Running fader outputs hotter?

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This topic contains 9 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by Profile photo of hery82 hery82 1 month ago.

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  • #116752
    Profile photo of Chris
    Chris
    Participant

    Bottom line upfront: Do you run your fader outputs hot?

    Background:

    We recently refurbished our set up with acoustic treatments, seating, and a reconfiguration of our sound system. When the engineers finished retuning the sound system, I noticed that their channel outputs were what I consider to be quite hot. Meaning, pushing closer to peaking meters on the channel strip. On several channels, I inspected the signal coming into the preamp, and it was typically below unity, but then switching the meter to post compressor, again, the output was pushing close to peak. I realized that they were pushing the make-up gain on the compressors higher to achieve this level of output. When I inquired about this, I was told that Allen & Heath boards typically are safe to run hot, and even if it does clip, it is a “soft clip”. I do respect these engineers and they come with quite a bit of experience and aren’t a “mom and pop shop” by any means. I am not a noob per se either. I have been running sound in some capacity for 25 years and while I do have some tendency to favor the “old ways”. Something doesn’t sit quite right about this to me and have been struggling with this philosophy since.

    1) When we aren’t pushing up the preamp gain to unity levels, we tend to have issues getting enough signal to the devices that depend on proper level. (i.e. live stream, ME1’s, heck, even the inputs to the channel compressor.)

    2) When bumping up the make up gain on the compressor for each channel, this pushes the MAIN L/R hotter and at some point are risking peaking this output, therefore having to lower the overall output to prevent peaking. Lowering the main output, I lose headroom on the amps and have to push them louder to make up for the loss of output. Additionally, having any kind of dynamics during the performance almost guarantees peaking.

    I have always favored keeping a reasonable amount of unity from the preamp all the way through the signal chain, to include the output, and it has served me well. I never have issues with feedback, peaking, or distortion. So when they told me this, and I subsequently tried it, I can confirm that when the system does peak I don’t hear any hard clipping, but it just feels wrong and I feel like I am fighting to keep that level below peak the whole time I am behind the board. I end up pushing my groups, auxes, etc…, to this near peak level and next thing I know, I have a flashing Christmas tree on my hands. I feel like the red lights are there for a reason, and the board alerts you to peaking for a reason. Something just isn’t adding up. When I followed up and asked again, “are you sure?”, they responded saying that digital board manufacturers set the clip lights to have more margin so that you shouldn’t get to digital distortion. Is that reason alone to push it harder or am I missing the purpose for running things hot?

    Thoughts?

    #116757
    Profile photo of RuneS
    RuneS
    Participant

    As long as you are not being silly about it, it doesn’t really matter. As long as your gain structure isn’t so bad that you are out of range of compressor thresholds etc. then it doesn’t matter. Whether you use make-up gain to get more output or the fader doesn’t matter.

    In regards to clipping: ‘Peak’ is not clipping. ‘Peak’ lights up at -5dB. If you DO clip the analog outputs then it is isn’t the worst clipping on any console. Wouldn’t do it though. Clipping an AES out probably isn’t a good idea regardless.

    The reason you often see AH users driving main-outs hard is probably because consoles like iLive had a reputation for having a very low output. Those where always in the red.

    #116773
    Profile photo of Brian
    Brian
    Participant

    What your integrators said is generally true about the board, but I do have a problem with their decisions.

    Like RuneS said, I believe the “reason” A&H consoles can be pushed harder than other brands of consoles is simply because of metering. A&H has elected to turn the “clip” light on below the actual clipping threshold while other manufactures turn the “clip” light on at or above the actual clipping threshold. It’s not that A&H consoles are magical, they just report clipping when it really isn’t clipping.

    Some users (like Drew Thornton – FOH for Billie Eilish) say the board sounds better when it is pushed this hard. Personally I haven’t tried it to really know. However the ultimate factor is “how it sounds.” Clipping is generally pretty awful, so if your system sounds good the way it is set up, then it probably isn’t actually clipping. Whether or not you want to run the console this way is entirely up to you however.

    That being said, I have a problem with how your board is currently set up. I don’t agree with your integrators who have “under gained” the inputs only to use another another place (like make up gain) to gain the inputs hotter father down the signal chain. If you want to run the board so that your inputs are just beginning to activate the “clip” lights on the console, this should be done at the preamp, not buried somewhere else in the console. IMHO, make up gain should be used to “make up” gain lost to compression, not to purposefully increase the gain above what the level was coming into the compressor.

    While some might argue that this is personal opinion and not a design decision, I’ll counter with Robert Scovill. He can describe it much better than I can. https://youtu.be/sdrgPJD0Vvg?si=693iZxPFRPYBekXa

    #116780
    Profile photo of RS
    RS
    Participant

    Keep in mind, that dLive is using peak levels for metering only. This could make it pretty hard, depending on the incoming material, to set line level on the preamp side. Hence I was requesting the possibility to switch to RMS metering, at least at the preamp stage, 1,5 years ago.

    #117168
    Profile photo of Chris
    Chris
    Participant

    I super appreciate everyone’s input on the matter. It is a very interesting conversation on what is vs. what should be. I won’t be so shy to push the board hotter, but the red lights just feel so… icky. It definitely makes me feel a lot more comfortable that if I struggle to get a level, I can push it without much fear.

    I think I probably would prefer RMS metering as well especially if peaking doesn’t seem to matter as much anymore. I think it would be even more important in the broadcast world since LUFS is the new standard as opposed to peak level.

    I guess the landscape is changing constantly and with the future containing more 32 but audio, I guess clipping and distortion will eventually no longer exist one day.

    Blessing on all and thank you again for your valuable input.

    #117220
    Profile photo of SteffenR
    SteffenR
    Participant

    BTW, one can configure the metering ballistics.

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    #117228
    Profile photo of RS
    RS
    Participant

    But the difference between Peak and RMS metering is not only in timing settings, no?

    #118646
    Profile photo of Chris
    Chris
    Participant

    I have had to adjust the metering ballistics as I noticed right off the bat that it was a bit too slow, and the peak metering was a bit too fast by default.

    A video popped up in my suggested feed that just so happened to be a Dave Rat video that explained this quite well. Different board but similar concept. Very enlightening.

    youtu.be/NctemYCNO9g

    #118931
    Profile photo of hery82
    hery82
    Participant

    When experiencing hotter output levels from running faders, it’s crucial to assess signal flow, equipment settings, and potential issues like gain staging or signal clipping. Properly calibrating levels, adjusting gain structure, and troubleshooting any hardware/software anomalies can help maintain consistent and balanced audio output without compromising quality.

    #119088
    Profile photo of hery82
    hery82
    Participant

    Consider monitoring your fader levels when running hot. Higher outputs can impact overall audio quality and lead to distortion. Balance is key for optimal sound reproduction and a clean mix.

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