Page 1 of 3 1 2 3 LastLast
Results 1 to 10 of 27

Thread: Recording Levels in DAW's

  1. #1
    themdla's Avatar
    themdla is offline Dedicated Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Los Angeles
    Age
    31
    Posts
    262
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
    Rep Power
    1805632

    Recording Levels in DAW's

    Sign in to disable this ad
    Hi guys,

    I've been recording for a few years and have never really gotten the results i was looking for. Recently i became aware that i may be recording and mixing too "hot". i've always tried to get the signal coming in as hot as possible without cliping, i was always told this was the method for getting the best s/n ratio.

    however i have never really understood "headroom" and "dynamics" as they relate to recording and mixing. recently i read an article that suggests peak signal level should reach about -15dbfs during recording to maintain headroom.

    so what do you guys think is optimal signal level coming in?
    how much headroom should i maintain during the process?

    Gear: Digi 002, KRK RP5, PC, ProTools LE 8

    thanks

  2. #2
    SouthSIDE Glen's Avatar
    SouthSIDE Glen is offline independentrecording.net
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    Chicago, IL. USA
    Age
    55
    Posts
    10,529
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
    Rep Power
    8088745
    Assuming you're recording at 24 bit, which you should be, it's awfully damn hard to record things too quiet; when in doubt, turn it down, but there's almost never a need to turn it up.

    That said though, IMHO, the optimum level for recording is to record at an RMS level equal to the calibrated conversion level of your A/D converter. This is typically somewhere around -18dBFS, +/- 4dB, depending upon the age and source of your converters.

    Don't worry about the peak level when you set your levels this way; as long as they don't clip, you're fine. But if you're getting clipping or close to clipping, then turn the recording level down and you'll be just fine.

    G.
    Glen J. Stephan,
    SouthSIDE Multimedia Productions

    RECORDING RESOURCES AND INFO SITE:

  3. #3
    Dogbreath's Avatar
    Dogbreath is offline Im an ex-spurt
    Join Date
    Dec 2004
    Location
    Nevada...
    Age
    50
    Posts
    4,560
    Thanks
    58
    Thanked 2 Times in 2 Posts
    Rep Power
    21474850
    Most of the "record as hot as possible without clipping" stuff came from reel to reel tracking scenarios and, to a degree, 16 bit digital. (if I'm remembering right)

    "headroom" is the room you leave at the top of your scale...i.e. from -15 up to say -1 (ish)
    You'll want the headroom for when you have all your tracks summed together as a mix, applying EQ and compression, limiting etc...

    "Dynamics" can be the life that you've left in the song because you didn't squash the hell out of it to make it louder. And you'll know because when you look at the wave form, it'll look like a block instead of peaks and valleys (which are the dynamincs )
    Dynamics on my board refers to my compression, MBCX and limiting section.


  4. #4
    moresound's Avatar
    moresound is offline Loud Sun Studios
    Join Date
    Dec 2009
    Location
    New Hampshire Lat/Lng: 42.8129750,-72.0248270
    Age
    100
    Posts
    25,958
    Thanks
    55
    Thanked 41 Times in 20 Posts
    Rep Power
    21474866
    If it's to loud ....then your to dam old!!!

    Just kidding. What Glen and Dog breath have stated is the recording gospel truth

    Who said that?







    ♫♪♫ I have a fever and the cure is cowbell ♫♪♫ .......... *LIVE FREE OR DIE* .......... ♫ I'm all ears ♫

    ☼ Mucho Loco Henry Areebah! ☼

    Any mic you buy will be perfectly suited to your needs, until you use it long enough to learn that it's not.

  5. #5
    themdla's Avatar
    themdla is offline Dedicated Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Los Angeles
    Age
    31
    Posts
    262
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
    Rep Power
    1805632
    Quote Originally Posted by SouthSIDE Glen View Post
    Assuming you're recording at 24 bit, which you should be, it's awfully damn hard to record things too quiet; when in doubt, turn it down, but there's almost never a need to turn it up.

    That said though, IMHO, the optimum level for recording is to record at an RMS level equal to the calibrated conversion level of your A/D converter. This is typically somewhere around -18dBFS, +/- 4dB, depending upon the age and source of your converters.

    Don't worry about the peak level when you set your levels this way; as long as they don't clip, you're fine. But if you're getting clipping or close to clipping, then turn the recording level down and you'll be just fine.

    G.
    i have recently been recording 44.1khz @ 16-bit. although i can record as high as 96khz @ 24-bit. i've always been confused about dithering and started tracking at 44.1 @ 16-bit to remove the need (i'm not sure if that's really correct though). also my drum samples/vst are easier to deal with (in terms of processing) at 44 16.

    from reading your gain structure applet i assume that recording @ 24-bit will provide a lot more headroom. is that correct?

    so if i can maintain an RMS level around -18dbFS, +/- 4db. anything that peaks above that could be corraled by compression, provided it doesn't squash all the dynamics i need to maintain in the final mix.

  6. #6
    themdla's Avatar
    themdla is offline Dedicated Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Los Angeles
    Age
    31
    Posts
    262
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
    Rep Power
    1805632
    Quote Originally Posted by Dogbreath View Post
    Most of the "record as hot as possible without clipping" stuff came from reel to reel tracking scenarios and, to a degree, 16 bit digital. (if I'm remembering right)

    "headroom" is the room you leave at the top of your scale...i.e. from -15 up to say -1 (ish)
    You'll want the headroom for when you have all your tracks summed together as a mix, applying EQ and compression, limiting etc...

    "Dynamics" can be the life that you've left in the song because you didn't squash the hell out of it to make it louder. And you'll know because when you look at the wave form, it'll look like a block instead of peaks and valleys (which are the dynamincs )
    Dynamics on my board refers to my compression, MBCX and limiting section.

    yeah i've always noticed that once i start adding effects (as plug-ins in the box) and their resulting gain i start to move in to cliping unless i reduce the output of effects in the chain.

    as an example i normally record a DI guitar track and during mixdown start adding "amp" effects (amplitube/guitar rig/eleven). once i add an amp effect i typically start cliping. especially if i'm adding eq or distortion (ie additional signal infomation/gain) and i reduce my output volume from the effect until it's just not clipping anymore.

    however i am wondering now that i know i need to maintain headroom and dynamics....

    should i try to match my effect output levels to my initial signal level RMS?

    or will adding effects always add additional gain and headroom is planning for gain increases?

    also, in a final mix how much headroom is normally left sans buss compression?

  7. #7
    themdla's Avatar
    themdla is offline Dedicated Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Los Angeles
    Age
    31
    Posts
    262
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
    Rep Power
    1805632
    Quote Originally Posted by moresound View Post
    If it's to loud ....then your to dam old!!!

    Just kidding. What Glen and Dog breath have stated is the recording gospel truth

    Who said that?







    lol yeah i've been in that camp for awhile

    i've always tried to push tracks as hot as possible without clipping and then tried to turn them up as loud as possible in a mix without clipping the master.

    i've always used compression but i think in the wrong way.

    but then again i've always had mixes that lacked depth and sounded kinda harsh.

  8. #8
    SouthSIDE Glen's Avatar
    SouthSIDE Glen is offline independentrecording.net
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    Chicago, IL. USA
    Age
    55
    Posts
    10,529
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
    Rep Power
    8088745
    Quote Originally Posted by themdla View Post
    from reading your gain structure applet i assume that recording @ 24-bit will provide a lot more headroom. is that correct?
    Yes it is. Think of it this way: when you're recording to digital, the total amount of dynamic range you have to work with - i.e. the size of the digital "canvas" on which you can paint your musical picture - can be roughly calculated as the number of bits times 6dB, then subtract 6dB from that result.

    This means that 16bits gives you a total of (16x6)-6 dBs, or 90dB to record witin. 24bits would be (24x6)-6, or 138dB of total range to record within. That means that 24bits actually gives you an extra 48dB to work with. Or to put it another way, you can push your signal down lower in 24bit without having to worry about hitting the floor, in turn giving yourself just that much more headroom to play with without haing to worry about clipping.

    This is what I mean when I say it's damn hard to record "too low" in 24bit. You have a lot of room to push the signal down without having to worry about bottoming out, giving you just that much more headroom to play with in turn.

    But the thing to remember though is that RMS level does not mean peak level. When I say RMS at -18dBFS (for example), that means the average overall signal level. the peaks will easily fly above that Which brings us to...
    Quote Originally Posted by themdla View Post
    so if i can maintain an RMS level around -18dbFS, +/- 4db. anything that peaks above that could be corraled by compression, provided it doesn't squash all the dynamics i need to maintain in the final mix.
    While it is possible that you may approach clipping when you RMS at -18dBFS, it's pretty rare to find signals that are quite that dynamic. 8 times out of 10 you should be safe. However, if your input signal *is* that dynamic (technically speaking, it has a crest factor of 18dB or greater), I'd personally just turn the record level down instead of compressing or limiting the peaks.

    The difference is that compression will change the nature of the signal, and therefore the actual sound. If it's a change you want, ten it's fine, of course. But f you'd rather just record the clean signal and wait until you mix until you make compression decisions (which is what I personally prefer), the just turning the record level down is the way to go. It will not change the sound at all, it will simply only record at a safer record level.

    An exception to that that happens a lot for me is when you get a vocalist who is inexperienced in studio technique and tends to wander all over the place in relation to the microphone, unintentionally causing their levels to also wander all over the place. It can be really hard to keep sensible recording levels that way, and often limiting or compressing on the way in is needed just to keep things under control. But the catch there is, depending upon your DAW, your limiting plug-ins may or may not work while recording. You'd have to research that for your DAW. I avoid that by using an outboard analog compressor or limiter before the signal gets to my DAW, but if you don;t have that ger available that may not be an option for you.

    G.
    Glen J. Stephan,
    SouthSIDE Multimedia Productions

    RECORDING RESOURCES AND INFO SITE:

  9. #9
    themdla's Avatar
    themdla is offline Dedicated Member
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Los Angeles
    Age
    31
    Posts
    262
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
    Rep Power
    1805632
    Quote Originally Posted by SouthSIDE Glen View Post
    Yes it is. Think of it this way: when you're recording to digital, the total amount of dynamic range you have to work with - i.e. the size of the digital "canvas" on which you can paint your musical picture - can be roughly calculated as the number of bits times 6dB, then subtract 6dB from that result.

    This means that 16bits gives you a total of (16x6)-6 dBs, or 90dB to record witin. 24bits would be (24x6)-6, or 138dB of total range to record within. That means that 24bits actually gives you an extra 48dB to work with. Or to put it another way, you can push your signal down lower in 24bit without having to worry about hitting the floor, in turn giving yourself just that much more headroom to play with without haing to worry about clipping.

    This is what I mean when I say it's damn hard to record "too low" in 24bit. You have a lot of room to push the signal down without having to worry about bottoming out, giving you just that much more headroom to play with in turn.

    But the thing to remember though is that RMS level does not mean peak level. When I say RMS at -18dBFS (for example), that means the average overall signal level. the peaks will easily fly above that Which brings us to...While it is possible that you may approach clipping when you RMS at -18dBFS, it's pretty rare to find signals that are quite that dynamic. 8 times out of 10 you should be safe. However, if your input signal *is* that dynamic (technically speaking, it has a crest factor of 18dB or greater), I'd personally just turn the record level down instead of compressing or limiting the peaks.

    The difference is that compression will change the nature of the signal, and therefore the actual sound. If it's a change you want, ten it's fine, of course. But f you'd rather just record the clean signal and wait until you mix until you make compression decisions (which is what I personally prefer), the just turning the record level down is the way to go. It will not change the sound at all, it will simply only record at a safer record level.

    An exception to that that happens a lot for me is when you get a vocalist who is inexperienced in studio technique and tends to wander all over the place in relation to the microphone, unintentionally causing their levels to also wander all over the place. It can be really hard to keep sensible recording levels that way, and often limiting or compressing on the way in is needed just to keep things under control. But the catch there is, depending upon your DAW, your limiting plug-ins may or may not work while recording. You'd have to research that for your DAW. I avoid that by using an outboard analog compressor or limiter before the signal gets to my DAW, but if you don;t have that ger available that may not be an option for you.

    G.
    First off thanks Glen for taking the time out to help me your advice is always clear and consice

    Ok i understand what you mean and i'd have to agree. i doubt my signals have more than 18db in dynamic range RMS to Peak. Bad singers not withstanding lol

    out of curiosity...

    do you normally include compression before going to "tape" in your signal chain?

    if so (material/signal/performer dependant) is it fairly light compression?

    do you still maintain -18dbFS+/- post compression going in? (i'm sure this question is redundant but i'm still wrapping my head around these concepts)

    BTW i do have an outboard 2-channel compressor in my rack.

  10. #10
    SouthSIDE Glen's Avatar
    SouthSIDE Glen is offline independentrecording.net
    Join Date
    Apr 2005
    Location
    Chicago, IL. USA
    Age
    55
    Posts
    10,529
    Thanks
    0
    Thanked 0 Times in 0 Posts
    Rep Power
    8088745
    Quote Originally Posted by themdla View Post
    do you normally include compression before going to "tape" in your signal chain?

    if so (material/signal/performer dependant) is it fairly light compression?
    I like it mostly on vocals, and mostly for the reason given, though it can come in handy sometimes on guitar when it's recorded direct, when a sloppy guitarist can send the signal levels all over the map.

    The settings are indeed entirely dependent on the signal. It's hard to give even ballpark settings, because I'm not doing it at that point in the chain so much for sound shaping as I am dynamics control. But on vocals I'd say most often the threshold will be set somewhere within a couple of dBs of the estimated RMS of when the vocalist is where I want them (I only have analog VU meters to work with at that point), and a ratio usually somehwere in the 4:1 range, give or take. I just set my A&R to "Auto" for that and it's usually fine. But it really depends upon the situation. For direct guitar, I may switch to the limiter - or not - depending upon the situation.
    Quote Originally Posted by themdla View Post
    do you still maintain -18dbFS+/- post compression going in? (i'm sure this question is redundant but i'm still wrapping my head around these concepts)
    Yep. Just because I'm applying some signal control on the analog side doesn't mean I want to change my recording levels on the digital side. And I'll usually make the proper adjustment (if needed) right on the output gain of the compressor.
    Quote Originally Posted by themdla View Post
    BTW i do have an outboard 2-channel compressor in my rack.
    Very cool. Don't hesitate to experiment around with it. That's the best way to find your path.

    G.
    Glen J. Stephan,
    SouthSIDE Multimedia Productions

    RECORDING RESOURCES AND INFO SITE:

Page 1 of 3 1 2 3 LastLast

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

Similar Threads

  1. Raising Output Levels from DAW
    By bee-free in forum Mixing Techniques
    Replies: 5
    Last Post: 04-12-2010, 10:26
  2. Replies: 14
    Last Post: 06-23-2007, 17:39
  3. Tracking levels from Digital multitracker to DAW
    By rockabilly1955 in forum Mixing Techniques
    Replies: 10
    Last Post: 03-30-2007, 21:21
  4. Playback levels hotter than recording levels =(
    By Kaputo in forum Analog Recording & Mixing - Tape & Gear
    Replies: 5
    Last Post: 07-01-2000, 01:04
  5. Replies: 1
    Last Post: 06-19-2000, 20:51

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •  
Special 93% Offer

Got beats? Samples? Mixing and mastering services? Get a head start with this 93% OFF special offer!