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Sample here:

I'm recording on a pretty nice keyboard that has stereo out to a focusrite scarlet 2i2. I've set up the focusrite with inputs set to line and adjusted the levels so that they're just below where they'd clip. When I plug my headphones into the keyboard itself and listen, everything sounds full and up close. If I plug into the headphone monitor on the focusrite and when I record anything in a DAW (using garageband but also tried audacity), my keys sound like they were recorded at a distance rather than having a full, up close sound like my headphones.

Why is this? Is there something wrong with my audio interface, or is this expected behavior which I should be fixing up with effects and adjustments in the DAW?

  • It's not the best sampled piano I've ever heard, but the sonic spectrum sounds about right to me - give or take. You'd have to provide a recording of it from the headphone output [& compare for yourself too] for us to decide if one is noticeably different, or if you're just too used to the usual over-emphasis/general inaccuracy of headphones as monitors. – Tetsujin Oct 7 '15 at 18:53
  • Thanks for the feedback. I'm playing on a Nord Stage 2 if that helps. Here's the thing - I can use the same headphones and plug them into the keyboard output, and they sound great. The Focusrite 2i2 has a direct headphone output for monitoring, and this sounds radically different from the headphone jack on the keyboard. I also have a pair of monitors where I see the same effect - straight from the keyboard, things sound great. If I use the monitor output on the Focusrite, it sounds radically different again. – tarun713 Oct 8 '15 at 17:28
  • best guess would be you're hearing both input & output simultaneously, with latency, & the compound signal is comb-filtering. You'd have to check the DAW/hardware manual for info on how to choose which to listen to. – Tetsujin Oct 8 '15 at 17:41
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When you say you are using stereo out, I assume you are connecting the keyboard to two separate channels on your interface. Did you pan the two channels hard left and right? If not, you would only be hearing the keyboard in mono through your headphones.

  • Ah, good catch! – Michael Hansen Buur Oct 8 '15 at 12:45
  • The keyboard itself outputs equally on left and right channel. I've tried recording both as mono from a single channel from the keyboard to a single channel on the interface, as well as stereo with 2 channels from the keyboard into 2 channels on the audio interface. I'm just using Garageband and I've set the mono and stereo on the track appropriately for what I've tried. Thank you for the feedback though! – tarun713 Oct 8 '15 at 17:26
  • Let's try something just for kicks. Plug your keyboard into channels 1 & 2 of your interface. Create 2 mono tracks in garageband, assigning one track to input 1, and the other to input 2. Then pan track 1 hard left, and track 2 hard right. I just listened to your recording, and it really sounds like a mono track. If that doesn't fix it, then your keyboard must be putting out the same mono signal out both outputs. – Johannes Oct 8 '15 at 18:12
  • That is fascinating. This track came out, which does sound significantly fuller and much better. soundcloud.com/tarun713/untitled-10815-512-pm . Thank you! Why is this, though? I am re-examining my setup here. Would TR vs. TRS cables make a difference, or is this a setting I'll always have to handle in my DAW? – tarun713 Oct 8 '15 at 22:18
  • I haven't used garageband in a long time, but recording to a real instrument stereo track should produce the exact same results (it receives input from 2 channels and automatically pans them hard left and right). I read some of your other comments, and I know exactly what your problem is. Are you able to set the pan on your Scarlett directly? I use a Presonus interface, and it came with software that allows me to directly control various parameters including the pan. You will have to pan your inputs, otherwise, they get sent out your headphones as 2 mono signals. – Johannes Oct 9 '15 at 12:22
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You may be experiencing impedance issues on one of two forms:

  1. your headphones and headphone preamp in your keyboard is a better match than your headphones and interface.
  2. your keyboard output and interface input impedances are a bad match. Try using a DI box (linedriver) in between the keyboard and interface.
  • Thank you. I looked at the spec sheets for the focusrite and I can't seem to find an input impedance listed (us.focusrite.com/usb-audio-interfaces/scarlett-2i2/…). Same with my keyboard's user manual (Nord Stage 2). Is there a way I can confirm this is the problem before I invest in a DI box? Do I need to look for specific specs on the DI box? – tarun713 Oct 8 '15 at 17:30
  • Could you try using a jack to xlr connector? Those combined inputs are often hi-z in the jack input and lo-z in the xlr... – Michael Hansen Buur Oct 8 '15 at 18:08
  • No.. not really..just don't go with a very cheap passive box. Maybe you can borrow one and see if it fixes the problem. The jack/xlr test is not ideal in the long run.. A Di box is definitely the safe path. – Michael Hansen Buur Oct 8 '15 at 18:12

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