Everything about the Nord Piano, Nord Piano 2, Nord Piano 3, and Nord Piano 4.

Setting Gain; Sequencing of Devices; High-End Mixers

Postby lawman » 13 Aug 2018, 09:22

I'd like to get some practical advice. Although my performing days are behind me, I've got some new toys and I like to know the best way to do things.

First, regarding setting the gain on my mixer. My main [electric] instrument is an NP3, going through an A&H ZED10FX mixer. I've read some things on the web, and what I've gathered seems to indicate that the best approach may be to (1) turn the gain all the way down, (2) set the channel fader and the master volume fader to 0dB, then (3) adjust the gain upwards until the LED signal meters bounce around 0dB when playing the NP3 loudly. Does this all sound reasonable or is there a better way? When using this method, I end up with the gain around +40dB (I use the "Mic" inputs on the ZED, which enable a gain setting of +10dB to +60 dB -- no 0dB setting is available for the Mic inputs). This works fine in my home studio (live sound only at this point), but If I start recording shouldn't the gain be adjusted downward to reduce noise and the fader(s) turned up (and which fader should I turn up first, the channel fader or the main mix fader, or should both be equally adjusted to the same level?) Plus, if I sit in with some friends at some venue or another or lose my mind and join another real band, and need more volume, would I crank both the channel fader and the main mix fader equally, or favor one over the other? For live sound if I'm not hearing hum does it really matter how my gain is set?

Next, as to sequencing. My rig works fine the way I've got it set up, but I wonder if I'm doing something that's less than optimal. As I've said I play an NP3 (in stereo), which I connect into a Strymon Mobius, then into a Strymon Big Sky, then into a Radial JDI Duplex, then into two of the ZED's mono XLR "Mic" inputs, then into a Yamaha HS8S sub, then out to a pair of RCF TT08a's. I also play a Hammond XK3c directly into the JDI Duplex, bypassing the Strymon boxes. Does that all sound like the best setup?

Finally, I read some posts that sing the praises of mixers more high-end than the ZED, like the JMK Audio JM-110. Would they be worth the extra money, given my non-recording needs? What if I started performing again - would the difference be noticeable in a live environment?

Thanks to all of you in advance.
lawman
 
Posts: 27
Joined: 18 May 2017, 21:56
Country: United States of America
Has thanked: 0 time
Been thanked: 1 time

Setting Gain; Sequencing of Devices; High-End Mixers


Sponsor
 

Re: Setting Gain; Sequencing of Devices; High-End Mixers

Postby baekgaard » 13 Aug 2018, 12:00

First, on the mixer side, there are several "schools" on this, often argued strongly by their respective adherents... Several of these have their roots in doing PA work, and how easily it is to adjust to changes and/or have an overview of what is going on.

For PA use, you can at least 1) either try to ensure all inputs are gained equally, so that they hoover around some value you choose (0 dB if you have plenty of overhead in your mixer, or something lower -- especially for digital mixers). This is typically done by pressing some PFL/listen button on the mixer so the meters show the input of that particular channel, and then you adjust the input gain to set the levels. This way, you use the faders purely to balance the instruments vs one another, and they give you a quick overview of how it looks. The master fader is used to adjust the overall output level. The other school 2) sets the faders all around 0 dB (and the master fader at some sensible level, NOT at 0 dB unless you want to burn your ears) and then you adjust the input gains so that the balance between instruments are roughly OK while the faders stay similarly equal. I am in the 1) school, should you ask.

If you mainly run one or just a few instruments through the mixer, the main issue is more of getting a clean signal path. For this, I would try to run most things at line levels, i.e. put the NP3 output maybe somewhere between 12 o'clock and max, and then adjust the input gain so that the channel runs round 0 dB (use the PFL button to see the input levels on the meters). I would then also put the channel faders around 0 dB and -- depending on your amplification chain -- also set the master fader somewhere up around 0 dB and use the input gain on your speakers to set the desired levels. But in practice, I sometimes put one or more of the settings to a slightly lower level, to have some room to adjust both up and down; it is usually not a good idea to have a fader near the min or max levels, as even minor adjustments can then have a large effect / you lack room to give it "just a bit more".

It sounds completely wrong that you run +40 dB amplification vs a mic input level coming from the NP3. If your mixer have combo XLR/jack inputs, is possible that the jacks are line level input, and then in fact often it is so that you have e.g. -50 dB to +20 dB on the input gain. If that is the case, you may run line output into a line input and with the current gain settings in reality at 0 dB... check the mixer manual; some mixers also allow you to change input from XLR to jack and in the process puts a -40 dB attenuator (or thereabout) on the input side.

If you want to record this, the story is the same: Try to run line level all the way through, just as described. Usually there is less noise if you stay in the middle zones of the amplifier ranges (0 dB). The Nords are pretty quiet, so just run that output at a high level anyway -- or record directly from the Nord outputs, which is likely even better.

As for sequencing and/or more on recording: It sounds like you have a really complex chain with many devices (I don't even know what they're all doing or what they are). I would keep it simple, and focus on getting as "pure" a signal as possible (unless you have some really high-end devices that colours the sound in some desired way).

I am not familiar with the mixer you have, but many mixers are focused on PA work and may be a bit more noisy than recording devices. So you may get less noise if you can bypass the mixer totally for recording (NP3 directly into your audio input). For PA work, then few people will be able to hear a difference. Usually you start to hear the limitations of a mixer when many instruments start to compete for the sonic space and are all coloured the same way in the input stages and there is not enough headroom and you get cross-distortion etc.

... but don't overthink any of this :-)
baekgaard
 
Posts: 764
Joined: 14 Jul 2017, 11:32
Country: Denmark
Has thanked: 286 times
Been thanked: 371 times
Your Nord Gear #1: Nord Electro 6
Your Nord Gear #2: Nord Stage 3

Re: Setting Gain; Sequencing of Devices; High-End Mixers

Postby lawman » 14 Aug 2018, 00:23

Thank you, Baekgaard. Your comments are very helpful. I'm stuck on a couple of things, though. You mention that I should try to run at line level throughout the signal chain. The NP3's outputs (and the Hammond XK3c's outputs) are line level (unbalanced), but I run them through a JDI Duplex DI box, in order to tame the harsh transients and warm up the AP sounds (it does a great job at this). The DI box, though, transforms the signals into Mic level signals (balanced), which I then run into the XLR "Mic" inputs on my ZED10FX mixer (the line level inputs are jacks, not XLRs, as you surmised). I mentioned that, in order to get the LED signal meters to bounce around 0dB, with both the channel fader and master mix levels set at 0dB, I had to turn the gain up to 40dB (with the NP3 master volume and Piano volume levels at 2:00 - if I turn those volume levels up to the maximum at 5:00, I only have to turn the gain up to 38dB). [As an aside, gain on the "Mic" inputs can range from +10dB to +60dB, while gain on the line level inputs can be set between -10dB and +40dB.] What confuses me is that I can get the meters to hover around 0dB by using an infinite variety of combinations of five different controls - NP3 master volume and Piano volume levels, gain, and channel fader and master mix volume controls. Should the overall goal be to keep the meters around 0dB, secondarily keeping the gain level relatively low in the recipe? Should the channel fader and master mix be set at approximately the same level, or should one be favored over the other? [BTW, the Mobius device mentioned in my last post is an FX box, and the Big Sky is a reverberator.]
lawman
 
Posts: 27
Joined: 18 May 2017, 21:56
Country: United States of America
Has thanked: 0 time
Been thanked: 1 time

Re: Setting Gain; Sequencing of Devices; High-End Mixers

Postby Quai34 » 14 Aug 2018, 10:17

Most often time, the max level for any keys is at Max, fully clockwise and it corresponds at the 0db Vu meter on an analog mixer.
Then, I set up all my keys like that also because decrease the signal will make a worss signal ratio and if you have to increase it back, it's counter productive and you are not treating your signal path as it should be.
I agree that the Dupleix adds warms but are you sure you are not using the -20db pad on it AND on the mixer because having to push the input gain to + 40db for me it's just non sense.
If the Radial,really brings you what you want in term or warminess, that's ok but coming from Radial (I had already asked...), it's not the first stuff t do to use a DI box with keys that deliver enough output to go directly to the line input, then, bypassing the Mic preamp....
Why would you add another gain stage when you don't need ?
Don't you have any other way, especially with EQ, filters etc to bring warms to your keys without going via a DI?
That said, set up all your input the Unity gain style, the 1) described by Baagrad I think, even if I have a little detail to add.
Switch the PFL, pre fader listening, adjust the gain so the Vu/led is at 0 on an average, staying n green. Put all your faders at 0 Db.0, usually 3/4 of their range.
Play, see if your mixer has enough room to maintain a sound not distorted, good mixers like Mackie could go up to +12db of headroom and at +6db/+8db, for them, it's still green in my LEDs.
Adjust the general volume to suit the volume requested by the room/venue/number of people....Make sure to turn up almost at 75% your PA if necessary before pushing too much the main fader of the mixer because here you might have some distortions coming from the main bus out Op Amps on your mixer.
And then, you just use the channel fader to balance your volume, to do a proper mix,'who should be front, who should be back etc....
For your styrmon and Mobius, according to the quality of them and that it could be well used for all the synths, I would have Putmthem as an effect send/return, Effect one send (post fader) for the styrmon, effect two send (post fader) for the Mobius....
Than you could adjust tehm as you want in any of your channels, via the channel effect sent of your mixer and the general effect send and return on your main bus.
Fianlly, as your mixer has a +4db balanced output, if you want to add warm, add your DI Radial at that stage...You will give a signal low impedance, balanced, mic level to the front PA and he will,be happy because good luck in trying to,explain him what I just said to you and convince him that balanced doesn't necessarily mean mic level....you could even have balanced line at -10db and Pro + 4db, even if it's pretty rare but -10db output doesn't mean unbalanced and +4db output not necessarily balanced output..
And you don't have necessarily low impedance mic level out of a DI box, there is DI box, at radial, with transformers, that gives you the warminess you are looking for but they are unity gain, line level in - Line level out, balanced and (of course because of the transformers...) isolated with transformers which gives you the warminess, not the balanced system neither the low or high impedance gives you the warminess....just the transformers...

If your consider that:
1) max volume at 5pm for your synth is 0db, you remove one of what confuse you, don't put it at 2pm, you are already reducing the output of the keyboard, why? And for me, it's easier to turn down a volume on the synth I currently play if needed than messing with a volume on the mixer....General volume could,be in that case an "effect", fade In/fade Out...
I use it a lot and I know,that my gain patch is always ok because I did before what I have explained to,you...
If you set up,properly wth PFL all your channel at 0db, you are still removing another thing that bugs you, not pushing, not decreasing, just using unity gain all the way up to the mail master....
And the signal noise ratio is the best because anytime your set your keyboard at two you decrease the signal but not necessary the noise but brining it back for sure at +40/60 Db, through a mic preamp that you don't need will for sure increase your noise....
What more advices and kmowledhepge on it? Go to Mckie website and download any of their mixer manual (well Onyx type, like your current same level of gear, plus all their mixer trick and tips there are awesome....I'm still surprised your store or the customer service of Radial and of your mixer didn't tell you all of that as well....I bugs them a lot, all the time, thus my "little" knowledge...
Last edited by Quai34 on 14 Aug 2018, 10:28, edited 1 time in total.
Stage 2/C2/NL2X+TC Pedals, 2XMatrix, EMU P2K, TX802, DSI Prophet 08+Tetra/P12+H9, D50+PG1000, XV5080,AX keytar, Streichfett, Drumbrute.Ibanez SR1200 & 2605 basses, Artstar AS153,G&L L2000,Legacy HSS,Asat Blueboys,Asat Deluxe Savanna.genelec 8040A.
User avatar
Quai34
 
Posts: 1585
Joined: 01 Jan 2012, 23:02
Location: CANADA WINNIPEG
Country: Canada
Has thanked: 108 times
Been thanked: 252 times
Your Nord Gear #1: Nord Stage 2
Your Nord Gear #2: Nord Lead 1/2/2x

Re: Setting Gain; Sequencing of Devices; High-End Mixers

Postby baekgaard » 14 Aug 2018, 10:52

Ah, OK -- I had overlooked you ran through a DI box; that indeed converts the line level signals to mic level, and usually that is without any excessive noise being added. You may get a little added noise from the mixer, so if noise was your only concern, I would avoid attenuating and the amplifying the signal again. But since you like the colouration of the DI box (I guess it's the added harmonic distortion from the transformer(?) and the filtering of native high frequency content you like), then it's fine to do so, of course.

Usually, DI boxes are a nuisance that you just need to use in a live setting, bringing all signals in the snake from the stage box to the mixer to mic levels to avoid e.g. crosstalk and to keep all signals balanced to avoid noise etc, so I never use them at home. But mine are nothing special, and I don't want them to ruin my piano sounds :-)

Then I'd suggest to run the NP3 somewhere near max output -- i.e. set the master volume to somewhere near or at the max position -- then through whatever you find needed, and if through the DI box into the mixer, then obviously you need to bring back the levels on the input gain -- so put the input gain so that the internal mixer bus runs around 0 dB. An input gain on the mixer of +40 dB sounds quite reasonable to me then (you may have a setting on the DI box to control how much attenuation it gives, by the way, and it sounds like it may be on -40 dB not -20 dB) -- and there is absolutely no practical difference whether that is 30 dB or 40 dB.

For the piano volume, that is usually for balancing between different programs, so they all sound somewhat at the desired output level. If you don't need that, just save the program with piano volume set to max.

As for the master fader vs mixer faders: when doing PA work, you usually work a lot with the mixer faders, so you want to have them where there is a good adjustment range, and then put the master fader to whatever is needed. Also, if you don't have enough headroom in your mixer, as mentioned above, you may need to run at a lower volume than 0 dB for the mixer faders.

So: NP3 piano volume at max (or a bit lower if you need to balance with other programs), NP3 master close to max, ... DI box, ... mixer input stage at +40 dB (corresponding to what you DI box attenuates), mixer faders around 0 dB, and output fader to the desired levels. If that means you only need to adjust the master fader around -60 dB and -65 dB, then consider lowering the mixer faders to a lower level or change the input gains on your powered speakers.
Last edited by baekgaard on 14 Aug 2018, 10:54, edited 2 times in total.
baekgaard
 
Posts: 764
Joined: 14 Jul 2017, 11:32
Country: Denmark
Has thanked: 286 times
Been thanked: 371 times
Your Nord Gear #1: Nord Electro 6
Your Nord Gear #2: Nord Stage 3

Re: Setting Gain; Sequencing of Devices; High-End Mixers

Postby lawman » 04 Sep 2018, 07:58

I appreciate the advice I've gotten on this issue, and thought I'd share a couple of progress notes. First, when I checked my LED meter levels, I hadn't depressed the "Listen" button channel by channel, and I didn't have my instrument volume at max level. When I checked the meter levels that way, I found that I only had to turn the Gain on my ZED10FX up to 30dB instead of 40dB, in order to get my meters bouncing around 0dB (with channel and master faders at 0dB and my instrument's sound at max). More importantly, when I took the A&H Radial Duplex DI box out of the loop, I immediately gained 9dB of signal strength, so I only had to turn the mixer's gain up to around 20dB. That was an eye-opener. I still like using the Duplex, though, because it cuts down noticeably on the honkiness and high transients of the Nord APs.

The author lawman was thanked by:
baekgaard
lawman
 
Posts: 27
Joined: 18 May 2017, 21:56
Country: United States of America
Has thanked: 0 time
Been thanked: 1 time

Re: Setting Gain; Sequencing of Devices; High-End Mixers

Postby Quai34 » 06 Sep 2018, 07:42

Great, I'm glad you figured out it with our advices....
Stage 2/C2/NL2X+TC Pedals, 2XMatrix, EMU P2K, TX802, DSI Prophet 08+Tetra/P12+H9, D50+PG1000, XV5080,AX keytar, Streichfett, Drumbrute.Ibanez SR1200 & 2605 basses, Artstar AS153,G&L L2000,Legacy HSS,Asat Blueboys,Asat Deluxe Savanna.genelec 8040A.
User avatar
Quai34
 
Posts: 1585
Joined: 01 Jan 2012, 23:02
Location: CANADA WINNIPEG
Country: Canada
Has thanked: 108 times
Been thanked: 252 times
Your Nord Gear #1: Nord Stage 2
Your Nord Gear #2: Nord Lead 1/2/2x


Return to Nord Piano Forum



Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 5 guests