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ACADEMY

GENERAL MIXING

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(DURATION = 1h19min19)
DESCRIPTION

1/ GAIN STAGING & HEADROOM

What is headroom? Headroom is how much room your audio signal has before it starts to get compressed and distorted.

Every recording medium has a finite amount of headroom. If you try to record a signal that’s louder than what the medium is capable of handling, it will clip the tops of the waveform and you’ll hear that as distortion.

Good headroom in recording means that your levels are in the “sweet spot” range for the recording medium. That sweet spot is the perfect balance between a system’s noise floor and clipping point.

Today’s digital recording software has an extremely low noise floor, but headroom still matters. You need good Headroom for your mixes to sound the best they can. Your DAW has an impressive dynamic range, but you still have to convert your signal to analog to hear it. Bad headroom affects the way your AD/DA converters handle what comes in and out.

Record too low and you’re fighting the noise floor. Record too high and you push things into distortion and clipping. The key to getting the right headroom is gain staging. A good rule of thumb is to equate -18dBFS with the analog standard of 0dBVU. If you keep your peaks hitting not much above -10 dBFS, and keep the average level around -18 dBFS you should have a signal that’s right in the sweet spot.

Just keep in mind that more dynamic instruments like drums or percussion might need more space as their signals can have very large peaks.

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