Pro Audio Files

How to Record – Lesson 2: Digital Audio

Transcript
Hi there, it’s Warren Huart here. Hope you’re doing marvelously well. As ever, please subscribe and you can go to producelikeapro.com and sign up for the email list, and you’ll get a whole bunch of free things to do.

There’s some files to download to edit drums, there’s — we’re even putting up a session there that you can follow from lesson one, and we’ll use in further lessons. There’s a whole bunch of other fun things. Oh, there’s access to more explored versions of recording drums, and piano, and all kinds of fun stuff. And of course, you can download some free music that I’ve recorded, and my drum samples are there available, and they’ve been used on Aerosmith, and Alice and Chains, and The Fray, and a whole bunch of other stuff.

So please go there, sign up for the email list, subscribe, and we’ll keep you up to date on all other further developments.

So this is a very straight forward lesson in lesson 2. What I wanted to talk to you about is digital audio. Now, 99.9% of us work completely in digital these days. Sometimes, I work with a tape machine, and I transfer from tape to digital. I did that on Aerosmith’s last record, and I’ve done that on a few other people’s record.

I love tape. It’s almost like having this — oh, I hate to reduce it to this, but it’s almost like having this glorified, amazing plugin that’s going to make everything sound great. It was wonderful on drums, it gets rid of some of the high frequency harshness of the transients, and tucks them back in. It’s great on the bass. I mean, tape sounds great.

But for most of us, it’s not an easy every day thing. With digital, you can buy yourself anything from an iPhone, an Android, an iPad, a laptop, or a tower, and you can be making music. I mean, you do not need to go out and spend a fortune on equipment to make music. That’s the wonderful thing, it’s leveled the playing field now, so it’s all just about creativity.

So today, all I want to do is talk about very straight forward things that are quite confusing to some people. Um, okay, number one, 99% of the time, I record to .wav files. I create .wav files. I would suggest that you stay in WAV. WAV is the broadcast standard.

Now, 16-bit is the minimum kind of quality start as far as I’m concerned. I would suggest recording in 24-bit, and if you can, you can record in 32-bit. However, be aware that all CDs are at 16-bit. So whatever you do, you’re always going to end up at 16-bit.

Now, there’s a lot of arguments about recording at higher sample rates and higher bit rates. I do know that a lot of people now are demanding 24-bit, 96kHz, so if you have the ability to record at 96kHz, record at 96kHz.

Now, what are the disadvantages of recording of 96kHz? Well, the disadvantages are it’ll require a lot more processing power, so if you’re just simply doing demos, etcetera, and you’re not creating master tracks and everything, and you want a lot of processing, IE, a lot of plugins, and you want your computer to run well, then I don’t know, I would probably stay at 48kHz or 44.1.

I do most of my sessions at 48kHz, to be honest. The reason why — you might ask why. Because unless I’m doing something that’s really, really open sounding, like orchestral work, or jazz, or something like that, you know, 48kHz sounds great. If you want to go to 96kHz, go to 96kHz, but for me, 48kHz works in a lot of situations, because I’m using a lot of plugins on a mix, and if I went to 96kHz, I’m halving my — using half as much processing power. So I wouldn’t have all of those plugins available.

So that’s a big deal. However, you know, you could work at 24-bit, 48kHz and then use a mastering engineer. Send those uncompressed, unlimited files to a great mastering engineer, and he can master at 96kHz, preserve the quality, and master those things at 96kHz, 24-bit, and then, you know, that’s — that’s another way around a lot of those kind of issues.

If I was — like I said, once again, if I was doing a jazz quartet, or I was recording an orchestra, I’d probably go to 96kHz, because it would probably stay at that, and you know, that subtle, tiny increase you would probably hear on some of those ambience and that openness of that kind of recording.

Okay, so stay in WAV. Now, Apple does do AIFF. Unfortunately, AIFF does not transfer to PC world, etcetera. It will play at a different speed. So stay in WAV. WAV is a broadcast quality. You know, if it’s going to go on film, or TV, or anything, it has to be WAV files. So keep everything in WAV files. Do not record as MP3s.

If you want to do a quick demo on your iPhone, of course, it will probably save to an MP3. That’s fine. That’s a low quality, 1/10th of the quality basically, and you don’t hear it quite like that, but it drops a lot of the information. So don’t record on MP3s unless it’s just for demo stuff.

The same with really any of those kind of formats, even the higher quality ones, there’s some argument that 320 kilobits sounds as good as a WAV. Obviously, it’s not the same quality as a WAV file, a 24-bit WAV file, but I still would keep recording at that quality. I would record as a WAV file, 24-bit, minimum 44.1, you know, as opposed to recording down to 320.

Now, obviously, if it’s demos and you’ve got a limited space, you could do that, but I find like with anything, my theory is that when you’re recording multiple tracks, if you make everything just that little tiny bit better, by the end of it, it will sound so much better.

For me, it’s like if I’m recording a band, even if I just take an extra few minutes to just make sure that everything is just set just right the way I want it to be, the end result will be so much better. You know, a little bit of attention to detail can really help.

So I would always record to WAV file. The only time I’d ever do an MP3 is if it was purely and simply a demo because you’re on your phone, you’re on an iPad, or you’re moving really quickly, and you just need to record something quickly. Otherwise, stay with WAV.

So hit me up with questions if you have any. I would basically suggest that your — the most important things are to have the best quality IO you can going in, so a decent quality interface, because no matter how good the quality you’re recording at, if you’re not getting a good analog to digital conversion in the first place, it doesn’t really matter whether you’re at 16-bit or 32-bit. You know?

So the argument about, you know, bit rates and samples rates is fine, but at a minimum of 16 and 24, or 24-bit and 48kHz or 96kHz, those are kind of redundant conversations if you’re using just a very, very cheap IO. You know. It’s — I would say the first thing I would upgrade in any system would be to sort of probably take, you know, after you use your initial sound card on your computer, the next stage up from that might be a better IO, you know. Because a good IO is probably going to cost you $400 to $600 if you go with something like UAD or something like that, which could be the price that your computer was in the first place.

So you know, if you’re going to be talking about sample rates and bit rates, be aware that the IO is probably the most important thing to upgrade first before worrying about recording at, you know, 192kHz or something like that.

Okay, so please, as ever, leave me some questions below. I’d love to have a discussion on this further, and you can tell me your opinions, and thanks as ever for watching, and check back soon!

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Warren Huart

Warren Huart

Warren Huart is an English record producer/musician/composer and recording engineer based in Los Angeles, California. Learn more at producelikeapro.com.


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