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General Question: Why is it bad to record too hot?
Old 19th December 2010
  #1
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General Question: Why is it bad to record too hot?

Hi all,

Just a general question: why is it bad to record too hot? I have seen some people advice against recording everything too hot.

Lets say I have a raw vocal track that's peaking at -1 dbfs. I understand that any consequent processing of this track (such as EQ) will likely lead to clipping, however, could this be avoided by just attenuating the input level into the EQ plug-in? Or are there other factors that also come into play that suggest to avoid recording everything too hot?

Thanks for any advice! thumbsup
Old 19th December 2010
  #2
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waxx's Avatar
 

because overdriven transients (or overdriven signals in general) make your recording sound harsh and volume can be created in the mastering in way better sonics if needed...
Old 19th December 2010
  #3
Gear Guru
 
kafka's Avatar
Is that -1dBfs a peak or an average? It's most likely an average, and will have occasional transient peaks that are clipping. By backing off on the level you avoid clipping those peaks that clip but don't register on the meter.
Old 19th December 2010
  #4
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Nothing wrong with recording peaks at -1 dBFS provided your vocalist's level is consistent, but that leaves you with very little margin of error if your vocalist decides to start belting it out. If you hit 0 dBFS you are in danger of clipping (distorting) the audio waveform and it will sound bad. Better to record a little low and bring up the gain after the fact.

Quote:
Originally Posted by kafka View Post
Is that -1dBfs a peak or an average? It's most likely an average, and will have occasional transient peaks that are clipping. By backing off on the level you avoid clipping those peaks that clip but don't register on the meter.
It depends on the characteristics of the meter.
Old 19th December 2010
  #5
Motown legend
 
Bob Olhsson's Avatar
 

The reasons I record at moderate levels:

1. unless I'm using ultra-expensive converters and analog stages, the power supplies probably won't be powerful enough to handle constant peaking at the top of the equipment's range.

2. I'm not psychic and can't predict what anything but test tones will do

3. stuff that peaks at -30 generally sounds better than stuff that peaks at -1 so there is no risk from guessing on the low side like there would be if I were using analog gear. It makes no sense to not take advantage of digital technology's strengths rather than pushing against its weaknesses.

4. moderate levels allow me to not be wasting mental energy on levels. It lets me concentrate on far more important issues such as microphone position and making certain that absolutely nothing is interfering with the performance.
Old 19th December 2010
  #6
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studiostuff's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bob Olhsson View Post
... and making certain that absolutely nothing is interfering with the performance.
... +1
Old 19th December 2010
  #7
Gear Nut
 
The Fold Studios's Avatar
 

How about the question why would you record hot on a digital system? It's an unnecessary risk and a pain in the neck. You mentioned that you can attenuate before plugins if necessary during the mixing process but why should you want to have to bother?

The Dynamic range of 24bit digital recording is great enough that you can leave a good 20dB of headroom (as you would have in an analog setup) without any descernible noise penalty, so why risk clipping the recording and adding an extra step in the mix process (attenuation to achieve manageable gain staging)?
Old 19th December 2010
  #8
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Zep Dude's Avatar
 

This will also put the faders of your DAW way down in the -20 - -30 range when mixing which is not very ergonomic.
Old 19th December 2010
  #9
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RCM - Ronan's Avatar
The analog stage of low-mid level converters do not respond well to levels that hot. You can be distorting the input stage of the converter before clipping.

As a guy that has mixed thousands of songs, I have seen lots of tracks ruined or compromised by super hot levels and I have never had a tracked ruined by levels that were too low. At 24bit a track that peaks at -50dBfs is still very usable (although not best case scenario)
Old 19th December 2010
  #10
Quote:
Originally Posted by RCM - Ronan View Post
TI have seen lots of tracks ruined or compromised by super hot levels and I have never had a tracked ruined by levels that were too low.
+1

.
Old 19th December 2010
  #11
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kennybro's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by RCM - Ronan View Post
I have seen lots of tracks ruined or compromised by super hot levels and I have never had a tracked ruined by levels that were too low.
+2 I'll third that!!
Old 19th December 2010
  #12
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waxx's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by RCM - Ronan View Post
As a guy that has mixed thousands of songs, I have seen lots of tracks ruined or compromised by super hot levels and I have never had a tracked ruined by levels that were too low. At 24bit a track that peaks at -50dBfs is still very usable (although not best case scenario)
very true
Old 21st December 2010
  #13
Gear Guru
 
kafka's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by kafka View Post
Is that -1dBfs a peak or an average?
Quote:
Originally Posted by chris319 View Post
It depends on the characteristics of the meter.
Umm, right. That's why I asked him. Does he know what his meter is saying?
Old 21st December 2010
  #14
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Flying_Dutchman's Avatar
 

there is no noise issue with 24bit
peaking higher just shifts the mantissa of the digital operation
analog gear on the edge is normally no good idea, although there are special designs, or limiters implemented, or opinions about clipping converts...but normally not
also preamps don´t like it always
you have to know your gears headroom
Old 21st December 2010
  #15
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SoundEng1's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Flying_Dutchman View Post
Also preamps don´t like it always
you have to know your gears headroom
Very True
Old 21st December 2010
  #16
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It's because you are nearing into the distortion section of the analog part of your converters and let's there is minimal distortion happening there. And then you start mixing and processing in the box, and then these distortions add up again. Somewhere there is a very good article about this. Sorry I forgot the URL.. search.
Old 21st December 2010
  #17
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12ax7's Avatar
 

.
Before somebody brings up the idea that not slamming levels into digital converters somehow "wastes bits", let me just say that that argument is a load of dingo's kidneys.

I know very well that the above statement will be ignored by many, and even may result in a flame or two.

...But as the fine art of gain-staging is slowly being re-discovered, those who ignore the truth about this will be left in the dust.

Your call.

.
Old 21st December 2010
  #18
Lives for gear
Here is a good reference chart I found regarding digital vs analog:

zb-reflevel-analogdigital.png (image)
Old 21st December 2010
  #19
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vernier's Avatar
You can go a little hot with digital, but just a little. With a good tape recorder, you can crank it, no worries.
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