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Problems with Steinberg interface levels

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Problems with Steinberg interface levels

Postby snipedog » Thu Feb 27, 2020 12:31 pm

Is anyone having problems connecting to pro gear with the UR816C interface? Older Steinberg interfaces had an option to use a nominal +4dBu output and input level, which would match hardware compressors etc with only a +4dB balanced input. The UR816C doesn’t seem to have this capability or am I missing something? I can just about get enough out of the interface by winding the output gain all the way up in software, but this means the metering isn’t displaying accurately, and I’ve always been wary of running op-amps flat out as their distortion and non linearities rise rapidly at extremes of gain. Have I missed a setting in the configuration software somewhere? Thanks S www.redtapemusic.biz
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Re: Problems with Steinberg interface levels

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Thu Feb 27, 2020 1:51 pm

snipedog wrote:Older Steinberg interfaces had an option to use a nominal +4dBu output and input level, which would match hardware compressors etc with only a +4dB balanced input. The UR816C doesn’t seem to have this capability or am I missing something?

I've not used it... but the specs claim the maximum output level (for 0dBFS) is +18dBu... which is the EBU standard and should be entirely adequate to drive standard studio outboard at a sensible level. Nominal digital working levels around -18dBFS will appear at the analogue output at around 0dBu which is fine for any pro outboard.

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Re: Problems with Steinberg interface levels

Postby ef37a » Fri Feb 28, 2020 10:37 am

Good morning Snipedog. I would like to put in context a remark you made that op amps suffer increased distortion at extreme levels of gain.
Yes, they do but so does any feedback controlled amplifier, that is why we don't use them at "extreme levels of gain"!

The output voltage of most DACs seems to be around 1V rms for 0dBfs (some DACs have a current output) so to get to the +18dBu Hugh mentioned only needs a gain of 6.1 times leaving a massive amount of gain still 'in the loop'. At 6.V volts out the ubiquitous NE5532 would have a THD at 1kHz of around 0.002% even driving a 600 Om load. The later and better LM4562 would have distortion so low as to be buried in the noise of all but the very best test gear.

The op amp gets a bad press from the 'audiophool' community and just about all their claims for its supposed shortcomings are baseless. Yes, 'discrete' amplifiers have a more gradual onset of distortion but then they START with more distortion as well!

The last bastion of the discrete transistor is as the front end of a microphone amplifier where it just beats the best of the op amps but! You still need the op amps to control it and get the distortion low.

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Re: Problems with Steinberg interface levels

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Feb 28, 2020 11:39 am

All true, Dave, and good points worth making... but I fear there may also some be some confusion in the OP's comments between op-amp gain and signal level. Is the output level being changed by altering the actual gain of the output stage, or by maintaining the same gain and simply attenuating the output? Most devices do the latter... in which case the source distortion level doesn't vary...

But none of this is relevant to the OP's signal level and metering woes...

The specs would seem to imply the analogue outputs and inputs of this interface are capable of sufficient level in a professional equipment context. So all I can think is that either the source material in the DAW is exceessively low level, or there is some misunderstsanding about gain structures and metering in general...

I think we're going to need more specific information about the setup and the symptoms to help resolve this problem.

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Re: Problems with Steinberg interface levels

Postby Sam Inglis » Sun Mar 01, 2020 11:34 am

I have a UR816C on test at the moment and there are a few possible gotchas associated with the output level controls. By default, each of the line output pairs is set to pick up either the output bus or one of the build-in DSP mixer pages, but it's possible to assign a stereo DAW output pair directly to a pair of line outs. If you leave it in the default configuration you'd need to make sure that the output level is turned up full in the Setup page and that hardware control over that pair of line outs is disengaged.
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Re: Problems with Steinberg interface levels

Postby snipedog » Fri Mar 27, 2020 5:12 pm

Hello Sam,
Thanks very much for your reply, and to everyone for their input. The main source of our concern about the UR816C interface is the apparent discrepancy between the output signal level and the metering readings in Cubase when driving external hardware expecting a "+4dB" level; signal. As both Cubase and the UR816C are distributed by Steinberg we had expected there to be a setting in the control software of the UR816C to switch it between a "-10dB" and "+4db" output signal level. In this case its to add an Avalon processor into Cubase as a hardware inset, which is expecting to receive and return a +4dB signal level. To achieve a significantly high signal level from the UR816C, which, re-assuringly, it does seem capable of delivering, the meters within Cubase need to be well over 0dB. Alternatively the send and return settings in Cubase need to be boosted and attenuated respectively, for the Cubase metering to become useful again. All the previous mid and top range of Steinberg interfaces had a software switch to change the output signal level, but it seems to be missing from the UR816C, and despite lengthy communication with Steinberg / Yamaha we haven't been able to clarify why. Interestingly there is a noticeable space in the control software where the button would have been for other interfaces.......maybe an oversight? Sam Inglis, you mentioned you have a UR816C in for test at the moment, would you be covering this in any published review? Thanks again all. Steve, http://www.redtapemusic.biz
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