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Setting output levels for external effects

Discussion in 'Axe-Fx III Discussion' started by Larzzz, Jun 15, 2018.

  1. Larzzz

    Larzzz
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    Hi everyone - quick question about setting up inputs and outputs on the Axe FX III. I've read the manual and searched the forum to see if anyone has asked this question before, and I'm not seeing it, but my apologies ahead of time if this has already been covered elsewhere.

    I've been messing around with various options for hooking up different pedals for use in effect loops, and I've got a couple small issues / concerns about best practices, and I want to make sure I'm doing everything correctly.

    The short version of the question is that I've noticed that when I make a patch that routes directly from input 1 to an output, the meter within the block itself is always pushing into the red, even though I've got the input 1 set up so the meter is just barely tickling the red when I'm playing hard on my guitar with the loudest pickups. Is this normal?

    The reason I ask is that I'm looking at routing from output 2 through to some external pedals (all mono), mostly weird delays and lo-fi reverbs that I like the sound of, back into input 2. I want to make sure I'm hitting these pedals with a level that is the same as what's coming out of the guitar (but I'm not interested in having output 2 copy input 1, because I'd like the flexibility of hitting a drive / compressor block before going to the external effects). I've noticed that when I just connect output 2 into input 2, there's a jump up in volume, which I'm imagining is related to the fact that in Axe-Edit, the levels on output 2 are pushing into the red. I've experimented with switching output mode from Stereo to Copy L>R and Sum L+R, but run into the same issue with the metering on the output block regardless.

    So, basically, I'm wondering what the preferred method is for setting up unity levels when going to outboard hardware - where should I be adjusting levels? There's something I'm not wrapping my head around about how this stuff works - so I apologize if this question is mega-stupid.

    Some more thoughts, for background:

    * I've noticed that setting the Level of the output block to somewhere around -10 makes the "pushing into the red" less prevalent, and sounds (to my ears) like it's a unity level, but I'm not sure if that's the best way to do this.

    * I've currently got the output 2 knob on the front panel of the axe fx set fully clockwise - I noticed in the manual that this is the unity level for outputs 3 and 4, so I'm not sure that's the right level for the output 2 knob, but regardless of what I do with the physical knob, I'm seeing the level in the output block pushing into the red, so I'm imagining this knob is not where I want to make the change, but I could be wrong!

    * I've noticed that if I just route input 1 directly into output 1, the output pushes into the red as well, regardless of what changes I make to I/O mode.
     
  2. bdrepko

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    Not sure it matters much. But out3 and out4 are meant to be used with external effects. Also make sure the levels you are using for the output is set to instrument level (-10db) vs line level (+4db).
     
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  3. Larzzz

    Larzzz
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    Thank you for the response! I had sort of gotten the feeling that was the case.

    However, I am also using outs 3 and 4 for external effects (stereo delays and reverbs respectively). I've got those placed after amp blocks, so it's a slightly different situation. If I have to just use fewer loops, I can do that as a solution (I'm kind of enjoying this flexibility of having three external loops, though). I'm still wondering about the unity output question, though, given that routing direct from input 1 to output 1 shows meters that push into the red within the Axe, before even getting to any external hardware.
     
  4. lqdsnddist

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    -10dB is not instrument level, it’s line level. +4 dB is also line level, which makes it confusing. It’s often thought of as consumer vs pro level in terms of audio equipment. Home stereo isn’t going to take +4dB very well, pro monitors will.

    Instrument level is much weaker, though hotter than mic level.

    “Problem” with the loop on the Axe is it’s line level, and while many pedals can handle line level just fine, a lot want an instrument level as they’d see in front of an amp on a pedal board
     
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  5. FractalAudio

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    -10 dBV is compatible with instrument levels.
     
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  6. lqdsnddist

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    I know it can often be compatible, but wanted to clear up the post where it was said -10 is instrument and +4 is line level. It’s not false per say, but one shouldn’t think that +4 is standard line level as it’s going to be too hot for a lot of hardware

    Likewise, one shouldn’t think -10dB is always instrument level, because if you go and plug your guitar into an a -10dB line level interface it’s not going to work well, and if you plug a line level output into an input meant for instrument level it’s potentially going to clip.

    This isn’t hard and fast as different hardware can tolerate different things, but just that one should define -10dB as instrument level, because it’s not, nor should one think of +4dB as the only line level. That’s all i was trying to say
     
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  7. Larzzz

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    Got it. So, is the preferred method of getting unity level (i.e., the level hitting output 1 is the same level hitting input 1) to set the level in the output block to -10? Thank you again for your help.
     
  8. bdrepko

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    That is what is typically labeled on a lot of amps and effects when referring to instrument vs line level. Wasn't sure if AXE3 did the same.
     
  9. lqdsnddist

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    I worked in the pro audio section of a Guitar Center ages ago. -10 and +4 was always a real big issue as folks would bring things saying it wasn’t working right when they were trying to mix what was essentially consumer level and pro level mixers, dj gear, pa speakers etc.

    One thing that makes it even more confusing is when a balanced input is +4 but the rca or 1/4” is -10dB. Some people would have a cable like an xlr to 1/4, so they would be trying to run +4 into something meant for -10dB or vice versa and complain their mixer was clipping etc.

    Not quite as bad as when people try to use a channel with a mic pre with a line level input, or worse yet, plug in a bass with active pickups into that channel and say they are getting nothing but red clip lights, but same principle.

    Again, wasn’t trying to call anyone out, nor does this specifically help the original question, but I just always try to help people reading understand the differences between mic, instrument, line and oh yes, speaker level!

    Far too many people have for some reason plugged speaker level outputs from their amp into an effects processor or mixing board. Why ? Because they saw another amp with a built in power soak output and didn’t know the difference, or quit simply because the 1/4” jack fit.

    Not a lot of things short of a speaker cab or a load box enjoy getting 100 Watts RMS at 4ohms delivered to their line level input lol
     

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