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Why on earth is anyone still recording with hot levels?!?
#3033864 03/17/20 10:14 PM
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I recently started mixing a project for a great producer, and the recording is well done, but the 24bit tracks are all full of really hot levels clipping or just on the verge of clipping.

I can not for the life of me understand why anyone would record voices or instruments at 24bit bit with hot levels. I can understand it in a 16bit environment, but I see no upside to it in higher bit depth.

I have never heard a good reason to do it, but I am open to ideas if anyone has any reason why one would ever want to do that.


Ronan Chris Murphy - Producer-Engineer
(King Crimson, GWAR, Ulver, Mafia III)
ronanchrismurphy.com
Re: Why on earth is anyone still recording with hot levels?!?
Ronan C Murphy #3033868 03/17/20 10:38 PM
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I am here to learn, MPN has been a great resource for me.

As I understand it, the meters in my DAW do not represent the true output of the transients, things like the intial strike of a snare drum or playing bass with a pick.
So I've learned to keep my highest meter peak at or below -6db. That is my "zero point" currently.

Maybe that is still too high? I'd love to know more.

It may be that not everybody understands that and pushes their meters as close to zero as they can - and then the transients go beyond that and distort.
Sadly, digital distortion is not pretty like transformer saturation distortion.


There is never enough time to be in a hurry...
Re: Why on earth is anyone still recording with hot levels?!?
Ronan C Murphy #3033910 03/18/20 05:47 AM
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I don't know either. I know that if I am recording a band's worth of tracks, nothing needs to be louder than -15 or -18dbFS to make the mix work. If I am working with dozens of tracks of orchestral samples, this is definitely true! I'm turning things down! The more sounds you add, the louder it gets. Apply some compression and it can be as loud as you want it. Digital gain is pretty much free from an artifact perspective. If it needs to be louder, it isn't hard. When mixing live I'll let the drum transients hit -12dbFS because it helps the drummer have more level in the monitor mix.

In my studio, I have it calibrated to -20dbFS is 78dB SPL at the mix position. Uncompressed mixes sound amazing - things like high-end acoustic recordings of pianos, acoustic guitars, etc. It is easy to tell how much compression is put on tracks, because I have to adjust the monitor gain. I got the idea from mastering engineer Bob Katz and have worked this way for years.

I suspect those tracks came from someone trying to get "color" out of their mic preamps, but didn't have the ability to attenuate the signal back down. (A great argument for an inline console - those small fader paths solve this problem neatly). Most digital converters top out at +18dBu or maybe +24dBu. Both classic and modern high end preamps from Neve and others put out +28dBu. If you want to wind them up to get the "color", then the signal will be louder than most audio interfaces. Unless there is attenuation handy, I could see this being the reason. But I'm just speculating.

1 member likes this: KuruPrionz
Re: Why on earth is anyone still recording with hot levels?!?
Nathanael_I #3033914 03/18/20 06:12 AM
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Great post Nathanael, I appreciate the detail.
I'll try taking the input levels down. I've certainly noticed the Volume build up when I was doing remixes to improve my skills. Somehow I didn't make the connection with input levels but it's a mixed bag on Metapop as to what you will download and I didn't record any of it. Hot tracks beyond any doubt!

Your third paragraph is interesting to me. My interface is Presonus Quantum and the input jacks are wired so XLR is mic in, TRS is line in. Two inputs on front have DI switches for TS.
I have one preamp, a Focusrite ISA One. I ended up running it XLR to the mic pre in the Quantum. That is my attenuator although I never push the Focusrite hard. I am more interested in keeping the noise at a minimum.
I do like the character, very different sound than just the Q preamps.

I am grateful to have a forum where I can come and learn exactly the things I am now interested in doing. Cheers, Kuru


There is never enough time to be in a hurry...

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