Recording Levels

This is probably a dumb question, but hey ho! With all the sliders at 0db and no plugins, I can set the level on an instrument on my mixer such that the meter just peeks into the red nicely on the Ardour track. However this results in the Master track going well into the red. Obviously I can just make adjustments but I was wondering what the mechanism, if that’s the word is, that determines connection between the two - I kind of assume there shouldn’t be any gain increase? Have I missed the point or broken something?

I’m not sure what is happening in your particular instance but the essence of gain-staging in 24-bit audio world is set the gain trim of your input channels to some sensible so peaks hit -10dB or lower (you can talk about -18dB RMS levels too but peaking is easier to work with during recording). At each subsequent stage (i.e. entering busses etc) ensure by adjusting trim that your peaks stick around there. Only at the master bus stage worry about peaking higher. And, if you are sending off to a professional mixing or mastering engineer just keep that headroom and export your stereo mixdown or stems at 24-bit or 32-float and native samplerate. FYI, at the master bus stage I can highly recommend averaging around 0 on a K-20 scale or in LUFS-ville something like I-20 (integrated 20LUFS) across the entire song. Ardour 6.3 has a great way to reach desired levels via the new “LAN” feature. These are sensible levels when passing on to other people. If mastering on your own, then of course you would be setting final levels as expected of the genre.

Bottom line: with 24-bit audio, there is absolutely no need to be peaking into the red (signal-to-noise ratio and all that jazz).

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Double-check that your trim controls are zero-ed out if there is a difference between channels and master. It sounds like your faders are already zero-ed out across the board but it’s worth making sure.

Cheers for that, I have 6.3 so I’ll look for “LAN”. This only became a thing (hence I have no idea what is “normal”) when having a go at mastering using plugins in the Master track. I did this because, using JAMin, even with it’s hard limiter working, the Master track was always in the red and clipping badly. I suspect thinking about it was probably a mistake!

There are multiple types of meters available in Ardour, perhaps you are comparing two different types, e.g. simple peak meters on the tracks and K20 style on the master bus. Look at the small box with peak level at the top of each meter, should have the same value if you have gain set to 0dB on all the tracks and the master bus and no plugins that could change level.


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