Is this why I'm not getting a good sound?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by mannyr, Feb 29, 2012.

  1. mannyr

    mannyr Active Member

    New York City, NY
    As I've stated in previous posts, I'm now working with a Neumann TLM102 > BLUE Robbie Tube Pre > M-Audio Profire 610 > Logic.. Unfortunately I'm not getting the sound I thought I paid for.. but I think this is the reason:

    I guess I'm a terrible mixer, because, instead of mixing correctly, that is, actively increasing AND decreasing track levels in a mix, I along the way only raise levels up.. for some reason I don't say, this can be quieter, I always say, this needs to be louder. Consequently my mixes' total levels are SO loud (red is always visible on the meter.. pretty much ALWAYS), and so when I go to record with this mic and pre, I find the level it's outputting to be SO QUIET in my mix, I can't turn the preamp gain all the way up because I end up distorting into the A/D converter and subsequently I always have to add a gain plugin in Logic (or compress and turn the gain all the way up on the compressor).

    My question is - is this why I'm not getting a sound I thought I paid for? As I understand it, there's a huge quality control issue with amplifying sounds, I mean.. isn't that why we pay outrages sums of money for preamps? So to just add a Gain plugin in logic and crank it all the way up.. does that compromise the quality of the recording.. after all if I really wanted a track that loud I should probably invest in more preamps and not a shitty logic plugin. Or am I completely off base here?
  2. DaveE

    DaveE Active Member

    California, USA
    Home Page:
    Long story short- this stuff is just really hard. Tracking/mixing/mastering all require tons of practice and patience. I've been doing this over 10 years and still get projects that throw me curveballs. After years of learning and repetition, you might get better.:biggrin:

    As far as slamming your master- yes it's probably wiser to get in the habit of turning things down instead of up. Good luck!
  3. Paul999

    Paul999 Active Member

    Yeah as Dave said this is just plain hard. What we've paid for is the potential to sound good. What I mean is that if you don't use good gain staging, mixing and tracking practices it won't sound good. If I bought a 100 million dollar space shuttle and tried to get to space without training I can pretty much guarantee that I would not be seeing outer space let alone making it of the tarmac. Just like owning a Les Paul without practice it doesn't matter what guitar you have they all sound bad. I personally found learning to record 10x more difficult then learning to play music.
  4. mannyr

    mannyr Active Member

    New York City, NY
    So is there any manual or EXTENSIVE guide online for an absolute beginner on how to record/mix/and master songs? I'm talking whats the closest substitute for a college major program online? (HAH I realize its going to be a stretch)
  5. bouldersound

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

    Boulder, Colorado
    You didn't pay for sound, you paid for gear with the potential for good sound when used by a skilled engineer.

    Yep, learn to mix down as well as up. Make a habit of listening to what is in the way of other stuff.

    And you need to define terms like "quiet" when discussing these things. In digital audio you measure levels downward from the highest allowable level, 0dBFS, so a signal might be measured at something like -12dBFS. You should know that normal peak levels for tracking are around -12dBFS or even lower. Your project will not sound even close to as loud as a finished commercial recording. If you are tracking at the right level and it sounds quiet then you need to turn your monitors up.

    You are completely off base. Preamps do two things. Most importantly they raise the weak signal of a microphone to "line level" needed by subsequent devices. Secondarily they impart some tonal character to the signal. Making the final mix loud in not what mic preamps are for. If you want a really loud end product you need to learn to mix with that in mind (which is not just turning things up) and then master it, or have it mastered, that loud.
  6. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Pacific NW
    This is a perfect example of needing to understand "gain-staging". Until you grasp this concept you will have this fight with yourself and your gear.

    There's nothing wrong with your gear. It is completely user error.

    Type in Gain-Staging and read read read..........Then bring that knowledge to the table. It will open up a lot of things.
  7. vtr

    vtr Active Member

    Simply put...

    Analog gear is optimally designed to work at somewhere around -15dBfs. Record your tracks & make your record down there with plenty of (head)room to spare.

    Just look for the GREEN color on the meters, that is why its way down there and not further up, it sounds better.

    Once you have mixed it, that level may have crept up a bit, but that's ok. Should still be nowhere near 0dBfs.

    Once you are done with the mixing stage, then re-print the mix with the level turned up/processed to as close to 0dBfs as you like.
  8. rocksure

    rocksure Active Member

    New Zealand
    Home Page:
    On the subject of gain staging, I agree that it is important for beginners ( and advanced users) to learn about this and understand it. I wrote a tutorial on it recently, and I attempt to explain the concept in simple language as much as possible. The article can be found here:
    Set Your Audio Recording Levels Using Sensible Gain Staging
  9. pmolsonmus

    pmolsonmus Well-Known Member

    Maybe I'm wrong, but I'm reading two problems, gain staging and monitoring levels. You need to learn that how you are monitoring may or may not be what you're recording.

    Bottom line is that in digital recordings never go into the red. Never have clipped wave forms. Because of the low noise floor don't worry about recording at too low of a level. -6db - -12db is just fine. A valuable investment might be to go to a studio with an experienced engineer and watch how it is done.

    Good luck


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