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What level do you aim for when recording hardware into daw?
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Author What level do you aim for when recording hardware into daw?
rekko
Hello everybody. As the title says, what sort of volume level do you aim for when recording hardware into your DAW?
matthewjuran
-10dB to have distance between the signal and noise but to leave room so digital clipping is comfortably avoided. The ideal level probably depends on the audio interface and DAW though and maybe I'll have a different general answer once more experience is gained.
electrik noize
Line Level (0dBVU) is calibrated to -18dBFS for me. So I record in at -18dBFS as that is what range my preamps and line level audio gear work best. Plenty of signal, no noise, nice and clean.
Hermetech Mastering
All calibrated here, from converters to monitors to SPL level in the room. I usually aim for peaks around -14 dBFS on tonal instruments, bit higher for percussive stuff.
rekko
electrik noize wrote:
Line Level (0dBVU) is calibrated to -18dBFS for me. So I record in at -18dBFS as that is what range my preamps and line level audio gear work best. Plenty of signal, no noise, nice and clean.


Many thanks for the reply. Would you be able to briefly explain what it means when you say 'line level is calibrated...'?
slumberjack
due to older ad convertors, i have to record as hot as possible.
proteus-ix
electrik noize wrote:
Line Level (0dBVU) is calibrated to -18dBFS for me. So I record in at -18dBFS as that is what range my preamps and line level audio gear work best. Plenty of signal, no noise, nice and clean.


References for how to calibrate such?
Jean Luc Cougar
I have older converters that max out at 48k so I record with peaks around -8 dB
PompeiiRuler
record at -12db, mix to -6db, master to -0.3db ceiling. just doing what someone else told me years ago lol
commodorejohn
I just record it as loud as I can get it without actually hitting peak at any point on the track, though admittedly this only works for sequenced multi-tracking, which is all I do.
Koekepan
In a perfect world, you'd record everything so that it peaks at 0dB, and never clips, so that you get maximum signal-to-noise ratio, before then mixing things so that your mix peaks at 0dB without ever clipping, and you'd do it all in 32bits, 384kHz.

In reality, try to record as hot as reasonably feasible, with as many bits and as high a sample rate as feasible, and mix things down as needed.

Honestly, you can probably get away with recording in 16/44.1 peaking at -18dB, and some dude listening to a 128kbps mp3 on his Beats headphones will never know the difference.
Hermetech Mastering
There's absolutely no need to try and record everything as loud as you can before clipping, this will in fact sound worse. That hasn't been the case since analogue recording and 16 bit digital went the way of the dinosaur. If you are recording at 24 bit you will achieve much cleaner results with the peaks and meat of the sound well away from digital zero. At 24 bit you can record with peaks at -24dBFS or even lower, and still have way better S/N ratio than analogue or 16 bit recording.

The reason it sounds better to record lower is that many DACs and ADCs don't have a lot of analogue headroom, and can sound pinched and crappy as they approach zero. Have heard it myself, especially with consumer/prosumer level stuff.

You have over 120dB of dynamic range and insanely good S/N ratios with digital recording these days, why not use them?
Hermetech Mastering
Regarding a calibrated recording and monitoring chain, this is the best article I've read so far, and what I used to set up my own studio:

https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/establishing-project-studio-re ference-monitoring-levels
thetwlo
Hermetech Mastering wrote:
There's absolutely no need to try and record everything as loud as you can before clipping, this will in fact sound worse. That hasn't been the case since analogue recording and 16 bit digital went the way of the dinosaur. If you are recording at 24 bit you will achieve much cleaner results with the peaks and meat of the sound well away from digital zero. At 24 bit you can record with peaks at -24dBFS or even lower, and still have way better S/N ratio than analogue or 16 bit recording.

The reason it sounds better to record lower is that many DACs and ADCs don't have a lot of analogue headroom, and can sound pinched and crappy as they approach zero. Have heard it myself, especially with consumer/prosumer level stuff.

You have over 120dB of dynamic range and insanely good S/N ratios with digital recording these days, why not use them?

thumbs up yup.
electrik noize
proteus-ix wrote:
electrik noize wrote:
Line Level (0dBVU) is calibrated to -18dBFS for me. So I record in at -18dBFS as that is what range my preamps and line level audio gear work best. Plenty of signal, no noise, nice and clean.


References for how to calibrate such?


Well I have a UAD original Apollo that came factory calibrated. Most of the UA plugins (besides the tape sims I think) are also cal'd to line level equaling -18dBFS. So very easy to work with.

However, the article Hermetech Mastering linked to is spot on, should you want to do a deep dive into setting up your system.
Koekepan
Hermetech Mastering wrote:
There's absolutely no need to try and record everything as loud as you can before clipping, this will in fact sound worse. That hasn't been the case since analogue recording and 16 bit digital went the way of the dinosaur. If you are recording at 24 bit you will achieve much cleaner results with the peaks and meat of the sound well away from digital zero. At 24 bit you can record with peaks at -24dBFS or even lower, and still have way better S/N ratio than analogue or 16 bit recording.

The reason it sounds better to record lower is that many DACs and ADCs don't have a lot of analogue headroom, and can sound pinched and crappy as they approach zero. Have heard it myself, especially with consumer/prosumer level stuff.

You have over 120dB of dynamic range and insanely good S/N ratios with digital recording these days, why not use them?


In other words: if you buy gear that sounds crappy when you use it within spec, it will sound crappy when you use it within spec.

In a PERFECT WORLD, as referenced above, one wouldn't have the crappy gear in the first place ...
Hermetech Mastering
Koekepan wrote:
In other words: if you buy gear that sounds crappy when you use it within spec, it will sound crappy when you use it within spec.


Not really, just be aware of the issue and do your own tests to confirm or deny it.
ignatius
Jean Luc Cougar wrote:
I have older converters that max out at 48k so I record with peaks around -8 dB


it's the bit depth that matters most when recording. 24bit recording is ample for decent signal level w/low noise floor.

i still record at 24/44 and have no complaints. 96k isn't relevant all the time. sometimes it's worth it to record at high sample rates but typically the difference is negligible.

if you're recording orchestras and solo piano then higher sample rates might be worth it but only just.

clocks in many (not all) converters are still shitty. less so than previously but once you get over 44.1k the clock is just inserting errors.

but do what sounds best to you of course. everyone's set up is different.

and +1 to hermetech's post up there about things sounding crappy due to shitty analogue front end that doesn't handle things well when pushed to zero
Jean Luc Cougar
Thanks for the tip! I do use 24bit, so I guess I am good. Should I lower my input volume?
proteus-ix
Hermetech Mastering wrote:
Regarding a calibrated recording and monitoring chain, this is the best article I've read so far, and what I used to set up my own studio:

https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/establishing-project-studio-re ference-monitoring-levels


Thank you! I shoulda just searched SoS. I actually found a quick and dirty guide in a Presonus monitor manual. Having been doing this for almost 3 years now, I'm still shocked at how much I don't know that wasn't included in manuals for products I bought from supposedly pro audio companies. You'd think they'd want to give people the minimal info needed to get good results with their products...
Futuresound
proteus-ix

I’ve been at this 20+ years, and I still learn stuff pretty much every day.

I think it’s great.

Can’t argue that manuals often leave much to be desired though
Panason
More good stuff here:

https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/gain-staging-your-daw-software
umma gumma
excellent stuff, thx for the links all!
naturligfunktion
Hermetech Mastering wrote:
There's absolutely no need to try and record everything as loud as you can before clipping, this will in fact sound worse. That hasn't been the case since analogue recording and 16 bit digital went the way of the dinosaur. If you are recording at 24 bit you will achieve much cleaner results with the peaks and meat of the sound well away from digital zero. At 24 bit you can record with peaks at -24dBFS or even lower, and still have way better S/N ratio than analogue or 16 bit recording.

The reason it sounds better to record lower is that many DACs and ADCs don't have a lot of analogue headroom, and can sound pinched and crappy as they approach zero. Have heard it myself, especially with consumer/prosumer level stuff.

You have over 120dB of dynamic range and insanely good S/N ratios with digital recording these days, why not use them?


I had no idea, but I'll try this from now! Thanks smile Usually I did record as hot as possible Dead Banana but since I while back I have tried a different approach, and my later music sounds as good as the previous one (if not better).
Hermetech Mastering
Cool. I've heard a lot of people say that when they back off the levels (depends on the source of course, and if you are talking peak or RMS etc., but donlt be scared to have peaks as low as -12dBFS for steady state sources, could be higher for drums) their mixes suddenly sound way more open and clear.

Of course is more pertinent if you are recording acoustic and analogue sources, if you are doing everything ITB there may be less to gain.
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