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tracking hot? DAW Software
Old 16th January 2014
  #1
Deleted User
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tracking hot?

i am wondering how many of you are really tracking hot (not meaning: "are your tracks hot" )
I personally track onto a HD24XR and use a lot of limiters and compressors before hitting the "tape". In the brave new digital world it is consensus that digital media dont have any problem with signal to noise ratio, so why not leave a lot of headroom and normalize (or whatever dynamic processing) doing later? On the other hand, is it true that AD converters sounds best if they are driven to the max?
One advantage of tracking hot is that the ruff mixes sounds good right from the start, but do i miss something? Started makin recordings in analog times (motto then: if its aint red - its dead).
Old 16th January 2014
  #2
It really just depends on what you're using and the sound that you're going for. Some equipment doesn't like to be driven hard, and starts to progressively distort in an unpleasant fashion the more you push it close to it's limits. A-D converters, the good ones at least, can handle some pretty hot levels and remain neutral. But the lesser ones don't like that stuff at all, and don't sound as good.
Old 16th January 2014
  #3
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The reference level of the HD24XR is 0VU=-15dBFS. So simply keep an average level of -15dBFS, and your peaks below -6dBFS (stay out of the yellow in other words!).
Old 16th January 2014
  #4
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jolly Jimmy View Post
The reference level of the HD24XR is 0VU=-15dBFS. So simply keep an average level of -15dBFS, and your peaks below -6dBFS (stay out of the yellow in other words!).
yeah!

When your Preamp is at 0VU, your AD converter is reading -15dBFS
This allows you to align your systems headroom visually. You have headroom above 0VU on your preamp, [hopefully] and 15dB of headroom available before digital distortion/0dBFS

Best not to keep the preamp running over 0VU unless you want to use it for saturation distortion. It is OK to run over 0VU, as with most high quality equipment there is a good measure of headroom available. But it is all different, and each unit will saturate differently.

I always find it is hard to "come back" from distorted/too loud, and much easier to raise the gain of lower level material at a later stage.
Old 16th January 2014
  #5
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thanks for the input.
what does "saturation" in the digital domain mean? using all the bits ???
and if there is headroom over the 0dbFS, why not use it if i hard limit the signal in the tracking stage anyway? Maybe i am doin so because the tape return signal in the analog desk sounds better if the signal is hotter. If i understand you right, the signal will stay
neutral before there is audible distortion? So there is no difference in the "sound" regardless if there are two green LED lights up or all of them (of course no red ones) ???
Old 16th January 2014
  #6
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It's generally agreed that with a s/n ratio of 112 dB on your HDR24XR, and music with a dynamic range of maybe 30-40 dB, there's no advantage at all to tracking hotter than -15 dB average/-6 dBFS peaks. It gives you some dynamics to work with rather than having to brick wall limit everything…
Old 16th January 2014
  #7
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FFTT's Avatar
 

Back when I was going to cassette, I would pump the sensitivity of the condenser
mic to where you could hear the cat walking upstairs. As a result I had to gate
for ambient room noise.

From there, I'd burn the tracks as hot as I could get them without audible distortion. +3dB was just Good & Hot, especially on vocals.

Burning hot to cassette on the final vocal also put the voice out front and covered
some of the hiss from all the other tracks.

Now I feel like I'm walking on eggs avoiding Digital Clip Indicators and it was a big adjustment for me.
Old 16th January 2014
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Deleted User View Post
thanks for the input.
what does "saturation" in the digital domain mean? using all the bits ???
and if there is headroom over the 0dbFS, why not use it if i hard limit the signal in the tracking stage anyway? Maybe i am doin so because the tape return signal in the analog desk sounds better if the signal is hotter. If i understand you right, the signal will stay
neutral before there is audible distortion? So there is no difference in the "sound" regardless if there are two green LED lights up or all of them (of course no red ones) ???
There is no headroom above 0dBFS - that's the point of having a 0VU reference level somewhat below full scale (generally between -20 and -14dBFS). Once you hit 0dBFS, it's all cold, hard, digital clipping.
Old 16th January 2014
  #9
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FFTT's Avatar
 

Yup with digital Clipped is Clipped.
Old 16th January 2014
  #10
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sorry my fault, i meant headroom above -15dbFS.
so (despite the fact that fades will become "stairway like") it doesnt make any difference how much the meters extend in the range. If 30db dynamic range is enough, it would be ok to just use 25% of the scale? Maybe this is a situation were my expectations cloud my hearing judgement (eyes beats ears). I always found that signals recorded with high levels also sounded better. But i can see on advantage: because there is not enough gain in the tape return section on the analog desk for wimpy signals (a soundcraft ghost by the way), in the end the overall mix does sound better. (there the signal to noise ratio is a fact again) No one will argue that most analog desks DO sound better if they are driven hot, right?
sorry for poor school english and the dump questions. Hope all of you can follow my thoughts.
Old 16th January 2014
  #11
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shortstory's Avatar
Old analog guy here-

0db VU (analog) (across all of our gear) hits conversion at -18db digital

I still print 1k tone to pro tools in case the next guy wants to set his input levels like I do and so I can recall my outboard.

In short- I'm printing in the green 99% of the time with a few yellows on the wicked transients. I usually print with zero compression or limiting tho (but run thru tubes & trannies).
Old 16th January 2014
  #12
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If the problem is that your tape returns want a hotter signal to sound good, then it's a monitoring problem, not a recording problem! Does your mixing desk have an option to increase the sensitivity of the tape returns? If not, the Ghost and the HD24XR may just not be a good match?
Old 16th January 2014
  #13
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Mo Facta's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Deleted User View Post
thanks for the input.
what does "saturation" in the digital domain mean? using all the bits ???
Remember that despite a digital audio converter being a "digital device" it still incorporates analogue components. The analogue stages are calibrated to a certain max input/output level and will saturate like any analogue circuit when pushed hard. Whether or not this introduces usable or ugly distortion is up to the quality and design of the converter. I am of the opinion that stacking slammed tracks recorded through a bad sounding converter will accumulate into the typical digital "brittleness" that everyone complains about.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Deleted User View Post
and if there is headroom over the 0dbFS, why not use it if i hard limit the signal in the tracking stage anyway?
There is no headroom above 0dBfs as it relates to the analogue stages of a converter. 0dBfs is the clip point of the converter. For instance, a Lynx Aurora clips at +20dBu. Therefore, a +20dBu signal will equate to 0dBfs in the digital domain. Once it's inside the DAW you do indeed have more headroom above 0dBfs IF you are using a 32-bit floating point (or more) DAW. However, be aware that any signal that is over 0dBfs at the master bus will clip your DA converter since it is 24-bit. There is no headroom above 0dBfs in 24-bit so that's why it's a good idea to keep your levels low. That and intersample distortion, which is another idea altogether.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Deleted User View Post
Maybe i am doin so because the tape return signal in the analog desk sounds better if the signal is hotter. If i understand you right, the signal will stay
neutral before there is audible distortion? So there is no difference in the "sound" regardless if there are two green LED lights up or all of them (of course no red ones) ???
Console saturation may be why it sounds ok to you. So if it sounds better, do it! Just be aware of obvious distortions that are detrimental to the sound.

Cheers
Old 16th January 2014
  #14
Deleted User
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Quote:
Originally Posted by drbob1 View Post
If the problem is that your tape returns want a hotter signal to sound good, then it's a monitoring problem, not a recording problem! Does your mixing desk have an option to increase the sensitivity of the tape returns? If not, the Ghost and the HD24XR may just not be a good match?
No, both work on +4dB and there is no Problem at all.
this thread now is focused on the question about gain staging and reference level of AD conversion, and it would be really interessing if everybody here thinks his converters indeed does not sound any diverent regardless of how hard they were driven. (im sceptical about that).
But my initial intension was to ask how many of you are doing most of the dynamic work
in the tracking stage, or afterwards. No question, i assume many of us are heavy users of compressors and dynamic processors. I personally track drums with a dedicated compellor on every single channel (love those nearly unhearable compression, dont use them on OHs) just to end with HOT tracks.
I think its more fun to go ahead with hot (compressed) signals and i dont know exactly why, i believe that the result of tracking with alot of headroom and sending those signals in the mixing stage through the compellors, the result would be much less satisfying.

Ok, i lose some chances to fix the dynamics later if i did a mistake in the tracking stage,
but i am getting old and lazy....this thread should be more about different working styles.
Old 16th January 2014
  #15
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For a more complete gain-staging discussion of this topic, there's always that zillion post thread "why itb mixes/tracks don't.."
Old 16th January 2014
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mo Facta View Post
Remember that despite a digital audio converter being a "digital device" it still incorporates analogue components. The analogue stages are calibrated to a certain max input/output level and will saturate like any analogue circuit when pushed hard. Whether or not this introduces usable or ugly distortion is up to the quality and design of the converter. I am of the opinion that stacking slammed tracks recorded through a bad sounding converter will accumulate into the typical digital "brittleness" that everyone complains about.

Thats quite interessting, so you think the manufacturer optimise the analog devices inside to the point where the converter prints at -18dbfs ? or wouldnt it be more likely that the optimale working point is at nearly full scale? This could be a reason that (my) AD Converters maybe sound best slightly under they will start to distort.
Old 18th January 2014
  #17
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Mo Facta's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Deleted User View Post
Thats quite interessting, so you think the manufacturer optimise the analog devices inside to the point where the converter prints at -18dbfs ? or wouldnt it be more likely that the optimale working point is at nearly full scale? This could be a reason that (my) AD Converters maybe sound best slightly under they will start to distort.
The specific 0VU/+4dBu calibration of a converter has little to with the physical quality of the analogue components inside in this conversation. If I'm wrong, someone please correct me.

Interfaces that are mass produced on an automated production line, i.e. prosumer stuff, will most likely implement cheaper components because for these companies production cost is a major issue. They are price-point driven so they will sacrifice high quality components for quantity output.

Other premium companies like Burl, Lynx, Apogee, etc use more expensive high quality components that have higher tolerances than the cheaper stuff. Some people will disagree and I'm not an electronic expert but to my ears there is a clear difference between these brands and even a brand like MOTU when you A/B the results.

Another thing is that distortion is not always immediately noticeable and will tend to accumulate when you stack tracks. All of a sudden you find yourself in a position where there is something bugging you about the sound but you can't quite put your finger on it. Just try tracking with conservative levels for a project. I am almost 100% confident you'll notice a huge improvement in the quality of your recordings.

Cheers
Old 18th January 2014
  #18
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Karloff70's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Enlightened Hand View Post
It really just depends on what you're using and the sound that you're going for. Some equipment doesn't like to be driven hard, and starts to progressively distort in an unpleasant fashion the more you push it close to it's limits. A-D converters, the good ones at least, can handle some pretty hot levels and remain neutral. But the lesser ones don't like that stuff at all, and don't sound as good.
What she said.

Basically you have two parameters. One is that on the ones and zeros side the hotter you go without clipping the better in theory. The other is the analog stages and will they handle that level, as the lesser ones don't like it.

So try it and see what your tool says to that.

The other thing is, even if you can get it in there hot without issue from your analog stages, once mixing you may end up having to turn it down again with something like FreeG in the first slot per channel to get a good gain structure situation for mixing.
Old 23rd January 2014
  #20
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Thank you very much, this is very helpfull, all of your answers lead to make me rethink the whole gain staging story.
Old 23rd January 2014
  #21
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I have an HD24XR (great machine!) and used it for years before I got an Apollo. Still use the ADAT to my Apollo. I always kept it around -15dBFS but after Jim Williams did a modification it sounded better to me driving up in to the yellow but NEVER in the red. I asked him about this and his reply was:

"The opamp THD lowers at higher levels on the test gear. Mostly it's just because the signal is far away from the noise interference. The converters show best THD specs at about +18 dbu on the inputs. That's close to the last yellow led firing. You just don't want to risk the red led."

However, when I transferred from the HD24XR to my DAW I would always use the trim plug in to make all of my tracks -18dBFS.

If you want some great info try and go through the first few pages of this thread.

The Reason Most ITB mixes don’t Sound as good as Analog mixes (restored)
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