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Thread: When mixing a track why does the decibel reading shoot up when I cut?

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    When mixing a track why does the decibel reading shoot up when I cut?

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    A bit of a particular question, I don't know how else to have it answered directly.

    When I take a Zoom mic recording of my band live in a room, it often gets loud to the point that the track will clip, but as its only a single track recording it never exceeds 0 decibels. I'm not worried about the clipping, it sounds fine and is just for demo recordings.


    What I don't understand is when I try to mix it in Cubase, which I usually just do the slightest amount on. Even if I just cut the tinest amount off a frequency, the track starts to exceed 0 decibels, often by a good margin. Why is it that the track volume reading changes so drastically once I touch an EQ? Is it just something in the reading, or is the track actually getting louder? It doesn't sound louder, seems the same. Will it make a difference, like squash something further, if it goes up an extra decibel or two? Obviously if I was adding somewhere in mixing it makes perfect sense why it would raise the decibel reading. But I'm often just cutting 2 or 3 decibels at 2400hz(just to dampen the screeching resonant frequencies), using the narrowest Q. This makes me confused and unsure how to mix single mic tracks of a live recording.

    I'd really appreciate anyone's input, I hope this isn't too confusing. Thanks!

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    If you cut frequencies rather than boost them, the track will be quieter, and the maximum level will drop. It cannot go up by cutting, so something else happens. Sometimes, if you use very narow frequency bands, the actual response curve goes UP slightly before plumeting down, and this can generate distortion if your track is already at 0dB - which it shouldn't be anyway. Why are you recording so hot in the first place? drop the level you are recording at to give you empty space at the top - -6dB to -12dB seems a safer zone for you. If your zoom is working that hard, the chances are you are already generating harmonics from small amounts of over level - so get you record levels down first, then you can cut or boost, not just cut!

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    Thanks for the response! What you're saying is what I would think, however it doesn't quite explain what I'm experiencing. I tested it, if the frequency band is anything over 0.2, the volume still raises, even if the cut is only 1 decibel. Even at 0.2 frequency band the volume goes up 0.1 at points.

    The recording is so hot cause its just us jamming and keeping track of ideas. Everything is mostly made up on the spot so we don't really know what's going to happen. Its a small room and sometimes we get considerably loud, we're a particularly noisy band with little volume control when practicing ha. There's no real way to monitor it too accurately and still have a loose jam. But then sometimes we have a really good recording, and when I go to mix it it's pretty close to zero or sometimes flatlines at zero. I don't worry about it too much cause it sounds fine unless the recording level on the mic was accidentally too high. But then this happens if I try to mix it.

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    Is it a graphic EQ? Like ROb says, a hi-pass often has a bump up a little higher than the cut frequency, perhaps your EQ is doing something similar. If your recording level is not exceeding 9dBFS, then you are not getting digital clipping when you record (but turn the gain down!), maybe the mic itself is distorting?
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    No its a parametric EQ, just what comes with Cubase 10 Elements. I'm aware of volume bumps that can happen when dealing with hi-pass or lo-pass filters. Its not the mic that's distorting, its just the on-board compression mics that come with the H4n Pro. Everything sounds fine from the original recording, I'm just confused how the volume reading could raise so much when all I'm doing is a minor cut, that as far as I can tell slightly brings down the volume aurally, but somehow raises it a couple decibels according to the decibel reading on the fader. I'm just not sure what I'm missing.


    Thanks for the response! Would really help me if I could figure this out

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    If you cannot manage levels on the zoom, and HAVE to have a mega loud record level (and frankly, this just sounds lazy, or an unwillingness to experiment, or discover manual record level - why not normalise you track DOWN in volume. Then you can cut and boost? You seem determined to make a problem out of nothing here really? Can you not say to the band - Play loud. set the level, then back it off, knowing the drummer will play louder anyway? Your problem just isn't a problem - and if it really is, then your attempts at eq will probably fail too!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Help Help View Post

    What I don't understand is when I try to mix it in Cubase, which I usually just do the slightest amount on. Even if I just cut the tinest amount off a frequency, the track starts to exceed 0 decibels, often by a good margin. Why is it that the track volume reading changes so drastically once I touch an EQ? Is it just something in the reading, or is the track actually getting louder?
    I think it's just a question of reprocessing the signal when the EQ is added...IOW, Cubase is re-reading the signal and then showing you the correct levels that were already there, and you simply weren't seeing the same graphic representation in the Zoom.
    I don't use either the Zoom or Cubase...so I can't give you any better answer.

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    I've got a feeling that if you set the recording level really low, the band can play as loud as you like and never get anywhere near 0 and you may find that your problem mysteriously stops occurring.
    But my feelings have been known to not pan out !

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    Quote Originally Posted by grimtraveller View Post
    I've got a feeling that if you set the recording level really low, the band can play as loud as you like and never get anywhere near 0 and you may find that your problem mysteriously stops occurring.
    Yes...that would be the practical solution to levels being too hot.

    I do think maybe the Zoom simply isn't showing them accurately...and then in Cubase, the overs are more obvious...of course the higher bit-rate means you don't really hear them, so if you don't see them, you think everything is OK, when in fact it's too hot, and then late, when bit rate is reduced to 16 for typical distribution...the overs are heard.

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    Eq changes the phase of the frequencies covered by the filter. Applying eq could alter the timing of some frequencies relative to others causing them to add at certain points where they had canceled before.

    The proper solution is to leave an appropriate amount of headroom when recording and use a mastering limiter after any eq you apply later. The easy solution is to let it clip when recording, then trim back the level a little, apply your eq and tap it just a little with a mastering limiter.

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