Your audio journey – Part 63 – How to set levels

In this part of the Audio Journey I look at one of the most important elements of recording a successful voiceover, podcast or youtube video and that’s getting the correct input levels.

Your microphone will likely be connected to your computer either via a USB interface/mixing desk or directly from a USB microphone and the way to set the levels differs.

If you’re recording from an interface it’s a simple as opening a recording file and talking while adjusting the gain on the interface until your audio peaks in “the sweet spot” between -6db and -3db. As long as your equipment and space remain this same this is set and forget and once it’s set you’ll be able to open your digital audio workstation and know that when you sit down to record you’ll be hitting the right levels.

If you’re recording from a mixing then you’ll most likely have a gain control at the top of your channel and a fader. As a radio person I’d recommend opening your fader to the top and then adjusting the gain so that with the fader fully open on your mixing disk your digital audio workstation is receiving audio between -6db and -3db.

If you’re using a USB mic such as a Blue Snowball once connected to your computer you’ll then see this device in your control panel. Hop to the recording tab and select your mic when you then right-click and select properties. Skip to the levels tab and with your DAW open in the background adjust the level so that your audio is peaking between -6db and -3db.

Top tips!!

  • When setting your levels speak louder into your microphone than you usually would so you can ensure that when you speak at your normal level you won’t be exceeding 0db.
  • If you’re somebody with a large dynamic range in your speech (the difference between loudest and quietest part) then set your levels so that the peak is in the -6db to -3db level and record everything else soft.
  • It’s better to record too quiet and normalise in post processing than to exceed 0db while recording. You can always boost quiet audio but you’ll find it very hard to recover analogue distortion.