Excessive Static with the Use of USB PhonoPlus V.2

I am new to Audacity and sound recording technology. I have a lot of old Vinyl LPs in excellent, unscratched condition that I would like to convert to CDs. I have read extensively the many excellent hints on the Audacity website and have researched widely on the Internet in general. My equipment consists of the following:

Denon DP-500M turntable with a Grado Gold Prestige I cartridge
USB PhonoPlus V.2 Interface
HP Pavilion Slimline computer /AMD Athlon 64x2 Dual Core Processor
Realtek High Definition Audio Soundcard
Windows VISTA Home Premium , Audacity, and ClickRepair

I have experimented with several setups and the use of various recording editing effects, usually with pretty good results.
I purchased the USB PhonePlus V.2 Interface after reading that a USB connection would provide superior quality over the internal soundcard. I successfully connected it to my Computer and made various recordings. However, I was not completely happy with the result. I receive a lot of background noise that sounds like old AM reception static. This is true even when the USB cable is completely disconnected from the computer . Switching the Turntable on or off has no impact on the level of static. I disabled all devices on the Soundcard that were not in use. I unplugged all electrical devices that were not in use. I disconnected my Modem cable. Nothing has any impact on the background Static. When the Audacity Input Level is set to 0.5, this background noise registers on the Recording meter to about -52dB.

QUESTION: Is this background static normal with the use of a USB connection?

After a lot of experimentation and frustration caused by my failure to get rid of the background noise, I decided to unplug the USB setup and experiment with connecting to the Line-In input on the Realtek Soundcard. Guess what, no static! And the recordings sound pretty good. However, I do not have a very well trained ear, and really am not sure how good the sound is from the Realtek card?

QUESTION: Would the quality of my recordings improve with an after market soundcard? Perhaps something that is available from Creative Labs that I can have Best Buy install for me? Any suggestions?

Thanks for the assistance.
Charlie Nash

for BEST results with least hassles
use a real TT with a magnetic cartridge
and a real preamp with RIAA eq built in
run the preamps line output into an external audio interface (mistakenly called “soundcard”) line input
and then that into your usb port

usb TTs are iffier imho than realtek with updated drivers
you could try using another usb connector
and do not use any usb breakout expander device
that may or may not stop the noise
unless it is caused by buffer size problems
in which case adjust the buffers

realtek may or may not be good enough
worth a try before you buy an external card
but only if you have a stereo line input on it
and you have a line out with RIAA eq to put into it

when realtek works
and you have all their crapola settings turned off
(like the msg here with the echo problem - had realtek sewer pipe effect turned on as default start up. mine had a screwy eq as default that i had to reset to flat. )
and adjust the rest of them properly
then it can be a good enough interface
especially if you have updated the drivers

mine had a dead channel and noise in the other one
so i have two external interfaces for mikes and stereo connection
and a pc with a soundmax card
that works fine for copying casettes from a boom box


basically no. Many of us use these devices with no problems. I personally run an Edirol UA-1EX connected to my old Technichs SL-150 with SME arm and with an ART pre-amp (almost certainly the same pre-amp stage that is embedded in your ART USB PhonePlus V.2). This gives consistently good clean recordings. I also use the Edirol to record FM off-air from an FM tuner - also gives good clean recordings. Another very regular poster on the forum, stevethefiddle, uses a Beghringer UCA202 and also gets excellent results. My Edirol gives me better recordings than the on-board SoundMax soundcard in my PC - however my laptop which has a Realtek soundcard onboard produces good recordings from streaming Audio. Your ears are the best guide as to what produces the best results for you (best to test listen on a good hi-fi and/or studio headphones - NOT computer speakers).

So back your setup. This may be down to a poor USB connection. You’re not using a USB hub to connect are you? If so then you shouldn’t be. Try unplugging and replugging your USG connevtion - or gently wiggle it in its socket. Try a differnt USB connection on your PC.

It is also possible that the USB services on the PhonoPlus are faulty - if so I hope you kept the receipt and bought from soewhere with a good returns policy …

Have you already seen this article in the 1.3 manual: http://manual.audacityteam.org/index.php?title=Recording_with_USB_turntables
and this one from the Wiki: http://wiki.audacityteam.org/wiki/USB_turntables#White_Noise

Update: just a thought - have you tried recording with the laptop just running on batter per? Some useres report background noise when running laptops on mains power.


@Whomper please read what the poster writes before replying.

Charlie is already using a high-end belt drive TT it costs around $700 and the catridge is a much recommended $150-200 item and he already has an audio interface from a good manufacturer with a phono-preamp built in.

He also tells us he’s already done a lot of background reading and research, and gives an excellent description of his setup - so your initial advice is of no use to him - what he needs is help with a fault in the recording chain.


I did read it.
Confirmed that his approach is good.
[very useful for others reading the thread considering usb TTs]
Suggested a way to connect usb that could avoid noise.
Which you also suggested.
Not sure what the problem is here.

Thanks for the reply and insights. I’ll go buy a new USB cable tomorrow in the event I have a bad connector. Will also try hooking into different USB ports to see if that has any effect.

I am not listening thru the Computer speakers. My playback equipment consists of a Nakamichi AV-1 Receiver (100 watts/channel) hooked up to Definitive Technology BP-20 speakers with a separate MK 200 Watt Subwoofer. This setup makes flaws in recordings really jump out.

Yes, I had read the articles that you referred me to, as well as much additional material in the Audacity Forum, as well as on other websites. Excellent material for those of us who are just getting started. I have already learned a lot, but have much more to learn. I’m pretty excited about this new venture that I am getting involved in. I am going back and listening to LPs that I have not listened to in over 10 yrs.

To answer your question about Battery Power, I am not using a labtop. Am using a small Desktop unit (HP Pavilion Slimline). The soundcard is not functioning on my laptop and the screen is slowing going out also. I’m due for a new laptop soon. I do suspect that the Static that I am getting is probably internal EMI from my computer. Simply don’t know what to do about it.

Question: When you have Audacity running, but before actually recording, do you get any sound indications lighting up your Vue Meters?
I’ll keep you posted of my results. Again, Thanks.
Charlie Nash

After thinking about your Battery question per the Laptop (which I am not using), I thought I might check the impact that the power supply might have on the ART USB PhonoPlus V.2. I ran an experiment powering the PhonoPlus with: 1)Internal power from the USB port itself; and 2) using an external transformer, thereby disabling the USB cable power. Identical results with both. Neither method had any impact.
Please keep the ideas coming.
Charlie Nash

Unless I missed it I don’t think you’ve said which version of Audacity you are using (the highly recommended version is Audacity 1.3.12).
In Audacity 1.3.12 you can activate the recording meter by clicking on it with the mouse, or right click and select “Start monitoring”.
There’s something similar in Audacity 1.2.6 but it’s a long time since I’ve used that old version and I don’t remember the wording exactly.

With no audio input to the USB sound card you should get a meter reading below -70 dB
The dB range of the recording meter can be changed in the Audacity Preferences (Audacity 1.3.12)
“Edit menu > Preferences > Interface > Meter/Waveform dB range”

With the RealTek sound card the no-signal noise level is likely to be much higher than with the USB sound card.

I am using 1. 3. 12 version of Audacity. I Did not know that you could right-click on the meter, or that you could change the dB range. Great Info. Thanks. You state that with no Audio input into Audacity you should get a meter reading below -70 dB. At what level is your “Input Level Slider” set when you get this reading? I want to run some tests on various scenarios to see what readings I am getting. I will share these with you when I get them. I normally have my "Input Slider set at 0.5 which gives me a recording level of the recommended -6 dB. This seems to work nicely on most LPs. Should I run my no audio test at this same .05 level?

On my set-up the Audacity input slider is not available - I use the computer sound system settings instead, but whatever method you use the input level should be set so as to record at “normal” level (“normal” depends on the type of thing you are recording, but for recording vinyl a maximum peak level of around -6dB sounds reasonable). I don’t know what the specifications are for the PhonoPlus V.2, but I’d expect it to be pretty quiet with no signal.

Following up on your ideas, I ran a few test on Noise Levels that yielded the following info when my USB PhonoPlus V.2 is set to 0 (neutral) Gain and the Audacity Input Slider set to
0.5 (which records at about -6dB for most LPs) :

Audacity Running with no Audio input -65 dB
Audacity Running with TT switched on but not spinning -60 dB
Audacity Running with TT on and spinning -60 dB (no change)
Audacity Running with nearby Amplifier switched on -56dB (this does not have to be switched on in order to record)

Do these numbers seem reasonable to you? ALSO, low and behold, unplugging, replugging, reinstalling, and reconfiguring seems to have vanquished the Noise Demon. I no longer hear the background static that was so prevalent. Don’t know what solved the problem, but trial and error seems to have worked. Thanks for your ideas and helpful hints.

Another question: My PhonoPlus V.2 has a Gain control knob on it. I have been leaving it set at 0 (neutral) and adjusting the Audacity Input Slider (to about 0.5) to yield a - 6DB recording level. However, the question arises: "Should I reduce the Gain on the V.2 and increase it correspondingly in Audacity to make up the difference. Would this have any impact on the background noise level? Or is this simply splitting hairs?

Last question: When using the USB interface to record, does this take the REaltek soundcard completely out of the equation? If you do not playback thru the computer, is the soundcard ever used? Does it play any role at all with the USB interface? Of in other words, if using an USB interface, is the quality of the onboard soundcard a non factor?

Again, thanks for all the advice.


Those figures sound to be in the right ball park - with a little bit of tweaking, and particularly ensuring that you have good Earthing throughout (to eliminate hum as far as possible) you may be able to get the noise a little lower. I would suspect that the amp that is causing the noise level to rise a little is introducing a bit of hum into the system.

Excellent :smiley: let’s hope it stays vanquished.

It probably will make some difference - try it both ways and see which is best, but take care not to introduce distortion anywhere by over-amplifying, so check that it still sounds clean when playing really loud parts of your music.

Yes. No. No. Yes.
That’s the main point of using an external sound card - it doesn’t matter how rubbish the on-board sound card is - which is fortunate because the on-board sound card on my laptop is really very rubbish :smiley:

Thanks for all the help. You have really help to reduce my learning curve. I’ll go do some recording now. I’m going to start with some old Ramsey Lewis Trio albums and a couple of Mahler symphonies. When I get deeply involved with editing, I’m sure I’ll have some more questions. But I will do my homework first, searching for and reading the info already available in the Forum. I’m also going to think some more about how I might tweak my background noise to a lower level.
Charlie Nash

in general the first amplifier sets the noise level
so you might want to turn up the source to start
then turn down the built in sound card
which is probably noisier than the other parts
then tweak audacity last to avoid clipping

if too low first adjust the sound card up
if too high first lower the original source

that said
the SNR of a vinyl record may be your limiting factor by far

if you have open reel tapes they should be slightly better
but not as good as the numbers you measured so far for your card

if you have a good CD then the SNR will be limited by your gear not the source

We have already established that Charlie is not using the internal sound card and the noise levels being discussed are with no signal, so tape vs vinyl vs CD comparisons are not relevant. The bit that is relevant is that MM record cartridges produce very low level signals which require a lot of pre-amplification (and RIAA equalisation). This makes them very susceptible to hum, which is why effective Earthing is so important. High levels of pre-amp gain are also difficult to achieve without introducing broadband noise. The ART should be pretty good in this respect but it is common (though not always the case) for pre-amp noise to increase rapidly as the pre-amp gain approaches maximum. The Audacity recording level simply scales the input from the pre-amp, so there is likely to be an optimum balance between pre-amp gain and the recording level in Audacity which can be determined by experiment. The determining factor is how high can the gain be increased on the ART before the SNR (signal to noise ratio) increases, and without introducing distortion on peak signals.

Another thought - my ART preamp has two switchable settings for different levels of cartridge output at 100pF and 200pF - does your ART PhonoPlus have similar funcionality - and is it set right for the output from your cartridge?

Update: from a quick look at the PhonoPlus on the ART website it would seem that it does have such a switch - it is the one labelled INPUT on the front panel at the left.


Grado cartridges tend to be pretty insensitive to capacitance load. I quite agree though waxy, if available it should be set to the appropriate setting, but it is not likely to make any difference to noise levels, just a slight difference to the high frequency response.

The other variable in play here is the ability to either run the PhonoPlus from USB power or via an external power supply.

Charlie, do you get different amounts of static noise depending which of these you use?

Also, as mentioned earlier in the thread make sure that you TT is properly grounded to the grounding post on the PhonoPlus.

Update: @Charlie - are you sure that the four connections to the pins on your cartridge are on securely and clean (check this carefully) - if it is a removeable headshell, is this screwed firmly home (once again check carefully)? Are the internal leads and the RCA outs from your TT in good shape?


@Charlie: also I’ve just noticed in your manifest - Brain Davies’ ClickRepair software. An excellent piece of s/w IMHO - see this sticky thread (if you haven’t already found it yourself :slight_smile: ) : https://forum.audacityteam.org/t/click-pop-removal-clickrepair-software/1933/1


Wow, a lot of things to think about. Let me try to answer all the questions from the several postings.

1- Yes, the PhonoPlus V.2 does have a switch on the front panel, labeled as “Line In” and “Phono”. It is set to “Phono”

2- I measured the noise level using both USB Port power and a separate transformer power. I can detect no difference between the two sources.

3- Yes, the turntable is securely grounded to the V.2. However, the V.2 is not grounded to anything else. Should it be, and if so, How? To what?

4- I disconnected, checked, and securely reconnected all RCA plugs as well as checking the Cartridge connections and removeable head connection. Everything is in good shape, and upon reconnections, showed no differences in noise readings. Sitting idle today, with the TT switched off, but the V.2 being on line, the background noise level is about -60dB.

Question: You mentioned quite frequently the importance of proper “earthing”. Any specific suggestions on how to go about acheiveing this? Would there be any kind of “line filter” that might help?