Symphony I/O: Setting Levels

How do I set a recording level?

Once your microphone or instrument is connected, your audio software is configured and youʼve created a new recording track, just how do you set the input gain for a proper recording level in your audio software? Thereʼs no simple answer, but with a few guidelines and a bit of experience, you can master setting a proper level. Ideally, the input gain should be set so that when the input signal is at its loudest, the level in audio software (or in Maestro) is just below maximum without lighting the Over indicator. In reality, itʼs unlikely that youʼll be able to guess just the right gain setting to accomplish this - when your gain is too low, the signal never gets close to maximum and when your gain is too high, a digital Over may occur.   Now, with a 24-bit system (such as Symphony I/O), the noise floor is so low that thereʼs no real penalty for undershooting the gain setting and recording at a lower level. There IS a penalty for overshooting the gain setting - a digital Over that results in significantly increased distortion. Thus, itʼs better to work with a recording level thatʼs a bit too low than a level thatʼs a bit too high.   Just how much to undershoot the gain setting is determined by the nature of the sound being recorded. As a general rule, instruments such as bass and organ have a more consistent level than percussive instruments, such as a tambourine, and may be recorded at a higher level. Also, the performerʼs skill and playing style can dictate more or less caution when setting levels. As you gain experience, youʼll be able to more accurately set a good recording level while avoiding digital overs.  

How do I set the input level of my powered speakers?

Most powered speakers offer an input volume control, often labelled as input sensitivity. Rather than describe an overly complicated method for setting this control, the easiest way to determine the right setting is to note where you generally set Symphony I/Oʼs output level. If you find yourself rarely turning the output past a very low output level (say, -35 dB), decrease the input sensitivity on the speaker. If, on the other hand, you find yourself setting Symphony I/Oʼs level for full output and the speakers arenʼt loud enough, increase the input sensitivity. Ideally, Symphony I/O’s Speaker output should be at 0 dB (i.e no attenuation) when you’re listening at your absolute maximum desired volume.