I have a dilemma and am wondering if its just me or whether its a hangover from the days of tape that modern folk face at some point?
Although one engineer told me that "line level" covers a range of dB I have always thought of it as +4. My Roland JP8000 synth has a 1/4 inch "line out" jack and if I select the loudest sound and press all my fingers hard onto the keys I get +4.
If I play that +4 sound into my VS2000 (I am using 16 bit) it reads -20 DBFS. That makes sense as the machine is calibrated so that +24 = 0 DBFS. That calibration is a hangover from analogue mixers/consoles that could handle +24. Analogue consoles could handle that level so digital consoles needed to handle that level.
I am under the belief (correct me if i am wrong) that the optimal input level for tape was +4. Tape had some headroom, headroom that varied depending on which brand/formula you used and whether you ran your tape at 15 or 30 IPS. The VU meters were calibrated so that 0 VU = +4. Engineers liked to see levels from 3 to 6 VU for the sound benefits of tape saturation/compression. But if you were recording classical music you likely aimed for +4.
Those working in 24 Bit can run their signals in at +4 but those using 16 Bit since the days of ADAT (like me) tend to run their levels in much hotter, either because they come from old signal-to-noise training (tape) or the concern that they achieve at least 14 bit resolution (-12 DBFS peaks) for tracking and 16 bit (0 DBFS) for the finished mix. Although headroom is handy, I have enough experience to avoid digital distortion. For me the beauty of 24 Bit is not the headroom, it is that a +4 signal gets 20 Bits of resolution. Working with 16 Bit mode I have to get my signal up to +24 to obtain 16 bit resolution. But that has not been an issue as the VS preamps can take a +4 signal up to +23.9 without distortion. The ADC don't seem to have a problem with that level. All is well with the machine.
And so after all that, here is the dilemma. I have a finished mix at 0 DBFS. I would like to send it to analogue outboard gear for mastering. My VS2000 will send it out at +4 which is fine as my outboard hardware is optimised for +4. The signal comes back into my VS2000 at +4. BUT, BUT, now I have to gain amplify back up to +24 = O DBFS. It doesn't sound great. I want to avoid reamping. Its my dilemma because i just happen to be using 16 Bit and just happen to be wanting to run a mix through analogue gear. Its a dilemma based on a hybrid setup. If I was using the 3 card plugins I could process at close to 0 DBFS. It might be a rare issue these days but i suspect quite a few who worked with 16 Bits in the past would know of it.
Have any of you faced this?