Is A Computer Inaccurate for Music Editing?

I noticed to get my sound right I have to export and listen on my MP3 player then play with the EQ (on the MP3 player) to see what it needs back on the computer with Audacity where I don’t here it the same. I have all my computer sound settings flat with no sound effects on but still the sound is not the same as elsewhere. The computer seems to make it sound better than it actually does when actually it sounds really off! I’ll guess I need a separate interface/device designed for music editing to get more accuracy and I need to get off the computer which is not designed for music?? This is new territory for me. Does anyone understand what I’m trying to relate here?

It’s not a problem with computers. Almost all commercial music is produced on computers these days, but, to really know what the music on the computer sounds like you need a reasonable sound card and good speakers / headphones.

How are you listening on the computer? Anything that goes through a normal computer soundcard is suspect. Digital sound inside the computer is pretty robust (given your settings are flat), but the instant you convert to analog, suddenly all the analog rules apply.

One rule that comes to mind is not to have an analog soundcard inside an electrically noisy computer. If you built your computer, the instructions warn you in All Upper-Case Letters to put the soundcard as far as possible away from the video card.

It’s super common to want to record internet sound, do it through the analog channels of the soundcard and then forget you did that. That process never sounds very good and if you leave it that way by accident, everything you listen to will sound like that.

I have the story of checking a new Windows machine and having it failed quality control again and again. Turns out it was running a new “Cathedral” sound effect and it wasn’t at all obvious that was happening.

Being professionally compulsive, I would be playing pink noise (carefully) through my monitor systems and record it with one single recorder to see if there are any silly-obvious problems. If you use one recorder, it doesn’t have to be accurate, it just has to be consistent. Like Surprise, my MP3 player will not reproduce tones higher than 8KHz (as an example).

I don’t expect my sound players to all sound different, or if they do, I know why.


Thanks for the info all-

I’ll assume there is nothing I can do short of upgrading sound card or purchasing something separate yet somehow inline with my computer(?).

The question then is what would be the cheapest route to go, sound card (and which brand/type) or some other device (and which brand/type)?

I have an HP PC, older with Windows 7. I have been editing with a line out the 3.5 mm speaker jack in the back of my computer into my home stereo. A Y-type line that goes from stereo (at computer) to left right into the back of my home stereo (using Tape Deck in /this stereo has no auxiliary) but I guess if the sound is not correct from the computer’s sound card than the home stereo can not compensate… (or any other device feeding off of my current sound card/?). So I’m guessing if I don’t upgrade the sound card, which seems daunting (??does it involve soldering??) then it seems Audacity would have to function outside this computer with a separate device which would probably be more expensive than just replacing the sound card /I guess(?). Is this correct?

This is very confusing to me. And upsetting that these “sound cards” are so lacking.

Could a speaker or headphones jack device that feeds itself by USB port bypass the computer’s sound card issue and provide an accurate sound?

Most computer users don’t require better than telephone quality from their computers (computer sound is just for beeps and Skype isn’t it?)
Consequently, in a highly competitive market, computer manufacturers are reluctant to spend more than a few cents for the “sound card” (which usually isn’t really a “sound card” but just a few components on the motherboard and a mini-jack socket in the case).

Good quality playback from the computer does not need to be expensive. For high quality playback from my laptop, I use a Behringer UCA-202 USB, connected to my hi-fi.
The UCA-202 just plugs into a USB socket on the laptop, then connects to the hi-fi amp with standard “phono” (RCA) leads. I think the UCA-202 costs around $30 (new).
Of course this would still sound rubbish if played through rubbish speakers, but unless you have a very expensive hi-fi, it’s unlikely that the UCA-202 will be the limiting factor on the sound playback quality.

What are you using for recording?
The UCA-202 is good if recording from a mixing desk, but it does not have a mic input, so no good for recording directly from a microphone.

You did hit one serious problem. Someone half-joking a while back did a critical analysis of common, popular songs and it turned out to be a match to the Studio JBL Monitor speakers in use during the mix.

A common get-out-of-jail card is headphones, and we can do very well here, but I still wouldn’t plug them directly into a PC sound card.

And this is where I admit I don’t have a good headphone amplifier recommendation. I know the UCA202 headphone connection is a copy of its Line-Out (amaze your friends), but since everything on that device runs from the tiny 5 volts, nobody will be calling the papers over super high volume.

I settled on a lower than top quality sound system because I can’t stand listening to the better system. So there is that too.


“What are you using for recording?”

I’m recording with a stand-alone portable recorder (Tascam dr5) totally separate from my computer, … . I then upload the file recorded (as WAV 44 kHz/24 bit) into my computer to edit with Audacity. — So it is only during this editing, of these prerecorded songs, where my concern is… - to get that sound accurate. So does this still fit the recommendation of the Behringer UCA-202 USB being an acceptable fix - for this problem - in the opinions here?

— Again: My concern is not so much an arbitrary “better quality” but rather an exact sound (during editing on my computer) as it will sound once exported and in the average music player at normal settings. — a music player of good average quality- .

BTW I realize different types of music players and speakers will vary, delivering slightly different sound when playing the same song — put that lesser issue aside — which is not my problem here — no more than it is for the best produced music.

– Thank you all — much appreciated info-

I noticed to get my sound right
I’m recording with a stand-alone portable recorder

What are you recording? We never established what the show was. The DR5 (they insist it’s a DR-05) is a perfectly good live recorder and has provision to plug in modest computer microphones and the instructions claim that if you’re really, really careful, you can plug in an external stereo connection.

My impression of the little connection between the two microphones is a Try To Do Everything socket that seems to be gaining in popularity.

Once you record/digitize the show, the quality will stay constant as you move the sound files between machines and locations on the same machine. This is where digital audio is a really big deal. It’s hard to break, but you can see the storm clouds gathering. Open the show in Audacity, do some really tiny harmless edits or cuts and export a new show. Because of the way Audacity handles the work internally, a tiny dither (noise) signal is added. So technically, this is the first time the show quality is very slightly less than it was when you started.

The obvious shortcoming we have been talking about above is how do you listen to the show while you’re editing. How can you tell what you have? The argument immediately splits into two parties, and you’ve already run into this: Listen to the show on a perfect monitor system, or listen to it on the devices the client is going to be using. There is no right answer. Many people mix, filter, effect and post produce on perfect speakers and check it on an MP3 player just before they deliver to the client.

Producing only an “MP3 Player Show” can be dangerous. Suppose the client gets a new player? Suppose, as recently happened, Apple starts issuing really sucky earbuds with their iPods that replaced the better, old style. Now what do you do?

If you have several music systems that you expect to all sound the same and they don’t, there are tests you can do. That’s the pink noise thing. Pink noise is that rain-in-the-trees hiss that contains all audio tones spread out in a precise way over time. If one of your players has trouble with some music tones, this is the test to tell you. But it’s not a beginner test. You don’t have a beginner problem.


In my opinion (and it’s just my personal opinion), the UCA-202 would be a good choice as it fits your description of what you want:

  • Low cost
  • Easy to use
  • “Line level” output, compatible with " Tape Deck in" on your stereo.
  • Good playback sound quality (“accurate”)

There are other options that could be considered, such as one of the ART, or M-Audio range, but they are in a substantially higher price range.

There are also “USB dongle” type audio devices that are even lower cost, but I’ve not come across a good one, and I don’t like the way that it puts mechanical stress on the computer’s USB socket.

Steve you mention working with my stereo — . Will my stereo be necessary to utilize the UCA-202? Currently I’ve quit using my stereo as it seems to make no difference and is just another device consuming power. The only advantage the stereo has is it’s ability to play the computer’s-audio-out on good speakers which yes good if the sound were accurate per editing — but irregardless I prefer using headphones which can just as well come straight from the computer - or the computer through the UCA-202, correct? Or further, if I did want to edit with speakers, then the UCA-202 would be in between the computer and the stereo, correct. — So basically the UCA-202 (attached to the computer via a USB port) would be the new line-out, however I shall listen, directly with headphones or through a stereo system, correct?

BTW is the updated version of the UCA-202 the UCA-222? — And/or are these the same? The 222 seems cheaper priced though for some reason. – Thanks.

Koz, I’m recording acoustic guitar with vocals mainly…

Though I think Steve’s reply is more inline with my immediate concerns, though all this info is quite intrigueing and valuable to me to say the least, having a moderate level of experience with all this, thank you.

No. The UCA-202 has a headphone socket. Also, the output is just stereo RCA line level, so it should be compatible with other devices (such as powered speakers, cassette recorders, etc.) The UCA-202 cannot be used directly with passive speakers, because the only amplifier it has is a tiny 5v headphone amp, not a power amp.

Note that some headphones require a lot of driving, in which case you may not get very high volume from the device unless you add a headphone amplifier (same is true for most USB audio devices).

I’m not aware of any difference between the 202 and the 222 other than the colour (202-> silver, 222->pink/red) and possibly more bundled software with the 222.
Specifications should be available on (Behringer’s tech support site)

Here you go, Google is our friend:

How do they get the cable to stay like that in the picture?



Here is a link to a blog by a fellow who replaced the head-phone driver opamp in his UCA-202 with one with a bit more oomph:

Probably not a practical suggestion for anyone who is not an experienced electronics technician or engineer, but the document does have pretty detailed testing of the headphone output in that box and it’s limitations.

As Steve said the results you get will depend heavily on the characteristics of your headphones.

I got the UCA222 (just opened it today) and so far hard to tell but there is a click when ever I start and stop listen/play and I tried all the device options (MME, Windows DirectSound, Windows WASAPI).

I don’t have this problem with just using the computer’s sound card

BTW I have an HP Presario Windows 7 64 bit - Is it possible my sound card on this computer is as good as the UCA222? — The UCA222 seems kind of cheap - literally and figuratively. Thanks.

Black Dog Bluez

I’ve not used a UCA-222, just the UCA-202. As far as I can tell, the two models appear to be extremely similar (other than the colour).
There’s a lot of technical information and test results for D/A performance of the UCA-202 here:

There are many reasons why a click might occur at the start of playback. One possibility is that the level at the initial playback position is not zero - if this is the case then there “should” be a click caused by the sudden jump to the level at the initial playback position. To test if this is the cause, try generating silence, and then play that silence: is there a click when playback of the silence begins?

Thanks Steve, I tried - on a generated silence and still the clicks… I do have an HP (computer) (Model CQ5826) COMPAQ PRESARIO 3.2 GHz Processor, 4 GB Memory, 64-bit Operating System. Windows 7 Home Premium 2009, Service Pack 1. All rolled back to factory with no updates (and no internet/on my editing computer) though. So… I don’t know… But it seems it still should not be doing this — I will probably return the UCA222 for a refund soon - thanks anyway. A German company/-- yet made in China! - darn. $$! Though I just downloaded what I could at /downloads /UCA222 to see if maybe a driver or something may need to be installed[??].-- No, no drivers — just an old copy of Audacity and some podcasting software and a manual… Looks like it’s going back. Thanks anyway. Wait — there are drivers and other stuff – so I’ll see.

Does this seem right?:

Also at “Load More” …“effects, hosts, instruments…” A lot of stuff — I don’t even know what half of this stuff is. But immediately I think the driver may be the only thing that could save this device’s functionality.

Do you hear a click if you plug headphones into the UCA-222, or is it only when playing through an amp?
I’m not convinced that your UCA-222 is faulty.

No. Audacity does not ship with ASIO support, so you can’t use Asio4All without building a modified version of Audacity.
The UCA-222 will work with standard Windows USB audio drivers (for once it’s something that really is “plug and play”).

I’ve only tried with headphones so far (computer > UCA222 > headphones) — and I tried switching the monitor switch on and off and adjusting the volume (both on the UCA222) to no avail — though I have not tried hooking my stereo up using the UCA222. I’ll try that ASAP.

Tried through stereo (computer > UCA222 > stereo > speakers) and still getting the click —.