Resources for the Recording Musician
October 7, 2011

Input level question

Hello!  I've not asked you a question in a long time, but now I have a silly question.

I don't know if I am recording correctly on a very fundamental issue: input levels.  When I record I push the faders on the input "mixer" (these faders are in my Cubase software - so not real faders) wide open and then adjust the input levels on my True Systems P2 to keep the signal from clipping the fader indicator inside my Cubase software.  So I regulate the input signal via the P2 as opposed to regulating the input signal via the input faders.  My thinking is that I don't want to attenuate the signal via the faders, but I would rather have the signal attenuated via the dynamics of the performing musician. I record classical musicians and I don't want to use compression as I want to keep the signal as clean as possible.

The alternative would be to crank up the P2 and then attenuate the signal on the Cubase faders via "squashing" the signal with the faders.

Does this make any sense?

Which is the proper way to record and which would you recommend?

Can you clear this up for me?

You are doing it the right way.  The input fader should be set to zero dB (unity gain), and you should control the input level with your P2 preamplifier, making sure not to clip your converters.  The input faders in Cubase happen AFTER the signal has already been converted to digital, so lowering those faders would not correct any clipping that is taking place at the conversion stage.

I never touch the input faders in Cubase.  No reason to unless you are using them to control the monitor mix to the talent, or yourself.  I don't monitor "through" Cubase, as I have an external mixer I use for monitoring the signals before they go into Cubase, so I just leave all the input faders at their default unity gain settings.

Hope that makes sense.


Thank you!

This came up becuase I was recording a solo double bass session.  This instrumenrt has wildely varying levels of dynamics and sometimes it almost completely disappears when plucked.   Like I said in my earlier post, I'm trying to stay away from compression and a listener would really need to turn up the volume on their end to hear certain parts.

Are there any other faders within Cubase I should adjust to avoid clipping durng the input phase.

Anything you adjust in Cubase is happening AFTER the signal has already gone through your A/D converters, so it can't help you if your levels were already too hot and clipped the converters on the way in.

However, you don't want to be adding any gain with the input level faders or any inserts on the inputs, as that could lead to clipping before the signal is saved to your hard drive, if you are recording to a fixed point format (16 bits or 24 bits).  If for any strange reason you need to add some inserts or level to the input signals with the input channels, then you'll probably want to record in 32 bit floating point format which will prevent any clipping from that added processing.

That should never be happening, though, and there is no reason to record in 32 bit floating point format as your A/D converters are only 16 or 24 bit, and you'd be wasting hard drive space (there is no such thing as 32 bit floating point converters, and even 24 bit converters only give you about 20 bits of useful data anyway, as the rest is usually below the noise floor level of the electronics).

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