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Hi, just wondering what difference it makes where and when levels are turned up and down int he recording chain. Is it best to turn a guitar amp up a ton, and then turn the track down in my DAW, or to have the amp lower, and turn the volume up more in the DAW. And for Micing vocals, is it best to turn the microphone preamp way up, and then the track level down in the DAW, or vice versa? Does it actually make a difference?

If it helps, I'm using a Fender Mustang III 100W 1x12 amp, (Solid state with software), recorded with a Shure SM58, running through my Line6 POD Studio UX2,
and vocals are recorded with Shure SM58 and Line6 POD Studio UX2


pcrecord Wed, 02/27/2013 - 10:55

Good answer from Kurt. When recording to a Daw, specially in 24bit, there's enough headroom so you don't need to send a very hot signal (as it is needed with analog recording to avoid noise)

A thing to consider is preamp ajustements and speaker mouvements.

The guitar amp needs to be at a level which makes the speaker move enough so the sound waves could be formed better. You don't have to make the neighbors crasy but if you lower the preamp gain, put the amp at a fairly hi level, it'll sound better.

I don't know about the line6 preamp but many preamp add some coloration when you put the gain up (specially tube preamps) it would be a good idea to test a low gain / hi output level on the preamp and than Hi gain (below 0db of course) and low output. Than compare the 2 results and let us know how it runs out!

KurtFoster Wed, 02/27/2013 - 11:03

the thing a lot of people don't understand ... [[url=http://[/URL]="http://en.wikipedia…"]-20dB (digital) translates to about 0 VU (analog). [/]="http://en.wikipedia…"]-20dB (digital) translates to about 0 VU (analog). [/]thats in the USA. in Europe it's -18 ... which has been a source of confusion.

so when you hit the meters at -18 to -16, it's the same as hitting an analog at +4dB. more than loud enough.

-12 is where the absolute loudest peaks should be and i've found that anything less than -20 is gets lost in a mix of other signals at -16 ..

the Line6 POD Studio UX2 has VU meters which indicates to me that the proper operation levels for that particular device should be between -8dB and +4dB VU which is where we used to shoot for back in the good old days with analog tape machines ("back in my day, yada yada yada, blah blah blah").

short answer; average levels at -8 peaks hitting +4VU.

RemyRAD Wed, 02/27/2013 - 20:06

One thing that has not been pointed out is that VU meters are averaging devices. They do not show peak levels. You have to know that whatever you see on your VU meter generally has peaked as high as +15 hitting the machine or recorder.

Peak meters indicate just that. It's showing you peaks more in that it's showing you average Volume Unit sound levels. And you have to interpret both of those metering systems differently because you know they have different characteristics and different ballistics. Some expensive consoles actually use plasma light meters that have both the peak and VU response metering next to each other. So you get an even better picture of what you are printing to the machine. And in the days of analog tape, yeah, wasn't unusual to see peak lights coming from your console while recording drums. Because I'm the really good audio consoles, special magic happened when you pushed transistorized circuitry. This completely went out the window with IC chip technologies as you cannot push those. They crunch like a bag of potato chips you haven't opened but instead sat upon LOL. So with IC chip devices, consoles, preamps, you don't want to see any red peak lights because that means the IC chips just took a dump on your audio. Not so with the transistorized high-priced spread.

And then recording levels have also changed because of the digital revolution. That doesn't mean I can't bang my meters on the analog preamps feeding the computer audio interface. It does however mean I have to place some kind of volume level control on the output of those preamps, so as not to overload the input sections of these anemic proconsumer computer audio interfaces. Most average devices do not want to see peak levels coming in beyond +18 to +20, at best. And my preamps can output, normally up to +24 and even beyond to +28/30/32. Which forces me to change the gain staging from the output of those devices to the input of these computer audio interfaces which don't cost $3000 per pair of channels. And this likely goes beyond your scope of comprehension? This is truly technobabble that real engineers speak. Because we know what this means.

So even a superior preamp eating something that is of not the same level of quality will mean that you cannot possibly glean all that you can from that high-end output piece, feeding and input that can't accept the last plus 10 db of headroom. Which is other technobabble beyond your comprehension.

Now that little ZOOM recorder, in the right hands and with the right external microphones, while not adding any gobbledygook effects, EQ, limiting, compression or reverb of any type during the recording process is a fantastic little device of which a plethora of different capabilities are possible. It's a multipurpose device. So you can do just about anything with it you might possibly think of. But only if you can think as an engineer thinks. Engineering is not based on assumptions. In fact it's those assumptions that gets everyone in trouble just like yourself. You don't know when or how to use something professional or properly. You understand how to use it for personal fun and enjoyment. But that is such a marvelous little device, it can take you far beyond what it can actually do when you incorporate it with, good technique and good software and the knowledge of the software thereof in order in which to manipulate it professionally. And that's not an overnight venture of any sort. It's only easy for us and we only make it look easy because we've been doing it for so many years. How many years have you been doing this? You don't think you're going to sound like Heifetz just because you bought a new violin do you? Of course not. That certainly isn't realistic. So for a first shot, you've learned some important things in a very short period of time that took all of us a number of years. Because there was no and not even any recording schools when many of us got into the business.

There is no way around not learning certain basics in order to make decent recordings. Many of those basics are available in book form all over the Internet. Much is available by enthusiastic albeit not necessarily professional folks, all over YouTube. And then there are the manufacturers of the equipment themselves that frequently feature all sorts of videos of their equipment and how to use it on their sites. And even if it's not your precise piece of equipment, there is much to be learned from all of this stuff. A lot to take in. An enormous amount of material to take in just to learn how to record just one thing. So go to your local music store and pick up a bunch of publications, trade journals and/or books and search for the information you need. That's the way as smart guys had to go about it instead of being lazy and just surfing the Internet to ask questions. It's the human condition of the need to know and our passion that inspires us. Which means we don't necessarily look to the Internet for a quick fix to our problems. Though sometimes when a monkey wrench is thrown your way, you might pick up the phone to discuss something with other mutual experienced colleagues you respect and know? And we've all done that when we've hit a brick wall into our own investigations. But only after we cannot find the answers in which we are looking for in the books.

In the days of early digital, all we had was 16 bit, 44.1 kHz/48 kHz. It is a misnomer think that 24-bit provides for more headroom in the digital domain. It actually absolutely does not. Its peak level at clip is no different than it is at 16 bit. So the headroom is actually inverse head room at the bottom of the scale. 16-bit has a noise floor of 96 DB. 24-bit allows for 140 DB. And because of that, you can record at lower levels that will preserve the upper headroom transients by keeping it further down away from the fixed upper clip point of all digital which is 0 db FS. And with which you can redesign your relative gain staging to take advantage of that lower-level headroom.

When we only had the 16-bit systems, and in a similar fashion to analog tape, recorded at the highest levels possible with only an occasional peak flash because we also knew when he recorded at lower levels, you were losing resolution and it sounded like it. And you couldn't sustain and live through minor peak clip transients on items such as drums and guitars and where it would sound like real doggie Doo Doo if you did that to the lead vocal track. So ya didn't. But then that's when you also may have used some peak limiting for during your tracking session of the lead vocalist? And I still do that as a matter of course even I'm recording 24-bit today. And still especially today what I want to get maximum resolution from the freakin' analog to digital converters because regardless of whether you are 16 or 24 bit, you still have to deal with these analog microphones and preamps. None of which have the same specifications or anything close encroaching upon what 24 bits and the related blah blah have to say. There is no analog electronics that has a 140 DB dynamic range. Only jet engines have that. And we're not recording jet engines for the most part. Except when it comes to death metal. But even those guys don't have a 140 DB dynamic range. Their dynamic range is about four DB. It's always all at one consistent volume. That's not dynamic range that's rock 'n roll. And where 24 bits is necessary for folks that don't know what they're doing in their software as a crutch. Oh sure it sounds better if you have the capability of making it sound better. You don't. And I don't care when it comes to rock 'n roll because it's only rock 'n roll and I like it, like it, yes I do. Or at least I used to?

You're learning. You're coming along fine. You'll get there.
Mx. Remy Ann David


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