I am transferring my vinyl collection to my PC. My phono pre-amp has a USB port that allows me to connect it directly to my PC. The Audacity manual recommends recording at a level of around -6.0 dB in order to avoid distortion and I can adjust the input level so that the loudest sections of the music reaches around that level. Once recorded, the Normalize tool can be used to set the maximum amplitude of the track to a default level of -1.0 dB, effectively making the track louder, if I understand correctly. However, I want to retain the warmth and the depth of the original track so, the question is, does normalizing a recording from vinyl change it for the better, for worse, or not at all?
“Normalizing” from -6 dB up to -1 dB just makes the audio a bit louder. There is no change to the “quality” of the sound, but by being a bit louder, you won’t need to turn up the volume on the playback system quite as high, so there may be a very slight improvement to the signal to noise in the playback equipment.
The short answer is, it’s better to normalize to -1 dB than leaving it at around -6 dB.
The Audacity manual recommends recording at a level of around -6.0 dB in order to avoid distortion and I can adjust the input level so that the loudest sections of the music reaches around that level.
FYI -6dB is just a recommendation/guideline. Nothing bad happens when you get close to 0dB, but 0dBFS is the digital maximum for analog-to-digital converters and digital-to-analog converters. If you “try” to go over you’ll get clipping (distortion).
Analog levels are not perfectly predictable and shooting for -6dB gives you some safety margin.
Digital recording levels are not critical as long as you don’t clip, and you can actually record lower than -6dB with no audible loss of quality. (Pros often record at -12 to -18dB at 24-bits.)