What are normal input/output levels on stage? -6dB?

I connected my NORD on Ch34 to Cantabile and seems I have to put ALL the sliders to the max to get a decent volume out of it.
As you see on the screenshot:

  • Main level is at 0dB

  • Plugins are at -6dB

  • MOTU output level is at max level 7,3dB (all mic inputs also but I didn’t check that)

  • My MOTU card input (ch 34) is at +12dB as you see at right on the screenshot

And still I’m just getting to the second level on the gain as you see -15dB
Is this normal?

Is this a good level for the mixing desk/FOH ?
What are your settings?

Or should I change the Mix Level in the options?
What’s the risk for distortion/noise?

Hm, I turned down the MAIN LEVEL to -12dB, that’s a lot of noise gone, even with my Motu.

That doesn’t seem normal to me. I have one low-output synth (a Korg Wavestation) and have to boost that at most to +6. The others coming in stay at zero. My only guess is that the Nord must be turned down somewhere.

I have almost the exact same setup, with two keyboard synths and three rack modules (two in mono) coming into an 828 mk3 hybrid. I also have an Ultralite mk3 hybrid in my other rack.


Thx Terry,
Good to know :slight_smile:
Well, I do turn my Nord half way, so I have control there.
Could you send me a screenshot of you setup, this way I can check the levels?

Turn up the Nord! :slight_smile:


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So how would I control my levels then? :slight_smile:

Control your levels via a binding in Cantabile; use any MIDI controller to control final output volume or use a “volume rack”. Lots of information to be gained from watching @brad’s nice videos and browsing the forum.

If you want to process your Nord’s output in Cantabile it is best to bring the Nord’s output signal into Cantabile as hot as possible with a reasonable headroom (say -6db peak headroom with a 24 bit converter). This way you get less analog noise into Cantabile.

Then, after processing, you can reduce the overall level at the end of the processing chain and give yourself some room to maneuver up and down.




Thx Thorsten, so you’re saying I should control my Nords volume with my midi controller, a Samson in my case? And use cantabile as a mixer?
Now, I did add a monitor mixer for my in-ear so I could hear the voice and keyboards from the headphones output from my motu.
And also thinking of adding my mic, so I can add vocal FX and vocoder :wink:
I’m doing all this in Reaper, but that’s an other way of working.
This is my setup.


Hmm, TBH, there isn’t a clear-cut answer. As always, “it depends” :wink:

If you are willing to make Cantabile the center of your live setup, then I’d definitely recommend to concentrate all control within Cantabile and use song files and states to pre-configure sounds and controls specifically for every song. Especially when using mainly VST instruments, Cantabile is a great platform, but it also works well with a “hybrid” setup, controlling all your external gear.

If, OTOH, a large part of your live act is improvisatory tweaking of multiple sound sources and instruments, concentrating everything into Cantabile might cramp your style - and even though it is possible to set up a “monster setup” in Cantabile with a powerful MIDI controller that allows a lot of real-time tweaking, controlling everything directly at various devices will probably be more intuitive in this setup.

In a project like yours, where things look very pre-planned, Cantabile can be the perfect tool to do all the configuration work in advance and then, during the gig, concentrate on playing only, without having to spend a lot of attention on changing patches, setting levels, etc.

How much of your sound comes from VST instruments / effects and how much is driven by external boxes? If most of your stuff is still hardware, I’d start out with a classic hardware setup (keyboards connected thru a hardware mixer and simply automate patch selection and level setting:

  • encapsulate your hardware synths in racks - these racks simply send a different program change to your synth for every state. This way, you can simply select patches on your synth by selecting a rack state in Cantabile.
  • You can also use bindings to send volume changes to your synth based on rack gain (I think :wink: ), so you can also mix levels in Cantabile

If you also want to process your hardware synths’ output in Cantabile, I’d suggest to move control completely to Cantabile:

  • no more hardware mixer - mix everything in Cantabile and feed FOH and monitors directly from Cantabile (managing multiple stereo pairs - to keep your sound tech happy - is easy in Cantabile)
  • extend the power of your synth racks by feeding the synth’s output into these racks at full volume level. Now, in each synth rack, you can select a patch on your synth, then process it through a plugin chain, plug everything into the rack stereo out, and finally set the level via rack gain.
  • Turn all your synths to “local off” - send their MIDI to Cantabile and then use your synth racks to send MIDI back to your synths. This way, you can do all splitting, layering, transposing and other MIDI mangling inside Cantabile and use your synths only as tone generators
  • you can now create rack presets that comprise not only the synth preset, but also all settings of the subsequent processing chain. So, building on the same preset on your Nord (Stage Piano), you can create a whole shedload of rack presets like “Compressed Piano” with a VST compressor after it, “Extreme Brilliance” with a customized EQ, “Dreamy Piano” with tons of EQ, delay and reverb, etc…
  • now you can see at a glance in your song file what sounds you are using at what level; e.g. Piano on Nord (with added VST compression and reverb) at 50% plus Korg Softsynth strings at 70%. And you can automate everything with song states, so that with ONE push of a button, you can change presets on a number of external synths, plus change the processing chain inside Cantabile and set overall levels.

Personally, I have completely moved from hardware boxes to VST synths and effects. My master keyboard is now simply a “dumb” MIDI controller (guess I’ll start getting angry emails from Kurzweil); my whole setup is contained in my stage laptop or my studio PC respectively. This has a ton of advantages:

  • No need to have duplicate hardware setups for studio / rehearsal / live and to keep them in sync sound-wise. I simply save my Cantabile files to Dropbox, and everything is replicated between Studio PC and Live laptop.
  • “Disaster Recovery” is super-easy: simply keep a second laptop replicated; you can even go “hot-standby” for critical gigs. No need to have a spare for every piece of your equipment in case they break down. My backup setup is simply a second laptop and second audio interface. And for high-profile gigs, I even bring a second master keyboard (different brand, cheaper than my main board, but will do in a pinch)
  • Setting up is a breeze: connect master keyboard to laptop, connect audio interface to stage box, plug in a couple of pedals - done!
  • When travelling extremely light, I don’t even need to bring a keyboard: just use any available 88 key keyboard and only bring my laptop & audio interface (plus a Novation Launch Control for MIDI controllers, my pedals and a little pedal-to-USB box)
  • Far more variety in software sound options than I would be able to carry with me live

Sound-wise, I have found more than adequate software replacements for all my hardware synths - there are tons of great VST instruments for any category. If I wanted to carry all the various specialized software instruments in hardware, I’d have to rent a truck for my keyboard setup alone :wink:

Have fun!




Wow Thx for thinking along with me :blush:
It’s mainly my top reason also to stay with software rather than hardware, flexibility. I create my sounds on my desk pc and transfer them to my laptop.
Seems that you have a bigger soft setup than mine.
I don’t trust dropbox or Google Drive with my files. Does it work flawless?
To be honest, i don’t understand why hardware manufacturers are supressing that evolution. There’s much to win here for them in a near future.
So much better for Brad, his software is top for PC.
Because i missed the modular structure in it, i waited to long to work with it and had lots of frustration. With intone, crashes allot, yes also on stage. With reaper, works well but you cannot change big setups per number. And had lots of soundcard troubles also. I even had a gig where every song stuttered every minute. Dieying on stage! :joy:
But I’m so glad i switched. The speed that cantabile is loading and switching is super.
But still i wouldn’t rely 100% on the software approach. Even a bad USB cable can ruin it and on stage or just before, you don’t have time to check everything out.
But your post makes me rethink my setup.

Haven’t had one serious live glitch or crash with Cantabile yet :slight_smile:

I love the fact that I can concentrate fully on playing / singing instead of switching presets. Also, now I can run my whole setup from just one keyboard, since I can switch my whole setup (sounds, splits, layers) with one press of a button.

Also means that I have tons of states - my current record is “With A Little Help From My Friends” with 17 state changes :wink: In my old setup, I would have needed at least three keyboards to do this song…

RE relying 100% on software / single point of failure: you have the same in a traditional setup. One dodgy MIDI cable can make a gig a nightmare; what do you do when your Nord’s power supply fails?

With a Cantabile setup, you could even create a “hot standby” setup (if your show is big enough to justify the investment): set up two laptops, two audio interfaces, plug both into your master keyboard(s) and controller(s), plug their output into an automated audio switcher, then you can, with the push of a button, switch from one laptop to the other and simply keep on playing. And in case your master keyboard breaks down, simply put another MIDI keyboard on your stand and plug in power and MIDI cable - done.

In a minimal Cantabile setup, the number of components and connections that can fail is actually LOWER ;-). And diagnostics are easier - you can even set up diagnostics and volume setting songs that make pre-show setup easier.

The only live glitch I’ve had so far was my expression pedal not doing what it was supposed to - I suspected a Cantabile glitch, but in the end it was simply a faulty connector. Classic hardware issue :wink: And since I always carry a spare EXP pedal in my gig bag, it was a quick sprint-and-plug between songs…




I’d just like to echo everything Torsten has been saying. The more of your rig you can put into Cantabile, the less physical cables, connectors, jack sockets etc. you’re relying on, the more robust the setup. It’s putting all your eggs in one basket, but if that basket works really well, and you have a backup machine, it’s probably about as safe as you can get.

I’ve never had a glitch, crash, hang, stuck note, or anything else unpleasant happen with Cantabile, from several years of gigs with it all over Europe and north America. If I’d been dragging around a load of hardware synths, mixers and a huge load of cables, I’m certain I’d have suffered from some crackly volume knobs, crackly jack sockets, crushed MIDI cable, or hanging notes along the way.

Dropbox works flawlessly for me. Not only does it keep my three main Cantabile machines (home, live, and live backup) perfectly in sync, it also provides a version history of previous versions of files, which has saved me a few times when I’ve accidentally deleted the wrong stuff.

Getting back to the original thread, definitely turn up your hardware synths to full and drive the volume for different sections either in an automated way via song states, or using a MIDI controller such as a pedal or knob. It just gives you more flexibility. In my live rig I have a Moog Voyager and a Nord G2 Modular Engine, which I feed into Cantabile; they’re set to maximum volume, and then I can control their volume levels alongside volumes from plugins running in Cantabile, all in a nice unified way. I never touch a volume control even once throughout my shows, except for when I need to do volume fades in/out, which I do with a pedal. Everything else is pre-programmed with song states.



Hm, thinking about it :slight_smile:
I wonder if Google Sync would do the job well?
Dropbox is only 2 Gb after all?
Google 15 Gb

I’m thinking of reworking my setup and assigning other functions to my Samson faders.

Almost certainly…I haven’t tried it for Cantabile, but I’d be very surprised if it didn’t. But don’t forget that Cantabile’s songs, setlists and racks are all small files, of typically tens of a few hundred kb. You’d need a huge number of songs to reach 2Gb. Although that’s obviously different if you’re playing back audio media through Cantabile’s media player, and you’re syncing those too.



I followed your advice, put my Nord to the limit and assigned a midi fader on my Samson for it.
Is indeed a better way, now i can lower the volume in the motu mixer, it was +12db. And now I’m sure it won’t be distorted.

But what about the main level?

Direction -6 or above starts to give noise.

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That’s odd - my Ultralite is super quiet. I wonder if some channel is contributing? Turn them all down to zero db gain in the trim area (or double-click them for the defaults) to see if one of them is the cause.


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I guess it was a ground loop hum Terry.
So what level are yours on?
Main level to 0?
And sub levels also?
Should i leave some headroom of 6db?

Good to hear it was something manageable!

The analog input with the Korg Wavestation in it is boosted +6db, all other line-ins at zero.
Mikes are at +24 and +36 if I remember correctly. (Rode NT2000 and Shure beta 87a respectively).

I leave some headroom, for sure.


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