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In this video I'm going to show you the best way to set your levels throughout your signal chain. (music playing) Let's dispel a myth right upfront. For the most part you do not have to record with level close to 0 dB these days. That's the highest it will go before the red overload indicator on the meter lights and distortion occurs. In the early days of digital recording this practice was a necessity in order to keep the noise to a minimum. A modern 24-bit recording no longer has this limitation.
(music playing) The ideal signal level has peaks that go between -10 and -6 dB. Even if they are lower on the channel meter it will sound fine, and you still have plenty of headroom. (music playing) Headroom means that by recording at a level of around -10 dB or so, there's plenty of room left to adequately record short bursts of sound called Transients without causing any distortion.
(music playing) Sometimes these bursts of energy are so short that an LED overload indicator might not even catch them, like in some of the less expensive equipment available. (music playing) These super-fast transients make up the first part of the sound of just about any instrument but especially instruments like tambourines, drums, and percussion. (music playing) These transients can typically range as high as 20 dB above what an old-fashioned VU meter might indicate.
Peak meters are much closer to the actual true recording level. (music playing) Recording too hot means that those transients are trimmed off the signal by overloading the input for less than a millisecond or thousandths of a second. This results in not only a slightly dull recording, but one this sounds less realistic as well. The solution is to record at a lower level to improve the headroom. By recording at -10 dB or so, you'll leave plenty of headroom with less of a chance for distorting.
Remember that it's easy enough to increase the gain later. (music playing)
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