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Steinberg MR816x outputs causing loud hissing noise

Postby whataboutit » Thu Feb 03, 2011 10:30 am

Hi,

Just purchased the Steinberg MR816x, everything went well with setup and installation but I've discovered that I'm getting a loud hissing sound from my monitors (ADAM P22A) that wasn't there before...

This occurs in standalone mode as well as connected to PC, with nothing connected to any inputs, everything muted in editor, in all outputs.

I have the latest drivers, the unit shipped with the latest firmware version, I'm using balanced cables for connecting the monitors and I got a specific, approved firewire card, which isn't relevant anyway seeing as this problem occurs in standalone mode. The noise is the same on all outputs, but not in the headphones.

I'm on a PC running win XP sp3. In my previous set up , this never ocurred, the only change in my studio has been the MR816x

Anybody else have this problem? I'm wondering whether there's a faulty batch, or whether it's to do with certain powered monitors and if so, whether there's a solution.

Thanks in advance for any advice on this.
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Re: Steinberg MR816x outputs causing loud hissing noise

Postby whataboutit » Thu Apr 07, 2011 7:37 am

just in case anyone else comes up against this, your monitors must have independent volume controls for use with th MR816 otherwise you will get this hissing problem. There is no control after the D/A stage on the MR816 which outputs at full volume hence the hissing sound in the monitors. Fortunately for me, the ADAM P22A has small attenuators on the back that you can dial down using a screwdriver.
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Re: Steinberg MR816x outputs causing loud hissing noise

Postby Martin Walker » Thu Apr 07, 2011 12:40 pm

The two words you need to know are ‘Monitor’ and ‘Controller’

Seriously - if you ever accidentally end up with a maximum level signal coming out of your MR816X outputs you’ll want an extremely handy analogue leval control with easy reach to protect your loudspeakers and your ears, and not screwdriver-adjusted tweakery.

Trust me (and do a quick search here for Nanopatch or similar) !


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Re: Steinberg MR816x outputs causing loud hissing noise

Postby whataboutit » Thu Apr 07, 2011 1:00 pm

I dunno, I considered it and then was told that I'd be needlessly introducing another circuit in the signal path.

I might be misunderstanding the situation here - with the ADAMs turned down as they are now, the signal is permanently attenuated. Plus I can obviously control the volume on the MR816, it's just the A/D converter that is permanently wired for full volume, something to do with signal to noise ratio that I know only the basics about. What am I missing? And why do some manufacturers of active monitors (ADAM) not include volume controllers?
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Re: Steinberg MR816x outputs causing loud hissing noise

Postby Martin Walker » Thu Apr 07, 2011 1:54 pm

Hi again whataboutit!

1. Not if you follow my advice and search for ‘nanopatch’ (a PASSIVE and bargain-priced device).

2. Even with the monitors turned down you could still get accidental ‘full volume’ signals coming out of your interface that require quick action to avoid loudspeaker or ear damage.

3. Some active monitors don’t provide volume controls because they ASSUME you’re going to use a monitor controller. After all, it’s rare to see front panel level controls on monitors, so you often have to resort to fiddling about ‘round the back’ to alter the volume.


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Re: Steinberg MR816x outputs causing loud hissing noise

Postby whataboutit » Thu Apr 07, 2011 2:11 pm

you're scaring me!

Ok, never thought of that possibility, I took a look at the nano patch and it does look interesting. Will invest, it is certainly much cheaper than new monitors/ears. Many thanks for the tip.
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Re: Steinberg MR816x outputs causing loud hissing noise

Postby jaminem » Thu Apr 07, 2011 6:35 pm

whataboutit wrote:just in case anyone else comes up against this, your monitors must have independent volume controls for use with th MR816 otherwise you will get this hissing problem. There is no control after the D/A stage on the MR816 which outputs at full volume hence the hissing sound in the monitors. Fortunately for me, the ADAM P22A has small attenuators on the back that you can dial down using a screwdriver.


Um sorry no.

Press either of the rotary encoders on the MR816x until the assign light is next to master.
then turn it down with the rotary encoder.

simples.
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Re: Steinberg MR816x outputs causing loud hissing noise

Postby whataboutit » Thu Apr 07, 2011 7:47 pm

not so simples.

yes, of course, that turns down the volume. But the A/D output stage is permanently set at maximum, which means that if your active monitors don't have volume control both are set at max and you get a hissing sound regardless of whether you turn down the master volume on the MR816.

got this info from Steinberg support.
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Re: Steinberg MR816x outputs causing loud hissing noise

Postby Martin Walker » Fri Apr 08, 2011 12:18 pm

This is often the case, since so many audio interfaces offer level controls that are in the digital domain rather than the analogue one (it’s often cheaper this way )

As you turn down the digital level you are effectively throwing away audio data, which is the main reason why so many monitor controller are being bought nowadays.


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Re: Steinberg MR816x outputs causing loud hissing noise

Postby chris... » Fri Apr 08, 2011 1:05 pm

Martin Walker wrote:
As you turn down the digital level you are effectively throwing away audio data, which is the main reason why so many monitor controller are being bought nowadays.
Intuitively, that's what I originally thought. Interestingly in this thread from a while back, Hugh said:

"if the level control processing is performed correctly and redithered as it should be, the only thing to suffer should be the signal-noise ratio -- just as it would suffer if the level was adjusted in the analogue domain."
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Re: Steinberg MR816x outputs causing loud hissing noise

Postby mjfe2 » Fri Apr 08, 2011 2:06 pm

For what it's worth I like to use the best of both worlds. My TC Electronic Level Pilot (looks posher than than nanopatch ) keeps the volume of the monitors attenuated by about a half, maybe two thirds. Like any other cheap analogue attenuator though, it's not accurate enough at low levels because the stereo image tends to drift. So for actually controlling the level, I do this digitally in TotalMix. If there ever was a fault with this, it shouldn't be too loud!
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Re: Steinberg MR816x outputs causing loud hissing noise

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Apr 08, 2011 2:19 pm

Martin Walker wrote:As you turn down the digital level you are effectively throwing away audio data, which is the main reason why so many monitor controller are being bought nowadays.


Oh no you're not!

Seriously, turning the level down in the digital domain doesn't throw any audio data away provided the signal is being dithered properly.

However, as you turn the signal down the signal-to-noise ratio will get significantly worse because the wanted signal will be attenuated and end up much closer to the dithered noise floor.

Conversely, if you run the digital output at close to full level you will maximise the signal-noise ratio from the D-A, but the signal will inevitably be very loud -- hence being aware of background hiss on your monitors.

The solution, as Martin has explained, is to use an analogue level controller between the D-A output and monitor input. This will provide the required signal attenuation to optimise levels for the monitors and, importantly, as you turn it down the signal is reduced along with the D-A dithered noise floor -- thus maintaining something close to the original signal-noise ratio.

An active monitor controller will add a little noise of its own, of course. A passive one (like the superb nanopatch -- I use one often myself) won't add any noise. There are other potential issues with a passive controller (such as the variable impedance potentially causing frequency response variations), but these are usually negligible in practice.

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Re: Steinberg MR816x outputs causing loud hissing noise

Postby chris... » Fri Apr 08, 2011 3:02 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:However, as you turn the signal down the signal-to-noise ratio will get significantly worse because the wanted signal will be attenuated and end up much closer to the dithered noise floor.

Hopefully not a problem with 24bit, right ?
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Re: Steinberg MR816x outputs causing loud hissing noise

Postby Martin Walker » Fri Apr 08, 2011 7:10 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
Martin Walker wrote:As you turn down the digital level you are effectively throwing away audio data, which is the main reason why so many monitor controller are being bought nowadays.

Oh no you're not!

Seriously, turning the level down in the digital domain doesn't throw any audio data away provided the signal is being dithered properly.

You're quite correct Hugh

However, that's assuming that the signal is indeed being dithered properly. Given that many interfaces provide the desired bit-transparent transmission at the full (0dB) setting, I suspect some may not suddenly start adding the dither at all other settings


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Re: Steinberg MR816x outputs causing loud hissing noise

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Mon Apr 11, 2011 3:41 pm

Martin Walker wrote:that's assuming that the signal is indeed being dithered properly. Given that many interfaces provide the desired bit-transparent transmission at the full (0dB) setting, I suspect some may not suddenly start adding the dither at all other settings

Fair point -- I'll give you that!

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Re: Steinberg MR816x outputs causing loud hissing noise

Postby Martin Walker » Tue Apr 12, 2011 4:01 pm

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Re: Steinberg MR816x outputs causing loud hissing noise

Postby Mixedup » Tue Apr 12, 2011 5:13 pm

Martin Walker wrote: it’s rare to see front panel level controls on monitors

Yes, I always thought that was a poor design decision on modern monitors, particularly those intended for home studios, where people are less likely to have or want to invest in a desk or dedicated monitor controller.

I'm still using passive monitors and a nice amp that gives me level controls for both speakers within easy reach. It also, like many other studio amps, gives me mute buttons. I'm surprised more manufacturers don't offer this sort of functionality as a remote control for their active monitors — just a basic analogue control, I'm not talking DSP room correction or anything! — or at the very least easy to access controls on the front panel.
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Re: Steinberg MR816x outputs causing loud hissing noise

Postby debee » Tue Apr 12, 2011 7:50 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:Oh no you're not!
Seriously, ...
However, ...
Conversely, ...
The solution,...
...practice.


I wish I had an inch of your knowledge
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Re: Steinberg MR816x outputs causing loud hissing noise

Postby Martin Walker » Tue Apr 12, 2011 8:07 pm

...as the actress said to the bishop


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Re: Steinberg MR816x outputs causing loud hissing noise

Postby Remeniz » Wed Apr 13, 2011 3:49 pm

Um sorry no.

Press either of the rotary encoders on the MR816x until the assign light is next to master.
then turn it down with the rotary encoder.

simples.


not so simples.

yes, of course, that turns down the volume. But the A/D output stage is permanently set at maximum, which means that if your active monitors don't have volume control both are set at max and you get a hissing sound regardless of whether you turn down the master volume on the MR816.

Encoder 1 for analogue outputs and encoder 2 for digital outputs...
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Re: Steinberg MR816x outputs causing loud hissing noise

Postby whataboutit » Wed Apr 13, 2011 6:32 pm


Encoder 1 adjusts the master volume level output from the OUTPUT 1
– 8 jacks on the rear panel.

Encoder 2 adjusts the master volume level output from the S/PDIF
OUT jack and OPTICAL OUT jack on the rear panel.


None of this has anything to do with the A-D stage, this is permanently set to maximum, for reasons discussed at length in this thread.
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Re: Steinberg MR816x outputs causing loud hissing noise

Postby jaminem » Thu Apr 14, 2011 7:51 am

whataboutit wrote:
Encoder 1 adjusts the master volume level output from the OUTPUT 1
– 8 jacks on the rear panel.

Encoder 2 adjusts the master volume level output from the S/PDIF
OUT jack and OPTICAL OUT jack on the rear panel.


None of this has anything to do with the A-D stage, this is permanently set to maximum, for reasons discussed at length in this thread.

At the risk of getting your back up (which I really don't want to do), can you explain this to me.

I am genuinely interested and am clearly not understanding the point.

I'm also scratching my head as an MR816x owner who does not have this problem, and uses it in exactly the way you are describing without this issue - outputs into HR824 (sensitivity level set flat) and controls monitor level with the front panel controls with no hiss.

You keep saying A-D stage thats analogue to digital right? so in my head thats the pre-amp inputs being converted to digital and going into your DAW via firewire? their level being controlled by the front panel gain knobs. We've established that the encoders control the level of the output - either analogue or digital which presumably are connected to your monitors.

Given that you say the hiss is because the level is permanently set to max, but we've established that we can control that level going in and coming out, in struggling to understand.

Genuine question please don't bite my head off.
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Re: Steinberg MR816x outputs causing loud hissing noise

Postby whataboutit » Thu Apr 14, 2011 8:38 am

hey, no, there's no reason why your question would get my back up, other than that you have to understand that if it was simply a case of "where's me volume knob" we wouldn't be having this discussion in the first place.

Having said that, I'm not really qualified to answer your question, and initially I had the same problem understanding this as you do, but I'll give it a shot. btw the above was a small typo, should read D-A, not the other way round. Specifically, D-A output (MR816) and your monitor input i.e. the final stage en route to the monitors. In fact, that probably answers your question! This is the stage that is set at maximum, permanently, for the reasons discussed in this thread (signal to noise ratio). Which is why, even when you turn down the volume, mute all etc the output is still at maximum. This is fine as long as you have separate volume controllers for your monitors, most people would automatically set the monitors at some halfway mark or lower, if you turn them all the way up you're going to hear some hiss. In my case, since ADAMs don't have volume control knobs I was hearing this hissing sound, until I set the attenuators to -10dB. Next step, a separate monitor controller and that's that.

does that make any sense? If not, I'm sure someone else on here can do a better job than me.
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Re: Steinberg MR816x outputs causing loud hissing noise

Postby jaminem » Thu Apr 14, 2011 10:20 am

Hhmm, then I really don't understand.

I feed my Mackies from output 1 and 2 (i.e.stereo L & R) on the MR816 which is set up as my only analgue output. there is no noise, no hiss nothing. I use the volume control encoder to adjust the monitoring level. even at max the hiss is barely audible, and to be fair my Mackies are getting on for 10 years old so they do have a certain bit of hiss just from being on? and it certainly doesn`t effect the quality of my mixes.
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Re: Steinberg MR816x outputs causing loud hissing noise

Postby whataboutit » Thu Apr 14, 2011 10:56 am

Like I said, I don't have a deep understanding of these things, and it was Steinberg support who explained this to me. I'm not familiar with Mackies, my monitors (P22a) are relatively powerful beasts, hence the hiss.

The only thing for you to consider about all this really, is, if you have no separate analogue volume control and if the MR816 volume controller were to malfunction (and, let's face it, they're not the most solid drivers out there) you would be sending a signal at maximum level to your monitors, which are also at maximum level, and it would either take your head off or blow your speakers.

And, just in case I haven't made it clear, after adjusting the attenutors on the back of my monitors to -10dB, I have no problems with hiss as it is barely audible and I'm enjoying the ace sound quality of the MR816. In fact, it's changed my game completely.
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Re: Steinberg MR816x outputs causing loud hissing noise

Postby Remeniz » Fri May 13, 2011 7:53 am

I think I understand what your saying now...

Your saying that because attenuation is done in the digital domain the analogue stage, after the D/A conversion, would be set at unity gain and because of this your getting noise on the outputs regardless of the volume setting. Am I right?

The thing is if this were true then the analogue stage after D/A conversion would need to be pretty bad to introduce noise. That or something is wrong.

As it stands my unit is fine and doesn't produce the hiss your mentioning through my monitors, that are set at unity gain, and subsequently I use my MR816 as the monitor controller...


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Re: Steinberg MR816x outputs causing loud hissing noise

Postby whataboutit » Fri May 13, 2011 8:44 am

I think you've understood correctly, I'm no expert on the matter!

As far as the hissing sound goes, it's a bit subjective. I get a similar bothersome sound if I turn up my hifi mixer and amplifier up all the way...

Do you have the MR816x or csx? Because possibly this hissing sound is louder in the 816x as it only seems to be the owners of these units that have noticed this issue. Cheaper resistors? They aren't supposed to be... On the other hand, maybe your signal path is just cleaner all round, power supply... or my monitors are more powerful (ADAM P22A) making this hissing sound more apparent.

In any case, easily controlled once you know how!
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Re: Steinberg MR816x outputs causing loud hissing noise

Postby whataboutit » Mon May 16, 2011 7:55 am

Nope, just heard back from Steinberg, identical components in both versions of the MR816.
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Re: Steinberg MR816x outputs causing loud hissing noise

Postby Remeniz » Mon May 16, 2011 6:41 pm

whataboutit wrote:Do you have the MR816x or csx? Because possibly this hissing sound is louder in the 816x as it only seems to be the owners of these units that have noticed this issue. Cheaper resistors? They aren't supposed to be... On the other hand, maybe your signal path is just cleaner all round, power supply... or my monitors are more powerful (ADAM P22A) making this hissing sound more apparent.

I'm running the MR816x with no issues at all.

But, as you've confirmed, the units are exactly the same, apart from the extra DSP processing on the CSx version for the channel strip processing.
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