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Old 05-08-2011, 03:15 AM
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Michael Watts Michael Watts is offline
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Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: London UK
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Originally Posted by Fran Guidry View Post
Experience and an understanding of recording levels. Of all the things I needed to learn the hardest but most useful was convincing myself that the recorded signal level _should_ be ridiculously low.

In analog recording, the standard level was called "0 dBVU" and every part of the chain was optimized to work with that level. It was possible to go over that level with transients, so "hitting the red" on the meter was a good thing, you were optimizing signal to noise without adding substantial distortion.

Digital recording is scaled to "0 dBFS" and FS means Full Scale or all bits on. This is an absolute limit in digital recording and it's roughly 18 dB hotter than the old 0 dBVU. Trying to hit 0 dBFS is equivalent to pinning the old VU meter deep in the red and keeping it there, and the result is not good. The analog electronics in the chain are being driven beyond their sweet spot, and any overs result in nasty digital clipping.

A much more accurate and pleasant recording results from aiming for an average (RMS) level down around -18 dBFS, with peaks never exceeding -6 dBFS or so. This will sound very quiet compared to a commercial recording, but that's fine. The overall level is set in the mastering stage, just before the final output is produced.

Yes indeed!
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