Setting levels for hardware synth recording

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ceda
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Setting levels for hardware synth recording

Post by ceda » Tue Mar 17, 2020 8:41 pm

greetings, relatively new to the hardware game, I've got a hardware synth and thats running through an audio interface into ableton. that means there are 3 different level meters that i have to set before it reaches my ears

the volume knob on the synth -- > the audio interface gain --> ableton channel level > my ears

to a n00b like me thats loads of error room

all the time i've been using it ive just kinda done it randomly, if it kinda sounds alright then thats the settings ive been using, but im wondering if theres any sort of good practice to get into regarding levelling? how it affects the mix etc? tbh i think my ears are broken because i sometimes think my mixes sound okay but then i listen to some autechre or iglooghost and everything is just so perfect

help a brother out plz, i love you all

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shroom81
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Re: Setting levels for hardware synth recording

Post by shroom81 » Wed Mar 18, 2020 5:57 am

There most certainly is, -18 dbfs is generally thought as optimum for digital audio.
audio-metering (2).jpg
I always use Sonimus Satson to make sure the audio I'm recording is at the right level.
https://sonimus.com/products/satson

Also your ears are not broken they need be trained, A/B vs released tunes is good practice and the difference your hearing is probably frequencies clashing left and right in your mix making it sound the way it does. Watch out cause your listening environment is messing with what your hearing.
Ear fatique is also a thing, beware.

Google "gain staging" "fletcher munson curve" "room acoustics"
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naturligfunktion
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Re: Setting levels for hardware synth recording

Post by naturligfunktion » Wed Mar 18, 2020 7:13 am

Shroom81's post is great so follow those instructions. Be patient with your ears, make a good listnening environment and learn how your speakers sound. This take a long time, but the good news is that you are not in a hurry :)

Don't set levels randomly. Rather, make a habit of always, always setting your levels right. Then hit record. If you do this every time you jam, it will become second nature to always record your jams, in a good way that sounds great. Trust me, it is a real pain to record a great spur of the moment jam only to realize that the levels are bad.

Set the level good before ableton, practice, record and have fun!

:sb:

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th0mas
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Re: Setting levels for hardware synth recording

Post by th0mas » Wed Mar 18, 2020 12:57 pm

What you're describing is called gain staging. By knowing what it's called you can research it more easily. Gain staging can also apply to the levels between FX in the DAW as well as the change in volumes over the course of a piece of music. It's great to learn more about this early as it's very fundamental.

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ceda
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Re: Setting levels for hardware synth recording

Post by ceda » Wed Mar 18, 2020 3:55 pm

shroom81 wrote:
Wed Mar 18, 2020 5:57 am
There most certainly is, -18 dbfs is generally thought as optimum for digital audio.
Google "gain staging" "fletcher munson curve" "room acoustics"
sick, i love getting told specifics to google. honestly helps loads (not sarcasm btw, legit)
th0mas wrote:
Wed Mar 18, 2020 12:57 pm
What you're describing is called gain staging. By knowing what it's called you can research it more easily. Gain staging can also apply to the levels between FX in the DAW as well as the change in volumes over the course of a piece of music. It's great to learn more about this early as it's very fundamental.
this is dead good too. so essentially with a signal chain is it good practice to reduce the amount of levelling that takes place in the signal chain after the sound source? say if i get a good level on my hardware synth with the gains on audio interface/ableton essentially untouched is that better than turning the hardware synth down and changing the other levels?

i will research this btw dw i just like talking to humans

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IEC
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Re: Setting levels for hardware synth recording

Post by IEC » Thu Mar 19, 2020 2:40 am

if the synth is too loud and its turned down later in ableton, you might get some nasty clipping going on in the synth stage. or if the synths too quiet and you turn up the gain heaps in ableton the noise floor goes up too and you might get a nasty PSSSSHFFFT allover your recording. thats probably over simplified so keep reading other stuff too ....

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shroom81
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Re: Setting levels for hardware synth recording

Post by shroom81 » Thu Mar 19, 2020 8:00 am

ceda wrote:
Wed Mar 18, 2020 3:55 pm
sick, i love getting told specifics to google. honestly helps loads (not sarcasm btw, legit)
Thank goodnees, much better than me trying to remember it all and giving you wrong information :sb:
You are right about keeping the levels down between plugins too as proccessing usually adds gain.

Try always aim for -18 dbfs for when recording too otherwise your clipping the converters on your soundcard and remember to always to record at least in 24 bit.

Great advice from naturligfunktion too, keeping the level the same makes such a difference when mixing.

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Re: Setting levels for hardware synth recording

Post by sillyquestions? » Thu Mar 19, 2020 10:10 am

Just having a read through this, I guess my question that’s been going on in my head kind of relates. Not trying too take over the thread, rather than starting a new one I reckon it fits in this, but apologies if that’s not how it works.

I’m spending a lot of time at the moment trying to get my mixes as loud as a can, translate best as I can and have a lot of good space etc. ( I guess we all are lol ).

My music is pretty bass heavy, about as heavy as your average club track just to give an example.

I do my mixing as I go on, never at the end so it’s very important too me to get things right at the first go. The thing i seem to be struggling with the most is recording in my final mix to the DAW and things generally don’t go above -12dB in ableton. This confuses me a lot since I’m sure when you send it off too be mastered they specify that it peaks between -6 to -3dB. So then I try too boost it to that level but then things don’t translate and I can never turn it up in the car without there being too much bass. So back too the drawing board I go and try too cut some low end too help it but then it just drops in level.

Just wondering if there’s any tips on how achieve what I’m after.. am I thinking about it all wrong? Maybe that much headroom is a good thing for a mastering engineer? Do I really need too boost it or am I better keeping it at the level where it translates best? Is it actually okay too send it away to be mastered at that level? I just don’t understand 😂

Cheers!

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naturligfunktion
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Re: Setting levels for hardware synth recording

Post by naturligfunktion » Thu Mar 19, 2020 11:24 am

Quick reply to sillyquestions (many know this way better than me so take it with a grain of salt).

Don't worry to much about that. Headroom is good if you want to master your music. When a song is mastered it will also get to louder. No need to boost everything. Just make sure it is recorded good and that it sounds nice.

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Re: Setting levels for hardware synth recording

Post by shroom81 » Thu Mar 19, 2020 12:26 pm

sillyquestions? wrote:
Thu Mar 19, 2020 10:10 am
I can never turn it up in the car without there being too much bass. So back too the drawing board I go and try too cut some low end too help it but then it just drops in level.
That there is a tell tale sign of the bass being mix too loud in your track, you probably need to cut some of the lowest frequencies.

That's best done in the mix on track basis rather than the entire stereo mix. Try A/B vs similar released tracks to yours while mixing but be sure to listen at the same loudness level.

Can be really helpful in telling how loud each instrument should be in your mix.

And -12 db master is fine, mastering engineers are just insistent on that-6 db cause they're sick af of receiving clipped masters :doh:

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Re: Setting levels for hardware synth recording

Post by th0mas » Thu Mar 19, 2020 12:36 pm

Sillyquestions I have a few suggestions for you:

- buy Izotope Ozone Elements. It goes on sale for $1 regularly. You put it on your master bus, and it can suggest master EQ settings based by comparing what it hears VS some built in heuristics. Now here's the thing, don't just let it apply extreme EQ settings and move on.. use those EQ suggestions as mix suggestions and go back and fix the mix until elements is suggesting very minor EQ changes.

- Try low passing your track at 100hz, and low passing a reference track at 100hz, and then compare what you hear.

- Try setting your levels with your mix very, very quiet. Like so quiet you can justtt hear the song. If you take a well mixed song and play it quietly it usually sounds pretty well balanced. Try it on one of your songs.

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Re: Setting levels for hardware synth recording

Post by sillyquestions? » Thu Mar 19, 2020 3:51 pm

naturligfunktion wrote:
Thu Mar 19, 2020 11:24 am
Quick reply to sillyquestions (many know this way better than me so take it with a grain of salt).

Don't worry to much about that. Headroom is good if you want to master your music. When a song is mastered it will also get to louder. No need to boost everything. Just make sure it is recorded good and that it sounds nice.
Cheers for getting back to me. Good too know about not having too boost. :)

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Re: Setting levels for hardware synth recording

Post by sillyquestions? » Thu Mar 19, 2020 4:00 pm

shroom81 wrote:
Thu Mar 19, 2020 12:26 pm
sillyquestions? wrote:
Thu Mar 19, 2020 10:10 am
I can never turn it up in the car without there being too much bass. So back too the drawing board I go and try too cut some low end too help it but then it just drops in level.
That there is a tell tale sign of the bass being mix too loud in your track, you probably need to cut some of the lowest frequencies.

That's best done in the mix on track basis rather than the entire stereo mix. Try A/B vs similar released tracks to yours while mixing but be sure to listen at the same loudness level.

Can be really helpful in telling how loud each instrument should be in your mix.

And -12 db master is fine, mastering engineers are just insistent on that-6 db cause they're sick af of receiving clipped masters :doh:
Yeah, it’s more than likely the case. It’s only ever too much if I boost it to -6db. Otherwise it can go pretty loud in a car without destroying the speakers. Saying that, it can only go louder due too it being quiet in the first place no?
I’ve referenced with a few of my favourite tracks in my untreated room and in the car. I’m guessing these tracks are a lot louder in the first place but I can get them too the same level on both speakers without any destruction.

I mean, only a few months ago I couldn’t even take my mixes into the car because i knew it was just destruction waiting too happen, but now I’m pretty confident I know what will translate.

Certainly good too know I don’t have too boost my audio when in to ableton. Still curious as too how they get it louder without compromising too much with the low end.

Anyway cheers, means a great deal.

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Re: Setting levels for hardware synth recording

Post by sillyquestions? » Thu Mar 19, 2020 4:04 pm

th0mas wrote:
Thu Mar 19, 2020 12:36 pm
Sillyquestions I have a few suggestions for you:

- buy Izotope Ozone Elements. It goes on sale for $1 regularly. You put it on your master bus, and it can suggest master EQ settings based by comparing what it hears VS some built in heuristics. Now here's the thing, don't just let it apply extreme EQ settings and move on.. use those EQ suggestions as mix suggestions and go back and fix the mix until elements is suggesting very minor EQ changes.

- Try low passing your track at 100hz, and low passing a reference track at 100hz, and then compare what you hear.

- Try setting your levels with your mix very, very quiet. Like so quiet you can justtt hear the song. If you take a well mixed song and play it quietly it usually sounds pretty well balanced. Try it on one of your songs.

Hey Thomas, cheers for the suggestions. Think they’re all helpful.

I was actually lucky enough to be gifted ozone and neutron advanced some time last year. I mean it’s not elements but I guess it’s all similar.

I often use the tonal balance control with a reference track similar style too mine and I’m always pretty close to where it says I should be. So I guess that’s a positive :)

I think tomorrow I’ll try the 100hz cut, sounds like useful info. Also, I’ve read a lot that mixing quiet is better (also for your ears) it’s somethibg I need too get used too. I live near no-body so in the habit of playing loud....

Cheers

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Re: Setting levels for hardware synth recording

Post by Graham Hinton » Sun Mar 22, 2020 12:11 pm

shroom81 wrote:
Thu Mar 19, 2020 8:00 am
Try always aim for -18 dbfs for when recording too otherwise your clipping the converters on your soundcard and remember to always to record at least in 24 bit.
Converters clip at 0dBFS by definition.

Your advice should be qualified by two factors: what sort of material you are actually recording and the maximum input level in dBu.

If you are recording with a microphone you need a large headroom to allow for unanticipated increases in level, if you are recording electronic instruments the maximum output is fixed so excessive headroom is a waste of bits and snr. Some meters (e.g. a VU, real or emulated) give an average level and take time to respond and so will miss peaks and read lower. A digital meter showing dBFS is more likely to be displaying peak readings, some have selectable ballistics.

-18dBFS is an artificial standard for media exchange. There are others ranging from -10dBFS to -20dBFS. For recording you can decide whatever level you need. Many recordings are ruined by thinking that 24 bits takes care of not getting the level right. If you have to raise it by 20dB or more afterwards the analogue noise comes up too.

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Re: Setting levels for hardware synth recording

Post by kinkujin » Sat Mar 28, 2020 8:04 am

Fascinating discussion. A lot of questions that I’ve thought of but never asked here.

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Re: Setting levels for hardware synth recording

Post by 3hands » Mon Mar 30, 2020 6:16 pm

Something I do, is to throw a limiter and then a multi and compressor on the master. For me, I want to cap my mix at -6 dB which gives you enough space to master the track. Don’t mix with them on though!

I’m also recording through a limiter/expander and a console, so I have a good line gain going in to my daw. I’m not in front of my DAW at the moment, but will give you some numbers tomorrow, to get you off and rolling!

Lots of amazing advice here!
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