Everyone dreams of recording audio just like how the great audio engineers of world history did during their times. You have probably read books and interviews that discus and rave about the smoothly saturated tape and warm sound they created. And since you idolize them, you then try to apple the same ideas to your own recordings.
This is where your big mistake starts.
Audio digital recording is completely different from what you have read in your history books about overloading the pre-amplifiers and tape saturation. These days, digital audio is no longer too lenient to overload. For an audio engineer, one of the worst sounds he will hear is digital clipping. Back in the days, engineers loved to push their levels to saturation to achieve the warm tape sound. Today, however, the sole thing you will be able to achieve if you push the digital audio to the max is nothing but a horrible digital clipping.
Say No to Clipping
As far as audio digital recording is concerned, you will need to record at the optimum level without necessarily distorting your preamps that can cause a horrible clipping. Once you get levels into the DAW, see to it that you also get a good enough level for recording with it before it clips. A good rule of thumb here is to record first the signal’s loudest part at about ¾ before reaching 0dB. When your meters shift from green to red, somewhere at the center of the orange part will be a good enough level.
Thus, every time you set levels, see to it that your audio is recorded in the recommended area. It must not be too quite to the point that your audio gets too near to the noise floor yet not too loud to the point that clipping occurs.
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24 Bit Recording
In addition, see to it that you also do the recording at 24 bit because this is going to provide you with more headroom as compared to doing the recording at 16 bit. When you go for a 24 bit recording, the ratio between the signal and noise is much higher, letting you do an effective recording at lower levels with no need to introduce excessive noise to the signal.
The Bottom Line
By simply setting the levels properly, you will be able to avoid some issues during your mixing phase. You can stay away from that annoying digital clipping which can ruin your audio totally. When you record at 24 bit, you will also have enough headroom and volume that you can play around with less the noise floor that can pose some serious problems with your recordings.
While it can be very tempting to do what others have done before you, remember that things are no longer the same now as they were before. Keeping these simple things in mind can make a big difference in smoothing out any of those kinks you might have got later. Achieve a great sound with no digital clipping, and you can expect to have the best audio ever.