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How can I get opera vocals to stop peaking! HELP!

Asked 1332 day 15 h | Viewed 6231 times | Updated 1328 day 23 h |

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Gravatar photo entangledhere

Hi everyone! I'm recording vocals for an opera, so of course, there are some extremely high notes. No matter what I do with my Audiotechnica AT2020 USB microphone or my Sound Forge recording program, I can't get the vocals to stop peaking. Does anyone have any suggestions? I've tried changing levels, stepping away from the mic, etc. Thanks!!!

6 Answers

  1. Answered: 1331 day 23 h (0) | Permalink

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    Gravatar photoMartin Swain

    Adding a compressor won't stop the track peaking unless you've got an external hardware compressor which you're recording into before the signal goes into your computer. You wouldn't want to add a limiter to a vocal track either as this would completely kill the dynamics of the vocalist (soft parts and loud parts); classical music demands those dynamics.

    The only way that you're going to be able to record a loud opera vocalist comfortably is to get a microphone or an interface with with a pad switch on it. The pad switch lowers the level of the incoming signal in say 10dB increments, which gives you the ability to record very loud sources without distorting. It basically gives you more headroom if you're having to set your preamp to 0dB to record and it's still distorting.

    Like what mehndipoppet says, it might also be that your microphone can't handle such high dBs due to its SPL (Sound Pressure Level). It might be worth placing your microphone very far away from the vocalist; remember, before there was such thing as amplification, opera singers had to be able to project their voice in opera halls so that everyone could hear them. The only downside to this is that you'll be getting more room sound than direct sound from the vocalist if you place your mic further back.

    I hope this gives you some more ideas.

  2. Answered: 1332 day 15 h (1) | Permalink

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    Gravatar photomehndipoppet

    I'm no tecchie. But as a novice I can suggest the following:

    Are you using any compression? This can help sometimes.


    Have you set a limiter on the track you are recording the vocal on?

    Maybe if none of the above work the mic is not capable of receiving such high volume input? Or maybe it needs to be 'configured' - whatever that means. 

    I'm suspicious of USB mics - but I know nothing! Is your soundcard up to scratch? I can't think of anything else. Keep us posted of what you find as a solution as I would be interested to learn, being a beginner myself. Thanks! And good luck!

    • How do I use compression or set a limit on the track? I'm very new at using recording software, and I've tried messing with lots of the settings, but to no avail! I do know that I have an excellent soundcard!

      entangledhere | Jun 04 at 11:06

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  3. Answered: 1287 day 5 h (0) | Permalink

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    Gravatar photoguest

    If you can't meter and supervise the level the microphone presents to the A/D converter in the USB mic then you can't prevent overload on loud sounds.Opera singers, in common with most singers, require a conservative recording level. This is a criticism I would have regarding USB mics.

    I'm not in love with the suggestions about putting a compressor in the signal chain. Partly because if the overload is at the conversion process by the time you could present the signal to a compressor it's already overloaded. Mostly however because as audio professionals we shouldn't resort to automatic processors to solve basic operational problems.

    So to record something loud apply manual gain control and pull the level back. Remember this is digital audio here so even if much of the track is -30 dBFS and it's 16 bit the result will clean viable vocals. If you were tracking to analogue then some manual or automatic gain control might be called for.

    The Full Bench.

  4. Answered: 1322 day 7 h (0) | Permalink

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    Gravatar photoRecMixMas

    Hi, you need to use a limiter such as the waves L1 or RVox. Compressors don't have a ratio big enough to control these kinds of peaks. Compressors usually have a ratio of up to 20:1 whereas Limiters have a ratio of 100:1. Good mic technique is also important. The singer should know when to back off and when to get a little closer to the mic. You can find out more about this at

    You can also download my eBook .. Record, Mix & Master - Essential Recording Guide for Beginners - available on Amazon.This will have many of the answers you seek and much more!

  5. Answered: 1321 day 11 h (0) | Permalink

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    Gravatar photoPeter Ward

    It definately sounds like you need to control the level going to the DAW with either an outboard compressor which will be impossible with a USB mic or in box with a plugin.

    As an example I use protools and I can use an AUX channel with the audio input as an interface input.  Then I apply a compressor plugin to that channel as the input then feed that channel as a bus to an audio channel and record that.  Does that make sense?


    BTW just "padding" the mic will mean the lower volume parts will be padded and lower as well which may not be the best.

    So if you can do that with soundforge than it would help to tame the peaks.  Also check that the mic isn't distorting too or can you watch the peaks on the channel while you record and clearly see it peaking??

  6. Answered: 858 day 1 h (0) | Permalink

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    Gravatar photoguest

    if there is no way to do it and you havent found the way  try adding a compressor to the track and try reducing the treshold to what the input is at your highest notes of singing but you can reduce more than its input give it a try.

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