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Powercab: best way to limit volume for home use?


jpspoons
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Hello all, I took delivery of a Powercab two days ago after reading four years' worth of TGP posts, and posting a thread there. i do have a couple of questions, apologies for the overlap if anyone here is on TGP as well.

 

My first question is - it's really loud, and I hadn't thought through the implications of maxing out the output from the Helix and controlling the volume at the Powercab, in that if my 6 year old wanders in and twists one dial before I can stop him, he's standing next to 125dB.

 

So - I'm looking for a way to limit the volume output for home use. Ideally one that reduces the Powercab output for home sessions, rather than one that reduces the Helix output or Powercab input, as I believe that either of those approaches will compromise the tone.

 

Will the global remote level control setting in the Helix work? Would I be able to back that off and be confident that no matter what patch I put the Helix (or Powercab) onto during a home session, the volume output will be always be capped at -60dB (or whatever)? I haven't had a chance to test this yet as my AES cable hasn't arrived.

 

I've thought of some other potential ideas and ruled some out, posting here for completeness - any other ideas gratefully received.

  1. Turn down the output from the Helix with big volume knob... just moves the problem to a different place. And compromises tone.
  2. Turn down the output from the Helix at amp channel volume or output block... not global, so if I move to a different preset it could go back to full output. And compromises tone.
  3. Global EQ reduction on Helix - I've read that this doesn;t apply to the AES output, is that right? And compromises tone.
  4. Turn down the global input at the Powercab... I think and hope this would be a "start of every session" setting depending on whether I'm at home or jamming / gigging... is it foolproof? Again compromises tone I believe, but I could live with this one for a foolproof (childproof) solution. 
  5. Using midi control with an expression pedal and Helix to control the volume between a lower and upper limit. This works - but it doesn't disable the Powercab volume knob, it just takes a bit longer to respond and override the pedal
  6. Some kind of physical device to thwart small fingers. I'm thinking about buying one or two of these to put around the Powercab volume know and make it much harder to turn quickly: https://www.magnosphere.co.uk/ring-magnets-neodymium/ring-magnet-35mm-x-24mm-x-10mm-neodymium-n35-nickel-plated-pull-6-6kg/a-1093
    Are there any downsides to that, i.e. having a magnet up by the controls?

 

Many thanks in advance for any thoughts!

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Hi jp, welcome to the dark side! :-)

 

You've pretty much covered the possibilities.

Since this is a home use situation, consider this. It's what I do, but for different reasons.

Get something like the Korg nanoKontrol2. Very cheap. USB connection to your computer.

DL a MIDI Monitor that allows you to route an incoming signal to an outgoing device. MIDIOX works if you have a PC, but there's others out there.

Set one of the controls on the Korg (or whatever) to CC#7 and route the signal either directly to the Powercab (if you have it connected by USB) or to your Helix set to MIDI THRU and use a MIDI cable to the Powercab.

Dime the Powercab. It's a Class D amp, so that's not an issue.

Make sure (with the MIDI Monitor) that the Powercab (on CC#7) is all the way down before you do anything to make noise!

Turn up the Korg SLOWLY till you get the level you want.

Put the Korg out of reach of your 6yo.

There's likely other devices than the Korg that will work, but the Korg is very lightweight plastic, easy to put wherever, and I've used mine for over 10 years for controlling DAWs, very dependable and always available on fleabay for cheap.

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On 6/16/2022 at 4:45 PM, rd2rk said:

Hi jp, welcome to the dark side! :-)

 

Ha ha, thank you @rd2rk, and good to see you here as well as on TGP!

 

Thanks for the suggestion as well. What would the behaviour of the Powercab volume knob be in this scenario - would it be disabled? My (admittedly little) experience of controlling the PC+ by midi from the Helix was that the expression pedal worked well at setting the volume between e.g. 0% and 30%.

 

But if I moved the PC+ volume knob, it took over from its physical position - so if it was at noon, and I touched it, it would jump to 50% for the sake of argument.

 

So - my concern would be that if the knob could override the Korg, then diming it and then turning the knob DOWN would very quickly move it to 99% volume - not ideal!

 

I'd hoped that the Helix midi control would disable the PC+ knob, but that doesn't seem to be the case - I'd be interested to know what happens in your scenario... maybe don;t dime it for an experiment though!

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I am cautiously optimisic that using the Helix Remote Global setting to control the volume at home might be viable - I'm guessing not many people have ever chosen to global control all the PC+ parameters though, why would you if you can set individually per preset. 

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On 6/16/2022 at 12:20 PM, jpspoons said:

 

Ha ha, thank you @rd2rk, and good to see you here as well as on TGP!

 

Thanks for the suggestion as well. What would the behaviour of the Powercab volume knob be in this scenario - would it be disabled? My (admittedly little) experience of controlling the PC+ by midi from the Helix was that the expression pedal worked well at setting the volume between e.g. 0% and 30%.

 

But if I moved the PC+ volume knob, it took over from its physical position - so if it was at noon, and I touched it, it would jump to 50% for the sake of argument.

 

So - my concern would be that if the knob could override the Korg, then diming it and then turning the knob DOWN would very quickly move it to 99% volume - not ideal!

 

I'd hoped that the Helix midi control would disable the PC+ knob, but that doesn't seem to be the case - I'd be interested to know what happens in your scenario... maybe don;t dime it for an experiment though!

 

By diming the Powercab's volume knob you prevent the scenario you described - junior grabs the knob and gets vaporized by 110db of power chord!

By also diming the Helix Volume knob you're sending a UNITY signal to the Powercab.

The Volume Knobs on Helix and Powercab can then ONLY be turned DOWN.

The room level is entirely controlled by the Korg, which is small and light and can easily be placed out of reach of small people. Although the USB cable it comes with is short, it works fine with a 10 ft Amazon Basics Extender.

 

When you shut down, yes, the Powercab's Volume will default to wherever the knob is. I avoid problems by simply using the Helix and Powercab's Volume knobs during startup (see below). That's actually a good commonsense practice in any situation. Once the MIDI Monitor/MIDI router is active twisting the knob all the way down shows you that it's working and shuts down the Powercab's volume.

 

Example Startup Routine:

 

Helix BIG KNOB DOWN (full counter clockwise). Helix ON.

Powercab Volume DOWN (full counter clockwise). Powercab ON.

MIDI Monitor loaded and configured. Knob/slider assigned to CC#7 full down so that monitor shows last Value of ZERO.

NOTE: Powercab and Helix (if routing thru Helix) need to be ON so that the MIDI driver sees them when starting the Monitor.

Powercab volume knob dimed (slowly).

Helix BIG KNOB dimed (slowly).

Hit a note and turn up the Korg control to desired level.

 

This DOES require a level of responsibility on the part of the adult in the room :-)

It becomes second nature. If you've ever operated a PA system on a regular basis you know what I mean.

 

The only way junior will be able to turn up the levels is if he manages to grab one of the parameter adjustment knobs on Helix. Unless you set up your presets with the GAIN/CH VOLUME/MASTER or FX Levels REALLY LOW, that shouldn't result in fatal db levels.

 

 

 

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Thanks for the considered response@rd2rk, much appreciated.

 

On 6/17/2022 at 1:54 AM, rd2rk said:

This DOES require a level of responsibility on the part of the adult in the room :-)

 

So... it's childproof but not idiotproof then :-D I hate being the critical point of failure...

 

On 6/17/2022 at 1:54 AM, rd2rk said:

By diming the Powercab's volume knob you prevent the scenario you described - junior grabs the knob and gets vaporized by 110db of power chord!

 

Is this different when running MIDI with the Korg vs the Helix? Disclaimer: I haven't actually dared to try diming both volume knobs, but setting volume at 20 with MIDI and then turning DOWN the Powercab from noon gives an almighty volume jump to the physical position of the knob.

 

 

On 6/16/2022 at 4:45 PM, rd2rk said:

Get something like the Korg nanoKontrol2

 

I'll keep an eye on ebay, but can't find many here in the UK. Would something like this work? I have one gathering dust from "that time I had a major break-up and decided to learn piano..." E-MU Xboard 49 review | MusicRadar

 

And by the way, feel free to tell me that I'm way over-thinking this, and that once I have the AES cable up and running, I'll never need to access the controls again, so I can just tilt it back and play louder to scare the rascal off if he gets too close...

 

Thanks again!

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On 6/17/2022 at 2:34 PM, jpspoons said:

Is this different when running MIDI with the Korg vs the Helix? Disclaimer: I haven't actually dared to try diming both volume knobs, but setting volume at 20 with MIDI and then turning DOWN the Powercab from noon gives an almighty volume jump to the physical position of the knob.

 

I'm not sure what you're talking about, but my experience with using an exp pedal vs using a rotary/slider on the Korg is night and day.

With my Catalyst Master set to 1/4 on the .5 watt setting I'm getting 65-80db (same meter as TPS uses). Turning up the Korg to match the volume with my PC212 dimed is MIDI Value 11 out of 127. VERY fine control.

 

The AES cable is irrelevant to the issue. It's advantage is one less cable and one less AD/DA conversion.

Technically, the Helix Volume control happens prior to the converters, in the digital realm. There's a bit of tone loss having to do with bit rate gobbledygook if the Volume knob is turned down. It's nothing that normal human ears can hear, but just FYI, you don't LOSE anything by diming both volume knobs.

 

As to scaring the rascal off with volume, IME, children are immune to volume. The more the merrier!

 

Here's a link to the Korg at Thomann:

 

Korg nanoKONTROL 2 black – Thomann UK

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Thanks again @rd2rk !

 

On 6/17/2022 at 10:43 PM, rd2rk said:

KONTROL 2 black – Thomann UK

 

Ooh that looks nice... given that I'd never heard of such a thing two days ago, now I find myself needing one!! Looking at the controls, I'm guessing that as well as controlling a Powercab, you could set it up to control Cubase (or another DAW) through MIDI on the Helix? So you could have Helix as the audio interface and the Korg as a basic control surface? WAY better than pawing away at a laptop touchscreen or trying to memorise keyboard shortcuts - I love it!

 

 

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On 6/17/2022 at 10:43 PM, rd2rk said:

I'm not sure what you're talking about, but my experience with using an exp pedal vs using a rotary/slider on the Korg is night and day.

 

I went off topic there for a moment, GAS kicked in. I don't think I've explained myself very well, sorry. Here's what I found when I set up the Helix to MIDI control the Powercab volume.

  • I set up EXP2 as a MIDI controller with min MIDI value 0, max MIDI value e.g. 20 (out of 127) - loud enough to test but not deafen if I messed up.
  • This worked - the pedal controlled the Powercab volume output between 0% and say 15% (don't know the dB, sorry)
  • HOWEVER if I then move the volume knob on the Powercab itself - up or down - it takes over the volume control, it isn't limited to the 0-20 MIDI value range, and it kicks in at its current physical position (eg noon) rather than from the current volume output of the amp.

So my concern is not the sensitivity of the volume control - it's that the Powercab volume knob overrides the MIDI, presenting the risk that junior could turn the Powercab volume knob DOWN, but the actual volume would jump to 99%. Hope that makes more sense.

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DAW and MIDI control are separate functions from the AI. The Korg communicates over USB. That's why you need a way to route MIDI to Helix/Powercab and also why I mentioned that it's only useful in a home setup with a computer. Since it requires a driver you can't use a MIDI Host box either.

If you use it to control a DAW there's two ways to do it. Either you assign each DAW function manually to the Korg's controls (PITA but possible) or you use the default DAW configuration. If you use the default configuration CC#7 is probably in use already (not in Reaper, which is my primary DAW), and even if not, you can't use the default DAW configuration and custom configuration concurrently. 

This is not an issue for me, as I have TWO nanoKontrols!

 

If you get the Korg and want to try manual programming I can help you out with that.

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On 6/17/2022 at 4:45 PM, jpspoons said:

 

I went off topic there for a moment, GAS kicked in. I don't think I've explained myself very well, sorry. Here's what I found when I set up the Helix to MIDI control the Powercab volume.

  • I set up EXP2 as a MIDI controller with min MIDI value 0, max MIDI value e.g. 20 (out of 127) - loud enough to test but not deafen if I messed up.
  • This worked - the pedal controlled the Powercab volume output between 0% and say 15% (don't know the dB, sorry)
  • HOWEVER if I then move the volume knob on the Powercab itself - up or down - it takes over the volume control, it isn't limited to the 0-20 MIDI value range, and it kicks in at its current physical position (eg noon) rather than from the current volume output of the amp.

So my concern is not the sensitivity of the volume control - it's that the Powercab volume knob overrides the MIDI, presenting the risk that junior could turn the Powercab volume knob DOWN, but the actual volume would jump to 99%. Hope that makes more sense.

 

That's why you dime or disable (better) the Helix Volume knob. In order to properly gain stage the Powercab for best tone you need to have your Helix Output level set the same for every preset. You need to have them set so that the loudest note you play - Lead boost/OD/DIST engaged and hard picking/strumming - gets the Powercab Input LED into the yellow (amber?) with MAYBE an OCCASIONAL flash of red. If you leave the Helix Volume knob engaged using it changes the level to the Powercab Input!

 

BTW - this is the same method you'd use when sending to FOH.

 

EDIT: keep in mind that when the Helix Volume knob is dimed, that is not 10 on a scale like with an amplifier.

It is UNITY: Output = Input  or 0db. Neither boosted nor cut.

Turning the knob DOWN DECREASES volume to -db levels.

 

The Powercab Volume control WILL override the MIDI. That's why you dime the Powercab's volume knob. Then it can ONLY turn the level DOWN.

Your MIDI controller is the sole point of Volume control - zero = zero and 127 = death.

 

Since your goal here is to get that final volume control out of the li'l rascal's reach, this is the solution!

Put the Korg where he can't reach it and nothing he does on the Helix or the Powercab will have serious consequences.

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Thanks again @rd2rk - this is turning into a private chat, but it's much appreciated! And sorry for the delayed response - my wife tested positive for covid today, which has scuppered most of our plans for the weekend, let alone any hope of guitar time. Just think, when the Powercab came out, no-one had heard of coronavirus... I'm now drinking red wine for the immune system benefits, let's see if it makes me more coherent than usual.

 

On 6/18/2022 at 12:01 AM, rd2rk said:

The Powercab Volume control WILL override the MIDI. That's why you dime the Powercab's volume knob. Then it can ONLY turn the level DOWN.

Your MIDI controller is the sole point of Volume control - zero = zero and 127 = death.


This is my one nagging doubt from the short test I did... it felt to me like the Powercab volume override was absolute to its physical position, rather than relative to the current volume level, if that makes sense. So if the MIDI controller setvolume at 15% and PC+ is dimed, I think what you're saying is that turning down the volume knob would take it to 14%... my fear is that it will go to 99%.

 

BUT there's only one way to find out, and I'm really into the concept of the Korg - so even if it turns out that it doesn't conquer the volume knob, I'm buying one anyway! 

 

On 6/17/2022 at 11:45 PM, rd2rk said:

you can't use the default DAW configuration and custom configuration concurrently. 

 

I wasn't very clear on my post (I know, I'm as shocked as you are) - it would be two separate use cases for me for the Korg:

  1. Amp in the room; purely to limit the volume
  2.  Recording: Helix - > laptop, and Korg => laptop. (No Poercab) I have no idea why I thought I would have to plug the Korg into the Helix for that, obviously for a DAW I would have both laptop and USB input to hand. I like the sound of the default DAW configuration.
On 6/17/2022 at 11:45 PM, rd2rk said:

If you get the Korg and want to try manual programming I can help you out with that.

You are indeed a gentleman, thank you!

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On 6/18/2022 at 3:58 PM, jpspoons said:

This is my one nagging doubt from the short test I did... it felt to me like the Powercab volume override was absolute to its physical position, rather than relative to the current volume level, if that makes sense. So if the MIDI controller setvolume at 15% and PC+ is dimed, I think what you're saying is that turning down the volume knob would take it to 14%... my fear is that it will go to 99%.

 

I just tried it. You are correct. Leave it to someone with a kid to figure that out!

So bottom line, no way to do what you're wanting to do.

I learn something new everyday!

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Thank you for the confirmation - and I hope no-one was harmed in the process! I'm still buying a Korg anyway.

 

Yes, you have to always be keenly aware that if there's a lollipop in the armour, your kid's going to find it.

 

I'm now actually thinking that tilting the cab back and sticking blu-tack (do you have / call it that in other parts of the world?) around the volume knob to slow down the volume increase might do the trick.

 

The other two defences are 

  • Subterfuge: put something over the colour ring on the Powercab... if there's no changing colour, and the volume knob is a bit out of the way, then there's nothing really to see for a 6 year old
  • Distraction: "wow, look at my pedalboard! you can make it light up in different colours AND change the sound by stomping on this button!"...... "That;s enough stomping now... no, really...."

I can always replace the Helix, but not his hearing... see, I do the responsbility incredibly well in theory, it's just the practice I'm worried about.

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I meant that configured as I described with the Korg, turning down the knob causes it to jump to max volume as you discovered.

My goal was to make it easier to control the PC's volume, since the panel is difficult to get at with the Catalyst on top.

I had no reason to try what your situation led you to try.

You might try some sort of right angled cover to go over the PC's panel. Just hide the knobs. All I can think of.

 

EDIT: I'm sure you'll come up with something. Experience will out!

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For the record I did not say 'lollipop' - I used a common idiom which clearly was seen as a potential racist slur. Dear me.

 

in a less idiomatic way: Yes, you have to always be keenly aware that if there's a potential flaw, your kid's going to find it.

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On 6/18/2022 at 5:08 PM, jpspoons said:

For the record I did not say 'lollipop' - I used a common idiom which clearly was seen as a potential racist slur. Dear me.

 

 

When the robots are in charge of checking for political correctness, there's no such thing as "context".

Artificial intelligence is - artificial!

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