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JamPro

Need Help Trouble-Shooting Computer Audio Problem

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I am hearing an audible whine coming from my new studio computer.

I decided to retire my older Win 7 studio computer, and build a new computer to run Win 10.

The new computer is built around an Intel i7 processor (i7 – 10700K), using an Asus Prime Z590-P mobo, 32 GB ram, a 480 GB SSD (Corsair Force MP510 M.2 – 2280) (system drive), and a 2TB Seagate Barracuda HDD (for storage). The peripherals installed on this computer include an Asus DVD drive, and a Star-Tech PCI 2-port firewire interface. There is no graphics card; the graphics are handled by the CPU

As with the older retired computer, the new computer plays thru my Mackie 1604 mixer with Firewire Card interface via firewire 400 (the Firewire Card does the AD/DA conversion).

After getting the new computer built and got the software installed (OS = Win 10), I connected it in my studio and discovered that there is an audible high-pitched whine coming thru the studio audio system.

1.  The whining sound is constant and high-pitched; you could say the “floor-noise” of the audio system now includes a high-pitched tone to it.

2.  I hear the whining sound anytime I am using one of three different audio software programs I have on my computer: Reaper, Cakewalk by BandLad, and Audacity. I do not hear the whining sound when the computer is on but not running Reaper, CwbBL, or Audacity.

3.  The volume of the whining sound is increased and decreased as I raise and lower the computer input pot on the Mackie. The volume of the whining sound does not change if I increase or decrease the volume controls in Reaper, CwbBL, or Audacity

4.  The whining sound is not present when connecting my older Win 7 studio computer to the audio system. From this I conclude that the whining sound originates in the newer Win 10 computer, and is not caused by the Mackie mixer or the Mackie Firewire Card audio converter

I need some help diagnosing and fixing the audible artifact.

What trouble-shooting steps should I take? On my to-do list is to borrow another audio interface (or bring the computer to another studio) to see if I hear the same artifact when playing thru a different AD/DA converter. While I am not hearing the whining sound when using my older Win 7 computer thru my studio audio system, it may be that the Win 10 OS is not playing nice with the Mackie Firewire Card drivers.

What else should I be doing to track this gremlin down?

Thanks for reading.

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Use the MS legacy firewire driver. AFAIA it doesn’t get installed automatically on a new set up. 

you’ll have to Google for it, but using that one worked for me when i used to use my Focusrite LS 56 on W10.

J

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Thank you Mr. Oakes for your reply.  Do you have experience with a computer/audio floor noise problems?  Did changing the drivers fix it?

I'm asking because I used the same Mackie/firewire converter - with the same Mackie firewire driver - in my older Win 7 computer and that combo was noise-free.   So in my experience, the Mackie firewire driver works just fine in a Win 7 environment.  But I am not using Win 7 anymore.   So I'm wondering if you had a sonic problem that you were able to solve by changing the firewire driver.

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It more then likely is due to hardware differences. Your new computer could have noice sources in it that your old one didn't. Could be a noisy power supply, fans, bad grounding on the motherboard etc.

This could be hard to debug but I would start by trying a different interface if you can, maybe USB or something other then Firewire.  From there it might be disabling fans or trying a different computer power supply.

A driver could help if it changes clock rates or does a different HW setup but who knows. 

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2 hours ago, JamPro said:

Thank you Mr. Oakes for your reply.  Do you have experience with a computer/audio floor noise problems?  Did changing the drivers fix it?

I'm asking because I used the same Mackie/firewire converter - with the same Mackie firewire driver - in my older Win 7 computer and that combo was noise-free.   So in my experience, the Mackie firewire driver works just fine in a Win 7 environment.  But I am not using Win 7 anymore.   So I'm wondering if you had a sonic problem that you were able to solve by changing the firewire driver.

Mr JamPro, please note we’re not talking about Mackie drivers here. I’m sure they are rock solid.

Its the MS legacy one. I humbly recommend you try installing this legacy file and see if it makes any difference for you. 

FYI, W7 handled FW in a much better way than the current W10 installed one does……….. I have had success with this file/driver.

https://www.startech.com/en-fr/faq/firewire-cards-windows-legacy-driver-swap

Its merely a suggestion. You don’t have to at all.

J

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I doubt the legacy FW driver will make a difference.   More likely as previously mentioned some component in the new PC.   I've been working with a user on the Dell forum that is getting PC generated noise in his recording interface from a new XPS desktop, that was not in his old PC.  So far the noise seems to be caused by power supply.

FWIW on the legacy FW driver.  I was using the legacy FW driver on Win 7 with a Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 recording interface.  I had to do a clean install of Win 7 and forgot about installing the legacy FW driver and the Saffire Pro 40 was working OK with the default driver.  I installed the legacy driver and it didn't make any difference so I went back to the default driver.  I used the default driver when I upgraded to Win 8/8.1 and ultimately Win 10 (with an MOTU FW unit).  

 

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The noise issue is ground related.

The noise isn't "from" the new machine.

 

A ground-loop can cause hum/buzz/whine/etc.

A bad USB cable can cause this type of issue.

 

Been thru this type of scenario many times over the past 30 years.

It's ALWAYS ground related.

 

Changing Firewire driver to "Legacy" will have no affect on the noise.

 

Start by powering your entire studio from a single outlet

Use balanced cables

Connect headphones directly to your Firewire audio interface (nothing else connected to the audio interface).

I'm 99.9% sure the noise will not be preset.

That tells you the noise doesn't originate in the machine or audio interface.

Connect one device at a time until you find the culprit.

 

If you're using balanced cables... and otherwise done everything you can to eliminate ground-loops, the solution is something like this:

https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/MHumX--morley-hum-exterminator-ground-loop-hum-exterminator?utm_source=google&utm_medium=organicpla

 

If you're connecting a device that doesn't offer balanced cable connections, you can use a DI box (or pair of DI boxes for stereo) to safely lift the ground.

The DI box will provide balanced output.

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Thank you Mr. Roseberry for your experience and knowledge.  I remember reading your posts way back in the RYO discussions at the old CW forum.

If memory serves, I believe I even bought some parts from you back then.

Question for you: this new computer I built required I buy a new computer display monitor.  The new computer display monitor has a lump-in-the-middle style power supply, with a 2-prong ungrounded plug at the wall end.  My previous computer display monitor had an internal power supply with an IEC power chord (i.e. grounded).  Is the computer display monitor a potential source of a ground loop hum?  And does anyone make a grounded computer display monitor anymore?

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On 4/22/2022 at 10:35 AM, JamPro said:

Is the computer display monitor a potential source of a ground loop hum?

Anything in the local environment is a potential source of RFI.

As Jim suggested, troubleshoot it by paring down the components one at a time, especially the ones in the audio chain. Get it down to the barest few components required to get sound out (presumably as he suggested, headphones plugged straight into the interface). Then add things until you start hearing the noise.

Since it's a high-pitched whine, I'm going to go with "switching power supply" as the source of it. Most computer stuff is powered by switching power supplies, which generate a LOT of high frequency noise.

The switching power supply for your monitor or the computer itself may well be the source of or a contributor to this issue. If it's on the same breaker as the mixer or audio interface, get it on another circuit, even if you have to run an extension cord to check it.

His suggestion to put everything on the same circuit to test it is a good one, and I'll submit that when chasing ground loops, it's valuable to go the other direction too. Run an extension cord into your studio from an outlet you are sure is on a different breaker and try plugging each component into it one by one.

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I defer to Jim on most computer things; However, I've found devices on the same AC power circuit or on different AC power circuits usually isn't the problem on ground loop hum cases I've been involved in (either when I was an amp tech in Nashville or later).  

I've had cases where an Ebtech "HumX" AC power ground isolator was the only safe fix.

 

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Sometimes devices like the ISP unit are the only safe option to eliminate (or reduce) noise.

I do think it's worth a try to find the source... and stop it there (if possible).

 

I'd strip things down to the very basics.

Connect just keyboard, mouse, video to the PC.

Disconnect everything from the audio interface.

Now, connect a pair of headphones to the audio interface.  Do you hear any noise thru the headphones?  I'm pretty sure the answer will be "no".

If no noise is present in the headphones, the issue isn't the PC or audio interface.

Connect one device at a time until the culprit is revealed.

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23 hours ago, Jim Roseberry said:

Sometimes devices like the ISP unit are the only safe option to eliminate (or reduce) noise.

I do think it's worth a try to find the source... and stop it there (if possible).

 

I'd strip things down to the very basics.

Connect just keyboard, mouse, video to the PC.

Disconnect everything from the audio interface.

Now, connect a pair of headphones to the audio interface.  Do you hear any noise thru the headphones?  I'm pretty sure the answer will be "no".

If no noise is present in the headphones, the issue isn't the PC or audio interface.

Connect one device at a time until the culprit is revealed.

Jim, the user reported he didn't have any noise/interference with old computer.  Only with the new XPS 8950.   

 

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1 hour ago, Jack Stoner said:

Jim, the user reported he didn't have any noise/interference with old computer.  Only with the new XPS 8950.   

 

FWIW, These are the types of noise I've experienced that are directly from a machine.

  • Acoustic "in-the-room" noises - not heard thru speakers: vibration, fan, coil-whine (power-supply)
  • EMI from the machine  - picked-up by guitar in close proximity (especially single-coil pickups).  Often heard as "digital hash" (noise when moving mouse/etc)

 

In cases of hum, buzz, and other "electrical" type noise heard thru speakers... it's always been a ground issue (or poor-quality/defective cable).

In all my years working with DAWs, the machine itself has never been the source of electrical noise.

 

I have seen USB cables cause noises (usually higher-pitch than typical hum/buzz).  In these scenarios, swapping out the cable resolves the issue.

 

Ground-loop issues are the single most common source of electrical noise.

Powering the entire studio from a single outlet can help... but doesn't always eliminate ground-loops.

Using balanced cable throughout certainly helps.  If unbalanced cables are used... and there's a ground-loop, you're going to hear it.

If the source can be pinned down, sometimes a direct-box (or pair of direct-boxes) can be used to safely lift the ground.

Other times, hum-exterminators (Morely, etc) are the only safe solution.

Years back, Alesis wall-warts were notorious for inducing hum/buzz into nearby cables.

Keeping audio cables routed away from electrical cables and AC adapters helps.  This can be difficult (especially with larger setups).

 

Using my office-studio as an example:

I've got probably close to 30 electrical items.

Everything is powered from a single outlet.

I'm using balanced cables for every audio connection.

My setup doesn't suffer from any noise/hum/buzz etc.

 

I recently got a Neural DSP Quad Cortex.  The Quad Cortex is known to have an ungrounded power-supply.

If I connect it to my audio interface with unbalanced cables, I hear an unpleasant buzz/hum.

Using balanced cables, the buzz/hum is gone.

I've since replaced the original power-supply with a ClOKS DC-7. 

 

I know you know all of this, Jack.  😉

If someone is just getting into a more elaborate gear setup, the more gear involved... the greater the odds for electrical noise.

 

 

 

 

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JIm, this is one of those "we'll never know what the H... he's doing or setup" unless we were there.  

FWIW, I went through an RFI mess in late 70's at a studio (Big K Records) in Kansas City Mo.  The studio was 1 block from an AM radio station transmitter site.  I was able to get the RFI out of the recording system but never able to completely eliminate it in the Headphone system.   That was a real challenge.

 

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17 minutes ago, Jack Stoner said:

FWIW, I went through an RFI mess in late 70's at a studio (Big K Records) in Kansas City Mo.  The studio was 1 block from an AM radio station transmitter site.  I was able to get the RFI out of the recording system but never able to completely eliminate it in the Headphone system.   That was a real challenge.

Build a Faraday cage?    🤪

I've got a Bogner Helios amp that picks up a small/local radio station.  

There's a fix, but it affects the tone of the amp.

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