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Thread: Recording levels, mixing levels, final levels?

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    Recording levels, mixing levels, final levels?

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    Newbie here. I have a small amount of experience with recording but I'm confused when it comes to volume levels. After researching some I found that I should record around -18dB to -12dB? This confused me some because when I record that low, it becomes quite hard to even hear it. I know (think) during the mixing I'm supposed to raise the volume, to what levels I don't know. I use Ableton Live and the volume slider only lets me go up 6dB so it would still be quite quiet. Perhaps this difference is made up with compression or something, hopefully you guys could enlighten me there haha. And I'm also not sure what the master level should be after I'm all done. I always assumed it should be very close to 0 but never go ever. Any would be greatly appreciated!

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    The reason for this is that is to avoid clipping the input. If your track ventures into distortion you can ruin a perfectly good take. Also as the number of tracks in your project increases your master bus will get closer and closer to 0 db. If the levels were all around -3 db it wouldn't be long before you run out of headroom and start having to bring all the faders down.

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    RAMI Guest
    Lomg story short.......

    It's totally normal to have to turn your monitors way up during the tracking and mixing stages. Get an overall mix that sounds good without worrying about how loud it is/isn't.

    Once you have your 2-track final mix, import that into a new project and you can use a compressor/limiter to get the volume up if you need to.

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    Quote Originally Posted by RAMI View Post
    Lomg story short.......

    It's totally normal to have to turn your monitors way up during the tracking and mixing stages. Get an overall mix that sounds good without worrying about how loud it is/isn't.

    Once you have your 2-track final mix, import that into a new project and you can use a compressor/limiter to get the volume up if you need to.
    what exactly do you mean by 2-track final mix? I always just "mix" my stuff right in the same project with all my tracks, then export when I'm all done

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    RAMI Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by pntbllrspdr View Post
    then export when I'm all done
    What do you export? Is it not a stereo mix?

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    With almost all acoustico-electronic "problems" you start at the output of a system and work back.

    Buy a modest sound level meter. You can get a perfectly useful one for less than $20US. If at all possible get one with the "C" weighting scale.

    Next, Google for "Calibrating monitors to 83dBC" . This is best done with pink noise (Audacity will generate it) but in fact a heavily compressed commercial rock track will do fine. The point is you see to have a consistant monitoring level every time you sit down to work.

    Small problem: 83dB ish is too loud for many of us home jockeys to use all the time being about the crackup point of the average flatscreen telly (I am not VERY nostalgic but there WAS something to be said for a 6x4 elliptical speaker and a PCL82!). So, "calibrate" the system to 83dB but then mark the monitor knob and turn down to a more socially acceptable level, be about 70-75dB. This can be your "working" level but check things at the reference as often as you can.

    Tracking, i.e. original recording, should certainly be done down at -18dBFS on average and peaks no higher than -10, -6 on VERY rare occaisions. This implies recording at 24bits 44.1kHz ('case you didn't know!) and if you ever get to send work off to be mastered they won't mind LOW levels!

    Dave.

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    ^yep what they said

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    What they all said.

    I will add that you must realize that there is a difference between recording level, mix level and listening volume. Even though they are related, they are all separate things.

    Never adjust the recording level because you are having a hard time hearing something, turn up the monitor volume.

    When you are mixing, you only need to worry about the relative volume of everything, like 'is the guitar too loud compared to the drums?' and not how loud the mix is.

    Set recording levels by looking at the meters, then adjust the volume of you monitors or headphones to get the listening volume you want.
    Jay Walsh
    Farview Recording. I am also the forum spokesmodel for Terasyne Amplification

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    oooooo I think I see what you mean now. Yeah I do export in stereo. So you're saying I should mix all my stuff at those low levels, then when I have that all done I export it all as a 2 track stereo mix, then I just turn up the volume on that?

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    Quote Originally Posted by pntbllrspdr View Post
    oooooo I think I see what you mean now. Yeah I do export in stereo. So you're saying I should mix all my stuff at those low levels, then when I have that all done I export it all as a 2 track stereo mix, then I just turn up the volume on that?
    More or less correct. The work you do on your 2-track, casually called "mastering" by most, is what I call audio finalizing. Export your 2-track at the same bits/sampling frequency settings as the project (hopefully 24 bit). Then do any final tone shaping on that and then wreck your mix's dynamics with a mastering limiter to get the final volume you want. Then resample to 44.1kHz (unless your project was 44.1), then dither and truncate to 16 bit.

    Better yet, take that 2-track exported file and send it to someone specializing in mastering.

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