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Reamping Active Pickups - is this level normal?

chucma

Fractal Fanatic
I am a self confessed serial reamper of my own guitar tracks, but have come across something that I need some help with please!

Firstly, I was going to post this in the lounge, but figured this is a question about reamping with the AxeFX so decided to put it here. Apologies if I have the wrong section!

Basically I'm reamping a buddy's guitar and his DI levels are through the roof. His recording path is Guitar -> Focusrite Scarlett Solo -> Cakewalk Bandlab -> BIAS FX. He records his parts and then disables BIAS and exports/sends the DI track to me to reamp in my AxeFX.

His guitar has Seymour Duncan Signature Dave Mustaine Active Pickups in it, and he is a generally aggressive player, but the levels I am getting seem a bit too high when I compare them to a DI signal I recorded with my Alpha/Omega pickups (using Output 5 on my AxeFX). I played the same riff he was playing and I used the same level of attack on the strings. You can see the difference in the screenshot below:

DI John.jpg

I tried dropping the Gain and Input Trim on my Amp Block but just can't seem to find a combination that works for his strong DI signal. Alternatively, I have also dropped the gain on his track in my Logic project by about 16dB and that also helps but I'm not sure if this is the right solution.

He is not a very technical guy and doesn't really understand signal paths, gain staging etc so it is a bit hard to tell if he is doing something wrong on his side. I have tried to troubleshoot with him over a few Zoom calls which is a bit limiting (he lives in New Zealand, I'm in the UK). I found if we disable the Instrument button on the Scarlett (which is the opposite of what the manual says) and drop the Scarlett's Gain to zero, then when he does a recording his DI signal matches mine and it is easier to dial his sounds in on my AxeFX. BUT - then it sounds weaker in BIAS FX on his side (of course I could just tell him to increase the gain in BIAS).

I have never worked with active pickups before, all of my guitars are passive, so I don't know if this is normal or not. His signal is definitely way too hot, but I just wanted feedback/confirmation from anyone who reamps active pickups if this is normal or not please.
 

Smittefar

Fractal Fanatic
His level is definitely hot compared to aDI track recorded with the Axe. But it is not wrong. You should reduce the level before going into the Axe. It could also be the level control in a filter block before the amp block.
 

Hellbat

Fractal Fanatic
Those live wires are usually run at 18V IIRC. It stands to reason the output would be way higher than passives. Also, make sure he’s not normalizing the track before sending it to you. Some people just do that by habit.
 

mr_fender

Axe-Master
The Axe's DI levels are not boosted or normalized at all, so when you send them back for reamping they match the original signal level exactly. I'd guess his DI is gain staged differently going into his Focusrite. It's probably set for instrument input level, which might stage the level higher in comparison. The Mustaine pickups are probably a bit hotter, but not that much.

The waveform display can sometimes be misleading depending on the vertical axis scaling of the track display and their individual zoom level. Go by the meters to gauge the actual level difference.

To reamp his DI with the Axe III, simply lower the output level of the track from the DAW until you get the desired result. Compare the VU meters on the two DI tracks to determine about how much you need to pull the level down on his. So if yours is reading say -20 dB and his is reading say -5 dB, then drop the level fader on his DI track about 15 dB. If the track meters are post-fader in your DAW, then just pull his down until the meter roughly matches yours, maybe a bit hotter since the pickups are a bit hotter.
 

Zedhed

Experienced
It's probably set for instrument input level, which might stage the level higher in comparison.
Yeah, I always go into line level input with active pups.

A mistake people often make when recording a DI track is looking at the waveform and thinking it looks too low, so they overcompensate by turning the input trim up to try and get the waveform to look like what they are used to seeing (ie; the signal post amp).
 

GlennO

Fractal Fanatic
I found if we disable the Instrument button on the Scarlett (which is the opposite of what the manual says) and drop the Scarlett's Gain to zero, then when he does a recording his DI signal matches mine and it is easier to dial his sounds in on my AxeFX. BUT - then it sounds weaker in BIAS FX on his side (of course I could just tell him to increase the gain in BIAS).
If you're going to take the DI to another modeler like you're doing, then it's important to record it at unity gain. Otherwise, you'll be forever struggling to get consistent results and guessing at what the original level was. If he doesn't like the sound with Bias, then, like you say, the right thing to do is adjust the preset in Bias to increase the input gain (or insert a gain plugin prior to Bias so no Bias preset editing will be required). If he's not doing so already, make sure he's recording the DI at 24 bit.
 

scaryguy51

New Member
As you said up there, the issue is he's involving (and possibly turning up) the mic preamp by using the instrument mode on the Focusrite. I guess all modelers are different, because when I record direct/reamp with my Kemper over SPDIF the direct signal is insanely hot (but the Kemper likes it), and that isn't the case when I record direct/reamp with the Axe.
 

chucma

Fractal Fanatic
Thanks for all the good advice guys! I checked his process again and he is definitely not normalising his tracks when he exports them, it looks like his guitar records hot so we will have to make adjustments post recording before I reamp.

As you guys have pointed out, this appears to be normal given his equipment so all I should do is adjust his signal so that is close to my VU meter reading. ( I admit, I was actually using the waveform which was a bad idea, good tip to use the VU values instead).

It makes sense now, I actually thought the DI signal from the AxeFX was a standard across the board, so I expected his DI signal to be about the same which of course it isn't.

Thanks for the clarification and good advice guys!
 
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