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Digital Audio - keys/sound

J. Dan

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Many keyboards now offer digital I/O, whether optical or coaxial SPDIF, ADAT light pipe, etc. I've used it a time or two and it seems like the biggest advantage outside of the obvious improvements over going through D/A then A/D is lack of noise (hiss) and grounding issues. The 2 recent threads on DI's got me thinking about this. I assume the digital outs are generally intended for studio, but it seems to me there could be advantages live also - for noise avoidance, mostly. The caveat: I once had to go to the SPDIF out on my Alesis a Fusion live because my main out crapped out. I quickly learned that the main volume had no effect, which became a challenge.


But I'm thinking....with digital mixers and even digital amps, does it make sense to have a widely used digital standard for live sound reinforcement? How have you used the digital outs on your keyboards, if at all?



Acoustic/Electric stringed instruments ranging from 4 to 230 strings, hammered, picked, fingered, slapped, and plucked. Analog and Digital Electronic instruments, reeds, and throat/mouth.

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I use the optical output of my MacBook Pro, going into a small d-to-a converter which gives me regular analog stereo output for my QSCs, or DI boxes when going into a sound system. This completely eliminates issues caused by the switched mode power supply for the laptop (mostly buzzes) as well as ground loops between the laptop and everything else.
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Hello. You are correct that as keyboards and mixers become digitally capable it is possible to have better live sound fidelity.


However, there is an important caveat here: with multiple digital sound devices connected together, they must all run in sync with a single clock source. If you have a digital keyboard (or two) and a digital effect device and a digital mixer all connected together, the digital clocks in these devices must all run in sync. Otherwise, digital artifacts are created that appears as glitches and drop-outs in your audio.


If you are using the digital outs of one keyboard and converting the signal to analog to send to an analog PA system, the clock issue becomes irrelevant. And I think this is how the keyboard manufacturers imagine these things will be used. As far as I know, there is not a single digital keyboard that has inputs and outputs for a digital clock signal.

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Optical is cool, it may cause "clock jitter" resulting in digital distortion, and I don't know if the higher clock rates (like for 96k or 192k) are normally achievable. A central clock source syncing all digital sound sources would be best if it can drive the central DA convertor directly (--> low jitter).


The PC3 has digital clock in since the beginning, up to 192kHz. What it does internally to make that work is an interesting question.



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