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Question
Between my acoustic guitar, my DAW (Logic Pro X), and an Apogee One (Apple) interface, I have three volume control options when recording. I arbitrarily keep my guitar volume control at midline, while the interface has an infinite-turn knob with no max or min stops.

As a rule when recording, should I leave the guitar's volume control at midline, leave the interface alone, and control the record volume through my DAW?

Answer
Hello Patrick-

Thank you for your question.   First, based on that fact that you have a volume control on your Acoustic Guitar, I will assume you are plugging the Guitar in direct to the Mic Pre Amp / Converter Box combo in Apogee One.  Generally, I would not record an Acoustic Guitar like this, as direct pickups are designed for Stage use, and just don't sound anywhere near as good as using  vocal Microphone on an Acoustic Guitar, typically set around the 12th Fret. Go closer to the Sound Hole for more bass response.

So assuming that you are not in a position to do this Mic setup, and have to stay direct, the challenge will be identifying the "sweet spot" for each stage of gain... this is what Engineers refer to as "Gain Staging".  Basically, each piece of gear in the chain has a spot where it individually sounds the best.  The Guitar Mic built in will sound the best at a certain spot. Then you want to adjust the Mic Pre / Converter Combo gain where you manage the original gain from the Guitar, but then adjust until the Mic Pre sounds the best it can. This is commonly referred to as "Saturation" on a good Mic Pre, where pushing into the internal mechanics changes the sound. Usually this is due to a Tube or Transformer, and in "ultra clean" Mic Pre's, often pushing gain doesn't change the sound in a pleasurable way.  

Internally, the volume has less sound quality or tone properties as once the signal is digitized and living inside your DAW, the volume change of the track fader will not effect tone, only volume. Once inside the DAW, as long as you are not clipping or distorting, you will be fine. The Track fader represents the position in the mix, and not tone. If you want tone controls, reach for an EQ.

So, I would recommend starting with the Guitar and Mic Pre at 50% each. Take a test recording. Then dial the guitar to 25% and the Mic Pre to 75%. Take a test recording.  Then reverse this to the Guitar at 75% and the Mic Pre at 25% and take a test recording. Can you identify a difference in tone upon playback?  If there is minimal tone change (there might not be any audible difference), then I would choose the setting that allows for the lowest noise floor. Listen to your tests, how loud is the "tape hiss" or "room sound" or "50 / 60 cycle hum" from the electronics? Does one setting have a lower noise floor than the other? It is possible that the Guitar electronics are weaker than the Apogeee One, so in that case I would dial the settings to minimize noise.

If you can find a combination of best tone and low noise, that would be ideal.

I hope this helps. Typically for a Guitar Amp, the amount of gain on the Amp means distortion and tone, how you push the speaker to physically distort is important, so on an Amp we would probably deal with this differently.

Best of Luck-

Doc

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