You’ve probably heard the term “headroom” thrown around a lot. What it is, essentially, is a margin of safety between the loudest peaks of your track — or tracks, in the case of a mix — and 0 dB on your DAW’s meter, where your signal starts to clip and digital distortion can rear its ugly head. The difference between the peaks and 0 dBFS is your headroom.
Thanks! I'm glad it was helpful. The idea of leaving so much headroom is definitely counterintuitive for anyone who started in the analog era. Even those who started recording when 16-bit digital was the standard were taught that getting as hot a level recorded to disk was advantageous from a signal-to-noise-ratio standpoint. Of course, you still couldn't exceed 0 dB without distortion, like you could with tape.