the analog v digital debate is still raging, with anti-digits claiming it sounds crap, while pro-digits saying people just don't know how to use it. "analog had to be hit a certain way, and digital has to be hit a certain, and different way. if you hit digital like you hit analog, you'll make trouble." for some time i've been using much more conservative digital levels (i run an apogee rosetta800 via ADAT into a digi002r, and run PTLE 7.x). on this forum, i've advised people to keep their signals in the middle third of their DAW LED meters. i've done this, and found an improvement in sound. i've also more closely watched the levels going into and coming out of my plugs, using trim plugs where necessary. the issue is slamming the digital bus. when analog is hit too hard, sometimes it sounds better. in digital, it doesn't. and here's the catch -- MOST OF THE TIME YOU GET NO VISUAL FEEDBACK YOU'RE DOING SO. sure, you've got those red over lights, but that's the equivalent of your check engine light coming on *after* you've burned through all your oil. iow, too ****ing late. .... so for some time i've been reading about how your DAW levels lie to you. first, they show RMS levels, not peak, so you're looking at the wrong thing. second, some say, those LED graphs which do show peak, don't actually catch all the peaks, and those are wrong too. the answer is two-fold: get a real meter, and drop your levels. drop them lower than that. no, even lower than that. keep going. okay, a little lower. that's it. -18? not low enough. more like -32 or -36. crazy, right? last night, plug-in maker steve massey released a no-frills, osx-only and PTv7-only set of tools called Massey Tools v0.1 beta. one tool is a meter: "a configurable meter showing RMS, peak, and peak hold." i loaded it up last night and looked at the latest stuff i've been mixing. i mix from PTLE, to hardware (a folcrom), into a mic pre, through a buss compressor, and back into PT. i try to keep my levels low-ish. my RMS levels are around -7 to -11. PTLE shows my peaks around -5 to -9. however: the massey meter showed my peaks, in 3 songs, to actually be +7 to +11. i was stunned. this is the first time i've really known how hard i was hitting the digital bus, and i'm way not pleased that the PTLE peak indicators were so low. i tried it on the master bus, i tried it on individual tracks. track after track, song after song, my peaks were > 0. i wanted to cry. .... so i'm going to revise my "hit it in the middle third" prior advice. shoot for -36 RMS (24 bit, of course). find a meter plug-in that actually shows you your real peaks. and forget all that non-sense about "using all the bits". .... disclaimer: i haven't bothered sourcing any of this info, since it's compiled from many places, over a couple years, with my own experiences. that last bit's the important part, that these turning-down techniques have worked for me. ymmv, but i urge everyone to experiment with an open mind and see if any of these techniques improve their own sounds. if you must know, much of the reading i've done on it was at gearslutz and PSW. some of the people recommending these techniques are gear designers and pro engineers, of which i'm neither. but their shared wisdom has helped me, and with the release of massey's meter plug, i'm passing on some of it here. i hope it's helpful.