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PC recording - Sound Card interference

Discussion in 'Recording' started by kleinstein, Oct 17, 2013.

  1. kleinstein

    kleinstein Member

    I'm trying to record on my PC.

    I was interested in a sound card capable of good audio playback and recording, and was recommended a Xonar Essence STX. It turned out that while the Essence has a great sound quality, the recording quality of it is more than insufficient, especially for an item reviewed this positively (something that I unfortunately found out only later to be a pervasive issue for users on various forums, I should've asked for advice here first I suppose)

    Whenever I'm recording stuff, I'm getting considerable interference from my graphics card (Gigabyte Nvidia 560 Ti).

    I assume this is due to the microphone jack not being covered by the EMI shield of the soundcard, my question is, should I try to put at trashy improvised tinfoil "EMI shield" over the part myself, and will that improve things, or should I get an external recording device and record my stuff there? If yes, which one would you recommend? (I'd prefer one I could directly plug in via USB and edit my stuff instantly)

    Sorry for the newbie question, but you gotta start somewhere.

    Additional info: my microphone is a AKG D5, and my mic-preamp an Art Tube MP Studio V3
  2. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    not sure what your trying to record, but this will be fine of you only need a couple channels. https://www.presonus.com/products/AudioBox-USB and it probably comes w/ the presonus recording software for you to try.
  3. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    The Xonar Essence STX is essentially an audiophile's headphone driver card that just happens to have some input capability as well. I don't think adding more screening would make any difference to the interference, as it is likely to be coming in via the power rails and the grounds rather than through the ether. In addition, having sheets of tinfoil inside a PC is not a good idea from a safety point of view.

    Where you could rescue the situation is to get an external analog-to-digital converter (ADC) that had an S/PDIF output. The ART pre-amp would plug into the ADC input and the digital S/PDIF signal would go into the S/PDIF input on the STX card. Since this is not an analog input, it's immune from most interference inside the PC. That said, the majority of the quality 2-channel ADCs come as the output end of their own pre-amps, so you would have the opportunity of using your ART box for "coloured" recordings and by-passing it for "clean" ones.

    The sort of unit you could look at is the Audient Mico. This has an optical S/PDIF output that can plug into the optical S/PDIF input of the STX card, and since there is no galvanic connection between the units, there is no chance of interference leaking back from the PC into the pre-amp.

    The alternative that you mention of recording externally and then transferring to the PC is also possible, but it's a very different way of working. Take a look at the Zoom H4N.
  4. DSPDiva

    DSPDiva Active Member

    Look at the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2. 2 inputs a main out and a headphone out with zero latency monitoring. Only about $150. Great for the money and I believe it comes with the Scarlett bundle of plugins free.
  5. keinstein

    keinstein Active Member

    Thanks for all your suggestions.
    I think I will settle for the Focusrite Scarlett.
    I do however still have two questions regarding this device and the whole setup, if you wouldn't mind.

    1. When the Sound through the Scarlett is converted into digital and runs over USB into the PC, there won't be much interference, since it's all digital then, right?

    2. I think I'm gonna "set it up" it like this: mic/instrument into my ART preamp (due to it having more manipulation options), connect the preamp via 1/4'' TS cable or XLR cable to the Scarlett, then via USB into my PC. Is this alright/will it give sufficient sound, although it's less "clean" then? (I wouldn't wanna have spent money on the preamp for nothing)
  6. keinstein

    keinstein Active Member

    ...As a matter of fact, I'm still indecisive whether to get the Presonus Audiobox USB or the Focusrite Scarlett 2i2, but my I guess regarding my two questions this won't matter much
  7. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Your proposed signal routing looks OK. Although it's not a good thing in general to put two pre-amps in series, in this case you are deliberately wanting the coloured effects of the ART, so the 2i2 will do a good job of digitising those. Keep the output of the ART at a level well less than its maximum to avoid overloading the input of the 2i2.

    Choosing balanced leads for the interconnection should minimise the Xonar interference problem. Use an XLR(F) to TRS plug balanced lead for connecting the output of the ART to the line input (centre hole of the input connector) on the 2i2.
  8. DSPDiva

    DSPDiva Active Member

    You're not running the ART preamp into the Focusrite preamp. You're running the line out of the ART into the line in of the Focusrite, bypassing the pres. Also, the Focusrite pres sound a lot better than the ART pres IMO so you might not even need them.
  9. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    Your computer will have about a million times the "manipulation options" of the ART preamp, and the Focusrite preamps will almost certainly sound better. I would ditch the ART.

    By the way, which ART preamp? Is it a Tube PAC?
  10. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    I think you will find that the line input of the 2i2 is attenuated and put through the same pre-amp as the microphone input. The OP specifically wants to be able to use the colour of the ART tube pre-amp.
  11. keinstein

    keinstein Active Member

    @DSPDiva, @bouldersound
    Alright, I might ditch the Art preamp altogether (It's an ART Tube MP Studio V3, a little op amp/tube amp hybrid). Might resell it or store it for some future use.
    I heard on some Reviews on the Scarlett 2i2 that I might need a DI unit, while the Presonus Audiobox USB isn't in that big need of one. (though the Presonus' preamps seem to have a bit of a more quiet output)

    But I think Ill settle for the Presonus Audiobox USB. Thanks for all your help.
  12. keinstein

    keinstein Active Member

    Alright, scratch that, I just read that the Presonus box has only got USB 1.1, therefore a bit higher impedance and it also produces a bit more "static sound", apparently. So I'll just get a direct box and the Scarlett. Thanks.
  13. keinstein

    keinstein Active Member

    Oh lord...Read another review which claims the Scarlett is inferior...
    I think I'll just flip a coin and be done with it.
  14. DSPDiva

    DSPDiva Active Member

    Haha! I'd buy the Scarlett over the presonus any day. The presonus has always given me driver problems and I've heard a lot of people complain about the same thing. Also, I like the conversion better on the Scarlett.
  15. keinstein

    keinstein Active Member

    Alright, I'll trust you guys rather than the contradicting reviewers then, the Scarlett 2i2 it is.
    Thanks for your input again, you've helped me out a lot.
  16. DSPDiva

    DSPDiva Active Member

    Good choice :)

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