Waveform Peaking, Active Guitar Pickups, Waveform Display

Hi. I’m using Cubase 11 pro and a UR44C interface. I’m confused on waveforms that I think show peaking (and I hear peaking). I’m also confused about a few other waveform things. When I record my Schecter C-1 Platinum guitar with active humbucker pickups, I’ve tried using Hi-z, low-z and line level inputs. I’ve also used a direct box to take my signal down. No matter what I’ve done, the top of my waveforms are flat (peaking?). I hear that’s a bad thing to do when recording and if you send your files to a pro to mix or master, they’re going to be unhappy and limited in what they can do?

I’d really like to understand some things about Cubase’s waveforms.

Here’s an example: I’m using the UR44C hi-z input number 1 and have the gain knob all the way down. I recorded a riff and the waveform looks like this:

Zoomed in more it looks like this:

My input channels look like this:

My DSPMix looks like this:

When I played, channel 1 would light up -60 and -18 but not “over”.

When I listen to the recorded audio with no FX, I do hear peaking. I’m almost always recording a heavily distorted guitar so it hasn’t mattered to me and I sometimes turn up the UR44C’s gain to get extra distortion anyway. I record everything in the box so my only amps I have are the UR44C’s preamp, active guitar pickups and my studio monitors. I thought I would eventually bounce or render my guitar tracks anyway so the raw signal wouldn’t matter, but I did want capability to re-amp at a friend’s studio so I’m concerned with my peaking signal.

I had guitar luthiers set-up my guitar and they didn’t know why I can’t get my signal to Not peak, other than saying the active pickups are really hot and not meant for clean playing. And, they suggested lowering the pickups from the strings might help, but could also cause other issues. I’m not attacking my strings with a ton of force.

My other guitar with passive pickups, doesn’t flatline unless I intentionally overdrive the gain on the UR44C.

So here are the questions:
-Is there something I’m missing where I should be able to get the signal to not peak or, are some guitar’s pickups just “too hot”?

-Does the peaking matter on distorted guitar anyway? I could see it mattering if I was going to re-amp with a non-distorted effect or if editing I was trying to find the transient.

-I’ve noticed the visual waveform’s peaks and valleys don’t go the same distance so, in the zoomed out pic above, there is a flat “center line” of the signal before anything is played, then when something was played, the wave goes much higher than it goes low. When the waves go high, they flatten but when they go low they don’t. What’s happening here?

In any case, a Hi-Z input should always be used, with a guitar directly connected to the interface, unless active pickups can work otherwise, but I doubt it (don’t really know, actually, as I never dealed with active pickups in a recording context).

Beside this, there is something missing that would have been helpful in your Input channels screenshot : the PRE rack content of the involved channels, especially the Gain setting of the ones which have peaked…

Added to this, I’m not sure that the UR44 1&2 stereo bus is necessary : I would get rid of this one in the Studio>Audio Connections window, unless you are also using it, i.e., to record a keyboard with stereo outputs. More or less the same thing for the other stereo ones.

Tx for the reply. I’ve deleted the stereo inputs as you suggested. I just wanted to have them available but I’ve never used them.

I believe my control room is disabled:

I think this is the Pre Rack screen shot you wanted to see:

I believe I’m supposed to have a “Hardware” rack but I don’t. There’s a multi-year thread where people have that issue. I haven’t tried the different possible resolutions yet. I hope this info helps. Tx again!

Not really. What i wanted to see are the actual gain controls of your Input channels. IOW, something like this, with the rack surrounded in red visible :

And no, you don’t need a hardware rack of any kind. Something in your setup makes your involved Input track clipping, and this is the actual issue, no matter the waveform shape. I suspect that this is more or less related to the “DSPMix” : is this one the UR44C control software or is it added as a remote device ? In it, I see nowhere gain settings that could help taming the incoming audio signals, and no meters either…

Shoot, I intended to send the screenshot you showed but I accidentally showed the Rack Types and didn’t catch it. Sorry about that. Here’s the Pre Rack:

The DSPMix software is provided with the UR44C. Here’s the Steinberg download page FWIW:

Here’s the screen from DSPMix when you press the gear button:

I pressed the icon at the top that looks like meters or EQ’s and meters appear. They don’t save any levels but I watched as I played and the highest level stayed around -6.

Here’s the manual FWIW:
UR44C Operation Manual.pdf (2.3 MB)

In the Cubase mixer screenshot I see UR44 1 is red, which I think means it’s clipping? The signal bar shows green and the number over/under 0.0 is at 0.0. I believe there’s some type of compressor in interfaces, so maybe that explains this? Since the DSP meters showed no more than -6, I don’t understand how the Cubase Mixer screen is showing clipping at 0.0 db?

I selected all Racks and clicked on each heading, like Inserts, EQ, etc. I didn’t turn anything on intentionally, I just wanted to see what’s there. when I collapsed EQ and DeEsser, they looked like they were turned on, so I pressed the power button which turned them yellow instead of gray. I now see all input channels have a blue EQ but I didn’t touch those channels and my Q-link and Link are not turned on, so why is my EQ blue now?

Why do my EQ and Strip Racks have yellow dots and under the Strip rack my EQ and DeEsser are outlined in yellow?

Yep, it is clipping for a reason and all the problem is to get where it is coming from. And AFAICS, there is indeed a compressor in your case, but from what I understand, and if you are using the USB connector, it can eventually be at work if you have activated it and only if the FX REC button is lit. But perhaps someone who knows this unit better than me could chime in to clarify this.

The rule is this one : grey → unactivated / yellow → bypassed / blue → activated.
After this, sometimes, the usage of the MixConsole can be seen as clumsy. So, and about your yellow strip color : you probably made a clic on the dot of the strip header at some point. Concerning the blue color of the EQ, they are activated by default, here, even if all settings are at default (Gain : 0 , Freq :either 12000, 2000, 800 or 100, Q : 1) in all channels. But it’s not the actual problem.

This IS the main problem. Meanwhile, have you tried to decrease the gain of this UR44 1 Input channel ? Just to see if you get again any audible clipping…

I’ve tried a couple fresh batteries in my guitar and tried other cables. I’ve tried taking my Mixer Screen-Pre Rack-Gain down to -20 and the waveform still showed peaking. I kept that setting and turned the Mixer Screen Fader down to -20 and it still showed peaking.

I did the above steps on Input 5 (line level -10 db) and it still showed peaking.

I used a direct box and engaged the -15 db pad, when using the UR44C Hi-z input 1, and brought the Mixer Pre Gain back to zero and also brought the fader back to zero and it still peaked. I tried reducing the Pre gain and fader, one at a time to -20 db and it still peaked. I then took both gain and fader to -20 and my signal was so small, even zoomed as far as I could go, I couldn’t tell what the signal was doing.

I just learned the Hardware Rack shows under the Inspector tab:

I set the Mixer Pre Gain and Fader back to zero and played the riff again. My signal shows -4.7, so I guess I played softer? The waveform is still flat at the top and I heard audio clipping while playing.

When I tried turning down the gain and fader, I’d still hear clipping. Does that mean it’s a guitar issue?

I think that yes, there is an issue before the audio signal is hitting the UR44C inputs. If you hear a kind of clipping signal, even when the Input channels don’t lit, there is a problem. This, in addition to the fact that you stated, in a previous post, that playing with another guitar with passive pickup doesn’t show the issue.

Overall, I believe that something is wrong with your Schecter and/or your DI box. As a last resort, maybe it would be helpful trying to record it with another DAW/Audio editor to hear/see how the audio signal delivered by the guitar behaves. Another thing that comes to mind is trying to bypass the active part of your Schecter mics (if possible) and see how it is behaving.

No more idea is coming to mind on my end, presently, but the issue is kinda strange… :thinking:

I don’t believe the Schecter allows a bypass. Thanks so much for all of your ideas. Take care!

Did you have any luck sorting this out.
I believe i have a similar problem.
I was recording tracks with an active guitar, all was good. Came back around 7 hours later without changing any settings (i did shutdown my system before i went away) and now when i record the waveform displays the signal with major clipping. Nothing on the meters on anything show anywhere near clipping.

The plot continues with new questions (in bold)…

I spoke with Schecter, they said my hot pickups (EMG 81/85’s) are not the kind where volume can be adjusted and cannot be switched to passive. I wouldn’t want to play it passively since I bought it for heavy rock/metal. Schecter’s suggestion was to turn my volume knob down enough to not peak. :thinking: (crickets chirp)…

I couldn’t tell if their e-mail was a joke or real answer. So, I know EMG 81/85’s are used by TONS of people. Are they considered low enough quality that I should not expect them to not-peak? It’s only a $600 guitar, but I thought it (and the pickups) were what lots of people played and would be decent enough to cover basics like not-peaking in the output? If that’s just their design, how do studios handle it when re-amping? Would it even matter if it only plays parts with distortion?

Just to test, I recorded this on my UR44C Hi-Z input with gain knob as low as possible and tried different volume settings:

The lowest setting (last on the right) had the volume knob probably on 1 out of 10. All of the different volumes had peaking except maybe the lowest one. I say “maybe” because only two transients were square at the top but they weren’t flat so, I’m not sure if that counts as a potential issue if I try to re-amp or when mixing/mastering?

Here it is zoomed in:

I tried a Direct Box, in the lo-z input but still, peaking. I guess overdriving the pickup output is part of how it gets an awesome aggressive sound.