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Daniel Vernall

Is this volume of my track supposed to be so low?

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Posted (edited)

I'm brand new to recording and using a DAW. I have an Audient ID 14 and I'm recording an acoustic guitar track using the DI (It is an electro-acoustic, I'm not plugging a mic into the DI channel.) I've read some entry tutorials and watched some videos. I set the input level on the interface so the loudest chords max between -6dB and -12dB on the interface software (and hardware meter). This has the gain knob at 4 and the channel level at 0.

When I add the input device on cakewalk, the input level seems to agree with the interface software (or maybe puts the level slightly higher in cakewalk). But when I record the track, the output level is alot lower. It seems to sit around -54dB. I have the gain set at 0 and volume at 0.

What should I be doing to bring this level up to listening levels without clipping?

Screenshot (198).png

Edited by Daniel Vernall

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It looks to me what you are seeing on the track is not the playback level but the DI input level still. You have to disable the record button to see the playback level. Your master bus gives a clue that the playback level is much more what you would expect to see.

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Ah yes, that makes sense. The levels are matching what I put in. But the levels are quieter than expected. They tend to hover on average around the -12 mark. The wave form seems quite small in the track aswell. I notice it goes to -3dB, should I be aiming for the track to be around -6dB on average? It seems if it was desirable to be at -12dB why would track be designed to show so much space for -12dB to -3dB. 

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If you put the cursor on the scale to the left of the waveform you can drag it up or down and the waveform will scale in the track. That's not significant - adjust as you like. Are you only recording one track? If so you may want to record a little hotter, but you should be able to raise the gain without any problem. If you are going to multi-track the amplitude of the tracks is additive so they don't need to be too hot. If you are going to mix you will probably want a final level of -3 or -6 dB so there is some headroom to work with when mastering.

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Posted (edited)

The reason to record at low levels is this. 

With modern digital equipment, you can still capture everything humans can hear at low levels.

If your recording clips, it is very badly damaged. Recording at low levels reduces the risk of clips.

...

Once recorded, i sometimes normalize to -3. Apply fx. Bounce to track. Observe the wave form. Normalize to -0.2 dB. Add limiter... Limit maybe 2 dB leaving -0.3 headroom on dynamic music because mp3s sometimes sound better this way. Anyway, leaving a tiny amount of headroom can help on d/a conversion with inter-sample peaks.

This will create a good track for listening.

Really, i apply compression and limiting to bring each track to a similar average loudness on an ebu meter. This makes it so that when you listen to the show start to finish it is all roughly the same volume.

Using a meter as a guide, it is easier to avoid over or under compressing a track.

It is a bit like dressing a kid to go play in the snow... How much is enough... How much is too much? Kid doesn't know and trusts you. You use your experience. Dress all your kids similarly so they will all get cold and come in near the same time. When you do it right, they all play until tired.

....

Live performances only occur at one volume. The sound engineer mixes to make it sound great at that one volume. 

Recordings are different. At the time of mixing, the engineer should presume a wide array of listening volumes.

Compromises are made to make sure it sounds as good as it can given that there will be n playback volumes and scenarios. Car... Mono... In a stadium... Radio... Home stereo... Club stereo... Ear buds... Nice headphones.

Edited by Gswitz

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Posted (edited)

Someone recently posted a great article on gain staging. I'd read this thing through a couple times as it underscores the differences in working in Digital Audio in general...

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

The good news is that your incoming tracks look to be just fine.

If you just want to increase volume, grab the gain knob for that track and crank 'er up. 

Edited by StudioNSFW

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As said your track looks to be recorded at a pretty good level. There are 100's of ways to increase the level once recorded. My standard method is to use the input gain of a compressor/limiter to bring it up. Even the simple compressors in Channel tools will do the trick.  

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20 minutes ago, John Vere said:

Even the simple compressors in Channel tools will do the trick.  

I think you meant ProChannel not Channel tools.

That said, the track gain adjustment and an empty FX Chain can add quite a bit of gain to a track too.

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Gain staging in cakewalk has an entry in Craig Anderton's big book of tips.

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Looks good to me. One benefit of having a fatter waveform is the visual cue you get in the track view (you can see where accents are etc). But as said above you can adjust the scale to your liking. Good luck with your recordings!

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Posted (edited)

Thanks for all your responses! I read the article @StudioNSFW, it had good info in. Although the guy seemed to be pretty old school (not a bad thing) and much of the article seemed to be directed at guys coming over from analog to digital and getting confused with the transition. I can safely say I have no analog experience! 😂. So I learned the reasons why digital meters having input set at -12dB to -24dB is quite normal and desired, whereas on an analog meter it could be at 0dB and still would have a 20dB or so buffer above that before clipping. I'm getting used to the idea that I can add gain/volume easily. This seems counter intuitive to me, considering looking at things like video, where you need to record big then scale down in order to maintain the level of detail. A lay person might think that recording loud is better as "you can always turn it down", whereas recording low would require artificial boosting. But you have all given me confidence that the levels I'm working with are fine and there is a difference between the recording input stage, the mixing and mastering stages and the desired levels at each phase are not the same.

 

Thanks all,

Dan

 

Edited by Daniel Vernall

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