Hardware gain staging (with the DAW in mind).

Hardware gain staging (with the DAW in mind).

For many when confronted with the terms dBFS, dBu, +4/-10, VU, etc their eyes gloss over. Without understanding a few simple concepts, integrating your DAW with external hardware can be a game of trial & frustration.

To properly drive & take full advantage of hardware in the analog realm, you need to 1st understand what signal level the device is designed to receive. This is when dBu comes into play.

  • dBu – (dB in reference to 1 mW at 600 ohms, equal to 0.775 V) All you really need to know is this is a measurement standard for audio signals.

Most professional audio gear is made/calibrated to function in a +4 dBu = 0VU environment. This means when a +4 dBu signal hits the hardware input, it will read 0 VU on the hardware’s VU meter.

  • VU – Unit of measurement originally developed in 1939 by the combined effort of Bell Labs and broadcasters CBS and NBC for measuring and standardizing the levels of telephone lines.

The question that often comes up is “How do my DAW levels relate to my hardware?”

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MPC3000 vs Pro Tools

I decided to run a quick comparison between programming a 2 bar drum loop via the Akai MPC 3000 & doing the same via Protools/midi track & a software sampler. I used the same samples for both. (my MFB-522 sample set.) I transferred the samples into the MPC via the analog  i/o. I also wanted to compare the “swing”, For the MPC I set the swing to 52%, & for the protools midi track I applied the “MPC 52%” swing quantize. The swing is very close but you can hear a difference with the hats & dual snare hits. The biggest audible difference is from the MPC’s signal-path. The MPC changes the overall frequency response & can add some grit if pushed.

I have to mention this comparison is only focusing on the “sound” not the functionality or advantages of using one over the other. For myself the MPC is 2nd to none with realtime sequencing workflow & interchange with my hardware synths/outboard. DAW midi timing/latency has never been consistent for me when dealing with hardware.

These are the results of my comparison.

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Summing experiment

The never-ending question ITB vs OTB summing. I’m an advocate for analog processing no doubt, So in turn analog summing is convenient. But in terms of summing alone without processing..?? The question is still up in the air.

As an experiment I’d like to see what is preferred after some blind A/B testing. One of these is summed ITB. The other is 16 channels worth in the analog realm via a passive summing bus + makeup gain.

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Inside the ADA TFX4

Inside the ADA TFX4

The all analog FX sound great. Analog echo is endless fun.

DIY Drum Trigger Experiment.

DIY Drum Trigger Experiment.

I’ve been using triggers for practice while away from the kit & for electric needs for some time. I built a few DIY triggers sometime ago that have worked out well.

Part List

  • x1 piezo buzzer
  • Female 1/4 jacks
  • Line audio cable
  • Mouse Pad
  • Mount Base (I used wood craft tiles)
  • Glue
  • Screws
  • Anything else you would like to help MOD the thing.

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