Octatrack gainstaging

Hi all!

Got my second OT a while now and using it as an Ableton partner; meaning i’m recording my vsts and drums from ableton and then mangle them on the OT. One of the main things im struggling with is gainstaging. Within ableton my drumloop sounds loud and boomy and the OT needs some work and i know it can sound the same.

Things i’m doing now: set main out +20, max the level of my master track, set the timestretch off in case i don’t need it, check the DB gain in the sample editor.

There probably a few things im not seeing. Ie. The master compressor is a bit vague. I often end of at 20/40 ratio and 100 threshold at 100 mix. Putting the ratio at max and finding the spots where it changes. Any tips?

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Two things I’ll mention:

  • Boost the sample itself first if you feel things are too quiet (audio editor). 20db boost on main seems unnecessary and if anything is gonna lessen the sound quality, I think it would be that
  • Someone else on here posted a great gain staging guide and the #1 thing I didn’t know before reading it was “unity” for each track (master track included if you are using it) is fully open aka 127

P85 of manual:

GAIN allows you to amplify or attenuate each individual sample without affecting any track parameters or locks. On recorder buffers this setting defaults to +12 dB to compensate for the attenuation the headroom of the audio engine inflicts.


I find it sounds better to keep track levels moderate and use compressor on the master track to compensate. I really think sound quality suffers when there’s not enough headroom in the OT’s internal mixer.


I use the External Effect device in Ableton to send audio out to the Octatrack. You can crank the output gain in that before it reaches the Octatrack. I find that to be a good start.

Also +20 on Octatrack’s main out, like you.

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Yeah using a bit of gain on the comp is nice as well. I’m starting to learn the compressor; bit harder without the visual aid the DT has; but cranking it in and the slowly lower the impact works well. Thanks

i been watching a bunch of ableton tutorial on mixing and gain stage, now i start with my kick drum at -10db (need a way to monitor your levels) and try to get master into OT from my other gear no more than -6db, then i try to adjust gain on my OT samples from there.

I also have “mastering” after OT so signal isn’t weak AF

i try to stay well below level where it sounds like crunchy garbage because i am merging 4 channels of audio with 4 channels of samples, if the signal is too hot, ick!


Yeah. I’m of the mind that with the OT - with all digital audio really - the best course when you don’t have great metering is to keep levels low and add volume as late in the chain as possible, in the OT that’s compressor on the master.
This should also make it easier to balance out volume over a set, being able to adjust just the master comp rather than re-mixing everything.


Does Ableton allow setting a headroom level?

Sometimes I sample from Renoise, which has a default headroom level of -6db. I find that if I keep my Renoise master at that level it’s pretty easy to gain-stage in the OT. Also, I set my OT inputs around unity gain and leave my OT mains at 0, not +20, lol. Not sure if I’m doing it wrong, but it seems to be fine. I’m far from a mixing engineer, but that’s how it makes sense to me.