This can be very frustrating, yes , your patch or tone levels at your multi fx/processor unit can just kill you, make a cry and scream, and your sound engineer at live to curse you, and put your volume level down or even put it on mute. So less talking, enough learning. lets get down to business 🙂
Did you ever know sound has it’s own measuring standards? I am sure you heard about “dB” , may be seen it many times, but never wanted to get into it, well it is simply “physics” . dB stands for DECIBEL -widely used in electronics, signals and communication, definitely nothing related to DETECTIVE BRANCH 😛 ! dB is used to measure the pressure or the audible level of any sound. So everything we hear, speak or play has a dB. Let us look at the picture below:
In most PA system consoles , in your computer based recording DAW, even in some processors you will see something like the above, which measures the input sound from your musical instrument. You see to the most right it is “0” dB, which is the standard and optimal point which can be compared to a large ship on the sea which is floating at the normal sea level. So is it like you will not hear anything down below 0 dB? nope, you will, something lower than 0 is alright,and example can be the picture below.
The example picture is taken from a DAW, you see the drums, is on -48 dB, Bass on -20 dB . and all instruments are being out through the master channel, which is producing something about -15 dB. Yes, anything below o dB is audible , and that is the way you make your tone or record. But why? What will happen if we Go above O dB? Think about the floating ship on the sea,try to imagine a storm making big waves and the ship is almost flying from one wave to the other, that is like having a +0 dB case. Let us check out more pictures below:
Say your guitar has a +5 dB, bass +10 db and other instruments anywhere else, The master output channel will go over 0 dB, this is the status which we call “CLIPPING” , I am also sure you heard the word and never thought much about it. It is the status where we say “SOUND FATA FATA LAGE” , A distorted sound overall is produced . So The point is, Your Guitar tone, or whatever instrument you play must be kept polite under 0 dB to keep the main mix just fine-Live or recording any case.
So how do I know my guitar tone patch levels or set dB?
Yes we did not know and that is the reason we all are reading this article, surprisingly most of the digital guitar fx processors do not give you an internal view of your output patch dB level,in most cases you see a digit like 20 in Zoom G series processors , the new g3 and g5 gives you a nice display with stomp like knobs but you do not get it all about 0 dB reference. And most of the line 6 processors has a 50% or just the numbers like 70,80 on fx blocks, and the master volume out knob on top is there you will find about setting up the amp volume levels at page 60 on the user manual linked down below.
Sadly, I personally did never understand why such major companies never added a master volume output dB level display which is very easy to be installed which would make us to survive in the sinking water of sound really!
Download Zoom G1 user manual patch editing guide on page 12 for your reference:
Download Line 6 pod HD 500X user manual:
Find out your Patch volume level in dB:
Here are the easiest ways to figure them out:
- Connect your guitar and processor or amp unit to a live console, play and ask your engineer to check the dB on console’s display.
- Connect your guitar and processor or amp unit to any studio recording interface, check it in the DAW/recording software’s console.
Many great players and musicians end up at bad situations just for bad adjustments of the patch volume, even if your tone fails, you blame the engineer, I personally prefer down below to -15 dB , it keeps me safe , always remember what is low you can always make it higher, what is high you cannot make it high. So let us stop blaming the engineers and enlighten ourselves first about the basics of our own sound!