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How do you make sure you are hitting Nebula at -18dbfs?

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Re: How do you make sure you are hitting Nebula at -18dbfs?

Postby giancarlo » Sun Jan 11, 2015 11:31 am

budda963 wrote:
ngarjuna wrote:
giancarlo wrote:-18dBFS is a peak value,not RMS
Pay attention if you want to address to nebula usage: most of compressors and preamps are based on peak (L infinite norm) and not RMS (L2 norm)

Gdrive itself is based on peak.
You need to normalize your audio to -18. Rms will work in most of cases, but there is at least a 6dB difference in most of cases

Why would you use peak values to gain stage? And why normalize when it's as simple as reading a meter and adjusting the input on that basis? The meter is a guide to get you into the neighborhood, the adjustment (of how hot you're going into a Nebula instance) should be based on how it sounds. Do you want to drive the input a little? Do you want to go in cool and clean? There's no magic normalization number that's going to make that adjustment for you.

Gain staging is an important subject if you want to use analog equipment same as Nebula. Take the time to learn and understand it and you'll never have another question about how to hit Nebula.


Giancarlo: I don't understand how the -18dbfs could be a peak figure when the equipment of those days didn't measure peaks. Many signals normalized to -18dbfs peak wouldn't even move the meter on a VU.

ngarjuna: I've been gain staging manually on a track by track basis but I was interested in seeing if I could speed up the workflow a little bit.

My general idea has been to get the VU meter hitting 0 or maybe +1 during the loudest parts of my signal. But that is definitely not -18rms or -18dbfs. If I'm not mistaken that figure is referred to as "-18db rms at max". It's almost like taking a peak reading from the VU meter. Of course the peaks are louder than -18dbfs but the meat of the signal is at -18. (Do i sound like a lunatic? lol. Maybe I have this whole idea wrong)



simple answer: -18dBFS is a "peak" value by definition.
Peak is also easier than RMS to the end user (you normalize your audio and everything is ok).

Peak is also the way the engine works in most of cases

We are speaking about a level you need in order to get more headroom, it is a convention.
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Re: How do you make sure you are hitting Nebula at -18dbfs?

Postby flipnaut » Sun Jan 11, 2015 12:44 pm

I always record as loud as possible: So i push my Hardware preamp very loud until -3db but without peaking and then put perhaps -3db headroom on top with guitars for example.

Using nebula forces me to use groups and then to lower the output volume of the recorded material to get no peaks... i always look and hear if something gets peaking in nebula on the goup.

But when i use my hardware compressor, a small tla 50, i also have to lower the volume from daw to around -12db... because otherwise the tla-50 got too much volume. Recording again into daw i record again back loud as possible.
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Re: How do you make sure you are hitting Nebula at -18dbfs?

Postby Support » Sun Jan 11, 2015 1:26 pm

flipnaut wrote:I always record as loud as possible: So i push my Hardware preamp very loud until -3db but without peaking and then put perhaps -3db headroom on top with guitars for example.


Depends technology and topology if each preamp, try to do it with DACS preamps, you almost will not get any nonlineal distortion. For an example Nikolay test N**e Console at +26 dBu no distortion but non lineal distortion and at +26,2 dBu distortion appears, I'm no talking about coloration due non lineal distortion, complete analog distortion at +26,2 dBu.
If you record with no regulation, we can call it full scale regulation, you get good signal to noise ratio, you use all 24 bits of your system and you also get non lineal distortion from your preamps but you must to re level your files to adapt it to a norm.
In CD production delivering PPM at -0.20 dBFS were a no regulation productions. To understand this +24 dBu are around 15.5 volts so you must to pad this signal to connect to any other device.
In studio wrong gain staging means distortion but in a touring live sound system means destroy a 1.000.000 euros system (example 18 speakers per channel flown system plus subs).
If you use a correct mics (sensibility is important) and good preamps you can record at -24 LU (20 bits are used only) and you don't need any re-level your audio for send it to broadcast station.
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Re: How do you make sure you are hitting Nebula at -18dbfs?

Postby babiuk » Sun Jan 11, 2015 4:17 pm

I am even more confused...

I think an audio with -18 rms and -10 peaks will get more benefits through a neb preset than an audio with -10 rms and -18 peak levels

So you support guys are saying we don't have to worry about rms level coming into nebula just be careful about peak levels?
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Re: How do you make sure you are hitting Nebula at -18dbfs?

Postby Sheikyearbouti » Sun Jan 11, 2015 4:59 pm

flipnaut wrote:I always record as loud as possible: So i push my Hardware preamp very loud until -3db but without peaking and then put perhaps -3db headroom on top with guitars for example.


But why would you ALWAYS do this?

Here is how I see it (and I record either on large format analogue consoles - S*L, N**e - or use portable preamps/converters. Depending on which case it will change my strategy).

You start with the source and try to establish a good level out there - guitar amp, keyboard output, how loud the drummer plays, etc. (in case there are a few people in the liveroom, you also aim for good balance between them in the liveroom)

Than you add enough gain on the mic in to reach a good line level (and ideally you won't need to touch the line in gain if it is a line signal). Good level to me is a balance between what the VU meter is showing (around 0VU) and the peak one does (do not clip, try to peak at least 6dB below 0dBFS).

If the preamp/console is of the kind where you could get a sonic benefit from pushing it harder (and this largely depends on the type of music/production, the topology of the hardware, the instrument, etc.), than trim your level to tape/DAW after you've pushed the input hard (so trim via channel fader, group trim, etc.).

Further, if you boost with EQ, bring down the level a bit (I've got no rule if I would do this before or after the EQ - it will sound differently, as after will possibly let you generate more harmonic distortion within the EQ section to the trim section).

If you compress - use the gain make-up so that if you bypass the comp you do not hear any audible change in the loudness of the source.

Than you enter around 0VU or louder in your DAW. This for most of our studios is -18dBFS (peak), but some are calibrated at -14dBFS. I would also add that if the song does not comprise of many instruments, I would go hotter to DAW. For example on a classical guitar recording done with 2 mics, which will see no processing, I ask the musician for the loudest section of the song and try to get to about -6dBFS in my DAW. Also, if I want to re-enter back into the console at hotter levels for the mixing stage, I would record them like this into the DAW in the recording stage.

The point of going into your DAW at levels with enough headroom is that (and there are probably more):

1) you will not have to trim your master bus (fader)

2) you will not have troubles with clipping internally plug-ins that do not allow levels above 0dBFS - ha!

3) if you decide to go back to the analogue domain you will not have to trim (for example your TLA)

To me the point of gain staging is this - start where you want to be, finish there. So you address the source and try to maintain this level for the entire production process.

And BTW, in the digital domain at 24bits we've got about 144dB to operate [debatable and depends on some factors], in the analogue it is a lot less - say maybe about 120dB - than than you've got noise. So why would you want to have very hot digital levels?
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Re: How do you make sure you are hitting Nebula at -18dbfs?

Postby Sheikyearbouti » Sun Jan 11, 2015 5:16 pm

babiuk wrote:I am even more confused...

I think an audio with -18 rms and -10 peaks will get more benefits through a neb preset than an audio with -10 rms and -18 peak levels

So you support guys are saying we don't have to worry about rms level coming into nebula just be careful about peak levels?


Look, it is just like the hardware world - it depends always on this or that particular hardware/Nebula preset and how it was sampled. There is only one simple rule - do not go over 0dBFS.

The -18dBFS peak is just a guide. You would expect to get more of the subtle Nebula distortion above it. If you want to push it hard - do it - just watch out for the clip indicator.

But also bear in mind that if the preset is from, say, a super-clean, high-headroom modern S*L preamp, you may not hear a change at all at different input levels (as it would be mostly phase distortion that Nebula has captured, not harmonic distortion - the device wouldn't have almost any harmonic distortion at levels from -18 to 0dBFS peak). So it is always preset specific, just like in the hardware world - you must learn every single preset and the best way is - use your ears and don't clip :)
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Re: How do you make sure you are hitting Nebula at -18dbfs?

Postby Sheikyearbouti » Sun Jan 11, 2015 5:18 pm

babiuk wrote:an audio with -10 rms and -18 peak levels


hmm, this case is not possible...
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Re: How do you make sure you are hitting Nebula at -18dbfs?

Postby kindafishy » Sun Jan 11, 2015 5:54 pm

Too much technical, theory supported reasoning, blah blah for me (with the utmost respect for the many of you who love the technical blah blah)... It is interesting, but in the end, it confuses me and doesn't help.

Ultimately, I would like this to be like a microwave to me. I put stuff in, I push a couple buttons, hot stuff comes out. I don't need to know any technical details or theory or science to enjoy what it does. Just in cold, out hot. Happy fishy.

It piqued my interest when giancarlo said that levels should be a -18 peak. Up until this point, ALL of the material that I have read over the years in regards to Nebula has told me to go in at -18 rms.

So, can I assume that everyone was always wrong, and the real way to properly hit Nebula is at -18 peak?

Seriously... final answer... in cold, out hot. What is the correct approach?
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Re: How do you make sure you are hitting Nebula at -18dbfs?

Postby Sheikyearbouti » Sun Jan 11, 2015 6:18 pm

Look at the input meters - do you see peak around -18dBFS? OK, this is your starting point.

Do you want to drive it more? Bring the level of the signal entering the plug-in up - do you like what you hear? OK, keep it.

Want even more drive? Keep going up - do you see the clip indiactor on/red? That's not good - trim the input level down.

And all the time - use your ears.
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Re: How do you make sure you are hitting Nebula at -18dbfs?

Postby Sheikyearbouti » Sun Jan 11, 2015 6:23 pm

kindafishy wrote:Ultimately, I would like this to be like a microwave to me. I put stuff in, I push a couple buttons, hot stuff comes out. I don't need to know any technical details or theory or science to enjoy what it does. Just in cold, out hot. Happy fishy.


There is a problem here. If you want a plug-in that is like hardware you must learn to use it as such. And even on your microware you can change the power from 150W for defrosting to 700W for cooking - what are you after? And you know that if you try to defrost at 700W you will have a bad result - you will cook parts of what you try to defrost, but others will be unforzen and fine. It is the same thing.

And on top of this, sometimes we use the oven, sometimes we BBQ, sometimes it is a microware, sometimes we boil. A good chef will learn how to use all of these and all of their abilities and limits.
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