Post-Fader vs Pre-Fader Mixing

Just wanted to know how (and if) people are using pre-fader modes in the mix process. I haven’t heard any talk of it in the courses (unless I’ve missed something) but it seems to me it’s optimal to use pre-fader mode to reference for keeping the gain structure in tact. I know there are engineers who only mix pre-fader and those who only mix post-fader and I understand the reasons for doing so.

My mix process is after the stems are loaded, organized, named, and colored, to go through each track and adjust the gain on the audio stem files themselves to about -12 dB pre-fader without any processing at all. Keeping the faders at unity there is no difference in pre-fader and post-fader mode on the tracks at this point. Now once we start adding plugins and building our channel strips, the gain structure can quickly get out of control and simply pulling down faders to adjust (if in post-fader mode) will not address overloading the channels themselves, or the 2Buss for that matter before it hits the stereo master channel.

Some engineers state that floating point DAW’s make worrying about the individual channel pre-fader gains somewhat trivial, as we have excessive amounts of headroom and only need worry about the master stereo out. I prefer not to work this way myself. What I have been doing is switching in and out of pre-fader mode as I build my strips for each track and mix them, using plug-in gains to make sure no digital ‘clipping’ is happening. Even though it can be argued that digital clipping is really not happening even if in the red, my ears prefer clean signals clear from the red zones. Then switching back to post-fader mode I will bring up the channel faders in the mix until the blend really nicely.

I would appreciate any feedback, especially from Danny or Paul, but from anyone who has any experience regarding post and pre-fader modes and mixing. Thanks : )

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I think the system you have is ideal, very similar to my own.

I know people state not to worry with floating point DAWs, as long as Stereo Bus not clipping but this is just bad gain-staging practise. You will soon run into trouble when using a hybrid setup or less than optimal plug-ins.

Wonder if this is something that could be discussed in Mixing Foundations @Danny?

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