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RexRed

New Audio Interface and Microphone Discussion

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I currently use a Roland Quad Capture and I am changing my audio interface.

I was on the Cakewalk page on Facebook and someone recommended this:

https://smile.amazon.com/gp/product/B07YFH671V/ref=ppx_yo_dt_b_asin_title_o00_s00

I bought it for three reasons though I have one possible reservation.

 It has not come in the mail yet.

Reason 1: USB 3.0 I figured USB 3.0 might add a little more stability to Cakewalk and its occasional lockups it has. I figure the lockups can't be my PC because I have 12 Intel cores 96GB of ram and a 3090 graphics card. For years I have had occasional lockups and I think it is the Quad Capture.

Reason 2: It says it has a chip inside that allows for 0 latency even with effects turned on. (this seems too good to be true.)

Reason 3: (I should mention the price is very reasonable!) But the preamps are reason 3.

On the issue of preamps. I use Melodyne studio a lot and on almost all songs i make the vocal tracks have very poorly recorded wave formants.

The beginning of words sound (i have no other way to describe it but) "wonky".  Especially the beginning of sounds seem like they were not processed accurately.

I like to drift up to notes and that part gets poorly reproduced.

I am hoping the preamps in this device are better than the preamps in the quad capture and that it might be the preamps and  possibly the lack of responsiveness of the recording chips that are causing this wonky distortion.

If this does not fix this clarity issue...

Then it has to be my microphone...

I use an Audio Technica 2020 microphone.

Any suggestions on a really really good microphone that would reproduce my voice with perfect clarity?

I am looking for an upgrade without a lot of hype and brand recognition but something on the magnitude of this upgrade I am doing with my audio interface. "New technology" that is under $1000 bucks.

I will test the new audio interface out tomorrow and get back to you if it clears up this problem.

If my audio is still wonky sounding then I will be looking into a new microphone. Your suggestions are very much appreciated.

And, BTW, thanks to whoever it was who suggested this new audio interface on FB, I have been looking around for years for an affordable 3.0 USB interface with what seems like exactly what I needed and always came up emptyhanded until now. As soon as I saw this I bought it.

My one possible reservation with trading out my audio interface is losing the "audio sensor" feature that I relied on a lot with the quad capture. I will have to set my levels manually. No big deal if everything else works without a flaw.

Anyone got any experience with this Steinberg AI? 

Thanks in advance for any comments on this.

  

Edited by RexRed
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Oh yea, my AT microphone is a little over 10 years old and I have used it a lot in the studio, could it have just gone dead after all of these years of use?

Maybe just getting an old reliable Sure or something might fix this problem.

I assume I would need a large diaphragm because I like recording intimate up close kinds of vocals.

This microphone thing I fear is not going to be an easy undertaking...

 

Edited by RexRed

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Now, you might think that I am implying that this "wonky" sound might be due to Cakewalk's ability to record samples.

Well the reason why I do not believe this is the case is because the exact thing happens when I record in 44khz  16bit as when I record 48khz 24bit.

So the quality issue must be present in what is being fed to Cakewalk from the AI and the microphone.

I am liking this microphone.

https://smile.amazon.com/Audio-Technica-AT4040-Cardioid-Condenser-Microphone/dp/B0002D0BQ8/ref=sr_1_9

it's 300 bucks and it takes the effort to mention this:

"Transformerless circuitry virtually eliminates low frequency distortion and provides superior correlation of high speed transients"

I am not sure exactly what that means but it seems that the mic I have does not have that circuitry.

So logically, my AT2020 has inferior correlation of high speed transients... 

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I am thinking that if my microphone has inferior correlation of highspeed transients, it also has inferior correlation of formants.

Edited by RexRed

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you are thinking too much.  There are plenty of reasons your vocals aren’t sharp other than mics and preamps.  Have you ever had anyone with an ear listen to your voice live to see how your recordings sound?  How does your room sound.  How much do you play with the mic to get the best position.  All that can affect your tone more than switching out preamps of one $200 interface for another.  And by the way, the Roland pres are ok.  The mic is old but other people like it, so I don’t think switching out a $200 mic for a $300 one is going to solve your problem.  Maybe, but until you try it you won’t know.

some of your comments about not capturing the vox attack sounds like it comes from the “ sensing” limiters built into the inputs.  I hated the ones on the old Roland interfaces and turned them off.  It is easy to screw up your sounds with such if youre not sure how it works.  You are likely to get all kinds of sonic problems if you are pushing the envelope (pun intended) of cheap electronics.  And switch around cables, you might have a internal kink.

try messing around with your room and mic position with  someone helping you.  I’d start there.

finally, expensive (ie. high quality) electronics do help. Most quality transformers cost $75 or more per, even in quantity.  And you need two to couple a unit in and out.  If you grew up before 90s almost all the pro audio you heard ran through tons of caps and transformers giving a thick, clear sound.  That is why people pay good money for higher end hardware.  It is quite exhilarating to finally hear and  understand your bass having “that” sound you’ve heard on a 1000 songs, or an la2a on a vocal.

@

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Alan your post is very helpful, I bought the AT 4040 mic. The new audio interface should be here tomorrow. I have used this current setup I have in lots of rooms with many different acoustic treatments. I have recorded close up and farther away and the recordings have all had the same wonky characteristics . In mostly the transients but also the formants have not been very accurate in Melodyne studio either.

I have had this mic for over ten years but it has had this characteristic for as long as I can remember. 

Before the Roland interface I used Emu 1616m interfaces but I was using v-vocal back then too. 

The good old days of Cakewalk for MS DOS when the only thing between a Sure SM58 and the Fostex reel-to-reel was a Peavey mixer. :) 

Having a second interface and mic will give me something to compare.

I assume the AT 4040 will not be worse than the AT 2020.

 

Edited by RexRed

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Rex, I've heard a number of your tunes, and your vocals are among some of the best recorded vocals around, so I doubt you can blame your mic.  Hopefully, the new audio interface will solve your problems.  I'll be curious to hear what you have to say when it arrives.

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16 hours ago, RexRed said:

Reason 1: USB 3.0 I figured USB 3.0 might add a little more stability to Cakewalk and its occasional lockups it has. I figure the lockups can't be my PC because I have 12 Intel cores 96GB of ram and a 3090 graphics card. For years I have had occasional lockups and I think it is the Quad Capture.

Do you have fast storage? Is your RAM fast? Is CbB configured to take advantage of your hardware? Are you using too little samples in your drivers? Is your interface sharing the same USB bus with slower  devices?

The last one is.extremely important. As fast as USB is, it still is a serial bus. If you havea device that's slower than your interface in the same bus, the controller will run everything at the speed of the slowest device in the chain for compatibility reasons.

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18 hours ago, RexRed said:

I use an Audio Technica 2020 microphone.

That's the AT2020 right, the USB one?

Turn down your mic levels in Windows from 100 to 10dB. That should work. Next you want to check your sample rates.

To do so . . .

Right-click the Speaker icon in your system tray and click Playback devices.

Select your speaker, then click Properties.

Click the Advanced tab.

Click the drop-down and it will show you the sample rate and bit depths options. Set to 24bit 44Khz or 24bit 48Khz. 

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22 hours ago, RexRed said:

 the "audio sensor" feature that I relied on a lot with the quad capture. I will have to set my levels manually.

This could cause the issue too. The conversion could have a delay in it, causing that "wonkiness." 

Try disabling it. 

Then Again. If you're using a USB Microphone, the interface has nothing to do with your mic recordings and quality. 

Edited by Will_Kaydo
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22 hours ago, RexRed said:

I will have to set my levels manually.

In my experience, auto gain algorithms never set your gain correctly. Either the signal goes in too hot or not enough of it. It should take you no more than 5 seconds to set gain for each input.

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A lot of big help here!!!

I need to study all of your great responses!

Let me clarify a bit. 

The "wonkyness" I feel is amplified in Melodyne.

When I try and change the pitch or formant even slightly of "some" syllables, especially the beginning syllables of words

This wonky spongyness gets amplified.

I can hear I the spongyness slightly in the unchanged sample but changing the pitch or formant even a tiny bit amplifies the spongyness of the sound ten fold. 

It seems to only happen on the beginning of some words. Especially when my voice is escalating quickly  in pitch.

Like "something" did not hear the beginning of the sound correctly... 

Like it got digitized or just not enough bits thrown at it.

If I set my project to 24bit 48khz (which it is usually at) it still records spongy.

It seems exactly as spongy in 44khz as 48khz.

It is sort of like how the adults sound like in Charlie Brown but hissy too.

There has got to be a way to get better clearer waveforms so pitch and formant work better.

This is actually very horrible... 

I have to go back and resing many lines to fix this.

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Well, I think the new interface solved my problem...

I don't think the Quad capture was throwing enough bits at the beginning of my notes. 

The interface is over 10 years old, not surprised.

I think the mic is partly to blame too.

The mic upgrade with better circuitry will also improve transients. The mic will be coming soon.

It also fixed the formant problem with formant changes not responding well to the waveforms.

Maybe a driver upgrade would rescue the quad capture or maybe the chips inside just cannot handle the speed and accuracy required to reproduce waves.

I need time to live with this interface but so far it seems tight.  

Now that the beginning of notes seem accurate I can truly hear the mic struggling to reproduce transients.

Can you hear such a  thing? I think I can, I know how I am supposed to sound.

My mic is over 10 years old and is probably "dead"...

It still has really nice tone still but it does not handle transients well at all anymore.

The transients are not wonky anymore but they are distorted.

The interface is recording accurately what it hears now.

The mic is clearly now the problem. 

When people tell you there is no difference between audio interfaces...

There can be a difference.

Edited by RexRed
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3 hours ago, RexRed said:

The "wonkyness" I feel is amplified in Melodyne.

Wait! Are you talking about that robotic (T-pain) sound perhaps in melodyne? ☺ The sound all rappers have at the beginning of every words? 

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37 minutes ago, RexRed said:

Well, I think the new interface solved my problem...

I don't think the Quad capture was throwing enough bits at the beginning of my notes. 

Glad your problem is solved. 👍

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11 minutes ago, Will_Kaydo said:

Wait! Are you talking about that robotic (T-pain) sound perhaps in melodyne? ☺ The sound all rappers have at the beginning of every words? 

No, not the T-Pain sound.  :) lol

The beginning of my notes sounds spongy, not sure how to describe it otherwise.

It is something over time I guess I began to hear and identify more and more. 

For years I just took it for granted and did not really conceptualize the problem.

I just would work around it and re-sing certain spots. 

But it has been there all along.

I don't think the circuitry in the Roland is able to produce transients and certain long-held loud notes notes well.

That is my experience, maybe it is just with my box only but the problem is gone by replacing it with the Steinberg.

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19 minutes ago, Will_Kaydo said:

Glad your problem is solved. 👍

Thank you! :)

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Another problem that is solved is Cakewalk used to lock up on me constantly. Every hour or so it would just freeze up.

This was a disaster if I was live streaming a tutorial.

I thought it was, well, I was not sure what it was. Maybe too much data and maybe the USB 2.0 connection.

I have had this problem for years. Since I got the old interface.

Before then lockups were because my PC was just junk.

Well I have not had a lock up yet with this new interface.

Lots of problems solved... 

I cannot vouch for other interfaces but this one is rock solid.

I would certainly not go back to USB 2.0

I have always suspected that (maybe a data glut) for being the reason for the lockups.

Something was maybe just malfunctioning in the old unit, maybe driver issues or maybe it just could not handle the data.   

It is nice to know it is not Cakewalk itself.

 I am amazed at how much I have put up with.

I would sing a line wrong and it would record perfectly and I would sing a line perfectly and it would record wonky.

Then and when I would forget to save for a while it would lock up.

It was always when I had forgotten to save for a while.

I have noticed that every once in a  while Cakewalk will record a take over top of another take. This is no biggie.

It does not happen often and sometimes very rarely a take will be a bit late.

Usually when I punch in fast.

That does not happen often either but it does happen.

I am really glad I did this...

Edited by RexRed

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11 hours ago, RexRed said:

I have always suspected that (maybe a data glut) for being the reason for the lockups.

I'm gonna suggest that you weren't running in USB 2.0 or your USB controller didn't have enough lanes.

I forgot to mention that the USB standard is backwards compatible. If you have USB 1 devices in the same bus... All USB devices will run at USB 1 speeds. There's nothing wrong with USB 2.0. When RME released their Babyface Pro, they decided to make it USB 2 when everyone was starting to talk about releasing USB 3 interfaces. Their reasoning was that it was not necessary. Before that they even had a 25 channel USB 1 interface.

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