Wire-Lists #36: Additional Tricks for Gain Staging Transmitters and Receivers with Recorders - Part 2

Social Media WireLists36 300pxIn our recent Facebook poll, many of you expressed interest in learning how to set up transmitter/receivers with recorders in an on-the-job scenario. Last week, we heard from Bal Rayat and Bruner Dyer. This week, we hear from Chris Howland and Steve Morantz.

Chris Howland is the founder of the LA Sound Mixers Group, a long-time Lectrosonics user and has worked on countless film and TV projects. Chris reports that “most of my gain staging is done by feel and the anticipation of the unknown.” The following numbers are his starting points:

From a VR Field Venue to a Sound Devices 688

Line level input settings 
(normal voice and louder performances)

  • Field Venue output +08
  • Sound Devices 688 input trim at LINE level and -8db for unity gain. Will sometimes push to 0 or 2db for soft speakers.

Mic level input settings

  • Used when I have a “mumble actor” or soft speaker. This allows me to add gain on the receiver side if it is needed so I don’t have to push the mic pre’s so high that they are out of proportion. 
  • Field venue output -15
  • Sound Devices 688 input trim at MIC LEVEL and 26db will have to reference tone sitting at 8db on the 688’s meter. This allows me plenty of head room for soft speakers 

UCR411a receiver to a Sound Devices 688

Line level input settings

  • UCR411a output set to +5
  • Sound Devices 688 input trim set to LINE LEVEL and dialed in to -6db for unity gain. (will sometimes push to 2db for some speakers)

Mic level input settings

  • UCR411a output set to -33
  • Sound Devices 688 input trim set to MIC LEVEL and dialed in to 34db for unity gain. I will sometimes push the mic pre to 42db for soft speakers and if needed, the last resort is to take the receiver from -33 to -25.

Transmitter levels
(with a Sanken COS11 black band standard sensitivity lav mic) 

  • SMWB Transmitter Level set to 22 to start. Would need to be higher for softer voices.
  • SMV Transmitter Level set to 18 to start. Would need to be higher for softer voices.
  • Boom transmitter (HMa) with a Sennheiser MKH50 microphone level at 35 and the receiver and Sound Devices 688 is always set to line level receiving numbers, because we always have access to that transmitter for gain adjustments whereas, with actor lavs, access is not always guaranteed or convenient.

Steve Morantz has worked extensively on TV productions – including Parks & Recreation, Entourage, Dead to Me, Just Add Magic and many others. Here, he shares his settings for the variety of mics and situations that he works with:


I run my receivers at line level as high as they go, +8 on the rack receivers and +5 on the 411 series. I have a Sound Devices SL-6 with Lectrosonics SRCs, and the default setting for that is -6. So for that system only, I use that setting.

Lav Mics:

Lav mics have different gain and padding. I use DPA 4061, 4071 and 6061, which are 10 DB lower than the DPA 6060s, and Sanken COS11 lav mics. For the Sanken and 6060, I start my gain on the mic pack at 20 and adjust accordingly. On the 4061, 4071 and 6061, I start at 26 and adjust as well.


I just finished up Season 2 of the TV show Mayans M.C., where we would put a boom on the biscuit (vehicle with camera arm) and record the motorcycle noise. For that, I would put the gain down all the way to 0 on the transmitter for the plug-ons.

Cardioid and Shotgun Mics:

For cardioid and shotgun mics, I run the gain on the transmitter usually around 28 and again, depending on the environment, I can adjust down to 17 or as high as 34.

Many thanks to Chris, Steve, Bruner and Bal for contributing to this feature!

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