Monitor Signal Quality Question

Discussion in 'Monitoring' started by Bierce85, Feb 5, 2007.

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  1. Bierce85

    Bierce85 Guest

    I've got a Digi 002r interface and today I bought a Presonus HP4 headphone amp. I had been using the monitor outs with balanced 1/4 inch cables into the back of the monitors. I set up the HP4 today using the main L and R outputs into the HP4, then the HP4's L and R outputs into the monitors using good quality mogami balanced cables.

    My question is: does this method result in any signal loss? I can't really tell just by listening, although the sound definitely changed. I was playing some .mp3s with 160 kbps bit rate and I could really notice the lack of quality in them compared to a higher quality file. I really like the convenience of having the monitor level control and mute button right on my desk but if the signal is being degraded by going through the hp4 instead of just straight from the monitor outs then it's not worth it.

    Also, originally I tried the "monitor outs" through the hp4 into the monitors and the monitors did not get a signal, but when I switched to the "main outs" on the back of the 002 the monitors were now getting a signal. Any reason for this? Is there a better way set this up?

  2. Scoobie

    Scoobie Active Member

    Sep 6, 2006
    I would go directly from the main outs of your interface to your mointors..............

    You said.....although the sound definitely changed,
    That right their should tell you it did degrade the signal.

    Don't your Digi have more than one set of outputs.
    Hook your HP4 up to another set of outputs and control it with your software.

  3. Mises

    Mises Guest

    Yes, you certainly get signal distortion (degradation) by running your D/A output into a headphone amp, along with additive noise. The operative question is how much distortion, and also how high is the noise floor of that headphone amplifier.

    You'd have better luck with a Rane headphone amplifier, as they are fairly transparent and the noise floor is sufficiently low for monitoring purposes.

    I've been using an HC-6 for many years, and the A/B difference between it being in the path and not in the path is not nearly as apparent as it is with cheaper headphone amps.

    I route my signals through an 2 x 2 matrix. I have a clean path for reference and then a dirtier path which goes through the mixing board and into a headphone amp, then to a different pair of monitors.

    The clean path goes right from the D/A output into a passive attenuator knob, then into my better pair of active monitors. Ideally, thats the way you want to do it if transparency is your goal.

    Simply put, if you dont like the sound your headphone amp is making... pack it back up in original box and return or exchange it. Buy yourself a Rane HC-6 used on e-bay for around $150 or so (new, its like $400 or thereabouts)..... and if you don't like the Rane... then get yourself a Grace Designs.
  4. Bierce85

    Bierce85 Guest

    Guys thank you very much for the advise. Mises, I actually really do like the sound of the headphones through the amp, I'm just not crazy about the sound of the monitors after going through it. How important would you guys say it is to get the cleanest possible signal on your main (only) monitors?

    I ask because although it may seem blasphemous for someone who's supposed to be a sound engineer of sorts to prefer convenience (volume knob/mute/mono switch up on the desk instead of having to reach to the side) to best possible sound, but dammit... I really like having that knob within reach. Will a degraded signal yield an inaccurate result or just a not as pleasing to the ear one?
  5. Mises

    Mises Guest

    Convenience and ergonomics of your studio wins out in my humble opinion. You have to have everything in your studio exactly where you want itto be. It has to be both ergonomic as well as aesthetic.

    If you need a volume knob close by where you mainly sit... then you'll be happier that way, so do it.

    While I'm not that familiar with your particular headphone amp, your probably not losing that much clarity... and the very small difference is not usually worth it versus convenience.

    Also, the headphone amp is good because if it has several channels, it likely lets you add in an AUX set of speakers and also to add a 'sub', and so you can have a seperate volume knobs for each of those right next to you. Thats the way I used to set it up. Very convenient.

    Of course... if at some point you decide that you still need that volume knob close to you, AND you want clarity... here is your solution: (see the M3PH MKII) (m-patch 1) (m-patch 2)

    These are passive volume knobs, meant for when you want clarity. Your A/D/A output goes right into this passive volume controller and then into your monitors. No amplifier circuitto degrade the signal. Plus it has a little routing matrix so you can switch differnt input and output combinations, like you can send the audio to a different pair of monitors (if you had 2 pairs).

    The rack mountable Coleman model is really nice. Tad expensive by most peoples budgets.

    The SMPro Audio M-Patch is the same as the Coleman only much more affordable, about $75 for M-Patch 1, and $150 for M-Patch 2.

    Both M-Patch models are either rackmountable (it comes with a kit which lets you rackmount it in a full-sized 19 inch rack ), or can be placed on desktop and takes up little space as it has a small footprint..... whichever is your preference.
  6. Spase

    Spase Active Member

    Feb 21, 2006
    I am using a Soundcraft Compct 4 mixer as my headphone amp and monitor router. It has 2 headphone outs and main and monitor outs. I use it to switch between my computer speakers, my monitors and my headphones. It seems to sound pretty decent and only set me back $100 brand new. It doesn't have mutes for the outs, but the volumes knobs are right there. I got it at the same time I got my monitors, so its hard to say if there is much affect on the signal.
  7. dementedchord

    dementedchord Well-Known Member

    May 11, 2006
    i'm with scoobie on this one if you heard a difference after hooking up tha phone amp.... not good.... better to set the monitors up on the primary out and then figure out your configuration problem on that headphone out on your interface....

    you might want to reread some of the other comments and question the veracity of those that seem to contradict themselves.
  8. Mises

    Mises Guest

    Its really quite simple.. and no compromises need to be made here.

    If somebody is torn between the two different ways... then the answer is astoundingly simple. Just do it both ways because there exists zero excuse for not doing it both ways if thats what you want.

    You simply run two paths (A/B). A dirty path, and a clean path.

    Problem solved, and it only costs $75 additional on top of what he has now.

    The clean path is strictly the passive attenuator knob with the routing switches going directly to monitors... and then the dirtier path is whatever he wants it to be.

    My dirty path, for example, is D/A --> Passive Attenuator & A/B Switch --> Mixing board --> Rane HC-6 (which runs multiple sets of monitors and subs which I can volume control) -- > crappier monitors... and I generally use this one for tracking or whenevr I'm actually using my mixing board. However, when I'm doing reference monitoring (I mix "in the box" - I flip the A/B switch... whamo' I'm in the clean path and it routes to my better pair of monitors.
  9. Mises

    Mises Guest

    As an additional aside, running the monitors through the headphone amp is hardly much worse than running it through the mixing console which also distorts the signal... and the vast majority of people do this anyway, so I dont think a big deal needs to be made about it just because the sound changes a tad.

    Monitoring the "dirty" way, is the default method for probably 90+ percent of people who have studios because people almost always run through the board. Its not the other way around. Few people have a dedicated clean path.
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