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0dbFS and r2r , crank the input?

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Re: 0dbFS and r2r , crank the input?

Postby ngarjuna » Tue Aug 23, 2011 2:03 pm

Finnish wrote:
faun2500 wrote:That harsh metallic type sound when the vocal comes in sounds like the peaks hitting nebula too loud.


Yeah, I double checked the levels (RMS and peaks) and it was peak hitting too hard on Nebula.

BTW, why isn't Nebula meter by default on peak mode, it's 4 RMS 17 by default?

Probably because a great deal of the hardware sampled into Nebula utilizes VU metering although there are plenty of other great reasons to default to an average versus peak meter.
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Re: 0dbFS and r2r , crank the input?

Postby faun2500 » Tue Aug 23, 2011 8:40 pm

I forgot nebula meters a long time ago. Just use third part meters or you DAW meters when soloed. -18 average is good advise but I find it is ultimately the peaks that matter.
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Re: 0dbFS and r2r , crank the input?

Postby TranscendingMusic » Tue Aug 23, 2011 9:04 pm

For a long time now I try to advise on forgetting "VU" or averages while mixing. Truth be told, they are useless in a DAW or any rendering engine that has an absolute ceiling such as Nebula. These sentiment of -18 = 0 vu will mislead you. Peaks are what are important here and determine whether or not you are clipping the signal/silencing it in turn creating these artifacts. You can't anticipate a signals crest factor which means going by this scale is not helpful. You may set a snare track for example where it's average is a round -18 and think all is well but you don't know where that peak is headed! Forget about it, stick with peak meters, use your ears, and watch your overload leds and you'll be much better off.
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Re: 0dbFS and r2r , crank the input?

Postby ngarjuna » Tue Aug 23, 2011 9:13 pm

TranscendingMusic wrote:For a long time now I try to advise on forgetting "VU" or averages while mixing. Truth be told, they are useless in a DAW or any rendering engine that has an absolute ceiling such as Nebula. These sentiment of -18 = 0 vu will mislead you. Peaks are what are important here and determine whether or not you are clipping the signal/silencing it in turn creating these artifacts. You can't anticipate a signals crest factor which means going by this scale is not helpful. You may set a snare track for example where it's average is a round -18 and think all is well but you don't know where that peak is headed! Forget about it, stick with peak meters, use your ears, and watch your overload leds and you'll be much better off.

Respectfully...no.

First off digital audio's ceiling doesn't differ all that fundamentally from analog audio's practical ceiling: sure, you can keep pushing your signal into distortion but burnt to a crisp is burnt to a crisp. If your signal is averaging -18 and peaking over 18 decibels higher that's a gain staging problem with the signal itself. If one needs more than 18dB of headroom above average to catch their peaks I would suggest something is wrong with one's approach to levels to begin with (of course there are special cases and exceptions to every rule of thumb in audio including this one but someone who wants to break the rules needs to first understand them).

All of that is academic but here's the point: if you're using a piece of hardware that is calibrated to 5dB max headroom over 0VU and your peaks are pushing through that threshold it's gonna sound like shit on the hardware too. Why would Nebula processes be any different? In this case they hard/digital clip instead of just burning up but it's the same thing fundamentally: using Nebula requires some practical understanding about gain staging the same way as using hardware.

Pretty much all of the most classic albums of all times were mixed without peak meters; I feel safe in believing that trend could easily continue.
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Re: 0dbFS and r2r , crank the input?

Postby Finnish » Tue Aug 23, 2011 9:23 pm

TranscendingMusic wrote:For a long time now I try to advise on forgetting "VU" or averages while mixing. Truth be told, they are useless in a DAW or any rendering engine that has an absolute ceiling such as Nebula. These sentiment of -18 = 0 vu will mislead you. Peaks are what are important here and determine whether or not you are clipping the signal/silencing it in turn creating these artifacts. You can't anticipate a signals crest factor which means going by this scale is not helpful. You may set a snare track for example where it's average is a round -18 and think all is well but you don't know where that peak is headed! Forget about it, stick with peak meters, use your ears, and watch your overload leds and you'll be much better off.


Lately I've been using Sonalksis FreeG for setting this around -18 and I gotta say it is worth it. Nowadays I try to record with levels aiming for that but I've got a bunch of older recordings that I need mix or at least hassle with 'em.

Last night I came to a conclusion that with -18 on track and peak metering in Nebula I'm almost done with my metering problem that's mostly related to Nebula. I have only CDSoundmaster libraries, with AlexB libraries I'd be lost in volume settings here and there.
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Re: 0dbFS and r2r , crank the input?

Postby TranscendingMusic » Tue Aug 23, 2011 9:28 pm

ngarjuna wrote:
TranscendingMusic wrote:For a long time now I try to advise on forgetting "VU" or averages while mixing. Truth be told, they are useless in a DAW or any rendering engine that has an absolute ceiling such as Nebula. These sentiment of -18 = 0 vu will mislead you. Peaks are what are important here and determine whether or not you are clipping the signal/silencing it in turn creating these artifacts. You can't anticipate a signals crest factor which means going by this scale is not helpful. You may set a snare track for example where it's average is a round -18 and think all is well but you don't know where that peak is headed! Forget about it, stick with peak meters, use your ears, and watch your overload leds and you'll be much better off.

Respectfully...no.

First off digital audio's ceiling doesn't differ all that fundamentally from analog audio's practical ceiling: sure, you can keep pushing your signal into distortion but burnt to a crisp is burnt to a crisp. If your signal is averaging -18 and peaking over 18 decibels higher that's a gain staging problem with the signal itself. If one needs more than 18dB of headroom above average to catch their peaks I would suggest something is wrong with one's approach to levels to begin with (of course there are special cases and exceptions to every rule of thumb in audio including this one but someone who wants to break the rules needs to first understand them).

All of that is academic but here's the point: if you're using a piece of hardware that is calibrated to 5dB max headroom over 0VU and your peaks are pushing through that threshold it's gonna sound like shit on the hardware too. Why would Nebula processes be any different? In this case they hard/digital clip instead of just burning up but it's the same thing fundamentally: using Nebula requires some practical understanding about gain staging the same way as using hardware.

Pretty much all of the most classic albums of all times were mixed without peak meters; I feel safe in believing that trend could easily continue.



hey ngarjuna

To address the point about gain staging: the measurement of a transient for any given case is not dependent on the gain staging (in fact peaks could be well up to +20 above average!). The management of that crest and how peaks are handled and whether there is clipping or not is dependent on gain staging. Every situation is different! Some recorded snares for example will have bigger peaks than others but this is not indicative of bad or good gain staging, just different signals, differnt mics, different players, so on and so forth. Of course analog too possesses a gain staging principle, no doubt. But it inherently differs compared to digital platforms. In analog there is an approximation in gain staging. No doubt really driving analog can bring out an ugly side but in the digital realm there is no room for even having a cushion to be able to drive any signal. Nebula engine at the end of the day is digital, there is an absolute ceiling. I keep hearing mixes with users of Nebula adhering to these vu rules and these artifacts are all over their mixes. Because the ceiling issue is not to be treated like analog but as a digital limit. There's a reason why this is happening and it's not because of bad gain staging in the recording. It's using a baseless scale in the digital realm. The bottom line is -18 average can work as an approxmiation but not always because of the differing of signal peaks therefore it doesn't apply to all cases.
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Re: 0dbFS and r2r , crank the input?

Postby ngarjuna » Tue Aug 23, 2011 9:46 pm

TranscendingMusic wrote:hey ngarjuna

To address the point about gain staging: the measurement of a transient for any given case is not dependent on the gain staging. the management of that crest and how peaks are handled is dependent on gain staging. Every situation is different! Some recorded snares for example will have bigger peaks than others but this is not indicative of bad or good gain staging, just different signals, differnt mics, different players, so on and so forth. Of course analog too possesses a gain staging principle, no doubt. But it inherently differs compared to digital platforms. In analog there is an approximation in gain staging. No doubt really driving analog can bring out an ugly side but in the digital realm there is no room for even having a cushion to be able to drive any signal. Nebula engine at the end of the day is digital, there is an absolute ceiling. I keep hearing mixes with users of Nebula adhering to these vu rules and these artifacts are all over their mixes. Because the ceiling issue is not to be treated like analog but as a digital limit. There's a reason why this is happening and it's not because of bad gain staging in the recording. It's using a baseless scale in the digital realm. The bottom line is -18 average can work as an approxmiation but not always because of the differing of signal peaks therefore it doesn't apply to all cases.

I definitely hear what you're saying (and I do agree with everything quoted above). I guess my notion is: you wouldn't have a peak meter to assist with your transients if you were using a hardware compressor; so why is peak metering required for using a Nebula program of a hardware compressor?

I think if one were to take your advice and add it to proper average level management ("Also watch your peaks, make sure you don't have any stray transients ringing out your programs") it would be a good way for someone to get a handle on the whole process of understanding signal levels. But I think a peak meter on its own doesn't paint a very complete picture especially if your crest factor is all over the place. Gain staging with a peak meter is a recipe for disaster because two signals can have identical peaks and not even remotely identical average levels. So getting a good drive on a signal, for example, is much more easily accomplished watching that average level. Of course transient rich material (particularly drums) is a bit fast for VU metering and learning to watch drums on a VU meter is kind of a skill unto itself. I can certainly see how a peak meter in addition to your average meter might assist as you're getting that process taken care of. But for the vast majority of non-drum signals a peak meter just isn't that useful in comparison. That's how I see it, anyway.
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Re: 0dbFS and r2r , crank the input?

Postby TranscendingMusic » Tue Aug 23, 2011 10:00 pm

ngarjuna wrote:
TranscendingMusic wrote:hey ngarjuna

To address the point about gain staging: the measurement of a transient for any given case is not dependent on the gain staging. the management of that crest and how peaks are handled is dependent on gain staging. Every situation is different! Some recorded snares for example will have bigger peaks than others but this is not indicative of bad or good gain staging, just different signals, differnt mics, different players, so on and so forth. Of course analog too possesses a gain staging principle, no doubt. But it inherently differs compared to digital platforms. In analog there is an approximation in gain staging. No doubt really driving analog can bring out an ugly side but in the digital realm there is no room for even having a cushion to be able to drive any signal. Nebula engine at the end of the day is digital, there is an absolute ceiling. I keep hearing mixes with users of Nebula adhering to these vu rules and these artifacts are all over their mixes. Because the ceiling issue is not to be treated like analog but as a digital limit. There's a reason why this is happening and it's not because of bad gain staging in the recording. It's using a baseless scale in the digital realm. The bottom line is -18 average can work as an approxmiation but not always because of the differing of signal peaks therefore it doesn't apply to all cases.

I definitely hear what you're saying (and I do agree with everything quoted above). I guess my notion is: you wouldn't have a peak meter to assist with your transients if you were using a hardware compressor; so why is peak metering required for using a Nebula program of a hardware compressor?

I think if one were to take your advice and add it to proper average level management ("Also watch your peaks, make sure you don't have any stray transients ringing out your programs") it would be a good way for someone to get a handle on the whole process of understanding signal levels. But I think a peak meter on its own doesn't paint a very complete picture especially if your crest factor is all over the place. Gain staging with a peak meter is a recipe for disaster because two signals can have identical peaks and not even remotely identical average levels. So getting a good drive on a signal, for example, is much more easily accomplished watching that average level. Of course transient rich material (particularly drums) is a bit fast for VU metering and learning to watch drums on a VU meter is kind of a skill unto itself. I can certainly see how a peak meter in addition to your average meter might assist as you're getting that process taken care of. But for the vast majority of non-drum signals a peak meter just isn't that useful in comparison. That's how I see it, anyway.



That's right, there would be no peak meter within the hardware world because of the nonlinear nature of analog and it's gradual tendency to clip. Gain staging of course between analog and digital are different beasts and should be treated differently. For instance, when I used to work entirely OTB, I would spend a full day just on setting my in's and out's for all of my analog connections (one time process). I'd sit down with their respective specs and find there ceilings. Runnign test tones through the system I could then find the clip points without a peak meter but with peak LED's and then back off a certain amount in DB to approximate the optimum operating level for a particular peice of gear. Those inbetween values took care of themselves. Going down the chain, gain or padding was used then to adjust for each piece of gear. But again, knowing the gear's specs and then following a general rule of "cushion" below it's max output allowed for an "accurate approxmization" of optimal operation. In digital, I know that my absolute 0 is an absolute. therefore, no matter what my avergae level will fall, my correct gain staging would have to depend on the peaks. They dictate where the average level falls, not the other way around because the dire consequence lies with the peak. Sure you could use a vu meter if you like, but I like to address the gain staging with a certain degree of approximation borrowed from analog gain staging. By this I mean I am prudently watching my peaks and considering the entire track of the instrument in whether it is clipping nebula or not. I find the sweet spot by staying about, roughly 3 to 6 dB below the clip point. This gives you actually a good translation of how the hardware works so you are doing okay at this point. I do this drums and tonal instruments alike. The character of each preset is applied more closely to the track like its analog counterpart. You can't worry about your avergae level, it'll work itself out. Worry about where the "crime" happens lol around the peak area.

EDIT: just to answer a question, I think somebody was pondering the level values for each R2R preset. these actually reprsent the level Michael used in creating the preset and not necessarily what you have to set in Nebula in order to use the preset. Hope that's clear? So in other words, it's just another character built into the preset, not pertaining to you as a user.
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Re: 0dbFS and r2r , crank the input?

Postby ngarjuna » Tue Aug 23, 2011 10:18 pm

TranscendingMusic wrote:That's right, there would be no peak meter within the hardware world because of the nonlinear nature of analog and it's gradual tendency to clip. Gain staging of course between analog and digital are different beasts and should be treated differently. For instance, when I used to work entirely OTB, I would spend a full day just on setting my in's and out's for all of my analog connections (one time process). I'd sit down with their respective specs and find there ceilings. Runnign test tones through the system I could then find the clip points without a peak meter but with peak LED's and then back off a certain amount in DB to approximate the optimum operating level for a particular peice of gear. Those inbetween values took care of themselves. Going down the chain, gain or padding was used then to adjust for each piece of gear. But again, knowing the gear's specs and then following a general rule of "cushion" below it's max output allowed for an "accurate approxmization" of optimal operation. In digital, I know that my absolute 0 is an absolute. therefore, no matter what my avergae level will fall, my correct gain staging would have to depend on the peaks. They dictate where the average level falls, not the other way around because the dire consequence lies with the peak. Sure you could use a vu meter if you like, but I like to address the gain staging with a certain degree of approximation borrowed from analog gain staging. By this I mean I am prudently watching my peaks and considering the entire track of the instrument in whether it is clipping nebula or not. I find the sweet spot by staying about, roughly 3 to 6 dB below the clip point. This gives you actually a good translation of how the hardware works so you are doing okay at this point. I do this drums and tonal instruments alike. The character of each preset is applied more closely to the track like its analog counterpart. You can't worry about your avergae level, it'll work itself out. Worry about where the "crime" happens lol around the peak area.

I hear what you mean but if you're talking about peaks as the constraining value (I presume you mean 0dBFS, right?) then you still don't need a peak meter: all you need is a simple clip light. And for that matter: with Nebula how many programs can you safely push up to 0dBFS? The real constraining factor on these programs is not a peak ceiling at all but rather overdriving the program too far (if you've gone over 0dBFS then you have bigger problems than just how hard you're hitting Nebula!); so while peak metering would certainly give you clues about that, no more so than average metering as far as I can reason.

There's also the matter of calibration: many programs have a fairly small sweet spot (compared to purely digital effects, anyway) which is entirely derived from VU/average value. So if Alex advises you try to hit his processor at about -18dBFS average and you're watching a peak meter...how does that work? We've already agreed that peaks don't necessarily reflect useful information about their corresponding average values. You're always guessing/going by ear in terms of hitting your processors in their sweet spots. I'm in favor of using one's ears but that's going to be a lot harder for someone who has never used a Vintage Blue Console in real life (for one random example). Seems to me to maximize getting into those sweet spots you definitely want an averaging meter even if one were taking your advice and also paying close attention to their peaks.

The converse (monitoring VU by meter and peak by ear) is a lot easier: your VU meter gets you right into the ballpark and you know if your crest factor is abusive because most Nebula programs will start ringing like a dinner glass when you pump excessive transients into them. Whereas the opposite (monitoring VU by ear and peak by meter) you may or may not easily hear that sweet spot as you fluctuate between -4dB VU and +1dB VU (depending on one's experience, how busy the mix is, etc.).

But I guess we approach gain staging from a pretty radically different perspective; I am firmly in the camp of engineers who hold that you treat ITB the same as you treat OTB and you end up with the same good mixes ITB that you used to get OTB. Sure, you don't get all that clean headroom that digital could be offering you but you don't lose anything by not driving your digital gain either.
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Re: 0dbFS and r2r , crank the input?

Postby yr » Tue Aug 23, 2011 10:45 pm

The way I see it, using only a VU meter with Nebula gives you a false sense of security- assuming you still have that much headroom. Some presets show digital artifacts/ringing long before you reach 0dBFS (or even -6dBFS). Simply put, presets have their own set of strengths and weaknesses that are not always directly correlated to the hardware from which they were sampled.
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