What makes you decide to record a sound as loud as possible or either to record it with a lower level, as you will probably going to hear it in post?

Is it the type of sound? Is it the project where you're going to use it?



2 Answers 2


Generally when recording you're looking for the best signal to noise ratio possible. If you record something too low then need to turn it up later in post, you're also going to be turning up all the unwanted noise.

Personally I try to record as hot as possible without clipping or activating limiters. This may mean initially backing off the gain a little in anticipation of a particularly loud sound (before you hit record that is, I rarely adjust levels during a take). If you've got good gear with low self noise then this is far less of an issue and even quiet recordings can be turned way up before it gets unusable.

It's always better to have to turn something down then turn it way up.

Later in post, when I'm editing and mixing my recordings into usable files, I try to mix them to the level that I think they'll be used in a project or to a comfortable listening level. This makes it easier when auditioning SFX. It's a huge time-waster having to constantly turn levels up and down when you want to quickly audition a bunch of SFX.

  • Does it make any difference when recording ambience, like city or forest where the dynamics are suppose to be quite different in the final mix from sfx or dialogue?
    – dogama
    Commented Aug 10, 2013 at 1:32
  • I don't think so. Recording is recording really. If you record it hot you can just turn it down later in post. But if you have to turn it up a lot in post then you can run into trouble. Also important is proper gain structure through the gear you're using to record. Commented Aug 11, 2013 at 5:00

I find myself experimenting with gain in relation to a project rather than solely focusing on the type of sound.

Creatively, it can be interesting to experiment with the gain for the project... I mean turning the gain high up for a quite sound can give you quite a bit of noise. Depending on the what you'll use the sound for this noise can be desirable. It gives life to recordings, instead of dead silence. There is always noise around you, so complete silence in a piece of music can be quite nerve racking. I believe gain can be used very creatively in this way to manipulate the sense of space in sound.

  • Using the gain creatively sounds as a more interesting approach. Thanks!
    – dogama
    Commented Oct 24, 2013 at 19:28

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