Final Mix with SPDIF vs balanced inputs

Discussion in 'Mastering' started by DittyMeister, Feb 4, 2010.

  1. DittyMeister

    DittyMeister Active Member

    Hi folks, This is my first post and also wanted to say thanks for the great music information and site! I am more of a musician than an engineer so I appreciate all levels of feedback.

    I have been browsing around and reading quite a bit but did not see anything specific to my topic so I thought I better post my question.

    Long story short, I am recording at 24bit/96khz. I just got the new card so 24bit is new to me and has opened up a new can of worms for me. For the recordings that I do with just the computer (no sync with outboard gear), I am using Cubase. I am not 100% satisfied with the final mixing/mastering tools that I have with it and I choose to run it through my t.c. electronics finalizer plus outboard gear.

    I currently run the tracks from the computer to multiple outputs on my soundcard to the analog mixing console, make a few tweaks, insert my favorite toys etc... get it mixed the best I can then run it from the analog console XLR outputs to the tc electronics. Then from my tc electronics I run SPDIF Out to the SPDIF Input of the computer and capture my mix.

    OK, here comes the main question. Would it be better for me to run SPDIF out of the tc elctronic to SPDIF in of the computer or since my sound card is 24bit, would it be better to use the analog outs of the t.c. electronic and into the computers balanced inputs?

    The reason I ask: I was reading about SPDIF and how sony originally designed SPDIF for 20 bit and I guess I am wondering if I am loosing bits and chopping of sound resolution if I do the main mix via SPDIF. Does the SPDIF cable carry all 24bits?

    OK, last but not least: If I keep using the SPDIF ins and outs of the t.c mastering unit and send the mix into my computer SPDIF, should I setup the output on the t.c. unit to 16bit and let that unit dither the output to 16bit and setup my software that is capturing the main mix on the computer at 16bit and 44.1 OR should I leave the t.c unit at 24 bit and put my software on the computer at 24bit and trust that when I "save as" to 16bit 44.1 for CD. I use WavLab lite to capture the computer mix.

    Seems to me, that ever since I entered the 24bit world, I love listening to our music from the 24bit recordings but we are loosing quite a bit of sound getting it ready for the 16bit CD world!

    I hope everyone understands the way I am using my gear and the way I put it above and I am very interested in hearing from all you folks in this community! Ciao for now, DittyMeister :)
  2. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    1) S/PDIF will carry 24 bit information.

    2) Even if it didn't, you'd have to consider the compromise of going from whatever DA you're going out of into the TCF's AD converters to do digital processing and then bringing it back again.

    3) If you feel you're losing a lot listening to 16-bit recordings, I'd argue that your converters need an upgrade.

    Don't get me wrong - I'm a big fan of 24-bit recording - But 16-bit is still a fine delivery method.

    On the other stuff (really, on ALL this stuff), that's for your ears to decide.
  3. Thomas W. Bethel

    Thomas W. Bethel Well-Known Member

    What does this have to do with mastering???? Just wondering????? Thanks!
  4. WaltzMastering

    WaltzMastering Active Member

    Since your already in the digital domain with the finalizer last in your chain before it hits the computer, it might be best to stay in the digital domain rather than going through another round of ad/da for no reason. You could try both ways and see if you prefer one over the other.

    With dither it might be best to capture your final mix/master without dither into the computer, and add the dither from the computer just in case you want to go back to the un-dithered file and do any further processing down the line. That way you leave your self open for the option of further changes.

    Another option, and more highly recommended is to just capture your mixes at 24 bit's with no limiting and then do diy mastering as a separate process all together rather than trying to master as you mix. It gets a bit difficult when you try to mix and master at he same time if that's what your doing?
  5. DittyMeister

    DittyMeister Active Member

    Thanks for the feedback John. Yeah, I have been doing a lot of testing and trial and error with quick short loops and mixes and giving a critical listen to each method. The converters seem good in my t.c. electronics finalizer plus and my little audigy 4 pro SPDIF seems OK for now. I don't notice much of a differnce If I master from the TCF's to DAT and listen back right off of the DAT.

    TO THOMAS: I expected someone to ask me what this has to do with mastering lol. Well, the t.c. finalizer plus is a mastering unit isn't it? I guess I am just searching for "best practices" at getting a 24bit recording ready for the 16bit CD with the mastering gear that I have. I did not worry as much when we were doing 16 bit recordings, but like I said the 24bit world and the dithering process is a new world for me.

    *** Please Feel free to explain to me the best practices and process if you receive tracks at 24bit and/or a mix at 24bit for getting the final product dithered and mastered to CD. I agree with JOHN that our ears have to give a critical listen to the AD converters or whatever we are using for the dithering process, whether it be Internal or External.

    I am all ears! Thanks for the feedback and help, Jeff

    If you want to listen, here is a little 35 second clip and loop so that you can hear my final resolution. It is just a quick scratch track and short loop. Think it sounds ok? This one was dithered 16bit from the tc finalizer then into the computer via SPDIF in at 16bit.

    I will try the the next one at 24bit SPDIF and let the computer software dither the next one and post the same clip and we can compare.
  6. DittyMeister

    DittyMeister Active Member

    Thanks WaltzMastering :) I will try the 24bit next and let the software do the dithering and we can see what happens. Now that you mention "another round of AD/DA", I am realy confused. I am still baffled about the t.c. electronics units options. Are you saying that if I remain SPDIF from the TC's SPDIF outs to the computers SPDIF ins I get another conversion or don't get a conversion. I imagine, at the moment, that If I go Analog XLR out of the TC to Analog XLR of the sound card it would have to go through the extra round of conversion, but please set me strait!
  7. WaltzMastering

    WaltzMastering Active Member

    You are doing one round of da and ad just getting into the finalizer.

    Digital out of daw into the analog console.. and then
    analog out of console into the finalized using the ad converter on the finalizer.

    What I'm saying is instead of doing another round of da/ad
    by using the da in the finalizer and then the ad in your daw, it might be better just to stay digital from the finalizer to the daw.

    The above is edited to be correct.

    If you go spdif from the finalizer to the daw your not going through another conversion, which might be the best option.
  8. DittyMeister

    DittyMeister Active Member

    OK, I think I follow the conversion stages, thanks. OK, I will setup the TC unit for 24bit and then run SPDIF outs at 24bit and set my computer SPDIF to 24bit. Should I set the Khz on everything to 96khz if I try this method of letting the software do the final dithering after I save the high resolution mix? If I follow you, this will not create any more conversion? Sound correct? thanks again Waltz.
  9. WaltzMastering

    WaltzMastering Active Member

    Yes. that way you have your final mixes preserved at 24 bit, and the option to do processing later as well, you can convert your mp3's from the 24 bit files, which can give better results than converting from 16.
  10. DittyMeister

    DittyMeister Active Member

    Thank you very much for your time Waltz and It is greatly appreciated. I just checked out your site, good stuff! I wish I could afford GOOD goodies like you guys have but just want to do the best we can here for now. Maybe I can send you some tracks down the road, if we ever write anything worthy and let you have a crack at it! Thanks again.

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