Gain Staging - How to set proper levels with your Apogee product and recording software

Use the following steps to set input and output levels on your Apogee interface. 

Before launching your recording software:

  1. Turn down the speaker/headphone output level of your Apogee interface.
  2. Connect your audio source to your Apogee interface. Make sure to use the proper inputs.
  • If you're using a microphone, plug the microphone into the XLR input.
  • If you're using a guitar, bass, or other high impedance instruments, plug them into the 1/4" instrument input.
  • If you're using an external mic-pre or another piece of line-level gear, use the XLR inputs.

Quick Tip: Some keyboards and synths can be plugged into either the Instrument or XLR inputs. You might have to experiment with what sounds better.


3. Launch the Apogee Control app (Apogee Control, Apogee Control 2, Apogee Maestro 2) and go to the inputs. Make the appropriate selection in the Analog Level drop-down menu for the input channel you are using.

  • Microphone (Mic) - depending on the Apogee interface you are using, you would choose Ext Mic/Ext Mic 48v (ONE) or Mic (Duet, Quartet, Ensemble, SymphonyI/O with MicPre module). You will need to engage the 48v button for if you're using a mic that requires phantom power.
  • Instrument (Inst) - Guitar/Bass/some keyboards
  • Line Level (+4dBu/-10dBV for balanced/unbalanced connections) - This setting is used when connecting external microphone preamps and other line-level gear.

NOTE: If you have the ONE, a line-input is accommodated by choosing Ext Mic and turning the input gain all the way down.

4. Set the input gain of your Apogee interface.

There are two ways you can adjust your input gain:

  • By adjusting the input software encoder in the Apogee Control app (Apogee Control, Apogee Control 2, Apogee Maestro 2).
  • By turning the physical knob (encoder) on your Apogee interface (make sure you've set the knob to control the input channel and not the output level. See your User's Guide for more information on setting this).

Quick Tip: Ideally, the level in the input meter should be as high as you can get it without hitting an "over". If you see red in the meter, you know you need to turn the input gain down. In some cases you may need to adjust the output of the audio source you are using. You may need to move your microphone closer to the sound source or further away. You may need to turn the level of your guitar or keyboard up or down.

Launch your recording software, create an audio track, and put the track into input or record mode. It is a good idea to leave the fader of the track you are recording and any Master Fader for the mix set at their default setting.


5. Adjust the output level of your Apogee interface.

  • Gradually increase the output level of your Apogee interface so you can hear what your input source sounds like in the speakers or headphones.
  • After you get the output set to a comfortable listening level, listen for any distortion in the input audio.
  • If the audio sounds bad, you may have something set wrong. Go through steps 2, 3, and 4 to trouble-shoot the problem.

Note: Two common issues are that the sound is too quiet or that it's distorted. It may be a simple case of needing to turn the input gain up and the output level down or the input gain down and the output level up.