracks are raw recordings that are not normalized, in most situations these days the recordings should be peaking between -18 and -12dB and it is less of an issue then.

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ok, so is as simple as lowering gain of tracks.

is there any difference between mixing tracks at -10dB to get master at 0dB, and mixing tracks at 0db and turn down master?

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It’s best to turn down volume before summing, so keep master fader at 0 dB’s and turn each track down say for example -12 dB’s, if it still clips then go to -18 dB’s. Master fader is usually used only for doing a Fade out for the whole song.


By itself, no. Ardour’s gain staging is lossless.

However if you add compressors, limiters and/or distortion plugins or other non-linear effects that depend on signal-level it can make a difference if those effects are after the fader.


Even before as well technically. Part of the reason for gain staging properly is to make sure you provide appropriate signal level to all the various inputs stages. It is a holdover from analog, but still applies in Digital, even in floating point systems with enough headroom to handle it to an extent. For one thing just because Ardour uses interally 32 bit floating point math, doesn’t mean that the plugins handle it all the same. Related to this though is that most plugins provide control ranges based off a sensible level incoming to the plugin, and if you overdrive the plugin (Or underdrive) you may find it very difficult to manipulate the audio using the plugin controls like you might like.

So in general it is a better option to lower the input levels, but can you get by in most cases lowering the master fader? Yes, but not in all.


Also check out

Except for Mixbus built-in “Tape Saturation” this directly applies to Ardour (the trim knob in Ardour’s mixer is at the top, and the Mixer looks different, but that doesn’t invalidate any of the hints).


thanks a lot for all this information, I’ll try to get a copy of Mixbus next time it goes on a deal.
I really like the Tape Saturation technique.

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