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Level matching - Searched - Cant Find What Im Looking For

Discussion in 'Recording' started by zydeceltico, May 25, 2012.

  1. zydeceltico

    zydeceltico Active Member

    Hi all -

    I've been trying to do a better job of tracking so I can do a better job of mixing. I've been reading a lot of posts and forums that talk about level matching (level-matched listening?) across tracks while tracking but have nowhere read how one actually does that - just that it is important to do - - which I get. But in the nuts and bolts world what does that mean? What should I be doing?

    I use Reaper, a quad capture, rode on acoustic guitars and vocals, superior drummer, amplitube and GR5 for electrics usually, mandolins, fiddles, yamaha p155, and various percussion.

    So what should I literally be doing to "match levels" while tracking?

    Thanks a bunch in advance?

  2. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    I'm not sure what level matching means in this context. It's often recommended to have a standard level of listening in the control room (usually around 85dBSPL), and setting levels during tracking is fairly standardized (about -12dBFS peak). But different instruments have different dynamics and different subjective loudness at a given objective level, so I don't see how you'd "match" levels in a consistent way. Is there something you can link to that explains this?
  3. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    I've read all sorts of stuff on this but maybe you are discussing something else.

    I track and mix at lower volumes to save my hearing. I trust how I feel rather than watching a meter on how many db I am at ( room level). I just know where my comfort level is and I always seem to be around that.

    A room is a room so the inherent acoustic problems a room has, to my knowledge is there regardless of volume. A spike at 120hz will be in the room regardless of volume. (Maybe someone can confirm this for me.)

    But I believe our hearing is the most precise at 85dBSPL. That's the sweet level humans work best at.
  4. zydeceltico

    zydeceltico Active Member

    Thanks for the feedback gang -

    Here a couple of snippets from the Cockos forum to which I am referring:

    "If you get in the practice of level-matching AB comparisons, and of monitoringat infuriatingly quiet volume levels, you will rapidly start to develop anear for fletcher-munson effects, and taking these measures will become less necessary."

    “Level-matching” does NOT mean making it so that everything hits the peakmeters at the same level. Digital metering has massacred the easiest and most basicelement of audio engineering, and if you're using digital systems, you have tolearn to ignore your meters, to a great degree (even as it is has now become critical​
    to watch them to avoid overs).

    What this means for you, the recordist, is that it is essentially impossible to makecritical A/B judgments unless you are hearing the material at the same apparentAVERAGE PLAYBACK VOLUME. It is very important to understand that AVERAGEPLAYBACK VOLUME is NOT the same as the peak level on your digitalmeters, and it absolutely does not mean just leaving the master volume knob set​
    to one setting.

    Not so when we set them both according to PEAK level. Now, we have to turndown the Strat to accommodate the big swings on the instantaneous peaks, whilewe can crank the fat Les Paul right up to the verge of constant clipping. This doesnot reflect the natural balance of sound that we would want in a real soundstage,​
    it is artificially altered to fit the limits of digital recording.

    I get all of this - IN THEORY

    However, I routinely record my Strat and Les Paul on the same song (only using this as an example - still looking for a definition not restricted to guitars) - and there is no doubt that the Strat's average signal is much lower than it's spiky peaks - especially the way I play (very wacka-ticky wacka-ticky) - so I tend to get these massive clipped peaks that are more like missile strikes even though my easy-strummed level is around -12 to -10 db. The Les Paul is of course just brutal at all levels - but consistent and doesn't tend to give me a clipping problem tracking at -10. But if I lower the trim gain for the Strat to where the clickity-clack strumming (which is inherent to some of what I do) doesn't hit the red and stays reasonably down on the VU meter (-5 or -6) the average listening volume of the track with the strat is going to be amazingly quiet and subdued even - I can't get my headphones loud enough to work with it within the context of all of the other track of gtr, bass, drums, etc. without throwing a pre-amp or limter, etc. on it - which I am certain is not the correct thing to necessarily do. I end up over-compensating every other track of music during tracking and at mix-down to accomodate the spiky strat.


    Thanks again for any and all feedback!

  5. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    It sounds like the Quad Capture doesn't have enough gain in the headphone output to accommodate proper tracking levels of very dynamic sources. Don't wreck your tracking process in favor of headphone volume. Get a headphone amp for more volume if necessary.

    Comparing things at similar RMS (average) levels and at moderate absolute volume (SPL) is a good thing. Things that sound louder tend to sound better subjectively. Reaper has the option of peak or average metering or both at once on the master bus.

    Most SPL meters measure slowly enough to ignore peak levels, though some have peak measurement options. Even a cheap one will get you in the ballpark as far as control room levels. Learn about A and C weighting, slow and fast measurement etc., Fletcher-Munson curves and their more up to date equivalents.

    Don't ignore your meters, learn to properly interpret them. Peak meters are used because they are meaningful in the digital world. While in analog the sound got progressively more distorted as the signal rose past the optimum, in digital the signal stays essentially the same until it hits 0dBFS. The meters for each reflect the inherent properties of the media. As for relative subjective levels, use your ear, not a meter.

    If you maintain proper gain structure in the analog realm you won't ever have overs, at least with 24 bit digital audio. There's absolutely no need to push levels to the brink of clipping and thus no need to obsess over your digital meters.
  6. zydeceltico

    zydeceltico Active Member

    This is what I thought (just purchased a Presonus HP4) - should be here in a day or two. So functionally - "level-matched listening inA/B comparisons" is referring to using a reference track of a commericial release of a good mix and making sure that I am listening to the commercial mix and my project mix at the same volume? - and nothing more than that? Or does "level matched listening" refer to something I sould be doing during tracking? Or both?

    Thanks again!

  7. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    On my monitoring system : The idea is to turn down the CD level to match your mixes. This is helpful for you and also, if you are in business and have clients who bought in a CD and said, can you make my recording sound like this! You adjust the volume so both your mix and the CD are equal. But its not usually for headphones.
    Its great to have independent headphone levels.

    As far as level matching tracks: Only thing I can answer there is: For overdubs, you want to make sure you are matching everything up so the overdubs don't sound all over the map.
  8. zydeceltico

    zydeceltico Active Member

    I'm getting some clarity - THX - one last thing - back to the strat - while tracking would it be good practice to set my input trim for the peak or the rms? Remembering that peaky spikes are +/- 12 db of probably 90% of the rest of the tracks overall input level or would it be good practice to compress/limit the strat at the tracking stage to try to control the spikiness?

  9. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    If you compress stuff it should be because it sounds good, not because of visible spikes or to prevent clipping. Mostly, unless you have spectacular hardware compressors and a firm idea of where you are going, it's best to track without any compression. Just keep your peaks well below 0dBFS.

    If you want to compare to a commercial CD turn it down to match your mix. Otherwise don't worry too much about "level matching" until you encounter a specific problem that might be fixed by some sort of level matching.

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