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Thread: Easy and cheap way to limit volume from analog to audio interface

  1. #1
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    Easy and cheap way to limit volume from analog to audio interface

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    Hey guys, its been a while.

    Still run a Fostex G16C and DDA Q desk, mixing down to digital 2 track and still working nicely. However it has annoyed me for a while that I have to turn the desk way down low not to clip digital since our EMU 0404 doesn't have a pad.
    I had a non-functional MCI working as a buffer for some time but had to sell it. When the MCI was in this function my mixes just sounded better, I suppose it was a mix of better gain staging where the DDA got to work a bit harder with needles on the master out dancing around 0 and probably also the transformers in the MCI.

    My question is whether there's an easier and cheaper way to let the DDA work harder without getting digital clipping? Most cheap DI boxes only take jack in so that way I don't get balanced outputs and the good lord knows that if there's one thing a narrow track tape recorder running with NR off it's more noise. Any stand alone units that runs balanced in and out and only has a minus 10 DB pad?
    Or even better a dirt cheap unit with some transformers?
    Also been thinking about getting a dead A77 or similar but then again I dont get a balanced signal and there's a load of cables crossing each other. Really ruins my mojo putting a mix session to a halt to identify what causes the nasty humm/clicks

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    Hmm...that seems kind of odd to me.

    I used to have a G16C until last year, though I had mot used it since maybe 2012(?) when I got my Otari MX-80.

    Anyway...I never noticed a level problem running the analog audio to my converters.
    That said...I didn't do it like you seem to be describing. I'm not quite sure of how you have your tracking signal flow...?

    I used to track to the G16 (which is what I now do with my MX-80) and the console was a TASCAM M3700 console (which now I have a Trident 24 London)...but in either case, the console was purely for my cue mixes during tracking.
    IOW...the sources went directly to the tape deck.
    If/when for some reason I wanted to use the console for the pres or EQ or whatever....then the sources went to the console and then the tape deck.
    The converters got/get their signals from the tape deck...never the console...so as long as I had my analog levels correct at the console, and more importantly at the tape deck....the dump from the tape deck to the converters was always a the perfect level range. Never a need to boost or turn down to prevent clipping.
    Are you doing some sort of pre-mix from the tape deck, back through the console, and then to the converters?

    The real point here...if you follow your analog gain staging, no matter the signal path, and shoot for acceptable, even somewhat "hot" analog levels...they should not be clipping the converters, IMO...(unless you're totally burying the VU meter needles).
    At most, you might be hitting -10 to -6 dBFS at the converters, instead of the recommended -18 that represents 0 VU....but even if you are hitting -3...which is DAMN LOUD on the analog side, it would still be OK for the converters.

    Crazy thought....are you maybe having a -10 vs +4 conflict between the analog and digital side?
    I know the G16 is all -10...so can you describe in more detail what you are doing and how you have your signal flow and gain staging set up from the G16 to DDA to converters when you encounter this "too much level" problem?

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    That does seem strange, as long as you are going in the line input 1/4 trs on the emu, the level should be right. If you are going in XLR, you are feeding the mic preamps, which will be a problem.
    Jay Walsh
    Farview Recording. I am also the forum spokesmodel for Terasyne Amplification

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    Quote Originally Posted by Farview View Post
    If you are going in XLR, you are feeding the mic preamps, which will be a problem.
    Good point.
    I keep forgetting that most of the home-rec interfaces in use are the all-in-one types, most with those multi-use connectors on the I/Os...and they are not just straightforward converter boxes with line I/O.

    Yeah...line level signal fed to a mic pre input will be pretty HOT!
    So then it might be as simple as changing the interface I/O from pre to line....probably either a hard switch or more likely a soft switch in the interface console.

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    Yes. This is the problem I had when I got the MX80 originally - I fed the outputs from the deck into the XLR inputs on the mixing desk, but they all had a +5dB gain or something which could not be disabled.
    I fixed the problem by getting 24 XLR->TRS adaptors. The line inputs on the Soundcraft were balanced anyway, so it Just Worked. If the XLR inputs have a gain boost, see whether the TRS can accept balanced inputs.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jpmorris View Post
    Yes. This is the problem I had when I got the MX80 originally - I fed the outputs from the deck into the XLR inputs on the mixing desk, but they all had a +5dB gain or something which could not be disabled.
    I fixed the problem by getting 24 XLR->TRS adaptors. The line inputs on the Soundcraft were balanced anyway, so it Just Worked.
    I'm sure you know that you have two level settings for the MX80 in the Inputs and Outputs.
    It's on the main Audio Control PCB...there are internal switches that let you set the I/O at either +4 or -8 dBu.
    You can use them for better I/O compatibility...though not sure why they went with -8 instead of -10.

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    Quote Originally Posted by miroslav View Post
    I'm sure you know that you have two level settings for the MX80 in the Inputs and Outputs.
    It's on the main Audio Control PCB...there are internal switches that let you set the I/O at either +4 or -8 dBu.
    You can use them for better I/O compatibility...though not sure why they went with -8 instead of -10.
    This is true. The inputs were already set to -8, which was good because I was interfacing with the TASCAM's -10 outputs, but the outputs on the 2" machine I intentionally set up for +4 to go into a balanced mixing desk. It wasn't until some time afterwards that I realised the XLR inputs were clipping early, and it took me a while after that to hit the manual and discover why. Switching to TRS was better all round, though - no unwanted bump in the input gain, and no risk of enabling phantom power and blowing up the audio cards on the recorder.

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    Quote Originally Posted by jpmorris View Post
    Switching to TRS was better all round, though - no unwanted bump in the input gain, and no risk of enabling phantom power and blowing up the audio cards on the recorder.
    Huh..?

    Not sure how XLR to TRS adapters lowered the input level on the console...? Were there some kind of built-in level pads in the cabling?

    Also....not understanding how you would blow up the recorder audio cards by enabling phantom power on the console...?
    Plus, if the recorder outputs are connected to the line inputs on the deck...how does the console phantom power even come into the picture?

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    Get two of these:

    Little Labs

    I have three of them just ahead of my converters. Most useful item I ever added to my transfer studio!

    David Ollard
    Thin Brown Line
    Analog to digital tape transfers | Transfer analog reel tapes to digital

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    Quote Originally Posted by miroslav View Post
    ...not sure why they went with -8 instead of -10.
    -8dBu is equivalent to -10dBV.


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