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What dB should I be hitting Nebula at? dBfs-rms- vu

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What dB should I be hitting Nebula at? dBfs-rms- vu

Postby Partyfoul » Thu Dec 23, 2010 3:05 pm

Hi guys

This is probably a fairly half-wit question for people on here but I cant see any posts that answer it fully.

I've been using nebula for a while and i want to ensure that I making the most of it. I read that Alex's consoles are designed so that 0Vu=-18dbfs which is the optimised level for hitting the original hardware.

Does that therefore mean i should hitting my daw close to 0db to get the most out of these console emulations?

Probably barking up the completely wrong tree but thought it was worth an ask. Or if anyone knows of posts which cover this and can point me in the right direction i'd be grateful.

Cheers and have a good Christmas
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Re: What dB should I be hitting Nebula at? dBfs-rms- vu

Postby enriquesilveti » Thu Dec 23, 2010 3:12 pm

Not only AlexB, European Broadcasting Union recommend this standard (EBU R68) > http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/DBFS
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Re: What dB should I be hitting Nebula at? dBfs-rms- vu

Postby TranscendingMusic » Thu Dec 23, 2010 4:43 pm

Partyfoul wrote:Hi guys

This is probably a fairly half-wit question for people on here but I cant see any posts that answer it fully.

I've been using nebula for a while and i want to ensure that I making the most of it. I read that Alex's consoles are designed so that 0Vu=-18dbfs which is the optimised level for hitting the original hardware.

Does that therefore mean i should hitting my daw close to 0db to get the most out of these console emulations?

Probably barking up the completely wrong tree but thought it was worth an ask. Or if anyone knows of posts which cover this and can point me in the right direction i'd be grateful.

Cheers and have a good Christmas


"0dB" really has no meaning without context. Db scale is only a relative reference for volume, so without any units involved we don't know what we are referring to. What we are interested in is knowing at what VU or since we are in the digital world here, at what dBFS is optimal. It all depends on the gear and how the dev wanted to capture the gear at what working level. We know alexb stuff is optimal with signal right around -18dBFS. So your "0" will be floating around -18 in the box.
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Re: What dB should I be hitting Nebula at? dBfs-rms- vu

Postby enriquesilveti » Thu Dec 23, 2010 7:39 pm

"0dB" really has no meaning without context.


+1

New standard into digital television (ITU-R BS 1770) link voltage with dB SPL with the control room dimensions. There is a good reading in the Advanced Television System Committee (ATSC) website, the standard is similar with European Broadcasting Union (EBU) regulations. We wait this for years (thank you Bob Katz), now is here!

-18 dBFS = 0 dB VU = +4 dBu = 85 dB SPL in a +20,000 control room (room volumen in cubic feet)

Obviously if you work into a 100% ITB 32/64 floating point environment you can break this rule due is almost impossible to distort the digital signal. See this post from Eric Bean from STN here: http://rhythminmind.net/1313/?p=1253. But Nebula and other analog emulation plug-ins works like analog gear, so in my professional and personal opinion you should try to adopt this standard.

RME release a especial version of digicheck that include ITU-R BS 1770 measurement.
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Re: What dB should I be hitting Nebula at? dBfs-rms- vu

Postby Partyfoul » Fri Dec 24, 2010 9:16 am

Thanks that's really useful. Ending up reading alot in general yesterday as well. A little knowledge goes a long.
You can probably tell I come from more of a production angle than engineering but nebula seems to be working miracles for me at the moment. Ill keep reading.
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Re: What dB should I be hitting Nebula at? dBfs-rms- vu

Postby odd » Fri Dec 24, 2010 10:27 am

These are RMS levels, correct?

Are there any Nebula programs besides AlexB's that require -18dBFS?
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Re: What dB should I be hitting Nebula at? dBfs-rms- vu

Postby rhythminmind » Fri Dec 24, 2010 2:28 pm

Ok grab a drink. I'll try to explain how this all relates & relates to nebula. This is something I have to deal with constantly in my career.
This is a deep topic with a long history but I'll try to keep this brief.

Lets start from the top.

All engineers/musicians should understand the difference between DBFS & dBu

DBFS - Deals with digital fullscale. -inf to 0.
When talking about Digital audio being translated into the analog realm via an D/A converter, 0DBFS is as far as you can go without clipping your D/A. (while your ITB it's a different story)

dBu - Deals with the operating level of your analog hardware.
This will be device dependent. You need to check the specs of your hardware to see what it was designed for.

So now the fun part, calibration standards.
In order to calibrate anything you need some kind of meter. Well lucky for us we have 543543254325 types of them :?
The two most common are RMS/Peak & vu.

Peak are what most DAW's meters default to.

vu is a meter scaling that came from early broadcasters & has been a known standard for many years.
Make sure you understand these two meters tell you different things.

In the United States post/broadcast world -20DBFS = 0vu (euro it's -18DBFS)
This means when you play a -20DBFS 1k sine wave tone from your DAW, you should calibrate your analog hardware/vu meters to read 0vu.
Now depending on the dBu specs of your hardware. You will need to adjust the analog trims on your D/A or Hardware itself.

I have many tone files you can freely grab on my site.
http://rhythminmind.net/1313/?p=2473

Why does -20 = 0vu?
Well many analog consoles/hardware only have vu meters. Unlike DAWs analog hardware has a level limit before clipping. So in the analog world you want to be working at a level that has enough headroom to handle your peaks. 0vu average is just that level. Depending on the design of the hardware/console you can have anything from +5/+30 over 0vu before clipping your console/gear.
With the advent of DAW's the concept of peak headroom was lost somewhere over the years. In general you just don't need it anymore (the joy of floating point digital audio).
But as an outcome analog standards now seem like voodoo to most. Understanding the foundation will only make mixing ITB a better experience & give you better mixes.

So how does this all translate with nebula?
Well that depends on the program/library.

For modern music mixing/mastering we use the full bandwidth of our digital formats. This means our peaks can reach 0DBFS or over. This is how your DAW is setup to function by default.
My programs/librarys are calibrated to function just like every other plugin in your system.
For example if you put my DME 1968 Compressor program on your master bus, It is expecting to see full scale audio. Peaks up until 0DBFS.

(ITU-R BS 1770) - With the topic at hand this is something we don't need to concentrate on or think about.
For those curious it's a metering system that measures average loudness for broadcast. In the states -22/-24 LKFS (ITU) is the "spec" average. Until it gets policed by all networks -20ish is what is actually coming out of most studios.

Well I hope this answers more questions then it starts. I failed at keeping this brief. It's a in-depth topic & this it just the tip of the ice burg..
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Re: What dB should I be hitting Nebula at? dBfs-rms- vu

Postby odd » Fri Dec 24, 2010 2:53 pm

Great post, thanks. So I'm correct that, apart from the AlexB programs, keeping peaks < 0dBFS in the DAW is the only important thing to mind when gain-staging plug-in chains (including Nebula) and not using outboard. Right?

As to the AlexB programs, is it necessary to start monitoring RMS levels going into Nebula? Bit of a hassle as my DAW like many others informs only of peak value, but of course there are RMS-reading plug-ins. I know the input can be controlled within Nebula, but afaik the Nebula meters read peak levels, not RMS. I'm on the old standard version 3, maybe this is different in Nebula Pro?
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Re: What dB should I be hitting Nebula at? dBfs-rms- vu

Postby rhythminmind » Fri Dec 24, 2010 3:06 pm

odd wrote:keeping peaks < 0dBFS in the DAW is the only important thing to mind when gain-staging plug-in chains (including Nebula) and not using outboard. Right?

Not exactly. With Nebula you don't want to go over 0DBFS. You should treat it like a external hardware insert. With
most other "native" floating point plugins & DAWS you can hit them with signals 1000's of dB over 0DBFS without clipping. You just have to make sure you bring the levels back down under 0DBFS before you hit the D/A.

odd wrote:As to the AlexB programs, is it necessary to start monitoring RMS levels going into Nebula? Bit of a hassle as my DAW like many others informs only of peak value, but of course there are RMS-reading plug-ins. I know the input can be controlled within Nebula, but afaik the Nebula meters read peak levels, not RMS. I'm on the old standard version 3, maybe this is different in Nebula Pro?

You don't have to use RMS meters. EDIT: Just keep in mind that -18DBFS is driving the sampled hardware @ 0vu for those programs.
Last edited by rhythminmind on Fri Dec 24, 2010 4:01 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: What dB should I be hitting Nebula at? dBfs-rms- vu

Postby Barendse » Fri Dec 24, 2010 3:11 pm

Eric, -18dbfs.....we're talking about the middle setting on the input slider don't we?
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