Previous Beantalk Articles

September 28, 2001

June 1, 2001

April 21, 2001

















4/21/2001 - A few words on digital levels. I just received a great CD collection of tunes from a friend. Of course, I immediately extracted the first tune to see how it looked as a waveform. I played it back while visually inspecting the wave and yikes! That ugly sound. Digital distortion. You have heard it, I am sure, that nasty click and fuzz that can ruin otherwise great tracks. It usually comes from a few consecutive times a signal reaches digital “0”. On a CD, error correction may patch a tiny hole in the “roof”, but many quazi engineers are pushing it far beyond that point.

We call it a “flat-topping - “square waving” - music killing disease. How to avoid? It is a bit easier for me as a mastering engineer to avoid clipping when working with digital levels and processes. There are less opportunities to clip the levels in digital mastering than digital multi-track recording and mixing. Lately, in mastering, engineers have been pushing the signal too hard, and compressing too much in quest of higher average volumes. When applying final processes, I can police every point possible to avoid any internal signal overloads. Here is where I avoid rectangalizing a clients mix. How can a digital recording and mixing engineer do this? Gain stages, of course! Every single plug-in, buss, and fader on a digital mixing system must be policed! The ins and outs must be watched to see that at no time digital zero is breached. Lower each offender just a “bit” or two and you won’t lose anything at all. Especially at internal sampling rates of 24 bits and above, you are much better off backing away from "0" slightly than reaching for it. At the main fader, watch the combination of busses and tracks and keep it out of the dead zone! Leave a db or two for the mastering engineer to have a clean chance of making your music the best it can be.

Copyright © 2001 Jim DeSalvo. May not be used without written permission of the author.











Copyright © 2001 BEANSTUDIO Mastering® Wayne, NJ USA