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  #1  
Old 10-27-2008, 02:50 PM
spaceman spaceman is offline
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Default Best Recording Levels

When recording parts that are not going to be upfront in the mix are best results got by recording quite low level into PT and not needing to make big fader changes.

or....is it best to get the audio hot into PT and take the faders down more?

I remember reading about this on the DUC a few years back but interested to know the present standard peeps are going for......
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  #2  
Old 10-27-2008, 03:01 PM
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DrFord DrFord is offline
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Default Re: Best Recording Levels

I am always of the opinion that hot levels are better across the board. But I would say the reason is because of noise.

At some point you are going to say "I need more of that" and either turn up the fader, or use compression, or maybe put in an effect and you are going to end up gaining up on a noise floor to acheive the higher db desired. Multiply that over several tracks and you have added alot of noise to your mix.

If you need a softer sound, compress for it. If you need less db in the mix, turn down the fader. But it's always better to record hot and turn it down than to record low and turn up the noise floor.

My 24 bits.
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  #3  
Old 10-27-2008, 04:19 PM
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O.G. Killa O.G. Killa is offline
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Default Re: Best Recording Levels

Quote:
Originally Posted by DrFord View Post
I am always of the opinion that hot levels are better across the board. But I would say the reason is because of noise.
What noise? Your mic preamp that you are cranking up is going to have more noise in it than your protools system. Most mic preamps have a noise floor of about -90dB, protools is around -118dB to -120dB. Your mic and mic preamp will have AT least 30dB MORE noise in it than your DAW. So, if you are trying to record at louder levels the only thing you are doing is putting MORE NOISE into your tracks because you are turning your mic preamps up to get the signal as hot as possible without clipping.

If you are recording into a DAW, you are NOT USING TAPE. There is no need to record as hot as possible since there is no tape noise/hiss to compete with. You are only going to make your recordings noisier by turning up the preamps.

Calibrate your studio and everything will fall into place. The 192IO is set from the factory to -18dBfs (on the PT meter) = +4dBu = 1.228 Volts = 0 VU (on an Analog VU meter).

This means, the old analog technique of "keep the needle right around 0 on the VU meter" translates to "Keep the signal right around -18dB on the Protools meter (which is just under halfway up the meter)".

Some of the best tracking engineers I've seen, record everything with the faders set to "0" and change the mic preamp gain to place things proper ly within the mix WHILE TRACKING. Most people today don't really do this because pulling the fader down in PTHD doesn't really effect the sound of the track (until you get down around -90dB on the fader). Whereas on an analog console as soon as you start pulling the fader down you are changing the sound (since the fader is a voltage controlled amplifier/variable resistor).

So, to answer the original poster's question... if you are going to record and mix completely in the box you are better off keeping the levels lower for better Signal to noise ratio and to keep intersample peaks from clipping plugins and such.

Last edited by O.G. Killa; 10-27-2008 at 04:20 PM. Reason: typo
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Old 10-27-2008, 04:35 PM
Andre Knecht Andre Knecht is offline
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Default Re: Best Recording Levels

None of the above, actually (in the first two posts, that is).

Treat ProTools as you would an analog recorder, and set levels in accordance with a reference level of choice. There's a reason why Digidesign ships 192 I/O interfaces calibrated for either -18dB and/or -20dB operation (A & B trims). Headroom is your friend, and that’s what 24 bits are there for.

Of course, it doesn't help that ProTools doesn’t feature calibrated metering on its interface (although this will be addressed by the upcoming PT8). But there are ways around it.

PS: Search the DUC for “headroom.” There are plenty of good answers and detailed explanations found in previous discussions — and most likely where you last read about it.

IHTH.

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Old 10-28-2008, 03:08 AM
spaceman spaceman is offline
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Default Re: Best Recording Levels

Most of the parts are coming from samplers and synths in the box, so the noise floor thing is not as relevant. One thing I was interested in is that if you are tracking low are you sacrificing dynamics within that particular track as you use far less than the 24bits?

Andre - in my own production I have not used an analog recorder (I am young enough to have grown up producing totally in the DAWS!), so could you expand on setting level in accordance with a reference level of choice please?
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Old 10-28-2008, 05:32 AM
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Default Re: Best Recording Levels

I've found in 24 bit systems that moderate tracking (VI's or mic's) gives a truer clairity rather than ultra hot record levels.
(something true in all the above post)

Yes, 0 on a vu meter (Averaging) is about midway up on the PT's digital peak meters. Seeing as PT's are peak meters what your recording is a consideration as to your levels.
(A soft attack flute may register -20 or so but a stomping foot may peak at -2)
Adding analog VU meters to my setup has helped me contain myself however a hybrid calibration needs to be set (offset) too achieve the best of both worlds.

Tracking with dynamic range makes mixing an art of sweetening....

Leave the mastering processes to the appropriate time after the mix have been completed. (Then match your playback levels to the media and market)**
**For this I use Toast or Waveburner with OZONE3 for simulated master CD burns (Clients like it loud)
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Old 10-28-2008, 05:37 AM
Andre Knecht Andre Knecht is offline
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Default Re: Best Recording Levels

Quote:
[…] Andre - in my own production I have not used an analog recorder (I am young enough to have grown up producing totally in the DAWS!), so could you expand on setting level in accordance with a reference level of choice please?
One of these days you ought to try that “search thang” I mentioned in my previous post. It took me a minute to find two (among many) relevant post, get back here and paste them, below.



On analog equipment, 0dBVU is considered “unity” (nothing added nor subtracted, level-wise). However, there is room to accommodate additional gain. The amount of gain above 0dBVU that can be handled without clipping is known as “headroom.” Typically, 0dBVU is also where analog equipment performs at its best. As level increases beyond 0dBVU, so does distortion — until one reaches the clipping point, where the system just can’t keep up any longer. However, analog distortion (and even clipping, to an extent) can be pleasing — not only have learned to live with it, we often use it deliberately, as a creative tool.

On digital equipment, there is no headroom. The absolute maximum level that can be handled by a digital system is referred to as 0dBFS. Anything that would exceed said 0dBFS gets distorted in rather unpleasant fashion.

The reference level we touched on in earlier posts, is an arbitrary (selected by the user) point on the digital level scale that is chosen to serve as a digital system’s 0dBVU level. This is important for a number of reasons, but is crucial for proper interfacing with analog equipment.

It should come as no surprise that matching operating levels with outboard analog equipment is desirable. The problem is that there is no uniform headroom value in the analog world. That’s where level trims come into play on your equipment. (Incidentally, high headroom tends to be expensive, and it should always be considered when evaluating specs.)



Give your system some headroom; you'll be glad you did. Everything will sound better and mixing will be easier — regardless of whether you mix externally or ITB.

The notion that allowing 18 dBs of headroom is "wasteful" harks back to the days of low-bit sampling and the early years in DAW development. Early 16-bit converters were awful, and proper dithering techniques didn't even enter the DAW picture for manufacturer's second and third generation efforts.

Modern DAW hardware and software allow us to adopt working methodologies that are closer to the analog model, where the concept of proper gain-staging (which includes the need for adequate headroom) is as crucial as all other choices and decisions made during production.

A little math should illustrate the point.

Every bit of resolution brings 6dBs to the table, giving us a theoretical 96dB of dynamic range for 16 bits, and 144dB for 24 bits. Using a reference level of -18dBFS for 0dBVU, will — at first glance — reduce resolution by a whopping 3 bits, or 18dB (duh). However, this "loss" is in fact made smaller by any and all peaks exceeding 0dbVU, effectively reducing the amount of "wasted" resolution. Obviously, the dynamic properties of the sound being recorded vary case-by-case, but even the worst-possible mathematical scenario still leaves you with a resolution that is 5 bits (30dB) better than CD resolution.

To further put things in perspective, consider that 130dB of dynamic range is an exceptional value and that few pieces of analog equipment even get close to that kind of performance (required to even hear 1 or 2 bits worth of "loss" with a 24-bit system).

Headroom is your friend*.



* Just like the search engine.


IHTH.

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  #8  
Old 10-28-2008, 09:43 AM
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Default Re: Best Recording Levels

Quote:
Originally Posted by O.G. Killa View Post
What noise? Your mic preamp that you are cranking up is going to have more noise in it than your protools system. Most mic preamps have a noise floor of about -90dB, protools is around -118dB to -120dB. Your mic and mic preamp will have AT least 30dB MORE noise in it than your DAW. So, if you are trying to record at louder levels the only thing you are doing is putting MORE NOISE into your tracks because you are turning your mic preamps up to get the signal as hot as possible without clipping.

If you are recording into a DAW, you are NOT USING TAPE. There is no need to record as hot as possible since there is no tape noise/hiss to compete with. You are only going to make your recordings noisier by turning up the preamps.
OG, I hate to say it but I absolutely disagree. Digital noise is just as prevelant as it was on analog tape. It's different noise but it exists all the same. I have beautiful mic pre's (avalons and focusrite ISAs) and they don't make tons of noise, but the reason is because I give them hot signals to begin with. Yes, if you whisper a track off a synth into a mic pre and then boost it to hell you are going to get mic pre noise.

The other thing I am talking about is RF noise, noise from unbalanced cables, bad power noise, cell phone noise, cross talk, there are so many different ways noise can become part of your mix, and like I said, as soon as you compress and boost the output gain, you are going to boost the noise that always exists in your recordings.

Now headroom is another thing entirely, and so is dynamic range, another reason to record hot so that you can fully benefit from the dynamic range of sounds - example is a synth sound with a cool reverb or delay built into the sound that slowly fades away into nothing.

Another reason is that I paid good money for my preamps and the sound of a good tube really helps any mix as far as I am concerned. Sterile digital recordings need all the harmonic help they can get.
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Old 10-29-2008, 03:35 AM
chris110000100101001 chris110000100101001 is offline
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Default Re: Best Recording Levels

Quote:
Digital noise is just as prevelant as it was on analog tape. It's different noise but it exists all the same.
Can you elaborate on this phenomenon?
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Old 10-29-2008, 09:12 AM
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Default Re: Best Recording Levels

I wasn't under the impression that it was a phenominon, and I thought I explained myself well enough. Although I will say that I shouldn't say that digital noise is the SAME as analog noise, or tape hiss, because well... it isn't. It also isn't as loud. So for that, I should correct myself.

Maybe it's bad converters, or maybe bad power supply, or not enough grounding, like I said earlier crosstalk, rf noise in cables, cell phone noise. I don't know how many times I have had client's cell phones -> specifically AT&T do that stupid rhythmic beeping sound before they ring, while the client is recording. But that's beside the point.

If you haven't experienced digital noise, then you are lucky.
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