Monitoring levels when you can't see the meters

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As a blind audio producer, maybe you've felt a level of uncertainty caused by the inability to see the meters on your equipment. Too high and things might clip at some point during the audio program, too low and it won't sound good along side other material. Reaper and Osara provide for us a way to monitor peaks in our audio levels. It isn't quite like watching a meter, but it gives us the pertinent information we need to structure the gain and keep things from clipping on the master.

note that depending on your mixing needs or wants, you can have either post fader, or pre-fader levels be displayed and also announced. It depends on, and is simply a matter of having a small preference set in the options menu. in other words, moving a track's volume fader in reaper with pre-fader levels enabled will not change what is being announced or shown on screen.

Peak Watcher

The peak watcher is a tool which, when configured, allows you to monitor the peaks of your recordings.

setting up the peak watcher

By default, pressing ctrl-shift-w (OSARA: View Peak Watcher) opens the Peak Watcher dialog. The first two options are to select the first and second tracks to be monitored. One sensible setup is to select "current track" from the dropdown for the first track, and "master" for the second track. notify automatically: This option allows you to set things up so you are notified when the peak hits a certain level. Check the boxes for the alerts if you choose. The next setting is to set the level at which you wish to be alerted. This is useful for knowing if your master goes over 0.0 db or what ever level you choose. The next setting, "hold peaks until" has a default setting to hold until reset. This setting will cause the peak watcher to keep the highest peak registered until you reset it for each track. This is useful for knowing the highest level at which an audio source has peaked, after the fact.

Using The Peak Watcher

There are at least two main uses for the peak watcher, to monitor incoming audio before or during recording, and to set levels during mixing.

Monitoring Input Levels

After creating, arming, and setting the monitor on your track, create some source audio. Sing or speak in to the microphone, play your instrument, do what ever you do to make noise. Try your best to sing or play with approximately the same energy and gusto as you will when you are performing for the recording. After you stop playing or singing, press alt-f9 and or alt-f10 to check the level on your currently selected track which should be "first track" in your peak watcher. Osara should report the peak level of your performance. This means that you will be told only the highest level your audio peaked at. You will not be told the lowest, or average peak. To reset the meter for track one of your peak watcher, press alt-f8. At this point, you can either try again, resetting levels as needed, or adjusting your performance, or you can record!

during mixing or playback

During playback you might find it most useful to check your master peak by pressing alt-shift-f9 or alt-shift-f10. These are the keystrokes for checking the "second track" as defined in the Peak Watcher. Remember that your master track will reflect the combined level of all of the tracks in your project. So, if you determine that the peak on your master is too high, you can then adjust levels of individual tracks or other elements to reduce the master track level.

real-time level monitoring

The Peak Watcher lets you know the highest peak a track has reached, on demand. To know the "current" level of the currently selected track, press j or k. These will report the current levels of channel one and two of the currently selected track. Pressing shift-j and shift-k will report the current levels of both channels of the master track.

checking Levels in your rendered project

If you are working on project such as a podcast, (or any project) you can quickly check if the resulting rendered file has clipped, (in other words, it went above 0 DB). There are two methods:

using the render dialog
  • While rendering your file, uncheck the checkbox that says "automatically close when finished".
  • At the end of the rendering process, review the render window with your screen reader's review commands.
  • There will be just one number if you rendered mono audio or more if you rendered multi-channel audio. These numbers represent the highest peak value for the entire project for a specific channel.
using Peakwatcher After Rendering
  • Set it up to monitor your master track until reset. In this example we will monitor the master track as second track.
  • Reset the peakwatcher before rendering by pressing shift+alt+F8 for resetting the second track.
  • Render your project as usual.
  • After rendering your project, check the values with alt+shift+F9.