Ideal Audio Level Range

Posted by hanguolaohu 
Ideal Audio Level Range
January 15, 2016 06:47AM
Is there an ideal range when it comes to audio levels? From what I can recall in my sound class in film school, the closer you can get to peak levels without crossing into peak distortion, the better. Would you agree with that assessment?

I'm importing a dual system recording of a music recital: iPhone 6 Plus video and Zoom H2 audio, destined for YouTube playback. The audio from the iPhone is loud and clear, hovering around -12dB, range is -18dB to -9dB. The Zoom audio is much quieter, hovering around -36dB, range is -42dB to -30dB. I recorded from the Zoom using Default settings, am surprised how quiet it is. I would ideally like to use the Zoom audio to better capture the fullness of the music. Should I simply increase levels so it's hovering around -12dB?

Re: Ideal Audio Level Range
January 15, 2016 03:35PM
use the "gain" audio filter, as the 12db you get in the clip itself won't be enough.
but then listen to the two sources and decide which is best.
hopefully you wont be bringing up too much noise on the zoom.

Re: Ideal Audio Level Range
January 19, 2016 08:04PM
Set gain to 24dB and noticed lots of digital "bits" noise, if that makes sense. Not sure if that's to be expected. The iPhone audio is cleaner so I'll probably use that.
Re: Ideal Audio Level Range
March 08, 2016 07:58AM
What you learned in that sound class is certainly correct. If you set the levels as high as possible without overloading, you'll get the cleanest sound. If your Zoom recorder hovers around -36, it's badly underrecorded. Even that is still better than overrecorded, but for the future you want to make sure you set levels properly.

Boosting gain later will introduce noise, as you noticed, and the amount and type of distortion is dependent on the recording format. 16-bit still sounds great to me, but does not take kindly to boosting by 30db. For live audio recording, 24bit is safer. A margin of 12db is no problem.

The fact that your iPhone recording is louder is probably because it sets its levels automatically. This gives you a nice workable level, but will destroy dynamics. In a concert situation, this is to be avoided. In an interview situation, especially if you don't have much time to set up, it is acceptable.


macpro 2x3 ghz dual core intel, 10.6.8, FCS 2
Re: Ideal Audio Level Range
March 08, 2016 04:44PM
Understood. Thank you so much for the info @stefangs!
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