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Best sound quality?
#2346109 11/06/14 12:34 AM
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Hey all, I'm back after a few months, I love this place, and my hobby is still going.

I recently just finally got the equipment I need to record via Line Out to Audacity. It was a bit of a nuisance because I had to buy 2 other cables before that one (both of which were MIDI)...anyway, thanks to the person who linked the url to Piano clues.com.

So, I connected the Line Out from my Yamaha to the -then not aware of- Microphone jack. The laptop doesn't have a Line in jack, but I gave the record a shot anyway. The waveform was jagged/huge and the sound quality was full of static and the fzzzzzzzztttt sounds. This was on a rather old laptop, probably made 10 years ago.

I managed to get another computer dragged in that did have a Line jack, which I recorded on that. The quality was 10x better.

But, surprisingly, the microphone jack on that same computer was comparable to the Line quality, if not better, I couldn't test it too much though.

Why is this? Is the 'quality' of the Microphone jack on the old laptop just inferior to the new one? Why does this Microphone jack sound better?

Secondly, why is the wave form of the Line quality audio form so much smaller? (Hopefully that makes sense)

This question is for those people who have successfully connected all this stuff before and have worked with this gear (probably most of you have). I feel inept at these things, so sorry if nothing makes sense, I can try to explain it better. Thanks all.

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Re: Best sound quality?
Indra123 #2346112 11/06/14 01:07 AM
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Microphones only produce a very weak signal, i.e. low voltage. Line level is stronger, i.e. higher voltage (in order to make background noise comparatively weaker).

So if a port is expecting a signal in the microphone range, it might not be able to handle the stronger line level signal: highs and lows in the signal are truncated, so the signal becomes distorted.

It appears that some microphone inputs are able to handle a higher range, so that they can use inputs from other devices in addition to microphones. I cannot say why the microphone input sounded better than the line input in your case. Maybe it was just louder, and louder usually sounds better.


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Re: Best sound quality?
Indra123 #2346118 11/06/14 01:30 AM
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Modern computers just have general purpose jacks that can be configured by software as input or output, line, headphones, microphone, surround speakers or whatever.

These configuration options are not always available to the end-user, then the computer manufacturer decides which jack does what. But hardware-wise they are all connected the same way to the audio codec.


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Re: Best sound quality?
Indra123 #2346136 11/06/14 03:02 AM
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I see. so it doesn't matter which one i use? Why is the quality so bad on the old computer? Is it just outdated wiring/construction?

Edit: sorry, I didn't see the first reply. So the signal is just a measurement of the electricity being outputted (voltage)? Why do mics have low voltage? Well, I guessdoes it matter in terms of regards to your voice being input as opposed to signals from instruments?

Last edited by Indra123; 11/06/14 03:07 AM.
Re: Best sound quality?
Indra123 #2346153 11/06/14 04:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Indra123
I see. so it doesn't matter which one i use? Why is the quality so bad on the old computer? Is it just outdated wiring/construction?

Edit: sorry, I didn't see the first reply. So the signal is just a measurement of the electricity being outputted (voltage)? Why do mics have low voltage? Well, I guessdoes it matter in terms of regards to your voice being input as opposed to signals from instruments?


You were seriously overloading the microphone input on the old computer. Always use Mic to Mic and Line to Line connections.

If the laptop does not have a Line input then buy an external sound module that take the line input from your keyboard and has a USB output to connect to the laptop.

Ian


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Re: Best sound quality?
Beemer #2346175 11/06/14 05:55 AM
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Originally Posted by Beemer


You were seriously overloading the microphone input on the old computer. Always use Mic to Mic and Line to Line connections.

If the laptop does not have a Line input then buy an external sound module that take the line input from your keyboard and has a USB output to connect to the laptop.

Ian


But it does seem, as jtsn said above, that newer computers configure the system to 'intelligently' deal with any thing that's connected to it - line/low level mike or even input/output, from the same jack.

This is presumably idiot proofing as well as hardware saving. But the farther down this road we go, the less the general user can understand what's happening.

This is OK, from an operational point of view, until the 'intelligent' computer makes a mistake and the system doesn't work. The general user - however intelligent and curious - is left floundering.

From the point of view of general dumbing down, it's disastrous. The user knows and understands less and less of what he's using.


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Re: Best sound quality?
Indra123 #2346186 11/06/14 07:13 AM
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Originally Posted by Indra123
Why do mics have low voltage?

Most (not all) microphones are passive devices, i.e. they are not powered, so the signal level they output will be very low. Most line level signals (i.e. from keyboards) are active (powered) outputs that are much hotter so they don't need all that amplification on the receiving end. On the other side of the chain, some Mic inputs are designed so that their own amplification can be bypassed/minimized so that they can also handle a hotter line input. This is an oversimplification (for example, impedance is another variable), but gives you the idea.

Re: Best sound quality?
Indra123 #2346322 11/06/14 11:46 AM
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This is why God invented audio interfaces.
Those jacks on the computer were not really meant for what you're trying to do.
Recording on a computer without an interface will lead to much gnashing of teeth and soul-crushing misery.

These days you can find plenty of models that work well and are affordable.
Examples:
http://www.presonus.com/products/Recording-Systems
http://www.behringer.com/EN/Products/UM2.aspx

Last edited by Dave Weiser; 11/06/14 11:46 AM.
Re: Best sound quality?
Indra123 #2349857 11/13/14 10:41 PM
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Are those really necessary? The audio quality sounded fine to me, and they are relatively expensive.

Re: Best sound quality?
Dave Weiser #2349867 11/13/14 11:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Dave Weiser
This is why God invented audio interfaces.


Was that in the Book of Genesis?
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Re: Best sound quality?
Indra123 #2349892 11/14/14 01:24 AM
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Originally Posted by Indra123
Are those really necessary? The audio quality sounded fine to me, and they are relatively expensive.

If you're happy with the sound quality using the laptop's ports, then no it's not necessary.


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Re: Best sound quality?
Indra123 #2371770 01/09/15 08:16 PM
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Reviving this. So, I ended up getting this Behringer UM2 Audio interface. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00EK1OTZC/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o05_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Sound quality has improved a bit, but still getting some stray zzzzst sounds. I've used Audacity's noise removal effect, but it doesn't seem to 'fix' the problem (still staticy).

How do i fix this?

Re: Best sound quality?
Indra123 #2371773 01/09/15 08:44 PM
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Hmmm, interesting choice. Although, Behringer is not necessarily noteworthy with regard to sound quality in their low end devices, but the box is likely a step up from the onboard audio chipset on your laptop.

First let's see what you're doing. Your Yamaha produces a nice stereo (two signals, left and right ear) sound so you will want to use both port on the UPHORIA UM-2. I don't know which YAMAHA you have, but I would guess it has 1/4" audio outputs marked L and R. So you take two 1/4" instrument cables and run L to 1 and R to 2 on the UM-2.

Next thing you want to do is set the volume on your YAMAHA to about 50-75% and then play the YAMAHA aggressively while you watch the SIG and CLIP lights on the UM-2. They should never flash RED - but should frequently flash GREEN. GREEN good, RED bad. RED is possibly causing your zzzzzzst sounds during the recording process. You can adjust the gain or level of the inputs on the UM-2 using the knobs on top marked LINE GAIN 1 and INSTRUMENT GAIN 2. So you are trying to achieve a nice balance between the level coming out of the YAMAHA and the sensitivity of the inputs on the UM-2. GREEN good, RED bad.

Let us know how that goes. If that solves it. Done, if not - then we have to look at the settings on your computer, driver conflicts, buffer settings, or possibly use a DPC latency checker to see if there is any odd CPU spiking going on. But that's a different discussion.

Re: Best sound quality?
Indra123 #2371791 01/09/15 09:38 PM
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I have Yamaha Clavinova CLP 485.

Also, thanks for the awesome indepth response! I did as you described, except with a caveat - I only have one instrument cable, which I plug into the Line In on the UM2 and the other end into the L/R (Mono?) port on the Yamaha. Is it necessary that I need Stereo sound for this?

The UM2 was also the cheapest audio interface I could find. I have little knowledge about these things so I'm not sure what constitues a good audio interface vs a low end one (which I apparently I have...I digress......)

ANYHOW. I'm about to do another recording using audacity. I never noticced the Red/Green lights, going to do that now.

Re: Best sound quality?
Indra123 #2371793 01/09/15 09:55 PM
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I got it the SIG light to light up close to 100 percent of the time. The volume of the Yamaha is about 60% while the Gain is a bit over halfway. Still getting the 'airway' sound. On top of that, the actual signal from the Yamaha is quite electrical sounding.

edit: i should probably give a bit more information on what equipment I'm using. First of all i'm playbacking with some nice Behringer headphones, so quality is not indicative of the crappy speakers on the laptop I'm using.

Last edited by Indra123; 01/09/15 10:01 PM.
Re: Best sound quality?
Indra123 #2371802 01/09/15 10:47 PM
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Hmmm, airway sound. That's really vague. Can you upload one of your recorded files? Maybe to like https://www.hightail.com or a similar service so you can share a link to the file here and we could maybe listen? First thing that comes to mind is you may have a ground problem perhaps? Or be picking up interference from some lighting fixtures in the room? I'm grasping at straws really because I'm not sure what "airway" means. I thought I knew what you were saying when you called it "fzzzzt" which I suspected was you clipping (going into RED) during recording and getting distortion.

Yes, a stereo recording from your Yamaha will sound much nicer (two cables L and R). The Yamaha samples were created in stereo, that's why your keyboard has two 40 watt amps and two speakers. I am pretty sure audacity can record in stereo as well.


Re: Best sound quality?
Indra123 #2371806 01/09/15 11:03 PM
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Re: Best sound quality?
Indra123 #2371809 01/09/15 11:14 PM
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Ah, thanks for first attempt. I would need the audio file, as opposed to the Audacity file. So you need to export as a WAV or MP3, or AIF.

Re: Best sound quality?
Indra123 #2371811 01/09/15 11:20 PM
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Sorry about that, I assumed you had Audacity. I'm also learning Hightail as I go. Here's the WAV file.
https://www.hightail.com/download/UlRSVWRvWlRlaFM5TE5Vag

Re: Best sound quality?
Indra123 #2371820 01/09/15 11:47 PM
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OK, thank you. Easy solution, lower the volume of your CLP to 33 to 50% and make sure that the SIG light on the UM-2 flashes green when you play but does not light at all when you don't. And that CLIP light never flashes red. You can make adjustment to the Line or Instrument gain knob to ensure this happens correctly depending on which input you have plugged the CLP into.

You're audio file is highly distorted due to simple overage. It's just too loud.


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