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Author Topic: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???  (Read 125661 times)

Michael Nielsen

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Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
« on: January 08, 2007, 10:59:03 pm »

I've read several time lately that most people are making the mistake of tracking / mixing too hot in the DAW.  I remember back in the day that the rule of thumb was...Track as LOUD as possible so that you utilize every bit.  If you track quietly, you might as well be tracking on an 8 bit recorder.  So what happened that now it's better to "go easy" on the DAW?
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thedoc

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Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
« Reply #1 on: January 08, 2007, 11:02:01 pm »

BIG thread on this very issue on the forum not too long ago.  Try some searches and you will flind some excellent information from Paul Frindle, Terry Manning and the rest of the usual suspects.
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Doc

maxim

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compasspnt

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Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
« Reply #3 on: January 08, 2007, 11:23:59 pm »

The stuff about "not using all the bits" approaches untrue urban myth status.

The old enemy in the analogue world was noise.  We all learned recording techniques based upon that premise, whether we worked in the analogue world, or just learned from those who did so.

Noise IS NOT A REAL FACTOR in digiworld.

Keeping levels low helps almost every aspect of what people thought was bad about digital (harshness, tinniness, crunchiness, distortion).

You could even record -40 to -50 dB down, and be better!  But -12 to -18 is great.


PS: Hi Michael.
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PaulyD

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Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
« Reply #4 on: January 08, 2007, 11:51:32 pm »

Michael Nielsen wrote on Mon, 08 January 2007 19:59

So what happened that now it's better to "go easy" on the DAW?


Over the years, there have been design improvements in ADC's and DAC's, both in their analog and digital filters.

A biggie though is 24-bit recording. Each bit in digital recording gives 6 dBFS of dynamic range, so a 24-bit system has 144 dBFS of internal dynamic range. The very best ADC's and DAC's have "only" about 120 dBFS dynamic range in their analog filters. Even accounting for the noise floor, that is more dynamic range than nearly anything most of us will ever record. So...the idea is to give up a digital bit or two to give the digital system some headroom. Like Paul Frindle says in the thread maxim referenced, this will give your plug-ins the headroom they need to do their math and the DAC the headroom it needs to reconstruct the final output samples without anything getting digitally flattened. It really works! Smile

Paul

Michael Nielsen

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Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
« Reply #5 on: January 09, 2007, 12:36:51 am »

Hey Terry!  Very Happy

WOW.  Thanks guys I'm gonna go read that other thread.

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RSettee

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Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
« Reply #6 on: January 09, 2007, 12:54:13 am »

PaulyD wrote on Mon, 08 January 2007 22:51



A biggie though is 24-bit recording. Each bit in digital recording gives 6 dBFS of dynamic range, so a 24-bit system has 144 dBFS of internal dynamic range. The very best ADC's and DAC's have "only" about 120 dBFS dynamic range in their analog filters. Even accounting for the noise floor, that is more dynamic range than nearly anything most of us will ever record. So...the idea is to give up a digital bit or two to give the digital system some headroom. Like Paul Frindle says in the thread maxim referenced, this will give your plug-ins the headroom they need to do their math and the DAC the headroom it needs to reconstruct the final output samples without anything getting digitally flattened. It really works! Smile

Paul


That's one of the best ways that i've heard it put. Also, Michael, consider that alot of engineers that were saying to track as hot as possible, also probably didn't turn out very good recordings in the infancy of digital. The biggest example that I can think of is Dire Straits' "Brothers In Arms". I love that record, but that was one of the most famous all digital recordings ("DDD") that I can think of, and the mastering levels are low (even on Bob Ludwig's remaster), and it's quite a sterile recording, technically speaking. I don't think that the average listener hears that, though.
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compasspnt

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Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
« Reply #7 on: January 09, 2007, 09:02:37 am »

Michael Nielsen wrote on Tue, 09 January 2007 00:36



WOW.  Thanks guys I'm gonna go read that other thread.





NB:  The posted link to the DAW thread starts about halfway in, which is where the real action starts.  There are several pages before that though.
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kats

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Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
« Reply #8 on: January 09, 2007, 10:41:11 am »

I'm just wagging here, but lets assume a +4 = -16 DBFS average set up. If your pinning your pres at a -10 DBFS average on your DAW meters - your running those pre's pretty damn hot. In many cases the pres themselves close up at those levels.

So perhaps part of the problem is how your work between the analog and digital domain. In the misguided effort to get those digital meters up there your actually killing yourself on the analog side.

What do you guys think?
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Thomas Lester

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Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
« Reply #9 on: January 09, 2007, 11:17:58 am »

I asked this before, but I don't believe it was ever answered...

What dBFS level should be our equivalent to 0VU?  Is it -16 dBFS?  Is there a standard?  Should there be?

-Tom

compasspnt

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Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
« Reply #10 on: January 09, 2007, 12:21:35 pm »

There is no official standard.  Some say -18, some -20, some -24, others -16.

I say, if working on a DAW with"led-like" sample peak meters, just don't ever go into, or even NEAR the red.  In fact, treat the yellow (or orange) as if it were red.

"Yellow is the new Red
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djui5

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Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
« Reply #11 on: January 09, 2007, 05:45:44 pm »

Calibration levels depend on the DAW. I know that the Digidesign 192 I/O units sound best at -18, which is what I have them calibrated to. I like to keep the levels well into the green when mixing analog. When mixing digital I'll go yellow on some things, green on others.

Gain staging is your friend Smile
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Len

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Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
« Reply #12 on: January 10, 2007, 08:57:00 am »

Ah but if you track too low, you don't get to see much by way of pretty waveforms in your DAW  Laughing  - on a serious note, that can sometimes affect easy editing.

compasspnt

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Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
« Reply #13 on: January 10, 2007, 09:03:02 am »

Er, uh...then enlarge your waveform display.

I like to call it "Zoom."
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thedoc

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Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
« Reply #14 on: January 10, 2007, 11:47:57 am »

For Post work I recommend -20 = 0VU.
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Doc
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