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Yet another question about [record/mix/master] levels...

Discussion in 'Recording' started by autocombustione, Mar 18, 2010.

  1. autocombustione

    autocombustione Active Member

    Hi everyone here at Recording.ORG,
    yes, here we go with another annoying(?) question about levels.

    I've read in previous posts that most of you suggest to record in the range -18 - 12 dbfs,
    and it's clear why...because of the strict correspondence between analog levels (dbu) and digital levels (dbfs)
    (0 dbu = -18 or -12 dbfs, depending on the recording device, it's headroom, preamplifiers, features, etc...)
    and that's what i usually do, i've always worked in the digital domain,
    and with\within these levels i find easy to make the pieces fit together while i'm mixing.

    Recently I've been talking with a couple of friends of mine,
    they're pro audio engineers with years of work on their back,
    and they told me that they don't care of the -18 -12 dbfs range while tracking
    bacause their signals after recording will go back to their analog mixing board.

    Now i have a preciuos work i care to do at my best and i feel a bit confused because
    i've listened to their works and i can say doubtless that sound pro,
    but i'm sure they're not using the foretold recording method/technique.

    The work i'm talking about is going to be recorded by me in a studio on a computer,
    mixed in another studio (by of the two foretold engineers) and then sent to mastering.
    The genre of the "material" is metal/industrial with analog drums, bass, guitars, voices, synths and electronic loops (rhythmic and efx), so there are a lot of things involved and i fear there will be no place for everything.

    Even pre-mastering mix level is a problem...the engineer want it to mix/record it after analog compression/eq/processing at -0,1 dbfs using all the usable headroom of his mixing desk, while i would like to have it mixed, as i've read here, at maximum - 6dbfs so the mastering engineer has his "own space for action".

    What should i do? Record like i'm used to? Or use "their" method?

    Please correct me if i've written something wrong, any suggestion is really really wellcome.
    Hope in a quick reply and thanks to all for the attention!

  2. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Go ahead and record at your -12dBFS levels or whatever you feel happy with. Mixing and mastering engineers can always bring the levels higher if that's what is required at the following stages of production, but they can't undo any "overs" caused by you recording too hot.
  3. leopoldolopes

    leopoldolopes Active Member

    Well as Boswell said... no "overs" can be undone... so why not keeping your safe levels and let the mixing and mastering engineers do the rest! Let me tell you that I will be more than happy that every work that reach my hands has previous thought as you are having! 80% of the projects I receive has overs all over it and that we can't undo or have a remedy to surpass bad recording levels!
  4. autocombustione

    autocombustione Active Member

    Thank you both guys for the quick replies.
    So, if i'm not going wrong, your main suggestion is not to clip the inputs without bothering too much about incoming levels...or not?
    Do I Have i misunderstood your answers?
    Are there more guidelines in recording technique i should follow level-wise or just this one = NEVER GO RED in the digital domain?

    I know that the mixing engineer and/or mastering engineer can always bring things up when needed,
    but i also would like them to be "happy" with the source material i bring them.

    Thanks a lot four your kind replies.

  5. leopoldolopes

    leopoldolopes Active Member

    Hey give the mixing and mastering engineers a comfortable headroom... like -3 to -5 dB on your stereo main output bus!

    they will smile with joy if you do this.

    However do not forget to take a look at the same thing when every recording bus is used... try to do the same to every single bus!
  6. soapfloats

    soapfloats Well-Known Member

    One of the main reasons to be "safe" is because you never know what's going to happen. You can set your levels all day long, but eventually a drummer (or another instrument or vocalist) is going to clip your preamp and/or interface in spite of all your precautions. Transients can kill. Giving yourself the extra space ensures that "overs" don't happen.

    I recently started tracking low, an RMS in the -22dbfs to -18dbfs range and peaks in the -12dbfs to -8dbfs range.
    I'm finding my tracks tend to be cleaner, and mix better this way.

    Just my thoughts on the discussion.
  7. autocombustione

    autocombustione Active Member

    Thank you all guys, your help has been really precious
    and help me thinking i'm not going to the wrong direction.
    Yet doing the "sounds" is another matter worth discussing.
    Thank you very much to all of you.

  8. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    You have to bother about incoming levels in order not to clip. If you don't bother too much you will clip, and even if you do bother, it's no guarantee that you won't clip.

    I often get old-fashioned looks when I tell eager young engineers to give themselves at least 20dB of headroom. If you are recording on a device that has a clip level of +17dBu, you need to be averaging around -3dBu. You need more headroom for drum tracks, and with 24-bit recording, you can afford to do this. Remember the motto: "Keep it low - yellow is the new red".
  9. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    exactly, low - yellow always sounds wider and more spacious to me. Hotter always sounds more ITB and cluttered.

    Am I correct with this: Moving a digital fader up or down from its original setting after the print seems to shift the imaging of that track as well ( much different effect on the imaging compared to analog). I have found, when I record the sweet spot ITB, leaving it as close to its original setting produces a better overall mix? Planning way ahead, by allowing headroom is the secret.

    This is where OTB analog summing is going with me now.
  10. Link555

    Link555 Well-Known Member

    Really, very interesting I have never noticed this, maybe I need to pay more atterntion to this. Its becoming the norm to get tracks in to mix that are peaking at -1dBfs or even 0dBfs.....
  11. autocombustione

    autocombustione Active Member

    Oh yes Boswell, i do bother.
    This piece of your phrase leaded me towards thinking that the main suggestion was not to clip.
    Thank you for your clarification.

    Thank you all for your suggestions!
    I'll make boswell's motto mine...guaranteed ;-)
    i'll keep things in the "yellow area".

    Good work to everyone!

  12. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Well, I have ruined more mixes by boosting and shifting faders all in the name of more volume. I definitely hear something change when I move it off axis to the original spot the track was printed ( ITB recording ). But, I know its near impossible to not have to move things but I always keep this in mind from the very start.
    I'm now using Sequoia 11 and analog gear (my new MixDream will be here tomorrow :tongue: ) so I'm hoping I will experience less of whatever I hear change like this. I'm sure most digital savvy number crunchers would argue that this is crazy, ( same as those whom disbelieve about analog summing) but, I don't let math get in the way of my hearing.

    Stefano, glad to have a you as a member here. Please keep us informed on your progress and how things go.
  13. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Look, light clipping on small, fast transient signals, is largely undetectable in most genres of music. Recording at too low a level compromises resolutionin itroducing a more granular effect. This coming from a person who has dealt with digital recording since it's onset in the early 1980s. But thankfully we have hit that 24-bit Golden Nugget where theoretically you shouldn't be sacrificing much resolution recording it slightly reduced levels. Poppy**** I say. Where's the risk? Where's the adrenaline rush? Then should we even mention whether vocals should be tracked with hardware dynamics range processors before they are converted into little bits? Or after? I always track with a hardware compressor/limiter. Thankfully due to our almost limitless programmable capabilities, one can record a dry track at the same time as they record a processed track. And then you'll have to decide how to composite 2 together.

    I still record 16 bits because it reminds me of my Sweet 16th birthday. Balls to the wall.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  14. soapfloats

    soapfloats Well-Known Member

    audiokid -

    While this never occurred to me, your stating it has me thinking more about it.
    I'm currently working on a hard rock project w/ 2 guitars and some doubling going on.
    As the tracks pile up, I move faders down, up, whatever.

    I have noticed that my best mixes for the guitars occurred early, before vocals and extras were added.
    Further, there's a certain quality to the quick, rough mixes I make of tracking sessions that sometimes fades as things develop.

    Interesting... maybe just a psychological thing (on my part), but perhaps there is some merit to the notion you presented?
  15. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Now you got it! I noticed this first with guitars as well. You must be a guitar player?
    This is exactly what I am talking about. IMHO, the key is planning ahead so you don't have to deviate to far off the print level ITB. Get the first one right and the others seem to fit in the mix better without too much eq etc. I set levels based on the first track and keep them there.
    The problem we are all faced with is gear quality, room acoustics, etc. Because of our gear weaknesses/ limitations and poor acoustics, we end up trying to fix what really can't be fixed later. We know what we want to hear, but can't quite get it as the track counts increase. We start compensating and tweaking which leads to what I'm talking about , ultimately that depressing mystery of how do I get the sound? Sound familiar?

    Like all the pro's say, If you are serious about sound, don't waste your money on junk. Buy good pieces of gear and you will begin to realize how to get the sound. Good gear and staying close to the that sweet print location is what I'm am learning after 30 years. I think this is DAW/ ITB related and may not have been so obvious in the tape era. I'm realizing one more thing that takes it one step further... joining the fast-growing analog summing crowd.
  16. autocombustione

    autocombustione Active Member

    Guys and ladies,
    your help, as i sad before, is really invaluable.

    I must admit that i feel uncomfortable because all the people i talk with here in Rome tell me to record hot,
    even my boss who is a worthy record producer...
    he says that if i record low, peaking, to say, at -12dbfs instead of, example, -2 dbfs,
    i'm loosing resolution and adding digital noise.

    A further clarification from my side:
    my signal chain is:
    mic - analog pre amp - conversion - sequencer (hd recording) - yamaha 01V (just for monitoring purposes) - main monitors.

    I want to correctly record digitally what's going on analogically/acoustically speaking and i'm not going to mix all my life in the box.
    Even thought mixing inside or outside should not be of interest for our discussion here, i think.
    I know that there is a correspondence between digital levels and analog levels,
    i have read this and other forums, articles, even those ones from Bob Katz, and your suggestions,
    everything points toward that direction but noone of the people i talk with seems to care.
    I feel uncomfortable.

    Are these newbies's questions?
    I would like to work with a good starting knowledge.

    To audiokid:
    thank you, i'm glad too to be here with all of you and and happy to find open-minded people to discuss with about technical aspects of this work.
    Last week recording days went fine, sound was good too; i think i have to experiment with rack toms and floor tom mic positions, because those had a bit too much of low annoying resonance. Guitars, bass and voices are really a lot easier to manage in my modest opinion.

    Thank you all,
    all the best.

  17. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    You aren't likely to change your friends' minds. You need to decide for yourself in a reasoned manner just as you're doing now. If I were recording to tape still I would be tapping the red on occasion but in the digital domain I never even want to be close. Where you are going to loose your resolution in the digital domain is if you have to significantly reduce the volume of a track. Ideally you want to track with the individual levels as close to a general total mix as possible but sometimes that isn't possible or isn't ideal in order to record the sound you want for a particular track.

    Remember that there are no rules set in concrete per se. It's kind of like the Pirate's Code. The Code is more of a set of guidelines really.

    Who am I? Captain Jack Sparrow, that's who!
  18. Njal Frode Lie

    Njal Frode Lie Active Member

    Haven't you heard?
    When in Rome, do as the Romans!

    when in Rome, do as the Romans do - Wiktionary

    The main thing would be not to clip anything going into the computer, and since that is more difficult when recording at higher levels, maybe your boss is trying to get you really focused when recording?


    Lower levels are of course fine, when recording at 24-bit resolution, still, one would have to have a focus on the gain-staging, as if you lowered the volume the wrong place, (and raise it again other places) you would get more noise and lower quality of the recordings.

    So; recording hot on digital?
    Vital in the old days of 16-bit recording.
    Recording low on digital?
    Make sure you focus on the gain-staging.
    (well you should that when recording hot too, really...)


  19. autocombustione

    autocombustione Active Member

    So, i'm just updating a three-years old thread with a link to listen to the music (and the recordings issues) that started the thread itself.
    Hope it won't be flagged as spam. :)

    Thanks you very much.

    Here's the link:
    Circuiti | Carne | Metallo | BARNUMFREAKSHOW

    Eventually the band disbanded, clearly.

  20. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Hi Stefano, welcome back. I love old threads reopened. Helps us all reflect. I'm listening to the tracks. Sounds good but could be better or worse. If I was to give it one term, they sound crammed like a lot of music today. What are you asking?

    After 3 years, what have you discovered?

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