Tip #1391: Interesting Facts About Audio Meters

… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #1391: Interesting Facts About Audio Meters

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Excessive audio levels are only a problem when you export a project.

The audio meters in Final Cut Pro, with the right channel exceeding 0 dB.

Topic $TipTopic

Most of us know that the audio meters measure the volume of our sound. But here are some facts you may not know.

  • The green bars measure “peak” audio levels, the instant-by-instant volume (loudness) of each channel of audio.
  • The audio meters measure audio on a scale called “dBFS” (deciBels Full Scale)
  • The horizontal bar above the green is the peak hold indicator. This displays the loudest the audio has been for the last five seconds, or until the audio loudness exceeds the level it is currently displaying.
  • Because the green bars bounce so much, the peak hold indicator makes it easy to see exactly how loud your audio peaks are.
  • To avoid distortion, which is a scratchy, blatty noise in your audio, it is essential to keep all peaks below 0 dB.

NOTE: 0 dB is the loudest your audio can be without causing distortion.

  • If the audio goes over 0 dB, the red indicator glows (see the screen shot) indicating a distortion condition, the affected channel and how many dB too loud the audio is.
  • As long as you haven’t exported your file, no damage is done to your audio; just bring the audio levels down. If the audio is exported, the distortion is permanent. The only way to get rid of it is to adjust audio levels, then reexport the project.


Know why audio meters are marked in 6 dB increments? The answer is that when levels change by ±6 dB, the perceived volume of the sound is doubled (+6 dB) or cut in half (-6 dB).

For this reason, all audio meters are marked in 6 dB increments.

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2 replies
  1. woz
    woz says:

    hi Larry
    I’m not sure that your last comment is correct.
    Strictly speaking a doubling of perceived volume would be an increase of 10dB, but a doubling of voltage or pressure would be +6dB. (this is a strict mathematical relationship as is a doubling of power which would be +3dB).
    +6dB would however cause a noticeable increase in perceived volume by the listener.

    • Larry Jordan
      Larry Jordan says:


      Yeah, I was reading discussions of ±6 dB vs. ±10 dB. You may be right. But, for now, I’m voting for ±6 dB.



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