Dim Sum – Monitoring Levels in Logic Pro X
When mixing in Logic Pro X, it’s good practice to monitor you work in progress at different levels. By listening at different volumes, different areas of the frequency spectrum might take on more weight or emphasis than at louder levels, or vice versa.
It’s the same with specific instruments, vocals or effects. They may stand out more, or be perceived as further back in the relative blend, when auditioned at various levels. Similarly with panning, elements might be perceived differently when played back at different levels. It’s our job as mix engineers to constantly check these sorts of issues by monitoring at different volumes throughout the mixing process.
Monitoring Levels in Logic Pro X – The Dim Button
Fortunately, Logic Pro X helps us with this task with two very useful functions. The first is the Dim button on the Master fader (and the accompanying Dim Level Slider in the Audio Preferences). The way this works is simple: set the Dim level in the preferences. And then as you are mixing, press the Dim button the Master channel strip, and the volume will be ducked by the value you set on the preference page. Pressing that button toggles back and forth between the two volume levels.
The advantage with this method is that the volume ducking will be applied equally to all outputs arriving at the Master channel strip. So, it works great if you are mixing in surround. One button press, and all outputs are dimmed together. The drawback of this method is that you need to use the mouse, the fader doesn’t provide visual feedback as to the offset amount, and depending on your workflow, having all outputs dimmed equally might not be desirable (perhaps when recording, you’d want to dim the main outpus but not the headphone mix outputs for example).
Monitoring Levels in Logic Pro X – The Toggle Level Command
Now the second method has the following advantages:
- it works by Key Command
- it can set unique values for each output
- it’s project specific, not a global preference
Bring up the Key Commands window (⌥ K), and enter “toggle level” in the Key Commands search field. You will see Key Command only functions that allow for alternate levels to be stored and recalled for each class of channel strip. For the purposes of this exercise, we are primarily concerned with the “Toggle Level Of Output Channel Strips” command. It is unassigned by default. I assigned it to an unused function key on my system.
￼Once you have it assigned, invoke the command, and all output channel strips will snap to the bottom. Set them to the level you want (they can all be set to individual levels), and invoke the Key Command again. The slider will snap back to your previous value. So now as you are mixing, use this key command to instantly dim your main output. If you are mixing in surround, you can easily set all your outputs to the the same offset.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, I prefer this method. It is useful during the tracking stage as well as mixing. It works great for when I am recording live talent in the room and need to duck my main outputs but not the headphone output. Plus, it’s easy to reset the value (no need to go into the preferences to adjust the Dim slider value) when I want to use this same function when mixing. Just hit the Key Command and set the fader level where you want it. The value will be remembered, and the Key Command will now toggle the level using this new value.
As you can see, this same function is available for other Channel Strip types as well. This could be useful on audio Channel Strips when using direct monitoring while recording. It could be used as an alternative to turning off software monitoring. Simply use this function to snap the fader all the way down to the bottom when in record mode. True, there is a dedicated function for this already in the audio preferences (which I prefer), but this is certainly a viable alternative if it suits your workflow better.
What other uses occur to you when thinking about this function on the various types of Channel Strips in Logic Pro X?