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ATTN: Strat players - what are your in/out levels?

Discussion in 'Axe-Fx II Discussion' started by jma, Feb 3, 2012.

  1. #1 jma, Feb 3, 2012
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2012
    jma

    jma
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    I just finished setting the levels on my Axe and I'm curious if I should have done anything differently. Here is what I did, step-by-step:

    1) increase the Instr In level to just barely lighting the red LED while strumming hard (using the loudest pickup, which in my case is the middle one); I had to increase the Instr In level to 95%.
    2) load the Bypass preset.
    3) set the front panel Output Level 1 knob to max for unity gain.
    4) while strumming hard, set the input trims of my audio interface to just below clipping (Echo Gina 3G, connected to Axe via balanced XLRs).
    At this point, the Axe Instr In and Echo Gina 3G inputs are set optimally for the Bypass preset. Now when I load any amped preset it's hot, hot, hot! (on the Echo Gina)
    5) I turn down the gain in the Global EQ panel all the way to -12dB and all the amped presets are still very hot.
    6) Now I throw "unity gain" out the window and turn the front panel Output Level 1 knob down to the noon position. Now most of the preset levels are in the ballpark for minor tweaking, some need to be increased, some decreased.

    So now I'm wondering if I should even care about unity gain. Should I have done the level adjustment differently? The settings seem skewed but the unit sounds fine and there's absolutely NO noise (incredible, considering I'm playing a 30 yr. old Strat with original electronics 5 ft. away from florescent lighting.)
     
  2. FractalAudio

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    Everyone listen and listen closely:

    UNITY GAIN IS ONLY FOR WHEN RUNNING FOUR-CABLE METHOD. OTHERWISE, USE THE LEVEL CONTROLS TO CONTROL THE LEVELS. YOU SHOULD NEVER TURN THE LEVEL KNOBS ALL THE WAY UP UNDER NORMAL USE.
     
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  3. jma

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    Point taken! (You may want to add that in big red letters in the next version of the manual.) :)
     
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  4. solo-act

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    I'm at about the same input level, and I don't think my pickups tickle input red at all. This can be normal with low output pickups that aren't set high/closer to the strings.

    I've never done steps 2 & 3.

    I use AES out, so front panel output knobs don't apply.

    I tweak patches with volume pedal floored, guitar volume usually cranked.
    Output for all patches (after setting appropriate reverb delay output/mix settings) is set at the amp's level knob.
    On patches with a solo, final output is set via the blocks needed for solo.
    So I have two gain stages on output: patches without solo blocks, it's the amp level only. Patches with solo blocks it's combo of the amp level knob and the level knob in block or blocks chosen to manage final output for the solo.
    I set this final output not far from output clip using heavier than normal right hand.
    All of this prevents output clipping in a "fully cranked" scenario.

    After setting individual patch output, I set patch outputs relative to each other, bringing loudest patches down instead of quieter ones up, again to prevent output clipping.
    This varies by the guitar's role in the mix, and again, happens either at amp level, or combo of amp & solo blocks levels.


    Even after this, some patches might need a small output tweak at the gig.
    I first go for the vol inc/dec option, but it's 2db now instead of 1db like it used to be. Sometimes it's too much.
    If so, I'll go to volume pedal, but I prefer to keep that in the "sweet spot".
    If I have a chance after the song, I'll hit X and grab a controller knob for amp level and take it up/down 1db.

    After I'm gigging with few to no output tweaks, I bring the axe-fx into the studio, check final output in layout page, and transfer that db change to my two gain outputs: amp level and solo blocks level(s). After transferring the db value, I put final output in layout window back to zero/unity.

    Doing this helps me keep track of which patches end up at a non-zero setting in the heat of gig-battle (easy to do vol inc/dec and lose track).

    By managing output this way, once a couple weeks pass after a major firmware update, I'm back on track, patch 2 patch levels are consistent, and outputs in layout page are back at unity...no volume pedal dancing, just rock out - levels are perfect.
    To clarify again, when I say output and unity, I'm talking the output level in layout page. I use AES out and do not set and front panel analog outs.

    This level of consistency/accuracy is possible because I gig with tracks and mixing board stays the same.
    For live band, it's good to know your volume pedal's sweet spot and get your relative patch volume reigned in.
    The fewer places you manage output gain in your signal chain, the better, and it's easier to manage at the gig.
     
  5. jma

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    Thanks for the detailed reply. Now that FAS has set me straight on unity gain, that's one less thing to worry about, since I'm primarily running through my audio interface to my DAW. I'm still in the process of going through the presets, hoping I can get away with just tweaking the amp levels to get consistent volume.
     
  6. melodisk

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    so for running the axe direct into my poweramp i should not keep the output at max ? what is best , i go guitar-axe-poweramp-speakers
     
  7. sheky

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    Didn't know this either. I haven't had any problems with the level all the way up running into my studio monitors. There's really not that much difference between the level output at 75% and 100%.
     
  8. melodisk

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    i run 100% into my poweramp , maybe i should go with 75% , but is there any difference, clipping , fizz, ???
     
  9. #9 thewizardguy, Feb 4, 2012
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2012
    thewizardguy

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    My input is at 100% also on my strat. Sounds great, tickles the reds.

    my output level knob rarely goes past 9 oclock. if i want it blasting its at noon.
     
  10. FractalAudio

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    Let me clarify, you shouldn't NEED to turn the output level all the way up and, in general, if you do, then your gain staging is probably suboptimal.

    Unity gain mode is a special mode designed for use with the 4CM. When you turn the output levels all the way up whatever you put in you get out (assuming all unity-gain blocks in the chain). If you have an amp block in the chain then you have tons of gain and therefore no longer have unity gain.

    Optimal gain staging would be with the level knob around noon. Higher than this and you risk clipping the inputs of the downstream device. With the level knob at full the Axe-Fx II will probably incinerate a Soundblaster or other low-cost stuff. The max level out of the Axe-Fx II is +20 dBu. Most pro gear can easily handle that but lots of gear cannot and the trend in newer gear is towards lower and lower maximum input levels (due to single-ended designs and low-voltage/low-power constraints). In the old days, +20 dBu was routine. Everything could put out and handle +20. Not so much anymore.

    For a Strat, near 100% on the input level is not unusual. I run my Strat around there. It has vintage-type pickups.
     
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  11. melodisk

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    Brilliant Cliff , very important stuff
    my yngwie malmsteen stratocaster with Dimarzio Hs-3 pickups cant really hit red,it seems as the pickups are simply
    born with to little output,
    i wish i had 10% more on the input trim , would that be possible ?

    best regards

    Kim
     
  12. MisterE

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    How would we go about using guitars with different output levels?
    So we have to adjust it ever time we plug in a different guitar or just for the one with the hottest output?
    I seem to recall that was how we were advised to do it on the Ultra and Standard.
     
  13. #13 yek, Feb 4, 2012
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2012
    yek

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    Guys, things are different on the II. The Input Level in I/O has no impact on the amp gain.
    There's no relation between Input Level and Drive in the Amp block, nor with Amp Gain in Global, nor with Input Trim.
    Read the manual and the wiki.

    To compensate the overall gain when switching guitars, you can use Amp Gain in Global.

    http://wiki.fractalaudio.com/axefx2/index.php?title=Global_menu_parameters
    Input: setting levels and parameters - Axe-Fx II Wiki
    Amplifier (FX block): all parameters - Axe-Fx II Wiki
    Amplifier (FX block): ways to adjust gain - Axe-Fx II Wiki
     
  14. MisterE

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    No but when setting the input level yo low it can induce distortion because the bit rate is too low.
    Or something similar.
    Cliff replied this when I said I had to turn input trim way down to try to get rid of the unwanted distortion.
    So I guess I'll have to adjust when swapping guitars.
    I just find this a bit odd but I guess it has something to do with getting the guitar signal in the highest possible "bit resolution" if I understand this correctly.
    It also seems a bit tedious that, when for example you're in the middle of a performance, when switching guitars, you have to go to I/O, strum hard and set levels. Don't forget this can be noisy because of the digital pot.
    With the Ultra I just adjusted it for the highest output.
     
  15. yek

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    You can take a note of the input level of each guitar and memorize that. No need for strumming.

    Also, no need to set things exactly. I wouldn't bother adjusting if the difference between guitars is 20% or so.
     
  16. melodisk

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    and if you cant tickle the red ? is that a problem ?
     
  17. steverosburg

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    No problem, it's just a guideline for maximizing S/N for input. My bass can't tickle the red no way, no how, and it sounds great.
     
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  18. paulmapp8306

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    I play all 5 of my guitars at the same input level. Its set up for the hottest HB guitar to tickle the red. My weakest barely tickles the orange. Its not a problem. All the guitars sound great - its just the weekest ones will have a greater S/N ratio as the i/p isnt ideal for them. If you want to be "perfect" then you can change IP levels between guitars - but its not "needed". you may want to do so for recording for the quietest signal but for live dont worry unless you have a problem - just play.

    FWIW - I run my outputs full, and control my volume from my power amp. That can handle 20dbu (though it wants less) BUT I have the global outputs set at -9db or so and the O/Ps arnt near clipping even at 0db. I run it this was so my amp is putting out the watts I need for my cab when both units are at full - but when I change volume using the amps gain controls I dont get the "motor boat" noise the AFX2s digital pots induce when turned.
     
  19. melodisk

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    great info paul+steve , it seems im not doing anything wrong then , but i still wonder if cliff can add a little extra to the input trim
    im not sure how that works , or if there is a natural limit on the trim (100%)
    if not well then maybe we can have like 25% more ???
    am i totally wrong here ?
     
  20. yek

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    It's in the manual:
    "Adjust according to the level of input source material until “hot” signals “tickle” the red LEDs on the front panel INPUT meters. The red LED lights at -6 dB (below clipping). Some sources may not reach ideal levels but can still be used with no problems."
     

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