Adventures In Audio

What will happen if your snare drum clips?

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So you've recorded your snare drum too hot. What could happen? How might things go wrong? Might it not be too bad? Telefunken Live From The Lab

Automated transcript

Here's a snare drum

Here it is again and once more it's a nice cleanly recorded snare drum the band is remember jones the song is don't put me on hold recorded at telefunken electro acoustics facility in south windsor connecticut in their live from the lab series the microphone on the top of the snare is the telefunken m81 which telefunken electro acoustic describes thus the m81 is a proven choice for countless sound sources both in the studio and on stage it possesses the same condenser-like response minimal proximity effect and superior feedback rejection one expects from a telefunken dynamic series microphone a smooth frequency response clarity and wealth of body make the m81 an ideal tool for taming brighter vocals guitar tones and fattening up toms horns or other thinner sounding sources featuring intelligent design and american assembled construction the m81 is an excellent first choice dynamic for most situations let's listen to the three examples again

there is however one small issue with this recording listen to the next example and watch this true peak meter just here

aha as we can see the peak reading has turned sorry about that i just clicked it off again turned red and there were there was also a flash of red just at the top of the meter here we can listen to it again

okay what this is showing us is that the true peak of this recording is reaching 0 dbtp which is not a bad thing 0 dbtp should be okay but we prefer to have a little bit of a safety margin these days and in europe we take -1 db tp as the safety margin and in the usa they like it to be -2 dbtp so this snare drum recording is either one or two decibels over according to these specifications we've got another meter over here it's very small so you'll have to focus in on it and you will have to watch in full scale to really see it so this meter here is reading dbfs so it's reading the digital signal compared to the full scale reading so when the signal reaches zero dbfs there's a yellow light that will come on at the top it can't actually detect clipping because the recording has already been made and the recording can only go up to 0 db f s it can't go any higher than that so it can't detect clipping but if the signal hits 0 db fs as indicated by this yellow light it's a warning sign if there was say one sample at zero dbfs it's almost certainly not a clip two samples well three four consecutive samples at zero db fs that almost certainly would represent a clip and it would change the sound from what it should be so these are two things to look at and i'll play the audio again and just take a look over here

okay there's that lovely yellow light and you can see there's just gone off that's the peak hold so we can see that it has hit zero dbfs and it also has hit zero db tp this can actually go above the zero so it's kind of like coincidental that it's only on exactly on zero so that is something to watch out for so this is a bit of a problem does it happen anywhere else in the audio so let's listen to this and once again we'll keep an eye on these beats i'll just reset that and then we can see what happens here we go

sorry so there we go again it's we've got a reading of zero db tp which is not a good thing and we'll take another look at the meter over here in dbfs

and there it is uh we've got a a reading of zero dbfs whether it's a clip or not it's really up to your interpretation because can you hear it that's the deciding factor does it sound bad if it sounds bad then it is bad if it doesn't sound bad well it's not bad i'm not going to say it's good exactly but it sounds like a snare drum to me there's nothing about this that sounds unusual in any way but you make your own judgment on that so in theory the level's getting so high it's approaching a risk of having an inter-sample peak which is a level that goes over zero dbfs between samples this is when it's reconstructed into analog in the digital to analog converter or it can happen during sample rate conversion so there's a risk of that but it's so small that it's unlikely that anyone would ever hear it as an inter-sample clip even so the cause of this is that the preamp gain for the snare mic is set too high it would have been worth backing off six decibels or so to allow enough headroom for the drummer to hit the drum as hard as he likes without any risk of clipping but there's a lot to do in a live session all the other levels of the instruments and vocals are fine you can hear the full recording and download the multitrack at telefunken electro acoustics live from the lab which you can easily search for online let's hear all of the drum examples once more


and now the peaks

i'm david meller course director of audio masterclass thank you for listening

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Thursday March 10, 2022

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David Mellor

David Mellor

David Mellor is CEO and Course Director of Audio Masterclass. David has designed courses in audio education and training since 1986 and is the publisher and principal writer of Adventures In Audio.

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