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Correct tool to avoid clipping during "hands off tracking"

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Correct tool to avoid clipping during "hands off tracking"

Postby jellyjim » Mon Apr 26, 2021 7:32 pm

Hello

This might be really obvious but the use case is just making me not think straight. The use case is hitting record on a DAW when jamming where levels (on mutliple tracks) might be enitrely unpredictable, and it doesn't really matter what they are as long as they don't clip.

Just a rough record of a jam in other words, hence "tracking" and "hands off" in that you might hit record and not look at the DAW again until half an hour later when you've finished noodling. You can probably still do something useful with something that was recorded too quiet but there's not much you can do to save a load of clipped and distorted garbage.

I suppose one answer is you HAVE to observe levels sooner or later in so far as you'll hear any clipping when it happens anyway and when it does reach for a fader.

Or, set up your gain structure so you have a huge amount of headroom and it's unlikely anything will clip.

Otherwise I assume the answer lies in compression and limiting but I wouldn't want to compress or limit unless the signal is likely to clip. I can't quite figure out how to use a compressor or limiter to do this because in the same way you won't know in advance whether the signal is likely to be too hot, you won't know where to set the threshold for compressing.

Confused ...

Jim
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Re: Correct tool to avoid clipping during "hands off tracking"

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon Apr 26, 2021 7:38 pm

jellyjim wrote:Or, set up your gain structure so you have a huge amount of headroom and it's unlikely anything will clip.

It's this ^

I'd start by setting the average level to around -20dBFS and see how you get on. 20dB is usually sufficient headroom, but if you need to adjust for an average level at -30 or even -40dBFS to ensure no clipping it's still not going to be a problem.
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Re: Correct tool to avoid clipping during "hands off tracking"

Postby jellyjim » Mon Apr 26, 2021 7:43 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
jellyjim wrote:Or, set up your gain structure so you have a huge amount of headroom and it's unlikely anything will clip.

It's this ^

I'd start by setting the average level to around -20dBFS and see how you get on. If you need to average at -30 or even -40dBFS to ensure no clipping it's not going to be a problem.

Ok great, thanks Hugh!
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Re: Correct tool to avoid clipping during "hands off tracking"

Postby Frank Rideau » Tue Apr 27, 2021 5:09 pm

It's often counter intuitive to track with so much headroom and I find one reason is you get such a tiny looking waveform in the track, it doesn't feel like you get a strong signal in relation to noise.
I guess these options must exist, but there should be a way in your DAW to maximize the display (without really normalizing the signal) even if you are at -20. There should be some kind of exponential (or is log?) option to display the waveform in relation to its level.
I'm using reaper, I suppose this option exist, I need to find it, it would help me against the temptation to record hotter signal when it's not necessarily required...
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Re: Correct tool to avoid clipping during "hands off tracking"

Postby jellyjim » Tue Apr 27, 2021 5:12 pm

Frank Rideau wrote:It's often counter intuitive to track with so much headroom and I find one reason is you get such a tiny looking waveform in the track, it doesn't feel like you get a strong signal in relation to noise.
I guess these options must exist, but there should be a way in your DAW to maximize the display (without really normalizing the signal) even if you are at -20. There should be some kind of exponential (or is log?) option to display the waveform in relation to its level.
I'm using reaper, I suppose this option exist, I need to find it, it would help me against the temptation to record hotter signal when it's not necessarily required...

There is in Logic. Not that that helps you but it might help a passer-by!

it's in the same areas as, and works the same way as, the controls that allow you to zoom track height and timeline width. Maybe Reaper has something similar near to however Reaper does these functions?
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Re: Correct tool to avoid clipping during "hands off tracking"

Postby Wonks » Tue Apr 27, 2021 5:45 pm

Maybe use a K-meter plug, so that you can set your nominal '0db' at -20dB, and see the meter operating at near the top of its range whilst still having all that headroom available? You can normally set this to be the display for the master bus on most DAWs, but a plug on each channel would allow individual track meters to be displayed.
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Re: Correct tool to avoid clipping during "hands off tracking"

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Apr 27, 2021 6:04 pm

Frank Rideau wrote:There should be some kind of exponential (or is log?) option to display the waveform in relation to its level.
I'm using reaper, I suppose this option exist, I need to find it, it would help me against the temptation to record hotter signal when it's not necessarily required...

It does exist! :D

In Reaper go to Options -> Peaks display mode -> Scale peaks by square root.

That give's a much better visual impression of the signal level which is more akin to logarithmic ear response.

And of course, there's always the Options -> Peak Display Mode -> Peak Display Settings -> Display Gain slider to expand the waveform profile for really low-level stuff.
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Re: Correct tool to avoid clipping during "hands off tracking"

Postby blinddrew » Tue Apr 27, 2021 9:30 pm

And you can just do shift + [up arrow] to increase the height of the peaks.
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Re: Correct tool to avoid clipping during "hands off tracking"

Postby James Perrett » Tue Apr 27, 2021 10:21 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
In Reaper go to Options -> Peaks display mode -> Scale peaks by square root.


I use that mode all the time now. I found it after noticing that all the meters were scaled non linearly which means they're already doing all the calculations needed to scale the waveforms non linearly. It is always worth looking at the Actions list in Reaper if you think you should be able to do something but can't see it on the menus.
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Re: Correct tool to avoid clipping during "hands off tracking"

Postby Frank Rideau » Wed Apr 28, 2021 12:38 am

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
In Reaper go to Options -> Peaks display mode -> Scale peaks by square root.

Exactly that ! Thank you Hugh !
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Re: Correct tool to avoid clipping during "hands off tracking"

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Wed Apr 28, 2021 8:38 am

Don't thank me -- it was James that first put me on to it and it's now a standard setting in Robjohns Towers.
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Re: Correct tool to avoid clipping during "hands off tracking"

Postby Martin Walker » Wed Apr 28, 2021 5:09 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:Don't thank me -- it was James that first put me on to it and it's now a standard setting in Robjohns Towers.

Same here - thanks James!
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Re: Correct tool to avoid clipping during "hands off tracking"

Postby James Perrett » Thu Apr 29, 2021 12:28 am

:blush: :blush:
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Re: Correct tool to avoid clipping during "hands off tracking"

Postby Airfix » Sun May 02, 2021 2:19 pm

I cant find that - - Scale peaks by square root - Is Hugh takin the mick?
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Re: Correct tool to avoid clipping during "hands off tracking"

Postby James Perrett » Sun May 02, 2021 3:08 pm

I cant find that - - Scale peaks by square root - Is Hugh takin the mick?

On my options menu Peaks Display Mode is 11 up from the bottom (just above a separator line). Click on that and you'll see the option you need 3 lines up.
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