There are a lot of factors that contribute to the level one sees at the DAW. The input source to the mic, the mic itself, the mic pre, the interface and any of it's related settings, all of the cabling, and the type of metering selected. Since the VMS is a very wide-dynamic range device, and doesn't at all compress the input signal as many mics and pres inadvertently do, the averaging algorithm of the meter may not register an average (RMS) level that looks as "hot" as some users may expect. This is perfectly normal. Many loud singers will be towards the lower end of the gain adjustment, and many quieter singers and soft acoustic instruments may be near the top. Considering all of these factors, trying to say what should "feel" right on the meter/gain knob is very squirrely.
Additionally, there are many different ways of reading the information at the meter and deciding what is correct. In the digital world, hotter is not always better, and the dynamic range is easily compressed if one is not careful. Many engineers leave as much as 15dB headroom at the converter stage to ensure nothing is clipped. This is especially important when recording uncompressed signals like the VMS. The VMS preamp makes about 15dB of gain at the minimum setting and 60dB of gain at maximum. This can be measured with fairly simple tools if a user feels that there is a problem, and we are always here to assist with that.
Here's a list of factors to consider when looking at the final meter level:
- How loud is the person singing (or instrument playing)?
- What is the distance from the sound source to the microphone?
- How reflective is the room?
- What is the ambient temperature/humidity of the room? (Makes only a small difference, but a difference nonetheless!)
- Is there a windscreen?
- What mic is being used?
- What mic cable is being used? (Mic cables with an imbalance between the hi and lo legs can easily cause signal loss)
- What is the gain of the mic preamp?
- Does the mic preamp use a true gain control or a variable pad across the input/output?
- What cable is being used on the output? (same issue as mic cables, additionally it's possible to mis-match balanced and unbalanced signals at this stage)
- What interface is being used?
- Is the input mic or line level?
- Is the selected input unity gain or variable? (Be sure it is set for unity gain!)
- Is the input -10 or +4? (Use +4 wherever possible)
- Is there a digital mixer between the interface and the DAW? (If so, make sure all it's settings are at unity gain)
- What is the dBFS Refence level?
- What are the settings in the DAW?
- What type of ballistics are being used on the DAW's meters?
- Are the meters set to pre or post fader?
- Are any plugins affecting the meter?
It's important to consider all of these factors when judging what the correct meter level should be.