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HX Effects - Setting Signal Levels and Volume Jumps


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I recently got my hands on a Line HX Effects. I have been experimenting with the unit in a 4CM configuration with my various tube amps.
I have also paid attention to setting the various signals levels (Intput, Output, Send/Return) to Inst or Line.

Moreover, I have kept all the effects to 0db.
Despite this, I having a lot of problem getting the overall volume levels of my setup under control.

In general, my problem is that the overall volume is TOO loud.


In experiencing the following symptoms :


1. Overall sound level of the setup is too loud with the HX Effects. For the same gain/volume setting on my amp, I get a big jump in volume difference when I include the HX effects;

2. In 4CM configuration, if I bypass the FX loop block, effectively bypassing the preamp of my amp (according to my understanding), I get a huge volume increase;

3. When changing effects in my basic linear signal flow, some of the effects create huge volume increases (especially those from the pitch block).


My amps are : Mesa Boogie Lonestar special (Buffered Series FX Loop), Mesa Boogie Mark V:35 (Buffered Series FX Loop) and Mesa Boogie Roadster (Series DX Loop).

So the Lonestar special has a volumes and one master out. The Roadster has a volumes and one master out.


My understanding is the the HX Effects should be unity gain, so I don't understand what is happening.


So my questions are :


1. How can I tell if the Send/Return should be INST or LINE level ? If I understand correctly, the Send Level must be INST because it is going into the front of the AMP (4cm). Now, if the the Return is set to INST but my amp sends LINE level, the signal shoud be too loud.
2. How can I tell if the RETURN of the amp requires INT or LINE ? If I understand correctly, the AMP requires INST and I send it LINE, the volume of the amp will be too loud.

3. Many people say that (even with buffered FX loops) the wiring should be lest then 25 feets in order to avoid tone problems. Now, with a 4CM, isn't it almost impossible to avoid such a situation unless you are only using 5 feets wires but that isn't really practical.

4. Can somebody explain why certain effects are louder then others ? Especially those in the pitch block (ex. Octaver and OSC, etc.) ?

5. Can somebody explain the best steps to follow to get all the volumes under control... especially considering that the FX Loop itself has signal level settings. I'm trying to stay with unity gain.


Thank you,












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15 hours ago, jlapalme said:

Can somebody explain the best steps to follow to get all the volumes under control... especially considering that the FX Loop itself has signal level settings. I'm trying to stay with unity gain.


^^^ This ^^^ is the heart of the problem/question.

  • Instrument level into the amp.... almost always!
  • The amp should have specs on it's effect loop stating what level it is. If it doesn't, assume it's line. Quick test.... if you have a stomp box (regular old pedal) put it in the loop. If it works as expected, it's instrument level. If it's distorted or just too hot in general... it's line level. 
  • Instrument vs line. They are just pre-defined levels! Every SEND/RETURN/LOOP block on the HX has level controls along with the general instrument/line settings. Use those to compensate as required. (hint: If you add 12db - 20db to an instrument send, it's in line level territory.... this also works in reverse to take line level to instrument level)
  • Set your initial "UNITY" with no effects turned on other than the Send/Return/Loop. Get that right to begin with before adding any effects. 
  • Now work one effect at a time. They all have level controls for a reason - if it's too hot, turn it down. If it's too quiet, turn it up! USUALLY, the effect should be the same volume as when it is bypassed (give or take a little). Repeat for every block in the chain! 

That might sound like a lot of work, but it really isn't any different than pedals. You don't take a pedal out of a box and use it regardless of settings. You adjust it to your needs, and that includes the level control. Don't just insert a block and accept the default settings as they are. 



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