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Studio Tips 3

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Digital Recording

              In the early days of Tape recorders, Recording music or voice or any type of sound for replay/ reproduction could be classed

as a fine art. Getting a signal onto tape was often a complicated process

involving mics , mixing desks, sound processes, Gates, Compressors

and many more outboard effects. This then became a balancing act with signal levels against noise, tape saturation against Tape quality

and Tape speed, dealing with hums, sound on sound noise build up etc etc


So there were many factors to consider when recording but how is Digital Recording any different you may ask?

Well like Tape, Digital can also record noise with your sound source if you have a noisy signal path! But generally Digital sounds cleaner and crisp (perhaps because your ear is missing

the continuous noise when tape is playing back and not listening to say 441000 snippets or sound in 1 second? [which is 44.1KHZ or CD quality]).

 When recording signal into Digital it is a good idea to lower your anticipated recording level and leave plenty of headroom, that is to say, unlike tape where it is generally accepted to get as much signal down on tape as possible,

high signals being digitally recorded tend to break up into unpleasant crackle which gets added to your recording. Low recorded levels can always be raised later with effects

without introducing any more noise, but it's dam hard removing Crackles from a recording (but not impossible in the Digital World!).

Digital Recording and Playback 

I have found when in mixdown mode using DAW or Software mixers on dedicated Recording programmes like

Cubase and Pro tools etc. there may be a temptation to try and find a biting point on Faders (like with analogue desks) pushing the level almost into the Red, if you get to many channels into the red then you overload the Stereo Master bus and have to start again with each channel .. it's a challenge sometimes

and often not as forgiving as Analogue! the other important point is Headroom for Transients and dynamics, Digital allows for a lot more Dynamic range in a recording, imagine a Timpani mic'ed up...gentle taps may hardly register on your levels but when fully hit you could have a full signal touching the amber or red zone!. This is dynamic range which as long as you capture without any peaks (in the Red), options are available later to bring up the lows and lower the highs .

       When Playing back music using Software recording programs such as Cubase, I quite often use the Timing Offset tool to delay or advance each individual track to help make a song groove better, eg. Try advancing a snare track by -0.20ms this makes the Drummer sound right on top of the Beat and pushing the song forward!, or delaying a guitar or Vocal track by +0.300ms gives an interesting effect of dragging the song, Experiment is the key word!

On my Master fader section I tend to leave EQ as is but may use a VST Plugin effect like Stereo Tape Emulator then going into a VST L1 maximizer which brings up levels and kind of Compresses everything, I always set my Master Fader or Limiter to about -6 DB to allow for Mastering in another Software

program like Wavelab where you would gently add a bit of EQ and more compression etc.

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