Good practice to "touch" master fader

Hi there,

I finished mixing a track I recorded and, trying to follow the wonderful answers which @bachstudies gave me in this old topic: Adjusting tracks gain level vs adjusting faders - #10 by bachstudies, I realized I needed to have a slightly lower volume to reach the optimal volume for mastering.
So I just thought to slightly put the master fader down a little bit, but then I remembered that some time ago a friend of mine told me that “the master fader is never to be touched”, since you have to regulate everything with the other faders… I don’t think this is true, since if I don’t have to never ever touch the master fader… Then why would it be there? Therefore I just wanted to check with someone a lot more skilled than me if I’m right and, thus, if my decision to turn the master fader down is indeed the correct choice.

Thank you very much in advance guys!

It all depends on where dither happens in Ardour’s signal path or if you are using your own dither plugin in the last slot of the master effects. For a 3rd-party plugin (e.g. for those of us who want to use technically correct 24-bit dither) you’d ideally want the master fader to be at unity so no further processing is happening post-dither. I suspect that Ardour’s internal dither is happening post-master fader so you’d be fine to adjust the master fader to something other than unity as desired.

Bottom line: ideally no processing should happen after the dither but unless you are using a 3rd-party dither in the master effects, move the master fader to your heart’s content :stuck_out_tongue:


I subscribe to the never touch the Master Fader approach…

I always have my Master Fader at 0.0 with a Limiter (usually presswerk) placed post-fader in the channel strip… Adjustments are best made on the individual tracks and what is coming through your Master Buss pre-fader mix should not be be pushing the Limiter into distortion on the Input side. On the Master Buss if you are using a Limiter it is very useful to have one with Input and Output metering. Once you are post-fader on the Master buss you can tweak the output side of the Limiter for all the squeezing you want to achieve…

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@BethHarmon You are correct, the dithering happens post fader. Also in Ardour even if using a third party dither plugin, you can put it post fader as well (In fact that is probably a good idea but I don’t use third party dither plugins so haven’t thought about it much)

@deperito I adjust the master fader AS NEEDED. Meaning I would rather adjust the input faders, and get my mix correct there, but sometimes it is easier to adjust the master fader downward to adjust the overall output levels of the mix. I can’t think of any time I have ever automated the master fader for instance. But if I need to lower overall levels I can reach for a master fader, but as others have indicated you need to be aware of your signal flow and processing chain and how adjusting the master fader might affect these, for instance if you lower the master fader you might not hit a compressor/limiter/multiband-compressor placed post fader as hard. On the other hand if it was prefader, it is similar to lowering the makeup/output gain of that processor. So being aware of things like this helps you determine whether you are safe to adjust your master fader or not.

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I did for a fade-out.

That is one instance that makes sense… you’re forgiven… :wink: