I'm recording vocals and acoustic instruments with my shure57 microphone and behringer ultragain pro preamp and I've been trying to reach the best signal to noise ratio. From what I know to achieve this I should turn input gain on my preamp all the way up until it my signal during louders parts is just below the clipping point.

Ok, I get it.

But what if I recorded with, let's say 20dB less gain and then added this gain to already recorded material in my DAW? Would it be more noisy?

Like in these two situations:


Input gain on preamp +40

desired signal hovers around -10dbfs in my DAW

noise signal hovers around -50dbfs in my DAW

So signal is 40dB louder than noise


Input gain on preamp +20

desired signal hovers around -30dbfs in my DAW

noise signal hovers around -70dbfs in my DAW

Signal is still 40db louder than noise, now I can apply 20 dB in my daw and it's the same as the previous recording.

Is this thinking right/wrong? If it's wrong please tell me why. Thanks for reading.

  • This is how I think of it. Let’s just say my level goes 0-10 because I feel it’s easier to think about. If I am able to record it at 8 without it clipping when I mix it down I may bring it to 7 so it isn’t too loud and I can still hear the part. If I record that same signal at 4 when I mix I may need to put it at 10 to hear it in the mix. But that also means I am boosting some noise making the mix less clean.
    – b3ko
    Feb 4, 2020 at 12:14
  • Ok, but wouldn't recorded signal that was recorded on 8 have the same amount of noise as the one recorded at 4? Feb 4, 2020 at 12:18
  • Think about whispering in a noisy room. If you boost your voice by screaming you are changing the floor to noise ratio making your voice easier to hear. If you whisper and record that whisper in the noisy room and then boost the entire recording so you can hear the whisper you are boosting the noise and the whisper. When you were recording to tape there was noise inherent to the recording format. Recording at low levels made it so you had to push the fader up to hear it in the mix increasing both the noise and the instrument. Recording “hotter” means less noise when playing back.
    – b3ko
    Feb 4, 2020 at 15:42
  • @b3ko Thanks for the answer. I get it, but what if in your example I stood at the exact same distance from microphone and was talking with the exact same loudness in both recordings, but in one I recorded with +40 input gain on preamp and in the other with +20. Is signal to noise ratio in them the same? Because if yes then it means that my gain input setting on preamp is kind of irrevelant Feb 4, 2020 at 16:10
  • I guess my analogy isn’t great. The medium you are recording on has noise inherent to the system. So if you keep the noise the same (think of tape hiss) but increase the signal coming in you will have a better signal to noise ratio. If you have a worse signal to noise you will have more noise in your final mix if you want to hear the signal at the same level. That is why you want to record as hot as possible without distorting.
    – b3ko
    Feb 4, 2020 at 17:05

2 Answers 2


The general rule of thumb when making the initial recording is to get the track recorded as hot as possible without clipping the signal. Once this has been accomplished, the track can be mixed back to the level required to achieve the desired mix with the other tracks. when the track is mixed back at the desired lower level, the noise floor on that same track is also mixed down at the lower level and you can achieve the desired low noise floor in the final mix. Because processors add to the noise floor, it is recommended to record the original track as hot as possible without clipping and then mix back to the desired level in the mix.


This is about adapting to the equipment at hand. In old days, using tape recorders or 16 bit digital, the rule was to record hot but not clipping. The really modern equipment, say Sound Devices Mixpre 3II records 32 bit float all the way through and you can basically forget about gain and fix it in your mixing program.

Now, the SM57 is a dynamic mic with less output than condenser mic and the Behringer is a single gain stage amp. Single gain stage means that the preamp noise will be different depending on gain. My experience is that least noise tend to be mid gain on the preamp with the rest added in digital. You will get less noise from the preamp with a condenser mic. A middle ground might be to add a further preamp step — there are little devices fed from phantom power that you can add at the mic end.

Regardless of theory, the only thing that really matters is if you can achieve the sound you aim for c


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