1. TURN IT DOWN!
In the analog tape days, the goal was generally to get the hottest signal down to tape
as possible, just short of distortion. When
presented with high levels, analog tape
responds with soft compression and gentle
saturation that sounds great, especially on
drums and other percussive instruments.
But digital doesn’t work that way. It’s not
forgiving of peaks, and if you push it too
hard you run the risk of digital distortion, which sounds awful. For this reason,
and to allow plenty of headroom for later
processing and mixing, it’s proven best to
record signals to digital at levels in the − 18
to − 14 dB range on the meters. This allows
plenty of headroom for peaks and for later
work on the tracks. Some audio interfaces
have built-in peak “over” protection, but
do yourself (and your tracks) a favor: keep
the signals in that − 18 to − 14 dB range,
hard as it may be to resist the temptation
to light up those meters! Your reward will
be cleaner tracks, better dynamics, way
reduced danger of digital distortion during
recording, and easier mixdowns.
Turn it down. For the best fidelity when tracking, keep levels between − 18 and − 14 dB on the meters.
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