Level going into N-Track

Sorry, I’m a newbee to the digital world. This should be pretty simple for someone to answer.

I’m going from my tape deck, to my mixer, to my soundcard.

N-Track sets the record level at unity gain or 0db by default.

Should I keep it this way or would it be better for the S/N ratio to drop the record level in N-track and turn up the levels on my mixer?

What’s best for the signal to noise ratio? What’s best for headroom and dynamics? Does it even matter much?


n-Track does not set the recording levels at all. This is done within the software and driver of your soundcard. Some outboard gear may also have a physical knob for setting recording levels but it’s usually done in software; it depends on the card.

You can get to this from the Windows control panel and also from within n-Track (“View” => “Soundcard Settings”).

Now to your question: should you set the output of your mixer high and the record level low? Or vice versa? Or both somewhere in the middle? I’d probably set the soundcard to unity gain and then adjust the mixer but this whole argument is about “gain structure” and as long as you’re ultimately getting a decent level without clipping or noise then it’s a matter of taste. Try it different ways and see if you can hear any difference. Your ears are the ultimate judge.

As for S/N ratio, I guess it depends which piece of equipment is the weakest link in your chain. If you have nice analog gear and a crummy soundcard then bring down the record level and drive your mixer harder. Other than that particular situation I don’t think it will make a huge amount of difference.


Okay, yeah the soundcard (Delta 1010) sets it to unity then. It seems to work just fine but I really have to turn down my mixer levels so that it doesn’t clip and I’m wondering if doing that will introduce noise.

First, some soundcards have a +14dB boost that can be toggled on and off in the driver. That may be your problem so hunt around. It’s for switching between professional-level balanced equipment and prosumer unbalanced equipment.

[Edit]from a review of the Delta 1010:

. . . The switches on the back that switch from -10 to +4 . . .

Try toggling those switches and I bet your worries will disappear.

Back to your question: if you’re not hearing any problems then I’d say it’s fine but if you want hard evidence . . .

Record a few strums on a guitar or something and make sure you record a good sample of “silence” in between strums. Then bring the gain down on the soundcard and up on the mixer until you’re getting the same overall level and record again.

Now zoom in on the “silent” sections. Which recording has more noise? My guess is that it would be the one where the soundcard has the gain up but I doubt there will be very much difference unless you’ve got a low quality card (which the Delta 1010 is definitely NOT according to the reviews I’ve seen).