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Mike Bond

Problem with computer noise/static/hiss on laptop with USB audio interface

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Posted (edited)

Ok, thanks everyone for the help so far. Got a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 and I’m getting the exact same issue as with the original Behringer UMC22.

As before, the 2i2 is only connected to the laptop via the USB cable, nothing else is connected to either (no cables into the 2i2 and laptop is running on battery). It set to 48kHz and 24 bit depth in both the interface and in Cakewalk. I have disabled so many processes and programs on my laptop, disabled BT and WiFi and it makes no difference.

This the  noise profile I get with the DAW set to input 1 and the gain on the 2i2 for input 1 all the way left (down):

image.png.d04ce62f04b35194d5be8bdf4476fc47.png

 

This is the profile I get when the gain is all the way right (up):

image.png.af91d555d1a4447936c768e48801844f.png 

 

What is interesting is that I dug our my Line 6 Pod Go (which can also be used as a USB Audio Interface) and when I connected that to my laptop with the same USB cable I get none of this hiss noise. I plugged the guitar in to check that there even was a signal and there is no noise at all, just the guitar when it is played.

Does anyone have any idea why both the Behringer and Focusrite interfaces could be producing these very similar noise profiles (even with no plugins or instruments connected), but the Line 6 Pod Go doesn't?

Edited by Mike Bond
Retested and realised the details I provided were wrong

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Ok, I think that I've sorted it. I haven't solved the problem, but have discovered a suitable workaround.

I discovered the same problem does also exist with the Line 6 Pod Go, it's just that the particular preset I was using for the first test had a gate on the input with a threshold of -48 db. However, this gate never actually killed all the noise, almost just dampened it. I have never thought to use a gate this way on the input, I always just put them after whatever is making the most sound in the signal chain.

I have now replicated the effect of this by adding the Sonitus Gate as the first thing in my FX chain. I used the same threshold of -48 db, but also lifted the depth up to around -39 db which dampens the signal. There's a fairly large Attack and Release time, which makes it sound more natural and doesn't crackle when the sound decays. 

image.png.e9d4ff9ec73b332db4a051b2f899212a.png

 

Yes, the signal noise is still there, but it's barely perceptible and this combined with a traditionally used gate after the high-gain amp, works an absolute treat.

So I still don't know what the cause of the "hiss" is, but at least I've now got a work around for it (and I can send the 2i2 back and stick to my cheapy Behringer, that turns out was doing the job as well as anything else!)

Thanks all very much for your help on this! 

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2 hours ago, Mike Bond said:

 I can send the 2i2 back and stick to my cheapy Behringer, that turns out was doing the job as well as anything else!

2i2 has 2 big advantages in comparison with UMC22:

  1. in can record in 24 bits. Not that its SNR is really on the level of 24bits (-144dB), in fact best interfaces have it not lower then 20bits. But artifacts from 16bit interface are significantly higher, you will have to keep your gain as high as possible to minimize it and that is looking for troubles till you have (analog) limiter on input.
  2. ASIO allows lower latency and it is reported correctly. If you plan to use soft-amps, you would like lower latency.

 

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5 minutes ago, azslow3 said:

2i2 has 2 big advantages in comparison with UMC22:

  1. in can record in 24 bits. Not that its SNR is really on the level of 24bits (-144dB), in fact best interfaces have it not lower then 20bits. But artifacts from 16bit interface are significantly higher, you will have to keep your gain as high as possible to minimize it and that is looking for troubles till you have (analog) limiter on input.
  2. ASIO allows lower latency and it is reported correctly. If you plan to use soft-amps, you would like lower latency.

 

I would second this. 

I've got both Focusrite Scarlett and Behringer interfaces, and the mic pre-amps (and as a result, the guitar input) is much better on the Scarlett.  The Behringer pre-amps sound very harsh to my ears in comparison to the Focusrite. 
 

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57 minutes ago, azslow3 said:

2i2 has 2 big advantages in comparison with UMC22:

  1. in can record in 24 bits. Not that its SNR is really on the level of 24bits (-144dB), in fact best interfaces have it not lower then 20bits. But artifacts from 16bit interface are significantly higher, you will have to keep your gain as high as possible to minimize it and that is looking for troubles till you have (analog) limiter on input.
  2. ASIO allows lower latency and it is reported correctly. If you plan to use soft-amps, you would like lower latency.

 

 

49 minutes ago, msmcleod said:

I would second this. 

I've got both Focusrite Scarlett and Behringer interfaces, and the mic pre-amps (and as a result, the guitar input) is much better on the Scarlett.  The Behringer pre-amps sound very harsh to my ears in comparison to the Focusrite. 
 

Thank you both for the comments. I intend to know record guitars using the Pod Go as an audio interface (not using the build in patch effects, but just have the DI through to Cakewalk) . I've noticed there is a much lower level of hiss compared to the Behringer or Focusrite (which still "bled" the hiss when recording, despite my noise gate revelation.

That being said, I will need another audio interface with a balanced TRS Line 1 for recording vocals, so perhaps I will hang onto the 2i2 if you guys are saying there's a big difference. Thanks  

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@Mike Bond - As far as your original issue is concerned, it might be a grounding issue or noise from your laptop PSU.

I've had a similar issue with recording guitar through USB based interfaces in the past, and the only way I got around it was to unplug the laptop power adapter and use the laptop on batteries when it was recording.

Playback was fine with the adapter plugged in, so it was just a matter of using batteries only for tracking.

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Check your other peripherals too. I have a RGB keyboard that sends an annoying pulse noise thorough one of my cheaper interfaces whenever any of the keys are lit (aptly, the cheap interface is an entry level Behringer, while my Scarlett 18i20 is perfectly silent).

Re: guitar sounds needing gates, most of the really good hardware gates have both pre and post gating. The pre-amp gate cuts off any inherent guitar and RF noise, then the post-amp gate gets rid of any hiss or general crud your amp or introduces. The best thing about this method is you don't need to set any one gate too aggressively to try and eliminate the noise because they complement each other. In CbB you'd run a Sonitus gate >  amp+cab sim > Sonitus gate if you were doing it all in the box.

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Hi, did you have disabled the onboard audio device ?

If not, try to move the fader of this device to Zero or disable it.

 

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Posted (edited)
On 1/4/2022 at 6:26 PM, Mike Bond said:

Hi all, this seems to be a common problem discussed across the internet, but I have yet to find a truly similar situation to mine, so I thought I'd reach out to you lovely people.

I'm experiencing some "noise" in Cakewalk and I'm trying to diagnose the source so I can hopefully eliminate it. First up, here is what I am using:

  • HP ZBook 15 64 bit Laptop running Windows 10 with Cakewalk
  • Behringer U-Phoria UMC22 USB audio interface  
  • Behringer USB WDM AUDIO 2.8.40 drivers (as ASIO4ALL is rubbish)

What I'm getting is a "static" sounding hiss that steadily increases across the frequency range, hitting -72 db max. That's the loudest it gets and that's at around 24 kHz. Somewhere along that "static" is a hum at around the 630 Hz mark (all this noise can be seen in the image of my graphic equalizer below).

image.png.39fe91d033a202ae101f6a4270a27603.png 

 

More info...

  • I have NO inputs connected to the audio interface (no instruments or microphones)
  • I have NO speakers connected to the output
  • Nothing is connected to the mains (the laptop is running on battery) so now Ground Loop issues
  • NO wireless devices are connected
  • There are NO other electrical or lighting related items switched on in the room.
  • All other speaker or audio devices on the laptop have been disabled.

What I have tried...

  • I tried using a different laptop (same problem)
  • I switched to using the laptops own internal mic and speakers (there was some other lower noise going on, but could still see the same noise pattern from 1 kHz onwards)  

My brain has now run out of ideas. I can only assume that it's computer related, but it seem strange that I get the same thing on another laptop.

The reason that this is an issue for me, is that I am recording distorted guitars so the gain on this noise is also significantly increased. Yes, I am using a noise gate, but you still get slight trail of the "static" just before it gate kicks in, which just sounds weird. Making the gate react as fast as possible doesn't quite cut it and isn't the sound I'm after.  

Any help or ideas would be very much appreciated at this point!

 

Behringer is known for that beautiful hiss and hum of analogue quality. Sweet to the touch! That's from its preamps. This i guarantee to be the answer to your question. 

You can also try the following steps as a test: 

First issue that comes to mind, is that your laptop mic is enabled, but not active. 

Than the obvious once would be, the plugin that you use. Some, EQ's, Compressors and Delay effects, mimic the sound of the "Analogue" world, bringing the warmth and introducing the "hiss." 

Try a different EQ and a separate Analyzer (Span would be perfect for this and it is absolutely free) and see if you still have the hiss. You can also try turning the Pro Channel off, if you have it on by default. 

But, as stated above: It is the preamps of your interface. 

Edited by Will_Kaydo

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Raise your hand if you’re an old fart who remembers when audio specs mattered and when we would pour over and compare specs for new gear we were looking at to buy. Those specs were a big part of the buying decision. 
Good news is legit manufacturers of gear still post some specs on the products info page but the big question is this info actually true?  

Mostly people just read the hype in big print and sadly price point rules over quality of build.
An $80 interface will have the exact same hype as a $800 interface so why would I buy the $800 interface?  Specs. 
I find it actually humorous that this thread is 2 pages of long explanations and the OP still wondering why an $80 interface is noisy !  
I also noticed they said if they turn up the pre amp to fully on, it’s noisy. This is sort of normal for most budget pre amps. I’m sure all my interfaces to some degree will do the same. 
You should never have to turn a pre amp past 2 o clock. If you do you will have a crappy s/n signal. You have a serious impedance miss match if this is required. Guitar is much different than a mike. You need a guitar pre amp. 
 

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On 1/7/2022 at 8:24 PM, msmcleod said:

@Mike Bond - As far as your original issue is concerned, it might be a grounding issue or noise from your laptop PSU.

I've had a similar issue with recording guitar through USB based interfaces in the past, and the only way I got around it was to unplug the laptop power adapter and use the laptop on batteries when it was recording.

Playback was fine with the adapter plugged in, so it was just a matter of using batteries only for tracking.

Thanks for the comment, but this was all tested with the main power unplugged, along with all other peripherals and devices (at one point I had the laptop, usb cable, audio device on my bed as far apart as possible and hit the house fuse so there was no power or lights upstairs 😂) still had the same noise

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On 1/7/2022 at 11:18 PM, Lord Tim said:

Check your other peripherals too. I have a RGB keyboard that sends an annoying pulse noise thorough one of my cheaper interfaces whenever any of the keys are lit (aptly, the cheap interface is an entry level Behringer, while my Scarlett 18i20 is perfectly silent).

Re: guitar sounds needing gates, most of the really good hardware gates have both pre and post gating. The pre-amp gate cuts off any inherent guitar and RF noise, then the post-amp gate gets rid of any hiss or general crud your amp or introduces. The best thing about this method is you don't need to set any one gate too aggressively to try and eliminate the noise because they complement each other. In CbB you'd run a Sonitus gate >  amp+cab sim > Sonitus gate if you were doing it all in the box.

Thanks but yes, all keyboards, mouse, etc unplugged.

Yes, it seems the combination of pre and post gates has helped enough.

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On 1/9/2022 at 4:44 PM, John Vere said:

Raise your hand if you’re an old fart who remembers when audio specs mattered and when we would pour over and compare specs for new gear we were looking at to buy. Those specs were a big part of the buying decision. 
Good news is legit manufacturers of gear still post some specs on the products info page but the big question is this info actually true?  

Mostly people just read the hype in big print and sadly price point rules over quality of build.
An $80 interface will have the exact same hype as a $800 interface so why would I buy the $800 interface?  Specs. 
I find it actually humorous that this thread is 2 pages of long explanations and the OP still wondering why an $80 interface is noisy !  
I also noticed they said if they turn up the pre amp to fully on, it’s noisy. This is sort of normal for most budget pre amps. I’m sure all my interfaces to some degree will do the same. 
You should never have to turn a pre amp past 2 o clock. If you do you will have a crappy s/n signal. You have a serious impedance miss match if this is required. Guitar is much different than a mike. You need a guitar pre amp. 
 

Still have the same noise on the Behringer as I did with the scrarlett, one was £35 and one was £145. And that is with both gain knobs turned far left.

now, I can’t compare with a really expensive audio interface, but so far all three I have tried (there is the Line 6 Pod Go too) have exhibited the same noise.

 

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1 hour ago, Mike Bond said:

Still have the same noise on the Behringer as I did with the scrarlett, one was £35 and one was £145. And that is with both gain knobs turned far left.

now, I can’t compare with a really expensive audio interface, but so far all three I have tried (there is the Line 6 Pod Go too) have exhibited the same noise.

 

From your own published pictures, the noise profile is NOT the same. There is no 660Hz pike and in 24bit mode (which Behringer doesn't have) the profile is way lower (when pre-amp is off).

From where the profile comes, I have already explained (see signal picture on previous page), including why for 24bit it is lower.

The only topics which are not covered yet is why it looks like you see it (in this plug-in) and why it is different (higher) when pre-amp is used (even in 24bits):

  • converting "jumps" (and 1 bit jumps are still jumps) into frequency domain is done by approximation using continuous sin waves. How it looks like you can fine elsewhere (the topic is well covered in the Internet), important is that (a) such jumps need all (infinitely high) frequency for perfect approximation (b) not perfect approximation (we have frequency limit (Nyquist), strictly related to the sampling rate) has some oscillations around jump (c) these oscillations have frequency dependent absolute amplitude, which bring approximated signer higher then original. And so, strictly -96dB  level in the original signal (the lowest bit in 16bits) produce slowly rising up to -72dB frequency spectrum (at least in this plug-in)
  • pre-amp is there to significantly amplify the source. Up to +60dB. So, in case your input (connector + whatever wires till pre-amp) has SNR -120dB (which is rather low), you amplify this noise up to -60dB. Even when nothing is connected to the input, it (depends from electronics)  can receive external noise. Connect one wire of 1m, and you have perfect "antenna" to collect all waves around (approximately the same happens when you connect e-guitar). There are many factors which influence that (the quality of wires, shielding, "connected" to the wire "human body", etc.). But there is some noise, always.

Note that interfaces differ not only in basic digital noise but also in many other characteristics, some of them have good visual representation (check deep audio interfaces reviews), other are simpler notice by recorded/played sound (in direct comparison).

 

 

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Just as an aside, in this video, the guy is testing Behringer's ASIO Driver for the Zenyx family devices (available here) with the UMC22. Apparently the ASIO driver works with the UMC22 even down to a pretty respectable latency. Might be worth a try if you want to keep the UMC22 as a backup interface.

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11 hours ago, Variorum said:

Just as an aside, in this video, the guy is testing Behringer's ASIO Driver for the Zenyx family devices (available here) with the UMC22. Apparently the ASIO driver works with the UMC22 even down to a pretty respectable latency. Might be worth a try if you want to keep the UMC22 as a backup interface.

Yes, this driver is written by a rather well regarded brand (as opposite to Behringer) called Ploytec that stands behind the drivers for many other USB audio/midi interface producers. It's a proper ASIO driver not a wrapper, I'm using it with ART USB preamp/interface and it's easily on par with the most other popular choices out there.

Edited by chris.r

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