Old 23rd June 2011
  #1
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Metering

Ok so I'm using PSP vintage meter to get to grips with VU and PPM metering..

Why does the VU meter have its 0VU reference level set to measure -14dBFS as a 'preference' setting? What is the use of this measurement?.. When I use PSP Vintage Meter (set to VU) if I have it at its default setting the needle just slams hard into the red and remains there during most heavy music..

Why not just 0dBFS? I realise you can change it so that the OVU reference level is 0dBFS but why would you have it otherwise in a digital system?

Am I to assume that back in the days of all analogue tracking, mixing and mastering that the general spot for the VU needle to be floating was around, ideally, was (the equivalent of) -14dbFS in the loudest passages? Because analogue being analogue, it would cope with transients by saturating the tape instead of clipping digitally..

And if this is the case, would it mean that with mastering being the way it is these days (generally) in regards to 'the loudness war' that this -14dBFS reference level be rendered good for not much except quiet passages?..

Oh and also, if this is the case then what would be a good reference level be these days, because when I set the 0VU reference to 0dBFS on the PSP vintage meter, the levels barely hit -7.. Should I just play a modern mastered CD track and see where the meters idle and try and get my mastered tracks close to that same mark or what?..

Enlighten me please, because when I come with one answer I seem to get two more questions..
:Luca
Old 24th June 2011
  #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by luca1 View Post
Ok so I'm using PSP vintage meter to get to grips with VU and PPM metering..

Why does the VU meter have its 0VU reference level set to measure -14dBFS as a 'preference' setting? What is the use of this measurement?.. When I use PSP Vintage Meter (set to VU) if I have it at its default setting the needle just slams hard into the red and remains there during most heavy music..
The VU meter and its reference level are tied to "the analog world", and totally pre-date the common digital frame of reference, which (as you know) is 0 = digital Full Scale (max amplitude) within your hardware/software.

Quote:
Originally Posted by luca1 View Post
Why not just 0dBFS? I realise you can change it so that the OVU reference level is 0dBFS but why would you have it otherwise in a digital system?


Am I to assume that back in the days of all analogue tracking, mixing and mastering that the general spot for the VU needle to be floating was around, ideally, was (the equivalent of) -14dbFS in the loudest passages? Because analogue being analogue, it would cope with transients by saturating the tape instead of clipping digitally..
Most analog systems have between 10 and 20db of "headroom" above "0Vu" to avoid clipping. The VU meter originally was/is an electro-mechanical device, with a response that "approximated" the human ear (in theory), and so many transients would not show up at all, or the meter would read much lower than the actual peak level. The VU is very crude as an audio-level-measuring device (and I kind of find it silly when it's included in modern devices, since it's so inaccurate in a lot of situations.

Analog multitracks saturate depending on tape speed and reference level used for alignment, but in general in analog recording you would learn (as I did) what levels were "reasonable" based on the nature of the sound source (and again, the alignment chosen). 14 db of headroom on a multitrack might or might not make sense, depending on the material (individual tracks, or mix, or whatever). But the analog electronics in the tape machine and the consoles and outboard gear all had/have more "headroom" than tape itself did/does.

Quote:
Originally Posted by luca1 View Post
And if this is the case, would it mean that with mastering being the way it is these days (generally) in regards to 'the loudness war' that this -14dBFS reference level be rendered good for not much except quiet passages?..

Oh and also, if this is the case then what would be a good reference level be these days, because when I set the 0VU reference to 0dBFS on the PSP vintage meter, the levels barely hit -7.. Should I just play a modern mastered CD track and see where the meters idle and try and get my mastered tracks close to that same mark or what?..

Enlighten me please, because when I come with one answer I seem to get two more questions..
:Luca
As far as the "loudness wars" are concerned, you should read about them in Bob Katz's "Mastering Audio", 2nd edition, which will clarify this topic in a lucid and understandable way.

I would NOT use an "analog VU meter" in a digital system, even an emulation, because in the digital realm, clipping (going above 0 db FS) is what is relevant (of the first order of importance), and avoiding intersample clipping is what is relevant (second order). Most DAW systems have a combination of peak- and average- reading metering that is what is truly relevant. My humble opinion, of course.
Old 24th June 2011
  #3
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Bloody hell man, wicked answer

I guess the main thing I failed to understand was that VU meters aren't really tied to the digital world in a productive and relevant way.

I just assumed because plugins like PSP vintage warmer/meter included them that they were a purposefully functional addition to the process of digital mixing, but it seems that they are more of just a novelty..

Thanks for your reply, I'll be hunting down the Bob katz 'Mastering Audio' 2nd edition for sure. Thanks again!!

:Luca
Old 25th June 2011
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by luca1 View Post
Bloody hell man, wicked answer

I guess the main thing I failed to understand was that VU meters aren't really tied to the digital world in a productive and relevant way.

I just assumed because plugins like PSP vintage warmer/meter included them that they were a purposefully functional addition to the process of digital mixing, but it seems that they are more of just a novelty..
Thank you!

As you now know, in many cases the metering in software (particularly plugins) can be just gingerbread.... yes, it shows "something is happening"; sometimes that's all the info needed, so who cares how it is presented - so, hello, mr. cool-looking VU meter.

The other thing is that the metering is often not updated on the screen for every sample the plugin (or DAW) processes, for a couple of reasons: one, the human eye can't respond that fast; two, it chews up CPU power that could be used elsewhere.

Many DAWs have a setting (some have it adjustable as an option, some hard-coded behind the scenes) for how frequently their native metering is updated. For example, every 40 milleseconds, or whatever. And plugins can either look to the DAW for this, or go their own way.

But for some things, say for example like maximum gain reduction that a limiter/compressor plugin calculates (throughout a song or in a section), I'd like that "number" to be available, so I can adjust makeup gain appropriately - yeah, you can just ballpark it, but actual values are more convenient for repeatability.


Quote:
Originally Posted by luca1 View Post
Thanks for your reply, I'll be hunting down the Bob katz 'Mastering Audio' 2nd edition for sure. Thanks again!!

:Luca
It's a great book
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