Recording Levels: Lowering channel gain on input channels?

When I push my tube preamp to levels that sound really good I am peaking on input around -6 to -4 dbs … much too hot.

I’ve started simply lowering the input channel gain knob by about -12 dbs to get the desired input level.

It seems to work just fine, but as I’ve never read or heard anything ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ about doing this, I’d just like any input/ confirmation from others that this will be harmless to my recordings’ quality. Or?

Thanks.

Peaking at -6 to -4 db is not necessarily too hot as long as your RMS is in the -18 to -12 db range. Fireface UFX gives me 3 input level options to pre-adjust incoming levels, don’t exactly know if Multiface II offers that option as well.

If you turn down levels on Cubase’ inputs that’s a digital move, behind AD converters. Equals turning down gain in Cubase’ pre section. Doesn’t matter at all where you attenuate level/do your gain staging in this case as long as you record in 24 bit or 32 bit float.

Anyway, if it sounds good, it is good :sunglasses:

Thanks, marQs …

So, if I understand you, you are saying that if it has gone over coming through the AD, it doesn’t matter what the Cubase input level is … it’s still clipped.

In that case, it seems it would be better to leave the inputs at unity because I could then hold the peak meter readings and keep track of whether I had gone over on a take.

This is another one of those things that I always have trouble keeping my head wrapped around. Speaking of RME, it took me forever to understand that and why TotalMix input meters’ faders did not affect input level. :slight_smile:

I guess this is why it is common to track with a compressor.

So, if I understand you, you are saying that if it has gone over coming through the AD, it doesn’t matter what the Cubase input level is … it’s still clipped.

Yes, of course. If you clip the AD converter, the signal is clipped. Lowering Cubase’ inputs causes to record that clipped signal with lower level.

But -6 to -4 db is not clipped, at least not on the A > D side of things. Can’t speak of the internal working levels of your tube preamp and how it maybe clips the analog electronics. However, you said it sounds good, so don’t care much about the numbers as long as those are below 0 dbFS.

In that case, it seems it would be better to leave the inputs at unity because I could then hold the peak meter readings and keep track of whether I had gone over on a take.

That’s how I do it.

When rarely recording with plugins in the input channels I also look for levels way below zero. In case of recording in 32 bit float any overs that are caused by the plugins (= post AD) would mean a pretty hot level but not damaged files.

This is another one of those things that I always have trouble keeping my head wrapped around. Speaking of RME, it took me forever to understand that and why TotalMix input meters’ faders did not affect input level. > :slight_smile: >

Take a look if you can find those settings in Total Mix for the Multiface (not sure if that’s working the same way for all RME interfaces):
fireface gain settings.JPG
If yes, try the different settings while watching Cubase’ input metering and choose the appropriate.


I guess this is why it is common to track with a compressor.

Yes and no. A compressor, apart from being an automatic leveler, colors the sound. This can be desired or not. But it definately helps to no shoot over. Anyway, in 24 bit or up we have the luxury to leave a really big headroom like -18 db without losing quality or resolution. So it’s definately possible to smoothly record anything without a compressor on the way in :sunglasses:

I think I’ll insert Klanghelm VUMT on the input Channels so I can monitor rms while using the channel meters to guard against peaks. (EDIT: my bad … Klanghelm VUMT is peak only VU meter :blush: )

Thanks again. I’m pretty sure those FF setting are only in TotalMix for devices with mic preamps. I have Digifaces, so the input switching doesn’t show up. I assume it’s not in Multiface either.

Since you are so knowledgeable and helpful let me ask one more, please?

Given that meter settings are global and I generally prefer using the post-fader setting, I have this question. If the input channel is at unity and there are no gain changing plugins inserted, will meter reads for input or output settings be identical? In other words if I have 0dBfs on post-fader and I switched to input, with the same signal level would the meter read the same 0dBfs?

Is this correct?

It would be nice if channel settings could be individually set instead of only globally.

It’s a common problem, preamps sounding sweet when you push them, but resulting in a hot output.
The easiest way is IMHO to use something like this:
http://www.adesignsaudio.com/atty-stereo-attenuator.htm
But a peak level of -4dB is fine, if you plan to use some analog modeled plugin you could use the Cubase pre to lover the level. Sadly there is a lack of documentation of the levels best used on a given plugin, OTOH use your ears :slight_smile:

Thanks for the tip/ link, peakae. Appreciated!

Just take a look. The picture was taken from the first three inputs of the UFX which are line ins.


Yes, should be the same.

I’m sorry, I wasn’t clear. I already had taken a look at my TotalMix screen, and they are not there with the Digiface … just like the FX routing options are not there … and I do have the most recent TotalMix installed.

Excellent … and BTW I just got a response from Tony Frenzel of Klanghelm and a new beta is being released of VUMT that includes RMS metering and some other enhancements including infinite hold of peak levels and probably a scalable or larger GUI option. :slight_smile: