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What db down for recording to Tascam?

I'm recording high quality analog in, into to a TASCAM DR-100 Mark III. I am (always) concerned about exceeding maximum db in, which could cause distortion.

And so, I carefully watch the L R channels, monitoring the db levels, and as a precaution I have the LIMITER switch on the front of the recorder set to ON.. I selected Input sensitivity to 12 (it could have been lower, not much higher), and adjust the input so that it never goes above zero. Being a cautious sort, I keep the input in well below where it would approach zero, in amplitude peaks, and so it ranges (for most music) somewhere, on average, between peaks of -9 db down (though for classical its much more variable, and so I decrease the sensitivity, somewhat) to below that.

I've read that this is a good unit for recording, so I'm not too concerned that I am not approaching zero. I've listened to classical, and it seems that even when it's -30 or even further down, I'm still hearing it fine, way above any discernible noise floor.

Is there anything, in my ignorance, that I should be doing differently to maximize the quality of my recording?

Thank you.

Re: What db down for recording to Tascam?

Reply #1
A friend, a professional recording engineer, who worked on contract for a number of major labels, who was very concerned with quality, always aimed at having the expected input level at -20 dB in order to allow for unexpected peaks. On the other hand, this was in the days when the recording was to professional open reel tape decks. Tape, if I recall correctly, has a significant amount of intrinsic compression which could mean a bit more headroom than very linear preamps and ADCs.


Re: What db down for recording to Tascam?

Reply #2
I looked at the user manual and the limiter is not well documented.    In order for a limiter to work it has to kick-in and start "pushing-down" the levels before  you hit 0dB.   The threshold is not documented.   I'd assume it starts doing something between -6 and -3dB and I wouldn't expect it to do anything at -9dB.

Quote
I keep the input in well below where it would approach zero, in amplitude peaks, and so it ranges (for most music) somewhere, on average, between peaks of -9 db down
That should be fine.    Digital levels are not that critical as long as you're not clipping.   Nothing "bad" happens when you get close to 0dB (except in your case you might get limiting).   At very low levels you'll get quantization noise,* but it's normally way-way below any acoustic & analog noise, especially when recording at  24-bits. 

Just for reference, pros often record at -12 to -18dB.   Most "home engineers" record hotter but it's up to you to figure out how much headroom you need for those unexpected peaks, and there's nothing wrong with leaving lots of extra headroom.   "Headroom" is a funny thing...    If you don't use it, you don't really need it.   And if you do need it, it's not really headroom!  ;)



* You always have digital quantization noise but it's more than 90dB down at 16 bits and more than 140dB down at 24-bits.     You don't actually "get more" quantization nose at low levels but the signal-to-noise ratio is reduced and like any other noise, it gets amplified when you amplify the signal and it becomes more noticeable.  Under any normal conditions it's not audible and it's nothing to worry about. 

Re: What db down for recording to Tascam?

Reply #3
Thank you both for the info.  Yes, I noticed that the LIMITER switch was not well-documented.

I wonder how low one can go before the noise level of the recorder is reached, and noise becomes noticeable.

 
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