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Do you usually clip plug-ins?
View Poll Results: Do you clip (>0.0dBFS) your plug-ins?
Never
67 Votes - 61.47%
Rarely
29 Votes - 26.61%
Often - input
3 Votes - 2.75%
Often - output (or both)
10 Votes - 9.17%
Voters: 109. You may not vote on this poll

Old 10th September 2009
  #31
Gear Guru
Quote:
Originally Posted by fenderbender. View Post


How often is audio processing not aesthetic?
When you screw up the gain staging without realizing it and wonder why everything sounds small.
Old 10th September 2009
  #32
Gear Maniac
 
fenderbender.'s Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tweek Audio View Post
To the O.P.er, I don't beleive this is about cliping plugins. I think it's about running 1/3 the level into your plugins (-18dB) than many who run -2 dbFS, resluting with a -20dBFS signal going in.

Is there any documentation that can display that plugins actually do behave like analog consoles and that running -20dBFS into a plugin is actaully better than running -0.1dBFS?

I'll certainly be experimenting myself and will post my findings and probably a blind test. but I'd like to see somewhere where UAD, WAVES, OXFORD, Etc..... mention that their plugins will behave drastically better if you feed them -20dB as oposed to -1dB.

I'm not saying I'm sure of one way or the other. My findings will dictate how I conduct business as always.
If it's true that I can gain any amount of "betterness" in my recordings simply by lowering my record levels from - 6 - 10 dBFS to -20 dBFS, I will be the first to do so.

Blind test comming soon!
I hear ya! 'Trim every track down -20dBFS' sounds a lot like 'leave every PT fader at 0.0 ', and we all know plenty about the latter...


Interestingly, the manual for the Waves API 2500 says this under "Threshold"
Quote:
Range
+10dBu to -20dBu (-12dBFS to -42dBFS)
And the Waves SSL Channel manual:
Quote:
An Input Trim Button enables you to trim the input to the channel by ± 18db. The plug-in is aligned so that -18 dBFS = 0.

Is the above enough justification to trim every track down 20dB? Not in my opinion.
Old 10th September 2009
  #33
Gear Addict
 
Leon EA's Avatar
 

Don't you need to have a rediculous amount of gain before you can clip a VST plugin that handles 32 bit float correctly?
The last time I was able to clip a VST plugin (within reasonable mixing behaviour) was the Waves L1, in 2001 or so. And that was a bug. And by then I learned about gain staging ITB anyway.
Old 10th September 2009
  #34
Gear Nut
 
Tweek Audio's Avatar
 

Wow, thank you fenderbender.,

That certaily is interesting.

"+10dBu to -20dBu (-12dBFS to -42dBFS)"

How do you convert dBu to dBFS?
Old 10th September 2009
  #35
Lives for gear
 
ProducerBoy's Avatar
 

Absolutely. Every time I get the chance. I want to drive that digital into sweet, smooth digital clipping saturation. It's my style.

Old 10th September 2009
  #36
Gear Guru
Quote:
Originally Posted by ProducerBoy View Post
Absolutely. Every time I get the chance. I want to drive that digital into sweet, smooth digital clipping saturation. It's my style.

YMMV, I guess. I find Pro Tools sounds much better running with a lot of headroom.heh
Old 10th September 2009
  #37
Lives for gear
 
ProducerBoy's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by PRobb View Post
YMMV, I guess. I find Pro Tools sounds much better running with a lot of headroom.heh
heh

(i was kidding... i find the idea of choosing to clip a plug is absurd unless it's supposed to be driven. who in their right mind would want digital clipping?)
Old 10th September 2009
  #38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tweek Audio View Post
Is there any documentation that can display that plugins actually do behave like analog consoles and that running -20dBFS into a plugin is actaully better than running -0.1dBFS?
Actually, if you read the original thread, that's not really the issue being discussed. What's behind it is Paul Frindle's argument that various algorithsm create boosts in the signal that are not apparent. If you look at the standard DAW, the signal comes into the track or bus, goes through the plugs, and it's not until the *output* of the track or bus that you see the level.

But the level could have, for a number of reasons, actually gone over 0dBFS, even though the input to the track was below that and the output that you see on the track/bus meter is below that. It could be due to manual boosts of course, but more subtly due to certain types of processes that the plugs do.

So you could have the peak track level as stored be -5dB, then the first plug on that track is an EQ. You might then set a high pass on that EQ, which anyone would think would lower the actual level that comes out of the EQ, but it doesn't always. EQs often have substantial 'filter ring' around the point of the filter cutoff frequency. If the part you cut out constributed less than the part that's bosted by the filter ring, it can actually raise the level of the track by a substantial amount, some of them have really big ring and that's part of their sound.

So then the next plug after the EQ sees a signal that's now over 0dBFS, but because of what it does it brings down the signal before it comes out, and so what you see at the track fader might be -9dBFS. So you think all is well, but in fact one of both of those plugins might have clipped internally if they don't deal gracefully with signals over 0dBFS.

So the point was, if you aren't recording yourself, and therefore can track with reasonable levels (peaking say in the -12dB to -9dBFS range, though of course the occasional peak over that is no disaster), and therefore you get in tracks to mix that were recorded really hot, you may want to reduce them using a trim plug before the first plugin on the track, in order to avoid the above problem.

And the level wasn't -20dBFS *peak* it was RMS. This is a constant source of confusion in these discussions, where people aren't clear about whether the level referred to is peak or RMS. A 20dBFS RMS level will have peaks that are about in that same range I mentioned above when the signal contains peaky material, less so for less peaky material. So the level being suggested wasn't as low as some here might have felt was being indicated.

In theory, if you send a sine wave through an outboard piece of gear and adjust the output to 0dB *VU* on the outboard gear's meter, it'll come out about in that -20 to -18dBFS range in the digital world when you are set up for the usual +4 style pro levels, which most of us would be. So tracking at that level is what would make for about optimum signal to noise ratio in the outboard world, and it would give you plenty of room in the digital world to avoid the issues above. But if you didn't record it yourself, then a plug can be used to bring the level down to avoid the possible plugin clipping issues.

The problem may or may not occur. It depends on the plugin. But since you can't know for sure, the argument is that it's best to err on the side of caution.
Old 11th September 2009
  #39
Deleted 99dc753
Guest
Quote:
Originally Posted by sevendaysoff View Post
Waves SSL always seems to be clipping on output once I get things where I want them. no clip on mix window meters tho. if it sounds right, it's right.
Well there is a reason for the input trim knob on the Waves SSL bundle...use it.
Old 11th September 2009
  #40
Gear Guru
Dean- that makes a ton of sense to me.
Old 11th September 2009
  #41
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dean Roddey View Post

The problem may or may not occur. It depends on the plugin. But since you can't know for sure, the argument is that it's best to err on the side of caution.
But how does this translate into what you hear...

it must not create obvious digital distortion....so what does it do?

and it would have to happen a lot on a lot of tracks for it to create some sort of noticeable "smallness", wouldn't it?
Old 11th September 2009
  #42
Quote:
Originally Posted by JP11 View Post
But how does this translate into what you hear...

it must not create obvious digital distortion....so what does it do?

and it would have to happen a lot on a lot of tracks for it to create some sort of noticeable "smallness", wouldn't it?
It would cause distortion of some type or another, according to how the plugin reacted to the over. If the plugin handles overs without a problem, then it won't have any affect. If it 'flat lines' the signal the way a DAC docs, then you'll get that kind of 'square wave' distortion.

Given that few signals are always as maximum volume and only hit their highest peaks occasionally, the distortion may just be a few times through the course of the song (if it happens), or it may be on every snare or kick hit or something like that.
Old 11th September 2009
  #43
Lives for gear
 

fenderbender,

This is somewhat pointless. As already pointed out, most people will have no idea what this is about if they haven't sifted through the pages of the other thread. If I had come across this previously, I would have siad "NO WAY!" I don't let the plug ins clip. BUT THE WHOLE POINT of the other thread is that they MAY be clipping to some degree....and the meters aren't showing it. AND...it's not always distortion you can clearly hear, but rather a more subtle degrading of the audio that cumulatively adds up. Putting this poll up accomplishes nothing.....if those who are taking it haven't been in on the discussion and the issue.

Kirt Shearer
Old 11th September 2009
  #44
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dean Roddey View Post

Given that few signals are always as maximum volume and only hit their highest peaks occasionally, the distortion may just be a few times through the course of the song (if it happens), or it may be on every snare or kick hit or something like that.
So wouldn't you have to really be overdoing it on all your tracks for this overall, and yet subtle effect...I mean, I get the idea that maybe a snare has some hidden distortion that you don't notice or don't care about because it's a snare and all...

but I'm not sure I get this whole smallness verse some magical opening up analog console thing that occurs by lowering all your tracks a bunch...

has anyone ever posted up files showing this effect?
Old 11th September 2009
  #45
Lives for gear
 
dannygold's Avatar
 

I think the real question is CAN YOU clip a plugin that is 32 bit or 48 bit.

I put a sine wave on a track. I put FOUR trim plugs on that track, each adding 40dB of gain. Then a delay. As you can see by the time it got to the last trim plugin it was +117dB into the delay. I'd assume by any reasonable standard this is clipping? As are the trim plugins according to their meters.

Do you usually clip plug-ins?-4-trims.jpg

I attenuated the fader and recorded the result and look... the sine wave is not distorted.

Do you usually clip plug-ins?-result.jpg

If the plugins were clipping in any meaningful sense woldn't it be?

So do I clip plugins? I'd say no since they are virtually unclippable if written corretly... unless they're emulating analog clipping as part of the code. Certainly possible for a compressor or whatnot. I'd love a comment from a plugin coder. Chris from AirWindows? Massey? Who else is active here?

I'm all for people watching their gain stages... I just think alot of people are trying to apply analog logic to ITB mixing, which is really apples and oranges.
Old 11th September 2009
  #46
Quote:
Originally Posted by JP11 View Post
So wouldn't you have to really be overdoing it on all your tracks for this overall, and yet subtle effect...I mean, I get the idea that maybe a snare has some hidden distortion that you don't notice or don't care about because it's a snare and all...

but I'm not sure I get this whole smallness verse some magical opening up analog console thing that occurs by lowering all your tracks a bunch...

has anyone ever posted up files showing this effect?
I'm certainly not arguing about smallness or opening up. I doubt it does that either. But there's still the issue of avoiding possible problems with plugs that don't deal with overs gracefully. Some folks have demonstrated 6dB increases in the signal from the addition of a high pass filter. So if you were above -6dB, you could go over in a case like that, or if there were two plugs that both increased the signal something less than that.

It's possible any given plug won't have a problem with overs, or it might. You can test all of the ones you use and if they have no problem then you are good. OTOH, the argument goes, you could just make sure that your incoming levels are reasonable and not worry about it.

Quote:
I'm all for people watching their gain stages... I just think alot of people are trying to apply analog logic to ITB mixing, which is really apples and oranges.
But the funny thing is that the folks who are making this argument are doing so for the same reasons. People used to track really hot, because that was appropriate in the tape world. In the digital world, it really gains you nothing, but it could cause this type of problem with clipping within or between plugs that don't deal with it gracefully.

It may be that plugs written for, or adapted to, floating point DAWs will deal with this fairly well, though it's always possible that the algorithm doesn't do so. I'm not sure about plugs that are fixed point and how they deal with it. And even if you are in a floating point DAW, any given plug might be a fixed point plug. You'd really have to just test them and find out, or ask the authors.

Also, a trim plug isn't really much of a test. It's just adding and subtracting numbers. You'd want to try some more complex plugs.
Old 11th September 2009
  #47
Airwindows
 
chrisj's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by dannygold View Post
So do I clip plugins? I'd say no since they are virtually unclippable if written corretly... unless they're emulating analog clipping as part of the code. Certainly possible for a compressor or whatnot. I'd love a comment from a plugin coder. Chris from AirWindows? Massey? Who else is active here?
I'm all too active here

I would say, from good sounding plugin makers, watch out for anything that sounds 'warm'. Both me and Massey have notable plugs that are totally subject to clipping- my Iron Oxide and Massey's Tape Head are both very obviously using overdrive as part of the sound.

I don't think you mean that, I think we're talking about things like comps and EQs that in theory should ignore clipping. However, there are various ways clipping can affect them, most notably a 'gotcha' factor in the coding. If you go to fixed point for calculations, you can build in the headroom you'll have, and then if you exceed that you're back to digital clipping. Also, if you are for some reason applying a hard limit to the floating point signal (like keeping it between -1 and 1) that's just straight up digital clipping, same for if you're going to 16 bit fixed at any point. It's important to note that this applies to any variable in the code that's used to carry audio- just because the buss carries 32 bit float doesn't mean the plugin isn't running into a problem somewhere.

It is pretty easy to test whether a plugin copes or not. If it's 32 bit float, give it a +300 db signal and attenuate it back down. If it nulls with a -12 db signal, the plugin doesn't care about clipping one bit. If it does clip, it will be nuked completely and sound catastrophic

I oughta make some freebies for doing this but ordinary gain plugs would suffice.
Old 11th September 2009
  #48
Lives for gear
 
dannygold's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dean Roddey View Post
Floating point DAWs will deal with this fairly well, though it's always possible that the algorithm doesn't do so.
That seems to be what Chris is saying... here's what another plugin maker says... I censored the name of his plug as I don't know that he wants to be on this thread.

Hi Danny,

Our plugs (which are all floating point) generally do not clip, so you can crank the gain and pass on the louder than 0 dB signal to the downstream processing. Some of our plugs are peak limiters, or have a peak limiter built-in. For example, XXXXXX has a simple on/off peak limiter as an option. I've found this handy when using Sound Forge, for example, which takes the 32-bit floating point output and converts it to integer (16 or 24 bit) and which will clip anything over 0 dB. So in this case the peak limiter prevents the nasty clipping by the host.

Old 11th September 2009
  #49
Gear Nut
 
Tweek Audio's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dean Roddey View Post
Actually, if you read the original thread, that's not really the issue being discussed. What's behind it is Paul Frindle's argument that various algorithsm create boosts in the signal that are not apparent. If you look at the standard DAW, the signal comes into the track or bus, goes through the plugs, and it's not until the *output* of the track or bus that you see the level.

But the level could have, for a number of reasons, actually gone over 0dBFS, even though the input to the track was below that and the output that you see on the track/bus meter is below that. It could be due to manual boosts of course, but more subtly due to certain types of processes that the plugs do.

So you could have the peak track level as stored be -5dB, then the first plug on that track is an EQ. You might then set a high pass on that EQ, which anyone would think would lower the actual level that comes out of the EQ, but it doesn't always. EQs often have substantial 'filter ring' around the point of the filter cutoff frequency. If the part you cut out constributed less than the part that's bosted by the filter ring, it can actually raise the level of the track by a substantial amount, some of them have really big ring and that's part of their sound.

So then the next plug after the EQ sees a signal that's now over 0dBFS, but because of what it does it brings down the signal before it comes out, and so what you see at the track fader might be -9dBFS. So you think all is well, but in fact one of both of those plugins might have clipped internally if they don't deal gracefully with signals over 0dBFS.

So the point was, if you aren't recording yourself, and therefore can track with reasonable levels (peaking say in the -12dB to -9dBFS range, though of course the occasional peak over that is no disaster), and therefore you get in tracks to mix that were recorded really hot, you may want to reduce them using a trim plug before the first plugin on the track, in order to avoid the above problem.

And the level wasn't -20dBFS *peak* it was RMS. This is a constant source of confusion in these discussions, where people aren't clear about whether the level referred to is peak or RMS. A 20dBFS RMS level will have peaks that are about in that same range I mentioned above when the signal contains peaky material, less so for less peaky material. So the level being suggested wasn't as low as some here might have felt was being indicated.

In theory, if you send a sine wave through an outboard piece of gear and adjust the output to 0dB *VU* on the outboard gear's meter, it'll come out about in that -20 to -18dBFS range in the digital world when you are set up for the usual +4 style pro levels, which most of us would be. So tracking at that level is what would make for about optimum signal to noise ratio in the outboard world, and it would give you plenty of room in the digital world to avoid the issues above. But if you didn't record it yourself, then a plug can be used to bring the level down to avoid the possible plugin clipping issues.

The problem may or may not occur. It depends on the plugin. But since you can't know for sure, the argument is that it's best to err on the side of caution.
Thank you, Dean.

-20dB RMS (rouhgly -6 to -12 dBFS Peak) makes a lot more sense than -20 dBFS peak (roughly -30 to -40 dBFS RMS) . Being a younger digital guy I think peak unless RMS is stated. A bad habbit, I know.

I hover around - 20 dBFS RMS (-6 to -12 dBFS RMS) when tracking and recommend it for the reasons stated above.

Thanks again Dean for the clarification.
Old 11th September 2009
  #50
Gear Maniac
 
fenderbender.'s Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tweek Audio View Post
Thank you, Dean.

-20dB RMS (rouhgly -6 to -12 dBFS Peak) makes a lot more sense than -20 dBFS peak (roughly -30 to -40 dBFS RMS) . Being a younger digital guy I think peak unless RMS is stated. A bad habbit, I know.

I hover around - 20 dBFS RMS (-6 to -12 dBFS RMS) when tracking and recommend it for the reasons stated above.

Thanks again Dean for the clarification.

Considering that the meters in most DAW's display PEAK level and not RMS, I don't see how it makes more sense. In addition, peak-to-average level is dependent on the program material; it's not a fixed ratio. You can't assume! A snare drum has a completely different type of peak-to-avg. than a keyboard patch or a processed guitar. If you want to avoid full-scale samples you should watch the peak level. Hence SSL's "inter-sample peak meter" plug-in.

And for subjective things like audio, I think it's a terrible idea to "err on the side of caution." That's what audiophiles say about $20,000 speaker cables... 'You can't be sure that this cable doesn't improve the sound!...'
Just LISTEN!
Old 11th September 2009
  #51
Gear Nut
 
Tweek Audio's Avatar
 

"Considering that the meters in most DAW's display PEAK level and not RMS, I don't see how it makes more sense."

It makes more sense in the context of my original confusion. Are you speaking out of context of the topic?

"In addition, peak-to-average level is dependent on the program material; it's not a fixed ratio. "

That's why I put a range of RMS to peak values. It's not an exact ratio but with most acoustic recording there is a range of comparison. A peak will always reach higher than an RMS unless you are recording DC. Then they will be equal. Never the less, the point in that hanging out around -20 dBFS RMS is most often very different than haning around -20dBFS peak. To a lesser extent perhaps if you record certain electronic music but still.

"If you want to avoid full-scale samples you should watch the peak level."

This isn't an issue of which meter type we should be watching. It's an issue of the need to watch the meter. The rest is up to you.
If I am able to watch an RMS meter and take it's value into consideration with the particular material and it's dynamics I'm hearing, and use that info to judge the levels going into my plugins, that is my prerogative and there is logic in assuming I have a better "understandning" of sound in general if I can.
Old 11th September 2009
  #52
Gear Nut
 
Tweek Audio's Avatar
 

"And for subjective things like audio, I think it's a terrible idea to "err on the side of caution."

Yes, perhaps, but is it a terrible idea to aknowledge that one of my plugins is bringning my -5dBFS peak signal up to +4dBFS peak, and do something about it?

That's all I'm asking.

And as I said before, I am open to hear anyone's opinions and especially their findings, but in the end it will be my own findings that will dictate my actions as it's my income and art that relies upon it.
Old 22nd July 2011
  #53
Here for the gear
I took all the gain staging info and applied it. I was one of those who blasted every plug and channel because Im so creative and aesthetical. My mixes sounded thin squashed and harsh . Then I made sure every channel got around -18dbfs going in and out and in between plugs, with the Logic Gain plug and Level Meter Plug, and......... the mix SOUNDED way better! I used my EARS and it SOUNDED way better. Do you HEAR me Fender Bender? I used caution and logical gain staging and it SOUNDED better. I used my EARS and it SOUNDED better. LOL!
Old 22nd July 2011
  #54
Here for the gear
Just to clarify FenderBender, my mixes SOUND better now when I LISTEN to them with my EARS. LOL!
Old 22nd July 2011
  #55
Gear Guru
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gear Queer View Post
I took all the gain staging info and applied it. I was one of those who blasted every plug and channel because Im so creative and aesthetical. My mixes sounded thin squashed and harsh . Then I made sure every channel got around -18dbfs going in and out and in between plugs, with the Logic Gain plug and Level Meter Plug, and......... the mix SOUNDED way better! I used my EARS and it SOUNDED way better. Do you HEAR me Fender Bender? I used caution and logical gain staging and it SOUNDED better. I used my EARS and it SOUNDED better. LOL!
I really believe half the "digital sounds small" stuff comes from people who don't understand the ideas of gain staging and headroom and RMS v peak.
Old 22nd July 2011
  #56
Here for the gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by PRobb View Post
I really believe half the "digital sounds small" stuff comes from people who don't understand the ideas of gain staging and headroom and RMS v peak.

I agree 100%!!! heh
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