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fourchimney

Normalizing CustomTone Patch Volume Levels?

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Hey All,

 

I'm really digging my month-old Helix and have enjoyed experimenting with the plentiful Helix CustomTone patches. 

 

As you you soon discover with the patches, the audio input vs output levels are all over the place, which makes them difficult to use right out of the box in band practice and performance. 

 

I;d like to tweak them to get them all into some usable range, but I need a plan.

 

Does anyone have a good strategy for normalizing the volume of the patches - bring them to a relatively equal level?

 

Is "unity gain" a good starting point for determining an output volume? It seems clear to me that some patches will warrant higher gain to get the desired effect.

 

Is there a technical standard somewhere? 

 

Should tweaking be done before the amps and cabs or after?

 

So many questions!

 

Mike in Maryland

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I do it by matching to the volume of the factory patches.  I start with the Helix volume at 50%.  Then I set up the tone the way I want it to sound first,  and then I compare the overall volume to a factory patch. I use a free SPL meter app on my phone and my ears just to make it so my patches and the factory ones are going to blow the doors off if I switch back and forth.

 

Then there are a number of ways to adjust the volume of the patch without affecting your tone.

 

1) channel volume on the amp block

2) level on the cab block

3) level on the output block (or a merge point if you run parallel paths back together)

4) add in a "gain" block at the end of your signal chain (found in the volume/pan section of effects)

 

Hope that helps a bit.

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***** UPDATE *****

 

Man oh man - that was an educational experience!

 

I've made adjustments to the volume levels to all 60+ patches I've downloaded from CustomTone so far.

 

To get an objective look at the levels, I used a USB connection between the Helix my PC and the Reaper multitrack application. (BTW Reaper is available as a free trial and well worth the download, if just for this purpose, and if you haven't plugged your Helix into a PC, do it immediately. It's a breeze.)

 

I made the adjustments on the output block (sometimes 2 output blocks). It was easy to strum the guitar with one hand, keep an eye on the Reaper input level and change the output block's Level setting with the other hand.

 

You can also see the Pan setting while you're there and adjust it if needed. For some reason, a handful of the patches have this setting off center when there didn't seem to be a reason for it. (At least one patch had one amp and cabinet panned all the way left and the other amp and cabinet panned hard right. I let that one alone.)

 

The CustomTone patches definitely needed some tweaks. About a third had factory-level settings. Another third had to be tweaked up or down within 6db (not bad, but not insignificant).

 

The final third were way out there. Some had to be brought up 20db. Others had to come down 20db. Wow.

 

This took about an hour and a half, but I feel like a have a much better (and usable) set of patches.

 

The next step -- which is seemingly overwhelming -- is to go in and check the internal volume levels. I noticed that some patches had pedals (e.g. distortion) set ON as the default, and when you stomped its footswitch to deactiveate it, the clean tone was ~6 decibels too high or too low. :(

 

Maybe the patch "divisors" out there can double check that their levels are similar to the factory patches before they upload. The patches all sound great listening to them one at a time, but as part of a collection they really should be relatively uniform in volume.

 

I KNOW I'LL GET SOME FLACK FOR POSTING THIS . :(    I'm trying not to be critical as I talk about adjusting the patches. I really appreciate every patch I've downloaded and wish I had the knowledge to devise something good enough to share!  I'll work on it.

 

Peace, love and hippy-$#!T,

 

Mike in Maryland

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***** UPDATE *****

 

 

Maybe the patch "divisors" out there can double check that their levels are similar to the factory patches before they upload. The patches all sound great listening to them one at a time, but as part of a collection they really should be relatively uniform in volume.

 

 

I don't think you'll get any flack, but I also doubt that you'll get much cooperation. Recognize that Customtone is an unmoderated database of tones. There is no quality control. Regular users (not designated or somehow qualified 'tone creators') post whatever tones they want with whatever descriptions and keywords they want. It's nobody's job to ensure any sort of accuracy or consistency in the submissions.

 

Most tones are already missing important information such as the guitar being used, whether it's designed for output to a particular amp or FRFR, etc. What you're asking, which I think would be great, is just another important step that most posters will probably not bother to take. It hasn't happened yet and it's not the first time this sort of thing has been suggested.

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Hi Silverhead -- Do you think that a "moderator" could be appointed/selected to QC all submissions? Or is that impossible? Thanks.

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You'd have to ask Line 6 that (I don't work for Line 6). They would need to assign someone (or two, or three) to this task. This would mean either hiring new people (the extra cost being recovered in increased revenues somehow, like charging for Customtone downloads) or taking people off their current assignments like developing the Helix editor.

 

If they haven't done it by now they're not likely to.

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I don't think you'll get any flack, but I also doubt that you'll get much cooperation. Recognize that Customtone is an unmoderated database of tones. There is no quality control. Regular users (not designated or somehow qualified 'tone creators') post whatever tones they want with whatever descriptions and keywords they want. It's nobody's job to ensure any sort of accuracy or consistency in the submissions.

 

Most tones are already missing important information such as the guitar being used, whether it's designed for output to a particular amp or FRFR, etc. What you're asking, which I think would be great, is just another important step that most posters will probably not bother to take. It hasn't happened yet and it's not the first time this sort of thing has been suggested.

I know this is an old post but some new guys like myself that are trying to post new new tones can't edit any info in there to explain the patch.  Unless there is a way to do this somewhere else, there is no way within the browser to edit the patch info on the website. I posted one this morning after exporting from Helix edit and had no way of putting any info in.

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Just to say it, the factory patches aren't consistent levels either.

 

I've recently settled on trying to match the level of my own preset 0. Pretty random, but it doesn't really matter, just a consistent reference.

 

Which I guess means I shouldn't ever edit preset 0, doesn't it. Next plan, anyone?

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I think this is an important post. Sure there must be some standard to digital audio level.

 

I think it is 0dB. (of course dB being a relative measurement). But there must exist a standard in the recording industry because when I playback my CD in my car then all artists, albums, songs etc are of the relative very similar volume level should I leave volume control on the player in one position. That can only be achieved if there is an audio standard level in the recording industry.

 

If we assume 0dB to be that level then somehow I just need to figure out what is the actual guitar volume gain but I would assume even there all guitar pickups generally generate the same signal level at full volume setting on the guitar. Thus if I have my guitar at full volume on the input to Helix and all my FX settings on 0dB gain then effectively I should be recording at approx 0dB level on DAW. If I paste an audio track from say ITunes into Ableton and hit playback that is the level approx indicated on the playback display in Ableton.

 

Thus I should see a recording ouput level from Helix with 0dB on all FX and Amps to render the same level of 0dB to Ableton. But it does not. It renders a much lower -25dB level to Ableton via Helix Asio on Windows 10. This confuses me.

 

Then when I use my USB to connect to Windows 10 pc then Helix takes over as the sound card, sets the audio ouput to 100% and the sound level arriving in my Helix from an Iturnes playback (backing track) is way too loud. So I set the little speaker icon in Win10 right lower corner much lower. But Helix Asio does not remember this level and next time I connect it is back to 100% output which is way louder on my L3t's output. 

As a matter of fact I set Cosy patch I created to 0dB on all blocks and to get a comparably similar level from the Helix playback via Asio I have to turn that ouput level from PC down to 5%. From there I have a balance between backing track and my guitar (a Fender Elite 2015 model set at 100% volume). Surely this cannot be right. And surely if these anomolies can be solved then pathches created at 0dB should be almost perfectly interchangeable?

 

I am actaully now just totally lost in how to set up my Helix on levels such that interconnections with Ableton and PC sourced playbacks and volume from my own patch (my guitar at full volume) shoudl really all be at the same 0dB standard?

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I'm currently working on this issue myself, and as I am equal parts sound engineer and guitarist, I am thinking I will create a "reference" patch or two, based off the factory presets, specifically to be used as gain staging references. There are a lot of issues related to this - 1) input / pre-amp gain - I drive an HSS strat, and the input gain levels can really jump around, lol - but input gain drives tonal color and distortion from the amps. I'm thinking on the input side there might be an H and S standard reference input gain (on my strat, I get roughly a 30db difference from my fave clean / light setting to the "passing lane" which lets the shawbucker loose. It takes some managing, lol.

 

I suspect on the output side, there are two references as well - background and lead. How loud should the ultimate output be for background playing and lead playing. Of course, db is always relative, so if you want to be precise, there should be a reference input audio as well - pink noise methinks.

Just a quick thinky thinky. Let me know what your thoughts are.

 

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While we're on the subject, most of my recent patches have snapshots covering 4 levels of drive, from clean through some flavor of maxed out. I run 4 snaps/4 stomps mode, with one stop being a Boost, just roughly 4 db of louder, no tone change, generally for solos or other lead lines.

 

Do most folks do something similar?

 

If so, do you set up your 4 drive snapshots to be the same volume, or louder as they get more overdriven, like it'd be if you were actually turning up a non-master-volume amp?

 

I've been making them get louder, because it just feels right to me. Still, if you were in a cover band for instance, there would quite likely be songs by generally overdriven bands, and you might or might not want those whole songs louder.

 

Is there a "best" approach do you think? Or is it just individual per situation, try it and see what works?

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In my experience, as I've been the lollipop on the sound board wanting the guitarist to "turn it down" as well as the guy on stage wanting to "turn it up" - the primary issues revolve around tone, volume and perception. A sound guy on the board is trying to balance the mix, and while there are lots of things to think about, on-stage volume is usually the socially limiting issue, lol. Technically, from that perspective, it is the primary limitation to serving up a great FOH mix. (Balancing on-stage volume from amps and monitors vs a truly isolated house mix).

From a guitar tone perspective, gain is important. It affects the effects and amp, and you want the amp to respond to nuance in your performance - you want "clean," "crunch," and "scream" as near at hand as possible - but sometimes those tones are background, sometimes they are foreground. That is where "perception" comes in. Sometimes you want to growl in the background.

... which really makes it obvious, if you think about it, that tone and volume should be independent. A screaming, dirty overdrive need not be loud, and a clean jazz tone need not be quiet.

Hence my thinking on framing the references around four basic parameters (to start, at least) - input low (S - single coil), input high (H - humbucker) and output low (bg - background) and output high (l - lead).

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To clarify, I recently ran a set of tests to understand the dynamic range of my Strat (HSS American Elite, run through a Helix test patch). Here are my tests on the basic input from the guitar to the Helix, metered by the X32.

X32R (mixer)
Helix input Channel Gain (on the X32r channel) +30 db
Helix - volume at 12 oclock, mic level output

Config 1 - No amp, cab or effects.
Config 2 - HiWatt amp and cab

Test 1 - single note riffs
Test 2 - strummed 6 string A barre

Strat Soft: Pos SS, Vol 7, Tone 6, 6
Strat Loud: H bypass

SS C1 T1 (-45 to -35 db)
SS C1 T2 (-32.5 db)

H C1 T1 (-20db)
H C1 T2 (-15db)

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I do it by matching to the volume of the factory patches.  I start with the Helix volume at 50%.  Then I set up the tone the way I want it to sound first,  and then I compare the overall volume to a factory patch. I use a free SPL meter app on my phone and my ears just to make it so my patches and the factory ones are going to blow the doors off if I switch back and forth.

 

Then there are a number of ways to adjust the volume of the patch without affecting your tone.

 

1) channel volume on the amp block

2) level on the cab block

3) level on the output block (or a merge point if you run parallel paths back together)

4) add in a "gain" block at the end of your signal chain (found in the volume/pan section of effects)

 

Hope that helps a bit.

 

 

Thank you for this info.

I am a new Helix user.

Longtime AXE FX II user and real tube amp guy.

Also had most every iteration of LINE 6 stuff since the original Pods and AX212 combo amp so am familiar with getting them to sound decent.

 

I found the output level of most all of the stock presets really kind of absurdly low.

Surprised as to how strange they were mixed.

I have several dual humbucker guitars with standard moderate PAF type pickups.

Really nothing out of ordinary at all.

 

This helped. Thanks!

 

The Helix is excellent modeler by the way.

Really enjoying it.

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