Recording levels on a DR-05X

Discussion in 'Handheld and Field Recorders' started by hedera, Dec 4, 2019.

  1. hedera

    hedera New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 2019
    Messages:
    7
    Likes:
    0
    Gear:
    DR-05X
    I've just bought a DR-05X which will be used to record rehearsals of a 100 voice chorus singing classical and other music. It also has to record our director's instructions, speaking in (we hope) silence. We will record 16 bit stereo WAV files sampled at 44.1K with the default 2G file maximum. The format and sampling rate are what we used on our Zoom H4, which this will replace.

    After reading the section on the Level Mode functions, I'm inclined to think I should set it to LIMITER, does this sound reasonable? Does anyone have a better idea? When might I actually have to adjust the level manually and how would I know? Note that I'm a singer in the chorus and have to be able to set this and leave it.

    I considered AUTO, but we use Audacity to process our WAV files and we use the Compress Dynamics plug-in, which was developed specifically for music; I hesitate to use a level function that also does something like that.

    hedera
    Mother Nature bats last.
  2. GTBecker

    GTBecker Member

    Joined:
    Jan 2016
    Messages:
    118
    Likes:
    19
    Gear:
    DR-44WL
  3. hedera

    hedera New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 2019
    Messages:
    7
    Likes:
    0
    Gear:
    DR-05X
    I appreciate the tip, but I looked at it, and it confused the hell out of me, at least partly because I do not understand decibels. I don't know how many decibels a 100 voice chorus can produce but it can be pretty loud.

    Also, one of our chorus members has been making his own recordings on a TASCAM 4 channel recorder (I forget which one - DR-40X?), and he told me last night that he has changed NO settings, he just uses everything on the default it came with. Which I think means his level mode is set to MANUAL. As far as I know he's satisfied with his recordings.
  4. -mjk-

    -mjk- Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 2018
    Messages:
    1,136
    Likes:
    581
    From:
    Hukou Township, Hsinchu County, Taiwan
    Gear:
    DP-32, | 2A Mixer, A3440
    Does your chorus rehearse? No one really can answer your questions. Settings are just a starting point. Sit at the recorder during a rehearsal and watch what's going on. Try different settings adjustments and observe the results. That's the only way to get it right.
    Mark Richards and Arjan P like this.
  5. Mark Richards

    Mark Richards Well-Known Member

    Joined:
    Dec 2017
    Messages:
    570
    Likes:
    561
    From:
    Southern USA
    Gear:
    DP-24, vintage 40-4
    hedera maybe this will help:
    The Decibel is an Analog Measurement.
    The decibel is a logarithmic measure. A sound with an intensity that is twice that of a reference sound corresponds to an increase of about 3 decibels.

    A decibel is just an analog ratio that represents the relationship of two analog sounds. A decibel has no intrinsic value. Doubling the sound level produces a 3dB logarithmic increase of the second sound in relation to the first, regardless of what the actual first sound level is. Halving the sound level does the reverse. (e.g. for a reference sound, a 3dB increase is twice as loud; a 3dB decrease is half as loud)

    In the context of a chorus, you need to be concerned about dynamic range - the difference between the softest and loudest passages of the work being recorded. The loudest sections must not distort the sound being recorded and thus ruin the recording.

    That means keeping the recording below 0dBFS on the level meter. In practice, it's best to keep it at or below -12dBFS with occasional quick peaks approaching 0dBFS.

    To follow up on mj's suggestion:
    The distance of the recorder/mic from the chorus is also an important factor in controlling the recorded sound. The mic must be close enoughto pick up the softest passages without them getting lost in background noise, yet far enough away so the loudest passages don't distort the recording. The closer the mic is to the source, the louder will be the loudest passages.

    You need to find the sweet spot for the mic that gives the balance you need. I would use distance placement and "manual" as a starting point before thinking about using the limiter, peak reduction, or auto settings. The job of those tools is to squash the dynamic range in order to protect from distortion.
    Last edited: Dec 8, 2019
    -mjk- likes this.
  6. hedera

    hedera New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 2019
    Messages:
    7
    Likes:
    0
    Gear:
    DR-05X
    I'm slowly getting a feel for this, but let me clarify something: I'm a member of the chorus; I sing in it. I cannot be sitting next to the recorder and watching the meter to see how loud we are.

    I've already researched where a recorder (the old Zoom H4) should be placed. We place it next to the director's stand, to her left. We use an extensible tripod light stand with a screw top, which I intend to keep using, and once we've turned it to Record, we extend the light stand as high as we can reach. I got these settings from comments on the Audacity forum and they've worked well.

    With the Zoom, I could actually see whether it was recording (is the red light blinking, solid red, or off) from below, and could turn recording off from there. To turn the DR-05X off at the break and the end of the evening, we'll have to lower the stand to where we can see the top of the recorder, and push the right button.

    I agree that my best beginning bet is to leave it on MANUAL, keep using the distance and height settings we've been using, and see what we get. That's roughly what we did with the Zoom H4.

    Thanks for the helpful suggestions.
  7. hedera

    hedera New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 2019
    Messages:
    7
    Likes:
    0
    Gear:
    DR-05X
    I've now recorded my first rehearsal and produced my first podcast, with level mode on MANUAL. The .WAV file is sprinkled with red spikes. Listening to the recording (which is usable for working rehearsal purposes), the red spikes seem to be associated with soprano voices singing very high and loud, when other voices are also loud. The Audacity Compress Dynamics plugin doesn't seem to have helped, although I need to look at the settings. Looking at your description of decibels, I think we were in fact mostly at or below -12dBFS, although the red spikes definitely approached 0dBFS, based on watching it play in Audacity.

    I'm considering moving the recorder a few feet back, partly to get it farther from the chorus, and partly to move it away from the director, who regularly doubles the sopranos to point out what they should be doing (and because she likes to sing). This wasn't an issue with the old Zoom H4, which seems to be less sensitive to recording loud passages than the TASCAM. (The H4 is only 12 years old...) I'm also reconsidering setting the level mode to LIMITER, which says it's "suited for recording live performances with large volume changes."

    I think I've finally found a site that explains how to change the recording level in MANUAL mode; but it requires me to be at the recorder, monitoring it, and that just isn't an option for me.

    Anyone have any better ideas?
  8. -mjk-

    -mjk- Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 2018
    Messages:
    1,136
    Likes:
    581
    From:
    Hukou Township, Hsinchu County, Taiwan
    Gear:
    DP-32, | 2A Mixer, A3440
    Hi @hedera. You can move the recorder far back in the room to where it can handle the peaks. And, your recordings will sound far away. There will be more room reverb and less stereo image and no definition. You won't like it.

    Previously, you said:

    You friend gets good recordings on default. That will probably work for you too.

    Here is where you went wrong: The default setting is not MANUAL. Manual mode on a digital recorder would be like taking your digital camera and putting it on Manual instead of Program. Nearly everyone except an experienced photographer would use some kind of Program mode on a digital camera. It's cool if you know what you're doing, but disastrous if you don't. Manual modes have their place but require experience.

    Then you said:

    Right. How can the old recorder sound better? The answer is: It is less sensitive to loud passages because The Zoom is set on default, and the limiter is on.

    Typically, default modes with these recorders have limiting on. This reduces those "red spikes" which ruin a digital recording (as you found out, unfortunately). Over time, the software has been refined so these default modes get better and better. Like digital cameras, most people buy a digital recorder and use it in the default mode.

    Reset the Tascam to factory default and try that. Leave the settings as they are out of the box, as a starting point.
  9. hedera

    hedera New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 2019
    Messages:
    7
    Likes:
    0
    Gear:
    DR-05X
    Thanks for your response. I hate to disagree, but the DR-05X reference manual says plainly that the default value on the LEVEL MODE function is MANUAL. This is copied from the manual:

    4. Use the + or – button to set the LEVEL MODE function.
    Options: MANUAL (default), LIMITER, PEAK REDUCTION,
    AUTO LEVEL

    I'll try resetting the recorder to factory default, but I'm not sure that will help any, given what the reference manual says.

    When I said, "move the recorder back," I meant, move it back maybe 4-5 feet, which is as far as the room arrangement allows. I do want it to face the chorus.
  10. GTBecker

    GTBecker Member

    Joined:
    Jan 2016
    Messages:
    118
    Likes:
    19
    Gear:
    DR-44WL
    As you point out, hedera, MANUAL is the default - and is probably not what you need.
    As suggested in https://www.tascamforums.com/threads/confused-by-limiter-vs-peak-reduction-dr-22wl.4103/ , I believe you will do best with PEAK REDUCTION mode with the gains at full blast during a rehearsal. At the end of that recording the machine will have established proper gains to use during the formal performance, I suggest in LIMITER mode.
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2019
  11. -mjk-

    -mjk- Moderator Staff Member

    Joined:
    Oct 2018
    Messages:
    1,136
    Likes:
    581
    From:
    Hukou Township, Hsinchu County, Taiwan
    Gear:
    DP-32, | 2A Mixer, A3440
    @hedera well, I'll be. I stand corrected. Thank you!
  12. hedera

    hedera New Member

    Joined:
    Dec 2019
    Messages:
    7
    Likes:
    0
    Gear:
    DR-05X
    Just for the record, I've now recorded 4 different sessions, two with recording level on MANUAL, one on PEAK REDUCTION, and one on LIMITER. In every case the recorder was as far from the chorus as I could get it. The recordings are indistinguishable; the only one that was different was the first one, where the recorder was several feet closer to the chorus. I'm going ahead with default MANUAL and the distant placement. Thanks to everyone who helped talk me through this.