Old 11-29-2019, 04:42 PM   #1
archeobassist
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Default Setting levels on the signal chain

Hi everybody,

It's the first time I post on the forum so forgive me if I'm in the wrong section (I was in doubt between this and "Newbieland").
Anyway, I'm a bass player, a newbie in the digital recording world (I actually subscribed in 2014 but until recently I hardly used any DAW or software preferring the old, analog "plug 'n' play" approach) and I'm trying to find the optimal levels to set my gear and Reaper in order to record my tracks for a project I have with some friends...I'm using a Warwick Thumb bolt on 5 and/or a Spector Euro 5Lx (depending on the tracks), the signal goes to a Mackie MDB-1P passive DI box, from that the line out goes straight into a Focusrite Saffire 6 USB while the thru output goes to a Little Mark II, then a Mooer Radar cab simulator and finally into the input 2 of the Focusrite. Input 1 and 2 both go into Reaper.
I keep the output level of the bass at full, the gain level of the Little Mark right below the clipping point (as you usually do when you play with a real amp + cabinet) and the output of the Mooer Radar at 25%.This way, I have to turn the gain level on the Focusrite down to zero and even doing so, it's hard to keep the recording input level in Reaper within the recommended range between -12 and -6dBFS, unless I activate the -15dB pad on the audio interface.
Where should I intervene to have enough headroom without compromising the quality of the signal? Should I turn down the bass? The gain on the amp? The Mooer? Would it be better to keep those levels as they are and use the pad on the audio interface? Or maybe should I change some settings in the recording section of Reaper?

Thanks a lot to whoever will have the patience and the kindness to read and answer these questions that will probably sound dumb to a lot of you, but as I said I'm moving my first steps in digital recording and I'd love to learn as much as fast as I can...
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Old 12-02-2019, 11:08 AM   #2
Philbo King
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I'd say use the pad. Turning down the other stuff will affect the tone.
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Old 12-02-2019, 06:50 PM   #3
ashcat_lt
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The pad could affect the tone, too, but probably not much. Don’t clip and then don’t worry about it. You can adjust it ITB as necessary.
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Old 12-03-2019, 06:43 AM   #4
vdubreeze
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The setting of neither the output of the Little Mark II nor the Radar should affect the sound at all. So you can also try dropping the output of the LM and of the output of the patch level on the Radar. But don't worry too much about the recommended range in Reaper if it's not within it, as long as it sounds right. It's still possible, though, to overload an input of an interface while not peaking the digital input to the DAW, so keep it conservative, with your dynamic range in mind.
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Old 12-04-2019, 11:29 AM   #5
DVDdoug
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Quote:
it's hard to keep the recording input level in Reaper within the recommended range between -12 and -6dBFS, unless I activate the -15dB pad on the audio interface.
As vdubreeze says, just make sure to avoid digital clipping* (keep it below 0dB) and your digital levels are not critical at all.


It's OK to use the pad and it won't affect "tone" (unless you're clipping without it). It's just a level control and it can affect your perception of tone when you listen at lower volumes. But if you crank it up later after recording, you're back to where you started.


The analog "gain staging" can make a difference, especially with cabinet simulators or other processing boxes that are level-sensitive.






* You may like some clipping and it's OK to use it as an effect. But hard digital clipping is more harsh that the softer clipping you get when overdriving a guitar/bass amp.
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Old 12-05-2019, 07:41 AM   #6
archeobassist
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Many thanks to all of you guys, I'll keep trying and experimenting having your suggestions in mind...meanwhile, could you recommend me any basic-noob-entry level reading and/or site where I can find more about the interactions between analog and digital, audio interfaces and DAW

thank you again in advance
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Old 12-06-2019, 05:17 AM   #7
Philbo King
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There is a lot of debate and misinformation out there about this.

My goal is to capture the signal arriving at the interface as transparently as possible. So I tend to go with record levels that average at 2/3 of the reaper track record meter, which gives about -18 dB average level. While, in theory, you can set up to have peaks go to 0 dB, the analog circuits in the interface or preamp have much lower added harmonic distortion if you keep the level lower.

However, too low is not desirable either; as you reduce the recorded level, there is less signal but constant noise (every electronic circuit creates noise). Recording with low levels, then increasing it once it's in Reaper, brings that noise level up as well. So, that 2/3rds guideline is what I consider 'best practice' for recording level.

Kenny Gioia seems to agree:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=LJHm931XQGk

Of course, once you have captured the audio, you can gain the wave up to whatever level you like inside of Reaper, even boosting it 100 dB, with no loss of quality:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=5efick6yJA4

That is true AS LONG AS the wave is reduced to below 0 dB again before it leaves Reaper (coming back out of the interface, or being rendered to a 16 or 24 bit output file).

I hope that helps...
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Last edited by Philbo King; 12-06-2019 at 05:47 AM.
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