Over To You: How Do I Get My Tunes The Same Volume When Mixing?

DDJ-ERGO VU

The gain controls are designed to let you equalise the volumes of various incoming sources before you mix them using the line meters and crossfader.

Digital DJ Tips reader Krystian writes: "I’m using Virtual DJ Limited Edition which I received with my controller Pioneer DDJ ERGO. My problem is that I don’t know how make my music volume levels the same. I mean that one track is louder than other track and when I crossfade between those tracks, it's difficult to make it sound good. How I can make the volume levels of the two tracks equal? Does any software exist that can help me in making the volume levels of my tracks balance? How I can use the rising LED light that shows volume level to help?"

Digital DJ Tips says:

There are a few things here. Firstly, the Pioneer unit has "gain" controls (above the low/mid/high EQs) that are intended for you to use to balance the levels of your tracks. Try keeping them at 12 o'clock, then cutting or removing gain from tracks to make them balance each other. Use your headphones for this.

Secondly, Virtual DJ has "autogain", although I'm not sure if this is a feature of the LE version that comes with the Pioneer unit - try looking in the config.

Thirdly, in theory you should be able to use the VU meters to visually set gains (ie set the gain so the signal is just below peaking in the red at the loudest part of the track). Often, when you press the "cue" button on a channel, one of the meters shows the pre-mixer level of the tune, ie that which is affected by changes to the gain control. Same goes for the other one. Use this to visually balance the tunes. (Again though, we have no DDJ-ERGO here to test that.)

Finally, software such as MP3Gain and Platinum Notes can set your MP3 to "all the same volume" - but if it were me, I'd go down the above routes first, because it's so easy to balance volumes using gain once you know how, that you may decide you don't want to go down the path of processing all your files, with its potential pitfalls.

OK folks, over to you. I don't know if Virtual DJ LE as provided with the DDJ-ERGO has autogain, or whether you can get the unit's VU meters to show cueing levels, as we don't have our review unit here any longer. Anyone care to enlighten us? Also, on a more general note, how do you personally deal with tracks with different volumes? Please help Krystian out by commenting below.

Comments

  1. Another side note – being that bass notes take up much more “room” in the audio spectrum, particularly bassy tracks will sometimes sound quieter when played alongside a track with a little more “sizzle” (treble)… especially when playing on a system that is incapable of reproducing those deep bass notes.

    In those cases, I find it sometimes helps to turn down the bass slightly on that channel and boost the overall gain to get a signal that sounds hotter.

    Not sure if the ERGO version of Virtual DJ LE contains autogain or not, though. :(

    • Good point, and also, it’s worth adding you shouldn’t expect VUs to be equal if one track has lots of bass and another doesn’t.

    • HaydenCR says:

      I generally turn on auto gain and adjust appropriately. The thing with auto gain, is that on quieter tracks or on a lot of WAV files the gain will be pushed to far and the volume will pass the peak. You cant just turn auto-gain on and forget it. If that doesn’t work, you can use the crossfader to put more emphasis on the incoming or initial track.

  2. What I usually do is, instead of using the crossfader I keep it in the middle and use the volume sliders and Gain knobs to level it out. I use M-audio Xponent, but I use this method no matter what equipment i mix with. Hope this helps :)

    • I also use that method and it works well for me. I use the Novation Twitch. It also helps to have loud monitors so you can really hear what’s going on.

    • that`s okay but if you have 3 or 4 decks playing….and want to throw with the faders ?
      i have an s4…and recently bought a djm 850…….with the djm it is way more easier to keep the sound levels right with the trim /gain as the volume meter on the mixer goes first into orange then red….as the s4 goes straight from blue to red…..but the fact remains that you must listen and know your tracks i use traktor software withg x1 for the djm and use auto gain.but still some bootlegs and tracks are so loud with volume or bass….sometimes the autogain doesn`t seem to work properly…therefor i i need to use the volume fader…wich then renders the track sometimes useless sadly for my 3/4 deck mixing as i want to `throw`with the faders….but an here we go…..i have bought some tracks on beatport…with these i do not have the volume troubles……

  3. DJ Majestic says:

    Personally I would start with MP3Gain set the default at 95db.
    FYI- in MP3Gain you can just choose your main music folder and let the software add all your subfolders. Depending on how large your library is it will take a while. I let mine run overnight when I went to bed.

    Then adjust your knobs for you low, mids & hi’s at 7 0’clock.
    I’m sure once you do that you will hear a considerable difference in all your tracks.

  4. As the answer in the article says.. just use the gains and your ears. It’s how DJs have done it for years, all part of the skills involved. Always worked for me and isn’t difficult to learn. For me auto gain type functions in software aren’t always that great to rely on, and I wouldn’t personally use any software that would alter the audio file in any way.

  5. Electronomist: Regardless of what method I would advise for applying gain, be it autogain or manual, using MP3Gain on your mp3 files will alter them in a non-destructive way. Or in their (the makers) own words: “MP3Gain does not decode and re-encode the mp3 to change its volume. You can change the volume as many times as you want, and the mp3 will sound just as good (or just as bad!) as it did before you started.”

  6. Perrified says:

    Yeaaa I use the gain controls on my DDJ-T1
    and monitor the clipping levels also.

    I use mixed in key for analysing my track keys and within the software it will also analyse the gain levels and automatically adjust them.
    Don’t personally use that function but it’s another software you could use.

  7. I would say make sure all your tracks are the same quality. All 320kbps or WAV. Allot of beginners and even some “pros” dont know enough about audio quality.

    For example pub DJ’s playing youtube rips or really low bit rate mp3s and thinking there is no difference between them and high quality mp3s

    • Absolutely bang on – I have some older tracks with a lower bitrate (192 is about as low as I’ve got), but I’ve noticed they “sound” quieter than those with higher – and here’s the thing – I’ve noticed this even when they VU’s are at the same level. I have to have them a little hotter to sound the same.

  8. If you are starting to play out regularly, or have a show coming up on a big rig, make the investment in Platinum notes! I’ve been using it for a year now and the newest upgrade has fixed most of the gripes I had with version 3. Not only does it help to level off the gains on your tracks – which is great for me since I buy my tunes from a couple different record pools as well as download from sites like soundcloud – but it also has some great filters in the algorithm to help reduce some of the brick wall compression a lot of more recently produced tracks have.

    It’s $100 well spent

    • Just FYI…

      You can’t reduce the limiting/compression of a track once it has been bounced to audio. If you receive an over-compressed track there is no way to undo this.

  9. Mauri Moore says:

    +1 to PN 4 .

  10. Kwipper says:

    I use Traktor 2 with my Traktor Kontrol S2. I noticed something though. The VU meters on the controller seem to be lower than the VU meters in the program and the main VU meter in the top of the screen. Which one is the right one? It seems that the main VU meter seen on the top of the program seems to be always hitting red, while the VU meters on the midi controller are showing in the middle. What gives?

  11. Good question, and unfortunately there is no real good answer for you… VU meters are a good start, BUT you need to know that VU meters are all different… I will not get too geekey on you, but it has to do with Sampling points… not all VU meters read the output the same, a 1kHz sample point will show little activity if you have a track with lots of Bass (low frequency in it) so in all, it will be very loud but the meters will not be moving much.

    Virtual DJ does have an auto-gain feature, kinda like MP3Gain it does nothing to the file itself other than scan it for high peaks over a specific threshold and adjust the output to all be (kinda) the same volume level. Mp3Gain adds a tag into the header of the file so the program that plays it will adjust the gain to give you the output you desire. where VirtualDJ adds that information to the XML file for the song that the VDJ program uses for playback along with all other info for that track, including tags, and cues etc…

    Depending on how you set up your equipment, (and budget) you may find that an actual hardware limiter (compressor/limiter like a DBX166XS or similar) is a very good idea, if nothing else, have one on your main outputs before you send the signal to your amplifier/system… a more elaborate setup would have a limiter on each device (turntable/mp3 deck) AND one for your output, that way you will always have the same level going through your mains, AND it gives you control of the entire system, more costly but far more flexible. (again like a DBX1046 or similar type 4 channel product) lots of feature in a single rack space.

    I hope you find some of this information useful… good luck and have fun!

    • I do need to add,
      depending on your controller, and I’m sure it will vary for everyone. (I use an American DJ VMX4) and my controller has a sound card built in, my outputs are not the same for each channel… my right deck seems to be hotter than my left in my case.
      I would recommend that you drag the same track to both decks and make sure you can cross fade between them and make your outputs as identical as you can.

      Also, you need to remember, (again this will be different for everyone) but if you fiddle with the EQ knobs and or other effects, you may have to zero them when you change songs… you can set Virtual DJ to rest the deck each time you load a new song, but in my case I have hardware knobs on my controller that will remain where I last left them, so i have to remember to move them back to zero (12 o’clock) each time I load a new song.

      Zak

  12. Not sure about mp3gain but after running your tunes through it, you might lose your que points that were saved….. Correct me if I’m wrong.

    • Dave yes, VirtualDJ will consider it a new song and have to scan it into the database if you have already scanned it.

      but there is no need for MP3Gain AND virtualDJ… virtualDJ automatically sets the gain into the XML file, just make sure in the Options Tab of VDJ you have the Auto Gain set to “Auto” and it will automatically adjust the track volume to be at “unity” for VDJ, so most tracks will output at the same volume… also remember to set your crossfader options there.
      if you set your crossfader to “Full”, then you will get a louder volume during the mix than individual track settings.. you may want to try the “Smooth” setting

  13. habinpapa says:

    There should be either a knob or a fader that let’s one select the monitored audio channel (i.e.: what you hear in your headphone)
    Switch back and forth between the main and que tracks and adjusting gain, EQ, etc.

  14. Very good question indeed.
    I have also faced with the same problem.
    Earlier, i used to use HerculesRMX + Virtual DJ. The Hercules RMX has a Gain knob for each channel, which was very useful.

    However, recently i have moved to KontrolS4+Traktor.
    Unfortantely, i have not been able to use Gain Knob on S4, as i think the gain on S4 applies to FX panel.

    Can somebody help me on gain control on KontrolS4+Traktor

    Thanks.

  15. The difference in gain between individual tracks can also sound great providing extra layering & depth to mixes,get on your EQs & faders & experiment with it.

  16. I’ve relied on my ears to adjust volume for playback. I do this by using the Master – Cue Mix knob, adjusting it to the Noon position with PFL “On” for the incoming track. Once I get the beat matched, I set the up-fader on the incoming channel to match the perceived level on the mains.

    This is what I suggest, however it’s relative of course because you might want to bring in a song on a lower volume part and you might want to play around with how much you turn the Cue/Main knob (so you can hear what part is coming from which song).

    Aren’t you glad you already have the solution built in?

  17. DJ Socrateez says:

    Thanks for tip on MP3 Gain. Dowloaded it and read the information on how it works. The changes it makes are lossless, so you can always go back to the level that the file was originally. You can export/import the file analysis and store it as a csv file, so you can always know what the changes were for each song.

    Here’s description of how it works: “The mp3 format stores the sound information in small chunks called “frames”. Each frame represents a fraction of a second of sound. In each frame there is a “global gain” field [that can be adjsuted]. This field is an 8-bit integer…”

  18. Does the pioneer unit in the original post have a ‘hardware mixer’ mode like the denon mc6000 does? Because this gives you the best of both worlds, VDJ applies its auto gain and then the gain knobs on the controller can then be used for the sound card volumes in the controller to tweak for the odd track here or there.
    I usually aim the peaks of any given track to hit the zero marker (no orange or red lights at all) to preserve pleanty of headroom then maybe tweek again a touch depending what my ears tell me – dont forget any effects applied after the faders (read most effects you might ever actually use), or microphones used will need room above the tracks playing to prevent clipping further down the line.
    Sorry to answer a question with a question but if the faders or gains can be switched to hardware then it really can give you the best of both.

  19. San.Tiago says:

    Tarekeith, a long time Ableton Live user, has a great article on this on his website (tarekeith.com). Basically he suggests doing some advance work to determine the levels of your songs. He uses a dedicated metering plug in to assess the levels and then makes changes to each track to ensure his tracks won’t clip during a set.

  20. djrizki says:

    In Nero Express, there is this thing called “Normalize Audio Files”, Nero manuals said :

    “Enables a filter that brings the volume of the audio files to be burned into line with one another. This is recommended particularly if the files originate from different sources.”

    My own experiences is meh, didnt make any difference to me lol but worth a try i reckoned…

  21. Benjamin says:

    analyse AND apply replaygain with Foobar2000. fast, free & works.

  22. DJ Sandor says:

    Platinum notes and mixed in key are smooth and worth the money! Great software

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