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Headroom & Dynamic range

Discussion in 'Microphones (live or studio)' started by MichaelEarthMedia, Aug 17, 2001.

  1. Hi,
    I am interested in the allocated headroom that you guy's leave for each instrument.
    Although this is really a question in regard to Digital work stations the RMS equivalent would also be of interest.

    Question #1: The maximum peak level allocated to a drum kit e.g. -18 (digital) -3vu ?

    Question #2: The overall Maximum peak level allocated to the band without vocals?
    how much do you leave for Vocals?
    e.g.( Beatles -3 vu (rms.) The band peaks at -3 before vocals.)

    Question #3: The peak target before mastering?
    Does everyone aim for the maximum dynamic range so that the peaks are at -.03 digital or should you leave the mastering engineer some dynamic leeway to apply any necessary treatment?

    Regards Michael
  2. Mixerman

    Mixerman Active Member

    Feb 27, 2001

    Please don't take offense to this, but that $*^t is irrelevant. Use your ears, and make the mix work for the song.

    Mixing isn't about set values. It's about the combining of instruments so they have the maximum emotional impact. Throw away all those preconceptions. We are mixing music. Try to operate on a musical level. Your mixes will come out way better than if you scientifically figure out level values within a mix.

  3. Ang1970

    Ang1970 Well-Known Member

    Sep 5, 2000
    I think he's looking for reference level more than "how loud should I mix my drums". In the digital domain, you can run into that digital ceiling if you aren't careful where you start off. And when you are forced to change the level of the entire mix to compensate, you run the risk of affecting the overall tone that you were so careful to sculpt for maximum emotional impact.

    So, to rephrase the question, where do you start your mix levels in order not to overload the mix bus by the time you have all the elements together?
  4. sjoko

    sjoko Member

    Aug 13, 2001
    Mixerman is right. As it seems you record digitally, there is one rule -- don't clip out. Everything else is decided by the combination of ear / gear.
  5. miketholen

    miketholen Member

    Jan 28, 2001
    Gain structure is VERY IMPORTANT! :p
  6. Mixerman

    Mixerman Active Member

    Feb 27, 2001
    Ah well, I guess I don't know the answer to this. You're talking about a guy that pins the meters on most analog consoles when he mixes. Then I alter the record level on the analog machine.

  7. Hi,
    Thank you for the replies,But I find the whole response quite lame except for Ang1970 (Thanks),
    I apologize,I made the assumption that what I had written would convey enough info to those working engineers (who are supposed to be experienced) who would recognize why I had asked these literal type questions.The answer "I make it up as I go along" is ^#$%ing lame!!!You are Engineers? Engineers have to be fluent in dealing with the limitations & absolute boundaries of their mediums.I did not ask for A ^#$%ing mix by numbers, fill in the talent when required, analytical,audio balance holy grail, Type,help me get my mix $*^t together? Question!!!!I can already mix any style.(except rap & metal).I suppose when I asked the questions I was on a rock gig & in reference to that there is only so much,make everything louder than everything else headroom to play with.I know for a fact that engineers I have spoken to who worked before the mid 60's did have a very precise set of self defined & self imposed dynamic guidelines to allocate to mixes (Vinyl) after the 70's the word Audio engineer should have been dropped for Sound Mixer!I bet you all do have Guide lines? Maybe you have not rationalized them? BS, you must! You just don't want to give away anything? Maybe? O K, Lets put the question another way.I suppose what I want to know is how much, if any thing,do you rationalize about your headroom limitations?You don't? "I just get a fuzzy, feely thing happening & my Dynamic headroom just takes care of Itself"!.^#$%ing losers! BS!!!At Some point Everyone either subconsciously or not, is dealing with these issues. What I want to know is how other people approach ( rationalize)utilization of Dynamic range.I come from a analog world (JH24, 820's & Atr90's etc.) & Digital is fairly new to me (2.5 years on Logic & ProTools TDM).The leeway of analog is very forgiving, Digital is not at all.
    Maybe Mixerman (Welcome as well!) you don't know what I am referring too & you couldn't give a $*^t cause your not into digital? that's cool too, I don't have any problem with that!.But maybe some of you other digital heads do know what I am raving about?I don't want a Digital verses Analogue debate,It would be pointless, I love both.
    Anyone who has made the jump to digital would know that you are instantly confronted with these new set of limitations (with very vague standards, all brands differ)& I know there are people who are still totally analog who out of a commercial decision will be forced to go down the dreaded path in the near future.Maybe a little discussion on the subject would benefit those guys as well? I have always been in work & I have to do my research on the job (suspect eh?).I already have been making it up as I went along,What I would like to do is have a rethink, set my own reference standards in regard to digital mix headroom allocation!^#$% I must be lazy? Cause I asked for some help?Does any body really know what time it is? Does any body care?
    Regards & peace Michael
  8. MMazurek

    MMazurek Member

    Oct 25, 2000
    Miketholen had your answer.

    For digital, it's been a debated topic for a while (especially w/ProTools).

    0db VU. NOT full scale digital. Plenty of bits to work with, plenty of headroom, no overloading the mix bus (a problem in ProTools that should be re-named 'user error').
  9. audiowkstation

    audiowkstation Active Member

    Jun 29, 2001
    Ok...I will chime in...

    Now should I be mean here ....(average or a bully)

    Hell no..

    Here is the deal.

    Ears and monitors and translation. Period.

    Does it sound musical...vibing, entertaining, you clients are stoked?

    I have used my (SSL SL G+8000) for analog compression running it hard on cetein tracks...yes...and will contiue...while other tracks are at -12 ON PEAKS...for the sound I want...solo, PFL or otherwise.

    Gain management dictates that you do whatever you have to do to make the mix ...first of all :


    In the DAW situation...mixing can incorporate all different vibes and perceptions to just get the right sound.

    When I first mixed a project in the 70's...I went for smooth...the artist wanted punchy.

    I gave the artist punchy and incorporated the smooth in mastering...because I do both...and he said that it was too puchy...after my smooth incorporation.

    Trust your monitors and ears. No one wants engineering induced distortion. NO ONE. Not yet anyway...Well the group deprivation asked for it....It at least gave thenm what they wanted on the final.

    Do this. Bump your bottom to a great punch= smoothness ration..In loudspeaker design it is reactiance VS resistance...equalize that...lay the vox on the top like a cherry on a cocktal...and have plenty of mix. too much raw will destroy the mastering and too much refinement can leave the mix blang and masked.

    One more time...Learn you complete translation.

    In the 25 + years I have been doing this..I check my translation daily. It changes ...because of our perception from day to day.

    Hope this helps a tad...
  10. audiowkstation

    audiowkstation Active Member

    Jun 29, 2001
    Sorry for the typos...another long assed session...going on...during a break...i simply don't speel check..

    I do it as it comes to mind.

    Remember...their are no absoltes...engineers that dial in guidelines sound like total ass IMHO.

    Just do what experience teaches you...once you get nominated for a grammy or two for engineering (I have)...well at least someone appreciates your effort.
  11. miketholen

    miketholen Member

    Jan 28, 2001
    Observe 0dB VU while tracking, period.
    There are NO SECRETS to recording/mixing!
    we are not "holding back". ;)

    easy there Tonto. :p
  12. Originally posted by miketholen:
    There are NO SECRETS to recording/mixing!

    Just experience and there's no substitute for that.
  13. Thank you all,
    I think I've answered my own question!When tracking I observe the normal procedure. The problem comes later when you start getting the killer sounds.(Usually the clients ego) In a digital workstation it is so easy to normalize or raise the gains of the kick & snare to an overkill level for maximum impact of -3 or -.03 that in the summing stage you run into problems.( I am talking about mixing totally within ProTools) So taking that unity at 0 = -12 or -13 or -14 or -18 ? I will peak to that & forget about tweaking the gain & leave myself the headroom & treat the medium like a tape machine!

    Regards Michael
  14. warlock

    warlock Member

    Jul 17, 2001
    Well I personally try to keep te levels between -6 and -3 when tracking, so the signal is hot enough, but I still have some headroom if I want to make something very loud. And you can always pull the fader down a bit...
    And I keep a limiter on main mix insert. It's just a precaution because the digital distortion is horrible.

  15. Rog

    Rog Member

    Apr 9, 2001
    Mixerman is right, it's about the material you're working on, the gear you have and your own biases. Some desks can be pushed harder than others. Also, analog tape can be pushed hard, DAWs cannot be pushed at all so I'll record VERY hot with a bass drum track to get that fat sound, and back off a little on snare so I don't squash the transients before it ever reaches the compressor. I'd never dream of doing this with my DAW though.

    Similarly, watch for transients with DAWs because sometimes the VU meters don't show them too well - use peak hold if you have it and aim for -6dB or so. That would be my suggestion but there are others here that know a hell of a lot more than I do.

    As for mixing and overloading the 2 track bus, DAWs are great for this as you have tons of headroom and you can group faders to bring the overall level down before it hits the comp/limiter on the 2 track but levels are not set in stone, all is subjective.

    Sorry if this is too simplistic but I hope it helps.
  16. miketholen

    miketholen Member

    Jan 28, 2001
    compensating for too hot of levels by pulling faders/groups of faders down will result in unnessicary recalculating of the waveform.
    I find PT to sound much better when I don't have to do that. ;)
  17. try2break

    try2break Guest

    So what do you do when you actually HAVE to pull down a fader? Yet another reason I mix analog.
  18. Rog

    Rog Member

    Apr 9, 2001
    I agree - probably the best usage of a DAW is as a glorified HD recorder with plugins. Get the levels right and leave the faders @ unity. Some are better than others though, with PT being amongst the worst sounding IMO.
  19. Ang1970

    Ang1970 Well-Known Member

    Sep 5, 2000

    -16, -18, -20... it's totally arbitrary. Use whatever level works for you. I'll sometimes start off a session with 12dB of artificial gain on the mix bus, so when that peak hits, you know what ball park you're in. When the artificial gain comes off, it's highly unlikely to affect the tone.

    Of course, this is only neccesary for totally in-DAW production. Once you go outside to analog console, none of this is neccesary.
  20. Rader Ranch

    Rader Ranch Member

    Feb 14, 2001
    Originally posted by Michael Earth Media:
    Thank you all,
    I think I've answered my own question!When tracking I observe the normal procedure.l

    no, miketholen said that in the 4th post...and PT stock is a -18=0vu box ...
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