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Distortion in the pc

Hey Guys,
New to the forum but i see some familiar names from other ones here.
Here's an issue I've been trying to figure out:

When downloading mp3's, copying CD's, lp's + cassette, my own trks, to PC to burn to disc. I almost always hear distortion on the burned disc.
It occurs on peaks and even soft passages i.e. piano or vocal.
It's hard to hear it when monitoring from PC .

Solutions I've tried:
Slowed down burn speed, lowered levels

Changed drivers + soundcard - now in: Creative Audigy value

changed media, software, cables.

Now what I suspect may be the culprit all along:
PII 266mhz, old AL-440 motherboard

Am building a dedicated DAW for all recording needs But need to archive on disc all my lps and tapes while I have the time now.
Cause once DAW is built writing and recording takes all the time as you know.
Any Ideas?


TeddyG Fri, 09/29/2006 - 09:17
First time I saw your post.

Hard to say about your question anyway..?

Your machine is antiquated and your sound card not exactly "pro", far as it goes...... I do hope you go a bit further with your new PC. Far as monitoring while it's on the PC, I wonder what you use for speakers/headphones, what your "room" is like, etc., as well as your recording/burning software, you TT your pre's? If no better than the rest of your system, it's no wonder things aren't coming out so good.

Sometimes there's so much to comment on, things are so bad, most posters of such questions would just think we're all snobs passing out sour grapes anyway if we reply. It's just not worth the grief.

Get a better PC, a better sound card, better monitoring, better software, some experience then come back and join in on the fun...... Of course you can always ask what KIND of stuff to buy, that's popular on every forum- everyone wants to help you spend your money.


Kapt.Krunch Sat, 09/30/2006 - 05:34
Yep, not the best setup, but you should be able to do halfway decent stereo tracks with it.
With that computer, you should spend a little time to tweak it so that NOTHING unneccessary is running in the background. I'm going to guess that you aren't using XP? Whatever you are running...XP, 98, etc., Google "Optimizing Windows xx", and nuke the garbage.
What software are you running this stuff into? Does it have any kind of effects. like limiting, noise reduction, etc?
How is your levels management? Are you recording too low, or too high? Are you recording at 44.1/16, or are you recording at a higher bit/sample rate and then doing a cheap and dirty conversion to that? Are you possibly truncating the files, or are you dithering them? If any of these are the case, you should probably just be sure you are recording at 44.1/16 to begin, and end, with.
When you record or copy CDs, tapes, LPs, etc, or download MP3 files, they will all have different levels, EQ, compression, etc. They will all have different noise characteristics. One setting for everything will not do. Perhaps you first recorded an LP into the computer, set the record levels to get a nice healthy level, and are just recording everything else in at that setting? If the first LP was a bit low in level, the next may be causing digital overs. If it was quite high in level, the next may be recording too low, which doesn't allow the file to use its maximum resolution, which can get grainy. Most commercial albums or tapes are usually pretty close in their sonic characteristics from song to song on the particular media, itself. Once you do a quick level setting, the entire thing can usually be recorded in at that level. When you switch the album or tape, though, you'll probably have to do another quick level adjustment, and then start recording.
Some LPs, tapes, and especially CDs and MP3s are compressed to death. If you just rely on getting everything to read, say, -6 or -12...whatever, for the average in your audio software, some things are going to sound louder than others. If you look at an entire file in an audio editor, and it looks like a solid, straight, completely filled-in band of color, you'll know it was compressed to death. If you see peaks and dips, it's less so. The latter will have more dynamics, but it won't sound as loud.
If you are doing some kind of batch-file boosting, and you are using the parameters set to one source, other files may be getting mangled using that source setting. This all takes time, and can get tedious. To save a BIT of time, when you are setting levels, start a song in the middle, if you know that song has a slow, more quiet intro. That way you're not waiting for it to kick in while you are staring at the monitor.

Don't process files the same, after recording. Telling a squashed, overcompressed file to "normalize" to -3dB is going to sound a lot different, and louder, than having a dynamic file done the same. The average level of the compressed file may be balls-to-the-wall at -3, while the average level of a less-compressed file may be -9, -12...or worse. The software is only looking at the peaks. You may have to even do a "bit" of limiting, or some careful peak-editing to get a really dynamic file more meat in the middle. (The "purists" are cursing me about now :wink: ). Remember that if a really dynamic file has just occasional peaks, the rest of the file may be being recorded at below the optimal resolution, which can lead to noise, itself.
Recording at a higher resoultion/bit-rate would give you more leeway in recording things at a bit lower level, but then you have to end up converting it back to 44.1/16 anyway. Higher resolution/bits records more bits, the D/A filtering is basically smoothing smaller "stairsteps" of the file. This can lead to more open, less grainy sound, and the S/N ratio is better. With you computer, I don't know if that would work well.

A couple other possibilities are that you have a substandard burner, or burning software. If a file sounds fine straight off the hard drive, but gets futzy when played off a CD, that might suggest something. Do the CDs sound bad ONLY in the computer, or elsewhere, also? If only in the computer, it may be the playback characteristics of the CD player, or soundcard. Are you playing it back through the CD ROM/soundcard's analog, or digital I/O. Are you ripping CDs from the analog or digital? If analog, you're putting things through unneccessary and potentially noise-inducing conversions in the computer. That may make a big difference. If you are basing it only on the sound from your computer...the file sounds fine, but the CD sounds noisy, how are the playback levels...main and CD...set in your soundcard's mixer software? If the CD is too low, and the main is cranked 100%, you are amplifying noise in the CD playback path. If both are a bit low, and you need to turn up your monitors, you are amplifying all the internal noise inherent in a computer and/or devices. You may need to balance all the various levels to keep one thing from amplifying anothers' noise, or to keep from overdriving the input of one from the output of another. Once any one level is mismatched, it goes through the rest of the path that bad, or worse.

One other thing. Don't use your tape deck or turntable too close to the monitor, or other EMF or RF emitting devices, and make sure none of your signal cables are running parallel to power cords, or near EMF or RF devices. If you must run them close, run signal cables at 90 degrees across power cords. Anything's possible.

Check all that stuff out. Remember that your setup USED to be state-of-the-art, and people managed to get decent stuff out of it. (Browse though some old Recording magazines from 10 years's amusing. "Minimum requirements: 486DX2, Pentium 100 recommended, 8 Meg RAM, 16 Meg recommended".)
They may not have gotten a gazillion tracks with numerous real-time plug-ins chugging away...but it worked. There's no reason why you shouldn't be able to get passable tracks out of what you have.

Feel free to learn me right if anything is wrong in above dissertation. :mrgreen:

Good luck,

sturoc Sat, 09/30/2006 - 10:47
To Kapt Krunch,
Thanks for the huge info tutorial Alot of things to look at.
How far things have come in the digital world.
This will give me a good base for the new DAW pc as that will be strictly composing and recording.
WIll let ya know of any questions that come up.
Again thanks guys for the replies and putting my faith back in this Forum.