April 19th 2022

The Decibel VU METER: Get a feel for your levels


Video Transcript:


My friends, today we are going to talk about Decibel, VU meters, calibration and all sorts of exciting stuff like that.

VU meters are very practical when recording and mixing. Back in the day that's all they had but they were pretty happy with it and there are reasons for that.

First it's right in front of you, can't miss it it's right there, you can keep eye contact with your artist and still have the needle in the corner of your eye right there.

There's no need to look at a computer screen which is always a relief.

Technically the time constant, calibration and ballistics are just right to gauge how that music is.

Which is interesting because it wasn't design for music, it was designed for voice and voice over, but it's great for music, and you don't have to read numbers you can just look at it and feel it it's a great way to feel how loud music is.

But we lost the video meters to the digital revolution, but now they are back thanks to Decibel.

Nowadays most people record through a sound card and guess what, the converters have a sweet spot, just like the old analog machines did, and that sweet spot is clearly mentioned in the specs let's use it.

Your sweet spot is where your input level should hit your converter for it to sound the best, not too loud so that it doesn't clip, not too quiet so that you can take advantage of the full resolution with an acceptable signal to noise ratio which in english means sounds good.

Recording at the sweet spot also helps down the line with plugins that emulate vintage processors like, Voltex, LA-2A is what have used, because if you hit those plugins too hard they don't sound right.

The beauty of Decibel's VU meter, is that you can calibrate your 0 VU to the sweet spot of your converter.

You can insert Decibel on the track you're recording to, or on your mix bus and then if you want to monitor just one track just hit the sort of button on that track.

You can click on calibrate, align your 0 VU to your sweet spot, usually -18 dBFS for avid interfaces for example -16 for apollos or -14 for some RME.

You can check your own sound-cat specs, and then you save that as a preset.

So you'll never have to do it again every time you open Decibel your VU are properly calibrated.

Then you can send your VU layout to a mobile device, IOS, Android whatever and put that device on your desk just like a real hardware meter, and keep the record levels of your singers, guitars, players because your players whatever.

Right on the sweet spot, in your line of sight just like in the old days.

If you don't know how to use a VU meter, basically the goal is for the needle to hover right under your VU which represents your sweet spot once you calibrated it, and then you can react, quickly if it's getting too hot or too quiet because it's really immediate, it’s a really great instant feedback.

One more thing you should pay attention to the clipping led.

Independently from your calibration that little red thingy, will start lining up at -9 dBFS, so when it's a little bit red you're okay, when it's really red you're not okay, you're clipping your converter which is not a good thing.

In summary, after calibration if you focus on keeping the VU meters needle you know between - 3 and 0, and you don't clip you should be in very good shape to have a good recording and a very successful mix.

And the Decibel VU meters come with different skins, which is nice especially the distressed one.