TL;DR: Do I need to avoid clipping on my AD Converter as well as the input in my DAW when gain staging? how much headroom should I leave on a track once it leaves my Preamp, and hits my AD Converter ins? Even though it was clipping on my AD Converters, it sounded full and warm to me? What's the point of having good sounding pre's that you can't run a little hot? Is the +20 dBu max limit on my converters basically the line in the sand that says "sorry, turn your pre's down, the ADC's can't handle it." ? Ahh so many questions!! (Rhode Island is neither a road, nor an Island.. discuss!)
Hi friends, Lots to unpack here... but ultimately this is another dumb gain staging post! I feel dumb asking this, because I understand its likely a very annoying question, but my google-fu is failing me and I need some guidance. I haven't been able to find much on gain staging when it comes to ADC converters. I have done a fair amount of mixing in the box, mixing someone else's recorded instruments for albums, or mixing line level stuff like drum machines/synths etc. However, this is my first time trying to actually attempting to engineer a recording for my band, and mix the album start to finish. I understand that gain staging is very important, and that you want plenty of headroom to work with wile mixing. One of the main things I don't understand right now: What is a reasonable db gain level when tracking dynamic microphones plugged into a preamp, that then routes directly to your interface inputs? A little details about my setup:
AD/DA Converter & Interface: Orion 32+ Preamps: Neve 1073OPX Mics: mostly all SM57's, AKG C414 XLII pair, Senn. 421, audix d6, diy subkick.
So here's where my confusion comes in. I mic'd my kit up the other day to prep it for tracking next week. Setting the gain levels on the 1073OPX channels, the gain was set on each channel all roughly around 40-50db, with the -25db pad set on each. The preamps sounded best when I was monitoring them around ~50-60db. Felt like this gave the drums the most color/"warmth", but when I looked at my Antelope interface software, many of the db meters were hitting the red on the line ins. When those line ins were sent to an ASIO input to cubase, those inputs were not clipping (I assume this is something to do with 32/64bit float) . When I zoom in on those tracks, I could see the tops of the waveforms were lopped off, obviously at the ADC. I can definitely track all of my channels with way less gain makeup, but is this the right approach? Or am I missing something in between the pre's and the interface to attenuate the signal before it hits the interface?
Some specs on my interface that stood out to me while I was looking into this:
Analog Inputs: 4 x D-SUB 25 (32 channels total), +20 dBu max**,** 11.2 kOhms A/D Converter Dynamic Range: 118 dB THD + N: -105 dB
Is this +20 dBu max basically the line in the sand that says "sorry, turn your Pre's down, the ADC's can't handle it." ? I do plan on printing the recorded tracks through some outboard compressors etc.
I realize this post is kind of all over the place. Just looking for some guidance from the pro's. Love you all! Thanks for taking the time to read :D