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Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 --- low recording level issue Condenser Microphones
Old 25th December 2010
  #1
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Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 --- low recording level issue

Hey to all who respond!!

Bought Saffire Pro 40 yesterday (xmas eve) got it home. updated firmware and mix control, downloaded latest versions available from focusrite web page. restarted a few times...once i was sure i was up to date, i installed the plugins and then plugged in my SE Electronics ICIS condenser tube mic which had been warming up for about 30mins. when i checked the signal level i found i had to push the gain to 10 (max) to get a decent level!? tried other inputs and was the same story.

was wondering if any saffire pro 40 owners experienced and resolved this......i wrote off to focusrite about the issue and am waiting for a response, prob in the new year. when/if they resolve the, it would be good to have this problem here because i have seen this issue elsewhere online but they have been using windows and/or cubase systems. i use os x 10.6.5 logic 9.1.1. i have not seen this issue on gearslutz.

would be great if i could resolve this on before 2011 because i have an album to record from the 27th....i may be able to work with it but surely its not good or 'normal' to drive the pre amps so much for vocals on a condenser mic which requires no phantom? even on the box it displays the levels at no more than 7!! loool

Help would be much appreciated!!! heh
Old 25th December 2010
  #2
Gear Addict
 
Capashitor's Avatar
Hi,
By default logic sets an attenuation of 20 dB when recording, this can bet set to 0 in the audio preference panel within logic. Also check the pad is disengaged on the channel you are using and make sure your XLR cable has both phases working.
Old 25th December 2010
  #3
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hey Capa****or

i changed that -20dB attenuation and still had the issue. i done that prior to posting, while i was tinkering with the settings....

what do u mean by 'make sure your XLR cable has both phases working.' ?? how would i check that? these are my first bits of gear (whats listed on my signature) so no spare bits as yet.....

the pad was not activated. on channel 3-8 there is no pad, and the pad on the mic was not engaged....

:-)

thanx for the reply on xmas day and all
Old 25th December 2010
  #4
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Capashitor's Avatar
An xlr has one ground and two phases. If one phase is lacking you get 6dB less than what you should be getting, so you need to be certain your cable is intact. Is there a pad switch on the mic ? What source are you recording, at what level and what distance ? The focusrite is a fine interface and the pres are usable but they only have like 55dB of (clean) gain. Don't be afraid to crank the gain up.

EDIT : I did not see you were using a tube mic. Try turning the phantom power off, you don't need it.
Old 26th December 2010
  #5
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the cable is new but i know that does not definitely mean its intact...will have to find a way to test it....thnk i have an OLD xlr laying around from a broken mic frm my DJ'ing days ...that would make sense, loosing 6dB. the mic snds nice cranked up to ten but as i said it jus sounds like there is a pad in the chain sumwher.

yea thers a -10dB pad on the mic but thats off. recording vocals. hip hop lyrics. maybe 4" from the mic?? i have the pop shield there too. the phantom was off. i re-read the documentation because that as one of my first thoughts but no joy.
Old 26th December 2010
  #6
Lives for gear
What about the cable between the mic and the power supply? This happened once when i was using a mates Rode Classic II down here in Australia...Good thing was he rang Rode, and they sent him a new cable via express mail the next day...for free...

The fact that ALL the inputs are doing the same thing, i'm thinking its more an issue with whats in the chain before that...so yeh, just make sure the cable between the mic and the PSU is working well...generally this is the first thing that goes with most tube mic's i've encountered.

Thats just speaking from the most likely cause for all of them to be doing that...otherwise you might have got a dodgy unit...which would be strange for that particular product line (hardware speaking anyway).
Old 26th December 2010
  #7
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I have the same problem

I also have the focusrite saffire pro 40 and i too get a very very quiet signal from mics on any of the inputs. I too emailed focusrite and they just asked if i tried different mics and different cables which i have done so idk.
Old 26th December 2010
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by o0JAKEOo View Post
I also have the focusrite saffire pro 40 and i too get a very very quiet signal from mics on any of the inputs. I too emailed focusrite and they just asked if i tried different mics and different cables which i have done so idk.
Dodgy batch? interesting...i've only got the octopre mkII dynamic which has the same pre's, i can tell you when the pre's are working they're great, condenser wise, my Rode NT1a only needs the gain up like halfway...
Old 26th December 2010
  #9
Old 26th December 2010
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nelson89 View Post
Dodgy batch? interesting...i've only got the octopre mkII dynamic which has the same pre's, i can tell you when the pre's are working they're great, condenser wise, my Rode NT1a only needs the gain up like halfway...
thats what i'd expect from the pre's on this unit. in my first post i mentioned even on the box it came in the gains are no more than 7! lol they are even showin me something is not as it should be!! heh mmmm dodgy batch...hope not. i really do think its software (cause the other belief is hardware which is a replacement after i really need it to perform!)

NT2a was a great mic how does the NT1a sound??
Old 26th December 2010
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by o0JAKEOo View Post
I also have the focusrite saffire pro 40 and i too get a very very quiet signal from mics on any of the inputs. I too emailed focusrite and they just asked if i tried different mics and different cables which i have done so idk.
when did u email them and roughly how long ago did they reply?
Old 26th December 2010
  #12
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Smile

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nelson89 View Post
What about the cable between the mic and the power supply? This happened once when i was using a mates Rode Classic II down here in Australia...Good thing was he rang Rode, and they sent him a new cable via express mail the next day...for free...

The fact that ALL the inputs are doing the same thing, i'm thinking its more an issue with whats in the chain before that...so yeh, just make sure the cable between the mic and the PSU is working well...generally this is the first thing that goes with most tube mic's i've encountered.

Thats just speaking from the most likely cause for all of them to be doing that...otherwise you might have got a dodgy unit...which would be strange for that particular product line (hardware speaking anyway).
thanx for those suggestions. i am going to a friends who has a mixer with two mic inputs. we will be able to eliminate some of those areas. should this problem persist beyond tomorrow, i shall [email protected] friend's on the 27th so will up date after. although, would love to up date in the next half hour after i have read those links confirming i what the issue is and that i have fixed i!!!

EDIT: Had a look at those links and those were the links i'd seen before posting here. one is on a windows system, which i browsed but found nothing i could use, and the other the issue was not resolved....the search for answers continues :-}

https://www.gearslutz.com/board/images/icons/icon7.gif

Last edited by wezz; 26th December 2010 at 03:31 AM.. Reason: More information
Old 26th December 2010
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wezz View Post
thats what i'd expect from the pre's on this unit. in my first post i mentioned even on the box it came in the gains are no more than 7! lol they are even showin me something is not as it should be!! heh mmmm dodgy batch...hope not. i really do think its software (cause the other belief is hardware which is a replacement after i really need it to perform!)

NT2a was a great mic how does the NT1a sound??
NT2a is better...the NT1a is super quiet noise wise, it started off as my go to vocal mic a few years back...but its a bit bright for my taste, but worked great for darker sources, or as a room mic. I use it as a room mic all the time, it sounds really good far away...which a lot of mic's can't seem to do, i use it for acoustic guitar a lot as well...just not vocals anymore. Great mic for the price though.
Old 4th January 2011
  #14
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**** Update ****

Went to friends and tested out mic (Samson condenser) and concluded it was an issue with the gain because it was the same on he's mic. Had to really crank the gain to like 9-10 to get acceptable levels. When trying with the SE Electronics ICIS, we turned to gain to the highest level (10) on channel 1 and at times were struggling to maintain a level of 0dB. Its my understanding that you hover around 0dB not peak at 0dB when recording??

Sent the issue to Focusrite and they said IF you can get a signal, no matter where the gain is set, than chances are there is not problem with the interface. This is due to the gain scale not being linear. Which was all well and good but I consider hip hop vocals to be a quite high SPL source, so to have the gain at MAX when recording them n still just about getting desirable levels is not great. This does not inspire confidence for any lower SPL sources in the future., which is why I have issues with the gain. AND when up at those levels I can hear lots of hiss? I suppose my main problem is it just feels wrong to run a unit on MAX every time I use it for vocals.

Focusrite suggested I remove and reinstall the mix control software, and told me how to do it, then reinstall to see if that would improve the situation:

How do I remove Saffire MixControl from my Mac? .: Focusrite Answerbase

I followed those instructions and rebooted but it hung on the blue screen......tried a restart again n it done the same. Phoned Apple, spoke to them for about an hour, removing all traces of Focusrite from the system (which was quite a lot considering I had trashed Mix Control, and trashed the files they suggested...I'd recommend an un-installation program for the amount of data I had to delete) by booting via safe mode. Restarted again and still it hung so they suggested a re-installtion of the OS, by booting from the Snow Leopard DVD. Tried this and it failed so they booked me into a store the next day.

Guys had a look at it at the store and told me there was a directory issue which was preventing it from booting and restoring, and to take it home and restore the OS now cause they had resolved the issue and all was well. He also told me that installing the drivers from the provided disk was a bad idea, and thats where my problems started. I didn't know this, and wrote off to Focusrite suggesting that there should be a warning telling people that you should ONLY download the latest drivers. Don't even bother installting then updating cause it could crash ur whole system!! I tried restoring OS and it failed twice. Called Apple and off to another more local store where they took it in and repaired it. It came back with a restored OS and an explanation that there were files missing from my boot record, which were to do with my home folder/personal files....? Still a bit new to macs so I took he's word for it. I was just pleased it was up and running and that I had all my data intact.

Tried to reinstall mix control 2.2 but found after the restart the application would not open?? Trashed the application and downloaded a fresh version from the site and still no mix control, so very limited I/O options during a session. The mac is also still not well because I have other applications which do not open such as imovie.

I agree, the mac now needs formatting and re-installtion of the OS, then i need to restore selected bits of data - only thing is I have no external drive yet. So, as it stands I can not use Focusrite cause Mix Control will not start, and i do not wana risk deleting it again! SO was thinking about getting the Mackie Blackbird instead. My rational is if i get a different interface i'll be able to install it and still use it until i get an external drive and repair the OS?? IF its found the Pro 40 was a faulty unit, i'll have to get a move on with the external HDD cause mix control is KEY when running a session. What the point in having two head phone O/Ps if you can only hear the monitor mix!?

Not sure bout the pres on the Mackie though, and am taking opinions!! Its around the same price, and has the inputs I want, and the digital expandability which I'll need as I need more I/O (thats why i am not considering the Lexicon firewire alternative although the dbx pres do sound appealing).

I took the Saffire Pro 40 to the shop today and they will be testing the gain and getting back to me......the sager continues!
Old 10th February 2011
  #15
any result?

cheers

Wiz
Old 10th February 2011
  #16
I've got a Saffire Pro24DSP - the useful gain range is bunched between 9-10 for an SM58...I tend to use the Input dynamics in the Saffire mixer to boost a bit of gain and then again in the DAW. Not perfect but it gets the job gone.
Old 25th February 2011
  #17
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focusrite saffire pro 40 + macbook

Hi,
I'm considering getting the Saffire pro 40 with protools9 but
I've heard that there are driver issues with the pro 40 and also that I might run into trouble running the software it comes with on mac os x 10.6 snow leopard. I'm running an older macbook (the white one when they still had FW input) which originaly had an older operating system.
Does anyone have any experience running this sort of rig or with any of these problems.
cheers
O.M.
p.s. what is the support/updates for drivers/software like from Focusrite?
Old 2nd March 2011
  #18
Gear Maniac
 

So, topicstarter, did you solve your problem?!
Old 10th March 2011
  #19
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I have the same issue. I bought Saffire pro 24 today. And with my sm58, I need to crank up to 9 to get good level. If I use a condenser mic, I guess I won't have to turn up that much. But I'll try to talk to Focusrite tomorrow to see what they say about this issue.
Old 10th March 2011
  #20
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heinz's Avatar
 

Same issue on my saffire pro 24, an SM57 needs gain between 8.5-9.5 which is just about where the noise floor tends to get bad. The word from focusrite was as follows:

The input gain on the Saffire Pro 24 isn't linear, and as such you will find more gain applied in the upper reaches of the gain knob's travel. As such you could need to set the gain a little higher than you might initially anticipate in order to get sufficient level into your computer. Having said this, the exact position needed for the gain knob will obviously depend on the microphone type and position, as well as the nature of the sound source. Please let me know if you have any further questions.
Old 13th March 2011
  #21
Gear Nut
 

Another Saffire Pro 40s experience.

Hi everyone, good little thread going on here.

I recently received my focusrite pro 40. The saffire user guide says the max gain on the mic pres is 55 db. That's not very much gain. I was aware of this when I purchased it, and it's not a big deal to me.

When recording vocals with an LDC, I had to set the gain level around 8-9 to get a signal level that hovers at -3 db. Unfortunately as someone else mentioned, this is the level at which the pres start making noticeable noise.

Here's the conclusion I've come to, which is probably nothing new to a lot of people. The gain of most pres (especially lower end ones, internal interface pres) does not increase linearly to the amount of self noise they generate. I'm not saying the same thing as what some people previously said about how the gain does not increase linearly with the rotation of the gain knob. What I mean is,, as you increase the gain on the saffire's pres (as well as most others I've used), you don't hear any noise WHATSOEVER (at least I don't), until you get close to 3 o'clock. As you keep going after 3 o'clock, the self noise increases drastically. Yes, so does the volume of the source, but the noise increases disproportionately faster.

The thing is with digital recording, the level recorded to track doesn't really matter. In digital, boosting the level in the box, only boosts the level of what's been recorded, there's no tape hiss it's boosting as well, which was why it was so important to get a hot signal on tape. So the solution for me? Boost the gain to get the source signal as high as you can before you the self noise of the pres becomes significant. If you have to boost the headphone level, or boost the level via DAW, do it. If you don't keep the gain low enough on the pre so that the signal to noise ratio is extremely high, then you can boost the level "in the box" as much as you need to and you will continue to maintain the same difference in signal to noise as you did when you tracked it.

Personally, I would prefer to be able to record a -3db signal, but if it means recording a noticeable level of noise, there's no technical reason why it would be bad to record with your signal peaking at -15 or -10, because you can just boost it in the DAW with no added noise.

That said, I would have liked it if the Saffire's pres offered higher gain and less noise at that higher gain. I would prefer to be able to increase the gain for extremely low SPL sources without getting into the 8-10 zone where noise levels become an issue. However, if you can keep your gain setting below 7 or so, the noise floor is much lower than anything else I have ever used in the same price range, and the quality of the audio is much more pleasing as well.

I'm not saying that there is not anything wrong with your unit, I'd probably be questioning the health of mine if I had to jack it all the way to 10 to get my LDC to reach useable levels.

I set level so the signal peaks at -6 dbs and hangs around on the -18 db region, crank the headphone gain, and then adjust final volume with pro tools. Like I say, I wish this unit had as little of noise at it's 9 setting as it does at it's 5 setting, but still, these are the best interface pres I've ever worked with.
Old 11th May 2011
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gearowner View Post
So, topicstarter, did you solve your problem?!
no my friend was neva resolved. the solution to the prob was to put the pop shield closer and project my vocals a little more....and not to mention crank the gain up to like 10 every time. recently worked on a film project using Sennheiser and Rhodes shotgun mics and cranked it as high however, it DID have an awesome range/sensitivity level i.e. was workin in a block of flats and heard a conversation from down stairs, outside with windows closed..... :-0
Old 11th May 2011
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wiz_Oz View Post
any result?

cheers

Wiz
hey

form the shop? NO lol they suggested u buy an external HDD and clear the mac n do a fresh install n go from there. more accurately they said to take it to apple who can wipe it, but back up before i part with it....they said all tests on the interface showed no problems....
Old 11th May 2011
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by heinz View Post
Same issue on my saffire pro 24, an SM57 needs gain between 8.5-9.5 which is just about where the noise floor tends to get bad. The word from focusrite was as follows:

The input gain on the Saffire Pro 24 isn't linear, and as such you will find more gain applied in the upper reaches of the gain knob's travel. As such you could need to set the gain a little higher than you might initially anticipate in order to get sufficient level into your computer. Having said this, the exact position needed for the gain knob will obviously depend on the microphone type and position, as well as the nature of the sound source. Please let me know if you have any further questions.
they emailed me the same thing.....most of the gain bunched up at the end???? why i don't know. adjusting levels becomes a science rather than an instant moving of a piece of plastic. i find myself sooooo gradually trying to move it cause really I want to move it one notch, but one notch is bunched up into something like 1mm!!!??
Old 11th May 2011
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by nathanp View Post
Hi everyone, good little thread going on here.

I recently received my focusrite pro 40. The saffire user guide says the max gain on the mic pres is 55 db. That's not very much gain. I was aware of this when I purchased it, and it's not a big deal to me.

When recording vocals with an LDC, I had to set the gain level around 8-9 to get a signal level that hovers at -3 db. Unfortunately as someone else mentioned, this is the level at which the pres start making noticeable noise.

Here's the conclusion I've come to, which is probably nothing new to a lot of people. The gain of most pres (especially lower end ones, internal interface pres) does not increase linearly to the amount of self noise they generate. I'm not saying the same thing as what some people previously said about how the gain does not increase linearly with the rotation of the gain knob. What I mean is,, as you increase the gain on the saffire's pres (as well as most others I've used), you don't hear any noise WHATSOEVER (at least I don't), until you get close to 3 o'clock. As you keep going after 3 o'clock, the self noise increases drastically. Yes, so does the volume of the source, but the noise increases disproportionately faster.

The thing is with digital recording, the level recorded to track doesn't really matter. In digital, boosting the level in the box, only boosts the level of what's been recorded, there's no tape hiss it's boosting as well, which was why it was so important to get a hot signal on tape. So the solution for me? Boost the gain to get the source signal as high as you can before you the self noise of the pres becomes significant. If you have to boost the headphone level, or boost the level via DAW, do it. If you don't keep the gain low enough on the pre so that the signal to noise ratio is extremely high, then you can boost the level "in the box" as much as you need to and you will continue to maintain the same difference in signal to noise as you did when you tracked it.

Personally, I would prefer to be able to record a -3db signal, but if it means recording a noticeable level of noise, there's no technical reason why it would be bad to record with your signal peaking at -15 or -10, because you can just boost it in the DAW with no added noise.

That said, I would have liked it if the Saffire's pres offered higher gain and less noise at that higher gain. I would prefer to be able to increase the gain for extremely low SPL sources without getting into the 8-10 zone where noise levels become an issue. However, if you can keep your gain setting below 7 or so, the noise floor is much lower than anything else I have ever used in the same price range, and the quality of the audio is much more pleasing as well.

I'm not saying that there is not anything wrong with your unit, I'd probably be questioning the health of mine if I had to jack it all the way to 10 to get my LDC to reach useable levels.

I set level so the signal peaks at -6 dbs and hangs around on the -18 db region, crank the headphone gain, and then adjust final volume with pro tools. Like I say, I wish this unit had as little of noise at it's 9 setting as it does at it's 5 setting, but still, these are the best interface pres I've ever worked with.

hey!

thanx for taking the time to write a lengthy response and explanation. funny thing is over the last two days i had those thoughts. i'm leaning towards peaking at around the -6 mark in logic, and gaining as required later. i was just researching yesterday what an accepted level would be, and if there are any downsides to boosting after. like you said you want to record a healthy sound wave but the noise IS present when up at 9 and 10 all the time. yep! perfect world we'd like to have more from the pro 40 but, mayb this is life at the low end?? mayb THIS is the equipment we learn WHY you spend that little extra on an ensemble or a metric halo unit? if so well thats just fine. at least you can then justify that purchase, rather than buying because someone suggested you do....

:-)
Old 26th October 2011
  #26
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i read this answer form someone else on these boards and it helped me with your exact problem. I was running the saffire pro 40 in logic and wasn't pleased with the low levels I was getting from a dynamic mic placed right in front of my amp. This is what I did:

Go to Preferences>Display and click the MIXER tab. Change the scale from EXPONENTIAL to SECTIONAL db-LINEAR. and there ya go: what once looked like very small signal levels into your daw are now lookin' nice and juicy.
Old 26th October 2011
  #27
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Assuming you're recording at 24bit, aiming for close to 0dbfs is insane, frankly. No wonder you can't get there without noise - if the preamps had VU meters, then the 0vu point (ie line level, ie the level you should aim for) would relate to around -18db in your DAW (usually, depending on the calibration). I would aim for peaks of around -12 at the most.

And why would you then need to boost inside the box? That is going to do nothing whatsoever to the actual signal. If you want to hear it louder, turn up the monitors.

I think your whole problem is down to wanting to obtain pointlessly high digital levels - only the highest spec equipment has enough analogue headroom to get levels that hot into the DAW. The saffire pro 40 does not have this luxury.

I highly recommend reading this article: Proper Audio Recording Levels | Rants, Articles
Old 11th October 2012
  #28
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Focusrite should admit something's wrong with these units

I think Focusrite should come out and admit something is wrong with those units.

I've had a Saffire Pro 24 unit for a couple of years now. Wrote to them and got the same replies like the rest of you. Nothing's wrong if you get signal, the non-linear BS and so on.

It cannot be normal to get -32 dB at gain 7 (after 8 preamp noise becomes apparent).

At 10 o'clock which is maximum !!!! my levels are peaking above -16 dB. To get at -10 dB I have to eat the mic. It's a dynamic, Sennheiser e845. Performance with condensers is slightly better, but not significantly improved. This is not a software issue. I had Windows XP, moved to win 7 and these are the new drivers (Saffire Mix Control 3.0), which, by the way, are excellent as they seem more stable and latency has improved a lot. Well done on that Focusrite, but when it comes to saffire preamp levels... come on. You can't sell interfaces like that, to be usable just when cranked all the way up.
Old 11th October 2012
  #29
An LDC mic might fare better - that what I usually use with the Saffire preamps (which IMO aren't that bad for a budget interface).
Old 11th October 2012
  #30
In my experience using <$400 audio interfaces (Saffire 24 DSP, Presonus Audiobox, M-Audio Profire 2626, and some Tascam units), they are ALL the same, and Focusrite isn't the only one to be blamed. Manufactures packaged these preamps that are not sufficient to drive low output mics like SM7b or RE20, and say 'stellar preamps are built in'. It's somehow marketing hype.

This is the reason why people reach to single or dual channel pres like FMR RNC or ISA One, replace the interface with better preamps (in terms of gain) like Duet or Babyface, or actually the easiest workaround is to add gain booster like Cloudlifeter with 48V phantom power.


Besides, OP of this thread aimed 0 dBFS with the mic, and that's not good (later seemed to realize).
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