Knowledgebase: ZED Series
ZED Series. Recording to DAW - low signal?
Posted by , Last modified by on 10 July 2012 07:52 AM

My signal appears low when recording to my DAW, is this normal?

All of the ZED mixers are analogue and have the ability to record via USB or FireWire, taking your audio in to the digital realm.

Analogue and digital do not use the same reference levels, the meters on the mixer will typically represent dBu and the meters in your DAW will represent the digital scale, dBFS.

As there is no fixed reference for dBu, ZED users will typically experience figures of 0dBu equalling between -18 to-21 dBFS, so what does this mean in the real world?

When the LEDs on your desk equal 0dB this equates to -18 to -21dBFS in your DAW.

Whilst this might appear low there are a few things you can do to boost your signal:

1) Apply a little extra gain on your master output.

2) Apply some peak limiting / compression in your DAW to your final mix (Referred to as mastering).

Izotope Inc have created an excellent mastering guide, it relates to their Ozone plugin 
but the processes and approaches cover the mastering process as a whole.
It's a very easy read and great for anybody looking to get started or gain a better understanding of mastering.

Side Notes

1) Recording at 24-bit where possible, this will increase the dynamic range of your recordings and reduce the noise floor.

2) Pick the right mic: this is key. Microphones have a sensitivity spec which references there output, it's typically measured in mV/Pa.
So if your recording an acoustic guitar from 12 inches away and you use a dynamic mic with 1 mV/Pa your going to have to apply a lot of gain to get a good signal,
whereas a condenser mic with a sensitivity of around 10-30 mv/Pa might be better suited.

3) Be realistic: during the tracking stages of recording your output levels will not be like that of commercial recordings,
today's mainstream records are aggressively compressed and limited to reach very hot output levels.