Giving Musicians the Tools to Make Better Music

What is Gain on a Microphone?

The Beginners Guide to Gain

Key Takeaways:

  • Gain is basically volume
  • Proper Gain staging gives the best audio quality
  • Improper Gain leads to bad sounds

What is gain on a microphone?

Gain on a microphone is the measure of the volume or sound level going into the recording. Gain determines how much an incoming signal will be amplified which affects the sound quality of recordings.

Why is gain important?

Gain is important because it determines the level of volume applied to a signal. By adjusting gain levels, you can ensure that your recordings are not too loud or too quiet, resulting in better sounding audio. Properly setting gain on a microphone also helps cut unwanted noise (such as hissing or popping from caused by clipping).

“Getting Levels into the goldilocks zone (not too hot, not too cold) gives the best results!”

Too Much Gain

Having too much gain can result in a distorted sound that is horrible to listen to. When the Gain level is set too high, it causes the signal to clip or peak, resulting in distortion. This type of distortion often sounds like crackling or hissing. We can hear this even when we’re not recording. And what’s worse is this sound can’t be fixed with effects or plug-ins. Trust me, having too much gain is no bueno



Not Enough Gain

Without enough gain, you won’t be able to capture all the details of what you are recording. The signal will be too quiet. This can lead to thin sounding audio with little dynamics or presence. Additionally, background noise like hiss or hum will become more noticeable without enough gain. And with modern heavy handed compression, there’s a good chance that noise will be heard in the final song! Once again no bueno!

How Does Gain Work?

Gain works by amplifying an incoming signal before it is recorded. We can adjust it to ensure that recordings are not too loud or too quiet. Recording in the goldilocks zone (not too hot and not too cold) results in better recordings over all. Properly setting gain on a microphone is essential for getting the best sound.


What are the different types of Gain Settings?

Gain settings are divided into two main categories: preamp and post-amp. Preamp gain is the gain we apply to an audio signal before it is sent to a recording device. Post-amp gain is the gain applied afterwards on the recorded audio.

Preamp gain adjusts the input level of the microphone. This allows for optimal sound quality without introducing any distortion. Post-amp gain is typically used to adjust the volume of the recorded audio after it has been recorded.


What is Clip Gain?

Clip gain is the amount of gain applied to a signal AFTER it’s recorded. This falls into the category of post-amp gain. Though it’s impossible to change the input volume of a clip after its been recorded, clip gain can change the output volume of the audio file. Think of this as adding volume to clip! The benefit of clip gain is that it will affect how your plug-ins effect your audio!


When should you use clip gain?

You should use clip gain to bring your audio to the best level for your plug-ins. This is different than turning it up with a fader! Turning up a fader only turns the volume up after the plug-in chain!

In order to give more input to the plug-ins, adjust the clip gain of the audio file! Look at how the wave forms of the file actually get bigger in the picture after clip gaining has been applied!