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Digital Recording Levels: Input Monitoring vs. Record Enabled

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Digital Recording Levels: Input Monitoring vs. Record Enabled

Postby Dolmetscher007 » Sun Apr 05, 2020 4:05 pm

I have never paid attention to any numeric values when it came to setting recording levels in my DAW. I've always just kind of... made sure my interface's clip light wasn't coming on constantly, inspected the waveform visually, and made sure the input meter wasn't going into the red. In a YouTube video I recently watched, some guy briefly mentioned how important it is to properly set your recording levels. I knew it was important to not clip but this guy talked about a specific numeric value one should shoot for when recording digitally. He did not go deeply enough into it for me to really understand it fully, so I watched several other videos on the subject, and the actual number has varied a lot, depending on who was talking about it. But they all said something like... "With analog tape, engineers always wanted to get levels to be around zero, but in the digital domain, you want to keep your recording levels around -12db to -15db."
Knowing this has made a huge improvement in my ability to tame everything while mixing. I used to just be all over the place. But now that I have a numeric value to shoot for, I am having a fair amount of trouble understanding all the places where I can affect the recording level. And there seems to be, in Logic Pro X anyway, some oddities that I was not aware of until now. Can someone please explain to me, when I get the peak value of my recording levels to be around -15db with the Input Monitoring button on, why is it that when I turn on the Record Enabled button, my peak value jumps way up to around -2 to +1? The actual volume in my headphones does not seem to change, just the meter values. What's that all about?
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Re: Digital Recording Levels: Input Monitoring vs. Record Enabled

Postby desmond » Sun Apr 05, 2020 4:18 pm

Dolmetscher007 wrote:Can someone please explain to me, when I get the peak value of my recording levels to be around -15db with the Input Monitoring button on, why is it that when I turn on the Record Enabled button, my peak value jumps way up to around -2 to +1? The actual volume in my headphones does not seem to change, just the meter values. What's that all about?

How are you hearing the signal - ie, are you direct monitoring through the interface, or are you software monitoring via Logic?

Also, don't forget that there is a preference in Logic to let you have a different monitoring level on a channel than the playback level - so for instance, during playback, your guitar fader is about halfway, but while you're recording, you want it louder to properly hear what you are playing, so there is an independent fader level while record-enabled, which you can adjust to taste.
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Re: Digital Recording Levels: Input Monitoring vs. Record Enabled

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Sun Apr 05, 2020 4:19 pm

Dolmetscher007 wrote:I knew it was important to not clip but this guy talked about a specific numeric value one should shoot for when recording digitally. He did not go deeply enough into it for me to really understand it fully, so I watched several other videos on the subject, and the actual number has varied a lot, depending on who was talking about it. But they all said something like... "With analog tape, engineers always wanted to get levels to be around zero, but in the digital domain, you want to keep your recording levels around -12db to -15db."

You'll probably find this article useful to exxplain the concepts and best practices.

https://www.soundonsound.com/techniques/gain-staging-your-daw-software

The problem with 'the numbers' is that they are meaningless unless you use the correct suffices to indentify what the numbers are related to!

In short, professional analogue equipment was designed to operate with a nominal level (0VU on the VU meter) of +4dBu, and the equipment wouldn't clip until around +24dBu. In other words, there was 20dB of headroom available above the nominal 'zero' to cope with loud transients. This arrangement was arrived at over 50+ years of analogue audio evolution and worked extremely well.

Move over to the digital revolution, and someone stupidly decided to calibrate digital meters with zero at the clipping point at the top. Consequently, to work in the same way as analogue systems, with a nice headroom margin, we need to keep the average signal level around -20dBFS on thye digital meter, and keep peaks to no higher than -10dBFS.

Some people prefer to push things a bit harder, which is why you see different numbers floating around, but there really aren't any benefits or need.

Can someone please explain to me, when I get the peak value of my recording levels to be around -15db with the Input Monitoring button on, why is it that when I turn on the Record Enabled button, my peak value jumps way up to around -2 to +1? The actual volume in my headphones does not seem to change, just the meter values. What's that all about?

I suspect you're seeing the direct input signal plus a monitoring signal, being added together. Check the routing and monitoring arrangements in Logic and/or your interface mixer software.
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Re: Digital Recording Levels: Input Monitoring vs. Record Enabled

Postby The Elf » Sun Apr 05, 2020 4:23 pm

I can't help with Logic, but I can say that you're doing the right thing with your recording levels. I say to aim for peaks no higher than -10dBFS.

The other important thing to understand is to preserve these peaks throughout your DAW.

In practise this means that if you add a plug-in that changes the peak level then you should trim down (or up - it happens) the output of that plug-in to get back to the peak level as it was. Do this and you will begin to find your mixes falling into your lap like a playful puppy - and you can bypass any plug-in to find out what it is really doing for your audio.
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Re: Digital Recording Levels: Input Monitoring vs. Record Enabled

Postby Arpangel » Mon Apr 06, 2020 7:22 am

I have a Motu interface, and in the Cuemix mixer, I have to make sure the fader is down on the channel I’m recording on, otherwise I will get an increase in level, as Hugh said, between monitored and direct signals.
You must make sure you’re hearing direct, or, monitored, of the current sound being recorded, not both.
Yes, -12db overall level is fine, but you may want to go even lower, at -18/20db, if the music is excessively dynamic, in these circumstances, it’s better to be recording at something like 24 bit 48k or higher.
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Re: Digital Recording Levels: Input Monitoring vs. Record Enabled

Postby Dolmetscher007 » Tue Apr 07, 2020 12:14 am

Arpangel wrote:I have a Motu interface, and in the Cuemix mixer, I have to make sure the fader is down on the channel I’m recording on, otherwise I will get an increase in level, as Hugh said, between monitored and direct signals.
You must make sure you’re hearing direct, or, monitored, of the current sound being recorded, not both.
Yes, -12db overall level is fine, but you may want to go even lower, at -18/20db, if the music is excessively dynamic, in these circumstances, it’s better to be recording at something like 24 bit 48k or higher.

Yeah... I guess I am seriously behind the times. I have a 1st generation Scarlett 18i8 USB interface, and not only do I never even open the "Scarlett MixControl" app software from Focusrite, when I do open it, the mixer UI loads, and then 3-4 seconds later it crashes and displays the message:
"No Hardware Connected. Please check that your Scarlett is connected and powered."

Now that you have mentioned it though, I guess it makes total sense that the software that came with the USB interface would have some kind of functionality that I might want to look in on. I wonder why it crashes every time I load it. Sucks. My computer is brand new and has killer specs (in my signature). I wonder if my computer is "too new" and this 1st gen Scarlett doesn't play nice with something. I am also using a sill USB 2.0 to USB-C adapter because Apple, in their infinite wisdom decided to only include USB-C ports on all their new computers. What a bunch of knobs.
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Re: Digital Recording Levels: Input Monitoring vs. Record Enabled

Postby Sam Spoons » Tue Apr 07, 2020 12:33 am

Talk to Focusrite, they might have to tell you that your 18i8 is no longer supported but they will give you a proper answer. In my case my Saffire Pro24 needed a newer version of 'Mix Control than the max OS on my £40 G5 Mac could run.

It costs nowt to drop them an email.
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Re: Digital Recording Levels: Input Monitoring vs. Record Enabled

Postby Arpangel » Tue Apr 07, 2020 7:18 am

As Sam says, contact Focusrite, they are one of the most supportive companies out there when it comes to customer service, , they should be able to tell you "what’s up"
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Re: Digital Recording Levels: Input Monitoring vs. Record Enabled

Postby blinddrew » Tue Apr 07, 2020 6:01 pm

I had the same error with my 1st gen 8i6. Latest drivers and latest set install of mix control sorted it.
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