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in the analog days, did engineers track with peaks at 0VU?
Old 5th October 2016
Gear Nut

Originally Posted by Brent Hahn View Post
Actually, there is. Hitting your ADC at -4 can present your post-DAC gain stages with signals they can't cleanly reproduce.

As I told, but you forgot to quote, you can trim -8dB.
Then you have your peak back at -12 and your OTB gears are happy.

Viceversa you may have OTB gear which loves to be pushed (I have some).
In this case if you have a -12dB peak, then you can rise your DAW fader +8dB...mmm wait a moment... can you?
Is it the same thing?
Would you use a digital gain for it?

So, the point is:
- there's not such a thing like more headroom in tracking at lower level in the digital domain, at least not in terms which have been here described.
- AD and DA have sweet spots you have to learn your equipement. It can be that converters start to sound bad at -4. It can be that Pre's are sounding bad if pushed. It can also be the mic, etc.
- I never ever told that hot is better, it depends, as usual, on many factors.
- it is never ever white or black
- I would suggest to track at lower level in case of doubts

Old 5th October 2016
Lives for gear
Sk106's Avatar

There was no such thing as an absolute top peak value to mind, in 'the old days'. That thinking was introduced with digital only. Radio and TV broadcasters are also found of analog peak meters because they have a limited amount to bandwidth that they don't want to exceed.

But with analog recording/mixing, you don't focus on peaks, you focus on the average. And VU meters show very close to RMS values. That's what you focus on, a meter which shows proportions very close to how humans perceive volume naturally. The peaks follow naturally and mind themselves.

With analog, as soon as you go past 0dBu (providing all equipment is set with 0dBu at its sonic sweetspot), the analog components starts 'sanding down' the transients of the audio (saturating overall), to a more noticeable degree. Like tube compression almost, the higher you go the more details and transients are saturated down.

The way you look at levels is to decide how high up to push the average levels, depending how much of this saturation effect you want. You can go as high as you wish to, no problem. You can go 10, 20 even 30dB over the meter without having straight peak-shaving. So why mind peaks.

The VU metering system was originally made so that "12 o'clock" on the meter was the point which you wanted the meter to swing around. Later evolutions moved the 'red line' point (0dB) to the right of the 12 o'clock location. But the 12 o'clock point (-2 on current day VU meters) is still considered pretty much the middle point for the main chorus of a song, kindof. It's where you want the center point of the needle's pendulum to swing around, to center on.

-2dBu is translated as "80%" of the full average volume on the meter. If you look on the meter below, you can see a 0-100 number scale below the larger decibel values. Those numbers are generally seen as percentage values. 100% full average volume is 0dBu. 50% of the music's average level is to fall on -6dBu etc. If you think like that, it gives you the clue to how to relate to average level proportions as they were seen on analog meters and gear overall. Brickwall limiters and tape levels were probably the most sensitive to peaks.

Remember though, that peak meters only shows peak, regardless of frequency. But VU meter reacts much more to low end than high end - because that's the way our ears hear sound naturally.

Last edited by Sk106; 5th October 2016 at 09:29 PM..
Old 5th October 2016
Gear Maniac
carlosguardia's Avatar
Clipping the converters is not that rare. Howie Weinberg, for example, said in the Q&A here:

"I usually just clip the input of my converters because I've been doing that for a long time and know how to do it properly. I find brickwall limiters really just squash up the sound and I try not to use them at all. If you are looking for a plugin for loudness, find something that does saturation or nice clipping.

Old 5th October 2016
Lives for gear
GreenNeedle's Avatar

Originally Posted by carlosguardia View Post
Clipping the converters is not that rare. Howie Weinberg, for example, said in the Q&A here:

"I usually just clip the input of my converters because I've been doing that for a long time and know how to do it properly. I find brickwall limiters really just squash up the sound and I try not to use them at all. If you are looking for a plugin for loudness, find something that does saturation or nice clipping.

Yeah, say you have a mixed track with a peak in a pretty dynamic tune for example, say one loud snare hit, that hit is going to determine the loudness of the track. How do you deal with it? Clip it as far as you can. Then consider automation or a brick limiter, but they both bring the whole track down. Clipping does not. Its a great tool. And can be used at several stages. If you take care of it in your tracking or mixing you save the above scenario from happening to the ME.
Old 6th October 2016
This "0VU = -18dBFS" absolute is a bit misleading. "-18" is only one of many possible lineups; -14 (for DAT capturing master prints), -16, -20 all very common lineups when working between DAW and console.

It's only with the advent of ITB production that it's become a mantra. Many all in one interfaces aren't calibrated at this level (and aren't adjustable), so best to check what spec YOUR interface is set to, and bear that in mind when interfacing outboard gear.

Many analogue sim plugins ARE set to replicate -18.....but not all.

Originally Posted by GreenNeedle View Post
VU meters are still very useful. With all the modelled plugins and the integration of hardware through HW inserts it is important to understand and use the right levels, VU's can make this very easy.
O VU is your goal through the chain from capture. The thing be aware of is how you calibrate in order to get from analog to digital correctly. Its important to understand what that means. -18 is common calibration. That means a steady state sound like a 1k tone will read 0VU on an analoge VU and if you run that through your converters into your DAW the input meter there should read -18dbfs in peak and VU modes.
It gets a bit more complicated after that. Depending on what you are tracking and how you track it even with headroom of 18db before peaks clip, clipping is still a reality you will face. The option to calibrate with more headroom is an option but you may not be doing yourself any favours by doing that as you are these days just putting off the inevitable of dealing with those peaks.
There are 3 ways to deal with a signal that is too wild for your calibration:
-Let it clip
-level it in analog with limiters or compressors or tape or ....
-turn it down and deal with it in the box.
Experience and taste will determine which you choose on which sounds.
Old 6th October 2016
Gear Maniac
Bart Nettle's Avatar
Going into tape you could push it to peak just hitting the red and almost averaging at 0db.

It is still much the same if you calibrate your meters properly. tickling the red
is just below 0db peak.

The goal of compressing the recording chain of a track was to tame the meter swing (bass and vocals) and give a better signal to noise ratio and average level.

This smoothing of instruments of wildly varying level is less of a problem in digital but the smoothness it adds is a character many like and are used to; so it is fine to continue this practice.

Digital levels don't need to be as hot as tape was and so long as you are not clipping you are using all bits available.

To use less available bits is fine especially if you like to open a track up with EQ and gain and it is true if as hot as possible will likely be attenuated anyway.
Old 21st February 2020
Here for the gear

VU is an analog meter reading the average not peak and in most preamp the SNR level is exactly 0VU and SNR means signal to noise ratio it's the best level possible on a preamp know this is the correct way to deal with analog
Old 22nd February 2020
Lives for gear
analog engineers tracking to Tape often recorded the loudest tracks at Zero VU.

that was standard practice way back, and is still happening today.

most good studio engineers, taught their Junior Tape operators (apprentice engineers) how to track a full band, listening to Tape Monitor Return path, with all the monitor faders at zero.

the idea was that you tracked the band to Tape in such a way. that by putting all the monitor faders at Zero, you should have a reasonably good mix balance without adjusting the playback levels.

that was an ART that engineers were proud to display, getting the levels right to tape.

there is a lot more to it than that, but i am keeping it simple here. and also this is purely about TAPE.

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