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Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???

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Michael Nielsen:
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?

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.

http://recforums.prosoundweb.com/index.php/mv/msg/4918/0/120 /7735/

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.

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!



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