normalizer in pro tools and low volumes.

Discussion in 'Recording/Live Sound' started by wsaraceni, May 13, 2005.


  1. wsaraceni

    wsaraceni Member

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    when i record a track it plays back at really low volumes. if i run a normalizer on it, the volumes come back. is this something i should do on every track i record or is there something that i am missing in my setup.


    i have

    guitar amp

    sm57

    mbox (turn knob up to slightly before clipping. listen in headphones to make sure no clipping is present)

    load new track

    record



    thats pretty much what i'm doing and when i save it as a wav or mp3, and playback, the volume is really low.

    also, what exactly does a normalizer do?
     
  2. GuitslingerTim

    GuitslingerTim Member

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    Normalization is a process in which all of the waveforms in a recording are boosted in volume until the loudest waveform reaches a certain volume level, usually 0dB

    Normalization is usually a destructive process that permanently alters and degrades the recording. I would explore other options before using normalization.

    Tracks that are too low in volume can be the result of not recording the tracks hot enough, not mixing them hot enough, or when a tremendous difference exists between the volume levels of the loudest and quietest waveforms.

    I have no experience with Protools, but the difference between peak volume measurements and RMS measurements are a major concern using Sonar. RMS levels are an average measurement, and an indicator of true overall volume level. Peak measurements on the other hand only measure the highest volume peak. There's a possibility that a peak waveform could be as high as it can go, while the average volume level is too low.

    When tracking, peak measurements work well enough, but when mixing, RMS levels are the preferred measurement for volume.

    If the volume level of an individual track must be lowered to avoid clipping, but the overall volume is so low that other tracks must be lowered in volume to make the track fit into the mix, applying compression to the low track while raising its volume level is the correct solution. Doing that will allow the overall volume of the track to be increased without causing the track to clip.
     
  3. LSchefman

    LSchefman Supporting Member

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    I agree with the last post about the artifacts of normalization in software I've used.

    They're usually audible.
     
  4. TAVD

    TAVD Guitar Player Gold Supporting Member

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    Interesting, I had no idea that amplifing audio in the digital realm created artifacts.

    Question for wsaraceni: Are you able to visually reference the levels with the meters, both before and after recording? It should help you track down the probelm. Perhaps a fader or tape trim (does PT have tape trims?) is set too low.

    Is it possible that you're monitoring both the input and recording at the same time when you record? That might give you an apparent increase in volume.
     
  5. Bassomatic

    Bassomatic Silver Supporting Member

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    I very rarely touch the stuff, but i don't believe this is the case these days. Wondering if you're referring to long-outdated algos.
     
  6. LSchefman

    LSchefman Supporting Member

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    >>I very rarely touch the stuff, but i don't believe this is the case these days. Wondering if you're referring to long-outdated algos.<<

    Since I'm long-outdated it's very possible, but this is my take on it. I find that there is truncation distortion on many normalized tracks, and that the automated process can smear the sound. This is because in order to normalize, the audio is requantized, it isn't just a boosted level.

    I do run current software. I have normalized on an emergency basis, like when I couldn't get anything out of a blatty kick drum, or some other track I didn't have the good sense in the heat of a session to properly record. I wouldn't use it on vocals for example.

    Then again, WTF do I know. Try it in your software on a vocal track and see if it bothers you.
     
  7. Brian D

    Brian D Member

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    When I was in school I often ended up using a Pro Tools plug-in called Maxim. It is a peak limiter, but it also "optimizes the overall level of the audio input while preserving the integrity of the original sound". I typically used it on my stereo two-mix, but occasionally I applied it to an individual track to raise the level as well. I'm not experienced enough to give a serious critique of the product, but in case you are curious here is a link:

    http://www.soundthinking.com/plug-ins/maxim.htm

    I don't know if it is workable for your system but it may be worth looking into.
     
  8. wsaraceni

    wsaraceni Member

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    the front of the m-box has a volume control. the pro tools track has a slider. If i move the slider all the way up when recording. and keep the mbox to the point right before clipping the playback is still too low. i'm going to look at some other settings. i think i need to reformat the computer as well.
     
  9. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    That's what I'm picking up is the crux of the problem.

    I also don't use normalizing plugs 'cause I don't like them... Les and splatt covered the whys and wherefores already.
     
  10. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    The fader only affects your playback volume. The front of the box has a headphone volume control, but I think you mean the input gain control.

    I don't know if you're recording guitar, vocal or what, but if you can't get a hot enough input level without clipping then you might try putting a hardware compressor before the preamp (with MBox you can't use an insert). But that means using a hardware preamp, too. Compressor plugs will not affect the recorded signal.

    MBox is OK for a scratchpad and for editing on the road, and you can use it for recording in a pinch if you do it right, but it's not much of a recording tool.
     
  11. wsaraceni

    wsaraceni Member

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    recording guitar. i have a bad cat hot cat 30 head going into a 2x12 with v30s. level at 1 o clock and master at noon so it's plenty loud. and yes i was talking about the input gain control.

    if the mbox isnt all that great. how would the digi002 rack be?
     
  12. Red Ant

    Red Ant Member

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    splatt is, of course, right - in the digital domain low input level = less bits. Bad stuff. I always try to get the hottest signal into PT that i can get without peaks. I never normalize anything - if i have to change gain beyond the faders' ability, i use "gain", and sparingly at that.

    As an interesting aside, back in the analog days i was an adamant purist about tracking everything "clean" - No EQ, NO Compression, and for gawds sake NO Noise Gates! Just Mics, cables, mic pres and tape. These day when i track digitally (which i do 95% of the time) i use more compression and even (egads) EQ then i ever have in analog - the compression is more critical to getting a good level to the converters and the EQ (if i have good EQ handy) saves on the plugin slots later ;)

    I just finished tracking something at The Village Recorder on "The Steely Dan Neve", and i went further - after we were done tracking i had a few hours left, so i split everything out to the console, eq'd and compressed things as if i were doing a full mix, and then PRINTED ALL THE TRACKS BACK IN! :)

    So when i took the session home to finish it i had about 60% of my mix aready done :)
     
  13. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    The reason I said it's not great is because you don't have I/O options. You can't insert hardware – e.g. a compressor – between the MBox's preamp and the fader. Yes, the 002 would allow you to do that but – and I mean no offense – if you didn't understand the difference between the fader and the gain I think for now you should save your money.

    I say that because you can probably solve your problem without it. I think all you need a is a little more time. You need to get a hotter signal to tape without clipping, and often that means some kind of compression or limiting. But it could be as simple as mic placement. Experiment, as you said up front, with different mic placement or maybe a compressor pedal. At least for now.
     
  14. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    ::Thread Hijack Alert::

    I've been doing a lot more EQ on the front end these days. Especially bass... I've found it makes a huge difference to EQ the bass before and after it hits the compressor. It really helps shape it *just so* and saves a sh*tload of time when mixing. But another time for that...
     
  15. wsaraceni

    wsaraceni Member

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    no offense taken. I really have no idea at all about this. i was in a real studio once and it was a lot of fun but it seemed so much easier. i guess that had part to do with the dual processor mac and the SSL board with full version of protools. man, i had no idea what was going on there at all. :D

    i'll work with mic placement a little bit more. im liking the tone right now with the mic placement though. go figure. ill keep trying some stuff out
     
  16. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    >> i was in a real studio once and it was a lot of fun but it seemed so much easier. i guess that had part to do with the dual processor mac and the SSL board with full version of protools. man, i had no idea what was going on there at all.

    I'm sure it had more to with the engineer than the gear.

    >> im liking the tone right now with the mic placement though.

    So keep a record of that as a reference. Anything else you do should either sound just as good or better, and if not you go back.
     
  17. wsaraceni

    wsaraceni Member

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    hahaha. there was no engineer. we were at NYU with one of their students at the clive davis school of recording engineering. more trial and error to come....
     
  18. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    Right but since you said you had no idea what was going on I assumed that meant someone else did. Stupid me, OK, it was the gear.

    Good luck.
     
  19. MichaelK

    MichaelK Member

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    BTW -
    I'm using the MBox tonight so I just looked it over... it does have two hardware inserts.
     
  20. LSchefman

    LSchefman Supporting Member

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    >>I just finished tracking something at The Village Recorder on "The Steely Dan Neve", and i went further - after we were done tracking i had a few hours left, so i split everything out to the console, eq'd and compressed things as if i were doing a full mix, and then PRINTED ALL THE TRACKS BACK IN!

    So when i took the session home to finish it i had about 60% of my mix aready done<<

    Great idea.

    For my ad scoring work, I often have to create stem submixes (in detroit ad-speak these are "splits"), which are taken to the audio post house with EQ and compression on the tracks in case the client wants to remix levels. Sometimes I even include reverb.

    I've done this on pure music projects just in case someone wants to redo something here or there later on, and it really saves time.
     

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