The No.1 Website for Pro Audio
Question Regarding Gain Staging & Proper Levels
Old 26th December 2017
  #1
Gear Nut
 
ARNK's Avatar
 

Question Regarding Gain Staging & Proper Levels

Can someone tell me if I understand the following quote from Musician on a Mission:

Quote:
Aim for an average of -18dBFS with the peaks around -10dBFS (and never higher than -6dBFS).

Why -18dBFS? That’s the equivalent of 0dBVU on analogue equipment. That’s the level that every engineer would aim for when recording – averaging around 0dBVU with the peaks going a bit higher.

On the other hand, 0dBFS is the point at which audio distorts. You never want to be anywhere near 0dBFS when mixing (only when mastering).

The meter in your DAW will have numbers next to it. That’s how loud the channel is in dBFS.
Okay. So I've recorded an audio event from my synthesizer and looped it to show you the meter levels. Please check out the following image from my Cubase setup:

Sync.com | Control Panel (Click "Open" to view)

You see how the VU meter peaks at 0.0, meanwhile the Average RMS sits somewhere above -19dBFS and the Peak Max at just above -16.

Obviously I'm missing something here. When you record a sound, do you find the levels naturally match (or at least are close to) -18dBFS with peaks around 10dBFS while the VU hits or goes just above 0dBVU? I'm trying to figure out how attainable this scenario really is, or are they just giving you reference points to shoot for in the explanation above?

Thanks in advance.
Old 26th December 2017
  #2
Gear Guru
 

i don't think you should listen to that person, whoever it is. if you have an average level of -18dBFS and peaks at -10dBFS, then you only have a headroom of 8dB. That's a pretty limited range for no apparent reason. Between -18dBFS and 0dBFS there is a whopping 18dB. Why cut that almost in half? Makes no sense.

I even think the advice to always stay below -6dBFS is nonsense. It's completely arbitrary. I mean, if there's no distortion or negative effects while in digital until you reach pretty much 0dBFS (or say -1dBFS True Peak), why would anyone aim 5-6dB below that?

This isn't all that complicated. IF you want to set your average levels around -18dBFS (and you don't have to) then don't worry about peaks as long as you're not clipping.

Last edited by mattiasnyc; 27th December 2017 at 02:06 AM..
Old 26th December 2017
  #3
Lives for gear
Staying around zero VU is important if you are doing any sort of ITB/OTB hybrid work. If you loop out of your digital setup and feed analog equipment with very hot signals, some analog equipment will not be at their sweet spots. My opinion is that the Manley tube gear, for example, sounds best at zero VU.
I’ve heard, but haven’t confirmed myself, that some very good digital plugin simulations of high end analog devices accurately follow the performance of the gear they model, including not sounding good when driven too hard.
Otherwise, the habit of working very hot when recording digitally was originally intended to overcome resolution limitations of 16 bit recording. That habit is hard to change. “Quieter is better” is not a popular idea in audio.
Old 26th December 2017
  #4
Lives for gear
Also, to the OP. The VU meter is not a peak meter, and varies in accuracy depending on the source. So, depending on the material, your example is in the ballpark for VU relative to peak levels.
Old 26th December 2017
  #5
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ARNK View Post
... an audio event from my synthesizer and looped it to show you the meter levels.
[snip]

You see how the VU meter peaks at 0.0, meanwhile the Average RMS sits somewhere above -19dBFS and the Peak Max at just above -16.

Obviously I'm missing something here. When you record a sound, do you find the levels naturally match (or at least are close to) -18dBFS with peaks around 10dBFS while the VU hits or goes just above 0dBVU? I'm trying to figure out how attainable this scenario really is, or are they just giving you reference points to shoot for in the explanation above? ...
Just to add anoth angle to what's been said..
First of all I don't use VU metering -in digital and in the DAW. (On some analog gear I have yes.

Sonar has an RMS+Peak option, it does all I need. I set track input/record meters up for their -24dBFS option.
Average record levels hang in around and above the low end of the scale. '99% percent of the time that, plus insuring peaks don't go near 'clipped, we're good to go.. period.
Let's call that 'nominal. -18dBFS (or so -depending on how the converters run), with the systems headroom provided above that. Same ..(plus or minus some various system differences), as in analog.

It seems your example and what may be throwing you (-19dBFS RMS with peaks at -16..) is this simply appears to be a low dynamic (more sustained) signal(?
Old 26th December 2017
  #6
Gear Nut
 
ARNK's Avatar
 

Ok, thank you for your posts. It still seems to me there’s no method to the madness. It was my understanding that the idea of trimming the gain before the fader was to control the cumulative effects of additional processing, balancing, panning, gain, volume adjustments, fx, etc.

Therefore it’d be wise to control each track individually routed to the main buss. If the main buss was clipping, would you just slap a trim plugin on it and reduce the gain so that it no longer clips?
Old 26th December 2017
  #7
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ARNK View Post
Ok, thank you for your posts. It still seems to me there’s no method to the madness. It was my understanding that the idea of trimming the gain before the fader was to control the cumulative effects of additional processing, balancing, panning, gain, volume adjustments, fx, etc.
Not sure what you mean by 'control (reduce?) the cumulative effects of additional processing'.

Quote:
Therefore it’d be wise to control each track individually routed to the main buss. If the main buss was clipping, would you just slap a trim plugin on it and reduce the gain so that it no longer clips?
I like to use the gain/trim -and it's automation line [pre fader and insert] to do the initial track leveling and clean up' trims. (And that automation as additional mix options later in the process.

So we're assuming now our tracks gains levels are in line (in and about 'nominal), then the sum of them come in at what ever level into the mix bus, then yes.
It's perfectly normal to tweak the bus pre/gain up or down as needed.

I like to think it's better to see the mix come in low and trim up -as a conservative' tac - rather than 'hot and trim down', but I'm not sure that even matters. I figure plus or minus 'a little bit' generally means things are pretty good up stream.

Last edited by Wayne; 26th December 2017 at 08:19 PM..
Old 26th December 2017
  #8
Gear Nut
 
ARNK's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wayne View Post
Not sure what you mean by 'control (reduce?) the cumulative effects of additional processing'.
Maybe I need to rephrase. Aren’t the individual tracks, groups and busses all flowing to the master mix buss?

So simply turning down each fader would be ineffective because as you work on the track you’re constantly adjusting volume, panning, effects and other processes that’ll affect what’s hitting the master out?
Old 26th December 2017
  #9
Lives for gear
 
teleharmonium's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mattiasnyc View Post
i don't think you should listen to that person, whoever it is. if you have an average level of -18dBFS and peaks at -10dBFS, then you only have a dynamic range of 8dB. That's a pretty limited range for no apparent reason. Between -18dBFS and 0dBFS there is a whopping 18dB. Why cut that almost in half? Makes no sense.
The difference between your average and your peaks is not your dynamic range. Dynamic range would be between the level of the signal when nothing is being played on the track, and the highest peak. Dynamic range is not a scarce resource in modern recording. We generally have more available to us when recording than consumer playback systems have.

I'll flip your question around - why go over -18 dbfs ? Where is there any kind of advantage ? We're talking post converter in the resulting file, so it's not like it's going to sound better. (I do like pushing analog gear hard, and I often do, but you can do that and still record digitally at whatever level you like.)
Old 26th December 2017
  #10
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by ARNK View Post
Maybe I need to rephrase. Aren’t the individual tracks, groups and busses all flowing to the master mix buss?

So simply turning down each fader would be ineffective because as you work on the track you’re constantly adjusting volume, panning, effects and other processes that’ll affect what’s hitting the master out?
(#1) Of course.
(#2) It seems like you're asking how to avoid having to readjust for the mix total level, while the faders are your mix'.
I think the answer you're looking for is that the system' (mix bus etc) accommodates very well for a group of tracks that are within reasonable levels.
So (given that- tracks in good shape up front) then you begin the next step- roughing in your mix (via the track faders).
Sure, keep an I out on the master level during the initial stages.

If the mix comes in a little low or hot (later..), so what, it can be trimmed at the mix (or sub-group buses if you're using any).
I guess the idea being you don't then have to go back and mess with track faders to get there.
Old 27th December 2017
  #11
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by teleharmonium View Post
The difference between your average and your peaks is not your dynamic range. Dynamic range would be between the level of the signal when nothing is being played on the track, and the highest peak.
Yes, I know. I meant "headroom". I edited my post. Thanks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by teleharmonium View Post
I'll flip your question around - why go over -18 dbfs ? Where is there any kind of advantage ? We're talking post converter in the resulting file, so it's not like it's going to sound better.
The question doesn't "reverse", because it's beside the point. It's my fault that I wrote "dynamic range", but I think it should still have been clear that I meant "headroom". There's no reason to artificially limit it just to satisfy some curious theory about gain staging. The headroom is there for a reason. Let's use it.

In case my reasoning was unclear: For a fair amount of instruments and performances the recording engineer will have to reduce the dynamic range (yes, I meant that this time) by reducing the peaks so that they are below this arbitrary -10dBFS (and 'never above -6dBFS'). It's the only way to accomplish this without turning down the whole signal, but doing that would make the person miss -18dBFS average. That's my point. 18dB headroom should fit most peaks. Record hotter? Fine as long as it doesn't peak. Record lower? Fine. Reduce the dynamic range by reducing the range between average and peaks just to avoid going over -10dBFS? That makes no sense....

See my point?
Old 27th December 2017
  #12
Lives for gear
 
teleharmonium's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mattiasnyc View Post
. There's no reason to artificially limit it just to satisfy some curious theory about gain staging. The headroom is there for a reason. Let's use it.

In case my reasoning was unclear: For a fair amount of instruments and performances the recording engineer will have to reduce the dynamic range (yes, I meant that this time) by reducing the peaks so that they are below this arbitrary -10dBFS (and 'never above -6dBFS'). It's the only way to accomplish this without turning down the whole signal, but doing that would make the person miss -18dBFS average. That's my point. 18dB headroom should fit most peaks. Record hotter? Fine as long as it doesn't peak. Record lower? Fine. Reduce the dynamic range by reducing the range between average and peaks just to avoid going over -10dBFS? That makes no sense....

See my point?
I'm not clear on it. If the concern is the difference between average and peak level, that's a function of how dynamic the part is. It can be wider for less compressed/more dynamic acoustic or film music (or whatever), as needed.

Lowering the maximum needn't narrow that range, it's just situating it in a different place on the scale. That's because there's no real limit to how low the average can be, unless it starts to get near enough to the noise floor which you would hear during rests, which for most systems still gives you a range much larger than you need.

If I am set up so that I am pretty sure the highest peaks don't exceed -12 as I would normally do, I'm good. It doesn't matter to me that the average level might show as, say, -28 during tracking. Especially for something that cuts through a mix and sounds clear even though it looks low, like a tamborine/triangle/bell. And even if this is a full range instrumental track, the noise floor is still well below that and I may re situate that average level after tracking with a compressor.

I don't think recording hotter is fine just because peaks are avoided, because the peaks are where you are going to get into trouble when you have plugins (which would probably not exist during tracking but become necessary later) that are doing something to affect the level in a certain frequency range, or that may not be well served by the peak monitoring because they are either outside of the midrange or they are transients that you also may not want to round off or distort or even hear a tonal change (from the recording gear rather than the source) during the hardest hits.
Old 27th December 2017
  #13
Lives for snowflakes
 
12ax7's Avatar
 

.
.
Old 27th December 2017
  #14
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by teleharmonium View Post
I'm not clear on it. If the concern is the difference between average and peak level, that's a function of how dynamic the part is. It can be wider for less compressed/more dynamic acoustic or film music (or whatever), as needed.

Lowering the maximum needn't narrow that range, it's just situating it in a different place on the scale. That's because there's no real limit to how low the average can be, unless it starts to get near enough to the noise floor which you would hear during rests, which for most systems still gives you a range much larger than you need.

If I am set up so that I am pretty sure the highest peaks don't exceed -12 as I would normally do, I'm good. It doesn't matter to me that the average level might show as, say, -28 during tracking.
I understand all of that and I don't disagree with it.

I'm addressing the advice in the first post which says to keep average at -18dBFS and peaks at -10dBFS. In order to make that happen the distance between average and peaks has to be no more than 8dB.

And there's no good reason for that.



Quote:
Originally Posted by teleharmonium View Post
I don't think recording hotter is fine just because peaks are avoided, because the peaks are where you are going to get into trouble when you have plugins (which would probably not exist during tracking but become necessary later) that are doing something to affect the level in a certain frequency range, or that may not be well served by the peak monitoring because they are either outside of the midrange or they are transients that you also may not want to round off or distort or even hear a tonal change (from the recording gear rather than the source) during the hardest hits.
I have a bit of a hard time following the above, but I think I disagree (sorry, I've had too little sleep and too little coffee)...
Old 27th December 2017
  #15
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mattiasnyc View Post
I understand all of that and I don't disagree with it.

I'm addressing the advice in the first post which says to keep average at -18dBFS and peaks at -10dBFS. In order to make that happen the distance between average and peaks has to be no more than 8dB.

And there's no good reason for that. [snip]
I would agree but add it's worse than that. The trouble with that original 'advice' being so poor is in being so incomplete and thus confusing (i.e. see this thread).

Which 'scale is one to use -when track dynamic doesn't 'fit or 'fall into this 'criteria one is left with? In this case remember he happened to pick a 3dB peak to average example!

Sync.com | Control Panel
Old 27th December 2017
  #16
Lives for gear
[QUOTE=mattiasnyc;13036389The headroom is there for a reason. Let's use it.
[/QUOTE]

I don’t think that was intended to be funny, but it is.
The reasons for leaving headroom at most pre-mastering steps have been mentioned. The reasons don’t seem to exist for using headroom up at pre-mastering stages. Would you say that “people should always have a little extra food in the house, so eat up all the extra food”? The logic(?) in both statements would seem to be the same.

Another point. (This is not directed at all to mattiasync, but as a general statement.) From many of the posts here, I’m getting a strong impression that for many engineers all processing is additive, that is, every step of recording and mixing processing adds level and eats up headroom. That makes me think that engineers are not in the habit of adjusting levels when comparing pre and post processing to ensure that the processing is adding anything “better” other than more level. So they are tricking themselves (or maybe just clients) that anything and everything they try is genius, and improves the track or mix. Maybe I’m just a way below average “genius”, but when I carefully equalize levels the processed version is only sometimes obviously better, and many times is rejected.
So constantly eating up your headroom and lowering the master bus level just to avoid clipping may be more than just an indication of your opinion about headroom, it may be an indication of a less than ideal record/mix process than results in adding effects and “stuff” that should have been discarded after a fair AB. And this is not me saying that anyone is a bad mixer or has a tin ear. I’m saying that, to be at their best, your ears and judgement should be presented with a level playing field for each sonic choice.
Old 27th December 2017
  #17
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by 12ax7 View Post
.
.
And (again :>) kind'a nice ...but incomplete -as to not standing well on it's own. 'Purple' isn't 'kinda low' ...unless you also stipulate the metric is 'peaks only
Old 27th December 2017
  #18
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bushman View Post
I don’t think that was intended to be funny, but it is.
The reasons for leaving headroom at most pre-mastering steps have been mentioned. The reasons don’t seem to exist for using headroom up at pre-mastering stages. Would you say that “people should always have a little extra food in the house, so eat up all the extra food”? The logic(?) in both statements would seem to be the same.

Another point. (This is not directed at all to mattiasync, but as a general statement.) From many of the posts here, I’m getting a strong impression that for many engineers all processing is additive, that is, every step of recording and mixing processing adds level and eats up headroom. That makes me think that engineers are not in the habit of adjusting levels when comparing pre and post processing to ensure that the processing is adding anything “better” other than more level. So they are tricking themselves (or maybe just clients) that anything and everything they try is genius, and improves the track or mix. Maybe I’m just a way below average “genius”, but when I carefully equalize levels the processed version is only sometimes obviously better, and many times is rejected.
So constantly eating up your headroom and lowering the master bus level just to avoid clipping may be more than just an indication of your opinion about headroom, it may be an indication of a less than ideal record/mix process than results in adding effects and “stuff” that should have been discarded after a fair AB. And this is not me saying that anyone is a bad mixer or has a tin ear. I’m saying that, to be at their best, your ears and judgement should be presented with a level playing field for each sonic choice.
Good point.
Old 27th December 2017
  #19
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bushman View Post
I don’t think that was intended to be funny, but it is.
The reasons for leaving headroom at most pre-mastering steps have been mentioned. The reasons don’t seem to exist for using headroom up at pre-mastering stages. Would you say that “people should always have a little extra food in the house, so eat up all the extra food”? The logic(?) in both statements would seem to be the same.
The objection is a bit circular, no?

- You want to preserve headroom in case you need it.
- If you use it because you need it you lost it.
- You no longer have headroom.
- That's a bad thing, so don't use it.
- That way you can use it if you need it.
Go back to step 2 or whatever..........

It's just semantics at that point.

And really, this is such a non-issue if one just follows some extremely simple common sense, which is to keep an eye on the master and if it clips one just lowers the level of either it or signals feeding it. Incredibly simple.

If you're suggesting adjusting gain after processing using plugins to make it easier to A/B I agree with you btw.
Old 27th December 2017
  #20
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by mattiasnyc View Post
The objection is a bit circular, no?

- You want to preserve headroom in case you need it.
Nope. It becomes circular when you add the phrase “...in case you need it.”
Except in mastering, you want to preserve headroom... period. If you use it up, you should find out why and fix the mistake at that step before going on.
To use another of my oft-hated analogies, I could have a car that will go 120 miles per hour, NOT in case I ever need to go that fast, but because of how it performs at the (mostly) legal speeds I prefer.
The last car I owned that I drove as fast as it could go was a 1974 Honda Accord that topped out at 107, downhill. If I tried to drive it at 107 all the time I wouldn’t be alive today.
Old 27th December 2017
  #21
Lives for gear
 
teleharmonium's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bushman View Post
From many of the posts here, I’m getting a strong impression that for many engineers all processing is additive, that is, every step of recording and mixing processing adds level and eats up headroom.
I've seen this a lot in the amateur ranks that I come from and mostly interact with. I could be more careful with it myself.

But to be sure, a serious pro that is careful to avoid apples and oranges level comparisons can still be in a scenario where a track with a dynamic and mostly high or low frequency sound (not well served by the daw metering) like a tamborine who wants that track to pop at that frequency but not take up much space otherwise, may use additive EQ in a range that is already hotter in the frequencies where it really lives than it looks on the meter. Which is one of the arguments for tracking at lower levels.

The other arguments for it -which, as far as I can think of, are generalized subjective sound quality when more headroom is available, and tonal changes that are only evident in peaks - are subjective and I would think also more variable in different systems.
Old 27th December 2017
  #22
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by teleharmonium View Post
I've seen this a lot in the amateur ranks that I come from and mostly interact with. I could be more careful with it myself.

But to be sure, a serious pro that is careful to avoid apples and oranges level comparisons can still be in a scenario where a track with a dynamic and mostly high or low frequency sound (not well served by the daw metering) like a tamborine who wants that track to pop at that frequency but not take up much space otherwise, may use additive EQ in a range that is already hotter in the frequencies where it really lives than it looks on the meter. Which is one of the arguments for tracking at lower levels.

The other arguments for it -which, as far as I can think of, are generalized subjective sound quality when more headroom is available, and tonal changes that are only evident in peaks - are subjective and I would think also more variable in different systems.
Agree... except that I find digital peak metering, in Cubase at least, to be (sometimes depressingly) accurate at all frequencies. Maybe I haven’t explored that enough... I should say it “seems” to be accurate.
Old 27th December 2017
  #23
Lives for snowflakes
 
12ax7's Avatar
 

.

Something that I believe should be considered here:

Many do not grasp the difference between what these various metering schemes are actually showing to us.

...For instance, VU Meters show us an average level over time, and pretty much ignore absolute peaks.

Peak Meters faithfully show us every single maximum excursion of instantaneous peaks (which may or may not indicate much about the average level with any regularity).

Therefore, they're not even meant to be directly convertible! (A point of much confusion.)

...So to draw an analogy here, consider how we measure the water levels on a shoreline, and extrapolate:

While a VU Meter shows us an "average level" (that which we might call "Sea Level"), the Peak Meter shows us the "High Water Mark" at "High Tide" (the maximum excursion).


.
Old 27th December 2017
  #24
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bushman View Post
Nope. It becomes circular when you add the phrase “...in case you need it.”
Except in mastering, you want to preserve headroom... period. If you use it up, you should find out why and fix the mistake at that step before going on.
To use another of my oft-hated analogies, I could have a car that will go 120 miles per hour, NOT in case I ever need to go that fast, but because of how it performs at the (mostly) legal speeds I prefer.
The last car I owned that I drove as fast as it could go was a 1974 Honda Accord that topped out at 107, downhill. If I tried to drive it at 107 all the time I wouldn’t be alive today.
Sorry, but I think you're just completely wrong about that. It simply isn't logical.

To begin with analogies are obviously often problematic, but let's just use your analogy for the heck of it:

- You have a car that can go 150 mph.
- You NEVER drive it above 120 mph.

What use is the extra 30 mph if you NEVER use them? They're useless. Completely.

It's pretty much the same here. There's no inherent problem using the entire range up to just below clipping. None. The problem is clipping, and the reason people recommend averaging at about -18dBFS is because it's where a lot of converters are calibrated which in turn is because the nominal operating level of analog gear sit's roughly 18dB below the onset of distortion - which in turn means that the 18 dB "headroom" is used by transients. If you don't like the usage of the word "headroom" then pick another one. Either way, if you always are staying below the top 10dB in digital then you gain absolutely nothing more than always staying below the top 3dB. Nothing.
Old 28th December 2017
  #25
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by teleharmonium View Post
hotter in the frequencies where it really lives than it looks on the meter.
A lot of meters don't work that way. Many combine absolute sample peak metering with some kind of "weighting", for example the fall back time of the meters. So, since the peak is absolute and by sample there is no discrepancy between frequencies and those registered peaks. What you see is what you get.

Of course if a person chooses to look at a VU meter then the meter won't reflect that same quality of the signal, but fortunately every single professional DAW makes it extremely easy to keep track of absolute peaks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by teleharmonium View Post
Which is one of the arguments for tracking at lower levels.

The other arguments for it -which, as far as I can think of, are generalized subjective sound quality when more headroom is available, and tonal changes that are only evident in peaks - are subjective and I would think also more variable in different systems.
Not true in digital though, unless you're saying that converters somehow change sonically, significantly enough to be noticed, and that it happens in a listening environment where we'd be subject to that. I don't really think that's true most of the time (I'm excluding intentional soft clipping/distortion/limiting stages).
Old 28th December 2017
  #26
Lives for gear
 
teleharmonium's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mattiasnyc View Post
Sorry, but I think you're just completely wrong about that. It simply isn't logical.

To begin with analogies are obviously often problematic, but let's just use your analogy for the heck of it:

- You have a car that can go 150 mph.
- You NEVER drive it above 120 mph.

What use is the extra 30 mph if you NEVER use them? They're useless. Completely.

It's pretty much the same here. There's no inherent problem using the entire range up to just below clipping. None. The problem is clipping, and the reason people recommend averaging at about -18dBFS is because it's where a lot of converters are calibrated which in turn is because the nominal operating level of analog gear sit's roughly 18dB below the onset of distortion - which in turn means that the 18 dB "headroom" is used by transients. If you don't like the usage of the word "headroom" then pick another one. Either way, if you always are staying below the top 10dB in digital then you gain absolutely nothing more than always staying below the top 3dB. Nothing.
While it wasn't my analogy, I like it, and so I'll say that it's not about the extra 30 mph as such, but rather, the other things that have to be done to the car to get it to be able to do that high speed, which have other benefits aside from speed.

This reminds me of a conversation on another forum about 5 string basses. I have one that I string with a high C. Someone said that it only has 4 extra frets of range (which IIRC is true, relative to the 4 string equivalent model), and how often do I play that high ? But the extended vertical range is not the advantage that I like; it's the extended horizontal range. I can stay in position and play guitar like fingerpicking/multi string parts; which sound cool on a Rickenbacker if you have the high pass cap on the bridge pickup, enabling you to impersonate a guitar for part of a song if you like.

To make the converse point to yours again - I've never heard any reason why anyone should go over -12 dbfs, in 24 bit recording on modern-ish low noise gear. Do you have one ? Any advantage of any kind ?

The clearest advantage to not doing that, again, is so that you have the room to boost to reasonable amounts after tracking in an already hot frequency and still not clip. If you're tracking up to -3 peaks, you really can't say that.
Old 28th December 2017
  #27
Lives for gear
 
teleharmonium's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mattiasnyc View Post

Of course if a person chooses to look at a VU meter then the meter won't reflect that same quality of the signal, but fortunately every single professional DAW makes it extremely easy to keep track of absolute peaks.
Or do they ? My understanding is that all DAWs use some kind of frequency specific built in choice for metering, and that if you want to see what is going on at all frequencies (for whatever reason) you have to use something else like a waterfall display analysis.

Quote:
Originally Posted by mattiasnyc View Post
Not true in digital though, unless you're saying that converters somehow change sonically, significantly enough to be noticed, and that it happens in a listening environment where we'd be subject to that. I don't really think that's true most of the time (I'm excluding intentional soft clipping/distortion/limiting stages).
Agreeing to exclude those things, I'm saying the net result of the system as a whole can have that characteristic, whether that is in the converter process itself, or in the analog circuitry ahead of the A to D within the interface hardware, or even if we can't say for sure where it is. But I don't think it's considered an obscure opinion in these parts that more headroom at the convertor sounds better, even though it surely isn't a universal opinion.
Old 28th December 2017
  #28
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by teleharmonium View Post
Or do they ? My understanding is that all DAWs use some kind of frequency specific built in choice for metering, and that if you want to see what is going on at all frequencies (for whatever reason) you have to use something else like a waterfall display analysis.
The metering operates in the time domain, not frequency domain. But that simply means that you aren't getting the "frequency specific" information in the meter because it's not what's being measured, just amplitude. So, 'no', as far as I know there is no adjusting for frequencies done by DAWs when calculating meter ballistics, generally speaking.

Quote:
Originally Posted by teleharmonium View Post
Agreeing to exclude those things, I'm saying the net result of the system as a whole can have that characteristic, whether that is in the converter process itself, or in the analog circuitry ahead of the A to D within the interface hardware, or even if we can't say for sure where it is. But I don't think it's considered an obscure opinion in these parts that more headroom at the convertor sounds better, even though it surely isn't a universal opinion.
I don't necessarily disagree with that, but all we're really doing is (correctly) kicking the ball further down field. Because what we're really dealing with is a recording system and a mixing system and a monitoring system. I think that's the correct way of looking at a workstation.

If that's a reasonable way of looking at it then calibrating your monitoring environment is a separate but related discussion. In other words, there's something to be said for the levels that the DAW sends out for monitoring corresponding to what you describe - nominal operating levels of the playback system. But there are many ways to deal with that.

So, what I'm saying is that in a properly calibrated room where reference levels have been set etc you can absolutely use up as much or little 'digital room' as you like without it being a problem with conversion, because that final conversion stage as well as the gain staging for monitoring is a separate issue.

Another way of thinking about that is the problem of having comfortable workable levels during tracking, versus during mixing, versus mastering. Clearly for a lot of music that last stage is wildly different from the first stage, yet both need to be addressed somehow. So either we can address that using a proper monitoring environment and setup, or we have to either destroy our ears or not output loud masters. Since we do address it that's why it's two separate issues really.
Old 28th December 2017
  #29
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by teleharmonium View Post
To make the converse point to yours again - I've never heard any reason why anyone should go over -12 dbfs, in 24 bit recording on modern-ish low noise gear. Do you have one ? Any advantage of any kind ?
Ok, I think this is probably about the third time I'm saying this: I'm arguing against the advice quoted in the first post.

Just because I'm saying there's no reason NOT to go beyond -12dBFS doesn't mean I think one should do that, which is what you're implying I'm saying.

If you're ok with preserving a desired wider dynamic range, and are cool with peaks that low, and thus your average far lower than -18dBFS, then fine. I'm not arguing against that at all. I'm just saying that the notion that you should aim for -18dBFS average AND not exceed -10dBFS is nonsense.

Quote:
Originally Posted by teleharmonium View Post
The clearest advantage to not doing that, again, is so that you have the room to boost to reasonable amounts after tracking in an already hot frequency and still not clip. If you're tracking up to -3 peaks, you really can't say that.
No I can't say that, but I can say that it takes about 2 seconds - literally - to lower the output fader of a channel whose signal is too loud. If that seems like a problem when working then fine, but I really, really doubt many engineers find that to be all that cumbersome.

We can add to that that a lot of music is tracked with a wider dynamic range than what leaves the channel when mixing. That is to say that a lot of sources get compressed after recording, which of course lowers those -3dBFS peaks anyway.

But again - just read the advice that was quoted in the first post. That's what I have a problem with.
Old 28th December 2017
  #30
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

The important thing to understand about digital is that you always want to err on the low side.

It's also useful to know that -18 RMS is the same as -20 VU and that a lot of digital gear hasn't as much analog headroom a most professional analog gear had so it shouldn't be operated at +4. The best clipped up at around +30.
Topic:
Post Reply

Welcome to the Gearslutz Pro Audio Community!

Registration benefits include:
  • The ability to reply to and create new discussions
  • Access to members-only giveaways & competitions
  • Interact with VIP industry experts in our guest Q&As
  • Access to members-only sub forum discussions
  • Access to members-only Chat Room
  • Get INSTANT ACCESS to the world's best private pro audio Classifieds for only USD $20/year
  • Promote your eBay auctions and Reverb.com listings for free
  • Remove this message!
You need an account to post a reply. Create a username and password below and an account will be created and your post entered.


 
 
Slide to join now Processing…
Thread Tools
Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search
Forum Jump
Forum Jump