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optical transmission and volume control

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optical transmission and volume control

Postby Ellsworth » Thu Nov 21, 2019 1:09 pm

Please bear with a novice setting up HW for the first time.
I have midified an Allen 120-3 with an Mac Mini (2012) with an optical connection between the Mini and a Pioneer Elite 65 and Polk speakers. I have also routed the analogue output from the Mini to the RCA input of the amps of the Allen so that I can play the HW through the Allen amp and speakers.

In both cases I have run the HW at max volume as per the Sound panel display.

But the sound from the Pioneer has to have a substantial volume increase at the amp to match the volume of the music played via iTunes from the Mini through the same optical connection and all other amp settings the same (note the optical output from the Mini automatically sets the MAC sound at maximum so there is no internal control).

Similarly the analogue output from the Mini through the Allen amps is very weak (but does have the advantage that I can use the Allen volume pedal to increase the volume) with the MAC settings the same.

I am using the free demo version of HW and plan to buy the advanced version when available. But is there a way of making the sound louder within the software to create a louder signal to the Pioneer (optical) and the Allen (analogue rca) Amps even though the volume is at max on the audio panel within the software? It is very anemic at the present. I am not a audio expert so probably am missing something.

Any help is appreciated.

Ells.
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Re: optical transmission and volume control

Postby larason2 » Thu Nov 21, 2019 2:27 pm

I would say that the behaviour of your setup is as expected. Most modern music files are normalized so that their max loudness is close to the limit of the sound file's capability. However, to accommodate for the large range in loudness in a pipe organ's output, Hauptwerk samples cannot be normalized in the same way. Basically the softest stops must be quite soft compared to the loudest. That is a limitation of the technology. Therefore, Hauptwerk's output will always appear to sound quieter than a song played from iTunes (unless you are playing all the loudest reeds together).

The amplifier and speakers for an organ from the 70's are typically pretty low wattage (My console was a Yamaha from that period, and as I recall each speaker was no more than 20-30 watts). They worked with a direct analogue input from the organ, so not a lot of amplification or speaker power was necessary. Unfortunately though, when you couple that with a modern amplifier and computer output, it will be hard to get it to work at a reasonable loudness. Depending on how it is connected to the amplifier, it may also be using up a lot of signal that is going to the Polk speakers.

As such, I would start by disconnecting the Allen and just focus on the Polk speakers. If your expression pedal is midified, you will get a much more satisfying swell effect using Hauptwerk's built in swell function than using the Allen as you have. Even with just the Polk speakers, I wouldn't be surprised if you need to turn up the signal on the amplifier a lot, because of how Hauptwerk samples are normalized. It would be useful to know exactly what Polk speakers you have, to see if they would be appropriate, or if it would be recommended to get new ones.
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Re: optical transmission and volume control

Postby IainStinson » Thu Nov 21, 2019 2:36 pm

Within Hauptwerk have you adjusted the settings on the Audio, MIDI and Performance large control panel (pgs 128- 31 of the HW 4.2 manual? Bringing up the Trim db and Volume levels might help. You get to the large control panels through the View top line menu.

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Re: optical transmission and volume control

Postby engrssc » Thu Nov 21, 2019 8:10 pm

You will also see bar graph meters on that Audio page for monitoring the (stereo) output level. You don't want to go into the red.

Occasional slightly into yellow range is ok.

Rgds,
Ed
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Re: optical transmission and volume control

Postby Ellsworth » Tue Nov 26, 2019 12:56 pm

Thankyou all. This has been very helpful and has clarified the issue of volume from the HW signal. The Polk speakers are SDA-2A with subwoofer and Polk bookshelf for ambience. The amp provides 130 watts per channel. I have lots of headroom to boost the amp volume. After your posts I did try HDMI rather than optical as an alternative but it produces an unsatisfactory sound signal, probably due to interference at the mac. It is also pegged at maximum output from the mac as it is digital. I have the volume in both cases on the HW audio screen at maximum.
Now if I could find a touchscreen that will work with MAC software!
Best
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Re: optical transmission and volume control

Postby larason2 » Tue Dec 03, 2019 1:57 pm

I did some research, and the Polk speakers are from the 80’s, but based on their technical specs they probably should be able to get loud enough on their own. 130 watts per channel should be enough, but for comparison I only have 2 monitors, and each are 300 watts. At church, they have two 250 watt monitors, and it is enough to fill a large church. In my experience, the extra power doesn’t add volume, but just clarity and definition at the pipe’s natural volume level, and the louder it sounds without distortion. If you feel your setup is loud enough without distortion, then you probably won’t need newer speakers. Of note, having the bookshelf speakers set up as you have may add intermodulation distortion. You can try disconnection them, or trying the cyclical routing options if you notice distortion.

As for touch screens that work on the Mac, there has been some discussion about that in the past. I have successfully used an iPad with Touch OSC to control stops on Hauptwerk. You need to create a custom layout, so it’s not exactly a touchscreen. Lemur is another app that may be able to do this. Others have used an iPad with Duet or Luna display, though Apple has now added this functionality to Catalina. Finally, some have had success getting PC touch monitors working on Macs even though they are not officially supported, but I wouldn’t know how to do this.
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Re: optical transmission and volume control

Postby sonar11 » Tue Dec 03, 2019 5:05 pm

From what I understand, you're trying to use a home theater receiver to play audio from a computer output. This never sounds satisfactory.

What I would do, is purchase a proper 2 channel audio sound card (focusrite scarlet 2i2 is a good choice), and then plug in a stereo pair of "studio monitor" speakers designed for pro/audio recording, such as from mackie/krk/m-audio/ etc. These speakers come with their own amplifiers, you just need to run a power cable to them + audio cable.

Then you will have the correct "line out" voltage between sound card + amp + speakers. It is all designed to work together.

So it's not that your amp/speakers aren't powerful enough, it's that the sound card does not send out a "hot" enough signal for the receiver to amplify.
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Re: optical transmission and volume control

Postby Ellsworth » Sat Dec 07, 2019 5:47 pm

Thank you for the additional comments. Regarding the amplification, recently I have been using headphones but today I used the amp and speakers and high volume and the system cut out several times. I suspect it is a safety feature but will have to check for wiring filaments touching and creating shorts. I may try the dedicated sound card and powered speakers.
Regarding the monitor, after much online research I purchased an Asus 15 inch touchscreen that works well with the Mac using the USB for touch and HDMI for video.
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