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Gain Staging for Monitor Output

Discussion in 'Recording' started by taxman, Mar 26, 2009.

  1. taxman

    taxman Active Member

    This is gain staging in reverse. I have an MBox2Pro which has a front panel volume control for the monitor output. I use unpowered speakers, so I have a monitor power amplifier with separate volume controls for each channel. The controls on the amp are really input attenuators. The amp is 100 watts a channel running into NS-10M speakers, which are rated at 60 watts, 120 peak.

    Should I run the amp full tilt at zero attenuation and control volume from the MBox? Or should I run the MBox at full output and control volume at the amp? Is there a happy medium where the amp is set so as not to blow the speakers, and then fine tuned with the MBox? If so, how many db of attenuation would be appropriate?
  2. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    Here is a general rule of thumb when setting input & output levels.

    The monitor output level of your M-Box should be set to approximately the 2 o'clock position. You should then slowly turn up your amplifier attenuators until you are in the ballpark of a comfortable monitoring level through your speakers. This will ensure the fact that you can increase your monitoring level via your M-Box.

    Turning things up to the 2 o'clock position is generally equivalent to raising a fader to its "0" position. Which is 2/3 of the way up. This will provide you with an additional 12 to 15 DB of additional available gain but is also considered the nominal operating level. This doesn't necessarily relate to bus output level controls which frequently have 0 at the very top, which is where that fader should be placed.

    It really doesn't matter where your power amplifier attenuators lie since they are considered input attenuators.

    Good question
    Ms. Remy Ann David
  3. taxman

    taxman Active Member


    I was hoping you would reply.
  4. Guitarfreak

    Guitarfreak Well-Known Member

    Would the 2 o'clock rule work with active monitors as well? I asked this question in another thread and never got a response. The active's I'm looking at have a -38dB to +6dB range on them. I was planning on setting them flat at 0dB, but after reading this I am thinking I might do the 2 o'clock on the interface thing. So basically, does the same rule apply even when an outboard amp is not involved?
  5. jg49

    jg49 Well-Known Member

    In a word no. The reason you probably did not get a response is because if you had active monitors, you would realize immediately that the only volume control you will have after setting the monitors to whatever (0db etc) is the interface unit.
  6. Guitarfreak

    Guitarfreak Well-Known Member

    NOT to be rude or insistent, but the picture states otherwise for this particular unit. Unless the knobs don't actually do anything. I still could be wrong. Who knows?

  7. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    In your case GF, you would set the monitors at 0. That way you are running them at unity.
  8. jg49

    jg49 Well-Known Member

    Gee, that is a picture of my monitor. There are knobs in the back? I never looked. So after I set them up I use them for the volume, I guess I set a mirror up and adjust them by reaching around each one every time I want to increase or decrease the volume. Oh and I have to set them each exactly the same while I do this or my stereo image will be all wacky won't it?
    Sorry but I am steeped in sarcasm today, rough day at work. Don't take it personally. Those really are my monitors. And what I was saying is that after setting those knobs to 0 db or whatever you have chosen, though I agree with Jack Attack that is usually 0, the only volume control is.... I think I am echoplexing.
    You set the volume on the back and leave it, I only ocassionally turn them up higher if we are listening to, not mixing, playbacks with a lot of people in the room and are sitting further back than my mixing desk.
  9. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    In a really simple gain structure like this - with only two or three levels of gain - you usually don't have to worry about the noise floor and clipping and can focus on convenience. Since I like to keep the master fader at 0 in the DAW, the only controls are the monitor knob on the interface and the adjustments on the back of the monitors. I set the levels on the monitors so that as I bring instruments into the mix I can adjust the knob on the interface from about 1-2 o'clock down to about 10 o'clock and keep the level of the mix at my preferred mixing volume (mid to high 80's).

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