There have been some excellent responses to this question already but let me pile on.
There are a few devices that do limiting before the converters, and some do it very well, but in the analog world it is not possible to catch all the sharp transients. This is what changed in the digital world, where the software could anticipate the transients (by delaying the sources material). In the analog world, the signal has already passed the threshold before the limiter knows its time to turn it down. The natural compression/saturation of analog tape is an exception to this.
This is a timely subject, as I am in the middle of writing a magazine about this issue called "RED = BAD".
If you are recording to 24 bit and feeling the need to record with some kind of limiter in front of the converters, it means you are recording incorrectly. There is no reason to record your levels so hot that you are running the risk of clipping the converters. Many people will get led astray and be told that you should be recording your levels as hot as possible with out hitting the red (OdBfs). There are many reasons why this is not advantageous which are beyond the scope of what I will write about here, but the biggest one is that if the performance ends up being more dynamic than you predicted, you will have clipped the converters and distorted the material. I make about half my living mixing records that other people have recorded, and I am pretty good at it but there are a few things that will completely tie my hands or not be "fixable", the absolute worst is super hot levels that clip. with the exception of the close mics on drums, there is no fix for this!!! (The close mic fix is replacing the drums with samples)
Many people will record really hot levels because they feel the need to get maximum resolution and detail, while this is an argument that is worth considering, in practical use it is just a bad idea. All meters are different, but keep in mind that if you are recording at 24 bit and your meters are going about half way up the meter scale, you have far surpassed the resolution of an audio CD and I think its safe to say that if you are looper using a bunch of FX, you will have surpassed the resolution/dynamic range of the source material being recorded when the meters on your software are less than a 1/4 up your meters.
Do not confuse recording levels with final CD levels. Once you have recorded the music there are lots of ways to cleanly and safely get your levels to compete with other commercial CDs
Ronan Chris Murphy
www.venetowest.com (Production & mixing: King Crimson, Chucho Valdes, Steve Morse, Terry Bozzio, CGT...)
www.homerecordingbootcamp.com (Workshops around the world teaching the art and craft of recording )
www.livesofthesaints.net (The hottest ambient noise duo since Sonny & Cher)
On Apr 18, 2007, at 9:36 PM, Raul Bonell wrote: