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P-155 aux-out sound levels

Posted By: detuner

P-155 aux-out sound levels - 06/05/09 07:17 PM

I've recently purchased a Yamaha P-155 and now want to make audio recordings.

Some article indicated that 'line out' jacks are of higher quality and thus preferable to 'headphones out' for recording and so, on this particular digital piano model, the 'aux out' (auxiliary out) jacks are the next best available option. These are 1/4" stereo/6.3mm (Left/Right) jacks on the Yamaha P-155.

Next I went looking for a special Y adapter to connect my digital piano to an Olympus LS-10 audio recorder which uses a 3.5mm minijack.

In other words, there are two 1/4" mono plugs (L/R) connected to the back of my digital piano converging in a Y configuration with a stereo minijack plug that goes into the "line in" jack on the audio recorder. In theory everything should work.

When I tried to record audio when playing the line levels seem strangely low on the audio recorder (-30 to -18) even at the highest recording levels (10).

In other words, the recording levels are nowhere near peaking on the recorder and cannot really be set at all, and this occurs only when hooked up to the aux-out cables.

I looked at the manual for the recorder and nothing seemed to apply (such as 'turn up volume' on the digital piano - the levels remained very low for recording). The output is legible yet all the nuance is lost because of the low recording levels.

The manual for the piano also had nothing to offer. I thought it may be an issue that could be dealt with in the "Function" setup of the piano, for changing the aux-out to higher volumes yet did not find any information in the manual.

The forums were searched here and one post seems to describe closely this experience - as if there is only half of the sound output reaching the audio recorder via the aux-out connection:

#659514 - 08/10/08 04:22 PM Re: Recording by Line vs Microphones


Although I do not have a dedicated minijack to 1/4" adapter around I next tried checking recording/sound levels through the 'headphones out' jack to the audio recorder and it was no better. At best it gets to -18 dB though seems to hover around -30 dB mostly.

This strikes me as extremely odd and I've heard no accounts of this in the reviews for the Olympus LS-10 recorder, so I tend to think it may be the digital piano sound output levels instead. Or, something to do with how the cords balance the power though these devices are made to interact in this way, via audio standards, so it is hard to imagine that sound levels of line-out/line-in recording are not already thoroughly tested.

So I'm here wondering if anyone else has knowledge of these issues or what I'd call anomalies.

I'm wary of calling Yamaha support again after my initial call about trying to set up this recording option (P-155/LS-10) was readily solved by my purchasing their $100+ Audiogram mixer to record through the headphones out jack onto my computer - an extremely obtrusive option by comparison.

Is it actually the case that - to get decent recording levels out of this piano - I may actually need to get a mixer to boost sound levels to record with?

Thanks for any and all insight.
Posted By: detuner

Re: P-155 aux-out sound levels - 06/08/09 03:26 AM

This is a follow-up post regarding abnormally low sound output levels experienced when attempting to record directly from the Auxiliary Out jacks on the Yamaha P-155 digital piano using an Olympus LS-10 audio recorder.

I've called Olympus and they are looking further into the issue over the weekend, and have also written to Yamaha Tech Support and will update this thread with any additional information which leads to resolving the issue.

Although it was not intended, a blog I began working on over the weekend has become a way to further document this situation in hopes that a more accurate description (with pictures) may help convey exactly what is going on.

Here's a link to the post...

> recording anomalies

Posted By: detuner

Re: P-155 aux-out sound levels - 06/18/09 06:16 PM

A crescendo and potential finale of the 'recording anomalies' rondo as interpreted and arranged via telephone with Yamaha Customer Support representative performing a stunningly bizarre cadenza...

The composition as scored...

[Linked Image]

The official performance...

[Linked Image]

(with subsequent disbanding of instrumentation as defective)

::: Please visit the following URL for more information :::

---> Customer Service (sic) -- Yamaha responds…

By detuner

Posted By: bitWrangler

Re: P-155 aux-out sound levels - 06/18/09 07:52 PM

Your blog entry was so long I couldn't make it through the whole thing so I'll just ask a couple of questions.

First, does the volume level on the piano affect the aux-out levels (shouldn't if they are true "line-level")?

Second, if you record with the headphones or without, does it change the recorded levels?

Third, have you tried connecting the DP to your computer (or other device that supports line-in) and doing a quick recording (if your computer has a line-in, don't use the mic-in if it has one) or level check?
Posted By: Bob Newbie

Re: P-155 aux-out sound levels - 06/18/09 08:04 PM

I read the entry..they gave him a rube goldberg workaround..
When I bought my P60 in 2004..after setting up the piano "tweaking" the sounds just like I wanted then played for awhile and turned off the piano..BIG mistake! you see it doesn't save the settings! I complained to Yamaha(email) I don't know if they included a memory chip in the P70..but what a DuH! on yamaha's part for not realizing owners would not leave the piano turned on when not in use.. a big DUH!
Posted By: detuner

Re: P-155 aux-out sound levels - 06/19/09 04:05 AM

Great questions.

1) Yes, changing the 'master volume' on the piano affects the
aux-out levels.

ex.1 http://detuner.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/screena1.png

ex.2 http://detuner.files.wordpress.com/2009/06/screenbversion2.png

If not "line-level" what would the connections be called and are they considered non-standard - and are such compatibility issues common or rare in electronic music instruments today?

This took me by complete surprise. (engineering nostalgia)

2) No, recording with or without headphones does not change
the recorded volumes as far as I could discern.

Although in the basic recording setup, where

digital piano <= aux-out => digital recorder

the 'master volume' (10) required makes playing with
or without headphones impossible due to loudness.

These images model the dynamics: (with headphones*)

Exhibit A - too loud to play piano while recording
Exhibit B - too soft to accurately record piano playing

Exhibit C* - sound levels permanently damage hearing
Exhibit D* - sound levels too low for capturing harmonics

In essence, neither headphones nor internal speakers could
be used when recording at adequate sound output levels,
which is only half-addressed by the 1/4" adapter plug used
as a mute switch: this means to record would always require
wearing headphones when playing, which is another limitation.

3) My laptop does not have line-in and requires using an iMic
audio adapter which was not available when troubleshooting.

I did test the Olympus audio recorder by having it record
via its built-in microphones when playing the piano and
the recording and signal levels were "normal". Only when
plugged into the aux-out connections (and headphones-out
on the piano) would this extreme drop in level occur.

To achieve a 'too loud' peak signal needed for recording
required maximizing both piano and recording volumes (10)
while striking keys extremely hard, equivalent to the
carnival/fair game using a sledgehammer to ring a bell.

Posted By: athomik

Re: P-155 aux-out sound levels - 06/19/09 10:05 AM

The P155 has a test mode in which you can check if the piano is up to spec. One of the tests is for checking the output level. In this test, the piano generates a 1KHz sine wave which should be +4.0dBu ± 2dB. If you have a way of measuring this, ask Yamaha to explain how to get into the test mode (I'm not sure where Yamaha in the US stand with regard to giving out that information, so I won't post it here)
Posted By: bitWrangler

Re: P-155 aux-out sound levels - 06/19/09 03:12 PM

Ahhh, I see. So the big issue really is simply that the "aux-out" is a variable output controlled by the volume slider. So Yamaha's advice makes plenty of sense, basically utilizing the recorder as an attenuator for your headphones. Another alternative would be to purchase an inline headphone volume control. The ones I've seen typically have 1/8" mini stereo connectors on either end but they may make them with 1/4" connectors. I purchased one from Radio Shack years ago for some super cheap price (~$5). Of course this doesn't help if you would rather not use the headphones, but short of using an amp/signal booster, I think your choices are slim.

Given this it sounds like your piano is doing what it was designed to do (though it's still possible that the output is still abnormally low). It was an unfortunate design choice to provide a variable out (convenient if you primarily use the instrument with external sound system where you'd like to control the volume from the piano itself) without also providing a fixed level out (useful for recording).

Another option is to connect the recorder to the headphone out as there is usually a small amp to boost the signal to properly drive headphones. You just need to be careful since the signal levels usually exceed what most inputs expect for a line level. Start with the volume at zero and increase until the headphone level output seems to match the aux-out. You can then slightly increase from there.
Posted By: nickchip5

Re: P-155 aux-out sound levels - 06/22/09 06:59 AM

I did the same test. I didn't find any abnormal level issue in my P-155 P155.

[Linked Image]

Test page here:

test link here
Posted By: nickchip5

Re: P-155 aux-out sound levels - 06/22/09 07:22 AM

Also, I found 'detuner' returned his P155. If they allow the returning. Does that mean they agree that the 'level' issue is a defects? Can detuner tell us how the new one' level issue works out? Thanks
Posted By: detuner

Re: P-155 aux-out sound levels - 06/22/09 10:35 PM

athomik - Thanks for the helpful information regarding the test modes. The most frustrating aspect was that no troubleshooting of the instrument itself occurred, instead becoming an issue of user compliance, adapting to use the instrument as it (inadequately) functions.

While bitWrangler's $5 USD fix is another option, it still leaves only half-a-digital-piano to work with, which is not a workable solution if needing or wanting to record when not using headphones. The underlying problem remains.

So too, another helpful suggestion (with accompanying diagram) was sent regarding hooking up a small mixer to resolve the problem... [click for full size]
[Linked Image]
Likewise, while this $45 USD fix does indeed boost sound levels for recording, it still requires an add-on that becomes an issue of 'middle management' to enable basic digital recording.

From my point of view, as a customer, it is important to know in advance if such a device is going to be needed for recording, versus after purchasing it.

There was no indication either in calling Yamaha specifically about recording through Aux-Out nor in their P-155 product documentation, online specs, nor user manual that a mixer would be needed for digital recording via the Aux-Out connection. If this fact was stated in advance I would have invested in another instrument.

As my particular approach to playing is intuitive it requires an unobstructed and 'pure' relation with the instrument. This is why listening to the piano through an external device rather than the piano itself is detrimental; it brings incoherence and unnecessary complexity into the basic relation between person and instrument.

Additional cords, dials, power switches effectively function against this symbiotic interaction, which instead becomes overly complicated and convoluted. The initial investment in the P-155 was made specifically because of its stated simplicity as a high quality 'piano-centric' device (without extraneous xtras).

These additional doodads and work-arounds -- versus an invisible firmware fix -- are significant distractions and breakdown the basic musical connection between person and instrument and thus are not viable solutions, for me.

In contrast -- it would be most helpful to acknowledge there is an actual technical anomaly prior to seeking a fix which masks/hides it:

Is this the only P-155 with extremely low output levels, due to variable output or is every P-155 like this? A way to find out would be along the lines of what nickchip5 attempts, replicating the situation.

That is, to reproduce the exact recording conditions using a Yamaha P-155 and Olympus LS-10 and evaluate the results by examining the decibel readings when testing recording levels. Are they in a normal or expected range or are they abnormally low and hardly registering unless both pieces of equipment are completely maxed out? (i.e. volumes 10 on both piano output and digital recorder input).

This is vitally relevant because it would indicate if a replacement P-155 would have solved the problem or if shipping another P-155 would effectively only repeat the situation. As it was not dealt with in any reasonably satisfactory way by Yamaha Customer Service -- such questions were placed "off limits" -- it forced the only remaining option: to return everything as defective.

For this reason it was not deemed a good nor viable option to effectively replace the "abnormal" P-155 with another potentially unusable P-155 without engaging this technical issue in the depth required.

(Why does it require posting in a third-party forum to learn more about what may actually be going on?)

Now, if someone has plenty of spare change in the thousands of dollars to play around with, maybe they can fool around with this stuff and troubleshoot and beta-test and offer user-reports to Yamaha, gratis -- though this is problematic because it is ultimately subsidizing a poorly made piece of equipment -- one that is either defective, lacking in engineering oversight, or is improperly documented in its functioning, at the very least.

If an external mixer is necessary in order to achieve 'normal' signal levels via variable output, this should be stated in the brochure, online documentation and product manual- because otherwise the instrument is rendered useless (and even then, some may be opposed to using a mixer to simply record).

In this particular case there is an obvious degree of malfunctioning if the output signals are unusable at reasonable levels and its very irrelevance to the company is highly suspect.

What happened to the integrity of musical instrument makers and their associated cachet of quality, care, and pride in creating fine instruments based on a tradition of craftsmanship? Has it been lost or worse yet now equated with fashioning and shipping technological products and managing expectations through product obsolescence? To me this scenario low-balls what is to be expected when investing in an instrument - and I don't think compromising on the most 'minimal' functioning is a good place to start off.

Especially the relation between person and instrument -- the music gets lost in the dysfunction, or even in the need for technology and technical add-ons to achieve basic (if pure) functioning.

My expectations were probably too high -- naive to the industry itself and to any formal training whatsoever -- it was assumed the device would simply 'work' as stated and this turns out not to be the case. And requiring external add-ons and work-arounds rather than addressing the underlying technical issue is a level of compromise I was unprepared for and cannot accept, especially with such a major investment.

P.S. For instance, the ambiguity of USB/MIDI functioning led to attempts to mount the P-155 as a drive on my Mac desktop using a USB cable so to enable transfer of MIDI songs or even MIDI itself. None of it was possible. Instead, reformatting gigabytes of hard drive to hold 3 (or, ambiguously, 99) MIDI files could result. So too, confused interface options such "Save to User" (which Bob Newbie previously mentioned) has nothing to do with 'User Settings'. Song recording is functionally unusable, and so on.

Even looking past or beyond this, it ultimately boils down to being able to play a decent piano sample on a good weighted, graded keyboard -- forgetting everything else -- and then externally recording this via Aux Out connections at reasonable levels, and instead this renders the instrument wholly unusable (if 'half usable' means one cannot use it for the intended purpose). This to me is a complete disaster.

Furthermore, the 'pride' of the company in its own product is then to ignore and disregard a legitimate technical issue and require the user comply to inadequate work-arounds of what is a fundamentally unusable piece of equipment -- based upon its own claims for functioning... unless a "consumer" is willing to submit to follow-on solution -- which I was -- up to a point. Yet Yamaha was not willing to compromise nor concede anything and instead readily exploited the situation to their advantage and this is, was, and remains shameful as a way of 'doing business'. It's truly rotten. Why others do not perceive it the same is certainly puzzling. I think there is a level of mediocrity involved that has become acceptable yet it strikes me as intolerable, especially as a starting point to ~music.

P.P.S. Because the Yamaha representative did nothing to address the underlying technical issue (such as a firmware fix) it rendered all of the equipment (recorder, piano, stand) unusable, and as such effectively 'defective' for their stated use. This forced the only remaining option which was to return everything to Musician's Friend for a refund -- which proves the overall point: the only way to effectively resolve this anomaly is to not use the equipment; i.e. voting otherwise.

In this case it is preferable not to pay for something that does not work for its stated intent. Even if explicitly unstated (digital recording of a digital piano), it could readily be assumed to work. And by that, 'reasonably well' versus accepting as fait accompli a "there are no lemons" law for electronic musical instruments, where the user-base is employed and exploited as bug-fixers if not apologists for the business model - its regressive wares ultimately impacting music and musicality itself, turning it into technique by way of conformation.

Posted By: bitWrangler

Re: P-155 aux-out sound levels - 06/22/09 11:07 PM

Well to be fair, when I go to the Yamaha website it says the following under the features for the P155:

AUX OUT (Variable) L/L+R, R (1/4" jack)

Notice the "Variable" part. Also, in the manual it says this:

The instrument’s [MASTER VOLUME] setting will affect
the sound that is output from the AUX OUT jacks.

I think the issue here is wasn't that Yamaha didn't clearly state what was going on (as they obviously do), but rather that it was not knowing what the implication of this "feature" meant in the context of being able to record.

Also, given this information, there is likely no way that a "firmware patch" could change the behaviour of the aux ports. They are most likely simply wired _after_ the volume control.
Posted By: detuner

Re: P-155 aux-out sound levels - 06/28/09 09:56 PM


My assumption is that this event is indeed an anomaly -- that it is not occurring with every P-155 shipped. Yet, if these abnormal levels are instead the norm -- it would be a serious issue worthy of further investigation at the level of audio engineering, by default. To exclude this possibility and the possibility of an engineering fix is to basically accept a flawed partially functioning product to be sold as if new and fully functioning, while ignoring an underlying problem which requires purchasing additional things to make the original item work. If this is the case the customer should then be forewarned -- it's only fair...


It remains unknown whether this documented recording anomaly involves a single defective instrument or the entire Yamaha P-155 product line.

For this reason, it may be that a single instrument has (effectively) unusable audio signals when accessing them via the Auxiliary Out connections.

It may not matter if the equipment is hooked up to a powered speaker, amplifier, or mixer because the signal can be boosted to a usable 'normal' level.

Yet if attempting to directly record from the instrument using a digital audio recorder, the audio signal is largely unusable unless transmitted in such a way as to maximize its output which in turn cripples the instrument's overall functionality (cannot play with or without headphones, etc); in turn requiring further adaptations to make it work as it should and would be expected to.

If this is a single unique instance of degraded functioning then returning the product takes this defective product out of circulation and the problem is simply a one-off: an isolated anomalous event, not a widespread unacknowledged design error.

That would mean someone would be able to purchase a P-155 and be confident that they can record directly via the AUX OUT connections and get a reasonably 'normal' signal level, whereby 'normal' means useable and does not require crippling the rest of the instrument's functionality.

If this is not the case - and every P-155 has this issue - then it would be helpful if Yamaha were to make note of the special conditions this product requires in order to function properly.

For example, it is correct that Yamaha states on their site about 'variable' signal output on the P-155...

Originally Posted by bitWrangler
Well to be fair, when I go to the Yamaha website it says the following under the features for the P155:

AUX OUT (Variable) L/L+R, R (1/4" jack)

Notice the "Variable" part. Also, in the manual it says this:

The instrument’s [MASTER VOLUME] setting will affect
the sound that is output from the AUX OUT jacks.

What is not made clear is that this sound output may not be strong enough to use without an additional device to boost the power of the signal.

If this recording anomaly actually exists with every Yamaha P-155 then there should be a disclaimer with information about this fact, in advance...

AUX OUT (Variable) L/L+R, R (1/4" jack)

The instrument’s [MASTER VOLUME] setting will affect
the sound that is output from the AUX OUT jacks.

Note: Digital recording via AUX OUT requires mixer or audio interface to boost signal to usable level.

In other words, 'variable' does not necessarily equate with 'unusable' signal levels and the documentation provided has demonstrated these signals are abnormal and cripple the ability to use the instrument as a result of what may or may not be a design flaw.

It is impossible to know unless the problem is looked into further, or it may even be irrelevant if no one actually wants to digitally record using AUX OUT connections - which is the backwards position the Yamaha Customer Support representative (i.e. the anomaly is a customer attempting to digitally record using AUX OUT).

Yet it is not in the least abnormal to want to use these AUX OUT signals for making such recordings - and if this does not work, it is a real and relevant issue that requires adequate attention so as to resolve it (potentially for all other P-155 owners), versus simply ignoring it, which is ultimately what instrument maker Yamaha Corporation chose to do.

As to whether a firmware patch could or could not fix this, it probably requires impartial audio engineers and those who know the actual circuit to make such a determination, and maybe it is not possible or feasible (else it is easier to incorporate the design changes in a newer model, etc). That could well be the case. Yet then it should be stated as such in a disclaimer, to warn the customer about the particular way this device works versus how it would otherwise be expected to work.

P.S. A follow-on approach could be a trade-in/trade-up program so that feedback given on instruments benefits those providing it, potentially enabling access to a current, upgraded, refined model of instrument.
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