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Old 10th November 2019
Lives for gear
DistortingJack's Avatar

Originally Posted by pisquano View Post
thanks for the great post and for your time. makes a lot of sense.
not quite sure why -40 is "stupidly" low/'s just a setting that sounded ok in my room... I didn't realise there was a normal output setting... what should it be to hit the sweet spot? -20? -15?
–40 is a very low level. It's literally 1/100 of the maximum voltage the MOTU interface can output. It's a bit like setting your computer video player software to 1% brightness. You might be able to compensate for it with an incredibly powerful, bright screen, but you might get visual artifacts, and it might still not be bright enough. This is not correct operation.

The ideal operating levels for outputs are usually in the –20 to 0 dB range, although this wildly varies with the quality of the converters. I actually set my output on my interface at –6 (this is half the maximum voltage, alhough you don't really need to know that), and then set the volume of the speakers as loud as I'll ever need them. On my ADAMs this is about –16.

Originally Posted by pisquano View Post
but the second part you say suggests that if I go to -30 or -20 the ESI would start to distort, even if I lowered their own volume?
I don't know when it will start to distort. It will start to distort when you start sending a signal that's too loud for the input of the ESI's power amp, or when the physical cones start to distort. My point is that the maximum physical loudness (or SPL) of the ADAMs will be higher, no matter what the input gain is set at when you get there.

You need to let go of the assumption that "–30" is an absolute value. It's relative. Different speakers, different interfaces, different microphones, will have different values. That's why gain controls exist.