I have very often discussions with subscribers and with my students on this topic.What is the actual difference between volume and gain. That’s why in today’s blog post i want to give the exact definition for both terms ,as much as simple as I can ,so we can avoid mistakes later on in our recordings and of course in our mixes.
These two definitions are quite complicated nowadays,even if they shouldn't be. When we are talking about volume ,we mean the decibel (dB) output of your sound system. in more simple words volume defines how loud your signal comes out of your speakers. Got it? Volume is loudness.
In your DAW you have volume faders so you can set the right volume level on each track. Volume level of each track is sent to your master output or mix buss ,however you want to call it. From there you have the final volume level of your entire song. This is the volume definition. How loud your signal is! Simple ,right?
In your car ,volume is how loud your music comes out from your speakers or how loud you turn the music on.
Now ,what is exactly gain? You can say that gain defines how loud the signal comes IN your DAW. It represents the input dB. Let me give you an example. You want to record a vocal track in your project. You connect your condenser microphone in your audio interface and you are checking your input signal with the gain knob that is on your interface. If it has a lighting ring round the gain knob ,then you have to make sure that you don’t go red because that means you are clipping. You are checking the loudest parts of the song ,so you can have a very conservative level in your recording.this way you are adjusting the input level.How loud the signal is going to be for your vocal recording.
However gain is used sometimes as volume.On a compressor there is the make up gain.When you compress a signal then you have to turn up the volume of the signal using this knob.The make up gain. Actually is the volume and not the gain.
On a guitar amp ,you may see both knobs volume and gain. If you overload your guitar with gain and keep the volume on a medium level then you have the distortion.This is how you can create distortion on a guitar. Speakers can’t process the signal of your guitar cleanly
All you have to remember is this: VOLUME is loudness (how loud the signal comes OUT from your speakers) and GAIN is how loud the signal comes IN to your DAW
With these two terms well understood , you can have much better results in your mixing and in your recordings also.