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Line output modules: desired range in dBu?


#1

I was curious for some feedback on the desired output range of line level output modules?

In terms of dBu, Eurorack is approximately +13dBu unbalanced while pro line level nominal level is +4dBU balanced.

In most of our line level output products we have designed things so that a nominal eurorack level signal (10Vpp VCO waveform) would be attenuated down to a +4dBu balanced line level (so each phase of the balanced output is -6dB from line level). On our line out modules we designed the output attenuator range so that at full CW a nominal eurorack level vco would be boosted by +6dB relative to +4dBu line level.

Do these ranges make sense or would people prefer that a Euro to line level module simply converts unbal to bal and you retain the full dBu range (i.e. at full CW the output would be +13dBu bal)?
The main issue with this is that line input devices with very marginal headroom will require that the output level be quite attenuated.

We would love to hear your opinions!


#2

Interesting question! In terms of recording, having a hotter signal at your output stage is better for making the most of your signal to noise ratio. I think if the max was at Euro level and the other level standards were marked on the knob this would make gain staging quite flexible and easy to set up.

What about the -10dBU standard? I had always considered +4 to be Mic level and -10 to be line level. Lots of pro gear uses this format and you’ll often see +4/-10 toggles, or markers on input gain knobs.


#3

mic level is way smaller than line level and is usually in the range of -60dBU to -40dBU. Instrument level like guitar is approximately -20dBU

Professional line level is +4dBU while consumer grade stuff is -10dBv which is equivalent to -7.78dBu

We could put markers on the knob but they would only be accurate when an known nominal level (e.g. a raw VCO sine wave with an amplitude if 10Vpp) was the source.


#4

In the end, it’s all relative to the source module or patch (consider a plonk vs a dixie), which in Euro, will be be all over the place. I might even boost some 6db with a QuadVCA, and attenuate others before they hit the output module.

I’ll be looking at the levels meter in my DAW or on my mixer and adjust to the level I need. And In that case, the markings on the knob don’t matter and they won’t ever really align to anything because the source material is all over the place. If anything major in the patch changes, I’ll be re-adjusting anyways

Allowing for the hottest output (no attenuation at all) and have attenuators to reduce the level makes the most sense to me. If my mixer/soundcard takes it hot, then perfect, if not, then I can attenuate. it’s not likely I’ll need to boost from a eurorack signal, but if I do, that can be done in the Mixer/DAW.

Seems like it should just be…

Euro input >> Attenuator >> Balanced Conversion >> Balanced Output

Right now, I’m using a Quadratt for 4 (unbalanced) line outs straight into a Zoom Livetrak L12 with 4x Control 3.5mm to 1/4" Cables