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About +4dBu / -10dBV nominal levels on software mixer

Discussion in 'Studio Techniques' started by Halvor, Jan 31, 2011.

  1. Halvor

    Halvor New Member


    Ive been searching for some explanation of what is probably basic knowledge but Ive not found it so here goes.
    I run an Echo Audiofire soundcard with Krk monitors connected on output 1/2.
    I run Logic with the logic mixer master fader at 0 and choose my monitorlevels with the masterfader in the Echo software mixer.
    Up until now Ive had the rearmount speaker level adjust knob to -30 db on both speakers and the nominal level to +4db in the software mixer.
    When Ive needed more volume I have adjusted the rear knob on the speakers.
    Is it better to set the speakers to 0db and change the software mixer to -10 to attenuate and control everything from the software mixer main fader?
    By doing it this way I get a bigger range of choices of volume easily controlled from the software.

    Can someone please just help me understand these different options and what the +4/-10 options really mean and the best way to set up this system?
  3. Peter Ostry

    Peter Ostry Administrator Staff Member

    –10 dB is called consumer level and runs usually over unbalanced lines.
    +4 dB is called studio level and runs usually over balanced lines.

    But don't take these classifications too serious. You can of course use balanced lines for a –10 dB signal and vice versa. Sometimes you have no choice, it depends on your equipment and what you are doing. Generally it is better to use the +4 dB level and balanced cables.

    The difference between –10 and +4 dB signals? Well, 14 dB. ;)
    That's why you haven't always the choice. A signal may be too hot or too weak for a particular device. There are also converters available to transform one level into the other.


    Regarding the monitoring, set it up for a most convenient workflow. No, you should not adjust the level of your monitors. They should rather stay at a fixed level all the time and you adjust the signal itself.

    On the other hand, when you turn the volume far down in the digital domain, you lose resolution. Theoretically (and for certain people practically) quiet parts sound not as good then as louder parts. You may hear that or not, which depends on your ears, the acoustic treatment of the room and the speakers. And, not all interfaces control the volume digitally.

    This is a wide field to explore but the good news are that there is a solution that works always. The bad news in the good news are that the solution would cost you something. I am talking of a good monitor controller where you control the volume right before the speakers in the audio domain.

    Monitor controllers are available in passive and active versions, prices from about USD 80 up to several thousand Dollars.
  4. Halvor

    Halvor New Member

    Ok. Thanks for explaining this. I checked with the Echo techsupport and the mainfader in the Audiofire software mixer does actually lower the bit resolution to lower the volume. They suggested I use the software program (Logic) main output volume instead. Do you know if the mainfader in the Logic mixer lower the bit resolution as well?
  5. Halvor

    Halvor New Member

    Well, dumb question since youve just explained that it is.. :)
    I´ve been reading some good reviews of the TC electronic level pilot and its not too expensive so probably will get one of those. Thanks!
  6. Dubmess

    Dubmess New Member

    Hi guys,
    Sorry but the difference is not 14dB because +4 is dBu and the -10 is dBV so −7.78dBu is -10dbV. Δ L = 11.78 dB (12 dB) is the difference. The level difference between dBu level and dBV level is Δ L = 2.2 dB.
    0 dBV equals 2.2 dBu or 0 dBu equals −2.2 dBV.

    1 person likes this.
  7. bambony

    bambony Administrator Staff Member

    I would not worry too much about losing resolution in Logic by lowering levels via the Fader. You can assign the master output fader in Logic to a fader on a MIDI controller. If you don't have one then an external hardware based volume control, like the TC electronic level pilot, is a good idea.

  8. Jay Asher

    Jay Asher Senior member

    If you are recording 24 bit even with the fader down around -16 dB you have PLENTY of bits of resolution and no cause for concern.

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