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Christian Jones

Suddenly confused about Record/Playback levels

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Today I'm using the Brainworx Ampeg VR bass vst and I'm getting good volume and levels between -18 and -12 w/ peaks around -6 when monitoring through the DAW w/o having Record armed, but as soon as I arm to record the record meter drops to around -30, though the volume and sound quality of my bass signal doesn't change and sill sounds good. Then when I record my bass I get a little tiny waveform, but when I un-arm record and play that recorded track back so that it's the playback meters I'm seeing, it sounds just fine and the playback meters are healthy between the -12 and -18 even though the waveform is much smaller than I'm used to, it's tiny. When I disable the Ampeg VR vst so my bass is a pure DI signal then the levels are the same for both record and playback at the -18 to -12 when I gain stage it as such, so I know it's the Ampeg vst doing this, and my guitar vsts I use don't cause the recording levels to be that low nor give me tiny waveforms. But again, although the recorded waveform is small the playback meters are healthy and the sound and gain staging sounds/looks good - so I don't know that anything is wrong per se and I know we're in 24 bit and I've heard somewhere about tiny waveforms not being a big deal if all else is good, but idk, I'm confused as to why the record meter is so low but the playback meter looks good. I record through a Golden Age Pre 73 into RME 9632. 

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Do you use TotalMix FX as part of your RME ? There is a trim gain feature that might possibly cause your issue. My second guess would be  sidechaining FX.

Typically these problems are traced down to routing. I would open up RME software and check there as well as Cakewalk and monitor the differences.

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10 hours ago, Christian Jones said:

When I disable the Ampeg VR vst so my bass is a pure DI signal then the levels are the same for both record and playback at the -18 to -12 when I gain stage it as such, so I know it's the Ampeg vst doing this,

Try a different preset , just to rule out the setting for that one you are using.

Also, delete that track and make a new track to record your bass on n and insert a new instance of the Ampeg plugin.  

If it still does it with every pre-set in that plugin, try recording the bass dry and then enabling the Ampeg plugin.

 

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So a quick Google says Brainworx Ampeg VR is "exclusively for UAD-2 hardware and Apollo interfaces.". Since your interface is RME, I assume that means you have the UAD card...? I've never worked with one, but would guess that's where the discrepancy is being introduced, and would check the UAD setup.

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I'm about to look into the RME Total Mix thing and will repor back, but just real quick...

8 hours ago, David Baay said:

So a quick Google says Brainworx Ampeg VR is "exclusively for UAD-2 hardware and Apollo interfaces.". Since your interface is RME, I assume that means you have the UAD card...? I've never worked with one, but would guess that's where the discrepancy is being introduced, and would check the UAD setup.

That's no longer the case, as recently - like in the last few weeks recently - native versions of these Brainworx Ampegs have become available on Plugin Alliance and that's what I have, so no UAD card.

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OK.  Well, the big difference between recording (and metering) from a hardware input, and playback from a recorded clip is that the Input Gain on the track affects only the latter.  So I have to think the discrepancy is due to having the track Gain turned up (possibly in offset mode) to get the higher playback level.

Edited by David Baay

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Well it turned out to be the Pre 73 preamp I'm using as a DI. It has a Mic gain and an Output and when using it as a DI both of those knobs are essentially gain when going into my interface for an amp sim, but the Mic gain knob adds some color whereas the Output is a bit more transparent, so I had the mic gain backed off a bit and the output knob cranked more to try to get a cleaner sound, but when I turned up the mic gain more I was able get good recording levels on the meter. So I guess w/ the Ampeg VR anyway I'll need to just crank the mic gain. The RME Total Mix fader is at unity and I always leave it there and I've never had a problem with that. 

And the track itself that the Ampeg vst is on, it's at unity.

Honestly, I'm still confused in general as to why my meters always differ somewhat when I arm to record as opposed to just monitoring through the daw without record being armed on the track.

Like, if I arm the track to record and I gain stage my signal on the recording meter so that the signal is e.g. around -12 and peaks at -6, when I un-arm the track and play back what I recorded it plays back at the same volume just like when I recorded it, but the playback meters show an increase of like 3db or more than the record meter. What's up with that? With the track fader at unity and the playback sounding exactly the same and with the same volume as when I recorded it, why are the record and playback meters different? I've never fully understood that. The playback doesn't playback quieter or louder it's the same exact volume and sound as it was when I recorded it except the playback meter seems to reflect a louder signal.  How do I make it so that the record/playback meters are the same - so that when I'm gain staging on the record meter (w/ the track armed), the levels I'm seeing while recording would be the same levels I see during playback? 

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Setup of the DI box shouldn't affect what shows in your meters in SONAR when armed/disarmed.  All that matters is the level at the interface input. Cakewalk will record that level regardless of any settings (unless the interface mixer applet is modifying it). And it will play back that level so long as no gain or volume changes are applied at any level (clip gain, track gain, FX I/O gain, track volume, bus gain/volume). A Pan law with -3dB/-6dB center can lower the playback level if you have mono interleave set on the track, but won't  ever raise it.

I recommend you start with the simplest possible record and playback configuration with input monitoring, making sure your record and playback metering settings are identical (except playback meters will probably be post-fader - fine so long as Volume fader is at unity). Then record single transient pulses and look at the numeric peak indicator as well as the meter while you make external/internal changes one at a time to see what effect each has.

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29 minutes ago, David Baay said:

Setup of the DI box shouldn't affect what shows in your meters in SONAR when armed/disarmed. 

I agree with David here. I use a set up similar to your @Christian Jones. I run a Focusrite ISA ONE into a Focusrite 18I8. I use the ISA ONE as a pre amp/DI for tracking guitars. This does however call for the need to change the way my inputs on my interface are used. Not using the DI portion (I use that on the ISA ONA) and changing the inputs on the 18I8 to line (vs Mic).

These should not change or effect the levels in sonar going through a VST like you mentioned where toggling it changes levels. unless you are using an AUX track to feed the signal from the plug in.

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58 minutes ago, David Baay said:

Setup of the DI box shouldn't affect what shows in your meters in SONAR when armed/disarmed

 

25 minutes ago, Chuck E Baby said:

These should not change or effect the levels in sonar going through a VST like you mentioned where toggling it changes levels. unless you are using an AUX track to feed the signal from the plug in.

Um.. What? Excuse me but I'm confused there.. what do you mean the DI should have no effect on the meters I see in Cakewalk? 

.. Because I have the Pre 73 in DI mode going out the Line Out to the RME 9632 Line In and the Mic Gain and Output knobs on the Pre 73 *are totally* having an effect on the level/meters in Cakewalk. If I turn either the Mic Gain knob or Output knob all the way down then the meters on the Cakewalk track drop down accordingly, and that's how it's akway worked and how I expect it to work. 

I'll make a quick video showing this behavior and post a link to the video in a moment, but the Pre 73 is totally controlling how much level I send to the daw and definitely has an effect on the meters in the daw in record mode and just input monitoring, so I don't think I follow here. 

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1 minute ago, Christian Jones said:

what do you mean the DI should have no effect on the meters

No, I meant it has no effect on the change that occurs when you switch between armed (record meters) and disarmed (playback meters). The input level at the interface will be that same either way. So something is happening inside Cakewalk to make the metering change.

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1 minute ago, David Baay said:

No, I meant it has no effect on the change that occurs when you switch between armed (record meters) and disarmed (playback meters). The input level at the interface will be that same either way. So something is happening inside Cakewalk to make the metering change.

Ah yes, I'm aware of that, that the DI settings don't affect the track after it's been recorded. I believe it's the Ampeg vst. I'll make a quick video to show what I'm seeing. 

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I was responding to:

2 hours ago, Christian Jones said:

Well it turned out to be the Pre 73 preamp I'm using as a DI.

I see now that "it" in that sentence is referring to the low input level, not the difference between input and output metering levels.

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41 minutes ago, David Baay said:

I was responding to:

I see now that "it" in that sentence is referring to the low input level, not the difference between input and output metering levels.

Yeah that's what I meant, thanks. Anyway I pretty much figured it out. The Ampeg vst just needed to be gain staged/matched better so that the record and playback meters are for the most part the same. 

And just to be clear, the record and playback meters *are* supposed to be the same, right? I mean you'll need to gain stage and arrange for that but they're pretty much supposed to be the same, correct? 

.. Because it seems counterproductive otherwise because what you'd be doing is setting the proper level on the meters while recording, but then during playback you're getting a whole different meter behavior and that just seems to defeat the purpose of the initial gain staging. 

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7 minutes ago, Christian Jones said:

And just to be clear, the record and playback meters *are* supposed to be the same, right?

Yes, if track gain and volume controls remain at 0dB, the input and output meters will initally show the same thing.

But that doesn't generally last for long because the input level that gives you a good signal to noise ratio from your external sources, and a good input level for FX  to behave nominally in the box,  is probably too high a level to mix with other instuments. So the output volume is almost always going to be pulled down from what you recorded at some point, and unless you set the Playback meters to be pre-fader, they're going to reflect that.

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11 hours ago, Christian Jones said:

but the Pre 73 is totally controlling how much level I send to the daw and definitely has an effect on the meters in the daw in record mode and just input monitoring,

Yes it does. Right.

But toggling the Arm/Disarm REC button wont. that's what I was trying to say. I'll admit, I was probably being a little ignorant and didn't read your previous comment well enough. I read this....

14 hours ago, Christian Jones said:

Well it turned out to be the Pre 73 preamp I'm using as a DI

And thought to myself what does this have to do with toggling the arm/disarm Rec button ?

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