Recording - August 2016 - 8

Note to faithful writers: When sending your letters by email,
please remember to include your name and where you hail from.
Digital recording: questions and answers
Dear Paul Stamler, I really enjoyed your recent articles on digital
recording (First Steps, February and March 2016). Great info! I have
two questions for you.
First: Would you give me your recommendation regarding what bit
depth and sample rate to use for a professional recording? (There are
so many opinions out there; I would love to hear yours!)
Second: Is it common to hear digital artifacts and/or distortion
when dithering down from a 24-bit/96,000 samples per second file to
a 16-bit/44,100 samples per second file for a CD mix? I recently
exported a 24 bit/96 kHz file, dithering down to 16/44.1 to burn onto
a CD to listen to in my truck, etc., and noticed what sounded like brief
distortion on the lead vocal track in one certain spot. It's not like that
on the original file when playing back through my interface, a
Focusrite Scarlett. My DAW is Cakewalk SONAR, and my chosen
dithering type was "triangular." Any thoughts...?
Thanks,
Adam Town

Paul J. Stamler replies:
Hello Adam, and thanks for your letter and for your compliments!
To answer your first question, I habitually record using 24 bits, sampling at 44,100 samples per second. The latter dates me as coming
from a time when sample rate conversions typically mangled the
sound, so I tried to record at the same sample rate the track would end
up as. Which, for a CD, is 44,100 samples/sec.
As for your second question, you actually did two things to the signal: you converted from 96,000 samples/second to 44,100
samples/second, and you converted the signal from 24 to 16 bits.
Your DAW almost certainly does the operations in that sequence-first
the sample rate, then the bit depth.
Here are a couple of things to try:
1. Open the file on which you're hearing the distortion and find the
spot where the distortion is audible. Zoom in on it. Does the signal hit
maximum level (flat-topping) at that spot? Sometimes sample rate conversion or dithering operations will alter the levels of signals, which
can lead to audible clipping. (I assume you're not also performing a
level-changing operation like normalizing or limiting.)
2. Try converting from 96,000 to 44,100 samples/second, without
dithering it to 16 bits. Do you still hear the distortion? And do you see it
when you zoom in on the waveform? If so, then the sample rate conversion is the culprit. If not-if the converted file is audibly and visually
clean-try converting the file (now 44,100 samples/sec and 24 bits) to
16 bits, using the same triangular dither. If the result is bad, you now
know that the 24-to-16-bit conversion is where the problem lies.
You didn't mention which version of SONAR you're using; it's in constant flux now that Cakewalk does monthly updates, and many users are
still using older versions. There's an excellent comparison of sample rate
converters from various DAWs at http://src.infinitewave.ca (Infinite
Wave lets us publicize their site and has let me use graphics from it in
this magazine before). Most versions of SONAR tested out reasonably
well (though one inverted the polarity on the impulse test), but there were
some differences. Take a look at that site and look up your particular version of SONAR, then try the tests I suggested above to help narrow
down which stage is creating the distortion. Hope this helps! Peace-PJS

Adam, let me chime in with one more bit of advice.
Some engineers hold to the belief that the best kind of
sample rate conversion, the one with the least potential for harming the audio, is decimation-the removal
of (for example) every other sample. For video, which
uses 48 kHz audio, decimation from 96 kHz is
easy... but if you plan to release your music on CD or
MP3 at a sample rate of 44.1 kHz, it's best to record
your high-resolution tracks at 88.2 kHz rather than 96
kHz... or 176.4 kHz rather than 192 kHz.
These engineers argue that the difference in
Nyquist frequency (the highest frequency that can be
sampled without aliasing, and therefore the cutoff
point for the converter's anti-aliasing filter) is minimal
in this situation, and the improvement in audio quality
when downsampling more than makes up for it. It's
worth experimenting with; sample rate conversion has
gotten a lot better in recent years, but "first do no
harm" isn't a bad philosophy when recording. Thanks
for reading!-MM
All's well that ends (up on disk) well
For the past couple of months I've been having
issues with audio when running Cakewalk SONAR
Platinum and PreSonus Notion 5, connected via
ReWire. I had to increase the buffer size way too high
in order to keep the sounds from breaking up. I spent
lots of time with techs from both companies, to no
avail.
Then I read the Talkback article (June 2016) about
"One Drive, Two Drive, New Drive." and realized the
problem I'm having may be the Notion software running and reading off the same drive. I moved the
Notion sounds to another drive... and problem solved.
I'm back to running at low buffers, with no audio
issues.
So thank you for the info. I can now get back to
composing music without fear of the audio not playing back properly. Best to you.
Gary Smith
Grand Junction, CO

Correction
In his response to a question about routinely filtering out lows and highs (Talkback, May 2016), Paul J.
Stamler wrote that he usually records "with cardioid
or hypercardioid microphones, which don't have the
super-extended low frequency response of omni mics
such as the DPA 4011."
Paul adds, "I got the model number wrong. Please
change DPA 4011 to DPA 4006A. The 4011, a cardioid, does have extended low-frequency response,
but the 4006A, an omni, really goes way down
there. That's more what I was thinking of."

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8

RECORDING AUGUST 2016


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Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Recording - August 2016

 Contents
Recording - August 2016 - Intro
Recording - August 2016 - Cover1
Recording - August 2016 - Cover2
Recording - August 2016 - 1
Recording - August 2016 - 2
Recording - August 2016 - 3
Recording - August 2016 - 4
Recording - August 2016 - 5
Recording - August 2016 -  Contents
Recording - August 2016 - 7
Recording - August 2016 - 8
Recording - August 2016 - 9
Recording - August 2016 - 10
Recording - August 2016 - 11
Recording - August 2016 - 12
Recording - August 2016 - 13
Recording - August 2016 - 14
Recording - August 2016 - 15
Recording - August 2016 - 16
Recording - August 2016 - 17
Recording - August 2016 - 18
Recording - August 2016 - 19
Recording - August 2016 - 20
Recording - August 2016 - 21
Recording - August 2016 - 22
Recording - August 2016 - 23
Recording - August 2016 - 24
Recording - August 2016 - 25
Recording - August 2016 - 26
Recording - August 2016 - 27
Recording - August 2016 - 28
Recording - August 2016 - 29
Recording - August 2016 - 30
Recording - August 2016 - 31
Recording - August 2016 - 32
Recording - August 2016 - 33
Recording - August 2016 - 34
Recording - August 2016 - 35
Recording - August 2016 - 36
Recording - August 2016 - 37
Recording - August 2016 - 38
Recording - August 2016 - 39
Recording - August 2016 - 40
Recording - August 2016 - 41
Recording - August 2016 - 42
Recording - August 2016 - 43
Recording - August 2016 - 44
Recording - August 2016 - 45
Recording - August 2016 - 46
Recording - August 2016 - 47
Recording - August 2016 - 48
Recording - August 2016 - 49
Recording - August 2016 - 50
Recording - August 2016 - 51
Recording - August 2016 - 52
Recording - August 2016 - 53
Recording - August 2016 - 54
Recording - August 2016 - 55
Recording - August 2016 - 56
Recording - August 2016 - 57
Recording - August 2016 - 58
Recording - August 2016 - 59
Recording - August 2016 - 60
Recording - August 2016 - 61
Recording - August 2016 - 62
Recording - August 2016 - 63
Recording - August 2016 - 64
Recording - August 2016 - 65
Recording - August 2016 - 66
Recording - August 2016 - 67
Recording - August 2016 - 68
Recording - August 2016 - 69
Recording - August 2016 - 70
Recording - August 2016 - 71
Recording - August 2016 - 72
Recording - August 2016 - Cover3
Recording - August 2016 - Cover4
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