Normalize or not to normalize one shot samples?

Discussion of music production, audio, equipment and any related topics, either with or without Ableton Live
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icedsushi
Posts: 1652
Joined: Wed Jan 12, 2005 8:36 pm

Normalize or not to normalize one shot samples?

Post by icedsushi » Tue Jan 25, 2011 7:51 pm

Sampling some drum machines & instruments of my own. I've noticed that drum sample collections I've bought, the individual hits are usually normalized & they sound just fine to me. Starting from equal volumes is also convenient. I've always avoided normalize at all costs but now I've been thinking perhaps it has it's niche in certain situations?

If the samples are going to be loaded into a sampler & used in drum racks, might be a good idea to have them all about the same volume as a starting point, right? So I'm thinking the one application where normalize might be useful is for samples with a single transient, like drum hits & stabs.

I know normalize brings up the noise floor, but it brings up the volume of the signal too & when mixing you wil attenuate the volume again anyway, so from what I've read the signal/noise ratio is the same.

What do you think? Is it OK to perhaps desirable to normalize in this specific situation?

blakbeltjonez
Posts: 325
Joined: Tue Oct 19, 2004 10:16 pm
Location: Florida

Re: Normalize or not to normalize one shot samples?

Post by blakbeltjonez » Tue Jan 25, 2011 8:45 pm

the fundamental issue in my mind is gain staging....if you have a sample that's really hot, the volume needs to be adjusted accordingly before it hits the next point in the chain - say, a filter or an EQ. otherwise, you have a greater possibility of painting yourself into a corner. if you boost anything, you run the risk of clipping unless you've adjusted the level going into the next device.

that being said, normalizing is fine to me. turn it up, turn it down - it's all the same as long as it's not too extreme. always try and leave yourself enough headroom to allow the sound to be as dynamic as possible (that's assuming that you want the sound to have some dynamics). i like to leave -6 dB or so through the entire signal chain, i can always make it up on the output.

fx23
Posts: 798
Joined: Wed Jul 08, 2009 3:23 pm

Re: Normalize or not to normalize one shot samples?

Post by fx23 » Tue Jan 25, 2011 10:22 pm

I normalize for convenience when browsing/switching, or when ref levels where set.

any operation on audio including normalize affect sounds, like when you scale a picture, some interpolation and rounding occurs,
but if you have enough signal/rez at start, data loss is unhearble imo. You are right the ratio noise/sig doesn't change at the end. so as blakbeltjonez said this is cool as long as you don't make bs, lowering later and keeping headroom entering plugins chain. even if float32 allow headroom generally, few 3rd party plugs react bad above 0db, and fixed48 dsp like powercore/uad will just clip data.
and anyway at the end yo need to be under 0 entering master. so good habit to lower all the stuff, but you probably supposed that already.

Khazul
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Joined: Wed Feb 23, 2005 5:19 pm
Location: Reading, UK

Re: Normalize or not to normalize one shot samples?

Post by Khazul » Tue Jan 25, 2011 10:59 pm

What you do with the sample only really matters if:

- It parts of a sample set and relative levels to other samples matter
Or
- The sample is allready clipped/brick wall limited
- And it will be the peak level sample in the resulting music, such that the allready clipped sample end up converted to analog at full scale, or subject to analog like processing (for eg mp3 conversion).

Even then with all of the above true, you can still sort this out but ensure that the sample goes through some analog like processing (analog waveform reconstruction, for example you could just resample it at a lower level via your audio interface to fix it/discover if its useable etc) before it reaches that point - ie before it gets tho the master channel of your mix.
Otherwise there is a chance is might distort wierdly and beyond your control in the resulting track when played back on some random personal hifi/ipod or whatever due to intersample overs.

If none of the above apply - do whatever works for you, even they all apply, at least now you know what can happen and make your choice.
Nothing to see here - move along!

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