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How hot do you record in digital?


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Yeah, since 24 bit, I'm not anal about the last bits of headroom. My day gig, however, revolves around recording hundreds of phone prompts a day to 16bit, 22.5k. I'm shooting for the ceiling just short of disaster there...

 

There's nothing worse than normalizing a poorly recorded 16bit file, except an 8bit, or a 4!

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Yup... most of my mixes are in the -15 dBFS range. It' the mastering engineer's job to maximize the levels, apply compression, EQ it (if needed), etc. etc. If I gave them a mix where I had peaks that were .1 dBFS, they'd be severely limited in what they could do with it without having to "correct" my levels first.... there would be zero headroom left for them to work with.

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how loud do you like the mixes after mastering?

 

As loud as they can be - short of overcompressing things and clipping the mix, and killing the musical dynamics. :)

 

Volume controls are on stereos for a reason, and people can always easily turn it up if they want to play the CD louder... but clipped waveforms and squashed dynamics are "there" forever. IOW, I'd rather retain good sonics and musical dynamics than have a "LOUD" CD just for the sake of it being "loud".

 

If I have anything to say about the mastering, it's not going to be oversquashed.

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It depends on the number of tracks I am tracking and how dynamic they are. A typical rock recording with 16 tracks can set me down to -18dB per track pretty easy and still get me in the -6dB to -12dB range. Leaving room for mastering can take the tracks down to -30dB.

 

I track at 32-bit (24-bit with 8-bit float). At that depth, 20dB or 30dB is not worth worrying about, digitally recording. There isn't going to be a notable loss of quality. And, summing the tracks back will add back up, as it is.

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I think there can be a lot of confusion around this subject, because different DAWs have different meters and different scales.

 

I can understand peak meters - but I suspect some of us here are talking about RMS. And as far as I know, there is no industry standard for which RMS scale DAW makers will use - so it's extremely confusing to compare between different DAWs.

 

I've read that Steinberg use the mathematically correct system where a 1kHz sinewave peaking at 0dBFS will show an average RMS dBFS of -3dB. That's seems logical. But I also understand that Bob Katz and other audio pro's use a system where the same sine wave would have an average RMS dBFS of 0dB. Which I don't understand, but some meters will be using this system.

 

If anyone could clear this up I would be very appreciative. But as I understand it, it's an area where audio pro's agree to disagree and there are two camps.

 

Which makes discussions like this very confusing ...

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Strictly an amateur as far as recording goes and still at 16 bit. I used to do the high as you can go thing but I'm now down to trying to keep things at -12 or lower so I have some room to work with. The more tracks I'm going to put on, the lower I start and have worked down to -18 to -20. doing it like that I can do pretty much what I want and can then work toward my own masters coming out at about a -3 average.

Won't be too long before I'll be able to upgrade both sound card and recording program to get to 24 bit & I'm looking forward to re-learning everything.

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Originally posted by Phil O'Keefe

how loud do you like the mixes after mastering?


As loud as they can be - short of overcompressing things and clipping the mix, and killing the musical dynamics.
:)

Volume controls are on stereos for a reason, and people can always easily turn it up if they want to play the CD louder... but clipped waveforms and squashed dynamics are "there" forever. IOW, I'd rather retain good sonics and musical dynamics than have a
"LOUD"
CD just for the sake of it being "loud".


If I have anything to say about the mastering, it's not going to be oversquashed.

 

Can you give us an example of one of your mixes for peak and rms before and after mastering?

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Originally posted by daklander

Strictly an amateur as far as recording goes and still at 16 bit. I used to do the high as you can go thing but I'm now down to trying to keep things at -12 or lower so I have some room to work with. The more tracks I'm going to put on, the lower I start and have worked down to -18 to -20. doing it like that I can do pretty much what I want and can then work toward my own masters coming out at about a -3 average.

 

 

Just as an FYi...

 

There seems to be a school of thought (I don't know where it came from???) that says that tracking levels affect mixing levels. Not true. There are faders on each channel for a reason.

 

There is no reason to start lowering levels during tracking just to keep you LR levels of the monitor mix from going too hot. Either pull some faders down or pull the master fader down. You should be shooting for the same general tracking peak levels for every mono or stereo track you record. They'll look different because of average level but the peaks should be in the same -3 to -10 general range.

 

When using tape it's a little different. With 24-bit digital anything with a reasonable level and not clipping is much the same. Recording at -20 at 16-bits? that should eventually sound pretty bad after multiple dsp (plugin) operations.

 

There is no valid reason to record at 16-bit. Please use 24. Do yourself a favor. Plugins screws the hell out of 16-bit tracks. Use 24/44.1k if you want. I do often and it's fine. You should do 24-bits though.

 

Back on topic...

 

When recording tracks...

 

Don't worry about mix levels when recording. Let it go. 2 different processes.

 

Record at a good level but leave some headroom. Anything from -3 to -8/-10 is fine. The only point here is to get the signal to the track sounding good and not clipping.

 

When you start to mix the song later the first thing you do is pull ALL the faders down. You build your overall LR mix level from there. How hot your tracks are or are not coming from tape have nothing to do with the LR mix level. The mix level is determined by where your individual faders are.

 

You want a mix that peaks about -4? When you bring your kick and bass up shoot for a peak of about --12, as you bring the rest of the tracks in the overall LR peaks will rise. You may hit -4 or you may peak at -6 or -3. It doesn't really matter but -5 is a really good safe place. As you do more of that you'll start to get an idea of where to peak the Kick/Bass in the mains when you start mixing to get close to the level you ultimately want.

 

If you want the mix to be printed louder, don't use a maximizer as the first option.. Push the master fader up. That's what it's there for. Push it up until the meters peak -3 tops. If you need louder after that? Maximize it with a -3 limit in the maximaizer. (...yes... -3 not 0) leave some room for those cheap converters out there in the world.

 

You gotta let go of the idea that tracking levels affect mix levels. Use your faders.

 

Lawrence

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Lawrence, I guess I wasn't very clear. I use the faders to bring the levels down to the -12 or so area so I can work with it. The individual track, as recorded I try to peak just below clip. That seems to give me an average of about -6 to -3 on my meters before pulling down the faders. Before I figured that out I tried to run everything as hot as possible and ran into all kinds of clipping and distortion.

Does that make more sense?

 

Still working on how my system's levels relate as to final mixdown levels and mastering.

 

As to the 1 bit, you do what you can with what you got. I will be upgrading both soundcard and program in the near future but other priorities for the money are in place right now.

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Lowering the master fader to gain headroom on the mix buss is the worst approach you can take, and will result in an inferior mix, due to overdriving the summing buss. As with analog consoles, you can't just keep driving level to the mix bus endlessly and make up for it by lowering the master fader. Since most all DAWs master meters are post fader, keeping the master fader at 0db ensures the metering is accurate, what you see is what's going in (provided you have no inserts on the master buss, which I personally highly recommend against.)

 

We did some indepth experimentation with several DAWs, taking essentially the same mix, and on one running the faders hot, overdriving the Mix buss and lowering the master fader, and another keeping the master fader at 0db and lowering the track faders to keep levels in check, and in every instance, the latter sounded massively better than the former.

 

FWIW, into our Mackie HDR, we track to a nominal -15dbfs (the HDR's 0dbu equivalant) and into Protools (via Apogee) we tracke nominal level at -14dbfs, the Apogees 0dbu equivalant. Our inputs never clip, and the audio quality is superb.

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I find this very hard to believe. Did you include Nuendo or Cubase in your DAW tests? Are you talking about remaining in the digital domain, or were your test colored with A/D/A conversions on each track? Or perhaps trying to integrade several DAWs or a digital mixer?

 

I don't understand this rhetoric about ''overdriving the mix bus". That sounds like old analog thinking to me. In a 32 bit float digital DAW, you can't clip channels and you can't clip the mix bus. Yes - you can clip fixed 24 but converters - I'm not talking about that.

 

Analog gear requires headroom, and has a sweet spot well below 0dBFS. Digital audio - while it is purely binary numbers - has zero head room, and the only theoretical sweet spot is as hot as possible without clipping.

 

Certainly - this all changes at the converters, where the analog considerations come back into play.

 

In my tests with Cubase SX, I have not noticed any problems with running the channels as hot as desired, and dropping the master fader to achieve the desired master level.

 

It makes good sense to me to use the top 6dB of the channels - for easier fader movement, and maintaining maximum bit depth for the insert effects.

 

Why this fear of using the master fader? Is it because of integration with external a/d/a and analog outboard?

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Originally posted by where02190

Lowering the master fader to gain headroom on the mix buss is the worst approach you can take, and will result in an inferior mix, due to overdriving the summing buss.

 

 

If you go back and read my post I said ...lower the master fader during tracking if the monitor mix gets too hot ... (and you don't wanna stop to adjust levels). I find that an acceptable solution rather than distorting the mix bus or headphone amp or interrupting the flow.

 

I never overload the main bus during mixing.

 

I'm still confused about people saying that they'll bring a fader to "-12" or something so the main mix is -3. Faders land wherever they land during mixing, all over the place. It depends on how you want the individual track to sit in the mix.

 

Lawrence

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Testing was done completely in the box. While in theory it should be very difficult and require massive levels to overdrive ITB, in reality there is a definite, audible difference.

 

It doesn't matter if you're tracking or mixing, in fact it would be as big a factor tracking, as it would be an indication you're tracking too hot.

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That brings up some interesting questions...

 

1. Does pulling the fader down lower the level of the data going into the bus?

 

2. Or is it the other way around? Does lowering the master fader lower the data coming out of the bus?

 

3. Is the mix bus metering post fader? (selectable in SX)

 

Does it matter? Probably not. I do occasionally switch my meters from post-fader to pre-fader just to make sure I'm not overloading the bus coming in though.

 

Lawrence

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There's nothing wrong with that Lee, except that, especially at 24 bit, there's no need to track that hot. targeting nominal(average) levels to the 0dbu reference of your specific converters will provide you with an optimal audio quality signal, and allow plenty of headroom for transients without overshooting 0dbfs. This allows you to run the faders at a more comfortable level (-10-0db) without driving the mix summing into the red.

 

You are a wise man to know to leave that masterfader at 0!!!!!!!

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OK. I think I understand... so there isn't an increase in audio quality by tracking more conservatively. It's a case of making mixing more user friendly by getting the fader levels in a more convenient range, come mix time.

 

Is this what you guys are saying?

 

My question then... are you really sure you

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