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I'm recording screencasts and also dabbling in podcasting. I do video editing in Final Cut Pro X. My question is this:

Is it better to use a standalone insert compressor/limiter/gate or have FCPX do that work in post? I have a dbx 166xs compressor, but now I'm wondering if I should just record the audio without any processing and take advantage of the flexibility that FCPX provides for tuning the compression and gating later.

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A hardware compressor/limiter, when setup correctly, will prevent your signal from overloading your audio interface and distorting. This is very different from creative compression to change the loudness of the signal.

If you are recording at 24bit, then you may be able to record such that you never peak close to 0 dB. But if you do cross 0, you will get nasty digital distortion.

For maximal flexibility, use your dbx in limiter mode so that it impacts your audio quality as little as possible. Then add additional compression in post as necessary.

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As with many things, it's a tradeoff.

On the one hand, doing everything in post offers the most flexibility - you can compress and gate after the fact, and if you don't like the result you can change the settings around and try again without having to re-record. You can also cherry-pick individual regions to process differently if you like.

On the other hand, you may prefer the sound of your hardware before it gets into the recording interface preamps. I personally prefer the sound of a compressor before the preamp/ADC in music and spoken-voice recordings so I try to use it when I can, but I can't imagine doing this with a gate or limiter (but I have not tried it: I don't have a hardware gate or limiter to use).

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I'd recomend avoiding it. If you over compress or even worse set the gate wrong and clip the beginning of every word, there is no way to repair that. When recording set your levels to peak at around 75%, that way you get good healthy levels but have plenty of headroom in case of peaks. Just avoid trying to get 'the perfect level' right below zero and you will be fine.

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