What is acceptable volume level from external synth?


Although this is more of a general recording question, I am not sure what is the best place to ask it, but I am certain many Cubase users are familiar with similar issues.

Here’s my setup: Edirol FA-101 Firewire sound card that has 2 microphone inputs and 3 stereo line inputs. Since I have exactly 3 external synths, it’s a perfect fit for me.

But when I record sound from these synths I get quite low input signal from two of them: Roland JV1080 and Roland SC8850 (more recent Korg M3 produces higher signal level). So even though I set volume level Roland instruments all the way up and I also set level on Cubase MIDI channels at its maximum (127), when I playback corresponding audio track I see that Cubase mixer shows levels between -15 and -20 db. This is much lower than if I use VST instruments.

My first question: is this acceptable to record input signal at such low level?
The second question: is is Edirol-FA101 that is too low on levels (it has pretty good reviews, looks like a decent card). Of course I can use it’s mic inputs and boost sensitivity, but this will be real pain to switch all the time cables.
And finally: is using hardware preamp an option? In principle line inputs should give a sufficient level, but apparently they don’t.

Thanks in advance.

What do the Input meters in Cubase say? My firebox has 12db boosts for analog inputs for such occasions.

After I boosted SC8850 level (there was a know adjusting level from -10 to +4) it’s input meter for a bass track is about -15db when I set MIDI channel level at 127. For Roland JV1080 it’s about the same: for loudest patches at maximum level it shows ca. -13db. And if I select some pad sound in higher registry, the input level is about -25db. Is this suffucient to record an audio track with such low signal?

It doesn’t sound quite right, you should be able to push the signal into (near) clipping if your 0 dB reference is the same on the synth and the interface. Do you have a corresponding option to change input sensitivity for your Edirol?
There’s no pad active or something like that?

-25 dB is quite low but not catastrophical, you’ll get a bit more noise when you boost the signal in cubase but you need to use your ears to figure out if it’s a problem or not.

I remember we used JV1090 in school into a Digi002 and there was never a problem like the one you describe.


I’ve checked Edirol manual and input sensitivity can only be adjusted for 1-2 XLR/Line inputs that I use for mics and stereo input 7-8 where I already set the level to the max 4db.

I don’t seem to have problems with noise, so as you said it does not sound catastrophic, it’s just that I expected to be able to set the level to get Cubase input meter close to 0db, and this seems to be impossible.

Which synth do you have connected to input 7-8? If it’s one of the “quiet” ones then you should set the reference to as low a number you can without the signal clipping.
A reference level of +4 dBu means that your soundcard indicates 0 dB when fed 1,22 v from your synth and adjusts the headroom accordingly.
If your synth has a 0 dB reference of -10 dBv (0,316 v) then you have a difference of just over 11 dB between what the interface wants and what it gets. This would explain your problem.

So, connect the most quiet synth to 7-8, set the sensitivity to -10 dBv. The other jack inputs are fixed at +4 dBu so it makes no difference what you connect where regarding those.


Hi TwinOak,

Thank you for your reply. I am not sure I fully understand some of it. I believe I have my quiteset synth (Roland SC8850) connected to inputs 7-8. When the level adjustment knob is in the middle position (0 db?) Cubase input meter shows -25db or even less. If I set the knob to its rightmost position (+4 db?) then the signal is louder and the input meter shows -15-20 db depending on the sound. What I don’t understand is why I should set it to the lowest level (-10 db), won’t this mean I’ll get even lower level?

Not the synth, the sound card input calibration. If it allows you to, set it to -10 (input)

Of course I meant soundcard. Input calibration only applies to input 7-8. I adjusted it to rightmost and loudest position. Does it correspond to +4db or -10db? And if it’s +4db then setting it to the leftmost position would just make the sound very quite, won’t it?

Or maybe I confused signs of calibration values? Currently the calibration know is at the rightmost position that gives me the loudest input sound. I thougt this corresponds to +4db. Perhaps this position means -10db, then I don’t really understand what these values mean. I though +4db meant signal amplification.

Well the short answer is yes, the position of the knob where you get the loudest sound would correspond to a reference level of -10 dBv.
Anyway, your setup is as good as it gets with the gear you have.


It is input sensitivity, thus -10 is more sensitive than +4 or in otherwords +4 gives you less gain than -10 for an input.

Of course it’s the other way round for an output.

I see. Thanks guys for your help. It looks like with this setup it’s what I can get.