Setting Good Levels At The Recording Stage


Are you tired of your music recordings coming out with unwanted distortion and clipping? As a professional music mixer, I've worked with dozens of clients from all over the world, with music recorded in all kinds of studios, from high-end to small bedroom setups. And I've noticed a common pattern: most recordings I receive have one thing in common - they're recorded at levels that are too high.

When I import the audio files into my DAW, I often see the master fader peaking in the red zone, even before I touch anything. And when I look at individual tracks, they're usually peaking at -1db to -3db, with some tracks, even showing audible digital distortion. It's frustrating to see talented musicians and producers putting in all that effort, only to end up with subpar recordings due to simple mistakes that could have been easily avoided.

That's why I'm here to share a simple lesson: record at conservative levels. In the digital age, pushing the signal too hard doesn't add any benefits like analog warmth or harmonic distortion. Instead, it only results in unwanted clipping and distortion that can't be removed. The key is to leave enough headroom so that when you add plugins like EQ and compression, you won't run out of room and end up with a distorted mess.

So here's my advice: aim to record at -10db to -12db in the digital domain. Yes, it may seem counterintuitive, especially if you're used to the analog days of pushing the levels to just below clipping. But trust me, it's a small change that can make a huge difference in the quality of your recordings. And when you hear the difference, you'll thank me later!


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