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2 Bus ext. compressor return levels?
Old 4 weeks ago
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2 Bus ext. compressor return levels?

I have to send out a demo and I have to do a quick in-house "mastering". I'm suddently unsure about the best way to proceed regarding the gain staging. At what level would you hit the AD converters at the end of the analog processing? Should I keep the returning signal around -3/-4 dBFS (or even lower?), then do another gain staging in the DAW before hitting a limiter, or should I push as far as I can go without clipping the input?
Old 4 weeks ago
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SmoothTone's Avatar

I tend to keep conservative levels in the analogue chain and do the loudness bit ITB.
Old 4 weeks ago
Lives for gear

That can be bit dependent on setup and intentions.. however I also keep some headroom on A/D.
In most cases converters has its sweet spot for s/n ratio and harmonic distortion, when peaking somewhere around -6 to -3 dBFS, above that distortion rise proportionally quicker than input level. Also some converters doesn't handle digital signals right bellow 0dBFS with possible intersample peaks so well, because their internal digital path with decimation filters doesn't have any internal headroom and gets overloaded.
So there is also some technical rationale for that besides easier work, where you don't need to watch, whether every music peak didn't clip your input.
I also personally like to monitor through digital limiter (be it plugin or at TC6K outboard) as it interacts with upstream moves, so I capture analog signal with headroom and possibly gain some level at limiter input.

Just to add, that some people use intentional converter clipping as creative tool instead of doing that ITB, but I'd guess it's rather minority of people for individual cases (as opposed to general practice), they have rather well tested response of their chain and converter with material and can live with the fact, it's not possible to adjust or undo in DAW.

Old 4 weeks ago
Lives for gear

Thank you very very much for your answers, I greatly appreciate your help!
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