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Author Topic: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???  (Read 141210 times)

tom eaton

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Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
« Reply #60 on: January 18, 2007, 09:46:24 pm »

There's not really much to straighten out... and Dan has a lovely forum at his site.

Engineers should be banned from blaming the media for the quality of the recording.

You do what you have to do to make it sound the way you think it should...

-tom

maxdimario

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Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
« Reply #61 on: January 19, 2007, 12:55:48 pm »

First of all Dan Lavry would argue that digital is perfect and find a technical reason to support that stance... so there's no way of getting closer to the naked truth..

as far as engineer's responsibilities.. if the enginner HAS to use a particular format because there is no other choice it's obvious that he must adapt..

on the other hand given the choice the responsability is to choose the BEST system he possibly can.. not the one which is in fashion, necessarily.

no digital engineers to solve this mistery??

I think it has to do either with the way faders work in daws or the summing algorhythms are DYNAMIC in some way.
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Tomas Danko

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Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
« Reply #62 on: January 19, 2007, 02:34:20 pm »

maxdimario wrote on Fri, 19 January 2007 17:55


I think it has to do either with the way faders work in daws or the summing algorhythms are DYNAMIC in some way.


Summing algorithms are not dynamic.
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Jim W

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Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
« Reply #63 on: February 06, 2007, 09:27:55 pm »

I've read through this and whilst I understand some of it ( I'm no techie ) a lot of the jargon is confusing to say the least.

I was happy just recording my analog synths and digital synths in at hot levels regardless of what I intended to mix them at later on. Reading some of this makes me think I am doing something wrong but surely I should be getting the best signal to noise ratio on my synths when I record them to audio?

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compasspnt

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Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
« Reply #64 on: February 06, 2007, 09:48:14 pm »

Jim, welcome to the Forum!

In my opinion at least...

Yes, in analogue (recording to tape, for instance), you indeed do want to maximise your signal relative to noise, up to the point of detrimental distortion.  But in the analogue world, even going "into the red" can sometimes be a sonic benefit, because tape overload CAN have a somewhat pleasing sound on certain programme material.

But in digital (recording to DAW, for instance), there is no noise for a long, long way down.  ("Noise Is Not Your Enemy
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Jim W

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Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
« Reply #65 on: February 06, 2007, 11:01:19 pm »

Thanks for the reply, I was actually just reading that thread you linked as well.

My question is a simple one ( I think? )and was in reference to my signal as I'm recording it, ( ie: synth is being sequenced, now I want to get it into the computer as a peice of audio...)

What I have been reading ( so far ) seems to be related to mixing in the digital domain and their respective levels but here's my confusion. Say I record my Pulse in as an audio file at the hottest level without going into the red, then reduce the channel fader at some later stage during mixing/processing, is this somehow detremental to the audio quality? I've always thought they were 2 separate things and that I should be concerned about the level I actually record my hardware to ensure the best recording possible, then worry about levels later on when I'm actually mixing.

What I'm getting here is that it's actually better to not record at such a high level but I'm missing why simply reducing the channel faders level on a part which is recorded at a high level is any different?  




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garret

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Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
« Reply #66 on: February 06, 2007, 11:40:00 pm »

Jim W wrote on Tue, 06 February 2007 23:01

Thanks for the reply, I was actually just reading that thread you linked as well.

My question is a simple one ( I think? )and was in reference to my signal as I'm recording it, ( ie: synth is being sequenced, now I want to get it into the computer as a peice of audio...)

What I'm getting here is that it's actually better to not record at such a high level but I'm missing why simply reducing the channel faders level on a part which is recorded at a high level is any different?




Hi Jim... My take on this is that it's really just a slightly adjusted view of gain staging.   You take the output of your synth into your computer with some healthy headroom... your peaks are maybe at -12 or -16db.  By doing so, you're avoiding the risk of catastrophic digital clipping as well as intersample peaks and other more subtle forms of digital distortion (the stuff that some believe causes digital audio to sound worse than analog).

Now, here's where you might be thinking, but I was always taught to maximize level to get the best signal-to-noise ratio!  The nifty thing is, even 16bit audio has 96 db of dynamic range.  If you track at 24bit like most people here, you're in even better shape... you have 144 db of dynamic range.    So what if you lose 12-16 db off the top, you still have a ton of dynamic range.   Likely more than the dynamic range of the very best playback equipment your work will be presented on, even when cranked up to ear shattering levels.

So now you're into your audio software, with audio tracks that peak at -12 db or so.    Keep that level through any digital processing you're doing... track plugins, aux sends, etc, should all be done with similar headroom.  That way, you're allowing each algorithm (eq, compression, reverb, etc.) to do its work without creating digital distortion of any kind.   Yellow is the new red, as Terry says.

If you're summing through a hardware console, then you just take your tracks and aux material out at whatever level makes sense... at that point, it's not digital anymore, so you can peg the hardware to your heart's content.

But, if you're staying in-the-box, watch out for how you're summing.   In all likelihood, you'll want to start a mix by dropping the channel faders significantly.   The equivalent to putting a fader at neutral is something like -10 db, maybe more if you have a lot of tracks.    You want the sum of all your tracks to add up so the mix bus is peaking somewhere similar to the original input level (-12 to -16 db).

Whew that was long... and reading it over again, I wonder if I really answered your question.  Lol.   I think the point is this... bad things happen to digital audio when you do stuff to it without decent headroom.  Decent headroom is something like 12-16 db.

So keep the headroom on the way in, and keep it through all processing.  Doing so will help avoid harshness in your digital audio.

-Garret
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compasspnt

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Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
« Reply #67 on: February 06, 2007, 11:50:36 pm »

Hi again, Jim.

Hey, you've become almost a "regular" overnight!

Again, in my opinion, the reasons not to track at high levels from the beginning are at least twofold.

Firstly, the damage, if any, may have "already been done" right from the start, if the levels are high enough.  No amount of "post-fadering" could undo that.

Secondly, even if there is no apparent sonic damage from merely tracking in at higher levels (again, talking singularly about digital recording here), what comes upstream might indeed do damage, especially if you are using plug-ins at a later time.  Any downstream digital manipulation COULD (not necessarily WOULD) be a source of sonic problems.

I have recorded LOTS of things in analogue, and LOTS of things in digital, for years. On balance, sonically I prefer more things about analogue than I do "normal" digital.  So I have been working assiduously for a while now to try to implement more of the sonics of analogue within the digital realm.  This "level thing" is one of the bigger factors I have found to start to approach that "ideal."


Why not try one song that way, and see what you think?

If you prefer the way you're doing it now, you can always revert to that mode.

Best of luck.
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maxim

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Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
« Reply #68 on: February 07, 2007, 12:38:36 am »

does digital have a "sweet spot"?
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Jim W

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Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
« Reply #69 on: February 07, 2007, 06:43:53 am »

Thanks for the replies and for clarifying what was confusing me, I am grasping the concept now and of course I am willing to try anything that would improve the ultimate sound of my mixes.  Cool

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seriousfun

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Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
« Reply #70 on: February 07, 2007, 02:30:52 pm »

maxim wrote on Tue, 06 February 2007 21:38

does digital have a "sweet spot"?


(you probably know this)

The sweet spot was always the zone between distortion and noise.

With analog tape you hit distortion gradually as you pushed up the level of the signal hitting the tape, and noise was a fixed floor before that.

With digital recording (the point at which the A/D does its math), distortion comes on suddenly, and is usually not useful or desirable. Luckily, noise is way, way, way below what it was with tape (and of a different character). The sweet spot is still there, but huge.

This large sweet spot can be used for the purposes of good. For example, track within that sweet spot and shoot for the level where each individual element will sit in the mix. Far less trimming will be needed and (to great benefit, arguably) the math will be easier on the mix bus.
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stevieeastend

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Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
« Reply #71 on: February 07, 2007, 02:40:05 pm »

seriousfun wrote on Wed, 07 February 2007 19:30

maxim wrote on Tue, 06 February 2007 21:38

does digital have a "sweet spot"?


(you probably know this)

The sweet spot was always the zone between distortion and noise.

With analog tape you hit distortion gradually as you pushed up the level of the signal hitting the tape, and noise was a fixed floor before that.

With digital recording (the point at which the A/D does its math), distortion comes on suddenly, and is usually not useful or desirable. Luckily, noise is way, way, way below what it was with tape (and of a different character). The sweet spot is still there, but huge.

This large sweet spot can be used for the purposes of good. For example, track within that sweet spot and shoot for the level where each individual element will sit in the mix. Far less trimming will be needed and (to great benefit, arguably) the math will be easier on the mix bus.



This is a great post. It´s always good to have certain things written down.


cerberus

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Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
« Reply #72 on: February 07, 2007, 03:16:49 pm »

maxim wrote on Wed, 07 February 2007 00:38

does digital have a "sweet spot"?
no, but apparently  some  digital mixers have a sour spot.  

the main topic of this thread is a non-issue for floating point systems.


jeff dinces

presto

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Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
« Reply #73 on: February 08, 2007, 12:49:16 am »

hi guys, I have a question.

I read the marathon thread about tracking at lower levels some time ago, much of it going over my head. but, as a result of it, I did change my tracking levels, now usually working around -6dB. and yes yes yes the difference is dramatic and excellent! thanks!

but, I need a little clarification on a couple of things, if u wouldn't mind.

when it comes to final mixdown (pre master) are you advising peaking at -12dB?  After I finish my pre master mix I import the file into a new project and 'master' ITB (boost level with L2 and some eq if needed- I use the term loosely  Razz  ). is aksing L2 (or other maximiser) to make up this kind of gain (the 12dB below that I've mixed at + the extra 6 or so of squashing), asking too much?  

I guess my point is that if working entirely ITB, eventually the time comes that you have to push the levels up.

alternatively if I pass a track to a pro ME is he going to be concerned about low level? in this case the analog gear is going to do the yards making up the gain I guess, which is all good... ?

are you guys (who are working ITB or otherwise) passing on your pre masters at such a low level?

tnx

presto!

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cerberus

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Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
« Reply #74 on: February 08, 2007, 09:01:12 am »

if one wishes to attenuate a signal to stop a mix bus from clipping  (due to poor design, as many daw mix busses don't ever clip in practice) , then why not do it when mixing?

for mastering, the mix should be near zero so it has maximum resolution. anything lower and you could be throwing away music.  same goes for tracking.  

if you want to mix with lowered levels, then go ahead; but truncating every recorded signal as a knee jerk reaction to a poorly designed daw is but one notch above recording to dat in my book.  a lot of pros have recorded to dat, some have admitted that it was a mistake, but it's too late!

i find the straw man argument that "120db of dynamic range is more than enough" to be getting tiresome.  since 96db is also "more than enough", perhaps you guys would prefer to track and mix at 16 bits if you really subscribe to this mode of thinking?


jeff dinces
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