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PaulTBaker

levels (yes again)

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Question about levels... I have a Helix LT.  The digital out goes to DT25 (big knob set to control only this).  The xlr's (set a mic level and max output since the big knob is digital only) go left and right to a berhinger XR18.  The XR18 is my interface to Reaper on a mac.

 

I've had the helix over a year now and have spent hours upon glorious hours tweaking etc.  I really love the results!   I use the XR18 software to monitor my levels when when doing preset leveling to make sure things are close, then I play some music, play a lead over the same piece to finish the levels.

 

This has worked great.  I try to have my levels set so the XR18 software channel level meter hovers around -15. again this works great for getting the presets t match.

 

It dawned on me the other day that the level in the XR18 is also going to be dependent on the trim I have set for that channel.  Since once the trim is set, it doesn't change so all my presets will still be level matched, however, the level of my trim will have a direct correlation with the channel volume in the Helix.  If the trim is set high, the helix channel volume will be set lower to get to -15.  If the trim is set low, the helix channel volume will have to be set higher to get the XR18 channel level to -15.

 

Several questions come to mind: 

1) The helix channel volume is not supposed to change the tone, so it should not matter (tone wise) if it is set to 2 or 8. Is this thought correct?

2) would the sound be different (coming out of the XR18) if I had a higher channel volume and lower trim, or does that matter? 

3) does anyone else have this scenario now and what do you do?  

4) the trim now is around 12.  should I change this to zero and redo my patches?

 

 

Or am I (as usual) over thinking things? :)  

 

Would love to hear your comments.  Thanks!

 

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Lots of differing opinions on this. My 2 cents:

 

Do your preset leveling on the Helix. Get your gain staging right so that you're not overloading anything in the signal chain.

Be aware that Clean tones have more dynamic content than overdriven (compressed) tones, and will likely sound louder..

Then send a Unity signal (big knob disabled on those outs) to the XR18, and use the XR18 Channel Trim to get the strongest signal possible without hitting the red.

The XR18 Channel Volume is then your final Output Volume Control, and should be set and forget if the Helix Presets have been properly leveled.

 

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I recently just started using the Xair18 to do this sorta as well.  We use this for live use and I wanted to use the input level metering and the RTA EQ analyzer to see what I was tweaking (yes...use my ears, but without my other guitar player its hard to know what will work and I know how his guitar sits with frequencies usually).   I setup my presets in the past to be -4db on the output to give myself some headroom.  

 

Upon the approach of using the Xair, I had to then boost my Xair input on my channels to +10db.  I like to control my lead boosts and how the boards trim is set can impact the boost you use for leads.  So I set my output levels on Helix to 0.0db.  On the Xair, we (the band) try to keep input signals at -10 to allow some headroom and such (similar to you).  I find that at 0.0db and the xair channel trims at +5.5db it gets me to that -10db. on the input meter.   

 

HOWEVER,

 

We have a few shows where I know we will have other sound guys and once I have them mostly leveled I will go into my clean sound (most dynamic) and reset the Xair input trim to 0.0db and then adjust the Amp Ch. Volume to get back to the -10db we like everything channel wise at on the Xair.  Tedious and repetitive I know, but I have a very consistent sound...my other guitar player...not so much, lol.   

 

I did notice that by raising to 0.0db on the Helix outputs that my ch volumes on the amp blocks dropped down to the 3.5-6.5 range whereas before they were all up near the 7.5-9.5 range.  So once I get that recalibrated again, it should be back to around 7.0 consistently it seems.  

 

I babbled, work got in the way of logical thoughts, lol

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Hi

 

Very similar set-up. Helix > X18 (not rack) > StudioOne with digital split to DT25s

 

Helix > XLRs Line out > no volume control

Helix > digital > no volume control

X18 trim zero DB

DT25 master as volume control for in the room

 

I manage gain staging through each patch and use either the output stage or a volume block to adjust final gain to the mixer or DT25 for each patch. Signal to the X18 monitored through its metering and a LUF meter in Studio one. Relative perceived volume through monitors.

 

As the digital split is pre cab and compressor blocks the DT25 split also has an EQ block and volume to adjust perceived volume in the room which varies with DT25 power amp settings. Dgital signal level is monitored within the Helix itself to ensure no clipping (never been an issue). Changing the master volume can change perceived relative volumes from the DT25 so I check at stage levels.

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Regarding gain staging, its useful to note that a typical double coil pickup into the Helix guitar input set at 1M impedance with no blocks in Helix, and the output set to 0dB will pretty closely drive the output level to 0dB. I suspect this was an intentional design point. This means that anything that creates additional accumulation of gain may drive Helix output into clipping. 

 

Gain staging is most critical at the inputs and outputs where the analog to digital conversions are taking place since that's where the headroom limits exist. You don't need to worry as much about  clipping within the Helix signal path, of course depending on the model (some are designed to clip). There's likely plenty of headroom in the algorithms. Its the starting level (guitar) and accumulation through the blocks to the output that matters.

 

Keeping blocks at close to unity gain is one simple, possibly convenient, way of avoiding gain buildup that you have to correct at the output to avoid clipping. There are lots of other ways that can achieve the same result. Just make sure you're not clipping the input with an overly active guitar or pedal, and not pushing the output over 0dB. What goes on in-between is whatever sounds good to you.

 

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thanks all for the feed back... no pun intended :)

 

question for rd2rk.  siince i am using the xr18 for sound, how would i level the patches without using the xr18?

 

I do keep my blocks as close to unity gain as possible.  Amsdenj are you suggesting I start with a preset with no blocks and 1M imp. and use that to set the trim on the XR18?  When I do that, I need to set the XR18 trim on +20.  It was on +15.  That makes me lower my channel volumes to 2 and below.

 

Or is it better to start with the trim at 0 as Kid suggested.  doing that I have to bring up the channel vol to 5 from 2.  and it sounds more distorted??? 

 

interesting experiment.  With the XR18, is there the thing about giving it a stronger signal vs a weaker signal because of the noise ratio?

 

Thanks ALL!

 

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9 minutes ago, PaulTBaker said:

question for rd2rk.  siince i am using the xr18 for sound, how would i level the patches without using the xr18?

 

I mean to level the Helix Presets within the Helix, so that the output level is the same for all of the presets.

I'm not really familiar with the XR18. If it has Input level meters you could use those, combined with a db meter (on your phone?) and your ears.

Then you'd only have to set the Trim once, and FOH only has to adjust the Channel Volume as necessary for the song/room.

Keep in mind that if you're using a clean boost for solos (I use a FS with MIN=0/MAX= +4db), you'd want to set the trim with the boost ON.

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When it comes to the trim/gain knob on your mixer, I don't think the position is all that meaningful other than it needs to be consistent when measuring the input level on the channel the Helix is coming into.  Generally trim/gain is used to get the incoming signal where it needs to be.  On a standalone mic, or mic'd cabinet that's the only way to adjust the input levels to get them to be consistent.  In terms of the Helix I set my gain/trim knob on my QSC TM30 to unity or 12 o'clock.  That makes it consistent when I'm measuring the input level from the Helix and forces me to set all my presets to be at a consistent level by adjusting them using the amp model channel volume in the preset.  That works perfectly for recording or live performances, and it works consistently whether I'm going to my mixer or someone else's mixer.  They simply set the gain/trim knob wherever they want my signal to be on any given preset and all my presets will be the same.  The output level, or the mix relative to other channels is all done with the channel faders as it should be.

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9 hours ago, rd2rk said:

 

I mean to level the Helix Presets within the Helix, so that the output level is the same for all of the presets.

I'm not really familiar with the XR18. If it has Input level meters you could use those, combined with a db meter (on your phone?) and your ears.

Then you'd only have to set the Trim once, and FOH only has to adjust the Channel Volume as necessary for the song/room.

Keep in mind that if you're using a clean boost for solos (I use a FS with MIN=0/MAX= +4db), you'd want to set the trim with the boost ON.

This is more or less what I do.  I created my previous set so that the outputs were all -4db.  Then would go up to 0.0db at most for my lead boosts.  

 

The issue i've run into with lead boosts (across multiple platforms) is this.

 

Helix Approach (for sures here):

Presets set to -4db at output

Leads at 0.0db

 

Our PA Rig (hypothetical numbers roughly for sake of showing the effect):

Input Trim +7.5db

Channel fader set to: -5db (similarly matches other instruments, so nothing weird here)

 

Cause/Effect: My lead boosts and rhythm sounds are well matched to the volume of the rest of the band.  The +4db lead sound boost I'm providing is doing well in the mix, remember, the additional 4db is then getting boosted by 7.5db at the board input.

 

Unfamiliar Sound guy PA (it would be great if I could tell PA guys to set my input trim to 7.5db like we have ours, but thats probably a no-no, lol)

Input Trim (2 scenarios, +15db and +3db) set differently as boards/sound guys vary in approaches

Channel Fader (respectively -10db and 0.0db, one sets it at the input trim the other likes things at 0.0 and uses the input trim to get things balanced (yes, wrong, but it happens)

 

Cause/Effect:  In the +15db scenario...my original +4db boost is now being essentially doubled at the board, thus causing my lead sounds to be much louder of a jump in the mix between my rhythm/lead tones.  Conversely, the +3db is minimizing the lead boost effect in a similar fashion, its taking the +4db boost and not boosting it as much as the original 7.5db boost that we use.

 

 

I have not found a way to combat this well, other than to have 'our' group of presets with the +4db presets and another with 'flat' lead sounds where there is no boost provided by the Helix and thus trusting the sound guy will do his part and ride the faders as he should be.  Helix provides enough setlists for me to do that, however, you know...so little time, lol

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The curse of "the unfamiliar sound guy who sucks".

The way I see it, if the venue hires the sound guy, the club should have it's own PA.

If the venue's PA and/or sound guy sucks, you either suck it up or don't play there again.

If the venue requires you to let their guy use your system, you either suck it up, or don't play there again.

If YOU'RE paying the sound guy, he does what you tell him to do. Period.

If he doesn't do what you tell him to do, and you hire him again, it's on you.

There's no amount of presets on your Helix or your XR18 that will cure the curse of "the unfamiliar sound guy who sucks".

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12 hours ago, rd2rk said:

The curse of "the unfamiliar sound guy who sucks".

The way I see it, if the venue hires the sound guy, the club should have it's own PA.

If the venue's PA and/or sound guy sucks, you either suck it up or don't play there again.

If the venue requires you to let their guy use your system, you either suck it up, or don't play there again.

If YOU'RE paying the sound guy, he does what you tell him to do. Period.

If he doesn't do what you tell him to do, and you hire him again, it's on you.

There's no amount of presets on your Helix or your XR18 that will cure the curse of "the unfamiliar sound guy who sucks".

all well said, and I agree....Not said the said 'unfamiliar sound guy sucks' doesnt have a solution that night in someway.  But it can be a shock if you arent aware of that potential issue.  First couple times it happened, it took me a bit to understand what was happening.  Once we had a consistent sound guy of our own it was much easier to transfer my 'home' work to the stage.  

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26 minutes ago, themetallikid said:

all well said, and I agree....Not said the said 'unfamiliar sound guy sucks' doesnt have a solution that night in someway.  But it can be a shock if you arent aware of that potential issue.  First couple times it happened, it took me a bit to understand what was happening.  Once we had a consistent sound guy of our own it was much easier to transfer my 'home' work to the stage.  

 

THIS^^^  is exactly the thing I ponder most often when I read posts in this and other forums covering the Helix.  Clearly given the more technical nature of modeling it constantly surprises me that so many people still avoid investigating and learning about all the technology pieces that the Helix depends upon in order to achieve a great performance.  I've often wondered if learning these sorts of things is maybe just a generational thing of not having interest in it, or if it's just something that takes time and exposure.  But certainly people are at great risk of not being able to take full advantage of this type of technology if they just absolve themselves of any responsibility to learn and master these technologies that allow the Helix to be the best it can be.  I have to believe I'd be very wary of investing the amount of money one can invest in modeling if I knew I was going to be at the mercy of someone else knowing what to do in order to make it all work well.

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