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R/E/P => R/E/P Archives => Whatever Works => Topic started by: Michael Nielsen on January 08, 2007, 10:59:03 pm

Title: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Michael Nielsen 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?
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: thedoc 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.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: maxim on January 08, 2007, 11:13:27 pm
http://recforums.prosoundweb.com/index.php/mv/msg/4918/0/120 /7735/
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: compasspnt 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.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: PaulyD 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
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Michael Nielsen on January 09, 2007, 12:36:51 am
Hey Terry!  Very Happy

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

Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: RSettee 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.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: compasspnt 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.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: kats 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?
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Thomas Lester 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
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: compasspnt 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
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: djui5 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
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Len 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.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: compasspnt on January 10, 2007, 09:03:02 am
Er, uh...then enlarge your waveform display.

I like to call it "Zoom."
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: thedoc on January 10, 2007, 11:47:57 am
For Post work I recommend -20 = 0VU.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: rollmottle on January 10, 2007, 11:52:28 am
just so i'm clear, are we talking RMS or Peak?

what would be the recommended Peak level of tracks on an ITB mix?
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: dcollins on January 11, 2007, 12:53:16 am
compasspnt wrote on Wed, 10 January 2007 06:03


I like to call it "Zoom."



You should call it iZoom.  Perhaps tZoom is better.

-6 peak should be fine, but don't be afraid to go lower......

DC
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: J.J. Blair on January 11, 2007, 01:22:09 am
To prove once again that Wittman and I are of the same mind, in analog, one of the concerns is noise floor.  You want a level that is high enough to have a goos S/N ratio, but that is within the headroom of the medium being used.

Now with digital, there is no inherent media noise, as with tape or vinyl.  There really isn't a headroom issue to the media either.  You are running into headroom on your converters, and the real culprit in shitty sounding digital, headroom of summing buses.  This is where the idea of recording at low levels comes in, because then the bus doesn't run out of headroom and leave you with that nasty digital distortion.  Some of us have done experiments and found that if you do the same mix at near peak levels, and then do a -15 dB trim across the whole mix, the result of the latter is much better sounding.  
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Version on January 11, 2007, 01:30:21 am
Doesn't this just make sense?



Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: rollmottle on January 11, 2007, 01:39:12 am
J.J. Blair wrote on Wed, 10 January 2007 22:22

 This is where the idea of recording at low levels comes in, because then the bus doesn't run out of headroom and leave you with that nasty digital distortion.  Some of us have done experiments and found that if you do the same mix at near peak levels, and then do a -15 dB trim across the whole mix, the result of the latter is much better sounding.  


to do this, is there any difference between bringing the entire mix down track by track or just slapping a trim plug across the 2 bus?

Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: J.J. Blair on January 11, 2007, 02:05:02 am
Yeah, there's a huge diffrence, because the weak link is in the bus.  You have to bring down the levels going TO the bus, by bringing down each track.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: rollmottle on January 11, 2007, 02:14:08 am
J.J. Blair wrote on Wed, 10 January 2007 23:05

Yeah, there's a huge diffrence, because the weak link is in the bus.  You have to bring down the levels going TO the bus, by bringing down each track.


word. in the process of testing all this out right now. thanks!
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: zubdub on January 11, 2007, 03:49:18 am
I thought the idea of hitting a digital recorder hard was to use all of the bits...in a 16 bit recording, to get a greater S/N ratio. Giving way to the luxury of not needing to hit a 24 bit recording as hard to get above the noise floor of your analog gear such as pres. All of which allows you to mix at a suitable level without getting a digital burn.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: compasspnt on January 11, 2007, 09:51:05 am
For the thousand and second time, FORGET that stuff about "using all of the bits."  ESPECIALLY in 24 bit sessions.

Record each track at reasonably lowered levels (let's say...-12 to -20 peaks).

Then mix at a reasonably lowered level (let's say -6 to -10 peaks).

As JJ just said, this will avoid overloading the digital mix buss, one of the major concerns in "digititis."

This will allow your plug-ins more room to work properly, and avoid most overload therein (which is where much other terribleness can occur).

As for the mic pre's, gain stage them properly to begin with.

Must we point out again that no less than George Massenberg would often record even in ANALOGUE this way?  Sometimes he would have meters on a tape machine peaking at -5 to -10 ON DRUMS.

As long as you stay away from noise (and in digital, there is no real noise proplem at any level), you will be better off.

Go forth and multiply.

Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Kendrix on January 11, 2007, 11:01:53 am
compasspnt wrote on Thu, 11 January 2007 14:51

For the thousand and second time, FORGET that stuff about "using all of the bits."  ESPECIALLY in 24 bit sessions.

Record each track at reasonably lowered levels (let's say...-12 to -20 peaks).

Then mix at a reasonably lowered level (let's say -6 to -10 peaks).

As JJ just said, this will avoid overloading the digital mix buss, one of the major concerns in "digititis."

This will allow your plug-ins more room to work properly, and avoid most overload therein (which is where much other terribleness can occur).

As for the mic pre's, gain stage them properly to begin with.

Must we point out again that no less than George Massenberg would often record even in ANALOGUE this way?  Sometimes he would have meters on a tape machine peaking at -5 to -10 ON DRUMS.

As long as you stay away from noise (and in digital, there is no real noise proplem at any level), you will be better off.

Go forth and multiply.




To build on this point.  Per digital sampling theory the only thing you lose when you use fewer bits is dynamic range.  There is no loss of fidelity involved.  Having more bits does not produce a "smoother waveform" after filtering (many folks seem to think it does).

With 144db of dynamic range at 24 bits the loss of some dynamic range is not an issue.  Trading off some of the dynamic range in order to avoid the digital summing bus headroom issues is virtually "all good and no bad".
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: CHANCE on January 11, 2007, 11:07:26 am
You lost me. How would you lose dynamic range? Recording at lower levels, the relative differences between 0db and your highest level will still be the same yes?
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Kendrix on January 11, 2007, 12:28:56 pm
CHANCE wrote on Thu, 11 January 2007 16:07

You lost me. How would you lose dynamic range? Recording at lower levels, the relative differences between 0db and your highest level will still be the same yes?


I think not.- You are effectively reducing the "highest level" by recording at a lower volume.  So, dynamic range is reduced.

If you A to D convert into a 24 bits and you turn the input or trim down so that you record say 12db below where you'd be if you peaked at zero then you are reducing the dynamic range of the signal being converted by 12db.  In doing so you are using 2 fewer bits than are available.  

The point is that the quality of the subsequently reconstructed waveform (after the D to A) does not suffer when you do this.
Since virtually any real sound source hs much less than 144db dynamic range you really dont lose anything- however you gain the benefit of digital headroom when summing.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: compasspnt on January 11, 2007, 12:39:35 pm
And surely no one in today's climate is concerned with KEEPING maximum dynamic range anyway!

Seriously, if, instead of 144 dB DR, you have ONLY 132, yet at the same time you are virtually eliminating digital distortion, whilst reducing the "artifacts" commonly associated with digital recording, I think you're still doing "real good."
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: thedoc on January 11, 2007, 01:33:47 pm
Time for a document entitled:

The Official PSW Digital Level Specification.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Tomas Danko on January 11, 2007, 03:00:23 pm
Kendrix wrote on Thu, 11 January 2007 17:28

CHANCE wrote on Thu, 11 January 2007 16:07

You lost me. How would you lose dynamic range? Recording at lower levels, the relative differences between 0db and your highest level will still be the same yes?


I think not.- You are effectively reducing the "highest level" by recording at a lower volume.  So, dynamic range is reduced.

If you A to D convert into a 24 bits and you turn the input or trim down so that you record say 12db below where you'd be if you peaked at zero then you are reducing the dynamic range of the signal being converted by 12db.  In doing so you are using 2 fewer bits than are available.  

The point is that the quality of the subsequently reconstructed waveform (after the D to A) does not suffer when you do this.
Since virtually any real sound source hs much less than 144db dynamic range you really dont lose anything- however you gain the benefit of digital headroom when summing.



Not really.

The sound you record will live roughly somewhere below the incoming noise floor (ie background noise, microphone, preamp and so forth) up to the maximum peak of the sound in question.

It will most definitely be able to live between 0 dBFS and, say, -144 dBu.

Now, if you set your A-D converter to only peak at -12 dBu you will still be recording the entire dynamical span of that sound set lower within that 24 bit file.

So practically speaking, if something had, say 80 dB of total dynamic range then you can decide to record it into 0 dBFS and downwards or you could record it into -12 dBu and downwards.

Align the recordings by shifting the mantissa up or down (ie within a 32 bit floating point register) and you'll see it's all there regardless of how hot you printed it.

The difference is that if you slammed the converter there are some penalties to be had regarding the analog front end of the converter, the decimation process in it. And even more so, downstream when you apply plug-ins and a mixing engine.

That just about sums it up.

Regards,

Tomas Danko
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Version on January 11, 2007, 03:04:42 pm
compasspnt wrote on Thu, 11 January 2007 09:39

And surely no one in today's climate is concerned with KEEPING maximum dynamic range anyway!

Seriously, if, instead of 144 dB DR, you have ONLY 132, yet at the same time you are virtually eliminating digital distortion, whilst reducing the "artifacts" commonly associated with digital recording, I think you're still doing "real good."



Considering most rock records today during heavy spots have about 9 DB of range after being "stunned", this amount of dynamic range may seem strangely pleasant and punchy...drums may punch! Solos may soar! There will be space and wide dimensions! Write home to Mom!

Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: compasspnt on January 11, 2007, 03:27:28 pm
Actually, to answer Michael's original question...

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

In a way, I guess that here, at WW, and Reason, and PSW in general, it is new.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Kendrix on January 11, 2007, 03:29:22 pm
Tomas Danko wrote on Thu, 11 January 2007 20:00

Kendrix wrote on Thu, 11 January 2007 17:28

CHANCE wrote on Thu, 11 January 2007 16:07

You lost me. How would you lose dynamic range? Recording at lower levels, the relative differences between 0db and your highest level will still be the same yes?


I think not.- You are effectively reducing the "highest level" by recording at a lower volume.  So, dynamic range is reduced.

If you A to D convert into a 24 bits and you turn the input or trim down so that you record say 12db below where you'd be if you peaked at zero then you are reducing the dynamic range of the signal being converted by 12db.  In doing so you are using 2 fewer bits than are available.  

The point is that the quality of the subsequently reconstructed waveform (after the D to A) does not suffer when you do this.
Since virtually any real sound source hs much less than 144db dynamic range you really dont lose anything- however you gain the benefit of digital headroom when summing.



Not really.

The sound you record will live roughly somewhere below the incoming noise floor (ie background noise, microphone, preamp and so forth) up to the maximum peak of the sound in question.

It will most definitely be able to live between 0 dBFS and, say, -144 dBu.

Now, if you set your A-D converter to only peak at -12 dBu you will still be recording the entire dynamical span of that sound set lower within that 24 bit file.

So practically speaking, if something had, say 80 dB of total dynamic range then you can decide to record it into 0 dBFS and downwards or you could record it into -12 dBu and downwards.

Align the recordings by shifting the mantissa up or down (ie within a 32 bit floating point register) and you'll see it's all there regardless of how hot you printed it.

The difference is that if you slammed the converter there are some penalties to be had regarding the analog front end of the converter, the decimation process in it. And even more so, downstream when you apply plug-ins and a mixing engine.

That just about sums it up.

Regards,

Tomas Danko


I understand the distinction you are making between available dynamic range of the medium and the actual dyunamic range of the signal you place on that medium.  I agree.

However, if you turn the amplitude of an incoming signal down to zero you have zero dynamic range.  If you fully modulate a signal having 100 db of dynamic range then you've got 100db.  Modulate to 50% and you have reduced the range accordingly.  So, doesnt it follow that by reducing the amplitude of the incoming signal so that it to sits at -12 verus zero you have reduced its dynamic range?  That was my point.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: compasspnt on January 11, 2007, 03:31:03 pm
Academic argument.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: maxim on January 11, 2007, 07:02:08 pm
the worst kind...
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Tomas Danko on January 11, 2007, 07:12:33 pm
Kendrix wrote on Thu, 11 January 2007 20:29


I understand the distinction you are making between available dynamic range of the medium and the actual dyunamic range of the signal you place on that medium.  I agree.

However, if you turn the amplitude of an incoming signal down to zero you have zero dynamic range.  If you fully modulate a signal having 100 db of dynamic range then you've got 100db.  Modulate to 50% and you have reduced the range accordingly.  So, doesnt it follow that by reducing the amplitude of the incoming signal so that it to sits at -12 verus zero you have reduced its dynamic range?  That was my point.



The cool thing is that within a 24 bit system you can slide that 100 dBu-range recording up and down... say... 44 dBu down from the dreadful zero and still have full dynamics. Smile

Practically speaking that's not the most common thing to record, and also practically speaking those 44 dBu will be diminished somewhat due to the inherent s/n ratio of the converters.

Still, lowering the maximum peak will not reduce the overall dynamics in a 24 bit digital recording system.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Kendrix on January 11, 2007, 09:23:21 pm
Tomas Danko wrote on Fri, 12 January 2007 00:12

Kendrix wrote on Thu, 11 January 2007 20:29


I understand the distinction you are making between available dynamic range of the medium and the actual dyunamic range of the signal you place on that medium.  I agree.

However, if you turn the amplitude of an incoming signal down to zero you have zero dynamic range.  If you fully modulate a signal having 100 db of dynamic range then you've got 100db.  Modulate to 50% and you have reduced the range accordingly.  So, doesnt it follow that by reducing the amplitude of the incoming signal so that it to sits at -12 verus zero you have reduced its dynamic range?  That was my point.



The cool thing is that within a 24 bit system you can slide that 100 dBu-range recording up and down... say... 44 dBu down from the dreadful zero and still have full dynamics. Smile

Practically speaking that's not the most common thing to record, and also practically speaking those 44 dBu will be diminished somewhat due to the inherent s/n ratio of the converters.

Still, lowering the maximum peak will not reduce the overall dynamics in a 24 bit digital recording system.


Now I understand your point Tomas. Thanks.

Yes... pulling the track fader down after conversion to generate any needed headroom on the summing bus wont reduce the dynamic range of a typical real world signal in a 24 bit system.

This may be prefereable to reducing the amplitude of the incoming analog signal hiting the A>D converter. In that case you are reducing the dynamic range of that signal. However, you do not impact the quality of the reconstructed waveform.  That was my point.  In this case, if you manage to leave the fader at zero gain you avoid any potential artifacts of the digital math involved on that fader (most relevant if floating point math is NOT used).

I suspect the best approach depends on the specific situation.
With the best available converters and floating point math Id suppose full range conversion and a subsequent track fader reduction might be the way to go.  

In the real-world I usually end up somehere in the middle...both
trimming the input upon conversion if required to get close and using modest fader gain reduction at mix time.

I sure hope this got us out of the "academic" doghouse Very Happy






 
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Tomas Danko on January 11, 2007, 10:09:53 pm
Kendrix wrote on Fri, 12 January 2007 02:23


I sure hope this got us out of the "academic" doghouse Very Happy



Theoretically speaking, yes.  Cool wouf wouf

Regards,

Tomas Danko
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Extreme Mixing on January 11, 2007, 10:54:33 pm
Music sounds better when recorded at lower levels.  I think that's mostly a function of the A/D converters and the preamps and compressors that we use on the front end.  They are meant to work best around 0 VU.  To get the level to digital zero, you may have to push your trusty neve up to +25 or 30; something it was never intended to do.  

From a practical point of view, when mixing in the computer, it really helps to have your faders in a place where you can easily make sublte moves.  Having the fader around unity is the best place.  Try making a .5 db move there, then try the same .5 db move with the fader at -30.

My advice is to read the thread with Paul Frindle, and the others for a full explaination of what's going on behind the curtain.  Digi also has a white paper on the DUC that is helpful.  Do what you think is best, but don't fall into the "use all the bits for best resolution" trap.  I think it's the same style of logic that President Bush is using for his Iraq strategy!

By that way, what ever happened to Nika?  Did he go back to school or take a job somewhere?  He was such a bright guy!  It was always a great learning experience to have him jump into these discussions.

Steve
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: odysseys on January 12, 2007, 04:37:32 pm
Someone please be more informative on the subject.
What's the problem if i'm peaking at -1db per track,plug-in (in-out),aux,group or per master track??? I think they're all designed to clip >0,right? Confused
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: compasspnt on January 12, 2007, 04:40:15 pm
Haris, read the thread

http://recforums.prosoundweb.com/index.php/f/29/6490/

in its entirety.  Pay especial attention to the last 9-10 pages.

Then if you still have such questions, come on back and ask them.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: rollmottle on January 12, 2007, 04:44:21 pm
seems to me a sticky at the top of this forum with a guide to digital recording/mixing levels and the reasoning behind it is in order.

would be a great reference if it was all in one place rather than always having to go digging around the forums for the many threads on the subject.

and then when it came up again, everybody could just reply with a link to that thread.  Very Happy
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: compasspnt on January 12, 2007, 05:09:33 pm
Thanks, rm.

I have actually been considering doing just that, but to do it right is a massive job, somewhat akin to the books I am mired in writing right now.

I will try to put it together though.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: rollmottle on January 12, 2007, 05:34:27 pm
compasspnt wrote on Fri, 12 January 2007 14:09

Thanks, rm.

I have actually been considering doing just that, but to do it right is a massive job, somewhat akin to the books I am mired in writing right now.

I will try to put it together though.



totally understandable...and i do appreciate the "do it right" approach - one of my golden rules. i'd offer help if i could. but it's certainly not my area of expertise by any stretch. let me know if i can be of assistance in any way.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: cerberus on January 12, 2007, 06:18:08 pm
protools may be a popular choice, but perhaps it isn't state of the art for sonics.  for example: with other daws,  it can be nearly impossible to clip anything internally.

jeff dinces
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Thomas Lester on January 12, 2007, 09:03:00 pm
cerberus wrote on Fri, 12 January 2007 18:18

protools may be a popular choice, but perhaps it isn't state of the art for sonics.  for example: with other daws,  it can be nearly impossible to clip anything internally.

jeff dinces


And unfortunately, not having to pay attention to what you are doing has created a slew of so called engineers that have no clue about proper gain staging or how to load a mix bus.  Quite frankly, they've dropped the "engineering" out of Audio Engineering.

I'm not saying a floating point system is better or worse, I"m just saying that a great deal of incompetence has surfaced due to the modern DAW.

-Tom

Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: odysseys on January 13, 2007, 01:45:33 am
compasspnt wrote on Fri, 12 January 2007 23:40

Haris, read the thread

http://recforums.prosoundweb.com/index.php/f/29/6490/

in its entirety.  Pay especial attention to the last 9-10 pages.

Then if you still have such questions, come on back and ask them.



The link didn't work!
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: organica on January 13, 2007, 02:11:48 am
if you're talking about what I think you're talking about......
go to the sticky at the top of that list or
try this http://recforums.prosoundweb.com/index.php/t/4918/13917/
it's proven 2b life changing for me
in a good way that is
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: cerberus on January 13, 2007, 03:12:23 am
Thomas Lester wrote on Fri, 12 January 2007 21:03

cerberus wrote on Fri, 12 January 2007 18:18

protools may be a popular choice, but perhaps it isn't state of the art for sonics.  for example: with other daws,  it can be nearly impossible to clip anything internally.


And unfortunately, not having to pay attention to what you are doing has created a slew of so called engineers that have no clue about proper gain staging or how to load a mix bus.  Quite frankly, they've dropped the "engineering" out of Audio Engineering.

I'm not saying a floating point system is better or worse, I"m just saying that a great deal of incompetence has surfaced due to the modern DAW.
i agree that lack of education is a reason for bad engineering.  

however i believe that a floating point system more closely resembles nature, and analog systems.  i would need to be thouroughly re-schooled to  be convinced that i am wrong here:

i believe that we are better off making decisons by listening to the musical results of all our actions, not watching for whether a red light is on or off!   that is bogus toil; and as devo has said "toil is stupid"!    

the computer ought to be working for us, it should be helping to remove technical hassles, not presenting it's own limits and problems as new stumbling blocks for engineers.  

but that is what happened when digital came into use, because at first they were all based on fixed point maths. (and some still are, thus this discussion).

i think that lack of imagination is another reason for bad engineering... "by the book" "paint by numbers" .. sure i'll tell you what frequency is "presence".. but who cares if nobody is buying it?   yeah, we have problems.

fact: analog gpes to eleven.  if we want to emulate analog-like responses, then our system has to go to eleven, all the way... no bottlenecks, none of that bullsh*t is necessary.

why keep your signal below -6?    you protools users are acting like chicken littles!   what is so scary about the uppermost bit of a 24 bit recording?  why should the ones and zeroes contained in the "most significant" bit be less valuable to us than the data from any of the other bits?   bits=information... music, that is.

a.f.a.i.a.c...it's all part of the music, once the signal passed the a/d converter, it would be a crime to throw any of it away. as if one ought to always drop a bit,  just like tossing out the trash? so the new advice is to start mixing with only 23/24 of the signal that was captured? that advice seems fundamentally backward to me.

float can go past  eleven. fixed cannot go past ten.  no sales person is likley to change that.

jeff dinces
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: tom eaton on January 13, 2007, 08:34:37 am
Jeff-

You can't be serious.  Analog has all kinds of bottlenecks.  I can clip ANY analog device.  It can be ugly.  Some analog devices go to 11... some go to 7 and then sound like crap.  

You seem to be suggesting that we throw out the math and theory and ignore the technical aspects of recording while saying that "lack of education is the reason for bad engineering."

I agree that is would be great if the machines got out of the way of recording... but until that happens we need to be aware of how to interface them with the world in the way that best suits the work at hand.  

Using reasonable levels is just one way we can make our tracks "travel" well in the real world.

-tom
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Thomas Lester on January 13, 2007, 12:54:49 pm
cerberus wrote on Sat, 13 January 2007 03:12

i believe that we are better off making decisons by listening to the musical results of all our actions, not watching for whether a red light is on or off!   that is bogus toil; and as devo has said "toil is stupid"!


I couldn't disagree more.  When I started recording, the most "digital" thing in the studio was an Atari ST, an SP12 sampler, and a 16 bit DAT machine.  The idea of listening exclusively to the musical results to determine our actions is a really bad idea.  In the analog world, just like in the digital world, if I listed to a guitar track by it's self.  I may think to myself...   "It sounds good, so it must be good".  But then, I add 5 more guitars, a bass, two lead vocals, 8 BGV's, a keyboard, Hammond, and acoustic.  

But now...  I've added all those tracks... all with their own small... maybe un-hearable noise floor.  They all multiply on each other to make a horribly loud noise floor.  As an amateur engineer..  I'm baffled to why this happened.  Or worse... I still don't notice it, but a week later, the client calls me up to say that they are at the mastering studio and that after the ME gets it "loud" the noise floor is so obnoxious that they are going to have to start over from scratch.

However...  as a well trained and experienced engineer, I know a noise floor exists whether I hear it or not.  I also no that when two signals combine, they increase in volume.   So, I know to maximize my signal to noise ration as much as possible when recording.

Same goes for digital.  I need to know how the math is working.  I need to know what it's limitations are.  I need to know what the buss (sorry William...  I come from the "buss" camp) does when pushed vs. not pushed.  32bit float his limitations.  48 bit fixed (PT) has limitations as well.  I need to know what they are.  I've also got to get this signal back out somewhere.  I have a very definite limitation on my output D/A.  I need to know what that is, too.

Again...  one clipped signal may not sound bad...  you may not notice it.  But 32 clipped signals is going to start to sound pretty harsh.

I'm also a professional..  that means I have paying clients.   I need to know how this is going to work, because I have to work fast.  They are paying by the hour.  I don't need to realize halfway through the day that my mix buss is getting smeared because I'm stressing the math.  Or that I'm way to hot for my output D/A and I need to make my clients wait.

If you are working on your own stuff at home...  have at it.  Experiment all you want.

Quote:

i think that lack of imagination is another reason for bad engineering... "by the book" "paint by numbers" .. sure i'll tell you what frequency is "presence".. but who cares if nobody is buying it?   yeah, we have problems.


Don't confuse knowing what you are doing with having a lack of imagination.  Knowing what you are doing and what the gear is doing sets us free to be full of fantastic imagination.  Nothing ruins creativity like like stumbling upon and unknown and not knowing how to fix it because you don't know how the system, the math, the electronics, etc. works.

Quote:

fact: analog gpes to eleven.  if we want to emulate analog-like responses, then our system has to go to eleven, all the way... no bottlenecks, none of that bullsh*t is necessary.


Digital can go to "11" as well.  You just have to know where 11 is.  Don't for a second think that Analog doesn't have a ceiling.  It does.  And the thought that it doesn't also appears to be a trend amungst amateur amongst.  Hit an API too hard....  you'll see what I mean.

Quote:

why keep your signal below -6?    you protools users are acting like chicken littles!   what is so scary about the uppermost bit of a 24 bit recording?  why should the ones and zeroes contained in the "most significant" bit be less valuable to us than the data from any of the other bits?   bits=information... music, that is.

There is no "more significant bit" than another.  

Quote:

a.f.a.i.a.c...it's all part of the music, once the signal passed the a/d converter, it would be a crime to throw any of it away.


That's just crazy talk.  Unless you have a track with 144 dB of dynamic range or better (which doesn't exist in the musical world), then you are dropping bits on one side or the other.  Heck...  from the threshold of hearing (for an infant that hasn't had hearing loss) to the threshold of pain, is only 120 or so dB.  So, even dropping the top 6 dB is going to give you 18 dB more dynamic range that human ears can even handle.  

And that's just from the A/D and D/A.  The PT internal mix buss has 288 dB (48 bit) of dynamic range.  So internallly...  dropping 6 dB still gives you 162 dB or more dynamic range than you'll ever need.  On a 32 bit float, you have 192 dB total (or 66 dB more than you'll ever need).  

So...   drop 6 db and be "safer" on my clipping (and if you are tracking... there aren't any floating point A/D converters) and not give up any dynamic range.  Or push the envelope to get one more dB and probably end up with cumulative distortion that causes "harshness" and confusion in your mix.  Your choice.

Floating point has an expense associated with it, too.  Each time it has to shift it's bit range up or down, there's potential for loss.  It's not 100% efficient.  Just like multi-processor machines.  Each time a processor has to shuffle off the work load, it loses efficiency due to the math involved.  This is fact.  I'm not saying that the costs outweigh the advantage.  I'm just saying it's not a flawless system.... but that's not what this conversation is about, so I'll get back on track...

BTW... I, just like you, was taught from the beginning of my career to saturate all the bits.  But that was also when things were 8, 12, or 16 bits.  The max dynamic range of digital back then was 96 dB and the converters sucked and were noisy... so you pushed it.  I thought this way up until we started discussing this a couple of months ago.  I know the math, so I understood Terry and WW's arguments.  It made since, from a physics stand point, so I tried it.  Sure enough...  it made a HUGE difference in my recordings.

BTW... I often go between PT and Nuendo.  75% of my work is PT, because I prefer it, but I do a lot of work out of a room that only has Nuendo.  I tested this on both platforms.  It sounds better to keep plenty of digital overhead on both systems.  There's two reasons for this...    one, the A/D converters are not floating point.  Two, if I'm not making the floating point math kick in, then the system has to work less and less chances for error.

OK... that wa a long post, but I had to weigh in.

-Tom

PS.  Please understand that the comments about amateur engineers has NOTHING to do with you (cerberus) and I am in no way implying that you are amateur or don't know what you are doing.  I have no idea what your skill level is, so it wasn't remotely aimed at you.  I'm strictly arguing the post.    Very Happy
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Buzz on January 13, 2007, 01:47:20 pm
I'm just curious I have tried recording at the prescribed -18/-20bd to test this idea , at least in my DAW ( it uses a 64 bit fixed mix buss ) I can't tell a difference between -6 and -20 ??? , all the punch and clearity is still there to MY EARS !! ( and there are'nt the best out there but not bad either ! ) this is with plugins inserted etc,

Anything to a 64 bit fixed mix buss ????

Later
Buzz

PS: I normally am @ -6/-10db recording levels
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Thomas Lester on January 13, 2007, 02:00:35 pm
Buzz wrote on Sat, 13 January 2007 13:47

I'm just curious I have tried recording at the prescribed -18/-20bd to test this idea , at least in my DAW ( it uses a 64 bit fixed mix buss ) I can't tell a difference between -6 and -20 ??? , all the punch and clearity is still there to MY EARS !! ( and there are'nt the best out there but not bad either ! ) this is with plugins inserted etc,

Anything to a 64 bit fixed mix buss ????

Later
Buzz

PS: I normally am @ -6/-10db recording levels


Safe is safe...  you are probably running safe levels at -6 peaks.  So, -10 peaks will be "just as safe".  Try it with getting as close to 0 dBFS without clipping, then compare it to staying under -6 dBFS.  Then you should hear a difference.  

Also...  don't try one instrument or track.  Track a 16+ track session both ways (as close to 0 dBFS and under -6 dBFS), do a full mix of both.  Then compare... but compare more than just the finished product.  Compare how long it took you to get to a finished mix.  Did you have any issues?  Did you struggle more on one than the other?  How did you ears feel after then mix was complete?  Did you have to take more breaks than usual?  How do the final mixes compare?


Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: PaulyD on January 13, 2007, 02:39:34 pm
Not to belabor the point about dynamic range, but...keep in mind the dynamic range of human hearing is only about 120 dBSPL - and that's someone with good hearing. Those of us who spent a good portion of our youth camped in front of drums and guitar amps turned up to 11? Yeah right...

And yes, I know dBFS does not necessarily equal dBSPL. But unless you're monitoring at 120 dBSPL (I hope not!), then you're getting even less dynamic range on playback. Then we start compressing and limiting things...We, as a species, aren't necessarily in love with gobs of dynamic range. So...don't be afraid to record between -12 to -18. As has been said, it will sound better.

Also, it is not difficult to clip a 32-bit floating pointing DAW, either between plug-ins or in summing. I've seen it plenty of times, using both pre-fader metering and spectrum analysis plug-ins. As a matter of fact, I've seen plug-ins with absolutely no level controls whatsover cause clipping, regardless of any of the other settings used on the plug-in. They were just programmed that way. No kidding.

Read Nika's Book.

Paul
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: compasspnt on January 13, 2007, 06:33:04 pm
Another thing to consider is that in most cases, even the best converters today have a S/N ratio of 120 dB.

If digital recording gives you 144, then, even if you are consumed by the S/N ratio, you still have 24 dB to play with.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: organica on January 18, 2007, 12:44:54 pm
fwiw .....
I mixed a record last summer for a band which worked for  them I guess
they had tracked it
I remember talking to them about bringing the recording levels down in the future

they just brought me some more stuff to mix where they've done just that
the difference is huge !
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: maxdimario on January 18, 2007, 01:21:27 pm
Quote:

If it's truly a floating point plugin, it will have a gain range of about 1500dB (at 32bit floating). There's about 512dB of headroom above 0dBfs, and about 1024dB going downwards.

If the plugin is clipping, then it must not coded properly. I did plenty of tests in the ol' trusty SADiE system, and I couldn't clip any of their plugs.

When it comes to fast transients, that's where floating point loses a bit in terms of math, but fixed point wins out a bit.

Bob, can you give some examples of floating point plugs that clip? I've never seen this! I'm curious and worried!

Cheers,
JB




Since no one answered on the other thread I am posting this quote and would like to know what this is about..(regarding transients)

I (and a friend of mine with good ears) have always noticed that drums lose their impact in digital..

In addition I have the feeling that the levels being too high and damaging the overall sound is NOT due to clipping but due to some dynamic process in the algorhythm of the DAW.

it may be that lower signals are indeed processed at a different resolution...or using a different process...

Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Tomas Danko on January 18, 2007, 05:05:56 pm
Today we were analyzing a track, figuring out howcome it sounded like it had less resolution compared to the rest of the tracks on the album we're working on right now.

The vocals sounded harsh, closed-in and veiled. I could hear distortion artifacts in the kick drum sometimes.

Then I looked at the master fader, positioned at zero. And it showed -2.8 dBFS peak for the entire song.

Every other track I've been working on shows like -5 to -8.

We lowered the fader 6 dBFS and upped the DAC-1 converter the same amount.

Suddenly there was nothing wrong with the vocals. And no distortion in the kick drum.

Somewhere down the line the master fader got zeroed, from its initial -6 dB position. I recall doing some quick and dirty "mastering" to check the track out suddenly had it sound very edgy and harsh a couple of days ago.

No wonder.

It really is amazing, what a difference it does. And the meter never went over zero, so as far as the computer nothing was broken...
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: tom eaton on January 18, 2007, 06:53:20 pm
maxdimario wrote on Thu, 18 January 2007 13:21



Since no one answered on the other thread I am posting this quote and would like to know what this is about..(regarding transients)

I (and a friend of mine with good ears) have always noticed that drums lose their impact in digital..

In addition I have the feeling that the levels being too high and damaging the overall sound is NOT due to clipping but due to some dynamic process in the algorhythm of the DAW.

it may be that lower signals are indeed processed at a different resolution...or using a different process...




Let me suggest that drums maintain more of the initial transient in digital.  How you respond to this is anyone's guess.  I think that tape (used in the manner most would use it-- not Massenburg style) typically brings the transient down relative to the "body" of the sound... making the sustain portion of the sound louder relative to the attack.  In my experience putting some iron (transformers) in front of your a/d converter can help get back a little bit of that sound.. providing some transient distortion/glue/whatever you'd like to call it.

You should consider that clipping IS a dynamic process.  The Frindle posts that are in the archives have TONS of info on how signals are handled internally.  No particular black magic.

-tom


Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: eightyeightkeys on January 18, 2007, 08:52:26 pm
We need Dan Lavry in here to straighten this transient thing out.

But, personally, I think it is all in how you initially capture the sounds-the transients, etc...should be perfectly preserved, if done the way you need it -right from the beginning.

A good example of this are drum sound libraries/VSTi's
Stylus RMX, for example. There are many really excellent sounds in there with snappy transients and some with exceedingly fat bottom end, then there are others that are wishy-washy and everything in between. Each sound for a purpose.
If any of these hundreds and hundreds of sounds were recorded to tape first to preserve the transients, I'd be floored.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: tom eaton 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

Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: maxdimario 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.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Tomas Danko 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.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Jim W 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?

Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: compasspnt 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
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Jim W 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?  




Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: garret 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
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: compasspnt 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.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: maxim on February 07, 2007, 12:38:36 am
does digital have a "sweet spot"?
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Jim W 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

Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: seriousfun 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.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: stevieeastend 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.


Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: cerberus 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
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: presto 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!

Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: cerberus 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
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: presto on February 08, 2007, 04:53:46 pm
^^ no worries mate. i guess we all work with what we have, in my case a poorly designed DAW   (a Carillon PC running Cubase and Audiophile 2496) Confused sorry to drag the standard here down  Very Happy  

i do reiterate however, that tracking at lower lower levels has worked for me, and is possibly more pertinent for these prosumer setups?

so my questions still stand if anyone else cares to have a stab!

cheers guys

presto!
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: garret on February 09, 2007, 10:06:59 am
Presto: I think all the pros have tired of the endless debate in this thread... so I'll take a stab.

Your mastering engineer will love you if you hand over tracks that peak somewhere from -10 to -6 dbfs.    They'll have no trouble making up that gain.

For printing review mixes, many engineers like to engage a limiter on the main bus, to get the peaks up to 0dbfs and the average level up a little bit.  By little bit, I mean a couple db of peak limiting, that's all.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: presto on February 09, 2007, 06:11:41 pm
thanks Garret. oops jumped on too late hey? fair enough.



I'm familiar with the mastering process.  I guess what I really wanted to know was what level folks arond here are hitting the master bus?

I'd changed my habits to track lower, as mentioned, but have still been hitting the mix bus at around -2dB. I thought this would have been ok, as it's really the possible accumulation of distortion of a large number of tracks (eg. a 30 track song with each track recorded at -2dB) that's the concern, rather than hitting the mix bus hard, which is inevitable (if working ITB)?

maybe this scenario doesn't apply to most here, that's cool.

sorry if I've missed something and am doubling up on this.

cheers
presto
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: RKrizman on February 09, 2007, 07:47:11 pm
garretg wrote on Fri, 09 February 2007 10:06

Presto: I think all the pros have tired of the endless debate in this thread... so I'll take a stab.




Yeah, me too.  Set everything on 7 and stop worrying about the math.

Really, I thought Paul Frindle's whole thing was about intersample peaks.  Where's this "bad math" revival coming from?  Hey, it's 2007 ferchrissakes, and it's okay to move your digital faders, and guess what, it's not going to overstress your computer to do some adding and multiplying.

-R
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: cerberus on February 10, 2007, 12:43:00 am
presto wrote on Thu, 08 February 2007 16:53

^^ no worries mate. i guess we all work with what we have, in my case a poorly designed DAW   (a Carillon PC running Cubase and Audiophile 2496) Confused sorry to drag the standard here down  Very Happy  
i said "some daws", not "your daw".  it  is practically impossible to clip cubase's mixer internally.

Quote:

i do reiterate however, that tracking at lower lower levels has worked for me,
... and others, although nobody can explain why.
presto wrote on Fri, 09 February 2007 18:11

 I thought this would have been ok, as it's really the possible accumulation of distortion of a large number of tracks (eg. a 30 track song with each track recorded at -2dB) that's the concern
it can easily be proven that a recording peaking near full scale contains LESS distortion than the same recording after the wordlength has been truncated.
RKrizman wrote on Fri, 09 February 2007 19:47

Really, I thought Paul Frindle's whole thing was about intersample peaks.
 that's what i would think too, but nobody has proven that intersample peaks can be 6db higher than a daw could measure.

perhaps this "distortion" presto describes doesn't need for any reconstructed part of the waveform to exceed zero?  maybe if the slew rate (rate of change) is too high, then the signal will distort somewhere, however, lowering the gain would not affect slew rate. so what is the operating principle behind this theory?  or maybe people just prefer a distorted signal over an accurate one? some types of distortion can seem quite scintillating, but conventional wisdom holds that truncation distortion is always nasty.

jeff dinces
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: gatino on February 10, 2007, 02:17:54 am
cerberus wrote on Wed, 07 February 2007 14:16



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


jeff dinces


can you elaborate on this or point me to info on the advantage of having my projects set to 32/64 bit floating point?

my daw has the option of working in 32/64 bit floating point.

Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Ashermusic on February 10, 2007, 11:41:39 am
cerberus wrote on Wed, 07 February 2007 20:16

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


Well that is what I would have thought also but some pretty high priced talent here, like Terry, seem to feel otherwise.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: cerberus on February 10, 2007, 02:11:10 pm
gatino wrote on Sat, 10 February 2007 02:17


can you elaborate on this or point me to info on the advantage of having my projects set to 32/64 bit floating point?

my daw has the option of working in 32/64 bit floating point.

the archetecture of a modern cpu is floating point, so it is most efficient for a native cpu to do float calculations and return a float result. thus the internal maths of all native daws is float at this time.

if you can imagine doing the calculation "one divided by three" on a float system... you end up filling the ram with .3333... to infinity... a float system has to stop somewhere; so we cannot say the math is ever "perfect". now i've raised an issue which was significant to early dsp designers... memory...  fixed point math co-processors were common in computers 20 years ago because ram was so much more expensive and native cpu was not yet fast enough to play 8 tracks at 16 bit/44.1khz.   fixed-point co-processing made the first daws possible.  tdm was invented to bring horsepower to systems where a native daw was an impossible proposition.

but nowadays our computers do not bother with math co-processors. so the option to run your session at 32 or 64 bits is about how you will write files.. and of course you want to write the whole signal to a file, not truncate the value and lose data (and this is why i think itb mixes generally sound like itb, not analog...).

so on your system, the only fixed point processes are a/d/a conversion. therefore if you wanted to keep the signal preserved within your system and throughout the chain (which in practice is likely to include bouncing)  you would keep it floating from the moment it leaves the converter until it is ready to pass through a converter again.

64 bit float .wav would, in theory be the "safest" bounce/export/freeze formatting option for anyone who's signal is processed on native (floating point) cpu,  but i haven't experimented with that file format yet.

Ashermusic wrote on Sat, 10 February 2007 11:41

Well that is what I would have thought also but some pretty high priced talent here, like Terry, seem to feel otherwise.
terry  is mixing on a fixed point system.  regardless of any tdm mixer's internal bit depth, the signal gets squeezed back into 24 bit fixed point format at both the entry and exit points of every plug-in on all tdm systems.  red lights anywhere on the mixer mean ugly digital clipping to terry, but not to all of us.

let's say you have 100 tracks and 100 plug-ins.  do you have 100 eyes to watch for clipping??!!  can you afford to do 100 audiosuite gain reduction processes before you even start mixing?  so let me tell you a little secret way to actually get your work done on such a system...    that's my opinion of what is going on here.

the light edition of protools, dp and logic all use floating point math but refuse to write float files. so one can't tolerate red lights in the path of anything that might need to be bounced on those systems.

terry, like many daw users, needs to heed the red lights at all times.  one way to handle this could be to attenuate the input to each mixer channel.. that would give the same result but not affect tracking, nor the correct practice of archiving what actually passed the converter.

but terry's daw doesn't have an input trimmer on every channel like cubase and nuendo do; so it wouldn't be so convenient for terry on his mixing system as it would be for some other engineers to drop the gain after recording as it would be to do it when tracking: before the information is stored to a file. <to toss away recoverable signal data without ever listening to it is imo, so very very wrong!>

i think we need to establish cause and effect here.  
i trust that when terry is able to apply scientific method to prove his fascinating but questionable theory, he will.

jeff dinces
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: CWHumphrey on February 11, 2007, 03:10:12 am
So I have a question.  Jeff, what happens when your mix (whole or in part) comes out into the real world?  Say, for example you wanted to put an outboard compressor on the bass?

Cheers,
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: cerberus on February 11, 2007, 10:44:01 pm
hi carter;

it appears to me and some others that conversion is a degenerative process. i think that the real world (hybrid style) is more about saving a buck than about making a better sounding record than <name your favorite album of all time>.

i know an engineer who bought an otari mx5050 so he could have analog. that deck is a p.o.s !  otari called it "the workhorse" in their ads... but it wasn't even durable. the real world has disposible tools to be used to create temporary content.

the real world engineer monitors on ns-10s. and commutes to work wearing ear buds.  

i heard some good records lately which i am sure they were recorded and mixed on tape. e.g. the last teenage fanclub album, the recent flaming lips... sigor ros.. mumm...

and kraftwerk does fine with cubase because kraftwerk have the knowledge and the power to make it work.

so i put "hybrid" in the same "bean counter" category as mx5050 and dat...  real world ways to get the job done in time and under budget... but few classic recordings were made on such gear or with such techniques.

i just learned here at w.w. that "the cars" was recorded on a stephens.  that answers a lot of my questions about "the cars".  tiny little subtle refinements make a huge difference to me. it turns out that a lot of great sounding records were made on this particular brand of tape deck. so it makes for a pattern.  not a coincidence.

when "the cars" came out it affected the way i thought about recordings and i realize now that it gave me a false sense that technology was improving things. and wasn't a pink floyd record or two made on one of those machines?  

when i was a kid.. this was supposed to be the real world :  technology would make that kind of quality better and cheap enough that someday i could afford it.  but no, it's gonna be expensive to rent one of those tape decks now.  

in the part of my career that involved all analog chains , i was fortunate enough to be trained on studers... i thought that was as good as it gets.. but there is always something better. now i get why the places i worked at with studers all had "a sound"... scully had a different sound... but i never had a sound like "the cars"... nor "the wall" or whatever it was that inspired me to get into this line of work.

so i think analog is great.  and i prove every day to my no-name clients that digital can be great.  but i think it's like saying oil is great, and water is great... and then assuming they must be great mixed together, which does not necessarily follow. you need to alter the structure of the oil for that to happen...once it gets emulsified, it doesn't even look like the same oil.

jeff dinces
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Paul Cavins on February 11, 2007, 11:33:56 pm
Wonderful thread. It is great how audio experts are so ready to share their knowledge.

May I raise a practical question at this point:

Are we going to do "Stonehenge" tonight?


But seriously, I'm wondering how, in the real pre-DAW analog stage, your signal gets into the computer.

Here is my deal. My little PTLE/iMac setup has the mic going into a Sytek MPX-4A pre, perhaps the Summit TLA-50 compressor, then into the Digi 002r.

When I've tracked in the past, the Sytek was not turned up all that high, the comp not cranking out signal (to my knowledge), but the peaks were much higher than would be desired if I were to follow the advice in this thread, which I intend to do.

What about people who like to "drive" their preamps to get a desired effect?

Anyhoo, do you find yourself using an analog fader to diminish the signal, or do you have other ways of keeping it modest before the DAW.

Please forgive the technical naivete revealed in this post-

PC
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: thedoc on February 12, 2007, 11:08:03 am
I would lower it in the analog domain before the signal gets to the A/D convertor.  Otherwise you may get some digital uglies that you would have to live with for the life of that track.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: tom eaton on February 12, 2007, 11:31:03 am
cerberus wrote on Sun, 11 February 2007 22:44

hi carter;

it appears to me and some others that conversion is a degenerative process. i think that the real world (hybrid style) is more about saving a buck than about making a better sounding record than <name your favorite album of all time>.



I don't think anyone is saving a buck by having Clearmountain, or Tom or Chris Lord-Alge mix their record "hybrid style".  Fact is that many of us "professionals" (people who make a living as engineers) prefer to mix on an analog console using tried and true outboard gear REGARDLESS of the recording medium.  

I can't imagine why I'd want to track everything near clipping atthe a/d only to have to lower the level ITB before spitting the track out to my console or a piece of outboard.  There IS a standard!  -20dBFS=0VU=+4dbm.  Lots of us use it.  It works.

It just doesn't work for Jeff.

This conversation goes around and around...
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: RSettee on February 12, 2007, 11:43:05 am
Whenver i've tracked hot (especially with a really dense delay of reverb) it always comes back to sting me--that digital clipping is in there. Not fun, especially when it's in your best take....
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: CWHumphrey on February 12, 2007, 01:03:06 pm
Jeff, thanks for the reply.  But you didn't answer my question.  

Say you did come out of the box (scenario of your choosing).  Walk me through how you would handle that.

Cheers,
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: cerberus on February 12, 2007, 03:24:21 pm
hi carter;

if i were looking for increased distortion from analog, i would set the peak level to -0.2dbfs in a floating point environment and then dither to 24 bits with mbit+. then i would adjust the input gain to the analog device with a digitally regulated analog vca fader, not a potentiometer, unless i wanted its color.

if i were seeking minimal distortion from analog i would do the same thing, but the gain change in the floating point environment would be for under 0vu before bit depth reduction, the amount of gain reduction would be an ear decision so perhaps it would be convenient to use an analog vca there too, although i would prefer not.

the sample rate going out and back in would be 88.2khz, never 44.1khz.  i might choose to record back to digital at 192khz if the option were available, and then convert the file back to 88.2khz offline.

jeff dinces
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: compasspnt on February 12, 2007, 03:27:42 pm
As much as I like and admire all of our august contributors, in my opinion, there is some misinformation floating about.

I suggest recording at lowered levels in ANY digital system, float or fixed.  That's what I do, when I use either one, FWIW.

And yes, there is a standard the real world uses when the levels come out into a desk.  It's ridiculous to attenuate your bass guitar track by 12 dB just so it hits the console properly.

Do what you want to do.  If red works for you, so be it.

If there are consequences, then pay the piper.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Die BREMSSPUR on February 12, 2007, 04:35:49 pm
compasspnt wrote on Mon, 12 February 2007 21:27

As much as I like and admire all of our august contributors, in my opinion, there is some misinformation floating about.

I suggest recording at lowered levels in ANY digital system, float or fixed.  That's what I do, when I use either one, FWIW.

And yes, there is a standard the real world uses when the levels come out into a desk.  It's ridiculous to attenuate your bass guitar track by 12 dB just so it hits the console properly.

Do what you want to do.  If red works for you, so be it.

If there are consequences, then pay the piper.




Please don't ever think you advice falls on deaf ears...

Thank you...

Also,

Some people just have a funny way of articulating a question in a seemingly argumentative way and regurgitate and examine the known to compare it with the new and obviously valuable information.

I know because I often took this tone with my father until I was big enough to corner him in the back bedroom of our trailer with a garden tool and finally finish the old codger off...

Where was I?

Oh yeah,

Thanx Terry...

Thinking of all your information put out constantly...

lemme nough...

tik
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Andy Peters on February 12, 2007, 05:34:45 pm
cerberus wrote on Sun, 11 February 2007 20:44

i heard some good records lately which i am sure they were recorded and mixed on tape. e.g. the last teenage fanclub album, the recent flaming lips... sigor ros.. mumm...


At War With The Mystics is all computer, all the time.

-a
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: cerberus on February 12, 2007, 06:52:29 pm
compasspnt wrote on Mon, 12 February 2007 15:27

Do what you want to do.  If red works for you, so be it.
certain plug-ins have extra special qualities on a float system: long after the meter is pinned they have much more to say in terms of color than some could possibly imagine. hint: which analog gear behaves like that?  roxxxxxxxannne! you don't hafta put on the red light. but whether you go there or not, somebody will.

Andy Peters wrote on Mon, 12 February 2007 17:34

[At War With The Mystics is all computer, all the time.
all fridmann, all the time! if he tracked it at -6db, then i stand corrected. in any case, hybrid is not the method used to produce the majority of records i would pay to listen to.

jeff dinces
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Bill Mueller on February 12, 2007, 07:09:21 pm
cerberus wrote on Mon, 12 February 2007 15:24

hi carter;

if i were looking for increased distortion from analog, i would set the peak level to -0.2dbfs in a floating point environment and then dither to 24 bits with mbit+. then i would adjust the input gain to the analog device with a digitally regulated analog vca fader, not a potentiometer, unless i wanted its color.

if i were seeking minimal distortion from analog i would do the same thing, but the gain change in the floating point environment would be for under 0vu before bit depth reduction, the amount of gain reduction would be an ear decision so perhaps it would be convenient to use an analog vca there too, although i would prefer not.

the sample rate going out and back in would be 88.2khz, never 44.1khz.  i might choose to record back to digital at 192khz if the option were available, and then convert the file back to 88.2khz offline.

jeff dinces



I waiting. Rolling Eyes  Rolling Eyes

Bill
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: PaulyD on February 12, 2007, 09:06:56 pm
cerberus wrote on Sat, 10 February 2007 11:11

i trust that when terry is able to apply scientific method to prove his fascinating but questionable theory, he will.


Why should Terry have to rehash that which has already been brilliantly spelled out by Paul Frindle and Nika Aldrich? Ever read Nika's book or any of the white papers he has posted on his web site? When people like Dr. Paul Frindle, Dr. Glenn Zelniker, Dr. Stanley Lipshitz, Dr. John Vanderkooy, et al start endorsing one's writings and techniques (as is the case with Nika Aldrich), then I take notice. When people like Terry Manning and George Massenburg confirm the benefits of these techniques in real-world working situations, again I take notice. Nika Aldrich has done more than anyone I can think of to bridge the knowledge gap between the engineers who have helped to shape the digital recording paradigm and the end users who would like to have a better understanding of it.

Sorry if I come off sounding contentious, but the burden of proof isn't on Terry to explain the validity of recording at lower levels; The burden of proof is on you to explain why it's invalid or less optimal than recording at maximum levels. If, at the very least, you can explain why it makes no difference either way, that would be worthwhile as well.  Again, I'm not posting this to be contentious. If you can explain yourself in technical and mathematical terms and/or provide a test method like Paul Frindle did, I would be genuinely interested to read it.

Paul
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: CWHumphrey on February 13, 2007, 02:34:20 am
Thanks Jeff for the reply.

I've been using +4dBu (0VU) as my target my whole career.  When I first started mixing in the box, I'd try to get right up to -.1 on the mix bus.  Later, I came back down and liked the sound better.  I guess I'm just old-fashioned that way.  

The last 2 albums I've tracked have been on the Neve 8068 at King Size Soundlabs and it's been very enlightening to compare the VU meters on the Neve versus the meters on Pro Tools.  It's also a gas to actually be using the board's pre's and eq's instead trying to avoid the console on the input to PT as I usually am forced to do.

Cheers,



Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Ashermusic on February 13, 2007, 11:46:00 am
I am a composer who has learned to become his own engineer when necessary due to shrinking budgets but by no means am I a real engineer.

I teach Logic Pro 7 at UCLA extension and I am a Logic Certified Trainer. I have a friend, another Logic Certified Trainer whop also has a degree in compure science,, who tells me he never uses pre-fader metering formixing because in a 32 bit float app like Logic the only thing that matters is that the Output is not clipped. He says that he did a number of tests with the chnnaels peaking and noitpeaking with the output not clipping and they they null.

The engineer I regiularly use told me that I still would be better off observing traditional mix practices of keeping my levels under contriol because with third party plug-ins, D/A converter factors, etc. that you still get a better mix floating or not and it seems to me to be so as sometimes I was hearing doistortion even when the output was not clipped.

So this is what i have been advising my students.

If I am reading this thread correctly Jeff seems to be in agreement with my friend the other trainer while Terry et al seem to agree with my engineer.

Nika's papers are frankly a little over my head.

So bottom line, am I advising my students correctly?

Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Thomas Lester on February 13, 2007, 12:41:16 pm
Ashermusic wrote on Tue, 13 February 2007 11:46

I am a composer who has learned to become his own engineer when necessary due to shrinking budgets but by no means am I a real engineer.

I teach Logic Pro 7 at UCLA extension and I am a Logic Certified Trainer. I have a friend, another Logic Certified Trainer whop also has a degree in compure science,, who tells me he never uses pre-fader metering formixing because in a 32 bit float app like Logic the only thing that matters is that the Output is not clipped. He says that he did a number of tests with the chnnaels peaking and noitpeaking with the output not clipping and they they null.

The engineer I regiularly use told me that I still would be better off observing traditional mix practices of keeping my levels under contriol because with third party plug-ins, D/A converter factors, etc. that you still get a better mix floating or not and it seems to me to be so as sometimes I was hearing doistortion even when the output was not clipped.

So this is what i have been advising my students.

If I am reading this thread correctly Jeff seems to be in agreement with my friend the other trainer while Terry et al seem to agree with my engineer.

Nika's papers are frankly a little over my head.

So bottom line, am I advising my students correctly?




Yes...  you are teaching them correctly.   And your fellow teaching bud is full of crap.  You can't take the same signal, clip one and not clip the other and have it null.  He completely made that up.  If nothing else, the amplitude difference from raising the gain until it clipped will be off enough to keep it from null'ing.  
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: J.J. Blair on February 13, 2007, 12:48:01 pm
Asher, I find the question to be more about the woeful headroom of the DAW's sereo bus.  Null or not, that's a good reason to teach the practice.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Ashermusic on February 13, 2007, 12:52:18 pm
Thomas Lester wrote on Tue, 13 February 2007 17:41

Ashermusic wrote on Tue, 13 February 2007 11:46

I am a composer who has learned to become his own engineer when necessary due to shrinking budgets but by no means am I a real engineer.

I teach Logic Pro 7 at UCLA extension and I am a Logic Certified Trainer. I have a friend, another Logic Certified Trainer whop also has a degree in compure science,, who tells me he never uses pre-fader metering formixing because in a 32 bit float app like Logic the only thing that matters is that the Output is not clipped. He says that he did a number of tests with the chnnaels peaking and noitpeaking with the output not clipping and they they null.

The engineer I regiularly use told me that I still would be better off observing traditional mix practices of keeping my levels under contriol because with third party plug-ins, D/A converter factors, etc. that you still get a better mix floating or not and it seems to me to be so as sometimes I was hearing doistortion even when the output was not clipped.

So this is what i have been advising my students.

If I am reading this thread correctly Jeff seems to be in agreement with my friend the other trainer while Terry et al seem to agree with my engineer.

Nika's papers are frankly a little over my head.

So bottom line, am I advising my students correctly?




Yes...  you are teaching them correctly.   And your fellow teaching bud is full of crap.  You can't take the same signal, clip one and not clip the other and have it null.  He completely made that up.  If nothing else, the amplitude difference from raising the gain until it clipped will be off enough to keep it from null'ing.  



No, you are misunderstanding. I wasn't clear. He may be wrong but he is not knowingly intellectually dishonest.

In one test the individual channels were clipping but he lowered the output so that it summed at 0 dbs, not clipped, and bounced the file.

In the second test he lowered the channels and raised the output so it summed at 0 dbs, not clipped and bounced the file.

These two bounces nulled. However he was only using Logic plug-ins, no third party ones,  and I think that is where his test breaks down.


Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Ashermusic on February 13, 2007, 12:58:51 pm
J.J. Blair wrote on Tue, 13 February 2007 17:48

Asher, I find the question to be more about the woeful headroom of the DAW's sereo bus.  Null or not, that's a good reason to teach the practice.


Hi J.J.

So in your opinion, all Daws, fixed or float, have stereo busses that have lousy headroom?
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Thomas Lester on February 13, 2007, 01:23:33 pm
hey Asher -

yeah...  I figured it was something like this.  No big deal.  I still doubt that if one was clipping and other wasn't, that they would null.  But I could be wrong...  it does happen often  Embarassed
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: J.J. Blair on February 13, 2007, 02:21:30 pm
Ashermusic wrote on Tue, 13 February 2007 09:58

J.J. Blair wrote on Tue, 13 February 2007 17:48

Asher, I find the question to be more about the woeful headroom of the DAW's sereo bus.  Null or not, that's a good reason to teach the practice.


Hi J.J.

So in your opinion, all Daws, fixed or float, have stereo busses that have lousy headroom?



Asher, the only one I can speak about from experience is PT.  I have never been informed though that Logic is any better in this regard.  Is it?
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: PaulyD on February 13, 2007, 05:03:27 pm
I admit to commenting on clipping and summing in my second post in this thread but, getting back to the original advice given to Michael Nielson, when reading the pinned thread at the top of George Massenburg's old forum, notice Paul Frindle repeatedly states that the issue is not about clipping, per se. Nor is it about summing. He repeatedly states that one can have a mix up where nothing appears to be wrong. No meter anywhere indicating clipping. He repeatedly states this is not a sample value issue, this is a signal value issue that can result in what he calls "illegal reconstruction samples".

Anyway...let each decide what works best and sounds best to them. Ultimately, if you or the band you're recording are happy with the sound, that's what really counts.

Paul
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: CWHumphrey on February 13, 2007, 05:59:33 pm
My question is what is the next guy down the line saying to you about your work?

I mix a lot of other people's tracks, being a mixer and all.  I see the extremes all to often: stuff coming in too hot and tracks that are way low.  I've some great stuff and some stuff that was in a lot of trouble  

On the other hand, I've had discussions about my mixes on numerous occasions with the "next guy down the line" aka the mastering engineer.

My decisions are not forged so much by "science" as they are by feedback from the next link in the chain.

Cheers,
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: cerberus on February 13, 2007, 06:57:35 pm
PaulyD wrote on Mon, 12 February 2007 21:06

  If you can explain yourself in technical and mathematical terms
 in sound recording: it is better to record the full signal than to record only part of the signal.  

in sound recording: whether you use the full signal or not: it is correct to archive the full signal.

maybe the next generation of a/d converters will spit out a 23 bit signal?  i think not.

PaulyD wrote on Mon, 12 February 2007 21:06


Why should Terry have to rehash that which has already been brilliantly spelled out by Paul Frindle and Nika Aldrich? Ever read Nika's book or any of the white papers he has posted on his web site?
i've read nika's excellent papers on filters and dither, and the one on oversampling at trillium.  please post a url.    

paul frindle's comments on reconstruction only apply where there is a converter in the chain.  not for processing that takes place inside the daw.

jj, are you saying that your daw has a crappy sounding summing bus?

CWHumphrey wrote on Tue, 13 February 2007 17:59

My question is what is the next guy down the line saying to you about your work?

every mix i get to master that was made in protools lacks low level detail, what is down there sounds hashy and ragged to me.  logic mixes tend to have this weird "chemical fog" on them.  ssl gives music a sort of "copper edge", a rock snare without it is lacking to me.  i find dbx compression boring, but i've only tried the cheapo 166. why would anyone buy that compressor?  to do mediocre work? full neve mixes are rare,  but they sound like heaven. more than one gear vendor seemed go on drugs or get brain dead after ruppert left the company.  api desks rock really hard, but i've only seen one with automation, which was broken. i think that anyone who ever mixed to dat should rue their fatal mistake and check themselves, and i hate ns-10s.

jeff dinces
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Tomas Danko on February 13, 2007, 10:51:30 pm
I'd like to second Mr. Lester.

Your so-called-friend is full of diaper-material. And he's not at all even close to describing the thoughts of Mr. Manning around these whereabouts, no matter what he tells you.

Cheers,

Tomas Danko
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: cerberus on February 14, 2007, 08:25:57 am
tomas, i am sorry that i insulted your daw.  daw is like religion to some people, so i think perhaps it is a mistake to diss them in public, i'm sorry to everyone.  

but i hope we rise above and feel the love... i feel this in the talented people i work with... and it seeps into their music. that is enough for me. i could overlook that they ruined their shit and now i've got to clean the mess up. 'coz i get paid.  

in such a case, i don't care what brand name daw is used on music i must hear for work, or even that i choose for entertainment, when i am paying... as long as it hasn't dicked with the sound. but.  i said what i really hear already:  in so many cases,  i feel that the music got ripped off...i did the job anyway.  

but it builds up for me... i've spent thousands in good faith on daws that claimed sonic integrity; then discovered that they sounded like shite. every once and  a while  my pain comes out during technical discussions involving digital audio;  and i am sorry if that burdens any of you.

all of the extant 32 and 64 float daws have red lights only at the master fader. i hope that this forum can at least reconcile with  that fact.

jeff dinces
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: ScotcH on February 14, 2007, 09:44:24 am
Talking about this is like trying to convince people that a Mac sucks.  Once you form an opinion, it's next to impossible to change it without hard evidence.  Why not do the experiment yourself, and just go with what you hear as being better?

Take a bunch of decent level tracks (ie, not clipped, and not super low), put on a few plugs, set the master fader at 0, pull all the faders down until the master is hitting -20 peak, and print the mix.

Now do the exact same thing, but adjust the track faders to where the master is hitting -0.1 peak.  Normalize both files to 0dbfs, and compare (null test, listen, whatever).  

Will this test reveal anything, or am I missing something?  I realize this will not do anything to test the A/D reaction to different level, but i think the majority of the discussion here deals with mixing at lower levels.

If we introduce AD variation for different levels into the discussion, well then that is a different test I guess.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: MoreSpaceEcho on February 14, 2007, 09:56:00 am
cerberus wrote on Tue, 13 February 2007 23:57

  in sound recording: it is better to record the full signal than to record only part of the signal.  



hasn't it already been well established by nika, et al. that as long as you are recording at a level that allows for the entire dynamic range of the signal in question to be captured, you are in fact recording the "full" signal? for example, what would be the point of recording a super distorted guitar track right up to zero? is there really 100+db of dynamic range in question there? surely there is not.

if you record everything full scale, how do you mix? you're going to have to attenuate those signals somewhere are you not? is a full scale signal turned down 16db any more hifi than a signal that was just recorded 16db quieter in the first place?
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Ashermusic on February 14, 2007, 11:46:37 am
cerberus wrote on Wed, 14 February 2007 13:25

all of the extant 32 and 64 float daws have red lights only at the master fader. i hope that this forum can at least reconcile with  that fact.

jeff dinces


Well that is simply factually incorrect. Logic Pro has red clipping lights on every single channel.

Or am I taking you too literally?

Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: cerberus on February 14, 2007, 06:45:02 pm
asher; those red lights could be for when logic is used with tdm hardware.

jeff dinces
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: compasspnt on February 14, 2007, 08:52:20 pm
MoreSpaceEcho wrote on Wed, 14 February 2007 09:56



hasn't it already been well established by nika, et al. that as long as you are recording at a level that allows for the entire dynamic range of the signal in question to be captured, you are in fact recording the "full" signal?





Of course it has been.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: cerberus on February 14, 2007, 11:18:51 pm
i see the difference between the focus of my concentration on low level signals and noise and distortion in general vs. comments suggesting i am mistaken that are based on measurements of how loud a sound could be recorded... such as dynamic range.  it is demonstrated that we humans can pick out signals under a noise floor. so what about how quiet a sound could be recorded?

perhaps we ought to look at our biology and at physics and realize that some sounds decay... for a long long time. and that our ears can follow them way way down.  e.g. the last note of day in the life... it went on longer than the emi engineers could hear on their monitors... it did go on whether they heard it or not. they didn't know the signal was still there as the tape ran out, but years later they heard it on better monitors.

i don't think it matters for the samples that are near the peak level. the samples at -6db sound just as great as the ones near zero.. so i lose!  you win. i concede that for those samples, no degredation one can hear. better to make sure it can't exceed peak at reconstruction. ok?

but if the noise around the signal isn't also captured properly... well you tell me, does every instrument sound "good" in an anechoic chamber?  obviously not, or every tracking room would sound the same.

so if a signal has , say only 50db of dynamic range. i find i would be remiss not to point out that it is best to grab as much of the noise from the environment... the way the decay ends up matters so much to how recordings of these instruments will sound.

a lot of sounds get compressed... that is how i first realized how much noise in a "so called noiseless" recording can get amplified. and whether that is "sweet" or not starts to matter in later stages of mixing. in mastering the seams can pop right out and it's like i'm doing trompe d'orielle.. i'm always adding noise to make things sound clearer, and signal down where noise should be which does affect what is audible. i can't really explain why.

i guess that when i refer to distortion, people will tend to assume i refer to "peak distortion".. but i usually mean like the low level kind that dither modulates... it is in every signal below the noise floor. it is in many more samples in a typical recording than peak distortion would be.

whereas peak distortion tends to occur far fewer samples proportionally, but yeah, it's quite obvious...though i think that is relatively easy for a professional with experience to control. so if that is your only perspective on this topic, then you win.

it seems that the reasons i am partaking in this discussion don't seem to matter to this discussion.  it's all "peak this" and "loudness that" and "more than enough dynamic range". in which case i think that 16 bit fixed point, which has around 93db of dynamic range is also "enough". however, we tend to prefer 24 bit recordings and 24 bit or higher bit depth  mixes over their 16 bit counterparts ("hd" is 56 bit internal)...  why?

jeff dinces
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Tomas Danko on February 15, 2007, 06:15:25 am
cerberus wrote on Wed, 14 February 2007 13:25

tomas, i am sorry that i insulted your daw.  daw is like religion to some people, so i think perhaps it is a mistake to diss them in public, i'm sorry to everyone.  

but i hope we rise above and feel the love... i feel this in the talented people i work with... and it seeps into their music. that is enough for me. i could overlook that they ruined their shit and now i've got to clean the mess up. 'coz i get paid.  

in such a case, i don't care what brand name daw is used on music i must hear for work, or even that i choose for entertainment, when i am paying... as long as it hasn't dicked with the sound. but.  i said what i really hear already:  in so many cases,  i feel that the music got ripped off...i did the job anyway.  

but it builds up for me... i've spent thousands in good faith on daws that claimed sonic integrity; then discovered that they sounded like shite. every once and  a while  my pain comes out during technical discussions involving digital audio;  and i am sorry if that burdens any of you.

all of the extant 32 and 64 float daws have red lights only at the master fader. i hope that this forum can at least reconcile with  that fact.

jeff dinces


Actually, I commented the post by Ashermusic. I agreed with Tomas Lester that the friend of Ashermusic didn't seem to be very well educated as far as these things go and hence replied to his response which in turn included Ashermusic's post as a quote.

In fact, I've never considered any of your comments to be insulting towards my DAW of choice. Smile
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: RSettee on February 15, 2007, 07:52:20 pm
Andy Peters wrote on Mon, 12 February 2007 16:34

cerberus wrote on Sun, 11 February 2007 20:44

i heard some good records lately which i am sure they were recorded and mixed on tape. e.g. the last teenage fanclub album, the recent flaming lips... sigor ros.. mumm...


At War With The Mystics is all computer, all the time.

-a


What? Is Tarbox computer based? If it is, it really honestly has fooled me. The drum sounds that they've got over the years there have honestly been the biggest that i've ever heard.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: PaulyD on February 16, 2007, 03:49:45 am
cerberus wrote on Tue, 13 February 2007 15:57

in sound recording: it is better to record the full signal than to record only part of the signal.  

in sound recording: whether you use the full signal or not: it is correct to archive the full signal.


MoreSpaceEcho said this succinctly and got it right: If a signal is recorded with enough bits above the noise floor to cover the entire dynamic range of the signal, then a full signal is recorded and archived.

I used to think much like you. i.e. "Get the signal into and out of the recorder as hot as possible without clipping or unwanted distortion." Back when I had very modest analog and then modest early digital systems, arguably, this was  sound thinking. Then corresponding with Nika on George's old forum changed my thinking. See Nika's response to my fourth-ever post here at PSW. Naturally, he goes over this information in greater detail in his book.

cerberus wrote on Tue, 13 February 2007 15:57

paul frindle's comments on reconstruction only apply where there is a converter in the chain.  not for processing that takes place inside the daw.


I find this statement really curious. How can a converter not be involved?? At any rate, I am reading Paul Frindle's statements differently. I'm reading that it is in fact processing that takes place inside the DAW (i.e. ever increasing modulation of signals) that leads to illegal reconstruction samples, which a DAC dutifully reproduces.

Anyway...my apologies to everyone for dragging this thread out yet at least one more post...I'm a stop now. Smile

Paul
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: David Ballenger on February 16, 2007, 05:08:52 am
Correct me if I'm wrong but I believe Paul Frindle also said that the meters are representations of the signals and not the signals and they can be wrong.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: compasspnt on February 16, 2007, 05:11:00 am
Well, just to "drag" it out a bit more, here was Nika's enlightened response:

Nika Aldrich wrote on Sat, 02 October 2004 15:22

PaulyD wrote on Sat, 02 October 2004 19:39

Nika and Bob,
thanks for the replies.

Like analog recording, when one is recording to digital, they're normally advised to "get the signal in as hot as possible."


I think that this is not true with respect to the analog world, and it is certainly not true with respect to the digital world.

In analog, running in "as hot as possible" means running into saturation that may or may not be desirable.  Certainly when doing classical recording of purist material this is generally avoided.  When recording kick drums this is usually desired and "over" done, if we can put a valuation on it.

In the world of digital we need to record in also at an optimal level.  In the old days the digital converters were shoddy enough in the low end and had so little dynamic range that we wanted to take advantage of all of the dynamic range available by keeping the input levels as hot as possible.  Things have improved, however, in the past 15 years, so we are no longer confronted with the problem of having prohibitively low dynamic range capabilities at the converters.  We now effectively have all of the dynamic range that we can practically use, so we get to look at some other details that can affect the sound quality.

For example, your analog outboard equipment (say, your preamps) were not meant to run as hot as digital's "as hot as possible" and when you push that equipment to those limits you are invariably getting a more distorted (and often undesirable) sound.  Since we have more than enough dynamic range in the converters now it would be most advantageous to optimize the signals for the benefit of the analog outboard gear, as that is now the inhibiting factor of your sound quality.  

This is not meant to be a rule of thumb, for there are situations where this does not apply (snare drums, for example) but it is meant to address your question about the obsolescence of the "record as hot as possible" approach.  There was indeed a time when this was valid - particularly with R-2R/SAR converters and 16 bit recorders.  With today's converters and with 24 bits of recordable data the paradigm has shifted.

Quote:

Now, without regard to noise, at one time, I remember reading that just the fundamental fidelity of quieter dynamic passages suffered in digital audio systems due to the waveform being represented by fewer bits.


Well let's think about this.  Turn your monitoring system up pretty loud - as loud as you listen when you really like the music.  OK, how loud in SPL does 0dBFS equate to?  That's a little difficult to figure out.  We might have to guess.  How loud in RMS is some good, hot music?  OK, 0dBFS is probably about 12dB hotter than that.

So lets say you monitor so that full-scale RMS is around 85dB SPL (which is pretty darned loud in my opinion).  That means that full scale is 97dB SPL.  Does that make sense?  At the leve you set your monitoring system to 97dB SPL is equivalent to 0dBFS.  Ergo, 85dB SPL is equivalent to -12dBFS, etc.  

Now your A/D and D/A converters give you around 108-120dB of dynamic range.  This means that your converters have a noisefloor that is somewhere in excess of 108dB lower than full scale.  Since full scale is 97dB SPL on a loud listening day for you, the noisefloor of the converters is lower than -11dB SPL.  That is lower than many things:

The noisefloor of your room
The noisefloor of your microphone
The noisefloor of your analog gear
The threshold of human hearing
Atmospheric noise - the noise of atoms colliding with each other in free space.

Now, let's talk about a quiet passage in the music.  Perhaps this quiet passage is played at 40dB SPL - 57dB lower than full scale.  Yes, that does "suffer" from using not as many bits - granted.  Using roughly 10 bits less than the full capabilities of the converter, it only uses 14 bits at the most.  Admittedly, this sounds scary and awful.  On the other hand, the noisefloor of the converter is still in the area of -11dB SPL, so we are still getting clean recording of everything above that mark, including your quiet passage.

Your quiet passage uses fewer bits - but that's OK, because quiet passages have lower dynamic ranges than loud passages.  That means that the difference between your signal level and the noise level of the various combined sources of noise (room, mic, preamp, converter noise, etc) is much smaller with quiet passages than with loud passages.  Because of this, they NEED fewer bits, so we have nothing to worry about.

For the sake of discussion, everything fed into a converter above its noisefloor is perfectly captured.  If the converter's noisefloor is calibrated based on our settings above to be -11dB SPL then everything above that is captured accurately.  And -11dB is so far below anything we're capable of hearing that you aren't losing anything audible below that.

Does that help?

Quote:

From reading that, I gather that a typical modern digital audio system will have enough internal bits and enough internal dynamic range that even the quietest of dynamic passages will still be represented by enough bits that it will almost assuredly exceed the fidelity of the typical playback system (and yes, with dithering to handle noise Smile).


Yes, that addresses why you don't lose quality inside the system.  My illustration above was talking about not losing quality going into or coming out of the system.  I hope this all helps.

Quote:

And, if so, would this also be true of a host-based 32-bit floating point system?


Err, that can of worms is pretty big and we should probably carefully just put it back on the shelf until we get the rest of it straight.  Smile


Cheers!
Nika.

Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Ashermusic on February 16, 2007, 12:17:54 pm
Nika Aldrich wrote on Sat, 02 October 2004 15:22

PaulyD [quote title=Quote:

And, if so, would this also be true of a host-based 32-bit floating point system?


Err, that can of worms is pretty big and we should probably carefully just put it back on the shelf until we get the rest of it straight.  Smile


Cheers!
Nika.




So what does that mean for Logic (32 bit float) users ?

BTW, I am primarily interested in this subject regarding mix levels, not recording levels.

Is there a way to email Nika directly?
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: cerberus on March 01, 2007, 04:21:44 pm
hi everyone;

i got a reply from paul frindle indicating to me without further doubt that he supports recording at less than max modulation, and that such recordings e.g. at -6dbfs max do not have less integrity or less fidelity to the source (as i have repeatedly suggested).

i said that i would apologize to terry and to thomas eaton and to others in that case...
i'm sorry for having been overly argumentative on this and other related threads.

jeff dinces
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: compasspnt on March 01, 2007, 04:48:01 pm
Thanks for the post Jeff.

All is well.

People should, as always with regard to Internet Fora, try things out carefully for themselves, and find what works for them.

Best regards.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: CWHumphrey on March 01, 2007, 05:11:51 pm
compasspnt wrote on Thu, 01 March 2007 13:48


People should, as always with regard to Internet Fora, try things out carefully for themselves, and find what works for them.



Quoted for emphasis!

Cheers,
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: tom eaton on March 02, 2007, 08:20:09 am
cerberus wrote on Thu, 01 March 2007 16:21

i got a reply from paul frindle indicating to me ...



the sermon from the shire...



Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: astroshack on March 02, 2007, 09:11:58 pm
Ashermusic wrote on Sat, 17 February 2007 02:17

Nika Aldrich wrote on Sat, 02 October 2004 15:22

PaulyD [quote title=Quote:

And, if so, would this also be true of a host-based 32-bit floating point system?


Err, that can of worms is pretty big and we should probably carefully just put it back on the shelf until we get the rest of it straight.  Smile
Cheers!
Nika.

So what does that mean for Logic (32 bit float) users ?
B


The relationship between recording levels and subsequent processing levels is somewhat relevant, given many here have mentioned gain staging and overhead within mix engines as the dominant reason for keeping record levels lower.  

It is less important in floating point systems, but (as Nika implies) is is still important. This is because calculation accuracy diminishes at levels where signals attempt to exceed full scale in float processing. This loss of accuracy is a good trade off when compared to the complete barfing which happens when fixed point systems attempt to exceed full scale, but it still gives inferior results compared to "always staying below full scale". The reason Nika didnt go into detail is the argument is mostly about "how much accuracy is lost?", especially when comparing very high resolution systems using 64 bit float or double precision fixed point. Depending on who is doing the arguing (and I have read many posts in various forums over the years from Nika and others on this topic) the loss of accuracy is considered a "good trade-off" or a "significant trade-off"....suffice to say, floating point processing can be a lifesaver in many situations.

In other words, floating point systems do remove the worry of clipping within the processing chain, but you will still achieve best results if you never approach levels which would clip in a fixed point system.

Of course, not all plugins within floating point hosts are also float based. Most DSP card solutions use fixed point - the only exception I know of is the UAD1 DSP card, which can use floating point because the processor is a GPU rather than a dumb DSP chip. So all of the UAD1 plugins use floating point. On the other hand, some native plugins use fixed point even when invoked in a floating point host - a good example is the Waves plugins, many of which are fixed point. Waves do this to maintain identical processing across their entire range of platforms (or, maybe, becuase they dont see any benefit in reconfiguring their fixed point algorithms for floating point). So Waves users need to carefully watch their "gain staging", even in floating point systems.  

The converse needs to be considered here: is there any loss in fidelity if moderately lower signals are used in floating point processing? The answer is "no".

Therefore, the same concept applies to floating point systems as it applies to fixed point systems: lower levels are best in modern DAWs.

Sean
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: cerberus on March 03, 2007, 03:53:14 am
waves native plug-ins in these formats: [rtas, vst, au, dx, mas] are 64 bit float with the exception of the L-series limiters, which are 48 bit fixed point double precision. tdm are all 48 bit fixed point double precision. none of them will clip internally.

jeff dinces
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: astroshack on March 03, 2007, 05:15:23 am
cerberus wrote on Sat, 03 March 2007 17:53

waves native plug-ins in these formats: [rtas, vst, au, dx, mas] are 64 bit float with the exception of the L-series limiters, which are 48 bit fixed point double precision. tdm are all 48 bit fixed point double precision. none of them will clip internally.

jeff dinces


Not quite. Read the manuals...and do the tests. I said "most", which was admittedly an exaggeration...I guess I was referring to the Waves plugins I use most: the L Series and the Renaissance series. The L series definitely clip (quite strongly, as it happens). So do the R Comp and R Bass, to name two others.
But yes, some of the Waves plugins are clearly floating point.

Cheers,

Sean




Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: cerberus on March 03, 2007, 11:14:18 am
hi sean;

i've just measured the output bit depth of r-bass. it floats.
if there is a bug on your host platform, please let me know and i will report it.

jeff dinces
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Ashermusic on March 03, 2007, 11:59:26 am
astroshack wrote on Sat, 03 March 2007 02:11

Ashermusic wrote on Sat, 17 February 2007 02:17

Nika Aldrich wrote on Sat, 02 October 2004 15:22

PaulyD [quote title=Quote:

And, if so, would this also be true of a host-based 32-bit floating point system?


Err, that can of worms is pretty big and we should probably carefully just put it back on the shelf until we get the rest of it straight.  Smile
Cheers!
Nika.

So what does that mean for Logic (32 bit float) users ?
B


The relationship between recording levels and subsequent processing levels is somewhat relevant, given many here have mentioned gain staging and overhead within mix engines as the dominant reason for keeping record levels lower.  

It is less important in floating point systems, but (as Nika implies) is is still important. This is because calculation accuracy diminishes at levels where signals attempt to exceed full scale in float processing. This loss of accuracy is a good trade off when compared to the complete barfing which happens when fixed point systems attempt to exceed full scale, but it still gives inferior results compared to "always staying below full scale". The reason Nika didnt go into detail is the argument is mostly about "how much accuracy is lost?", especially when comparing very high resolution systems using 64 bit float or double precision fixed point. Depending on who is doing the arguing (and I have read many posts in various forums over the years from Nika and others on this topic) the loss of accuracy is considered a "good trade-off" or a "significant trade-off"....suffice to say, floating point processing can be a lifesaver in many situations.

In other words, floating point systems do remove the worry of clipping within the processing chain, but you will still achieve best results if you never approach levels which would clip in a fixed point system.

Of course, not all plugins within floating point hosts are also float based. Most DSP card solutions use fixed point - the only exception I know of is the UAD1 DSP card, which can use floating point because the processor is a GPU rather than a dumb DSP chip. So all of the UAD1 plugins use floating point. On the other hand, some native plugins use fixed point even when invoked in a floating point host - a good example is the Waves plugins, many of which are fixed point. Waves do this to maintain identical processing across their entire range of platforms (or, maybe, becuase they dont see any benefit in reconfiguring their fixed point algorithms for floating point). So Waves users need to carefully watch their "gain staging", even in floating point systems.  

The converse needs to be considered here: is there any loss in fidelity if moderately lower signals are used in floating point processing? The answer is "no".

Therefore, the same concept applies to floating point systems as it applies to fixed point systems: lower levels are best in modern DAWs.

Sean


I think this sums it up very well Sean.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: NelsonL on March 06, 2007, 04:05:32 pm
RSettee wrote on Thu, 15 February 2007 16:52

Andy Peters wrote on Mon, 12 February 2007 16:34

cerberus wrote on Sun, 11 February 2007 20:44

i heard some good records lately which i am sure they were recorded and mixed on tape. e.g. the last teenage fanclub album, the recent flaming lips... sigor ros.. mumm...


At War With The Mystics is all computer, all the time.

-a


What? Is Tarbox computer based? If it is, it really honestly has fooled me. The drum sounds that they've got over the years there have honestly been the biggest that i've ever heard.


They use tape and HD,  according to a friend/client who has made records there.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: tom eaton on March 06, 2007, 11:58:12 pm
And an Otari Concept Elite console (same as me)...last time I spoke with Dave (a year ago?) he was still mixing on the board using its automation.  I have no idea if he's still using it, but that was his method for years.

t
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: CHANCE on March 14, 2007, 09:05:12 am
I have to confess that when I first switched from 2" to HD I too, from habit recorded as hot as possible. Then when I was making direct one to one transfers from 2" to HD, I noticed that the levels on the HD machine seemed real low (by comparison). Even the waveforms seemed weak. When I played back the transfer on the HD, I was surprised to hear everything was just fine. I would have thought that a one to one transfer, with the outs of the 2" wired directly to the in's of the HD would equal similiar, or close, meter readings, but the HD appeared much lower.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: tom eaton on March 14, 2007, 09:28:47 am
Yep.. zero on your analog multitrack is somewhere between -20 and -14dBFS depending on your converters.  Looks awful puny on screen.  I had a post here once about "meter creep"  where I listed the center point on all the digital machines in my room... it's amazing how much some manufacturers focus on last 12dB before clipping.  I still prefer my Radar and Dorrough meters, with -20dBFS right at the middle of the meter scale.  

I use DP for most of my work and it appears that roughly half the onscreen waveform display is used for -6 to 0dBFS... which makes practical sense in terms of the math, but makes no sense at all in terms of audio.

-tom
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: CHANCE on March 14, 2007, 09:39:01 am
tom eaton wrote on Wed, 14 March 2007 06:28

 but makes no sense at all in terms of audio.-tom


So true. That is what threw me when I first switched to Digi recording,,but the ears don't lie.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: garret on March 14, 2007, 10:30:25 am
tom eaton wrote on Wed, 14 March 2007 09:28

Yep.. zero on your analog multitrack is somewhere between -20 and -14dBFS depending on your converters.  Looks awful puny on screen.  


I think this is a very good point that daw manufacturers could/should address.  I'm not sure about other programs, but Sonar at least has a way to vertically zoom audio tracks (can't remember the keyboard shortcut off hand)... it's very handy to get tracks so you can see them without actually gaining em up

Only problem is if you accidentally zoom up a track so it's visually clipping, and forget what you did... then tear your hair out for an hour trying to figure out why you're seeing flat tops but not hearing them.

Er, not that I've ever done that.

-Garret
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: ScotcH on March 20, 2007, 02:19:32 pm
garretg wrote on Wed, 14 March 2007 10:30

tom eaton wrote on Wed, 14 March 2007 09:28

Yep.. zero on your analog multitrack is somewhere between -20 and -14dBFS depending on your converters.  Looks awful puny on screen.  


I think this is a very good point that daw manufacturers could/should address.  I'm not sure about other programs, but Sonar at least has a way to vertically zoom audio tracks (can't remember the keyboard shortcut off hand)... it's very handy to get tracks so you can see them without actually gaining em up

Only problem is if you accidentally zoom up a track so it's visually clipping, and forget what you did... then tear your hair out for an hour trying to figure out why you're seeing flat tops but not hearing them.

Er, not that I've ever done that.

-Garret


Cubase has the same feature ... I use it all the time.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: flanger_folly on March 21, 2007, 06:28:36 pm
Wow, after slogging through this thread, a couple things come to mind. Let me first add the caveat that I am just some 27 year old "muso". I have done recording professionally, but am not a wart on      the ass of some of the more accomplished posters here.

-Even when considering analog, slamming the channels/mix bus isn't ALWAYS good. It is a sound for sure, but I have been witness to those kind of sessions were every fader on the board starts to creep up... you go and bring them all back down, and all of a sudden everything sounds more 3D.

-For some reason, I think about the thing of how people add treble to things to get them to "mix" well. Maybe it's a little off task to this thread, but something about reading this thread, and the comments about the Eagles sound on another thread, really brings this to mind. To me, the yearning for excessively squished tracks equates with that same mind set of adding "zing" to everything. They tend to go hand in hand.

I remember being a kid, and listening to Are You Experienced? and asking something about what it was that made it good, to my father. I must have been 7 or 8 I am thinking. He took a napkin, and drew a diagram, as is his style. He drew what looked like some mountains. "Son, it is the peaks and valleys that are part of what makes it so good.... that's called dynamics". This is from a guy who was a commercial artist, not involved in playing or production... though he did do road managing for some pretty big acts.

Excuse my ramblings....
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: daveseviltwin on April 03, 2007, 10:15:49 am
I know this may have already been posted but I just have to chime in. This is a great argument and I have had many debated discussions with my friends and co-workers about this.

I like to just stay in pre fader with my DAW (primarily PT) and just stick with good gain structure regardless of what my levels tell me. I just get as much out of it as I can without peaking and then I'll use my trim to adjust the small amount of level. I've been much more consistent with my mixes this way. I know this isn't getting in to all of the technical aspects that you guys are discussing but good gain structure is what I like. I find that when you record too low you pull up artifacts when you try to boost it.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: tom eaton on April 04, 2007, 12:05:17 pm
daveseviltwin wrote on Tue, 03 April 2007 10:15

I find that when you record too low you pull up artifacts when you try to boost it.



Well, either those artifacts are IN your recordings or your DAW is terrible.  Gain should in no way increase "artifacts."  

The entire argument in this thread is FOR recording at lower levels.  

An average level of -20dBFS for a 24 bit input signal is fine.  

-tom
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: compasspnt on April 04, 2007, 03:14:17 pm
Agreed.

Recording (relatively) low and increasing volume at a later date should not bring up "artifacts."

Also, there is no need to increase the volume...at least until final Mastering.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: RedStone on April 04, 2007, 05:49:08 pm
another point that I thought I'd throw in there is that there is a big difference between audio that is already printed to digital and audio that is passing through analog stages.

Once the signal is converted and hits your DAW, it's a whole new ball game - but your ability to slam the digital meters in the DAW, and still retain accuracy through your monitors will only be as good as the analog equipment driving your set-up, which will almost always work at it's best for precision, clarity and depth at around line level.

as for recording, without a doubt, recording at (Clarification: PRINTING TO DIGITAL from an analog source like an AD converter) line level will help your sound be clearer, deeper and even punchier at the mastering finish line.

if you have too much noise in the chain, get rid of it at the source -
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: compasspnt on April 04, 2007, 06:01:57 pm
RedStone wrote on Wed, 04 April 2007 17:49

if you have too much noise in the chain, get rid of it at the source -


Yes, but record it into digital at reasonably lowered levels.

From the first instance it hits digits.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: daveseviltwin on April 04, 2007, 10:07:45 pm
Quote:

Well, either those artifacts are IN your recordings or your DAW is terrible. Gain should in no way increase "artifacts."

The entire argument in this thread is FOR recording at lower levels.

An average level of -20dBFS for a 24 bit input signal is fine.

-tom


I will definately take into consideration what you guys are saying. I was just stating what I like as far as consistency. I just recently (over the past 4 months) started tracking at higher levels. It just helped me mix everything better and more consistently when I got to that point.

My question for you is this. I've heard -6,-12, -18 and -20dBFS, what is the formula for this?
Quote:

An average level of -20dBFS for a 24 bit input signal is fine.

I don't mean to be arrogant but why -20dBFS? Is that what works for you? Don't take me the wrong way. I would just like to know why this is the best level.

I promise I'm not trying to argue, I'm just interested in the facts. Thanks for the input

Quote:

Gain should in no way increase "artifacts."

By the way, in my experience gain always increases noise regardless of what type of audio you're dealing with. All I was saying is that when I put it in a DIGITAL limiter just to raise the gain a bit (not to master, I don't want to open that can of worms) it tends to be "noisier" and more harsh.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: maxim on April 04, 2007, 10:27:10 pm
david wrote:

"...DIGITAL limiter just to raise the gain a bit (not to master, I don't want to open that can of worms)"

i'm afraid the worms are out and crawling all over the floor...

why do you need a DIGITAL (or any) limiter just to raise the gain?

why not use the master fader?
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: tom eaton on April 05, 2007, 12:34:32 am
Let's clarify our terms here:

noise is not an artifact of gain change.

there should be no significant noise CREATED by the gain change.

sounds like you're surprised that things get louder when you turn them up!


-20dBFS as an average level comes from the broadcast world and works very well.  Like 83dBSPL, it has become somewhat of a standard in the world of interfacing gear, files and projects.

My Dorrough meters, for example, center on -20dBFS.  Using 0VU= -20dBFS gives you 20dB of headroom over +4 from your console or preamp, and likewise gives your console or external gear a signal that can be handled realisitically in the analog world on the back end of the DAW during an analog mix or analog processing in a digital mix.

Some folks might say -18dB is a good average, that's fine, too.  

But for simplicity sake, +4dBm=0VU=-20dBFS works, sounds good and is portable.  No one will scream at you when they have to mix your clipping tracks, and no broadcaster will reject your tracks for level reasons (ABC/Primetime has let me know that they're not happy when I've submitted tracks that RMS at -12... they want -20, so I give it to them).

-tom


Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: RedStone on April 05, 2007, 11:42:26 am
tom eaton wrote on Wed, 04 April 2007 23:34



My Dorrough meters, for example, center on -20dBFS.  Using 0VU= -20dBFS gives you 20dB of headroom over +4 from your console or preamp, and likewise gives your console or external gear a signal that can be handled realistically in the analog world on the back end of the DAW during an analog mix or analog processing in a digital mix.

Some folks might say -18dB is a good average, that's fine, too.  

But for simplicity sake, +4dBm=0VU=-20dBFS works, sounds good and is portable.  No one will scream at you when they have to mix your clipping tracks, and no broadcaster will reject your tracks for level reasons (ABC/Primetime has let me know that they're not happy when I've submitted tracks that RMS at -12... they want -20, so I give it to them).

-tom





Go tom!
+4dBm=0VU=-20dBFS

perfect

Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: jburtner on April 12, 2007, 08:28:21 pm
The way I have always aimed to track to 2" and into a DAW is as follows:

INITIAL TRACKING:
-1-
Set record levels so that the return channels are able to stay at unity and panned accordingly, and mix to the stereo bus such that your mix is basically there at the desired mix bus level (ie, -16, -18, or -20 dbfs).

-2-
If there is a compelling reason to not endeavour to follow the above (or below) and set either a hotter or softer record level then do it. Rules were made to be broken.

-3-
This means that you do not record "all the bits" at (or even near) 0 dbfs unless you have a compelling reason. When you need to transfer to/from an analog format for some reason this will help greatly by allowing you to not modify the original audio and to transfer @ unity. You never when you may have to go back and forth a number of times for some reason.

Also, if you have to pull back all of your faders to hit the stereo bus at a nice level you are losing bits by pulling them back and the audio is then not what was originally recorded. If you record with less level in the first place, you do not have to pull your channel faders back to get a good mix that is not too hot and the audio will be more representative of what you actually have recorded o each discrete channel.

-4-
Another benefit is that if you track with this mentality then all you have to do on an overdub session is to put the return faders at 0 and make slight adjustments instead of spending a couple hours every time getting your mix back every time you need to do an overdub session. It just helps workflow which helps creativity and inspiration. The same holds true in a DAW.

-5-
When tracking or overdubing I commit the punches and edits to a contiguous file/track unless item #2 comes into play. This keeps all tracks as contiguous files and changing between DAW platforms is quite quick and easy. No mucking with the session and cleaning up later.

-6-
When you set up for more involved rough's or a final mix you can throw out the attempt to keep all channels at unity and just make it sound like it needs to. The idea though is that the tracks were recorded initially in such a way that the mix should be somewhat close with the faders just up.

-7-
When you start pushing gain on channels and pulling back channels to compensate for a track that was not initially recorded "properly" (whatever that is anyway) you are also redoing the math, losing bits, and adding bits that were never there in the first place. That may be needed in some cases and that's fine. But the endeavour from the get-go is to not have that be the case.

-8-
Make a 'faders up' stereo rough after each session and burn it to disk or post it somewhere so all interested parties can have a record of what actually happened during that session.

Make sure to spend time working on and printing more involved roughs and stems throughout a project so that those can be used when appropriate for overdubs in place of a "faders up".

-- It's quite fun to go through several projects with that mentality and see how close you can get when tracking in the beginning and ending up mixing after many hours/days/weeks.. or even months. You do get better at it and it does help the end product.

-- I also subscribe to throwing all of those suggestions out the window and taking a totally different approach each time you undertake a project so that you also gain different and varied experiences.

Cheers,
-JoBu
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: andrewfelluss on April 15, 2007, 10:00:45 am
Definitely agree with alot of Jobu's rulebook.  I've been doing alot of live tracking lately, and handing 'fader up' ruffs to the artists, who might never remix the tracks.  It's alot of fun to try and get a decent mix on the fly, (which can't be heard all that great until playback, with the band pumping 8 feet away..)

I'm planning to go to -20dBfs on the converters, to give some extra headroom, instead of using pads on the pres for some things.

One thing I'd point out that a really dynamic player will easily approach peak level when he/she is wailing, even if the average level is -18 or -12...so setting the levels low is really the only choice, unless you want to squash the high points of a performance with a compressor.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: tom eaton on April 15, 2007, 10:52:56 am
If you're lowering your ref level you'll need MORE pad... less level to the converter.

one reason ribbons are so good for digital tracking... they take care of the level issue right up front!  

And an average level of -12dbFS is pretty darn high during tracking...especially something with any kind of dynamics.

t

Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new ???
Post by: Hitmaker on April 20, 2007, 09:37:34 pm
Hi guys ,

At risk of a monstrous flame , I wish to offer a different point of view ...

I recall the early days of 16-bit digital ... and to my ear , and those of engineers I respected , a lower level signal did have a certain 'graininess' to it ... Perhaps this has to do with encoding the noise floor ..
Example ... Let's consider a signal with a noise-floor of -78 dB ...  in 16-bit that equates to occupying 3 bits ....  It seems to me that there is more chance of quantising error  attempting to squeeze this broadband , aperiodic signal into a small number of  bits ...  That's purely personal surmise ... but MIGHT explain the sonic effect noted ....
Obviously , at 24-bit , the situation is much improved ...  that same noise-floor now occupies 9 bits .....  but is still potentially exposed to more quantising error than at full-scale .. as a theory  ...
To my ear , a lower channel setting at 24-bit ( volume -matched ) does sound not quite as full as when at full-scale ....  but ... don't ask me why .....

All that aside ..... I look more holistically at the entire production chain ... taking particular note of the much-despised practice of hyper compression .....
Both compression , and limiting will have an impact-robbing ( through reduced speaker excursion ) effect ... Their 'loudness' effects are due to altering dynamic relationships .... both relatively , and absolutely ....   Relatively , there is the psychoacoustic effect of sounding louder because low level transients , and higher overtones , occupy more of the ( lessened ) dynamic range ...... Like a dynamic 'smiley-face' eq ....
Absolutely , in that by compressing dynamic range , more gain without clipping can be achieved ...
As the only way to raise absolute average RMS is to compress/limit in some manner , and that is a thinning , harshening , life-sucking process , it seems logical to keep the need for it to a minimum .....

So , to return to the topic , I look to the start of the chain .....

It occurs to me , one explanation for the reported sonic improvement from running your pres lower is nothing more than a reflection of their reducing fidelity at higher gains ...  and , I guess , if you considered your mix channels to sound better near unity gain than your pres ...  there is a certain logic to that arrangement .... ( and no ... I don't won't to be beaten about the head with a set of Apogees !!!!!!  )

BUT ... by so doing , you are either increasing the total amount of compression/limiting that will be needed to achieve 'commercial' average RMS levels within mix/mastering ; or if the ME is able to achieve agreement that less limiting is better-sounding , a lower average RMS at market ...

To my mind , another issue is potential buss distortion ...  If , as some advice , you set your 'mix' on your pres , and leave your channel faders near unity ... the risk of overloading your master buss is increased  ( 32-bit float aside ) ....
The time-honoured method to insure against buss overload has been to have your faders set such that the highest of your channel faders is lower than the lowest of your sub faders ....  the highest of which is below the master .... As I understand it , this practice creates headroom on your busses .

The arrangement , as suggested , would seem not to allow this ....

I see an intriguing irony in all this . On one hand , decrying 'hypercompression'; but on the other , ensuring ( from the get-go in the big picture ) more will be needed later down the track .

I'm suggesting , if you want to lessen the need for later limiting , which will flatten your dynamics ( and your image too ... if you haven't noticed ... ) , and lessen the risk of buss distortion , start off as hot as you can get ...  obviously with as little degradation as possible in the circumstances .....

Anyhows .... another view-point .

Cheers ,

Evan .




Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: tom eaton on April 20, 2007, 09:52:54 pm
You seem to think that the only way to turn something up is to compress or limit it.  You can, actually, just turn it up.

Tracking and mixing at lower average levels results in tracks that respond BETTER to compression and limiting in mastering should you  decide that those processes are appropriate to the job at hand.  If you print a mix which peaks at -8dBFS, for example, the ME can increase the level of the track by 8dB before needing any kind of dynamic modification, and that dynamic modification, if needed, can be done while referencing the tracks that make up the remainder of the record.  

If you provide the ME with pre-compressed tracks that peak at-1, the ME must limit or compress the tracks if more volume is needed to get the track to sit well with other tracks on the record. If the track in question is too loud relative to the other tracks, the ME must turn it down, giving up peak level that would have been there if the track had not been mashed in the mix process.

Leaving the final level adjustments to your mastering engineer is safe, smart, and assuming a competent ME, provides more room to decide where the record, and its component tracks, should "sit."


And... comparing 16 bit recording to 24 bit recording at the tracking level is simply useless.  A 17 bit recording represents TWICE as much data as a 16 bit recording.

-tom
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Hitmaker on April 21, 2007, 06:45:01 pm
Hi Tom ,

Yes ... the consumer can turn it up , but , as an ME , my function is to achieve the average RMS requested/negotiated ...
If , for example , a track comes in peaking at -0.1dB ( and they all do ) , with an average RMS of say -12dB ( which would be typical of rock mixes ) ,a typical release level would be say -9 dB average RMS ....  so 3 dB of compression/limiting WILL be needed ...  at mastering .

I suspect your imaginings of that process are somewhat romantic ... Tracks are NEVER turned down ....  IMO , the only reason mix engineers use a ME is because they can't achieve the type of controlled level gain , using the tools , experience , and monitoring environment that the ME can .... I have a number of home studio clients , who've tried for themselves ... but now prefer the results of specialist attention ... Even the bigger record companies out-source their mastering ....

Surprisingly , a very dynamic track can be more difficult to get to commercial levels than a more compressed one . Recent case-in-point ...a very dynamic track ( initial average RMS .. ~-25 dB )... who's release RMS was considered to be tasteful at -13 dB ( which is commercially low ) ... This represents a needed gain raise of 12 dB . It could not be raised to those levels without being VERY smashed ... in fact , in that case , I chose a RMS of ~ -15.5dB , to retain some semblance of quality ...
The attachment may be of help to you ... From top to bottom there is the same track at average RMS of approximately -17.5 dB , -14 dB , and -15.4 dB , respectively ....  

Anyhow , my rationale in this diatribe is to point out to mix engineers that they are part of a system , between tracking , and mastering , and mixes that are too soft may require more undesired artefact than they imagine ...

Cheers ,

Evan .  
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: CWHumphrey on April 21, 2007, 08:57:30 pm
Hitmaker wrote on Sat, 21 April 2007 15:45


Surprisingly , a very dynamic track can be more difficult to get to commercial levels than a more compressed one . Recent case-in-point ...a very dynamic track ( initial average RMS .. ~-25 dB )...


I'd call an RMS level of -25dB low.  If you're working with a -20dBfs nominal level, you're swinging at -5 on VU meters.  At a nominal operating level of -18dBfs, you're at -7 on VU meters.  I don't think anybody is advocating levels THAT low.

Cheers,
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: tom eaton on April 22, 2007, 12:09:39 am
Hitmaker wrote on Sat, 21 April 2007 18:45

I suspect your imaginings of that process are somewhat romantic ... Tracks are NEVER turned down ....  IMO , the only reason mix engineers use a ME is because they can't achieve the type of controlled level gain , using the tools , experience , and monitoring environment that the ME can ....

Anyhow , my rationale in this diatribe is to point out to mix engineers that they are part of a system , between tracking , and mastering , and mixes that are too soft may require more undesired artefact than they imagine ...




Excuse me? If a track shows up HERE (in my studio where I do and have mastered records for years) with an RMS of -8 and the record WANTS to be quieter, I will turn the song down. Working practice.

I send out mixes to be mastered when I want Jonathan Wyner at M-Works to work on them.  Or if I've spent too long mixing a record, or am too close to it for some other reason.  And I like him and what he does.  It has absolutely NOTHING to do with the level of loudness he can achieve.  I have considered sending things to Doug Sax because he makes great sounding quiet records. So maybe you're right on that count, but not the way you meant it.

My ears, tools and monitors are quite sufficient for the task, but collaboration is valuable, productive and fun.

Can you explain to me how a mix that is "too soft" may require more "artefact" than one that is already pinned? Not being argumentative, but I simply don't see the logic there.

The fact that a track has 25dB of dynamic range has absolutely no relation to its tracking levels, or mix print level, which is what this thread is about.  And the picture doesn't tell me anything about which file sounds better.

If you read this thread, or any of the many level threads here at PSW you'll note that we've been discussing -20/-18dBFS=0VU=+4dBm, and peaks in the -6dBFS range. You can probably see the implied target dynamic range.  It's not 25dB.

tom
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Hitmaker on April 22, 2007, 03:33:46 am
Hi ,

I'd call an RMS level of -25dB low. 


So would I .... but it still peaked near full-scale ... Very , very dynamic .... and calling for more fairly intense compression/limiting .... because of this ...

Cheers ....
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: CWHumphrey on April 22, 2007, 01:55:00 pm
Hitmaker wrote on Sun, 22 April 2007 00:33

Hi ,

I'd call an RMS level of -25dB low. 


So would I .... but it still peaked near full-scale ... Very , very dynamic .... and calling for more fairly intense compression/limiting .... because of this ...

Cheers ....


Interesting.  While I am a big proponent of 0VU, it doesn't mean that I don't like compression.  In fact, a mix can land at 0VU RMS and still be heavily compressed.  I guess it's all about how you use the tools.  If I feel the drums, for example, need to hang right up front and stay there, I'm going to come real hard with compressors on the kick, Snare, and Toms.  However, having done more Standards records than I care to remember the last few years, I feel I have a good sense of when to leave the sledge hammer at home.

Hitmaker, you said something really insightful in an earlier post.  I agree that many engineers fail to see themselves as part of a system, or process.  Each phase of production works with the others.  As a mixer, I've taken that to heart and in some cases decided against doing something because I felt it would only serve to paint the mastering engineer in a corner.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Hitmaker on April 22, 2007, 07:36:13 pm
Hi ,

On drums , I have an association with a mixer who's a drummer ... He used to rave about limiting this and that , 'New York' compression ... all the good stuff ...
Then I sent him a mix which used no compression .... anywhere ...  and had a kik that moved your gut ....

Here's the secret ... Real impact comes from speaker excursion ... moving air ... something compression lessens , in a direct fashion ....
Personally , I abhor the sound of most compression .... To have a sound take on the sonic signature of coming from a greater distance ( most people are fooled by the higher RMS ...  and don't hear the tonal changes ) ... but pushed more forward is neither natural , or within my mix objectives ... often ...

And cheers for the comps .... As Don Henley would say "My work around here is done"
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Hitmaker on April 22, 2007, 09:37:52 pm
Hi Tom ,

If a track shows up HERE (in my studio where I do and have mastered records for years) with an RMS of -8 


I noticed the 'if' ... In reality that's around Greenday/Ultraslave mastered levels ...
If I were to encounter such a case , I put it to the client that he'd be wasting his time , unless I could get the mix without the ( ??? SSL +/- L2 ?? ) master buss compression ... else I wouldn't accept the brief ...

. So maybe you're right on that count, but not the way you meant it.


Sure ... Interesting though that your semi-unconscious preference is for the 'louder' masterer ... It is a basic human lust that the record companies are feeding ...

Can you explain to me how a mix that is "too soft" may require more "artefact" than one that is already pinned? 


Sure ... By too soft , I was refering to low-end average RMS levels ... The outcome of those initially in the chain will be , at the other end , to more force a dilemma between lack of dynamics ( and other compression artefacts ) .. or lowered release volume ... It diminishes the odds of the end result both retaining some dynamics ... and being 'loud'... by forcing more 'one-or-the-other' ....


And the picture doesn't tell me anything about which file sounds better


You can figure that yourself ... hint ... most people don't like too much clipping ... that was more to illustrate the amount of increased clipping deriving from a ~ 2dB RMS increase ...

Cheers ,

Evan .
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: tom eaton on April 23, 2007, 12:57:30 am
-8 happens when a solo songwriter sings and plays quietly and compresses the thing.  there are records made without drums...

would you have been more convinced by a "when"?

the point is, i have turned tracks down in mastering.

my "semi-unconscious" (funny!) preference has to do with liking to attend mastering sessions.  i don't want to fly across the country to master a record. whether you like it or not, I don't go to a mastering engineer for level.



Your position is, if I read you correctly, that you are able to make a louder master with fewer compromises from a mix that has a higher RMS value.  Would you care to put some numbers on your preferences for the class?  

How about an average level of -20dBfs for a mix with peaks at -6dBfs, giving you a mix that needs no compression or limiting to  sit at average -14? Or a touch of either to get to -12... and 5dB of comp/limit to get to your negotiated -9dB.

If you're alright with that, then your comments are not contrary to this thread at all.

tom










Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Hitmaker on April 23, 2007, 04:18:16 am
Hi Tom ,

Cheers for the heads-up on sparcely arranged acoustic material ... I hadn't considered that ...

I'd presume more distant mix techniques ( which make use of 'air compression' through the inverse square law ) help average the signal ... Must be nice to work with ..

Your position is, if I read you correctly, that you are able to make a louder master with fewer compromises from a mix that has a higher RMS value


That's one way of putting it ... To my mind , my concern is in preservation of quality ... If it was just a case of balancing the spectrum , and sculpting some dimension for it .. that'd be real fine by me .... but I've only ever had to raise levels up on the more rocky material I see in my room ... And they will feature individual instrument compression .. and peak at 0.1 dB ... so your acoustic stuff sounds intriguing ..

I don't imagine the relationship of RMS in , to 'quality' is linear ... I think more , if I have to lay on more than 6 db of limiting on dense material ... I'll be talking with the client about their choices , the compromises etc.
I would imagine on sparce material 10 might be comfortable ... The same limiter that lights up an acoustic guitar is likely to suck a kick drum to death ....

Your cited case sounds nice .. to my eyes ... although I am intrigued as to the -6db peaks ... For safety ????... If for quality , it suggests you're prefering 6 dB of gain make-up in the digital realm ( understandably .. it's only arithmetic .. and probably error-checked ) .. than in the analogue stage of your A/D ...
From my imagining of it .. perhaps -10.5 -> -11dB average RMS might be a nice final level ..

I suspect we have strayed a bit from the thread ... but an interesting yak ...

Cheers ,

Evan .
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: tom eaton on April 23, 2007, 07:24:46 am
You might be interested in Paul Frindle's posts in the "reason/massenburg" forum regarding operating levels in DAWs, where many of the people on this forum mix.  You might be surprised by his ideas of good operating levels.  Well worth reading (as has been suggested already in this thread).

http://recforums.prosoundweb.com/index.php/t/4918/2571/

Start with Paul's post at the bottom of page 4.

I personally mix analog, and in the interest of not asking my analog devives to put out +12dBm (-12dBfs) as an average level, I do print right around -20dBFS, which is +4 at the "two track" A/D.  

In my previous post I mentioned the downside to lowering the level of already clipped material, so I quite understand the issue. PM-ing me graphics of your EDL as if I need clarification doesn't help the general understanding.

Thanks-

t



Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Fox on May 23, 2007, 02:55:07 pm
Okay, let me get this straight...

Tom's position is that by leaving more headroom during tracking/mixing, the ME has more options available to him to get great sounding results.

Hitmaker's position is that a very dynamic piece with a low average level but peaks near 0 dBfs could sound just as bad if not worse than a song with a higher average level but with peaks in the same range.

If I've summarized this correctly, then I think you're both right, Tom's just more right.

Hitmaker, the thing is that this thread is talking about recording peaks at lower levels, not just recording at lower RMS levels, so your argument doesn't have a whole lot to do with the topic. Your argument would be more apt if we were talking about recording with low RMS levels.

Besides, if you get a rock mix with a steady dynamic range of 25 dB (by steady I mean not just a quiet part during the intro or bridge, but the whole way through the song), odds are it isn't going to sound very good to start off with, right?

I hope I haven't misread anyone's arguments, if I have please let me know.

Fox
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: tom eaton on May 25, 2007, 07:55:48 am
I think I've been clear that I think that +4dBm=0VU=-20dBFS is a good standard that works well.  Doc posted that in the first page of this thread and it's been in use in the broadcast world for years.  Of course that's an AVERAGE signal level.

The peak issue is related, and as suggested by people like Paul Frindle (which is to say, people who know what the heck they're talking about) it is a good idea, and good in operating practice to keep peak levels 6dB down from full scale.

The fact is, that using an average level of -20dbFS will likely keep your peaks in that range.  

There is SOOO much good information on this forum...don't pay attention to the points that unknown individuals are making (myself included)... but try to find the common wisdom...  the systems and practices that work for a number of people.  

If you want to listen to just one opinion, it might as well be Paul Frindle's.  He knows as much about how these things work as anyone.  

Terry Manning gets good results, too (using -18dBFS=0VU).

I'm just a sheep.

tom

Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: quantumpsych on May 30, 2007, 01:32:08 am
mastered a record with a very low RMS recently, about -25dbfs. used all Waves; linear phase, linear multi-band, renaissance bass, renaissance eq and L2.

came out beautifully. the recording/mixing engineer uses low levels and a very basic, mostly digital path and mixes ITB.

low is good.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Fenris Wulf on June 10, 2007, 08:43:54 pm
Watch out for that Waves LinEQ. It introduces pre-ringing on transients which sounds like a bad MP3. Even on the widest Q settings it's unsuitable for drums. Refined Audiometrics and Algorithmix make more advanced linear phase EQ's that use temporal overlap processing to eliminate the pre-ringing.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: quantumpsych on June 11, 2007, 06:22:26 pm
no shit? i use it in normal mode and am light handed with it: 1-2q avg. only over the buss also.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Don Ciccio on August 15, 2007, 03:38:53 pm
i have my set-up at +4dbm = 0vu = -12dbfs with peaks at around -6 haven't had any problems sonically. am i way off base? i thought protools was -12 = 0. i do a lot of post work as well as music. i'd say it's become 50/50 lately. but of course i want to put out the best quality i can.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: compasspnt on August 15, 2007, 05:21:23 pm
Personally I find that "-XX = 0 VU" thing to be misleading to many people.

That setting is for basic alignment of your digital "0" point related to the actual "0" of an analogue line level.  After you make your choice, I recommend staying well away from that "benchmark."

I align to -20, and record in multitrack approx -12 dB BELOW THAT.

Back in the old days when I would mix to PCM, the mix peak would stay approx -6 dB BELOW THAT.

In other words, don't just align to some -XX basic input level and then think its OK to slam the "meters" into the red.  But you knew that.

Whatever Works for you.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Don Ciccio on August 15, 2007, 09:39:30 pm
i never slam the meters when recording to digital. my signal is clean and ultimately i'm mixing to both analog 1/2" and digital simultaneously. hence the setting of analog levels Smile and as rupert neve told me years ago. if you don't hear distortion then don't worry about it. i just try not to mixdown too low. i'm a creature of habit which i'm sure all of you are as well.....
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: bewarethanatos on August 23, 2007, 02:11:15 am
Paul Cavins wrote on Sun, 11 February 2007 23:33


But seriously, I'm wondering how, in the real pre-DAW analog stage, your signal gets into the computer.

Here is my deal. My little PTLE/iMac setup has the mic going into a Sytek MPX-4A pre, perhaps the Summit TLA-50 compressor, then into the Digi 002r.

When I've tracked in the past, the Sytek was not turned up all that high, the comp not cranking out signal (to my knowledge), but the peaks were much higher than would be desired if I were to follow the advice in this thread, which I intend to do.

What about people who like to "drive" their preamps to get a desired effect?

Anyhoo, do you find yourself using an analog fader to diminish the signal, or do you have other ways of keeping it modest before the DAW.

Please forgive the technical naivete revealed in this post-

PC


This confuses me too, and since this question only had one real reply that wasn't 100% definitive, I'll ask again. I'm all about learning things that will help me be a better engineer. The studio I work at uses various preamps-> Fireface 800-> Nuendo.

Now, if I drive a pre-amp to get a certain sound I'm going for, anything over 0dBVU is already above -18/-16dBFS (you know, whatever the converters are calibrated for,) correct? For instance, the Vintech dual 72 sounds good on snare when the +6 LED is lighting up, and the +12 LED is just barely lighting up (so the signal is RMSing somewhere between there.) That's RMSing at around -4 dBFS in Nuendo (again, depending on what you're calibrated for.) Is pulling the input faders down to -20dBFS going to give the same result as the whole "track at lower levels" rule? Or should we just only turn our pre-amps up until we're RMSing at -20dBFS with the input faders at unity?

Am I really confused or does this make sense to you guys?

Also, was I correct in my usage of "RMSing?"
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: tom eaton on August 23, 2007, 08:11:19 am
You may need input pads/trims on your converters if you want to subscribe to the "lower level" practice.  Search for posts from Terry Manning, he discusses his approach to this somewhere (in this thread, I think).  Pulling faders down post conversion is not the same thing as leaving the converter with more headroom, but can certainly help generate space when mixing ITB.  

BTW, "VU" is not "dBVU"...the actual level at 0VU is user definable...usually +4dBm, but it can move all over the place depending on the needs of the particular studio/facility.

"RMSing" is not what most would say, but it gets the point across!  You might say "the snare has an average level of..." or, "the snare has an RMS level of...."  It's pretty hard to pin down RMS level of percussion in the first place... peak level is the obvious limitation.

tom
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: bewarethanatos on August 23, 2007, 08:58:13 am
Ok, thanks Tom. I still don't really understand how everyone else has such "an easy time" recording at lower levels to try this out. Myself and the producer I work with don't understand how people are able to drive the pre-amp to get the color they want and still stay at levels like -20dBFS. Are you saying most of you guys just turn the pre-amp up until you hit -20dBFS ITB? That's my main point of confusion.

And I apologize for my brazen use of "dBVU." Like I said, still learning. I read about the different kinds of "dB" in the "Sound Reinforcement Handbook," but not having a previous knowledge of much of what they're talking about, needless to say I got pretty confused.

And like you said, whether my examples were appropriate or not, I was simply trying to get my point across.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: compasspnt on August 23, 2007, 11:39:11 am
First get the sound you want from your microphone>preamp chain.

Whatever that takes.

Be sure you like it.

(Some call it "colour." I personally think of colours as different shades of things I can see.  I prefer to call it "good sound.")

Next, do whatever you have to do (staying as sonically pure as possible) to reduce the level so that it does not go to digital at maximum.  Some converters have pads.  Some people run through another outboard hardware unit that has an output pot (and ideally, a good transformer!)


Adjust the input-to-digi level to your desired amount, be it -20, -18, -12, etc.

(Some call it "to taste." I personally think of taste as different flavours of things I can eat.  I prefer to call it "good level.")


Record good things.


Collect your awards.


That is the process.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Don Ciccio on August 23, 2007, 01:59:33 pm
bewarethanatos wrote on Thu, 23 August 2007 08:58

Ok, thanks Tom. I still don't really understand how everyone else has such "an easy time" recording at lower levels to try this out. Myself and the producer I work with don't understand how people are able to drive the pre-amp to get the color they want and still stay at levels like -20dBFS. Are you saying most of you guys just turn the pre-amp up until you hit -20dBFS ITB? That's my main point of confusion.

And I apologize for my brazen use of "dBVU." Like I said, still learning. I read about the different kinds of "dB" in the "Sound Reinforcement Handbook," but not having a previous knowledge of much of what they're talking about, needless to say I got pretty confused.

And like you said, whether my examples were appropriate or not, I was simply trying to get my point across.


this is how i do it and it works for me......i'm using pt strictly as a tape machine when tracking and doing od's. i'm using outboard pre's and compressors for mics and then through my mixer which is controlling level to pt. then when mixing it depends on what i'm going for, but usually mix in the box. i still love mixing on the board and the feel of faders so i try to combine both whenever possible.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: bewarethanatos on August 23, 2007, 07:26:01 pm
Thank you very much Terry. This is the kind of succinct answer I've been looking for.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: CWHumphrey on August 23, 2007, 11:05:07 pm
bewarethanatos wrote on Thu, 23 August 2007 05:58

Ok, thanks Tom. I still don't really understand how everyone else has such "an easy time" recording at lower levels to try this out. Myself and the producer I work with don't understand how people are able to drive the pre-amp to get the color they want and still stay at levels like -20dBFS. Are you saying most of you guys just turn the pre-amp up until you hit -20dBFS ITB? That's my main point of confusion.


The last band I recorded, we did basics on a Neve 8068 and used all on-board mic pres.

The console has VU meters on every bus group, so it helped reinforce what 0VU looks like on a Pro Tools meter for several different types on instruments.

Unfortunately, Pro Tools meters continue to suck.  When I'm mixing in the box, I always use other meters available to me (usually paz set to RMS mode).  Even Digidesign's gate or compressor has a better meter than the ones on the channels.

Cheers,
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: rankus on August 24, 2007, 12:00:30 am
Lest we forget:  (This helped me wrap my mind around this)
So acording to the chart if your hitting your Pro Tools meters at "0" your analog pre-amps are running at +20 dbu

index.php/fa/6002/0/

Cheers
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Bob Olhsson on September 01, 2007, 02:35:11 pm
CWHumphrey wrote on Thu, 23 August 2007 22:05

Unfortunately, Pro Tools meters continue to suck.

More like they are utterly useless. The digi line stages also suck but you can work around that by keeping your levels down and making sure you interface with only a REAL balanced connection or use line transformers.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: compasspnt on September 01, 2007, 05:10:24 pm
Agreed on the PT "meters."  Terrible things.

Bob, I assume you are referring to the HD outputs.  In the older XLR-out 888-24's, was the same "problem" existent, or did this start with those little multipin outputs?
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Don Ciccio on September 02, 2007, 12:58:51 am
i use my durrough meters.....they're pretty frickin' good Smile
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: tom eaton on September 03, 2007, 01:28:26 am
Though they're spelled Dorrough...

http://www.dorrough.com/dorrough/

Excellent meters both analog and digital.

tom
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Don Ciccio on September 03, 2007, 02:00:17 pm
thank you for the correction Smile
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Bob Olhsson on September 05, 2007, 02:37:45 am
It's been there all along. An 888 could actually sound ok into a 2 Meg balanced load with the trim pots turned down all the way. The first time I heard one running at factory settings into a console I was, to be polite, pretty disappointed.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: CWHumphrey on September 06, 2007, 08:20:07 pm
compasspnt wrote on Sat, 01 September 2007 14:10

  In the older XLR-out 888-24's, was the same "problem" existent, or did this start with those little multipin outputs?



Funny you should mention the 888's.  They didn't sound as good as Digi's current 192's (which are still beat by other converters), but at least the the meter's on the 888's were usable.  Sometimes I would look at them vs. the PT software meters to see what was going on.  Now, the meters on the DAC's don't indicate much except signal present.

Cheers,
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: compasspnt on September 06, 2007, 09:12:43 pm
All this is slightly off the original topic, but still does tie in.

I personally use the 888-24's with external conversion (latest Apogee AD/DA-X), because I think the interfacing on the older XLR models is much better.  The AD-X beats up on the Digi HD conversion pretty well also.

The only downside so far is I can't go to 96 sessions.  If I wanted to.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Bob Olhsson on September 09, 2007, 04:36:15 pm
We've finally hit the point where a better sounding converter is no longer coming out every few months. I'm amazed that more studios aren't finally investing as Terry has in better multi track converters. The improvement they make can be jaw dropping. In my opinion much more so than a fancy mike preamp.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Silvertone on September 14, 2007, 06:59:48 am
Bob Olhsson wrote on Sun, 09 September 2007 15:36

We've finally hit the point where a better sounding converter is no longer coming out every few months. I'm amazed that more studios aren't finally investing as Terry has in better multi track converters. The improvement they make can be jaw dropping. In my opinion much more so than a fancy mike preamp.



Agreed Bob and especially when building up multi-tracks.

I preach 'levels' all the time to clients unfortunately it's usually at the mastering stage when all the damage has been done. The ones who listen (and understand) always come in with the next project sounding much better.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Jack Schitt on October 06, 2007, 08:36:06 am
Hitmaker wrote on Sun, 22 April 2007 03:33

Hi ,

I'd call an RMS level of -25dB low. 


So would I .... but it still peaked near full-scale ... Very , very dynamic .... and calling for more fairly intense compression/limiting .... because of this ...

Cheers ....


Why are yo so intent an removing any and all dynamics from a track with no consideration of the musical elements involved? In a lot of circles "very very dynamic" is considered a good thing. You seem to be speaking in absolutes with no regard to the resulting musical product. I find that concerning to say the least


Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: compasspnt on October 06, 2007, 09:18:48 am
Indeed, the term "dynamics" is on the way to becoming a negative one.

Remember when we actually desired dynamic range...the more, the better?


If everything is loud, then nothing is loud.

Relatively.


Volume is the only technical tool we have to work with.

Let's not take that away from ourselves.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Andy Simpson on October 09, 2007, 02:10:12 pm
compasspnt wrote on Sat, 06 October 2007 15:18

Indeed, the term "dynamics" is on the way to becoming a negative one.

Remember when we actually desired dynamic range...the more, the better?


If everything is loud, then nothing is loud.

Relatively.


Volume is the only technical tool we have to work with.

Let's not take that away from ourselves.



I recently made pop recordings with RMS coming in around -30dB (- this does depend on arrangement but nonetheless, this is well below 'normal'). No compressors or limiters, just controlled performances.

The result is a recording which is so quiet that when people play it they automatically crank the volume control all the way around to hear it at a good level.... and when they do that, they notice how much energy & life is in the music that they don't normally notice..... they tap their feet and dance a little bit, usually.

Do I want a mastering engineer to 'transparently' 'raise the overall level'?

No I damn well do not.

Andy
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: PaulyD on October 11, 2007, 03:47:27 am
I was reading a post from Steve Berson on Brad Blackwood's forum where he was hipping everyone to SSL's new free X-ISM plug-in. Even if you're not interested in the plug-in, go to that web page and read! As I was reading it, it struck me that this clearly illustrates what causes the illegal reconstruction samples that Paul Frindle was talking about. It's inter-sample peaks. I now fully understand what Paul Frindle meant when he stated "this isn't a sample value issue, it's a signal value issue." It's all so clear now.

Of course, this begs the question, then why don't DAW's have meters that indicate signal value rather than sample value? Perhaps it's CPU load. SSL does warn that the X-ISM plug-in is CPU hungry. Nevertheless, what a wonderful freebie!

Paul

EDIT: Something else just occurred to me: This must be part of why higher sample rate recordings sound "better." If sample rate is more than doubled, e.g. 44.1 KHz vs 96 KHz, it also more than doubles the possibility that sample value peaks are going to coincide with true signal value peaks, meaning the meters in a DAW are going to more accurately reflect true signal value. This perception will cause a recordist to reduce gain somewhere in the signal chain and yield cleaner results. Not to mention PCM white noise getting shifted into the ultrasonic range...

I feel like a big window has just opened up to me...and it's so simple!
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Untouchable_888 on October 25, 2007, 08:36:17 pm
PaulyD wrote on Thu, 11 October 2007 02:47

I was reading a post from Steve Berson on Brad Blackwood's forum where he was hipping everyone to SSL's new free X-ISM plug-in. Even if you're not interested in the plug-in, go to that web page and read! As I was reading it, it struck me that this clearly illustrates what causes the illegal reconstruction samples that Paul Frindle was talking about. It's inter-sample peaks. I now fully understand what Paul Frindle meant when he stated "this isn't a sample value issue, it's a signal value issue." It's all so clear now.

Of course, this begs the question, then why don't DAW's have meters that indicate signal value rather than sample value? Perhaps it's CPU load. SSL does warn that the X-ISM plug-in is CPU hungry. Nevertheless, what a wonderful freebie!

Paul

EDIT: Something else just occurred to me: This must be part of why higher sample rate recordings sound "better." If sample rate is more than doubled, e.g. 44.1 KHz vs 96 KHz, it also more than doubles the possibility that sample value peaks are going to coincide with true signal value peaks, meaning the meters in a DAW are going to more accurately reflect true signal value. This perception will cause a recordist to reduce gain somewhere in the signal chain and yield cleaner results. Not to mention PCM white noise getting shifted into the ultrasonic range...

I feel like a big window has just opened up to me...and it's so simple!

Yeah what i like to do is throw in a glith for sampling. It also works great if you can put in a loop to double your time. It sounds like a dumb thing to do but if you can do it right, it can sound really cool.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: imac on January 26, 2008, 09:16:48 pm
hello

when i use different rms meters, i get slightly different results, because it seems they have different weighting, some are adjustable.
so when others comment on the rms value, does this mean it is unweighted? or is there a standard weighting i am not aware of?

this clarification would really help me.
thanks
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: compasspnt on January 26, 2008, 11:13:02 pm
This sounds like a good question for Chuck or Keith...

Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: imac on March 17, 2008, 05:59:13 am
hi

i would like to keep this question alive.

i used one sample of audio and noted the "rms" level recorded on software meters, inspectorXL, voxengo elephant, rms buddy.

17 readings from alternative settings varied from -14.4 to -5

this is such a large variation that i wonder how we can communicate audio levels if there is not a standard measure
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: tom eaton on March 17, 2008, 11:23:18 pm
It is not hard to discuss levels if you stick to things that are actual standards. in the analog world a vu meter has specific, predictable ballistics. In the box a sine wave or noise source with a signal level of -20dBFS should not be reading anything other than -20 on any meter in the box or on a d/a converter meter.  And full scale is full scale.

There is very little that is ambiguous about 1.23V=+4dBm=0VU=-20dBfs!

-tom
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: imac on March 28, 2008, 06:07:46 am
only thing is everyone talks rms on finished product.. and it is assumed peaks are slamming the wall..
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: tom eaton on March 28, 2008, 08:36:59 pm
Is this a mastering question or a tracking one?  

A VU meter IS an average meter, and so the spec I gave above gets you out of the analog world into digital... safely.

If you're talking about delivering final mixes to mastering, I believe the same rules should apply.  Average -20dBfs and your mastering engineer will be very happy, even if your tracks only have peaks 12dB over -20.  Work at 24 bit, and leave the monster mashing for the mastering engineer.  Or better yet, release a cd with some headroom and just let the mastering engineer make it sound good.

As far as a good meter goes, I love my Dorrough:

  http://www.dorrough.com/Products/Digital_Audio_Meters/280-D_ E___380-D_E/280-d_e___380-d_e.html

The center of the meter (red) is -20dBfs.

-tom
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: mikey on March 29, 2008, 11:39:49 pm
     Anyone read the interview with Dan Lavry in Tape-op this month?
''Whenever possible use the internal clock for less jitter''
''you want to use most of the AD range,but not hit 0db(full scale).If you work too far away from full scale you are wasting db's dynanic range without gaining anything''
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: tom eaton on March 30, 2008, 11:57:11 am
If your original signal has 120dB of dynamic range, go ahead, get close to FS. If, like 99% of recorded sound, the dynamic range is quite significantly less, there is nothing to gain by "using all the bits," and as you know you must then process the tracks to regain headroom ITB.

A 21 bit recording (-20dBFS) from a 24 bit converter has a theoretical 126dB of dynamic range and has the exact SAME accuracy as a 22, 23 or 24 bit recording would have well into the analog noise floor, and actually well into the noise of the converter itself.

As for Lavry, Lavry's AD122-96 spec from page 20 of the manual:
Quote:

The quantization noise level is "fixed" by the converter itself. Model AD122-96 MKIII quantization noise relative full scale is about 126dBFS.


So with no signal input noise considerations, if we decided to track a signal at an average level of -20dBFS through the Lavry Gold, then increase that signal 20dB in the box (as a radical example, this would of course clip the peaks of the signal) the noise floor of the CONVERTER would be "audible" at -106dBFS.

Given any kind of real world signal, the noise at the input would dwarf the converter noise, and would of course come up 20dB with my crazy example, but the resultant boosted file would still maintain the analog signal to noise of the input signal.

Which is what we SHOULD be paying attention to. Getting a quiet signal into the box. Not thinking that we need to nail the converters to do so.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: PaulyD on March 30, 2008, 01:01:18 pm
mikey wrote on Sat, 29 March 2008 20:39

Quote attributed to Dan Lavry: ''you want to use most of the AD range,but not hit 0db(full scale)."


This is consistent with what has been discussed in this thread; If you have an A/D converter that's capable of 110 dB of dynamic range and you record at -18 dBFS, you still have utilized 92 dB of the A/D converter's dynamic range. That would certainly constitute "most" of its dynamic range.  

mikey wrote on Sat, 29 March 2008 20:39

Quote attributed to Dan Lavry: ''If you work too far away from full scale you are wasting db's dynanic range without gaining anything''


That's a bit vague. I've never read of anyone claiming that you gain anything by recording at lower levels. The advantage of recording at lower levels is what you don't incur. Namely, distortion, clipping, and illegal reconstruction samples.

mikey wrote on Sat, 29 March 2008 20:39

Quote attributed to Dan Lavry: ''Whenever possible use the internal clock for less jitter''


iirc, Mr. Lavry and some other knowledgeable posters got into some very heated debates here at PSW about this very topic. Search the forums and archives here and you'll probably dig up more info than you can stomach.

Suffice to say this appears to be one of those things where art and science can be at odds with one another.

EDIT: To be sure, it's good advice. Just not "carved in stone."

Paul
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: brubart on April 04, 2008, 03:53:06 pm
Intersample peaks might not be a problem. Here's my reasoning.

Suppose you sample an 11kHz sine wave at 44.1kHz, or four samples per cycle. Suppose those samples occur at 45, 135, 225 and 315 degrees in the cycle. At those points, the instantaneous value of the sine wave is .707 its peak value, or 3 dB below the peak.

I suspect that this is a worst-case scenario: the reconstructed intersample peak voltage is 3 dB above the measured sample levels at 11 kHz if you use a 44.1kHz sampling rate, and the samples fall at the right places in each cycle.

So if the samples read 0 dBFS, the reconstructed analog wave might be 3 dB into clipping at the instant it reaches a peak.

But is clipping at 11kHz a problem? The lowest harmonic produced by clipping would be 33kHz, which is inaudible and would be filtered out by the reconstruction filter.

Also, if a broadband signal's level is reaching 0 dBFS, the 11kHz component of that signal is likely to be several dB below 0 dBFS, since instruments' spectra generally fall off at high frequencies.  (A trumpet or cymbal might be an exception.)

However, the I.M. distortion of several ultrasonic frequencies interfering with each other could be audible. Comments?

brubart
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: CWHumphrey on April 04, 2008, 08:59:06 pm
brubart wrote on Fri, 04 April 2008 12:53



But is clipping at 11kHz a problem? The lowest harmonic produced by clipping would be 33kHz, which is inaudible and would be filtered out by the reconstruction filter.



The assumption being that you're working at a 44.1kHz or 48kHz sample rate.

Not to pick nits, but I have two projects going right now that are at 96kHz.

Cheers,
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: PaulyD on April 05, 2008, 12:13:16 pm
brubart wrote on Fri, 04 April 2008 12:53

Intersample peaks might not be a problem. Here's my reasoning.

Suppose you sample an 11kHz sine wave at 44.1kHz, or four samples per cycle. Suppose those samples occur at 45, 135, 225 and 315 degrees in the cycle. At those points, the instantaneous value of the sine wave is .707 its peak value, or 3 dB below the peak.

I suspect that this is a worst-case scenario: the reconstructed intersample peak voltage is 3 dB above the measured sample levels at 11 kHz if you use a 44.1kHz sampling rate, and the samples fall at the right places in each cycle.

So if the samples read 0 dBFS, the reconstructed analog wave might be 3 dB into clipping at the instant it reaches a peak.

But is clipping at 11kHz a problem? The lowest harmonic produced by clipping would be 33kHz, which is inaudible and would be filtered out by the reconstruction filter.

Also, if a broadband signal's level is reaching 0 dBFS, the 11kHz component of that signal is likely to be several dB below 0 dBFS, since instruments' spectra generally fall off at high frequencies.  (A trumpet or cymbal might be an exception.)

However, the I.M. distortion of several ultrasonic frequencies interfering with each other could be audible. Comments?

brubart


Well, if you read the thread at the top of the Reason In Audio forum, it was Bob Katz that said the reasoning for recording at lowered levels is the potential for inter-sample peaks that try to exceed 0 dBFS (which he also describes in his book "Mastering Audio: The Art and the Science"). Paul Frindle replied and confirmed that is what he himself was describing. I admit, I was never quite able to wrap my head around that concept until seeing the graphic on the SSL X-ISM plug-in page. If you look at that graphic, they are using the very scenario you describe, as depicted by the waveform with four sample points. They also say this problem can occur again later with consumer playback systems that don't have good D/A converters. If you download and read the manual for the Sony Oxford Limiter plug-in, which was written by Paul Frindle, he uses the same scenario to illustrate the use of the plug-in's reconstruction meter in section 6. And just like in the thread at the top of Reason In Audio, he says you may not have issues on capture, but once you start using plug-ins, math and modulation can cause inter-sample peaks that try to exceed 0 dBFS.

Funny thing, a fellow named Terry once advised that we all download and read that Sony Oxford Limiter manual, whether we were interested in the plug-in or not. If only we'd all just heeded his advice...

Paul
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: organica on May 26, 2008, 03:37:25 pm
Don't know if this has been brought up  ............. if you're working with solely virtual instruments  is it still best to run with the lower levels ?

I run it low even for that here , BUT lately I've been wondering if  it's as necessary or even all that helpful with VI 's especially if no or a minimum of processing is being added .   ??
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Tomas Danko on May 26, 2008, 04:14:58 pm
groundhog wrote on Mon, 26 May 2008 20:37

Don't know if this has been brought up  ............. if you're working with solely virtual instruments  is it still best to run with the lower levels ?

I run it low even for that here , BUT lately I've been wondering if  it's as necessary or even all that helpful with VI 's especially if no or a minimum of processing is being added .   ??


Depending on your choice of DAW, it can be too easy to have any plug-in instance (effect or virtual instrument doesn't matter) overload and clip before sending the signal down the line.

Also, being very close to full scale may give you overs that your level meters in your DAW won't show (as so greatly demonstrated by Mr. Paul Frindle).

So better stay lower anyway, I say.

Some of my virtual instruments sound very different and harsh/clipping eventhough it doesn't show an over sometimes. And some virtual instruments I use will rush over and clip every now and then unless you give it plenty of headroom.

YMMV.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: maccool on June 08, 2008, 10:20:55 am
Terry gave this this response to Bewarethanatos' question:
compasspnt wrote on Thu, 23 August 2007 16:39

First get the sound you want from your microphone>preamp chain.

Whatever that takes.

Be sure you like it.

(Some call it "colour." I personally think of colours as different shades of things I can see.  I prefer to call it "good sound.")

Next, do whatever you have to do (staying as sonically pure as possible) to reduce the level so that it does not go to digital at maximum.  Some converters have pads.  Some people run through another outboard hardware unit that has an output pot (and ideally, a good transformer!)


Adjust the input-to-digi level to your desired amount, be it -20, -18, -12, etc.

(Some call it "to taste." I personally think of taste as different flavours of things I can eat.  I prefer to call it "good level.")


Record good things.


Collect your awards.


That is the process.



And I'd appreciate some advice on how to create that pad in my own particular amateur rig.

I've been through this and the other thread umpteen times to get my head around the principle being debated, and I think I've done that.  Got my head around it I mean!

But now that I've embraced tracking at lower levels in principle I need a device which will allow me to achieve Terry's step #1 above.

I use an ISA428 pre with the internal ADC card.  The ISA428 has no pad to modulate it's preamps' outputs before they hit the convertor.

But since it's a 4-channel pre with an 8-channel ADC card, and an additional 4 analogue-ADC inputs, then I should be able to take the analogue signals from the ISA428's pre's, route them through "another outboard hardware unit that has an output pot (and ideally, a good transformer!" and back into the ADC, yes?

My question is, what would you suggest I use to do that?

Budget is definitely an issue, and I want to be sure that I won't degrade what I'm getting out of the pre's.

And, to my way of thinking, such a device could be very simple, and one that I might construct myself if I could find a circuit diagram with the appropriate component values.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Roger Langvik on June 08, 2008, 11:05:18 am
maccool wrote on Sun, 08 June 2008 16:20


I use an ISA428 pre with the internal ADC card.  The ISA428 has no pad to modulate it's preamps' outputs before they hit the convertor.

But since it's a 4-channel pre with an 8-channel ADC card, and an additional 4 analogue-ADC inputs, then I should be able to take the analogue signals from the ISA428's pre's, route them through "another outboard hardware unit that has an output pot (and ideally, a good transformer!" and back into the ADC, yes?




Isn't this what the "trim" pot does?
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: maccool on June 08, 2008, 11:38:08 am
Roger Langvik wrote on Sun, 08 June 2008 16:05

Isn't this what the "trim" pot does?

Of course it is Smile

But what I would like to explore is using the pre up to it's maximum useable gain while still maintaining a maximum tracking peak of say -12dBfs.

At the moment, I use the gain pots on the pre's to keep the signal down at a level which produces that -12dBfs peak in the DAW.

These pre's have analogue peak level meters, not VU, and they indicate about -16dB to achieve that -12 in the daw.

I simply want to explore and listen and try to hear any appreciable difference between tracking at -16  and then at -3 on the pre's level meters.

I think this is what Terry is talking about in his first step?
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Roger Langvik on June 08, 2008, 12:14:29 pm
 Very Happy

Yep, getting a good sound out of your pre/console is important.
So youre saying you're hitting the AD to hot when you get the sound you like from the pre?

You can do what you suggested routing the analog out into AD channels 5-8, there are a couple of Fader banks available, but you could also use a pad.
I remember a discussion about what pads are good/or not some months ago. Wouldn't cost much either.  Cool
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: rankus on June 09, 2008, 01:48:41 pm


Many converters have adjustable input gain (trims) as well.  Check the manual for your particular device.  On many, you must pop the hood and tweak some switches for instance.

Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: stevieeastend on June 24, 2008, 07:05:40 am
maccool wrote on Sun, 08 June 2008 15:20



I use an ISA428 pre with the internal ADC card.  The ISA428 has no pad to modulate it's preamps' outputs before they hit the convertor.


My question is, what would you suggest I use to do that?

Budget is definitely an issue, and I want to be sure that I won't degrade what I'm getting out of the pre's.




Some call the ISA a bad pre.. is it a pre... amp?

There´s no way around at least one good pre and one good converter..
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: garret on June 24, 2008, 10:46:57 am
maccool wrote on Sun, 08 June 2008 10:38


At the moment, I use the gain pots on the pre's to keep the signal down at a level which produces that -12dBfs peak in the DAW.

These pre's have analogue peak level meters, not VU, and they indicate about -16dB to achieve that -12 in the daw.

I simply want to explore and listen and try to hear any appreciable difference between tracking at -16  and then at -3 on the pre's level meters.




So your pre and converters are integrated, and they don't provide a simple pre-converter gain control... Nice little design oversight. Ah, but they do provide an output limiter you can engage.  Smile  

Here's an idea: How about getting an SM Pro iNano passive attenuator, and hooking it up to a channel insert (w/ TRS cables)?  The channel inserts are post-preamp, pre-converter...

The iNano boxes run about $70 a piece, are pretty new so I can't find any reviews... but they look nice and shiny.  

 http://www.smproaudio.com/index.php?option=com_content&t ask=view&id=64&Itemid=82

Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: maccool on June 27, 2008, 08:08:09 pm
garret wrote on Tue, 24 June 2008 15:46

...Here's an idea: How about getting an SM Pro iNano passive attenuator, and hooking it up to a channel insert (w/ TRS cables)?  The channel inserts are post-preamp, pre-converter...

Thanks garret Smile
That should do the trick.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Mark Kellen on December 12, 2008, 11:30:31 pm
Hi, I'm pretty new here (another GS castaway  Sad) I've read the Bob Katz book as well as this entire thread and the DAW/Desk mixing thread... a big THANKS to everyone for posting all this great info!

I do a lot of post mixing (TV mostly, some independent films) and was wondering what good levels for tracking/mixing would be using ProTools HD as the post industry seems to be stuck in a 48k/16bit world

Secondly, I have a question regarding gain staging to preserve the headroom/avoid clipping when using plugins...

Let's say I've tracked with peaks around -12 to -20 and am mixing towards -6 to -10 peaks.  If I understand what I've read, I should maintain that level through any plugs inserted in my ProTools LE System, correct?  So if a track peaks at -12 before a plug is inserted it should STILL peak at -12 afterwards... all gain changes made by the fader?

What if I insert a plug and find it has raised/lowered my peaks 1 dB even before processing is engaged?  It would seem to make sense to adjust the output volume of the plug if the raising/lowering was due to the processing (a cut in EQ for example) but what if it is the plug itself that is changing the gain.  Should I adjust the input back to unity or adjust the parameters THEN adjust the gain back via the output control?

More perplexing (to me at least!) are plugs like an 1176 where the input controls the threshold or a saturation plug (DUY Tape, AC1, AC2...)  that you may want to drive hard.  Doesn't raising the inputs on these to get the desired effect wreak havoc with the headroom/potential internal clipping/etc. -- even if it is compensated for on the output?  

Thanks in advance for your help!  
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: jimlongo on December 13, 2008, 01:19:35 pm
Hi Mark, the post world I'm in is definitely moved to 24/48, and as for levels they're pretty much dictated by broadcast specs of whatever network you're working for - and those specs generally hover around peaks of no more than -10DBFS.  Mixing for digital broadcast is also being generally regulated more along the lines of LM100 levels and dialognorm settings for Dolby E.   Same things apply to theatrical releases.

Of course this is just programming, if you're doing commercials then "as loud as possible" generally seems to rule the day.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Mark Kellen on December 13, 2008, 03:05:14 pm
Thanks for the reply... I'm glad to hear that some (most?) people are moving towards 24/48 maybe someday it will come to my world!

I'm doing a ton of reality type stuff (Food, HGTV, DIY, Style...) and so far their specs are still 48/16 - EVEN for HD! I guess I'm kind of lucky as none of them yet specify LM100 or Dolby E.  Although I would like to get up to speed on those (read a bunch, never used them yet)

ALL of the production audio I get is currently 48/16 (even DIVA-type stuff and multitracked stage audio) and the levels are usually awful... I have had to gain dialog up 40+ db and noise reduce the heck out of it just to get it "usable" and that bothers me alot - even more so in a 16bit world.  I can hear protools crunch down and I was hoping maybe some of these lower level tips could be applied to my post mixing as I have done for my music.

maybe I should just hold my nose with one hand and mix with the other?  Razz at least until I get me some more-o-those sweet, sweet, bits?

Thanks!
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: jimlongo on December 13, 2008, 04:31:09 pm
Sometimes you just need to keep hammering away at producers.  Why aren't you recording at 24/48?  It doesn't cost you anything but a little extra disk space and it is going to pay off in the end.  Better quality, even if the master gets dithered down to 16 on tape.  Better for the producer for resale someday if they can say they have a 24 bit master.  Believe me in the end it makes you look good because you care about your product.

You just need to explain all the benefits to them.  Better recording quality with no need to be so dangerously close to distortion when recording, better processing throughout the post process and mixing, better sounding masters, better for future re-purposing and sales.

I was surprised recently talking to a colleague who was surprised I was working at 24. He said most of my sfx are 16 anyway . . . I scolded him, you're still working at 16, c'mon it's the 21st century!  Your sfx might be 16 but your voice recordings don't have to be, and your mix processing doesn't have to be.

 Most producers I've talked to are happy for the advice and would gladly do it if it isn't costing any real dollars.  Sometimes you still have to harangue all the intervening parties (vo recording, video post editors, etc., ) but none of them have a valid reason not to work at 24/48.  It is the native resolution of most formats now.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Mark Kellen on December 13, 2008, 09:16:11 pm
Yeah - I've been trying to nudge them in towards 24 bit unfortunately, the vast majority of the audio I get is mixed to the camera tracks (DVCpro, DVC Pro HD, DVCam, HDV) etc. so those will always be limited to 48k/16.

I've always just worked in 48/16 as that was the source rate - do you think there would be any benefit to up-converting to 24 bit for the mix then back to 16 for the delivery?  Would the "damage" done to the audio be worth the increased headroom/less stress on the digital mix buss?

Thanks again.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: compasspnt on December 13, 2008, 11:34:18 pm
Hey Mark...and Welcome!

I would try hard when possible to go 24 from the start, but if every element is already # 16, I wouldn't "up-convert" just for one pass thru the mix buss.


As for the plug-ins, using these lowered levels really can help you there. If a plug seems to be changing things by a single dB, I wouldn't worry about that, but would just be glad I wasn't really close to 0! But is is a bit of a conundrum in the case of a plug (like the 1176 mentioned) that NEEDS the volume to "get the effect." I guess in that case you have to adjust the input vol up, and the output back down to re-achieve "your new unity level."

If recording @ 16 bit, it is even more important to keep these levels reasonably lowered.


Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Tomas Danko on December 14, 2008, 06:05:51 am
Mark Kellen wrote on Sat, 13 December 2008 04:30


More perplexing (to me at least!) are plugs like an 1176 where the input controls the threshold or a saturation plug (DUY Tape, AC1, AC2...)  that you may want to drive hard.  Doesn't raising the inputs on these to get the desired effect wreak havoc with the headroom/potential internal clipping/etc. -- even if it is compensated for on the output?  

Thanks in advance for your help!  


IIRC, the UAD plug-in will upsample as well as working internally with increased bit depth which means that smacking the input hard is probably not the same as clipping the input to the plug-in but rather an internal saturation/non-linear behavior that is taken care of within a greater bit depth.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: thedoc on December 14, 2008, 08:28:28 am
I would go 24 bit as soon as possible.  Jim was correct in that it would be better for show archives to be at 24 bit instead of 16.  Also, you will probably get music files at 24.  

I am surprised to hear that some of your deliverables are spec'd at 16, when I have not seen that from major networks and the larger cable companies.  What I do see sometimes is video (23.98/59.94) with audio at 48K (not 47,952) although your client's spec may well vary...and this is OT stuff...

I love Terry's explanation of how to use the 1176 plug.

Also sorta OT but it was mentioned...

For level, in my world: 0VU = -20 dBfs, and also, final levels to clients are usually with peaks of 12dB over average levels.  (true peak, not peaking VU spikes).  So if you mix dialog so that it is right around -5 to 0VU for typical spoken dialog and you have your room SPL set for 79 dB, you should hit a Dialnorm number of about -23 to -25 which will serve you well with broadcast and with competing with commercials.  Look up the new ITU-R BS.1770-1 spec for measuring Dialnorm as it will supplant the older standard.  This spec does talk about intersample peaks and it will be close to what you will see with the LM-100 so don't panic.  

So this thread is about levels, specifically digital levels and avoiding overs and intersample peaks, but we have sorta drifted into levels with regard to broadcast deliveries.  We gotta get back Loretta, but first...

While we're OT...hard not to do but this IS about levels...and you started talking about broadcast specs so...

Perhaps this will confuse the issue even farther...

  http://www.dolby.com/professional/pro_audio_engineering/dolb y-media-meter-overview.html

Oh, and welcome aboard.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Mark Kellen on December 14, 2008, 06:11:24 pm
Thanks to everyone for the warm welcome and the information!  I don't want to keep this thread off-topic so I'll look for/start a more appropriate thread for future post questions!  I will say, however - for those who are curious - pretty much all the shows I do deliver on Digital Betacam or HDCAM (not SR) so even though those can go up to 48k/20 bit I guess people have chosen to go with the more standard 16-bit!?

Thanks also for the 1176-type plug help!

All my best,

Mark
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: jetbase on December 22, 2008, 08:20:32 pm
compasspnt wrote on Sun, 14 December 2008 15:34


If recording @ 16 bit, it is even more important to keep these levels reasonably lowered.



How so? I was under the impression that, at 16 bit, the levels need to be kept up, or was this simply in regards to interacting with plugins?
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Tomas Danko on December 22, 2008, 10:32:22 pm
jetbase wrote on Tue, 23 December 2008 01:20

compasspnt wrote on Sun, 14 December 2008 15:34


If recording @ 16 bit, it is even more important to keep these levels reasonably lowered.



How so? I was under the impression that, at 16 bit, the levels need to be kept up, or was this simply in regards to interacting with plugins?



With 16 bit dynamic resolution you may find yourself between a rock and a hard place no matter what way you go (ie lowering levels or keeping them hot, either way you take a penalty). Although I know which way I'd go, and what penalty to favor.

This is why it is SO GOOD that we can record at 24 bit dynamic resolution nowadays and just forget those dark medieval times and the inquisition of digititus!
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: James Craft on December 29, 2008, 12:15:36 am
I'm a little late to this thread, although I have read it a couple of times since shortly after it's creation. A point or two I would like to add that has not been discussed except only slightly and always just around the fringes.

My first experience with digital was mixing Eddie DeGarmo's solo album back in 88'- 89'. I had just purchased a shiny new Sony 2500 Pro DAT machine for about $6K if memory serves me right. We decided to use the DAT along with my Studer A820 1/2" and pick which sounded better, I can't really remember the decision as far as which really sounded better (I always was partial to the Studer myself), but for whatever reason the DAT mixes where preferred by the mastering engineer in Nashville.

I originally set up the DAT machine per the instructions included with the machine. A 1 KHz tone was adjusted to read "0" on the stereo VU meters of my Neve 8232 and the DAT was then adjusted to read "-15" on it's peak meters. The first few mixes sounded pretty good coming off it and where then sent to the mastering engineer. His response was that he could use the mixes we sent, but subsequent mixes needed to be "Hotter" as we were not using all of the dynamic range available on the machine and his mastering process. All the mixes after that were run down multiple times and adjusted individually to reach as close to "0" on the DAT as possible. I was never really comfortable with that approach because I started mastering at an early age and gain staging was something I learned and lived by, but by the same token I was always prepared to try and give the client what they asked for regardless of my personal feelings.

My point to add to this discussion is to let people know what they're doing as far as the gain staging of their recording chain considering the widespread use of digital in today's studios.

If your set of converters, regardless of brand or type of DAW require that "0" VU on your analog source is set to read "-15" as my Sony did, consider the following as how bad out of whack your getting things if you decide to ignore the manufactures advice.

If "+4" analog is intended to equal "-15" on the DAW and you decide to record at peaks of "-3", you will have to hit the converter with an analog signal of +16 to achieve this. Most converters today have a headroom value before clip or the point where an acceptable % of distortion reached of +22. Some, depending on the quality of converter maybe as low as +16 or worse. If you are using unbalanced wiring you will further reduce the limits of the analog sections of most gear to an unacceptable level of performance.  

Also a point to consider is that a properly calibrated set of converters that is presented with a +4 analog signal, which is then recorded at -15 in the DAW will then output a +4 analog signal upon playback or monitoring. If you record at "-3" peaks in the DAW, it will then output an analog signal with peaks of +16, again approaching the acceptable limits of performance for most converters without distortion thus reducing the available headroom of your console, summing bus or the inputs of your monitoring setup. Any additional processing like EQ or dynamics in the analog chain will cut this margin further.


When trying to achieve these types of recorded level in your DAW or hard disk recorder, you are seriously stressing the limits of your analog chain and all these systems where designed with a certain amount of headroom built in for optimum performance of the device (I am aware that some analog gear sounds better when pushed to it's limits, but it was not originally designed this way and digital converters on the whole do not fit into this category). Just as everything is considered "Better" (I know what your going to say, but I'm speaking hypothetically) in the modern digital world over the old ways, assume that the metering is better also. Instead of a clunky old VU meter with "0" and then a little more to +3, think of it as the new digital meters have "0" and then a lot more to +15. You have to really let go of the old notion of "0" VU, it just is not a part of the new digital reality.

Some, if not most of the "Professional" digital converters have some sort of trim/gain adjustments where you can set +4 analog to something other than what it is, but most "Prosummer" gear does not. You prosummer guys are the ones who really need to listen to what I'm saying and the guys with Pro rigs who do not have access to a tech who is capable and has the proper equipment to adjust these settings might pay attention also.

Just my $.02
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: littlehat on January 13, 2009, 02:33:32 am
Y'all read this?

http://www.audioholics.com/education/audio-formats-technolog y/issues-with-0dbfs-levels-on-digital-audio-playback-systems

Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Nacho on April 20, 2009, 11:41:44 am
Hey guys, I have a question that probably fits the path this thread was taking a couple of pages ago.  (I know I'm a little late but this a favor I'm doing for a friend)

Does anyone know if Steinberg's Wavelab and UAD Precision Limiter are fixed or variable bit rate?

Thanks guys!
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Nacho on April 21, 2009, 02:59:21 pm
Hello again guys.

I just recently tracked a whole band playing live.

I tried tracking with low levels and it works great.  Tried balancing as much as possible right out of the preamps and it works wonders.  

I got rounder sound out of the system right away specially on drums.

The details of the session are:

Bass drum - Audix D6 thru API 3124
Snare drum - SM57 (top only) thru API 3124
Toms and floor tom - MD421 thru  API 3124
Overheads - SM81s thru Portico 5012
Bass - Line thru Avalon vt373sp
2 Voices - SM57 thru API 3124

All of these running straight into Apogee AD16X into PTHD 7.4.2.


I strongly recommend who ever hasn't tried it yet and see if it works for your purposes.  I will definitely do this practice from now on.

Cheers,
Nacho

Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Nacho on April 21, 2009, 03:00:50 pm
Jezz, forgot the guitar:

Gibson SG into 5150 Head with Marshall 1960 Lead cab (straight) - SM57 thru API 3124.

Nacho
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: compasspnt on April 22, 2009, 01:05:23 am
Excellent Nacho.

Thanks for posting your observations.

Almost everyone who has tried this, keeping the first-instance digital levels lowered "on purpose," has reported this same thing.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: stevieeastend on April 25, 2009, 08:09:54 am
Hello Nacho,

don´t wanna be a smart ass and it´s just my 2 cents, I may be wrong anyway,  but it jumps out of my mind to swap the Avalon and Portico for vocals and take the APIs for overhead and bass as well...

Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Nacho on April 26, 2009, 03:11:39 pm
Hey man, thanks very much for your sugestion, I will definitely give it a try!.

Nacho
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Paul LaPlaca on May 19, 2009, 12:13:21 am
This is one of the most useful threads I have ever read.

I am working in pro tools LE and was wondering the best way to meter my incoming signal. The channel meter is useless. I have a TL plug-in for metering, is it accurate?

Also, If I mix the whole session with -20 as my OVU that doesn't leave a whole lot of meter to build a mix on.

I know, mix with your ears not your eyes.

In the past, I developed a feel for how much of my instrumentation would take up a percentage of the entire master fader meter, building the mix up until I was peaking at the top and then putting a slight mastering compressor in for about 3db reduction. This plus tracking everything super hot seems to be the main problem in why I've been hating my home studio for the past 10 years! I've done one mix with reduced tracking and mix levels and it's mind boggling how much better it sounds.

If -20 is supposed to be treated as 0dbu, visually it's very difficult to see how individual elements fit into that range. Is there a plug in for the master fader with a HUGE meter? What's an affordable external meter?


Also, if I am trying to "master" my own mixes, do I normalize the mix first and bring it into a new session or just use the limiter on the mix bus?

Thanks!  
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: compasspnt on May 19, 2009, 01:03:34 am
Paul LaPlaca wrote on Tue, 19 May 2009 00:13

This is one of the most useful threads I have ever read...


...I've done one mix with reduced tracking and mix levels and it's mind boggling how much better it sounds.



Awesome Paul!

Yes, metering is the big problem.

I am not terribly familiar with plug-in metering, but surely someone here has a recommendation for a decent one...?

As for the final mix, personally I would never normalise anything. I would bring up the level with perhaps two good compressors or one compressor and one limiter. Perhaps you would need an EQ in between as well, and that could be used to increase the level a bit.

This "final level for CD" thing should be done in the last (mastering) instance.

I prefer to come out of my mix into an analogue chain of excellent gear, and then just touch it up in the computer after capturing that, for the final level.

But if staying all ITB, just use the best software you can get, and do it in stages, not pushing any one "unit" too hard.

Hope this helps a bit.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: stevieeastend on May 19, 2009, 12:29:24 pm
compasspnt wrote on Tue, 19 May 2009 07:03


But if staying all ITB, just use the best software you can get, and do it in stages, not pushing any one "unit" too hard.

Hope this helps a bit.



Could be an interesting discussion as well. I know, there has been a lot of talking on that but I rarely come across something logical, understandable for an only user.


Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: CWHumphrey on May 20, 2009, 12:30:47 am
Paul LaPlaca wrote on Mon, 18 May 2009 21:13



If -20 is supposed to be treated as 0dbu, visually it's very difficult to see how individual elements fit into that range. Is there a plug in for the master fader with a HUGE meter? What's an affordable external meter?



Actually, -20dB fs would be equivalent to +4dBu (0VU).  I feel you about Pro Tools metering.  Would it kill Digidesign to even put a couple of hash marks on the side of the track meters?

Certainly there are good meters out there.  I used Waves PAZ when I first started mixing in the box.  It's nice because you can look at left and right as peak and set the sum for RMS.

However, I didn't really learn much about how to correlate digital meters to good old fashioned analog VU 's until I did the 2nd Rod Stewart "American Songbook" album.  Even though my mixes were in the box, we did have an SSL E series (the console I started out on in the 80's) so I was able to look at meters inside of Pro Tools and look at the VU 's on the console.  I discovered that I didn't need to print nearly as hot or mix as hot as I thought I did.  

Now days if I'm on a foreign system, I just put a plug in, any plug in that has a digital meter and aim for a specific number (such as between -6dBfs and -3dB fs).  Granted this is peak and not average but it works for me.

My goal is to someday set up 2 big analog VU meters (like the old 3M 2 tracks) that I can slap on the output and carry my meters from system to system, just like my speakers.  I also want set them up for variable nominal operating levels such as -20dB fs=+4dBu and -18dB fs=+4dBu and maybe even going up to -8dB fs to meter mastered program.

Cheers,
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: compasspnt on May 20, 2009, 01:09:03 am
index.php/fa/12237/0/

http://www.colemanaudio.com/


Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: jetbase on May 20, 2009, 01:09:52 am
I have external metering so a can't comment too much from experience with plugin meters, but it's worth mentioning Sonalksis FreeG, since it's free.

http://www.sonalksis.com/index.php?section_id=99
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: CWHumphrey on May 20, 2009, 01:16:35 am
compasspnt wrote on Tue, 19 May 2009 22:09

index.php/fa/12237/0/

http://www.colemanaudio.com/





I BIG VU meters, like 4X6 inches each.

Cheers,
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: organica on May 20, 2009, 09:28:02 am
compasspnt wrote on Tue, 19 May 2009 01:03




As for the final mix, personally I would never normalise anything.



I have some mixes that are right where I want them , an ME is telling me that they sound fine in his room (  haven't heard them at his place ) and that if I feel no compression is needed then I don't need him for this and to since the volumes are a little low to go ahead and normalise the tracks .  Instinctively , I believe that there's something wrong with doing  that , however unless I do finish up in a  room other than mine it will best be done  ITB .   Still , comprehending the benefits to staging is beyond me .
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Hank Alrich on July 13, 2009, 03:08:42 pm
a crowley wrote on Wed, 20 May 2009 06:28

compasspnt wrote on Tue, 19 May 2009 01:03




As for the final mix, personally I would never normalise anything.



I have some mixes that are right where I want them , an ME is telling me that they sound fine in his room (  haven't heard them at his place ) and that if I feel no compression is needed then I don't need him for this and to since the volumes are a little low to go ahead and normalise the tracks .  Instinctively , I believe that there's something wrong with doing  that , however unless I do finish up in a  room other than mine it will best be done  ITB .   Still , comprehending the benefits to staging is beyond me .



If these tracks constitute an "album", normalization is not likely to yield a balanced track-to-track equivalent listening level. I wouldn't do what that ME is suggesting.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Jay Kadis on July 14, 2009, 10:53:49 am
Hank Alrich wrote on Mon, 13 July 2009 12:08

a crowley wrote on Wed, 20 May 2009 06:28

compasspnt wrote on Tue, 19 May 2009 01:03




As for the final mix, personally I would never normalise anything.



I have some mixes that are right where I want them , an ME is telling me that they sound fine in his room (  haven't heard them at his place ) and that if I feel no compression is needed then I don't need him for this and to since the volumes are a little low to go ahead and normalise the tracks .  Instinctively , I believe that there's something wrong with doing  that , however unless I do finish up in a  room other than mine it will best be done  ITB .   Still , comprehending the benefits to staging is beyond me .



If these tracks constitute an "album", normalization is not likely to yield a balanced track-to-track equivalent listening level. I wouldn't do what that ME is suggesting.
If you normalize the whole disc at once you will preserve the inter-track balance.  However I've found that normalizing right up to 0 dBFS may lead to playback distortion on cheap audio systems that can't handle the high analog level.  I use -1 dBFS as the ceiling when I don't have professional mastering.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: oversampling on August 08, 2009, 07:48:35 am
A great thread with many useful information about digital recording  Rolling Eyes

But i simply don't understand why would somebody use analog meters. Why not just using digital ones and set them up properly?
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: thedoc on August 09, 2009, 04:36:58 pm
I prefer analog meters because that is what I have been using for decades.  I know how to judge them.  I know what peaks that I can't see are doing and how they (the meters) relate to perceived volume.

For me, it is just easier.  

If I was younger and smarter, I might feel differently...
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: CWHumphrey on August 09, 2009, 09:08:25 pm
oversampling wrote on Sat, 08 August 2009 04:48

A great thread with many useful information about digital recording  Rolling Eyes

But i simply don't understand why would somebody use analog meters. Why not just using digital ones and set them up properly?


I use digital meters all the time.  However, most digital meters are peak reading devices and I feel I get more out of RMS meters.  While, some digital meters read RMS, I started out with mechanical VU's.  Also, VU meters read differently depending on source material (eg. bass vs. hi hat).  In the end, it's whatever gets you over the finish line.

Cheers,  
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Bob Olhsson on August 11, 2009, 02:03:37 pm
The radio folks figured this out in the late 1930s. The combination of BOTH an average meter and a peak light is mighty hard to beat.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: tom eaton on August 16, 2009, 07:16:02 pm
Except by the Dorrough meters, which display moving peak AND average levels simultaneously, giving you information not only about when you're peaking but also the changing dynamic range of your program.  A VU meter won't tell you how far you are from peaking, and how that relates to your average level.  

I do love VU meters, though.  I think the Dorroughs are also really useful.

tom
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: KB_S1 on October 15, 2009, 07:17:30 am
I recently attended a seminar type event hosted by Prism Sound in Edinburgh.
The company's founder Graham Boswell delivered a presentation about digital conversion that I found very interesting. There was also a demonstration of dither and noise shaping with a truncated sine wave that surprised me quite a bit.

Most of what he discussed was very much supportive of what is in this thread. The number of 'bits' you use is not of great importance.
There was follow up items from various people including Tony Platt who discussed an ITB vs Neve 8078 mix. He was also advocating the low levels at every stage in Pro Tools mantra.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Geoff Emerick de Fake on December 26, 2009, 09:29:22 am
KB_S1 wrote on Thu, 15 October 2009 06:17

I recently attended a seminar type event hosted by Prism Sound in Edinburgh.
Most of what he discussed was very much supportive of what is in this thread. The number of 'bits' you use is not of great importance.


What does it mean "of great importance"?
Does it mean 8 bit is as good as anything or that it doesn't matter as long as there are at least 16 significant bits?
It's hard for me to believe that Prism sound could dismiss the importance of operational resolution. An abstract of this communication would be helpful.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: KB_S1 on December 26, 2009, 12:06:17 pm
Geoff Emerick de Fake wrote on Sat, 26 December 2009 14:29

KB_S1 wrote on Thu, 15 October 2009 06:17

I recently attended a seminar type event hosted by Prism Sound in Edinburgh.
Most of what he discussed was very much supportive of what is in this thread. The number of 'bits' you use is not of great importance.


What does it mean "of great importance"?
Does it mean 8 bit is as good as anything or that it doesn't matter as long as there are at least 16 significant bits?
It's hard for me to believe that Prism sound could dismiss the importance of operational resolution. An abstract of this communication would be helpful.



The discussion at that stage was around the importance of 24 bit resolution and recording at levels to use every last drop of that information.
The point I think he was making was that very few convertors are truly 24bit and that there is a lot more to capturing a good signal than simply using every last piece of mathematical information.
The overall design of the convertor and the signal you put into it is of much greater importance. There was a theme throughout the evening of observing the good old fashioned 0VU (+4dbm) signal values.

It was a long evening and much was covered, I cannot remember verbatim what was said though. I am sure he would be open to communication on the subject however.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: cennay on July 09, 2010, 06:04:35 pm

oh well, just one little question. i might sound dumb, but what do i know, i am a musician. i like to record myself. i was aware of the fact that tracking at low volume was better. As a musician, all i do is put a mic somewhere, see if it sounds good, record it without any compression directly to daw. the rest is made by a sound guy and a mastering guy.

Ok, i track a low volume. now, in my daw, should i keep it at that volume and put the speakers louder, and give everything to the sound guy at that low volume, or can i rise the level of that track in the daw directly. i know it might sound stupid, but what do i know?

thanks everyone.

Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: tom eaton on July 09, 2010, 11:05:49 pm
If you have a sound guy you like to work with, don't touch the files after you record them.  You don't want to do something not un-do-able.  I've seen people record 24 bit files at home and then send me 16 bit consolidated files to mix from.  Sometimes it's not clear what a particular DAW is doing as it exports files.

Besides, you really don't know whether the next person will increase or decrease (or not touch) the level of the track you record (when determining how it fits in the mix), so you're better off just leaving things untouched.

tom
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Ashermusic on August 08, 2010, 09:37:29 pm
I just had a "discussion" with a friend:)

I pointed out  to  him that virtually  every good  engineer I know recommends recording 24 bit at lower levels, i.e -12-018 dBs, for a number of reasons.

He says that  while he agrees that there is no loss when doing so he frequently records at hotter levels because if  you record it low, there  is only so much you can raise the playback level to i.e. send it out to a compressor and  really smack it without adding plugins, which change the math. So he says, as long as you understand gain structure fully, as he does, and depending on what you know you  want to do with it, it may be, and frequently is for him, a better idea  to record  it at -3 dBs rather than the  -6-18 range that  almost everyone else recommends.

It is not passing my smell test but he says it is because I do not really understand gain structure. I thought I did Smile

Whaddya think?
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: MoreSpaceEcho on August 09, 2010, 01:08:32 am
not buying it.

if you have something really low in level it's easy to just gain it up in the computer or somewhere in your analog realm.

tracking everything to -3 just makes no sense to me, you're going to have to turn everything down 10db just to be able to play back a tracking mix without clipping.

low levels+good monitoring+Cardinal Points
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: jetbase on August 09, 2010, 01:34:02 am
Ashermusic wrote on Mon, 09 August 2010 11:37

I just had a "discussion" with a friend:)

I pointed out  to  him that virtually  every good  engineer I know recommends recording 24 bit at lower levels, i.e -12-018 dBs, for a number of reasons.

He says that  while he agrees that there is no loss when doing so he frequently records at hotter levels because if  you record it low, there  is only so much you can raise the playback level to i.e. send it out to a compressor and  really smack it without adding plugins, which change the math. So he says, as long as you understand gain structure fully, as he does, and depending on what you know you  want to do with it, it may be, and frequently is for him, a better idea  to record  it at -3 dBs rather than the  -6-18 range that  almost everyone else recommends.

It is not passing my smell test but he says it is because I do not really understand gain structure. I thought I did Smile

Whaddya think?


Did he explain what it is about gain structure he thinks that you don't understand? Is there anything different from the usual multitrack recording/mixing that he is doing that may make recording at hotter levels a better idea?
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Geoff Emerick de Fake on August 09, 2010, 06:46:37 am
Ashermusic wrote on Sun, 08 August 2010 20:37

  depending on what you know you  want to do with it, it may be, and frequently is for him, a better idea  to record  it at -3 dBs rather than the  -6-18 range that  almost everyone else recommends.
-6 on VU meters may be pretty close to -3 on peak-meters, depending on the source.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: tom eaton on August 09, 2010, 10:02:58 pm
Geoff Emerick de Fake wrote on Mon, 09 August 2010 06:46

Ashermusic wrote on Sun, 08 August 2010 20:37

  depending on what you know you  want to do with it, it may be, and frequently is for him, a better idea  to record  it at -3 dBs rather than the  -6-18 range that  almost everyone else recommends.
-6 on VU meters may be pretty close to -3 on peak-meters, depending on the source.



I believe he's talking about peaking at -3dBFS.

Let's discuss.  If you run your converter at +24dBm = 0dBFS, which is -20dBFS = 0VU = +4dBm, and you like to peak around -3dBFS, that means an analog level peak of +21.  That's pretty hot.  Would easily overload some of my compressors (Drawmer 1968 clips at +20).  If you have a particular track that you want to hit a particular compressor that hot, go for it... that's the spirit of "whatever works."  But as a general practice, I think it's a bad idea.

If you run your converters -16dBFS=0VU... well, then you're talking about a -3dBFS peak of +17 in the analog world.  Certainly generally usable.  Unlikely you'd clip any real piece of analog gear there.

So sure, if he knows that he wants to go d/a to a particular piece of gear kind of hot, why not?  The less manipulation between the a/d and the d/a the better as far as I'm concerned.

tom
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Ashermusic on August 10, 2010, 10:59:38 am
Well this  whole episode  has shown me  that I have a lot to learn still. The issue is apparently  not  as black and  white as I believed.

I reached out to some  engineers I know who have done some major work and while some agreed that lower levels on the way in are a better  choice most said "it depends."  Here are  some excerpts from their responses:

"In practice, I tend to record transient-rich material as hot as I can since but am careful to not use any peak limiters 'to tape' unless I'm very sure what they are doing.  I don't get overly concerned if I see some overs in the drum tracks.  On the other hand I am more careful with things like vocals and other instruments since by the time you are seeing overs for those types of instruments you are likely to be getting distortion also.  And more importantly, not good distortion.  That is not to say that I purposefully record them at a low level although I know people that do and they swear it makes a big difference.  I just tend to prefer the sound of a mic pre working a little harder which usually means I'm hitting the A/D converter with plenty of level.  "

"Certain converters, ESPECIALLY older ones, such as the Digidesign 888|16 and 888|24, as well as consumer grade ones, which do in fact distort BEFORE the red L.E.D. indicator lights up. This is because they ANALOGUE section of the converters were subpar, and you could actualy hear and measure the distortion. SO tkeeping the signal well below that -3dB was a safe thing to do. I would do it IF I was using older digital equipment. BUT the new generation (Pro Tools HD, Apogee Symphony, Rosetta, Motu mk3s, etc.) do NOT have that issue. They have figured out how to not distort their analogue section before the digital one distorts. So now, if using a newer converter, you can in fact record up to -0.5 dBFS if you like, without that analogue distortion ocurring anymore."

"In my opinion, there is nothing wrong about hitting the converters on the way IN as high up as -3dB. This is still conservative enough to be useable, since no distortion will occur. Yoiu should however do a simple input test and measure where YOUR particular hardware distorts. Does it distort BEFORE the red LED? at the same time as the red LED? If I were you, when you have time, measure that, and label it right on your converter, for easy reference always."
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: KB_S1 on August 10, 2010, 11:49:18 am
A big part of the issue (to me) is what happens to the signal levels once they are in the DAW.
Forget the issue of convertors altogether for now.

If you have 40 channels of audio: all at -0.5dbfs: there will be mix bus issues.
Also consider any plug-ins that are to be used (if you use them).

If a process you want to use involves boosting a signal, you will first need to attenuate the signal, then process it.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Geoff Emerick de Fake on August 10, 2010, 02:38:22 pm
tom eaton wrote on Mon, 09 August 2010 21:02

Geoff Emerick de Fake wrote on Mon, 09 August 2010 06:46

Ashermusic wrote on Sun, 08 August 2010 20:37

  depending on what you know you  want to do with it, it may be, and frequently is for him, a better idea  to record  it at -3 dBs rather than the  -6-18 range that  almost everyone else recommends.
-6 on VU meters may be pretty close to -3 on peak-meters, depending on the source.



I believe he's talking about peaking at -3dBFS.

Let's discuss.  If you run your converter at +24dBm = 0dBFS, which is -20dBFS = 0VU = +4dBm, and you like to peak around -3dBFS, that means an analog level peak of +21.  That's pretty hot.  Would easily overload some of my compressors (Drawmer 1968 clips at +20).  If you have a particular track that you want to hit a particular compressor that hot, go for it... that's the spirit of "whatever works."  But as a general practice, I think it's a bad idea.

If you run your converters -16dBFS=0VU... well, then you're talking about a -3dBFS peak of +17 in the analog world.  Certainly generally usable.  Unlikely you'd clip any real piece of analog gear there.

That's what happens if you use VU meters on signal such as claves, which have 20dB+ crest factor. If you want to have the meters showing just a little something (let's say -10VU), the average level is -6dBu, but the peak level is +14dBu. If your D/A is calibrated at 0dBfs=+18dBu, your peaks will be at -4dBfs, and actually they maybe just 6dB below hard clipping in the analog domain.
Nobody ever mentioned tracking claves at 6dB below clipping being malpractice, but tracking them at -4dBfs is considered anathem.
The essence of my concern is that many people consider the last 12dB of headroom in a digital system to be a forbidden zone, but they accept without a second thought running their analog gear in the last 6dB of headroom.
In fact, I believe they have figured out tracking at lower level is beneficial, but they attribute this to some flaw of the digital domain, when in fact it is mainly an analog concern.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Geoff Emerick de Fake on August 10, 2010, 02:51:22 pm
KB_S1 wrote on Tue, 10 August 2010 10:49

A big part of the issue (to me) is what happens to the signal levels once they are in the DAW.
Forget the issue of convertors altogether for now.

If you have 40 channels of audio: all at -0.5dbfs: there will be mix bus issues.
No. There may be issues, but the culprit is not overloading the mix engine, whether PT's 48bit fixed, where each signal is attenuated by 54dB before reaching the MCU, or 390dB in any 32bit float (needless to say this is done without loss of resolution).
You could write that differently and say that PT's internal maximum operating level is +54dBfs and Samplitude/Logic/Reaper is +390dBfs.
Typically, a signal at -0.1dBfs, with 20dB of boost and 10dB gain-make-up and fader at +10 will still be far from digital clipping.
Quote:


Also consider any plug-ins that are to be used (if you use them).

If a process you want to use involves boosting a signal, you will first need to attenuate the signal, then process it.

That's what most plug-ins do; only a restricted number of maverick plug-ins still exhibit problems of this sort.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: tom eaton on August 10, 2010, 03:16:57 pm
Hey Jean Luc-

A page or two ago on this very thread you'll find me suggesting folks use the Dorrough meters for this very reason.  Not only can you see average and peak levels simultaneously, you can look at the dynamic range of your signal (and with the digital meter you can see your absolute headroom as well!).  Great for tracking, mixing, mastering...

I was not referring to a VU meter (which is not interested in peaks anyway) in this last post, but rather to a calibration standard when interfacing with the analog world.

Percussion might be the exception to every "level practice" rule, as no "average" signal exists at all.  Strike one clave with the other, the signal peaks and is gone.  In those cases of course it is all about peak management!

tom
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Geoff Emerick de Fake on August 10, 2010, 04:33:38 pm
tom eaton wrote on Tue, 10 August 2010 14:16

Hey Jean Luc-

A page or two ago on this very thread you'll find me suggesting folks use the Dorrough meters for this very reason.  Not only can you see average and peak levels simultaneously, you can look at the dynamic range of your signal (and with the digital meter you can see your absolute headroom as well!).  Great for tracking, mixing, mastering...

I must admit I'm somewhat spoilt by Samplitude, which offers me a vitual Dorrough meter while tracking.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Bob Olhsson on August 18, 2010, 02:59:05 pm
Amazing how people listen with their eyes today!

If you break out an audio oscillator, feed it into all of your own A to D inputs at once so as to place maximum stress on the converter power supply and then sweep different frequencies and levels, you can hear which converters have enough headroom and which don't. An IM distortion test is even more revealing.

If you haven't actually done this, aka your homework, don't make assumptions about level capabilities.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: thedoc on August 20, 2010, 07:19:29 pm
And you can de-rattle your room at the same time.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: organica on August 21, 2010, 01:08:19 am
Bob Olhsson wrote on Wed, 18 August 2010 14:59

Amazing how people listen with their eyes today!



label guy today told me;
"The mix is so much better now.
Bring down all vibes, harp and mellotron being used as accompaniment, in the mix, by about 5%."
When this adjustment is made , it'll be a  calculated numeric measurement and afterward if it doesn't sound bad, that's what they'll get.

<If you break out an audio oscillator, feed it into all of your own A to D inputs at once so as to place maximum stress on the converter power supply and then sweep different frequencies and levels, you can hear which converters have enough headroom and which don't. An IM distortion test is even more revealing.>
Must do this.


Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: phantom309 on August 21, 2010, 03:36:45 pm
organica recording wrote on Fri, 20 August 2010 23:08





<If you break out an audio oscillator, feed it into all of your own A to D inputs at once so as to place maximum stress on the converter power supply and then sweep different frequencies and levels, you can hear which converters have enough headroom and which don't. An IM distortion test is even more revealing.>
Must do this.





That's a damned good idea. I'm going to try this with the 3 I/Os we have in here.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: tom eaton on August 22, 2010, 09:00:41 am
Bob Olhsson wrote on Wed, 18 August 2010 14:59

Amazing how people listen with their eyes today!


Yes, of course those of use who use Dorroughs are not listening while working.  I actually have a practice of activating a black screen saver on the computer monitors during playback so that the ears are the primary stimulus.  

When did metering and listening become mutually exclusive?  And don't you think a discussion of metering might be appropriate in a thread about levels?

tom
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Geoff Emerick de Fake on August 22, 2010, 06:02:28 pm
Bob Olhsson wrote on Wed, 18 August 2010 13:59

Amazing how people listen with their eyes today!

If you break out an audio oscillator, feed it into all of your own A to D inputs at once so as to place maximum stress on the converter power supply and then sweep different frequencies and levels, you can hear which converters have enough headroom and which don't. An IM distortion test is even more revealing.

And if you don't look at the meters while you're doing it, this will be perfect wasted time. One has to see with his ears some time.
Title: Re: Digital tracking with low levels = better...is this new???
Post by: Devil's Rope Studios on September 14, 2010, 05:53:51 pm
Digital recording has come a long ways - I first noticed headroom in my digital recordings being quite variable while recording vocals about 2 years ago. I definitely back the heat down on the mics now. (Unless I'm going for specific coloration)