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Your digital reference level ...( -20, -18, -16, -14 or -12 dBFS ). Audio Interfaces
Old 4th November 2006
  #1
Gear Maniac
 

Your digital reference level ...( -20, -18, -16, -14 or -12 dBFS ).

Hi everyone,
i would like to ask you what is your digital reference level in your studio ...it's a thread that interest me a lot.
For me, i use to be at -18 dBFS.
In some studios here in Paris, i have worked at -12 dBFS on a SSL 9000 J.
To simplify the thread, let's go to talk just about the path Protools system ( or anything else digital workstation ) to console or summing system to the stereo recorder.
Regards,
Julien.
Old 4th November 2006
  #2
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nlc201's Avatar
 

-15 dBFS for music which is as low as the Digi 192 converters go (to a whole number value).


-20 dBfs for Post production. Always the standard. For me this is almost exclusively mixing for TV broadcast with strict level requirements.


Sometimes I will drop the level tracking into PT if I need to by switching calibrations. This can be quick and easy help with extremely hot signals and mic pres with no pads or ineffective ones (I'm not using a console to route to tape, obviously).


I like working at the lower level calibrations like -15 dBfs because it allows me to run the gear on the front and back end at more reasonable levels. To me it sounds a little bit better, especially if I'm going for a little less coloration of the signal. I mean 5 dB less gain on a mic pre is something in terms of noise and headroom. Keeping to setting input levels at 0 dbVU I find I still have enough recording headroom at -15 dbFS for almost everything I do.


The output stage is a similar story. Whether mixing analog off of multiple D/As or simply monitoring a 2 track output, the gear seems to take to the lower signals better. More headroom at the summing device is always good as long as you can keep your noise level under control (never been a problem for me with my current setup). This makes even more of a difference when I'm mixing other peoples' tracks which I did not record. 90% of the time the tracks are recorded blaringly hot, in many cases clipping. So, an extra 5 dB of headroom makes a difference. Although in those cases I almost always have to gain the stuff down to make some room to work. I still find +4 dBu to be a good level to be running at for most of my gear and I think things can get a little hot working to a -20 dBfs standard. Sometimes that's a good thing and can make the gear take on more of a "sound". But most of the time it's not. If I want to overdrive a preamp or something, I'll use a passive attenuator before hitting anything else with that signal. And I'll still be tracked at -15 dBfs anyways.
Old 4th November 2006
  #3
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By design (my apogees only have a couple of selections) 0dBU = -20 DBFS

Doesn't bother me at all, I don't track hot. I hit the AD at +4 or so, so my levels average -16 DBFS with peaks maybe -10 with the odd -6.

But I'm comfortable enough where digital meters between -30 and -10 don't freak me outheh
Old 4th November 2006
  #4
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T.RayBullard's Avatar
 

check out www.digido.com ......
Old 4th November 2006
  #5
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Steamy Williams's Avatar
 

I did some experiments on this subject for the final year project I did on my sound engineering degree, and came to the conclusion that -15dBFS = +4dBu is a pretty happy medium. The digital reference level on the actual converters in my studio is -16dBFS = +4dBu and is not adjustable, but that's close enough for me.
Old 5th November 2006
  #6
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minister's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by julien_a View Post
For me, i use to be at -18 dBFS.
In some studios here in Paris, i have worked at -12 dBFS on a SSL 9000 J.
European & UK calibration for Post & Film is -18dBFS=0VU
BBC spec: -18dBFS = PPM 4 = 0dBu
American Post: -20dBFS=0VU=+4dBU
Orchestral -18dBFS=0VU=+4dBu
Rock and/or Radio -16, or -14, or -12dBFS=0VU=+4dBu

the Digi 002 is only capable of -14dBFS.
Old 5th November 2006
  #7
tsd
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tsd's Avatar
 

we do -16
Old 5th November 2006
  #8
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minister's Avatar
'we' being your studio? australia? for music? post? radio?
Old 5th November 2006
  #9
Gear Maniac
 

This is my knowledge about it ....
Let's go to take two examples :
* at -18 dBFS or -20 dBFS, i leave enough headroom to my console to have peak not limited at any stage -> i have the least coloured sound, the most open sound.
* at -12 dBFS or -14 dBFS, i have more signal/noise at any level and i start to have peak limited -> i have a more "in front sound" cause of signal/noise and a more colored sound.
Are you agreed with me ?
Regards.
Old 5th November 2006
  #10
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u b k's Avatar
 

-16 for me.

when i track, i don't want any anything peaking above -10. one or two strays is ok, if it keeps happening i pull something back.


gregoire
del
ubk
.
Old 5th November 2006
  #11
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nlc201's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by u b i k View Post
-16 for me.

when i track, i don't want any anything peaking above -10. one or two strays is ok, if it keeps happening i pull something back.


gregoire
del
ubk
.

It's good to see people recording at sane levels!


The worst thing I ever heard regarding hot recording levels was, "Hey man, I'm just using all the bits!". Yeah, you used all 24 bits to make it sound like complete crap. Good for you.
Old 5th November 2006
  #12
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for now i have 2 X digi 192s and 1 X apogee DA 16X. the 192s are @ -18dB, and the apogees are @ -16dB.

the 192s are only used for analog inserts. the apogees are used to go out to the summing box, and i actually like them little hotter for that + they're a PITA to calibrate, so i just left them at factory specs (-16dB).
Old 29th November 2006
  #13
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robot gigante's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by nlc201 View Post
It's good to see people recording at sane levels!


The worst thing I ever heard regarding hot recording levels was, "Hey man, I'm just using all the bits!". Yeah, you used all 24 bits to make it sound like complete crap. Good for you.
Worse than that is to hear (from producer while freelancing): "Hey, you're not using all the bits! (aside to artist) "He doesn't know what he's doing."

Luckily I haven't heard that one in a while.
Old 29th November 2006
  #14
Gear Head
 

Typically 0 VU = -20 dBfs (or -18) for inputs to multi-track (where preservation of dynamic range and headroom is pretty key) and as hot as 0 VU = -14 for two track (as at this point things have typically been "smoothed over" a bit and headroom is less of an issue).

Beyond that, I typically work as hard as possible to ignore anything but a clip indicator on the PT meter - the analog gear on your front end typically has a much more limited "sweet spot" between acceptable levels of noise and distortion than your A/D.

Quote:
Originally Posted by nlc201 View Post
-15 dBFS for music which is as low as the Digi 192 converters go (to a whole number value).
This statement confuses me - I've successfully calibrated many Digi 192 down to -20 dBfs (and lower) no problem (or when you say as low they go - do you mean numerically?).
Old 29th November 2006
  #15
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jsrockit View Post
Sorry to but in on this thread with low end gear... but What's the difference between db and dbfs? I am using logic express and a MOTU ultralite... what db should be the peak when recording at 24 bit?
A dB is a generic unit utilized to compare two values, without a reference level it means nothing. It describes 1/10th of the logarythm of a ratio of two powers = 10 * log(P1/P0)].

When used to describe energy (i.e. voltage, SPL, etc.) the equation is 20 * log(E1/E0).

dBfs describes energy levels as they relate to digital "Full Scale" (the maximum level in a digital system before clipping) - hence why it is always a negative value.

As other examples:

dBu and dBV are both used to describe voltage, 0 dBu being equal to .775 volts RMS and dBV being equal to 1 Volt RMS. So when we say +4 dBu, we're saying it's 4 dB above .775 volts RMS - if you do the math you get 1.23 volts RMS.

dB SPL references to the Threshold of Hearing, meaning 0 dB SPL is the lowest level of fluctuation in air pressure someone with "perfect" hearing can theoretically detect as "sound".

Make sense?

The more I've learned to treat a workstation just like analog the happier I've been with the results. Digital can sound quite good - we just have to remember all the things many of us seem to have forgotten when we made the shift...
Old 29th November 2006
  #16
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Anybody bother to listen for how their converters sound when getting hit "X" hard? Kind of like it was audio equipment, or something?

Depending on the design of not only the digital, but also the analog section of the converters, they might have a range that tends to sound better or worse, though that's admittedly subjective. But the sound of music is by it's nature subjective, is it not?. Have you done any comparisons, sonically, not looking at the meters? You might subjectively like the sound when hit hotter or softer than you're "supposed" to.

Keep in mind, you can always output the end result of your mix at whatever level you prefer. But transitioning between analog and digital during the input conversion is not necessarily a clinically sterile process, defined by a white paper or theory.
Old 30th November 2006
  #17
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I guess this is a bit beyond me... using the db meter in Logic and recording with my MOTU ULtralite at 24bit... what should be the maximum level I should be recording at? I have been recording as close to red lining as possible...without clipping. However, I've been told this is wrong. I know I don't belong in this section, but this thread was the closest I could find to the info people are telling me.
Old 30th November 2006
  #18
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audiogeek1's Avatar
 

Pro Tools HD referenced to -20 for post etc...

MIke
Old 30th November 2006
  #19
byk
Gear Maniac
Quote:
Originally Posted by justbrian View Post
Typically 0 VU = -20 dBfs (or -18) for inputs to multi-track (where preservation of dynamic range and headroom is pretty key) and as hot as 0 VU = -14 for two track (as at this point things have typically been "smoothed over" a bit and headroom is less of an issue).

Beyond that, I typically work as hard as possible to ignore anything but a clip indicator on the PT meter - the analog gear on your front end typically has a much more limited "sweet spot" between acceptable levels of noise and distortion than your A/D.



This statement confuses me - I've successfully calibrated many Digi 192 down to -20 dBfs (and lower) no problem (or when you say as low they go - do you mean numerically?).
Sorry, I don't understand your post.

So if you track to digital which level do you use? Peaks to ___?

Many thanks
Old 30th November 2006
  #20
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RusRant's Avatar
 

-16 here as well.
Old 30th November 2006
  #21
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Zwinter's Avatar
 

When I was working in LA I remember doing most alignments to -18, with the occasional engineer wanting it anywhere from -24 to -12.

At Mercenary we had everything aligned to -24 and recently changed to -18. We found that we would hit the RADAR harder, because we had the extra room. When we went to mix the RADAR's outputs would be hotter and, ultimately, the faders slightly lower than we wanted. So far -18 seem to be working out pretty well.
Old 30th November 2006
  #22
Dan
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-18 here
That's how digi 192s are supposed to ship, and I've found they're always close. It makes swapping out units easier for me.

I also run another studio with an MCI 536d, and JH24 at -15
We tried -14, but couldn't get them all there, went to -15. It seems to match up pretty well with everything.
Old 31st May 2009
  #23
Gear Head
 

Reviving an old thread here... In my setup I hit my mm1200 16 track (set up for +4=0VU, then immediately capture off the repro head to my Lynx Aurora where 0VU=-18dbfs. I never get peaks over -12 or so in digital land even when I am abusing the tape! Am I doing something wrong?

thanks,

J
Old 31st May 2009
  #24
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hi,

the comments above ridiculing the idea of using all the bits are inappropriate, in my view. its good practice to utilize the whole bit depth [or at least the better part of it], where possible, to the extent practical. you obviously don't need to shoot for -1dBfs on all tracks, but the common rant about keeping everything at -20dBfs "because 24 bits allows for much greater dynamic range" is senseless [unless you are actually recording music that requires that much leeway to avoid overs]. you do not need -20 headroom for compressed bass, guitars, or many other things in contemporary music.

if you are doing live symphonic work, maybe -20 makes sense.

24 bit audio was not implemented just so that people could record at -20dBfs as a safety margin.

additionally, when recording to pro tools and 2 inch tape simultaneously, it works better when interfaces are calibrated to -14 or -15 [wherever you can get them to]. that way you can get a good level to the 192s without blasting the tape into oblivion.

pro tools rigs that are rented for music sessions routinely come set up at -14 or -15. i believe my interfaces came calibrated at -15 from digidesign.


right.
Old 31st May 2009
  #25
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Just to add a bit of warning, different DAWS calculate clips differently. Some give you a clip if 2 samples are over, and some upwards towards 5 or 6 samples over give you a clip.

Many times I have imported a PT session into RADAR and have seen a lot of red lights!

IE, err on the side of caution.
Old 31st May 2009
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kats View Post
Just to add a bit of warning, different DAWS calculate clips differently. Some give you a clip if 2 samples are over, and some upwards towards 5 or 6 samples over give you a clip.

Many times I have imported a PT session into RADAR and have seen a lot of red lights!

IE, err on the side of caution.

hi,

i am wondering why you would want to import a pro tools session into radar.

and i am wondering why someone is working that close to clipping in any daw [except, possibly, if they are mastering].



right.
Old 9th March 2010
  #27
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Gabriel Sousa's Avatar
for me -20dBFS=0VU=+4dBU heh
Old 9th March 2010
  #28
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Fletcher's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by kats View Post
Just to add a bit of warning, different DAWS calculate clips differently. Some give you a clip if 2 samples are over, and some upwards towards 5 or 6 samples over give you a clip.

Many times I have imported a PT session into RADAR and have seen a lot of red lights!

IE, err on the side of caution.
I realize this post is rather old... but it would depend on how your RADAR was set up when you did the transfer.

I usually roll at like -22 with the mantra that "yellow is the new red". Remember that the meters on digital systems are PPM meters so a "snare drum" [or other item with transient information] should read a hell of a lot hotter than something like a guitar which is a mainly legato signal.

If you have the availability of running some VU meters in conjunction with the PPM meters on your digital system over time you will learn how to attain proper levels when recording.

Quote:
Originally Posted by oky**** View Post
i am wondering why you would want to import a pro tools session into radar.
If you're mixing in the analog domain the converters on RADAR are by far superior to the converters found with the majority of PT systems, and the "transport controls" are way easier to use than the transport control in PT.

I've done many a gig where we tracked in RADAR, transfered to a DAW so overdubs could be done by the artist at home [editing and "compilation" stuff is easier to do in a DAW than on RADAR] and then transfered the data back to RADAR to mix.

Peace.
Old 9th March 2010
  #29
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fossaree's Avatar
- 18 here .

When tracking , agreeded 100% with UBK . No more than -10 .

BTW , excellent topic .

;-)

Last edited by fossaree; 9th March 2010 at 04:57 PM.. Reason: mssng points
Old 9th March 2010
  #30
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John Willett's Avatar
 

24 Bit = -18dBFS (EBU standard)

16 Bit = -12dBFS
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