Mike to pc connection and monitoring.

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Dave R Smith
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Joined: May 10 2005

The objective:
As a 'nice to have' I would like to be able to use various mikes (one at a time) for direct recording to pc/laptop of voiceover etc and:
- to be able to monitor the signal (level and waveform), and record.
- to easily detect (or auto-rectify) clipping/popping.
- good quality audio expected, but studio quality isn't.

So far...
I have tried connecting various mikes (Sennheiser MD42, ME66, MKE 2) either direct or via radio RX or via mza900p line convertor.
I did have some success with old windows98 pc, but no joy with XP pc.
With xp laptop I was able to receive a signal, but crackly.
I tried both line in and mike level options, though some mikes require phantom power of course.

With regard to software, I have adobe audition, though I can't see if this provides ability to monitor/record as described above.
I also have audacity which seems to do the job of providing waveform and highlighting clipping.

Searching on web suggests I need an external mixer, though would presumably need to acquire software as an independant function.
Searching here, Gary mentions:
http://forums.dvdoctor.net/showthread.php?t=48790

I normally use third parties for audio recording etc, so don't want to spend loads on what is only a 'nice to have'.
I also wish to avoid buying extra kit, if my current kit can be utilised in some combination.
Need is only for 1 mike at a time, though multiple mike mixing would add to scope.

Reccomendations appreciated for connection/software.

rogs
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Joined: Jun 16 2006

The majority of 'bog standard' pc sound cards have appalling mic preamps --although the line level inputs are often quite usable.
To overcome this, and also have the other features you mention - meter level monitors, phantom power, headphone amp ---you'd be hard pushed to beat something like this: http://www.behringer.com/EN/Products/802.aspx IMHO. And for only about £50!
I've had one for about 3 years now, and wouldn't be without it.
OK, so it's probably not 'broadcast' quality audio, but it's really very good, IMHO - especially considering the price!

Just set the levels to suit, and record to pc using the sound card line input, with Audition or Audacity. Either will do!

Mark M
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Joined: Nov 17 1999

I have an external USB soundcard, a Roland/Cakewalk/Edirol UA25x which has phantom power, XLR inputs, level adjustments, etc, etc,
I was using a similar Behringer mixer as Rogs', but when the soundcard died on the computer I got the UA25x to do both jobs. Plus it works well on both my desktop and my laptops. Far better than the sound card on my MacBook Pro!

Adobe Certified Professional Premiere Pro CS6, Premiere Pro CC

Adobe Community Professional

Alan Roberts
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You don't need a mixer for one mic, you just need a preamp. Try Canford, Keene etc.

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paulears
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For less than £100 there are plenty of really good external sound devices - I rather like the Lexicon ones and compared to computer internal one (as in the ones on a non-laptop, which you can buy for around £9.95) the results are superb. If you just want to get a non-phantom powered mic in with little fuss, the cheap xlr-USB devices are ok - they have higher noise levels and there's no real control over levels, but they work. As for laptops, their pre-amps are rarely even good enough for the skype type headsets - nasty tinny, hissy things!

Dave R Smith
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Thank-you for your replies:
Rogs: That's a cost effective solution.

Mark: Found it here:
http://www.thomann.de/gb/cakewalk_ua25_ex_cw.htm
I like the idea of USB. Being a digital signal you know the quality will be consistant when used with different pc's (though presumably have to load driver/software on whatever pc before use). My laptop soundcard is of untested quality, so would avoid that problem, though is more than i wish to pay at the mo'.

Alan: Yes only 1 mike, but as is often the case, while forking out for one item it sometimes makes sense to pay a bit more for added functionality. I'll take a look at Canford/Keene.

Paul: I found this but note no phantom power - though not essential.:
http://www.musiconmypc.co.uk/lexicon-alpha-studio-2x2x2-desktop-recording-studio-cubase-le4
Is this the sort you were referring to?

DAVE M
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Joined: May 17 1999

I've heard good things about the Rode Podcaster that might fit your needs?

It's a dynamic USB mic. It looks ok in the pictures but won't be as rugged as they imply (ie a bit plastic?)

The main point is that you just plug and play.

I run a conventional mixer and mics but this would be a cheap option.

Dave R Smith
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Joined: May 10 2005
DAVE M wrote:
I've heard good things about the Rode Podcaster that might fit your needs?

It's a dynamic USB mic. It looks ok in the pictures but won't be as rugged as they imply (ie a bit plastic?)

The main point is that you just plug and play.

I run a conventional mixer and mics but this would be a cheap option.

Thank-you Dave.

http://www.dv247.com/microphones/rode-podcaster-broadcast-quality-usb-microphone--35480
It looks a good choice, but as I already have a range of good quality mikes, I think an xlr input would be a more flexible solution for me.

>I run a conventional mixer and mics but this would be a cheap option.
Presumably this means you rely on the sound card line in to carry quality through.
In context of voice, rather than music, do you find quality of recording variable, depending what pc etc you use and its respective soundcard?

Put another way, I'd like to use my laptop for this on occasions, but quality of its soundcard is currently an unknown quantity. It seems to be a 'realtek high definition audio', but can't trace a model no. in the 'properties'.

rogs
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Joined: Jun 16 2006

You can test your sound card's 'line in' quality by simply using the headphone output from a CD or mp3 type player, and make a recording of a known track. Should give you an idea of how much quality you're likely to lose - or not, as the case may be.

And if you really want to do a mic input on a budget, then the 'baby' version (single mic preamp) of the Xenyx 802 mixer I mentioned above is the Xenyx 502.
It's just about as simple as they get, and it's only about £35!

Dave R Smith
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rogs wrote:
You can test your sound card's 'line in' quality by simply using the headphone output from a CD or mp3 type player, and make a recording of a known track. Should give you an idea of how much quality you're likely to lose - or not, as the case may be.

And if you really want to do a mic input on a budget, then the 'baby' version (single mic preamp) of the Xenyx 802 mixer I mentioned above is the Xenyx 502.
It's just about as simple as they get, and it's only about £35!

Thank-you Rogs.
The laptop doesn't have a line in, only mic in, spdif and headphone.
Perhaps the 'mic' socket is intelligent and also acts as line-in?
I swapped the audio (hi-fi) feed used by office pc to test, using laptop mic socket. No sound.
Tried a cheapo pc mike instead - still no sound. Yesterday I found headphones only worked upon reboot, so turned laptop off - appplied mic connection, turn on, still no sound.

Double checked not muted and wmp plays wav file to its speakers OK.
Unless I resolve this, the laptop will be useless for mike/mixer input.

paulears
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if you can go to just over £100 inc VAT
http://www.dolphinmusic.co.uk/product/15162-lexicon-lambda-studio.html
These are great, and have phantom power. I've got one of the Omega ones I use on my laptop - same thing but a few extra ins and outs.

Dave R Smith
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Thanks Paul.
I've seen this which is also USB:
http://www.maplin.co.uk/module.aspx?moduleno=43545
The above may be an old version as I've seen photo's of the same with a grey finish.

The output on the USB mixers all seem to be 2 channel (1 * stereo).
If I needed 3+ input sources I'd hope that USB or firewire would enable several parralell channels (e.g. 4 mono wav files or 2* stereo captured).
That would enable mixing post recording, with the magic of being able to try different mixes.

But then cost would be higher I guess and it would cease to be a 'mixer' in the true sense and it enters into the world of recording studios and not the original objective.

In thinking about soundcard versus usb/firewire I found this interesting article, though I can't see a date on it to know if it's current.
http://www.tweakheadz.com/audio_interfaces_1.htm

paulears
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Multiple outputs are pretty common on studio kit - I've got a Tascam US-1641 on my mobile kit, and on another system I'm running 16 ins and 16 outs via a Soundscape mix-stream system. USB output mixers at entry level have two channel stereo as the norm. Move up to Yamaha/Roland/Tascam and you start to get multichannel, usually via ADAT Toslink lightpipe. The little Alesis actually sounds quite nice, and has plenty of input gain, and is quite quiet, noise wise. A very handy smaller unit.

So there's no problem whatsoever with multichannel audio in and out by USB or Firewire - just the cost. There are useful articles and decent advice on the soundonsound.com website. It's the magazine read by pro and amateur recording enthusiasts.

Dave R Smith
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Cheers Paul.
(Note: Link is wrong - please edit ,com to .com for other readers.)

I'll have a read of that site.

'USB or not USB' that is the question.
My mind keeps changing:
-USB brings a consistancy
-Analog means sound card dependant

Filming a corporate, I would tend to video talking head for voiceover, or use voiceover artist/studio, although mike via usb to laptop would be another option - and enable immediate cross checking of audio recordings, in practice though I probably wouldn't do it this way.

That means use is for office only with a sound card with known good quality.
My voice is cr*p for voiceover, so that's not something I aspire to.
The recording environment is a major factor in quality, but I don't have plans for an accoustic room.
Need for office recording to date has been light/infrequent.

Given the above, analog is the sensible choice over the hearts 'toys for boys' option.
The USB/firwire options are good to know for future and when discussing options with mates/musicians etc.

paulears
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link fixed - ta.

I know what you mean - but even for office use, the problems of using the PC inputs outweigh things for me.

An example - I needed a very quick explanation, not really a voice over for a clip. rough clips on a timeline, no original sound and a talkthrough. For time reasons, I decided to see if the conferencing/meeting system that's on one of the edit suite PCs would do? An SM58 is permanently connected to this so I can work here rather than go to a regular meeting in London. We just yell at each other normally. I edit in CS5, so changed the Premiere audio input to the cheap xlr to usb converter I use for the meeting setup. Maximum gain meant I had to speak really close to the mic, so although it worked, it pops and bangs all the way through. It was quick, and simple - but sounds rough, and my experience of computer mic inputs is the same - rarely enough gain, always high background noise - just unpleasant, really.

Dave R Smith
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paulears wrote:
..my experience of computer mic inputs is the same - rarely enough gain, always high background noise - just unpleasant, really.

Are you referring to computer mikes, or pro mikes via external mixer/sound card.
I'm proposing the latter with my 'line-in' test with music source sounding good.

John Willett
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Dave R Smith wrote:
The objective:
As a 'nice to have' I would like to be able to use various mikes (one at a time) for direct recording to pc/laptop of voiceover etc and:
- to be able to monitor the signal (level and waveform), and record.
- to easily detect (or auto-rectify) clipping/popping.
- good quality audio expected, but studio quality isn't.

So far...
I have tried connecting various mikes (Sennheiser MD42, ME66, MKE 2) either direct or via radio RX or via mza900p line convertor.
I did have some success with old windows98 pc, but no joy with XP pc.
With xp laptop I was able to receive a signal, but crackly.
I tried both line in and mike level options, though some mikes require phantom power of course.

With regard to software, I have adobe audition, though I can't see if this provides ability to monitor/record as described above.
I also have audacity which seems to do the job of providing waveform and highlighting clipping.

Searching on web suggests I need an external mixer, though would presumably need to acquire software as an independant function.
Searching here, Gary mentions:
http://forums.dvdoctor.net/showthread.php?t=48790

I normally use third parties for audio recording etc, so don't want to spend loads on what is only a 'nice to have'.
I also wish to avoid buying extra kit, if my current kit can be utilised in some combination.
Need is only for 1 mike at a time, though multiple mike mixing would add to scope.

Reccomendations appreciated for connection/software.

Oops - missed this thread.

For connecting the mic. I would use something like the CEntrance MicPort Pro - it will do exactly what you want.

As for software - Audacity is free, but the Adobe Audition you have is better.

I hope thsi helps.

John
 
A picture tells a thousand words, but sound tells a thousand pictures.

Dave R Smith
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Thank-you John.
That's another option and compact for single mike, though I sometimes like to record voiceovers etc with 2 mikes, either so I can choose from different 'sound' and dodge clipped peaks, mike handling noises etc should they creep in.

John Willett
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Dave R Smith wrote:
Thank-you John.
That's another option and compact for single mike, though I sometimes like to record voiceovers etc with 2 mikes, either so I can choose from different 'sound' and dodge clipped peaks, mike handling noises etc should they creep in.

Then something like a Focusrite Saffire may fit the bill.

There are several to choose from at various prices.

John
 
A picture tells a thousand words, but sound tells a thousand pictures.

Dave R Smith
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John Willett wrote:
Then something like a Focusrite Saffire may fit the bill.

There are several to choose from at various prices.

Thank-you again John.

They certainly look the business, I was going to say they're out of my price range, but are priced sensibly:
http://www.dv247.com/computer-hardware/focusrite-saffire-6-usb--67804

Some I've looked at include Cubase LE, which a mate says there isn't much missing to the full version, so this can add weight to a good deal, though from what I've heard Cubase isn't any more user friendly than the Adobe Audition I have.

I had to get some Voiceover done this weekend, so used mikes to Sony Z1E then to pc via firewire with good results (so Z1E perform AD conversion) and also took the opportunity to test via Z1E and composite out to pc line in (so soundcard does AD conversion). Unable to spot any difference.

In addition to the discussed mixer options, to improve on what I have the 2 key aspects are probably:
i)Sound room - not for external noises, but for improved recording accoustics (yes I've seen diy boxes for this)
ii)A Richard Burton for a good rich voice - Can he be cloned?

You can't beat a pro in a studio, so I'm trying not to get carried away with this task - fun though it is.

paulears
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Out of choice, I edit audio on Sony Soundforge, although I'm a long term Cubase user (started back in the Atari days) and also have audition.

The bundled LE version of Cubase is well worth having - especially if you have a MIDI requirement of any kind. The full version of Cubase comes in a number of slight varieties, depending on what you need from a big studio package. It is tricky to learn, in the same way that Photoshop is - but once you have the basics, then the clever bits sort of just drop into place. The LE version gets you going - it's just a little short on the really clever, but less common features - that's all.

For what it's worth, in audio circles they have Cubase vs Logic punch-ups in exactly the same way we do with Premiere vs FCP

MAGLINK
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But Paul, we all know that Pro Tools is the best:D

Dave R Smith
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paulears wrote:
Out of choice, I edit audio on Sony Soundforge, although I'm a long term Cubase user (started back in the Atari days) and also have audition.

The bundled LE version of Cubase is well worth having - especially if you have a MIDI requirement of any kind. The full version of Cubase comes in a number of slight varieties, depending on what you need from a big studio package. It is tricky to learn, in the same way that Photoshop is - but once you have the basics, then the clever bits sort of just drop into place. The LE version gets you going - it's just a little short on the really clever, but less common features - that's all.

For what it's worth, in audio circles they have Cubase vs Logic punch-ups in exactly the same way we do with Premiere vs FCP

My talent as a music creator is sadly poor, despite a reasonable listening ear (*2), so no midi requirement.

I do enjoy, as a hobby, mixing/tweaking sound. Does the cubase LE come with libraries of instruments/backing tracks?

On the Alesis mixer I linked earlier I've ben reading the user guide:
http://www.maplin.co.uk/media/pdfs/L48AW%20Reference%20Manual.pdf
The '100 effects' sound like a fun extra, though I generally prefer to record 'pure' and leave tweaking till post production, where you can leave them off if they don't measure up.

It appears to offer more options for track inputs than others, as well as patching options if needed at some stage in future.

This appears to be the older version (USB1) without cubase at £119, compared to USB(2) version with cubase LE for £255:
http://www.dv247.com/computer-hardware/alesis-multimix-8-mk2-usb-2-0-compact-mixer--51755

paulears
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To: Gary Yep I agree
To: Everyone except Gary Nope - Don't agree

This seems to sum it up nicely.

Seriously though, I'd rather like a Digidesign system for Live audio - I did 1/2 a show on one and really liked it - but now I'm probably going to get a Roland 400 with digital multicore - BUT it talks to Sonar, which although everyone says is excellent, I've never used and don't wish to swap to.

I'm also an examiner for Music Technology and cannot see any difference in the quality of work I see produced on any of them. What is clear, though, is that there are more Cubase adept younger people out there. I often wonder if this is just because dodgy Cubase on PCs has been available to the kids for years, but Apple's focus on Logic as 'their' sequencer made home use rather than college/school use tricky. Many schools and colleges have in-house bans on Macs. A bit silly really, and this forced many to have to buy Macs almost covertly - limiting numbers. It's a lot better now, but when I was teaching, we bought a single Mac for music, and the graphics people bought one for print - mainly so they could use Quark. When our IT dept found out, we got officially banned from buying any form of IT equipment without aproval.

Dave R Smith
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Update.
I'd shortlisted the Alesis 8, £119 at maplins, has phantom power, and built in effects for some fun. I then read a few user reviews saying that the USB convertor introduced hum or other noise. This seemed self-defeating for me as I get good sound already via cameras xlr, I just wanted to monitor live with aide of soundwave etc.

Looking at a few of the single channnel USB convertors, a few different makes/models had similar adfverse comments on quality.

Today at my local music shop they had Peavey 6 USB, with phantom power and seems good value at £89.
[url]http://www.peavey.com/products/browse.cfm/action/detail/item/116922/PV(R)%206%20USB.cfm[/url]
I searched on problems for this, found someone who bought 3 (after being enthused by 1 and buying 3 more) and they all had a fault on one same channel, but would still reccomend tthem. Couldn't find any other problems.
I believe Peavey are a good make (US but model I saw was made in China), I saw them on American chopper, though the USB A/D conversion could well be a third party component.
I assume I should be able to use with 2 mikes, channel 1 fully panned left and ch 2 fully panned right and receive unmixed stereo without cross channel bleed?
Say nice things about it, so I can buy it next week. :)
No effects though, but I'm happy with that if it does its prime job.

paulears
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Don't forget that not all computers have a polarising voltage on the mic connector - so the 5V electret mics need won't be there - or maybe something is there, but not quite enough which produces something, but often very noisy and unpleasant.

Dave R Smith
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Hi Paul,
I assume you are referring to a mike to pc connector that is unpowered - other than via USB and not the Alesis (with its faults) and linked Peavey which have there own mains transformer power source, so was expecting the USB to be used a data only link?

paulears
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I was referring to those trying to use a mic direct to the laptop mic socket - my fault for confusing things as my browser had gone back a couple of screens and I replied to an older post. Oops - sorry. Ignore it!

Dave R Smith
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No problem Paul, but what you say probably has much merit in why the direct conversion xlr/USB sticks have less than ideal reviews.

Dave R Smith
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This review link gives the thumbs up I was looking for on the Peavey 6 B.
http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/jul10/articles/peaveypv6pv8usb.htm#Top

The penultimate paragraph is interesting on monitored whine whilst recording, but fortunately doesn't seem to get into destination file.

Dave R Smith
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Well the PV6 audio mixer with USB looks the business and solid build.
Connected to laptop and hardware recognised straight off, ditto for XP pc, which wasn't web connected, so any necessary drivers must be built in.
USB cable (bought seperate) seemed a sloppy fit (in sqaure socket), but on checking another usb socket/cable on HD, that's the same.

Testing via audacity was a joy to use and using the 3 freq controls could make my voice sound a tad better.
I set up as per instructions for input level, channel level and master level.
Laptop used for test and XP NLE turned off to avoid fan noise.

After a test recording I found a noise base around -30db when using sennheiser ME2 or MKE2 gold lavalier mike via mza900p convertor. It was OK, with MD42 mike direct.
The roll of filter doesn't seem to mitigate this.

I can remove the b/g static in post, but that doesn't seem a good work flow.

Perhaps John Willett can venture opinion why the sennheiser MZA900p should introduce noise?

I noticed that audacity wouldn't playback whilt mixer turned on, which is good as it avoids risk of scaring cats with feedback.

Seeing the 'red' clipping on audacity - which I didn't notice through headphones, make it easy to correct set up at time of recording. The PV6 also has clipping led's on each input channel and on its output channel.

I gave it a whirl via audition, but gave up with the unfriendly user experience.

Overall I'm pleased with the purchase.

Master lever slid to max.. cue in ..Bachman-turner overdrive... ;-)