Noob questions on recording (Pod HD, Reaper)

Discussion in 'Beginners/FAQ' started by Rizzo, Aug 23, 2014.

  1. Rizzo

    Rizzo SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    1,120
    Likes Received:
    67
    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2012
    Location:
    Italy
    Hi there guys. Some time ago i did my first recording tests wiht Reaper and my HD500. They were done with an acoustic (plugged it 'cause it had a preamp) and some vocals. I used my FRFR Mackie SRM (that i use with the HD500) as a "monitor" as it was just a rough test.
    I have some general questions for you:

    1. General recording levels
    I recorded everything with the Pod's master at noon to avoid any potential clipping, but the final tracks output dbs were greatly below the 0 db line, making them barely audible in a final rendered track (unmixed-unmastered).
    Regarding vocals: similarly, i kept the mic's input gain at noon to avoid issues. Is that a "right" situation to start off?

    Do i have to boost the Pod's master? Or do i have to leave it like that and adjust the tracks dbs manually afterwards (boosting\cutting dbs)? Or, again, do i have to just keep eveything like that and wait for the mixing-mastering process to take care of all that? I just have no idea.

    Additional question: how do i get the best headroom-dynamics in recording, given the reaching of decent audible levels?
    I'm not a "loudness" guy.

    2. Volume issues between tracks
    At the end of the test (did 5-6 different tracks) everything was, naturally, scrambled up. Vocals were buried far below guitars, guitars themselves were inconsistent etc.
    Again, how do i treat this? Doi have to adjust dbs accordingly, or do i have to wait for the mixing-mastering process to balance things out? Just give me a general sight.

    3. Headphones VS Monitors
    I have a really s*itty place to make my music. The room is an architectural abortion and has really awful design to complement music production (asymmetrical, one open side: 3 walls basically, tiles on the floor, full of furniture, recessed windows etc etc and lots of anti-acoustic stuff).
    So i'm thinking buying monitors wouldn't be a really smart choice and i was straight headed for a pair of decent headphones (i'm not willing to spend a dime on acoustic treatment for that room). Is that a reasonable choice, or are monitors nonetheless needed in the mixing process, disregarding room acoustics?

    Also, is there something like a general recording\mixing\mastering guide to read that you could address me to?
    Thanks, i'm just beginning with home recording.
     
  2. PlumbTheDerps

    PlumbTheDerps SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    699
    Likes Received:
    15
    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2013
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    there ya go
     
  3. Rizzo

    Rizzo SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    1,120
    Likes Received:
    67
    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2012
    Location:
    Italy
    Wow, thanks a lot, really! A good bunch of material to study.
     
  4. Rizzo

    Rizzo SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    1,120
    Likes Received:
    67
    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2012
    Location:
    Italy
    There's some things in which i am in confusion. Where's the actual "+18db" thing in the audio setup? I looked in (i'm on Win7) user CP -> hw & sound -> manage audio devices -> recording -> Pod -> levels and there's a fader that's on 100\100 by default, but changing that while monitoring in Reaper doesn't seem to change anything. However i kept it at 50\100. Can't find any similar option in the Asio CP or in the Reaper options. I made the "gain staging test" by using my guitar and a blank signal path. I keep the inputs on guitar (1), variax (2), auto impedance. With a blank path and playing hard, the signal seems to peak slightly above -18db so it's about ok. But when i switch to a preset, with clean tones it's still quite ok, but one i get to a crunch or a lead tone it clips awfully to 0db and above. So how do i manage that?
     
  5. PlumbTheDerps

    PlumbTheDerps SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    699
    Likes Received:
    15
    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2013
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    I'm on a Mac, but here:
    Page 9-12.

    It looks like on Windows it's a check box instead of a slider, but just make sure the +18 db is off- unless you really need it and can't get to -18db without it. It's a POD option, so it would not be in Reaper. Reaper settings (with a couple of exceptions, like latency) ONLY affect what happens once the audio is in Reaper.

    Just turn the volume on the amp down in the POD. Basically just think about your signal path and the different places it can clip or not clip:

    1. From the guitar into the POD. To make sure it's not clipping here, use a blank patch and, if needed, modify the input slider and/or18db option from the settings in the picture I just posted. Get it to -18db. So when you do this test, you're seeing how loud your guitar is as it passes into and through the POD. (Also use this method if you want to record dry guitars and use an amp simulation VST in Reaper instead of the POD.)

    2. From the POD into the computer. To make sure it's not clipping here, make your POD patch and set everything the way you want it, then use the amp volume (not the input or POD mixer volume) in your patch to get it to about -18db.

    3. When you've recorded all your other instruments, your entire mix may start to clip. That's a whole different issue, but the simplest way to avoid this is by using the volume fader on the guitar track so it's lower before it hits the master bus.
     
  6. Rizzo

    Rizzo SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    1,120
    Likes Received:
    67
    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2012
    Location:
    Italy
    I've got some old roland monitors i could use to try at least. I use to use them as my personal home stereo in my bedroom.
    MA-8: Stereo Micro Monitor | Roland U.S.
    Considering they only have a jack for connection, what's the most appropriate way to connect them to the Pod? Regular 1\4" out?

    EDIT
    I finally found Line6's audio-midi CP for the pod. Damn, it hid well :lol:
    I noticed that the +18 boost wasn't enabled by default, yet the input level was at max. I'm not going to test right away 'cause i don't have time, maybe this evening, but would you suggest that leaving it at 50\100 would be a good compromise? EDIT2: Forgot i have to hit -18db right? So it would be according to that.
     
  7. Rizzo

    Rizzo SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    1,120
    Likes Received:
    67
    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2012
    Location:
    Italy
    There's a little thing that still confuses me about gain staging.
    Let's say i want my level around -18db and peaking around -10db (all of you basically spoke like that while explaining) for a nice headroom (is that right or too low BTW?).

    Would it mean i have to be sure to keep my minimum signal always at -18db (not less) and be sure to not exceed -10, or would it mean i can just bump around -18 and going also below? Or again that i want my peak at -18?

    I mean, in the tests i made with my acoustic guitar i set the peak level by playing as hard as i could (that is not the level i would play at while tracking) to make sure i cpuld never have clipped and being sure i reached a max of -10\-6 db while doing so. Then i played normally and tried to verify my levels so that i bounced around -18db.
    But while tracking and playing "normally", due to the dynamic nature of the instrument, i got really low levels too, with minimums around -30 and maybe sometimes below and around silence levels too (-50) that generated really weak waveforms. So how can i really tell my "right" gain staging? How ca i preserve my playing dynamics while making everything audible? Or do i have to jusn't don't care of the minimum levels until i enter the mixing phase?

    Do i have to set my signal and "peak danger" level when playing normally or when playing really hard like i did?
     
  8. Rizzo

    Rizzo SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    1,120
    Likes Received:
    67
    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2012
    Location:
    Italy
    Bump guys! I can't even start recording until i have clarified that :lol:
     
  9. PlumbTheDerps

    PlumbTheDerps SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    699
    Likes Received:
    15
    Joined:
    Sep 14, 2013
    Location:
    Washington, DC
    Let's say i want my level around -18db and peaking around -10db (all of you basically spoke like that while explaining) for a nice headroom (is that right or too low BTW?).

    Yes, although your peaks are probably going to wind up hitting closer to -5db. Mine always do, mostly from the snare drum.

    Would it mean i have to be sure to keep my minimum signal always at -18db (not less) and be sure to not exceed -10, or would it mean i can just bump around -18 and going also below? Or again that i want my peak at -18?

    We're talking about two types of meters: RMS, measured in dbfs (this is the -18 one where your tracks should be), and peak, measured in db. If you look at your master bus, most DAWs have both peak and RMS meters. The RMS move much more slowly and hit lower; the peak move more quickly and hit higher.

    What you need to do is have each group of tracks (guitar, bass, drums, vocals- don't bother for individual drum pieces) hitting about -18dbfs RMS on the slow-moving meters on a constant basis. Every instrument is going to go below and above -18dbfs once in a while on the RMS meters. If you're playing an acoustic guitar and doing chords on quarter notes, it's going to be -18dbfs on the peaks right when you hit the strings, but most of the time it will be decreasing below that. If you're constantly strumming, then it should be closer to -18dbfs all the time. Don't worry about it- it's just what instruments do. If you achieve that, it will usually mean that they also end up hitting the -5 to -10db zone on the faster-moving, higher peak meters.

    The peak meters are most useful for (a) making sure things aren't clipping, because the RMS meters react more slowly than peak, so the peak gives you a better impression of what the absolute maximum levels you're looking at are, and (b) mastering. I usually play back my entire song and look at the peak meters to make sure they never hit above -3db. That means I have at least 3 db of headroom to work with when I master. On a guitar or bass, I usually try to hit around -6db peak. I think -10 is too unrealistically low. If you hit -10 then that's fine, but if you're getting up to -6 or -5 it's not going to be a problem.

    I mean, in the tests i made with my acoustic guitar i set the peak level by playing as hard as i could (that is not the level i would play at while tracking) to make sure i cpuld never have clipped and being sure i reached a max of -10\-6 db while doing so. Then i played normally and tried to verify my levels so that i bounced around -18db.

    But while tracking and playing "normally", due to the dynamic nature of the instrument, i got really low levels too, with minimums around -30 and maybe sometimes below and around silence levels too (-50) that generated really weak waveforms. So how can i really tell my "right" gain staging? How ca i preserve my playing dynamics while making everything audible? Or do i have to jusn't don't care of the minimum levels until i enter the mixing phase?

    Do i have to set my signal and "peak danger" level when playing normally or when playing really hard like i did?


    You're overthinking it. Just play what you're going to play in the song on your acoustic and make sure you're not hitting substantially over -18dbfs and about -6db peak. You can always decrease the volume of the waveform a couple of decibels if it goes over and increase the quiet ones. That's called volume riding, and everybody does it all the time, particularly on bass but also on acoustic guitar if it needs it. Later you're going to apply all sorts of compression and move the faders and then add more compression on the master bus. For now, just roughly try to get each instrument group at -18dbfs RMS (remember, also the same as 0db on a VU meter, which you can also use to measure it) and -6db peak.
     
  10. Rizzo

    Rizzo SS.org Regular

    Messages:
    1,120
    Likes Received:
    67
    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2012
    Location:
    Italy
    Thanks, yeah i'm probably overthinking it. Seems clearer now :)
     

Share This Page