Optimal Audio Settings

My system consists of the following elements

Dell microtower dx2400, Intel Pentium Dual Core processor E5200 @ 2.5 gHz w/ 3GB Mem
Windows XP SP3
Audacity 2.1.0
Rode NT2-A Mic w/ shock mount and pop filter
Studio Projects VTB1 Pre-Amp
Tascam US-366 Audio Interface
Sennheiser HD-380 Headphones

The Mic is connected by a Rode XLR cable to mic in on the back of the pre-amp. The pre-amp is connected by XLR cable from the balanced out XLR on the back of the pre-amp into the front input 1 XLR jack of the Audio Interface which is connected to the the computer by USB cable into a USB 2.0 port.

The settings on the mic - Cardioid, High Pass and PAD set to zero. Pre-Amp settings are - phantom power on, input gain set to 20, output gain set to 0, high pass on, meter to input, tube - 0. The AI set to mic, input gain at 12:00, mono mix set to input, mode set to multi track.

Audacity settings - Audio Host to Windows Direct Sound, Recording Device to Tascam US-366, Recording channels to 1, and Playback Device to Realtek HD Audio output. I have made no changes in Preferences. They are as installed.

I’m having the following problems:

I have no idea if my pre-amp and AI are set up properly
I have extremely low recording volume with a pronounced hum
I can only hear what I’ve recorded by attaching speakers to the speaker input on the computer
I could hear through the headphones attached to the AI when I had the Audacity playback device set to the Tascam unit, but this caused an odd situation where moving the recording slider muted the audio output in Windows and if I unmuted Windows the Recording Volume slider reset to 0.

I know this is a lot, but if someone could give me a push in the right direction it would be much appreciated.

Everybody always misses this step:

What are you doing?

[] I’m recording an audiobook.
] I’m recording a podcast.
[] I’m fooling around.
] Other


You should try and avoid putting a Windows XP machine on-line. You can do production with it, but WinXP is no longer protected against on-line vulnerabilities and damage. If you have to post performances, by all means do it with a more modern or updated machine.


I have to come back when I have time to read through your post. We have to look up all the devices and connections, so it’s not particularly fast.


Thankfully, the VTB1 has a sound meter on it.

Ignore everything else or turn it all off.

I can’t get the instructions to tell me. Is that gold dot on the front of the microphone a light? Does it come on?

I’m surprised the Studio Projects VTB1 Pre-Amp doesn’t have a place to put your headphones.

It should be possible to get the first three lights - green - to come on when you speak or play into the microphone. -20, -8, and 0. Forget the computer, forget the interface. Leave the output knob at the zero point and keep advancing the input knob and speaking until the meter gives you the green lights.

I can’t tell what they did to give you the input and output meters, but stick with the output meter for now. That’s the rough equivalent of the program sound meters on a sound mixer.

Can you get it that far?

If you have a 1/4" adapter for your headphones, you should be able to plug them into the rear of the unit Line-Out, but you won’t have very good control over the volume. This is just to make sure there’s something there.

Let us know.


Just to cover it. Unplug the Tascam interface while you’re doing the above tests.

I knew I would leave something out. I am setting up a studio at home for my wife’s audiobook narration and voice over work.

Are you following someone’s list or recipe for this studio?


OK, while you’re doing that test, are you preparing a quiet room or “booth?” Without question the thing that kills most people is the environment, not the equipment. People living in a noisy environment “tune it out” and don’t hear it any more.

We had a joke at a friend’s guest house in the quiet mountains. People would drive up from The Big City and nobody could sleep without the constant city noises. It’s those constant city noises that end up on your track behind your voice, and they’re very difficult to get rid of.

If you have a modern house with shiny wood floors and white walls, congratulations, you are living in an aggressively hostile recording environment.


Echoes are permanent. That announcement will always sound like that.

I can and have made very good recordings with a rock band microphone and a simple sound mixer into a Mac. But I did it in a soundproof room. It doesn’t work the other way. By the time you throw enough money at recording equipment to make good recordings, you could have soundproofed the room.

Audio has a lot of diminishing return problems like that.

You got lucky. Flynwill on the forum is in version 1.4 of a tool that can analyze your story and tell you if it’s likely to pass ACX Audiobook compliance and if not, why.

Few newbies conform on the first pass, and there are a number of tricks to making a good recording.

And as we are fond of pointing out, all we can do is work with technical and sound standards. If people cover their ears while they listen to you in real life, you may not be the best performer to read a book. Reading to an audience is performance art. It’s not unusual to get to the end of a book and compare the performance quality to the beginning… and start over.

If you’re not depressed enough yet, I can introduce Ian in Hollywood. There’s nothing magic about that, it’s just where his apartment happens to be. He has the longest message thread in the history of the forum. All he wanted to do was record audiobooks. It’s over a year.


Thank you for looking at this and responding so quickly.

The gold dot appears to be just that. It appears to be decorative. But I’ll read through what I have on it and let you know.

I do have a 1/4" adapter for the headphones and when I plug them into the line out, the volume is very low, but if I move away from the mic the volume is slightly less.

I moved the Input Gain to slightly less than 50 and now get the first three green on the Output meter. If I move it anymore I get the white +8 light as well. The meter can be set to Input or Output by means of a lighted push button. It glows if set to Input. I have it set to Output. The light is off.
I know you told me to ignore everything else, but the AI shows overload (probably the wrong word) even with the gain turned all the way down.

I hope this helps, and I sure appreciate the advice.

I missed this one. I’m not following a recipe. Just trying what I’ve gleaned from various sources.

And no, I haven’t worked on the room yet other than trying to get rid of existing noise. For example I ditched the laptop I had planned to use because when it got hot the fan noise was very loud. I’ve also been going around the house turning things off like window air conditioners, ceiling fans, even the refrigerator (that was unpopular). I’m trying to get up to speed on cheap diy solutions for making it quieter. I really don’t know anything about reflections. I’m brand new at this.

I know you told me to ignore everything else

That’s correct. Good audio equipment and systems allow for step by step analysis of problems by providing monitoring and metering at critical stages along the way.

Since the socket on the back of the unit does not say Headphone Out, I know that the best you can do is a pass/fail test. Is there sound? Yes/No. Since the answer is yes, that’s good and it’s full stop. You can’t use the connection to give you any more information and you can’t do quality analysis.

Now I get to find the instructions for the interface. I suspect it’s the wrong one.

You didn’t answer the question about where you got the equipment list from.


I think we’re playing dueling posts. We both post at the same time and the questions and answers are out of order.
As we go.


It’s a good bet you wired the OUT of the preamp to the IN of the interface wrong. It’s not an XLR cable. It’s a 1/4" jumper cable. Male on both ends.

I can’t tell if it should be a stereo or a mono cable. Plug in what you have.

This is a rock band guitar cable. Each plug only has one black band on it. Start there.

That goes from the Line Out of the preamp (where you had your headphones) to the Line/Guitar socket on the interface. Switch the connection from Guitar to Mic-Line on top.

I see the Tascam gets its power from the USB connection, so you’ll have to plug it into the computer and turn everything else on.

Speak so the three green lights on the preamp are working (approximately, it doesn’t have to be surgically accurate). Advance the Tascam Input 1 until the yellow SIG light starts flashing.

I’m guessing now. Advance the big Line-Out knob to half-way, plug your headphones into the Tascam, turn Mono Mix to INPUT, turn up the headphone knob and get excellent volume and voice. I can’t tell where the headphone connection is in the system, but that should work.

Let us know.


Yes I do have an XLR cable connected just as you said. I don’t have a 1/4" jumper cable; I’ll try to get one tomorrow. I’ll post after I’ve done that. I’m pretty sure I understand the rest of your instructions, but I’ll know better after correcting the proper cable.

I realize that I’ve got a long way to go, but this feels like a huge step in the right direction. Thank you very much.

this feels like a huge step in the right direction.

The XLR cable was forcing powerful, line-level sound signal into the microphone connection of the interface. That’s as much as 1000 times too loud.

The other connections, the 1/4" sockets are both working with Line-Level signals, so they should be compatible with each other.

Make sure you switch the interface from Guitar to Mic/Line, or you may create another volume problem.

Make sure the 1/4" plugs are clean and don’t touch them. The grease on your fingers can cause bad connections. Scrub them with a clean paper towel and glass cleaner or vodka. Dry with another towel.

I can’t tell you how many rock bands I got out of trouble with the Windex trick. That and I know how to repair a 1/4" plug. I haven’t bought a pint in years. Or 500ml, either.


Speak so the three green lights on the preamp are working (approximately, it doesn’t have to be surgically accurate). Advance the Tascam Input 1 until the yellow SIG light starts flashing.

I’m guessing now. Advance the big Line-Out knob to half-way, plug your headphones into the Tascam, turn Mono Mix to INPUT, turn up the headphone knob and get excellent volume and voice. I can’t tell where the headphone connection is in the system, but that should work.

Let us know.


I tried to find the jumper cable, but was unable to. I live in a VERY small town in western Virginia. I did cobble one together by putting two 1/4" adapters on a 1/8" cable. Both the cable and the adapters are stereo. I connected this from the line out on the VTB1 to the line/guitar jack on the front of the tascam unit. I switched the toggle to mic on the AI. But when I speak, even if I turn the gain up all the way on the AI I never get a signal light. However, if I turn the gain all the way down, and set the toggle to guitar, the light comes on immediately when I speak. I tested to see if I was still getting a good signal from the output meter on the VTB1 and I am. So the cable appears to work at least to some extent.

I’m stopping here. I’ve spoken to tech support at both Studio Projects, and Tascam. Both very helpful and not surprisingly agreed on the set up. But I got no new information. No surprise here, but both seemed to think that the problem lay with the other unit. Look, the cable may be totally inadequate. I have one on order from eBay.

I welcome any thoughts you might have, but I may have to wait for a good cable to continue. Thanks for your help so far.

Not every day is a step forward, but keep moving.

Line level and guitar level are cousins of each other.

Microphone level is super tiny. You usually can’t fudge that, but I got almost line level once with a friend’s electric guitar by hogging down very hard on a chord. But I wouldn’t want to play like that all the time.

You’re probably not expecting this, but If it works in Guitar, leave it there. Also, if your adapters and connectors are clean, there’s nothing wrong with your audio adapter cable, either. Does it sound OK at the headphone connection of the adapter? I expect it to. Remember, there’s two knobs that affect headphones, headphone volume and mix (that’s for overdubbing).

Let’s see. Windows XP. Somewhere in Windows Control Panels, you should be able to find your USB adapter. It’s probably not going to say the name of the device.

USB Sound Something…

Ummmm. Windows XP didn’t have little sound meters, so the only thing to do now is launch Audacity and try to find the USB adapter with the Device Toolbar.


Either start recording as a test, or right-click on the meters > Start Monitoring. They should wake up and measure your show. I expect if you got this far, that it should sound pretty good.