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I currently own a Xonar Essence STX sound card, which i use in combination with a high-end high-impedance headphone (hd650). Im looking to do some instrumental recording, and I'm thinking of purchasing a AT2020 XLR to connect to this soundcard.

Now I'm wondering what sort of equipment i will need for this. I understand the microphone needs phantom power, but will phantom power alone do the trick in my case? Something like the ART Phantom one (http://www.zzounds…"]ART Phantom I Direct Box with Phantom Power Supply at zZounds[/]="http://www.zzounds…"]ART Phantom I Direct Box with Phantom Power Supply at zZounds[/]) where i will obviously connect the microphone to the phantom power supply, and the power supply straight from XLR to the 6,3mm input on my soundcard.

Or will i need some sort of amplification to go with the 48v ? I know the Essence STX has a built in preamp for the headphone and microphone jack. But I'm not sure if that would be sufficient.



Boswell Tue, 05/07/2013 - 10:26

It should be OK, but it depends on how Xonar has wired up the input jack. They say "6.3 mm jack (1/4") (Line-in/ Mic-in combo)" in their specification, but that could mean all sorts of things. The necessary question is whether it's a balanced input and the line/mic switching is done in software, or whether there are separate unbalanced line and mic inputs on the tip and ring of the same connector.

If you find out that you can set the input to be both balanced and microphone-level, you should be able to use a standard XLR(F) to TRS jack lead, and you will not need anything else in the way of hardware. If not, you may be in for some wiring up of a special lead, with no guarantee that it will work very well in the end.

Eclipse87 Wed, 05/08/2013 - 00:13

Hi Boswell,

Thanks for your reply, very helpful. The AT2020 is coming my way.

I have done some more research on the soundcard, and have found the following page: [[url=http://[/URL]="http://www.overcloc…"]Asus Xonar Essence STX Review » Page 2 - Closer Look (The Sound Card) - Overclockers Club[/]="http://www.overcloc…"]Asus Xonar Essence STX Review » Page 2 - Closer Look (The Sound Card) - Overclockers Club[/], which provides the following information: You could always get a proper microphone pre-amp if you wanted to do some production-level recording from a microphone. The microphone input cannot be configured as balanced anyway.

So i guess im in the market for a pre-amp then.

I have no experience with this whatsoever, so any recommendations for about 100$ would be welcome. :)

Boswell Wed, 05/08/2013 - 03:14

Hmmm, not easy, especially in that price range. What I suggest is that you look at something like the [[url=http://[/URL]="…"]ART USB Dual Pre[/]="…"]ART USB Dual Pre[/], which would give you the facility to plug in the AT2020 and leave a second channel for future expansion. It's not the world's best quality interface unit, but it does supply 48V phantom power, and gives you a low-cost way out of your predicament.

The ART USB Dual Pre can be used either as a pre-amp and converter with USB interface directly into your PC, or, via its latency-free monitor function, as an analog pre-amp to feed the line inputs of your Xonar Essence STX soundcard. Since the converters in the ART box are only 16-bit, it's quite likely that the route in through the STX card would give you better sound quality than going in via the USB, although you would have to be careful how you did the cabling. The USB Dual Pre does not have a DI input, so if you had a guitar you wanted to plug in to the second channel, you would need a DI box.

If you are interested in the ART box, come back here and we can give you some more information about the cabling you would need to connect it to your soundcard.

Eclipse87 Wed, 05/08/2013 - 06:56

Hi Boswell, again thanks for your time.

Excuse me for my probably dumb questions, but i have a couple left. I'm very new to the whole professional audio scene, and i actually had to google some of your abbreviations haha. facepalm

Lets see if i understand this correctly. You are saying an analog connection from the pre-amp to my sound-card will provide better quality than connecting it through USB. This would be because the ART USB Dual will convert to digital (usb) in 16 bits, while if i leave the conversion to my sound-card, the quality would be 24 bits, is this correct? So as you told, connecting from the pre-amp to my sound-card in analog would be better.

In the link to the review i posted in the previous post the reviewer states the AC'97 is not synonymous with the highest quality. How much of an issue do you feel this would be? I know because my budget is limited, i will have to compromise somewhere. The reviewer also states the microphone input on my sound-card cannot be configured as balanced, how big of an issue is this and why? Because this would be the main reason we are purchasing a pre-amp (review states the card had amplification functionality).

Other than that, since we are going to use analog, i wouldn't need anything with a usb interface, so why would we pay for it? I have found a couple of products which look interesting. Especially the behringer, because of the scaling potential.

[=""]Behringer: ULTRAGAIN PRO MIC2200[/]="http://www.behringe…"]Behringer: ULTRAGAIN PRO MIC2200[/] 77 euro
[[url=http://="http://www.thomann…"]ART Tube MP Studio V3 - Thomann Nederland[/]="http://www.thomann…"]ART Tube MP Studio V3 - Thomann Nederland[/] 88 euro
[[url=http://[/URL]="http://www.bax-shop…"]ART Tube MP Project Series microfoon voorversterker kopen? | Goedkope | Promo | Instrument Voorversterker[/]="http://www.bax-shop…"]ART Tube MP Project Series microfoon voorversterker kopen? | Goedkope | Promo | Instrument Voorversterker[/] 72 euro

Again, i might be wrong, I'm just learning! :tongue:

Boswell Wed, 05/08/2013 - 08:11

What you originally asked is whether there is a good-quality way of connecting your phantom-powered AT2020 microphone to the analog input of a Xonar Essence STX for about $100 (€76). Unless you got lucky on Ebay, the direct answer to that question is probably "no", so it would be a matter of deciding whether you put in extra money or whether you see what you can get for the $100.

The three items you linked to are all toys involving valves (tubes), and I would steer clear of them for this task. In contrast, the ART USB Dual pre-amp I mentioned will do a reasonable job and is in your price range. You can ignore the USB side of it if it makes you feel better, and certainly you should use either battery power or an external d.c. power adaptor rather than powering it from USB. You could get an insert cable to connect its two outputs to the STX stereo line input. This would ground the -ve outputs of the balanced line outs, but the device may not mind that.

Eclipse87 Wed, 05/08/2013 - 11:52

Ok, decided to go for the ART USB Dual pre-amp, together with this set of cables:

Procab CAB721 jack male stereo - 2x jack male 3.00 meter kopen? | Goedkope | Promo | Jack kabels
Procab CAB901 XLR male - XLR female 5.00 meter kopen? | Goedkope | Promo | Microfoon/Signaal kabels

You said something about the ART USB Dual not having a DI input. I was just looking at the manual and apparently it has? Or am i overlooking something? This is the link to the manual, see the top of page 4.

So my final question would be if i am able to record in 24 bit with this setup? Im guessing yes.

Thanks a ton!

Boswell Wed, 05/08/2013 - 15:52

Yes, I take that back about the DI input, as the ART manual does indeed say you can connect the line inputs directly to guitar pickups. I was going on the specification, where DI inputs are not mentioned.

The CAB721 is an insert cable and should work for this task, although there is the risk that the ART box will be upset by having its -ve outputs grounded. If this turns out to be the case, a couple of jack adaptors or else a specially-wired cable would be needed. I suggest also that you get an external mains power supply for the box.

As for 24-bit recording, the hardware is capable of it, so provided the Xonar software driver preserves the full wordlength, it should work.

Let us know how you get on.

Eclipse87 Wed, 05/15/2013 - 08:16

It has been a week, and everything got delivered. I think it's working pretty well. Still fooling arround with optimum recording levels and such. At the moment i have the gain on the dual pre on maximum at 48db, and have disabled microphone boost in the xonar drivers. This proves to give me the best results right now (picks up the least amount of noise), but im not sure about the audio quality of it yet. Will have to do some more testing the upcoming days.

I haven't been able to record anything in 24-bit tho, are you sure the dual pre is able to do this? Because it does say 16-bit in the specifications, but that seems to be for USB i assume.

Boswell Wed, 05/15/2013 - 09:01

It's your Xonar Essence STX board that's 24-bit. Ignore the 16-bit USB end of the ART box, and don't plug the USB cable into the computer. Instead, use the ART box as a simple pre-amp by connecting its two analog outputs to the L and R channels of the stereo input of the STX board and setting the rear-panel MIX control on the ART all the way round to PREAMP.

Since all you are using of the ART box is its analog functions, the wordlength of your recording is determined solely by how you set up the drivers for the Xonar Essence STX card.