For fun let's just say for a second that I...

Discussion in 'Digital Audio' started by manosaurus, Dec 4, 2007.

  1. manosaurus macrumors 6502


    Aug 22, 2006
    ...want to record everything with ultra low levels. Say that I record all my tracks, drums, guitar, vocals, whatever with levels on the firepod that aren't going past the 12 o clock position or even lower. The levels meter doesn't specify really where I am though I guess. You can see in the attachment that the dial goes from 0 - 60 and -10 - +30.

    Anyway, I have been trying to record everything as hot as possible like people (ahem, douchebags) have told me to. Generally this has meant somewhere around the 3 o clock position.

    Say I just skip this whole idea and start recording everything at like 9 or 11 0r 12 o clock, I never would get any clipping at these levels for sure.

    Consequently though the RMS level of my rough unedited mix will be super low right? I was reading in "The Loudness Wars," a fine wikipedia article, that today's RMS level peak at around -5db here and there. And now I suppose that my rough unedited mix could and up being around -50 - -30 RMS.

    That's fine. I could get my mix I see that it should be without ever worrying about clipping in the least I suppose. I could just turn my monitors up to max and till be working with a low level recording. This is fine AS LONG as I can get someone to bring the volume up in mastering so as to be competitive with commercial releases.

    Are there any negatives to recording at low volumes though. Like when hiking up the signal in mastering am I going to get some kind of hum or noise or anything?

    And, just to be sure, recording at low volumes doesn't mean that any details of the performance will be lost does it?

    Thanks guys!!! I suppose that if all this is possible then I will join y'alls cult of low-volume sissy recording, :) just kidding.

    Attached Files:

  2. zimv20 macrumors 601


    Jul 18, 2002
    very cool that you want to try this. regarding getting the overall level back up, yes, leave that to mastering: he's probably got better gear than you for that sort of thing.

    can't help w/ where you should set your knobs. rather, look at your recorded levels and shoot for -36 to -18 averages. higher peaks are okay (and it's best to grab a meter that'll show you intersample peaks), but they should still be below zero.

    you shouldn't be suffering any noise issues because:

    1. you'll be recording @ 24 bit, which has insane amounts of headroom (i.e. you can "waste" some of it)
    2. digital has no noise floor, so the only artifacts you get are from the source and mic/pre self-noise (should be low)
    3. you'll be gainstaging everything properly in analog

    yeah, don't be afraid to get proper levels in analog, i'm only talking about digital of course. so you'll need to give the mics as much gain as they need to sound-good / hit-the-sweet-spot. it's on the way to the converters that you need to be conservative. dunno if you have any way of attenuating the signal before the converters: some pre's have an output knob, and you can always insert a pad in the chain (i use these). heck, sometimes i use a compressor in the chain mostly for output attenuation (okay, for a little color, too).

    not that i've detected. if anything, it makes it easier to mix and maintain detail. just remember to keep your monitoring volume turned to the levels to which you're accustomed, otherwise you may get in your head about it.
  3. manosaurus thread starter macrumors 6502


    Aug 22, 2006
    As far as monitoring levels in terms of actual deciblels, -36 - -18 averages as you say, I am not sure that I have anything that I can do that with. Check out the attachment of the Garageband meter below (a silly experiment I was doing involving clipping, FYI.) It only says "-" or "+" with telling you how much - or +. I can assume that the celing is of course "0db" but not sure where I would be other than that. Unless I know what decibel is represnted by absolutely no trace of sound. Then I could gage I guess said averages. A long as it is linear I suppose.

    About the "pad." Don't know what it is. Matter of fact I am not entirely familiar with a lot of the terms I see around including:

    - noisefloor
    - headroom
    - gain
    - "converters" in your post, zim.
    - preamp (as distinct from "interface" anyway. I understand that the
    "preamp" is the reason that I can get a signal into my mic and then my computer in the first place but I guess what confuses me is why some people use dedicated preamps and dedicated interfaces. And I have wondered should I keep them separate as well for best results.)

    Attached Files:

  4. zimv20 macrumors 601


    Jul 18, 2002
    what you want to look at is (if it exists) the LED meter next to the fader. does GB have one?

    what you're looking at in the attachment can show you when the waveform is clipping, but that's different from the channel or mixbus clipping. it gets confusing, i know, but here are the 2 things to watch out for:

    1. for each track, you want to ensure the waveform doesn't clip. if it does, the digital->analog converter will produce a nasty sound.

    2. when all those waveforms are added together so you can hear it as a song, you don't want to run out of headroom on the mixbus. i'm not terribly familiar w/ DAW math, but my experience is that when you try to mix together too many hot signals, the overall sound gets small.


    noisefloor: the level of non-musical noise in your signal (like tape hiss, back in the day)
    headroom: how much signal a piece of gear (incl. software) can handle before overwhelming the device
    gain: how much you've increased the amplitude of a signal
    converters: translates between digital and analog (i'll write them as a/d and d/a)
    preamp: the device that applies gain to your mic signal to bring it up from (roughly) a millivolt to a volt so you can interface it w/ other signals
    pad: a device that decreases (attenuates) the amplitude of a signal

    interfaces tend to have preamps, a/d and d/a built in. i.e. a preamp will not get your signal into the computer, other components in the interface do that.

    i tend to buy them as separate components. if nothing else, it means i can stick things in between them, like a pad. then there's mix/match possibilities, not having to compromise on components, etc.

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