Mixing Tip: Use 32-Bit Floating Point Format To Avoid Clipping

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Use 32-Bit Floating Point Format To Avoid Clipping

In the mixing stage, it’s easy to push the levels a bit too far, or add too many sounds into the same frequency range, making the mix clip. Then when it comes time to mixdown (exporting to WAV), you have a distorted track, which doesn’t sound good at all.


A heavily clipped song is near impossible to fix and will cause nothing but frustration during the mastering stage for you or your mastering engineer

Luckily there’s a way to make sure the clipping won’t destroy your mixdown. What is it?

Export to WAV using 32-bit floating point format (It’s the native format of the FL Studio mix engine). 32-bit floating point format has a virtually unlimited amount of headroom.

What is Headroom?

Headroom is the space between the highest signal peak and 0.0dB, measured by dB’s. Anything peaking above 0.0dB will usually cause clipping. But for a more articulate explanation on headroom, visit this page here.

By exporting your song to WAV using 32-bit floating point, you don’t have to worry about the clipping issue: just normalize the exported wave file, and you’re all good.

However, if you exceed the 0.0dB limit while mixing, you WILL HEAR clipping. But the clipping doesn’t happen inside FL Studio – it’s just the signal that goes to your Digital to Analog (D/A) converter in your sound card. So no audio data is destroyed, it’s more of a limitation on the hardware than the software.

Okay, I’ll demonstrate all this in the following video:

Even though 32-bit floating point may come in handy, it’s still important to not be fooled by it. It’s always a good idea to implement good mixing practices and that includes making sure your tracks aren’t hitting 0dB in your DAW. Not only will this ensure your mixes sound good, but it’s good etiquette when sharing files with other musicians, producers or engineers.

So try to make it a habit to not exceed the 0.0dB. Just to be safe. 🙂

For more details, check out mixing guidelines, which can help you to implement good mixing practices.

ps. Thanks to Nucelon for bringing this up.

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21 Comments

  1. Great tip!

    I’ve been using 32 bit floating because I assumed it was the best option, but didn’t really no why.

    So now I do 🙂

    Thanks!

      • Hey, how are you Petri? Good I hope. I have a question about exporting out to WAV. What if I created the beat on another system like Native Instruments Maschine? I bounced the track to FL to mix there, can I still follow your suggestion on the exporting out and importing back into FL? Thank you for your time.

  2. Would these be OK to do on individual tracks you want to bounce to audio and re-import? Or is this a technique best applied to the master buss?

  3. hahaha man this is very slick, i dont know if this can fix a bad mix, a distorted mix or unclear mix, anyway i do some experiments.
    But until then i have 1 questions and is about mixing. How to start a mixing process?

    1. With Master track empty
    2. With some eq, compression… (mastering setup)

    After experiments….i find that no mater how good it is a mix, when mastered bringing eq, compression, limiter… the whole track will change, you know? Everything will change, your track become louder and louder and this will afect entire track: dynamics, harmonics and even a snare, a kick, a piano will sound a little bit different. Your mix that was a good one, will change in something bad if you try to make it louder, like comercial cd.
    This will happen when you mix songs with empty master.
    For exemple in hiphop you must lift a high and low band EQ, here is a picture http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/861/unled1gb.jpg/ this is necesary if you want a hiphop sound.
    If your mix was done with empty master, when you mastering your song and bring all those plugins, your mix that was good will crash.
    But when you mix songs with a master setup. your mix will emulate after your master track and will sound exact how you want, actually you can avoid distorsion, and make it louder.
    So, what can you tell me?

    • Hey there! This won’t fix a bad or unclear mix, but will help you to avoid the distortion which happens if you push the level faders too far. However, I have to say this: it’s ALWAYS a best practice to avoid clipping by simply turning your faders down and keeping everything in moderate level. It won’t hurt you 🙂

      Now to your question about mixing/mastering:

      If you can make your mixes sound good in a way like you described, then it’s ok. Everything depends what kind of mix you wan’t to achieve and what’s the end result you are after for. This defines the plugins, settings and methods you should use. The end results counts, rest is really up to you. 🙂

      At this point, I really recommend checking out article by Kim Lajoie (he’s an audio professional) about the difference between mixing and mastering. Personally I have to say it was a kind of eye-opener.

      Le me know your thoughts.

      • Well, I read that article a few days ago. You know how I got on this site? I search on google for flp mastering template 🙂 I found something, also i found this site and i read some tutorials.
        After a while using the same technique, and or experiment new tehnique you get into a monotonous situation. Music evolves and you have to step with her.
        I do not have great equipment, and i know, without some acceptable gear it is impossible to get a good, good, warm and nice sound.
        I heard some songs of yours on youtube, and i like it, especially the sound of drums, seems to be a loop or something, anyway was good. And phase with Tiesto? LOL He play your song without permission? :)))

        • Cool, as they say Google is your friend (mostly) 🙂 And I agree, trying out different production methods is highly recommended to avoid stagnating.

          About the good equipment: I think the key is to learn the gear and software you already have throughly. You can make incredibly good sounding music even with free software if you know how to use them 🙂

          Thanks for checking my music, btw 🙂 In some of my downtempo style of songs I’m using drumloops yeah.

          Oh and Tiesto got a permission to play my stuff through my record label, but it was cool nonetheless 😀

          • Tiesto played your material? That must be really cool my friend, congratulations!

            And btw I exported my track in FL Studio on 32 bit float .wav at around -4 dB but it still clipped at a few points. Should I re-import the track in a new FL project file, then click “normalise” so that the entire wave would shrink a little and export again as 32 bit float without clipping, then send it for mastering?

            Or should I just pull down the master fader to around -6 dB straightaway to avoid any possible clipping? The reason I didnt do this is because I think my track sounds really too soft even at -6dB and I begin to doubt that it probably sounds like -9dB even when the master fader is at -6 dB, mainly because of the way i do my mixdown along the way (I set everything to a very low volume except the kicks at almost 0 dB).

            The thing is my track will be sent for mastering by an engineer and I worry that if my track actually sits at -9 dB or around that, the engineer might have be having a hard time trying to pull the master volume all the way to 0 dB, and also it might destroy the dynamic of the track , which I’m really not sure.

            What do you think, Petri? and many thanks in advance!

          • Thank u, Denis! Yea it was cool indeed to see Tiesto playing ‘The Wall’!

            About sending your track for mastering: skilled mastering engineer has all the necessary tools and know-how to make it louder, so don’t worry about it sounding too “soft”. Just make sure you leave enough headroom for him to work by droping the master fader -6db like you said or even more. Also, no need to normalize it. And use either 24 or 32 bit depth. Also, ask the mastering engineer if he has any other requirements for the track.

            Hope this helps!

  4. Quick question, I use fl studio’s too and whenever i open a new song it automatically puts a default limiter on the master. I have producing for almost a year now and I dont really see a problem with using it but also I can’t seem to not use the default limiter because everything seems to clip after I take it off ha. Is this something to worry about? usually i will mix my songs fine and then send a wav to my cousin who is really good at mastering and he will master it.

    thanks:)

    • Hey Austin,

      Everytime you start FL Studio, it loads a template and it seems you’re using the template “Basic with limiter” or something similar so it throws a Fruity Limiter to master channel automatically. You can change this by going to File -> New from template -> and choosing “Empty”. Now, everytime you start FL Studio, you have a clean (empty) template with no effects in any channel.

      About using limiter on a master channel when mixing: some people use it, some dont. I think it’s first essential to understand WHAT the limiter does to the dynamics of your song before using it. I personally don’t never use limiter in the master channel when I’m in the mixing stage and if my mix is clipping, I fix it by simply dropping the master channel level.

      I really suggest you to read this: http://therecordingrevolution.com/2011/09/12/should-you-mix-with-a-limiter/

      Hope this helps!

  5. K-stereo on

    Is it possible to make good sounding beats/professional ,using nothing but Fl studio ?

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