General Discussion of the Nord Stage (EX), Nord Stage 2 (EX), and Nord Stage 3 Synths, FAQ, Troubleshooting etc.

Boosting gain into audio interface

Postby modalmixture » 08 Jan 2019, 03:27

Please excuse the newb recording question. I have my Stage 3 plugged into the line-level inputs in the back of my audio interface (Focusrite 6i6). But even at full volume, the keyboard level is quiet and there is no way to adjust the gain on these inputs (I'd like to keep the front inputs reserved for other instruments).

Is the appropriate remedy here a DI box, or a pre-amp? I just want to boost the gain into my studio interface to line level without coloring the sound. The line-level inputs only accept 1/4". And is there a recommended box/pre-amp that is designed for stereo keyboards?
Last edited by modalmixture on 08 Jan 2019, 03:58, edited 1 time in total.
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Boosting gain into audio interface


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Re: Boosting gain into audio interface

Postby Mr. Marko » 08 Jan 2019, 04:23

I use Radial Pro KeyLargo in a live setting and it is very clean and versatile. It also has a studio setting with USB and a driver but I did not use it in the studio yet.
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Re: Boosting gain into audio interface

Postby 23skidoo » 08 Jan 2019, 05:15

A DI box won't provide any gain - in fact, it massively reduces it! DI boxes cut line level to microphone level and then, critically, *balance* the signal so that it can resist electrical interference on it's way to the mixing desk, where gain is re-applied in the microphone pre-amp to bring it back up to the necessary level. This need for DI is a stage-only phenomenon and it gets you much greater noise immunity (RF and EMI rejection) at the expense of signal quality (it needs to go through a much greater amplification, which always result in the addition of noise and often colouration, even if the preamps are very good there is some tiny amount of noise added).

A preamp is what you need, and they come in many flavours - a small portable mixing desk that goes in front of your audio interface (the Key Largo is a very good option for an extremely beefy compact mixer that will also do a good double-duty on a stage if you decide to tour or gig live, but any mixing desk with good sound quality will do - avoid Behringer here they are in my experience very hissy and flat sounding), a dedicated "channel strip" preamp, or even just the other inputs on your 6i6 that have additional gain on the instrument jacks, since all that is is just a preamp built into the line/instrument inputs.

The reason you're experiencing this issue is that the Nords, like many keyboard instruments, are more of an "instrument line level (~ -10dBV)" rather than a "studio interconnect line level (+4dBu)" - they'll do "line level" but it's usually in the -10dBV range (and they may run a bit low even compared to that, to give headroom for internal effects, EQ, and stacking of instruments which all add to the output level needed to avoid clipping).

Their output is somewhat low because they expect to be run into a professional front end with the necessary ability to adjust the signal, or they expect it to be cut further in the onstage DI setup. Too hot outputs to a DI can actually oversaturate the transformers and cause a really crap sound, and if they have an absolute maximum of -10dBV, let's say (the consumer standard for plugging them into home studio gear or a portable stereo/PA system), and they want to avoid clipping at max volume even with all the layers and all the EQ and effects turned up, they need to leave some headroom. This is responsible design, but it means that they need to keep the average output much lower than a cheaper, less considered product would.

So my guess is that they struck a balance between being more or less bulletproof live (e.g. works just fine with the volume cranked, fully stacked/layered, and EQs turned up) and is still suitable to plug into the instrument inputs on a preamp or keyboard mixer/PA.

Treat them like an instrument line level, not like a studio interconnect line level source of audio (what the Focusrite is expecting) and give them a quality preamp, and you'll be quite happy with what they do for you.

Another note: it's pretty typical of a pro studio running 24 bit recording to record at around -20dBFS (https://www.soundonsound.com/sound-advi ... -recording) and to be honest, you should easily get around that even using just the line inputs on your 6i6 and the Nord's own output volume. If you're trying to get hotter than that, you're mixing too hot already.
Last edited by 23skidoo on 08 Jan 2019, 05:17, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Boosting gain into audio interface

Postby RichardG » 08 Jan 2019, 16:30

23skidoo wrote:<snipped for brevity>

:thanks: for this very informative piece of information !
I'm looking into building a "studio" myself and realized I know next to nothing reading this... :sad:
The following statement is not true. The previous statement is true.
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Re: Boosting gain into audio interface

Postby DJKeys » 08 Jan 2019, 19:15

modalmixture wrote:Please excuse the newb recording question. I have my Stage 3 plugged into the line-level inputs in the back of my audio interface (Focusrite 6i6). But even at full volume, the keyboard level is quiet and there is no way to adjust the gain on these inputs (I'd like to keep the front inputs reserved for other instruments).

Is the appropriate remedy here a DI box, or a pre-amp? I just want to boost the gain into my studio interface to line level without coloring the sound. The line-level inputs only accept 1/4". And is there a recommended box/pre-amp that is designed for stereo keyboards?


Are you using a DAW?

If so, you want to make sure recording levels are not too hot. If you are referring to just listening to the keyboard through the interface/speakers, that is a different matter. is that the case?

I use the Focusrite 8Pre and the incoming levels into the line interfaces are around -15 to -12, which is ideal for recording, in my opinion. The control room volume at 50% is more than loud enough for my purposes.

Knowing more about what exactly you are trying to accomplish would be helpful. Putting a mixer or preamp into the preamp of the audio interface does not seem to be an ideal solution.

If you can provide more details, it would help-

-dj

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Re: Boosting gain into audio interface

Postby cphollis » 08 Jan 2019, 19:53

Not familiar with the FocusRite, but am familiar with audio interfaces in general. I've never had an issue with the output levels of my Nords, except way back when with the Electro 3 which wasn't strong.

Agree with the sentiment of avoiding yet another box in your signal chain, unless you want it there to color the sound, e.g. tube preamp on organ or similar.

If you're using a DAW, there should be plenty of digital boost there. Or, alternatively, consider using one of the XLR mic inputs which are much more sensitive, although you'd need a special cable to bridge between 1/4 inch and XLR.

Also, the Radial Key Largo is not your average passive DI. It's active, and can boost signal very cleanly, in addition to a bunch of other talents. It is also very pricey, but worth it.
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Re: Boosting gain into audio interface

Postby modalmixture » 08 Jan 2019, 23:24

23skidoo, DJKeys, cphollis - Thanks for your thoughtful responses. Previous keyboards I've owned outputted at line level and the explanation of line vs instrument level was helpful. The consensus seems to be that instrument level should still be adequate for recording purposes.

I have gotten acceptable recordings in Pro Tools through the line inputs. But I usually have to crank the Nord's volume to maximum to achieve this, and even then the monitoring level through my headphone mix is just barely adequate. It may just be that I am attempting to record too hot.

But it's helpful to know what others are getting through their line inputs. When I get home tonight, I will see what the actual dB is to see whether I am getting the expected -15 to -12.
Last edited by modalmixture on 08 Jan 2019, 23:28, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: Boosting gain into audio interface

Postby modalmixture » 09 Jan 2019, 21:41

I did some experiments last night. Loaded up the Royal Grand with no effects or eq, set the program level to maximum and the keyboard volume to maximum. With hard playing I was getting -15 to -10 dBFS (time averaged, not peak). More typical playing had me down at -30 to -15 average. Good enough for recording but at any lower program/volume levels it would not be. With the organ and synth engine on, leslie engaged and some reverb and all levels maxed I was averaging -6 dBFS. Not sure why I am not getting the same levels through the line inputs as @DJKeys, but it seems I may still need to invest in a pre-amp.
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Re: Boosting gain into audio interface

Postby modalmixture » 09 Jan 2019, 21:41

[accidental duplicate post]
Last edited by modalmixture on 09 Jan 2019, 21:50, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Boosting gain into audio interface

Postby Bjosko » 09 Jan 2019, 23:40

I don’t know if it are a bad idea or not, but perhaps you could try to record from the headphone jack, if you have a split cable TRS to 2 x TS as a test.
But something seems wrong in your original setup, I am normally playing with program volume from 75% to max, and master volume around 12’o clock and have plenty of signal.
Are there a switch on your soundcard where you can switch between line an microphone for each input?
Another way to boost the signal, could be to use TS ( or TSR) to XLR cables, then you should get lot of gain.
/Bjørn
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