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Synth Output Levels

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Synth Output Levels

Postby primal65 » Wed Apr 21, 2010 8:14 pm

Hi guys. I need a little help with some synth output levels. I have a microkorg plugged into my mackie mixer and I seem to be getting rather weak output levels, or so I think. With the microkorg volume at max and everything on the mixer at unity I'm only reading about -30to -20 db on the mackie meter. I'm using default MK patches to test the levels and I know each varies so I've tried a few different ones. A couple get up to about -10db.

Now I know these are not bad levels to record with, and probably perfect, I was just figuring the max volume on the microkorg into a line level intput I'd have a hotter signal than that at unity. I'm new to hardware synth output levels so I don't know what's the norm. If I would have to push the synth higher for a live mix is it to typical to have to turn the channel fader all the way up to get close to a 0db level?

Btw I'm using just the mono/L input on a stereo channel on a mackie 802-VLZ3. Thanks for any help.
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Re: Synth Output Levels

Postby ken long » Wed Apr 21, 2010 8:20 pm

Have you gone through the Mackie's level setting procedure? It helps optimise input levels. If you haven't, try that and let us know how you get on.

The fader will determine output from the mixer, not input.

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Re: Synth Output Levels

Postby primal65 » Wed Apr 21, 2010 9:40 pm

Hi, Ken. Thanks for responding. Yea I've got everything on the mixer at unity. I've got the synth, with volume turn all the way up coming into the line level inputs on a stereo track. That channels fader is at unity and my main bus out is at unity.

This is my only actual hardware synth so I can't really plug another into compare. I suppose maybe the mackie could be a +4 output and the microkorg could be sending out a -10. That could account for a somewhat weak signal, I believe. Honestly, I have no idea to find that out according to the specs. It says nothing in the MK manual about -10 or +4 so I'm lost.
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Re: Synth Output Levels

Postby genesisfan » Thu Apr 22, 2010 5:16 am

I have a Alesis Multimix 8Line mixer (rackmount)
Wow what a difference when plugging into a mixer
I previously used a DI box strait to a pair of Mackie SRM-450's.......but due to low volume output i removed the DI box and plugged into the Alesis mixer, no more suffereing....
If i were you, i would get on the phone or email Mackie about you volume output problem
sounds to me you may have connected it to the wrong input or fader adjustments
Second if you're able to take your Mackie mixer & Synth to your local music store, i'm almost certain with hands-on be able to remedy your lack of volume output...Good Luck!
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Re: Synth Output Levels

Postby Dave B » Thu Apr 22, 2010 7:19 am

Hmmmnn ... this could be correct but it depends on what you mean.

First things first, your average synth will output at -10. Which means it practically needs around 8db of gain on the input channel. Some synths run slightly hotter (Korg are nearer -8) and some are lower than claimed. Some have balanced connections which means that they lose a few db when you use unbalanced cables.

Then there are the patches themselves. As you say, some can peak quite high which leads me to think that the synth has been programmed to err on the side of caution. This is now more commonplace with modern synths as the previous generation (such as early VA synths) often overdrove the levels internally resulting in nasty distortion. So these days, sound designers leave a little more headroom. Which results in 'quieter' patches.

If I were you, before I started phoning people up, I'd try the following :

- choose one of your 'loud' patches
- connect your synth to channel 1 line in
- on the channels, set the gain to '-10' (as indicated on the outer ring)
- set the channel 'level' to U (no eq or panning)
- set your volume on the synth to maximum (duh! ;) )
- play your patch

The output level should be close to 0 now. And your other patches should be closer to -10 than -20. At this point, I would probably edit the 'loud' patches to reduce the volume a bit to match the other patches, and up the gain a little on the mixer.

Try that and let us know how that goes ...
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Re: Synth Output Levels

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Thu Apr 22, 2010 8:57 am

Yes, I think your problem here is that the korg's line out is -10dBV-ish and you're plugging into mixer channels that are expecting a nominal +4dBu. There's about 12dB difference in sensitivity between the two, which is why your Korg seems to be about 12dfB lower than you'd expect.

Some Mackie mixers have gain switches to flip the stereo line in to -10dBV sensitivity, but not yours, sadly.

The easiest practical solution is simply to run the channel fader knob for that stereo chanel flat out (providing most of the missing gain), and maybe edit the Korg synth patches if you can to squeeze a few more decibels of level out of it.

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Re: Synth Output Levels

Postby Richie Royale » Thu Apr 22, 2010 9:15 am

In addition to Dave's suggestions, play your patch at 127 velocity (via the DAW) as this is the maximum velocity level. A simple sine wave based bass will probably be the loudest patch on the keyboard.
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Re: Synth Output Levels

Postby Lemonsqueezer » Thu Apr 22, 2010 11:17 am

I am pretty sure the tape input runs at -10dBv on that mixer. Also inputs 1 & 2 allow you to trim/boost the line level input as well as the mic ins.
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