what level to record at?

Discussion in 'Microphones (live or studio)' started by recordometer, Jan 10, 2006.

  1. recordometer

    recordometer Guest

    Sorry, I know this has been asked a squillion times before, but I've searched and can't seem to find a clear answer.

    I know it can vary from engineer to engineer, but what level do you let the peaks come in at when recording to a DAW? some say around -6 to -3db... but it seems when I do this, the big transients are up there but the main level of the rest of the track is hanging around 30-40%, even with non-percussive instruments (varying depending on source material).

    Is this acceptable or because the main level is around 30-40% will this equate to too much noise?

    If it helps, I'm recording to 24-bit under cubase SL

    Thanks in advance
  2. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    Jul 18, 2004
    Chicago area, IL, USA
    Home Page:
    The question is bigger than the answer - Your gear wants to work at 0dBVU (roughly -14dBFS).

    That's where I tend to stay around. The "meat" at -14 or so (or lower - Hey, it's 24-bit - As long as the signal is okay, it really isn't much of an issue) and the peaks normally hit around -6dBFS or so.

    Headroom is GOOD room - Don't ever forget that. Your gear will appreciate it, your mixes will know the difference.
  3. recordometer

    recordometer Guest

    Thanks for that! Would I be right in assuming that there are two camps though when it comes to tracking digital? One that says get as close to 0db as possible, and the other that says leave plenty of headroom as noise is negligible with digital anyway? (Which I believe is what you are saying?)
  4. Kev

    Kev Well-Known Member

    Nov 13, 2001
    -6dBFS for peak is VERY close to 0dBFS as far as a real life signal is concerned

    in a 24 bit record a completed take with -9 to -3dBFS is a fine take
    even -12dBFS is cool if the take was a ripper

    Headroom solves Headaches later

    I just though of that one :D
    sometimes I make myself laugh ... so easily amused
  5. recordometer

    recordometer Guest

    Thanks for the reply Kev

    If -6dbfs is very close to 0dbfs, why does cubase (in the wave editor) seem to say that -6dbfs is 50% amplitude, whereas 0db is 100%? a whole 50% difference seems a lot to me.

    and isn't -6dbfs about HALF the amplitude of a 0dbfs signal? according to the fomula db = 20log(amplitude)

    -6db = 20log(0.50); that is, 50% of amplitude is -6dbfs, and
    -3db = 20log(0.71); that is, 71% of full amplitude is -3dbfs

    to me, this (and cubase, it would seem) says that -6db is 50% of a full scale, which seems to me to be not a very strong signal

    and if i were shooting for an average level of the track to be at -14dbfs as John said, wouldn't that mean that most of my signal would be only at 20% of the entire range?

    sorry about the long post and sorry if i'm missing something.... obviously you guys know what you are talking about but i just can't seem to understand the rationale of -6db being "close" to 0dbfs... to me, it's 50% away!

    thanks again guys!
  6. Kev

    Kev Well-Known Member

    Nov 13, 2001
    yes you are missing the point
    not meaning to be rude
    but this is the biggest point about a log scale

    yes it seems half the height ... half the voltage swing ... but that's only 3dB change or 6dB change depending on your methods of presentation
    don't get picky with the 3 or 6 for half voltage/amplitude as it's not the point of this thread

    dB is a relative scale and the various indicators like dBu dBv ... and many more all have specific meanings
    even voltages can be misleading if the correct indicator is not given
    Volts RMS, volts Peak ... Volts peak to peak.

    It can be a large subject and can easily confuse.

    to get right to the comment
    " ... 50% difference seems a lot to me. "
    and NOT a full answer to how dBs work

    100 W amplifier is twice as powerful as 50 W
    but into the same speaker it only gives you an extra 3 dB more level.

    some would say that's just a notch or two ... or three.

    When recording into 24bit digital it is fine to leave a few notches in reserve.
    clipping into the Digital Converter is just not worth that couple of notches.
  7. recordometer

    recordometer Guest

    ok i think i got ya...

    so getting back to the "why does -6db show as only 50% on cubase", you're saying that the scale on cubase is logarithmic?
  8. Massive Mastering

    Massive Mastering Well-Known Member

    Jul 18, 2004
    Chicago area, IL, USA
    Home Page:
    Don't think of it as 50% of the voltage - Think of it as over 95% of the available signal level.
  9. Kev

    Kev Well-Known Member

    Nov 13, 2001
    0dbFS and -6dBFS is on the log scale

    the height of the cubase presentation is on a linear scale and more like Volts peak

    so looking at my chart at RO .. the old Group DIY front page
    (Dead Link Removed)

    0dBu is 1.0654 volts peak
    +6dBu is 2.1875 volts peak

    very close to twice the volts for the 6dB change

    a better view may be the top view

    At 0dBFS = LOUD this may be around 18dBu for your interface

    18dBu = 8.70 volts peak = 8.7 pixels high on the cubase picture
    drop by 6dB to
    12dBu = 4.36 volts peak = 4.36 pixels high on the cubase picture

    half the height

    another scale that is has it's own quirks is temperature

    What is the temperature in your part of the world today ?

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