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Basic Gain Staging and +4 versus -10

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Anonymous
March 14, 2005 8:31:37 AM

Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

I'm trying to get the best sound I can from my limited setup for
recording dry voice.

This is my current configuration:
Shure KSM-27 to Studio Projects VTB-1 preamp via XLR
VTB-1 to FMRAudio RNC through insert using TRS Y-cord
VTB-1 to Behringer SNR-2000 (downward expander and filter) via XLR
SNR-2000 to Tascam MidiStudio 644 (for mixer only) via XLR
644 to Echo MiaMidi via balanced cable (1/4" phone plugs)

Here's what I did:
Bypass RNC
Bypass SNR-2000
Output gain on VTB-1 set to 0
Mixer channel strip set to unity
Master sliders set to unity
Mia software console faders all the way up
Mia software console switchable -10/+4 set to -10
Input gain on VTB-1 all the way down
Began speaking and raised input gain on VTB-1 until mixer meter
(analog) hit 0 with peaks +2
Mia software console meters reading -12 to -6
The VTB-1 gain is now set at 12 o'clock (25 dB)
Engaged compressor (which I only want to use it to prevent clipping at
this point)
Raised threshold to where it started to take effect on a shout
The threshold is at like -15 which seems odd (I expected it to be
closer to 0)
Studio Projects says VTB-1 meter is set for +4, so perhaps the RNC is
also...

So I switch the Mia software console to +4
I connect the VTB-1 directly to the Mia via balanced cable (1/4" phone
plug)
So the chain is now mic to preamp with RNC insert out to Mia
I now have to boost the VTB-1 to like 4 o'clock (48 dB) and it's still
not up to -12 to -6 at Mia software console
If I go to 5 o'clock (maxed at 60 dB) I start to hear artifacts

A couple of questions enter my mind...

Do you get a 'louder sound' operating at +4 versus -10?
or is that just 'common ground' depending on equipment and the
'loudness' the result of dynamics processing?

VTB-1 meters are set for +4 but it doesn't have the power to raise the
Mia console (set at +4) to the appropriate level without introducing
artifacts... is that due to the mic?

Is there a sweet spot in the VTB-1 that I'm not getting to by having it
set at 12 o'clock but exceeding when I have it set a 5 o'clock?

What about VTB-1 at 2 or 3 o'clock and using output gain to boost the
level for +4?

Are there even any +4 boards available to me and my limited budget that
I should even be looking at +4 versus -10?

Is my approach the way to get the best sound from my equipment or is
there something else I should be doing?

Thanks for any comments!!
Anonymous
March 14, 2005 4:33:46 PM

Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

In article <1110807097.528564.89070@g14g2000cwa.googlegroups.com> DGoodPub@comcast.net writes:

> Do you get a 'louder sound' operating at +4 versus -10?
> or is that just 'common ground' depending on equipment and the
> 'loudness' the result of dynamics processing?

The loudness is determined by how far up you turn the listening volume
control. How far up you need to turn that control to achieve a given
loudness is a function of the average recording level. Our ears
respond to average level to sense loudness, but there's an absolute
peak level above which you can't go. Turning the record level up so
that the loudest peaks (like for instance the snare drum hits) hit the
maximum level doesn't really change the average level very much since
they're short and don't contain a lot of energy - still, this sets the
"maximum loudness."

What we've come to think of as a "loud mix" is on that has a high
average level as well as a high peak level. We do this by compressing
so that the peak-to-average level ratio is small. That wasy, the
average level can be raised without exceeding the maxiumum level on
peaks.

Most of the time this doesn't sound very good, but it's what pepole
who are too lazy to get up and adjust the listening volume want.

> VTB-1 meters are set for +4 but it doesn't have the power to raise the
> Mia console (set at +4) to the appropriate level without introducing
> artifacts... is that due to the mic?

Most likely not. What's probably happening is that the mic preamp is
reaching its maximum ouptut level (causing "artifacts" - we call that
"clipping") which is lower than the level than what it takes to push
your Mia to full scale digital level.

> Is there a sweet spot in the VTB-1 that I'm not getting to by having it
> set at 12 o'clock but exceeding when I have it set a 5 o'clock?

O'clock settings are meaningless. You want to be sure that the output
of your preamp isn't distorting at any time. If you switch the input
sensitivity of the Mia from +4 to -10, the record level will jump up
by about 12 dB.

Your VTB-1 has a meter switch. Set it to INPUT and adjust the Input
Gain control on the preamp so that the meter on the preamp reaches 0
most of the time, +8 occasionally, and only rarely hits +15. Then
adjust the Output Gain of the preamp so that the meters in your
recording software indicate a good recording level. If you can't get
there with the Mia driver set to +4, switch it to -10. I'd recommend
that you keep recording peaks below -6 dB.


--
I'm really Mike Rivers (mrivers@d-and-d.com)
However, until the spam goes away or Hell freezes over,
lots of IP addresses are blocked from this system. If
you e-mail me and it bounces, use your secret decoder ring
and reach me here: double-m-eleven-double-zero at yahoo
Anonymous
March 15, 2005 7:47:15 AM

Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

Thanks, Mike. I always enjoy your responses in this group and I
appreciate you taking the time to answer my post.
Related resources
Anonymous
March 15, 2005 9:01:32 AM

Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

DGoodPub@comcast.net wrote:
> I'm trying to get the best sound I can from my limited setup for
> recording dry voice.
>
> This is my current configuration:
> Shure KSM-27 to Studio Projects VTB-1 preamp via XLR
> VTB-1 to FMRAudio RNC through insert using TRS Y-cord
> VTB-1 to Behringer SNR-2000 (downward expander and filter) via XLR
> SNR-2000 to Tascam MidiStudio 644 (for mixer only) via XLR
> 644 to Echo MiaMidi via balanced cable (1/4" phone plugs)
>
> Here's what I did:
> Bypass RNC
> Bypass SNR-2000
> Output gain on VTB-1 set to 0
> Mixer channel strip set to unity
> Master sliders set to unity
> Mia software console faders all the way up
> Mia software console switchable -10/+4 set to -10
> Input gain on VTB-1 all the way down
> Began speaking and raised input gain on VTB-1 until mixer meter
> (analog) hit 0 with peaks +2
> Mia software console meters reading -12 to -6
> The VTB-1 gain is now set at 12 o'clock (25 dB)
> Engaged compressor (which I only want to use it to prevent clipping
at
> this point)
> Raised threshold to where it started to take effect on a shout
> The threshold is at like -15 which seems odd (I expected it to be
> closer to 0)
> Studio Projects says VTB-1 meter is set for +4, so perhaps the RNC is
> also...
>
> So I switch the Mia software console to +4
> I connect the VTB-1 directly to the Mia via balanced cable (1/4"
phone
> plug)
> So the chain is now mic to preamp with RNC insert out to Mia
> I now have to boost the VTB-1 to like 4 o'clock (48 dB) and it's
still
> not up to -12 to -6 at Mia software console
> If I go to 5 o'clock (maxed at 60 dB) I start to hear artifacts
>
> A couple of questions enter my mind...
>
> Do you get a 'louder sound' operating at +4 versus -10?
> or is that just 'common ground' depending on equipment and the
> 'loudness' the result of dynamics processing?

Loudness was a Japanese rock band, loudness (the switch)
is tone compensation to allow for the perceived
difference in volume at low listening levels, as stated
by Fletcher and Mundson. Neither has any bearing on
electronic signal levels, digital or analog.

I have the Echo Mia. I sent a test tone from my Soundcraft
board into Mia and the 'Mia console' meter agreed with
the meters in SoundForge almost exactly: the last red
bar lit up in Mia when Forge said ~ -0.2, with either
setting on the Mia console -10 or +4, levels from the
board reset accordingly.
I trust the meters in Forge.
When Mia was set at -10 the board reading was 0dB,
and with Mia at +4 the board meter said +12.
(It's possible my Soundcraft outputs are set
internally at -10)

> VTB-1 meters are set for +4 but it doesn't have the power to raise
the
> Mia console (set at +4) to the appropriate level without introducing
> artifacts... is that due to the mic?
>
> Is there a sweet spot in the VTB-1 that I'm not getting to by having
it
> set at 12 o'clock but exceeding when I have it set a 5 o'clock?
>
> What about VTB-1 at 2 or 3 o'clock and using output gain to boost the
> level for +4?

Gain staging is important and it's obvious that you
realize that, hence the title of the thread.
Most of your equipment has more than enough headroom
to allow some leeway with level setting, with the
exception of the Tascam, it's probably only capable
of -10 so I would look there first for level issues.

> Are there even any +4 boards available to me and my limited budget
that
> I should even be looking at +4 versus -10?

Sure there are plenty but if you're running the Mia
in 24bit you've got some room to play with before
level setting gets to be a real issue.
Just switch Mia to -10 and go.
If Mia (and your software) shows -6 to -12
you are OK.

> Is my approach the way to get the best sound from my equipment or is
> there something else I should be doing?
>
> Thanks for any comments!!

You're on the right track. Try going direct from
VTB to Mia and see where you're at before you get
too worried.

good luck
rd
Anonymous
March 15, 2005 12:06:37 PM

Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

Good god, man, have you forgotten that every unit in the house now has a
remote control? Hell, a lot of people can even control the heat in their
house from their cell phones these days.

Someone has to be pretty damned lazy not to use a volume button on a remote!
<g>

--


Roger W. Norman
SirMusic Studio
http://blogs.salon.com/0004478/

"Mike Rivers" <mrivers@d-and-d.com> wrote in message
news:znr1110816583k@trad...
>
> In article <1110807097.528564.89070@g14g2000cwa.googlegroups.com>
DGoodPub@comcast.net writes:
>
> > Do you get a 'louder sound' operating at +4 versus -10?
> > or is that just 'common ground' depending on equipment and the
> > 'loudness' the result of dynamics processing?
>
> The loudness is determined by how far up you turn the listening volume
> control. How far up you need to turn that control to achieve a given
> loudness is a function of the average recording level. Our ears
> respond to average level to sense loudness, but there's an absolute
> peak level above which you can't go. Turning the record level up so
> that the loudest peaks (like for instance the snare drum hits) hit the
> maximum level doesn't really change the average level very much since
> they're short and don't contain a lot of energy - still, this sets the
> "maximum loudness."
>
> What we've come to think of as a "loud mix" is on that has a high
> average level as well as a high peak level. We do this by compressing
> so that the peak-to-average level ratio is small. That wasy, the
> average level can be raised without exceeding the maxiumum level on
> peaks.
>
> Most of the time this doesn't sound very good, but it's what pepole
> who are too lazy to get up and adjust the listening volume want.
>
> > VTB-1 meters are set for +4 but it doesn't have the power to raise the
> > Mia console (set at +4) to the appropriate level without introducing
> > artifacts... is that due to the mic?
>
> Most likely not. What's probably happening is that the mic preamp is
> reaching its maximum ouptut level (causing "artifacts" - we call that
> "clipping") which is lower than the level than what it takes to push
> your Mia to full scale digital level.
>
> > Is there a sweet spot in the VTB-1 that I'm not getting to by having it
> > set at 12 o'clock but exceeding when I have it set a 5 o'clock?
>
> O'clock settings are meaningless. You want to be sure that the output
> of your preamp isn't distorting at any time. If you switch the input
> sensitivity of the Mia from +4 to -10, the record level will jump up
> by about 12 dB.
>
> Your VTB-1 has a meter switch. Set it to INPUT and adjust the Input
> Gain control on the preamp so that the meter on the preamp reaches 0
> most of the time, +8 occasionally, and only rarely hits +15. Then
> adjust the Output Gain of the preamp so that the meters in your
> recording software indicate a good recording level. If you can't get
> there with the Mia driver set to +4, switch it to -10. I'd recommend
> that you keep recording peaks below -6 dB.
>
>
> --
> I'm really Mike Rivers (mrivers@d-and-d.com)
> However, until the spam goes away or Hell freezes over,
> lots of IP addresses are blocked from this system. If
> you e-mail me and it bounces, use your secret decoder ring
> and reach me here: double-m-eleven-double-zero at yahoo
>
Anonymous
March 15, 2005 6:39:30 PM

Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

On 14 Mar 2005 13:33:46 -0500, mrivers@d-and-d.com (Mike Rivers)
wrote:

>The loudness is determined by how far up you turn the listening volume
>control. How far up you need to turn that control to achieve a given
>loudness is a function of the average recording level. Our ears
>respond to average level to sense loudness, but there's an absolute
>peak level above which you can't go. Turning the record level up so
>that the loudest peaks (like for instance the snare drum hits) hit the
>maximum level doesn't really change the average level very much since
>they're short and don't contain a lot of energy - still, this sets the
>"maximum loudness."
>
>What we've come to think of as a "loud mix" is on that has a high
>average level as well as a high peak level. We do this by compressing
>so that the peak-to-average level ratio is small. That wasy, the
>average level can be raised without exceeding the maxiumum level on
>peaks.


In your first paragraph you equate loudness to volume. Then, in your
second paragraph, you admit that loudness can mean something else.
Not terribly helpful?

CubaseFAQ www.laurencepayne.co.uk/CubaseFAQ.htm
"Possibly the world's least impressive web site": George Perfect
Anonymous
March 15, 2005 9:20:16 PM

Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

In article <rc2dnZDGkYgEdqvfRVn-1g@rcn.net> rnorman@starpower.net writes:

> Good god, man, have you forgotten that every unit in the house now has a
> remote control? Hell, a lot of people can even control the heat in their
> house from their cell phones these days.
>
> Someone has to be pretty damned lazy not to use a volume button on a remote!

One of the problems is with radio. The MD isn't going to like it if it
isn't as loud as the last song he played on his boombox.

Another problem I've discovered as I've been listening more to
amateur-engineered radio over the net is that the on-air DJs don't
seem to know what level they're sending. They probably put the pot up
to 7 and start the CD player (sometimes in the reverse order). One
station, KBCS, clips on about 1/3 of their records. I guess the audio
goes from the console to the steaming server before hit hits the
on-air limiter.

--
I'm really Mike Rivers (mrivers@d-and-d.com)
However, until the spam goes away or Hell freezes over,
lots of IP addresses are blocked from this system. If
you e-mail me and it bounces, use your secret decoder ring
and reach me here: double-m-eleven-double-zero at yahoo
Anonymous
March 15, 2005 9:20:17 PM

Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

In article <c70e31p34ip489kk7ig55lfm1uulqdsgl0@4ax.com> l@laurenceDELETEpayne.freeserve.co.uk writes:

>
> On 14 Mar 2005 13:33:46 -0500, mrivers@d-and-d.com (Mike Rivers)
> wrote:
>
> >The loudness is determined by how far up you turn the listening volume
> >control.

> >What we've come to think of as a "loud mix" is on that has a high
> >average level as well as a high peak level.

> In your first paragraph you equate loudness to volume. Then, in your
> second paragraph, you admit that loudness can mean something else.
> Not terribly helpful?

No, I did not. In the first paragraph, I said that loudness IS
DETERMINED BY, not is equal to. In my second paragraph I explained
what we actually have when a MIX is loud.

Reading is FUNdamental.



--
I'm really Mike Rivers (mrivers@d-and-d.com)
However, until the spam goes away or Hell freezes over,
lots of IP addresses are blocked from this system. If
you e-mail me and it bounces, use your secret decoder ring
and reach me here: double-m-eleven-double-zero at yahoo
Anonymous
March 18, 2005 8:06:34 PM

Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

DGoodPub@comcast.net wrote:
> I'm trying to get the best sound I can from my limited setup for
> recording dry voice.

> This is my current configuration:
> Shure KSM-27 to Studio Projects VTB-1 preamp via XLR
> VTB-1 to FMRAudio RNC through insert using TRS Y-cord
> VTB-1 to Behringer SNR-2000 (downward expander and filter) via XLR
> SNR-2000 to Tascam MidiStudio 644 (for mixer only) via XLR
> 644 to Echo MiaMidi via balanced cable (1/4" phone plugs)

> Is my approach the way to get the best sound from my equipment or is
> there something else I should be doing?

> Thanks for any comments!!

Hate to sound like a gear snob, but you are running your voice through
a lot of low quality units which deteriorates the quality. The mic and
the RNC are both of reasonable quality, but everything else is not
so good. Run the mic into the VTB-1 with the RNC in the insert as
you have done. Send the TRS output of the VTB-1 to the MiaMidi and
use the XLR output of VTB-1 to go to the mixer. The XLR output on
this micpre has an additional stage on it used to invert the signal
for balancing. You want the output with the least stages. In fact,
if you could lose the RNC, you might feed the Miamidi from the insert
to avoid another stage. And set the "Tube Blend" to the minimum
position.

As for the SNR-2000, put it somewhere where the cat can sit on it to
keep warm.

I know this doesn't answer your questions on gain staging in the way that
you want, but by reducing almost all of your stages, there really is
no longer a question.

I hope you take this in well-meaning spirit that it is meant.

Rob R.
Anonymous
March 19, 2005 9:17:12 AM

Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

Rob Reedijk wrote:

> I hope you take this in well-meaning spirit that it is meant.

No offense taken. I know what I've got and I know what's out there and
what I'd like to have.

I know a few things are true.

I know a person just learning to drive does not need/deserve a
Maserati. (I'm so new I'm trying to figure out how to properly set the
gain!!)

I also know I learned to play the guitar on a cheap instrument where
the action on the strings was too high. I had to press harder to get
the strings to sound right and my fingers hurt and the resulting sound
was less than what it should have been. When I got my vintage
Stratocaster it was so much easier to play and it sounded great with
such little effort. No matter how hard I played that cheap guitar it
was not going to sound any better. So, the right tools do make a
difference.

I guess I'm one of the people (referred to in past postings to this
group) that have the errant belief that you can get a high quality
sound from inexpensive gear. I thought the VTB was supposed to be
pretty good at it's price point. A Grace 101 is a little over $500.
The Avalon VT-737SP can be had for a little over $1500. The Millennia
STT-1 is around $2600.

If I upgraded from the VTB to the Grace would I hear a difference? Can
you describe what difference I would expect to hear?

If I upgraded the VTB to the Avalon can you describe what difference I
would expect to hear?

If I upgraded the VTB to the Millennia can you describe what difference
I would expect to hear?

What difference would I hear that would make me say 'NOW I understand,
there IS a difference!!!"?

The Tascam Midistudio 644 was left over from my songwriting days and it
is a weak link. Should I be switching that out for a Mackie 1202 VLZ?
Other mixer options?

I wasn't going to go down this road, but any other equipment upgrade
suggestions?
Anonymous
March 19, 2005 8:51:08 PM

Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

In article <1111241832.922497.318850@z14g2000cwz.googlegroups.com> DGoodPub@comcast.net writes:

> If I upgraded from the VTB to the Grace would I hear a difference?

Maybe

> Can you describe what difference I would expect to hear?

No.

Same for your other similar examples.

> What difference would I hear that would make me say 'NOW I understand,
> there IS a difference!!!"?

I know it sounds like a stupid answer, but you'll know when you hear
it. We can talk about tigher bass, more detailed midrange, crystal
clear highs and all that etheral stuff. But some things just sound
better. The important thing is that you recognize it. And if you don't
recognize it, it's not time to upgrade yet. You need more working and
listening experience.

A lot of people think that by upgrading their equipment, their
recordings will automatically sound better - even if they can't hear a
difference, those with the golden ears will. This is true in a few
cases (A/D converters is one, mixers is sometimes another), but
changing your mic preamp may or may not matter. It depends on your
mic, what you're recording, the acoustics of your room, where it goes
in the mix, and so on. If you were using two fine microphones to
make stereo recordings of good talent in a good acoustic space and you
changed from a crummy preamp (and I'm not saying the VTB is a crummy
preamp) to a really fine one, you'd probably be impressed. But when
there are other things (and other skills) in the path between the
microphone and the loudspeaker, it's a little less straightforward.

> The Tascam Midistudio 644 was left over from my songwriting days and it
> is a weak link. Should I be switching that out for a Mackie 1202 VLZ?
> Other mixer options?

If you're just using it as a mixer (or worse, just using it as a mic
preamp) then yes, a better mixer might help you. The Mackie Onyx 1220
is a worthwhile step up from the 1202 and might be worth the couple of
hundred extra bucks. But don't get distracted by the Firewire
interface option. It's great if you have a need for it, but most
people think it's more than it really is and some are disappointed.

> I wasn't going to go down this road, but any other equipment upgrade
> suggestions?

Not yet.

--
I'm really Mike Rivers (mrivers@d-and-d.com)
However, until the spam goes away or Hell freezes over,
lots of IP addresses are blocked from this system. If
you e-mail me and it bounces, use your secret decoder ring
and reach me here: double-m-eleven-double-zero at yahoo
Anonymous
March 20, 2005 5:36:07 PM

Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

DGoodPub@comcast.net <DGoodPub@comcast.net> wrote:
> Rob Reedijk wrote:

>> I hope you take this in well-meaning spirit that it is meant.

> No offense taken. I know what I've got and I know what's out there and
> what I'd like to have.

> I know a few things are true.

> I know a person just learning to drive does not need/deserve a
> Maserati. (I'm so new I'm trying to figure out how to properly set the
> gain!!)

> I also know I learned to play the guitar on a cheap instrument where
> the action on the strings was too high. I had to press harder to get
> the strings to sound right and my fingers hurt and the resulting sound
> was less than what it should have been. When I got my vintage
> Stratocaster it was so much easier to play and it sounded great with
> such little effort. No matter how hard I played that cheap guitar it
> was not going to sound any better. So, the right tools do make a
> difference.

> I guess I'm one of the people (referred to in past postings to this
> group) that have the errant belief that you can get a high quality
> sound from inexpensive gear. I thought the VTB was supposed to be
> pretty good at it's price point. A Grace 101 is a little over $500.
> The Avalon VT-737SP can be had for a little over $1500. The Millennia
> STT-1 is around $2600.

> If I upgraded from the VTB to the Grace would I hear a difference? Can
> you describe what difference I would expect to hear?

> If I upgraded the VTB to the Avalon can you describe what difference I
> would expect to hear?

> If I upgraded the VTB to the Millennia can you describe what difference
> I would expect to hear?

> What difference would I hear that would make me say 'NOW I understand,
> there IS a difference!!!"?

> The Tascam Midistudio 644 was left over from my songwriting days and it
> is a weak link. Should I be switching that out for a Mackie 1202 VLZ?
> Other mixer options?

> I wasn't going to go down this road, but any other equipment upgrade
> suggestions?

It's fun to get new gear. But please try my previous suggestion.
Reduce all that gear you are going through. That's a free upgrade.

Rob R.
Anonymous
March 21, 2005 1:44:25 PM

Archived from groups: rec.audio.pro (More info?)

Rob Reedijk wrote:
> But please try my previous suggestion.
> Reduce all that gear you are going through. That's a free upgrade.
>
> Rob R.

I recorded the same text four times, each with a different
configuration.

#1:
mic to preamp via XLR,
preamp to Mia via TRS,
Mia at +4,
preamp input gain raised so internal meter at 0 with peaks at +8
Mia software console -15 to -6

#2:
mic to preamp via XLR,
preamp to mixer via XLR,
mixer to Mia via TRS,
Mia at -10,
preamp input gain raised to bring mixer meters to level,
Mia software console -15 to -6

#3:
mic to preamp via XLR,
preamp to mixer via XLR,
mixer to Mia via TRS,
Mia at -10,
preamp gain raised so internal meter to 0 with peaks at +8
preamp output gain attenuated so mixer meters to level,
Mia software console -15 to -6

#4
mic to preamp via XLR,
preamp to Mia via TRS from INSERT,
Mia at +4,
preamp gain raised so internal meter to 0 with peaks at +8
Mia software console -15 to -6

To my ears (and probably biased by knowing the configurations...) I
think #1 sounds best, then #4, then #3 and #2 last. Since I'm only
recording one track at a time and dry voice, I should be fine bypassing
the mixer and going directly to the Mia.

My levels when recording and playing back show -15 to -6 but when I
play the saved files in Winamp it hardly shows a level.

Why is that?

Do I need to now compress and hard limit it and boost the overall level
again as close to 0 as I can get it without clipping? or should that
wait until after adding a music bed?

(talk about a side bar)

Thanks!!!
!