Does anybody have experience using ‘Phono plus’ by ARTcessories with Audacity on Windows 7?
I initially bought one of these, which seemed fine recording mono LPs, but when I started recording stereo Audacity was only picking up one channel and duplicating it. This showed up on earlier ‘stereo’ records, where the channels were split with mainly bass on one side and mainly treble on the other, so the playback was distant, muffled and missing a huge part of the original.
I thought the unit was faulty and, as it was the last one, I was sent ‘Phono link’ by Alesis to try instead. After posting a query in this forum, ‘steve’ kindly advised checking the microphone input setting in Windows 7, which I indeed found was for 1-channel. After changing to 2-channel things improved considerably - although the basic sound quality produced by the Alesis unit was rather poor (unbalanced channels and still a lack of treble).
I therefore asked the retailer to return the ARTcessories unit but was very surprised when he phoned me to say he’d had the same problem on his computer, where the mic input was definitely set to 2-channel but Audacity was simply picking up one channel only and duplicating it. He implied that he thought there was nothing wrong with the ARTcessories converter, but suspected Audacity might not be handling the signals correctly.
Is this a common fault with Phono plus / Audacity?
In case it is, I might have to think about letting that unit go and trying something else, so I’m looking for recommendations for a decent phono-to-usb converter without spending too much - preferably well under £100.
I spent a few minutes on Google and could not find anything that described unbalanced sound and loss of high frequency assuming Windows is set to stereo for the device.
Audacity does not mess with the input it’s given. Are you sure you are choosing the ART device as input in Audacity and not recording it from stereo mix? Are you sure the connections from the turntable to the ART are tight?
I run an Artcessories DJ-Pre-II which is essentially the PhonoPlus minus the ADC & USB services - I feed it to a USB soundcard (Edirol UA-1EX) and then via the USB into the PC and Audacity. This setup has always produced excellent stereo results transferring my vinyl to digital.
waxcylinder: I run the Phono plus direct into the sound card in the PC, which worked fine in mono (albeit, the output volume was VERY high, needing the input slider in Audacity to be cut right back to 0.1 - 0.2, even with the ‘Gain’ control on the Phono plus set to max -10db).
I personally think that, having found the 2-channel sound setting in Windows 7 (thanks again to steve) the Phono plus should work OK in stereo as well now, so I think I’ll risk getting it sent back - and if it really doesn’t work, then come at it with a different converter.
Gale Andrews: Thanks for the link which does indeed speak well of the Phono plus - which is why I think I’ll give it another go (see above).
As far as I can see, the settings for recording are those recommended in the help pages ‘Microphone (USB Audio CODEC)’ - I don’t recognise the phrase ‘not recording it from stereo mix’ - could you explain?
However, I AM sure that the turntable connections are good (new lead, all tight -and swapped left & right leads, just to make sure)
I’m pretty sure this is a Windows configuration issue, but I don’t know exactly what…
Do you have access to another computer?
You have any way of playing (and listening to) records with this turntable to make sure it’s working?
If you have a desktop computer with a regular soundcard and line-level inputs, you can use a [u]phono preamp[/u] I believe the ART had line-outputs, but apparently the Alesis does not. (You would need an [u]adapter cable[/u].)
A phono preamp would also allow you to hook-up to your stereo system (or TV, etc.) to make sure you are getting a good signal out of the turntable & cartridge.
If you have a laptop you could get a USB audio interface with line inputs, but you’d likely get the same “mono” results you’re getting with the phono-input USB interfaces.
The good news is - and perhaps I should have mentioned - that I have the same deck with the same phono cables switched into an external hi-fi amplifier next to my PC and the output from that, over the same speakers, is great.
As I mentioned, I had got the whole Audacity setup working more or less OK with a different converter, in ‘proper’ stereo but with one channel down a bit on volume - and somewhat less treble overall than the original record. (This was after I’d changed the Windows 7 sound setting to accept a 2-channel input).
I’m therefore gambling in the hope that once I get the Phono plus unit back, with the Windows now set up on 2-channel input, it will all be OK. Fingers crossed!
I’ll report back in a few days when I’ve got the Phono plus unit back and run some more tests - watch this space!
Are you saying that you are taking the line-out from the Phono Plus and feeding that to the 3.5 mm jack input on your PC? If so are you sure that you are jacking it into a proper line-in, line level, socket on a PC - the symptoms of “VERY high” signal level indicate that you may be jacking in to a MIC input which expects a much lower level input signal. And note that a lot of modern laptops don’t have a line in which is why man folk use external USB soundcards.
And also if so, why are you not using the USB output of the Phono-Plus to plug to the USB input on your PC, as this is what the device is designed to do?
The line-out on the device (as with my Edirol UA-1EX) is really designed for the device to take a digital signal output from your PC via the USB and then output via that line-out to a hi-fi rig, giving you a better quality soundcard than the onboard one for playback.
Apologies, waxcylinder - I’ve obviously misunderstood the workings of my PC (not for the first time!. I thought the usb lead from the converter went to the on-board sound card, but now I think about it, that’s obviously wrong and I’m sorry for confusing you! By using the usb input, I realise this by-passes the sound card altogether.
However, if I understand you correctly, I can also ‘reverse’ the signal flow through the converter and use it to connect its ‘Preamp Line Out’ to my hi-fi amplifier to playback audio files from my PC? (Currently, I’m using the sound card jack to connect to the CD input on my amplifier)
Not being at all confident about this - would I run the converter’s output phono leads into the same amplifier inputs as now (‘CD’)?
And, if so, would I have to make any changes to the Windows settings to ensure playback goes to the USB socket, not out via the soundcard?
Sorry to hit you with all these questions but, as you can guess from the fact that I have a significant vinyl collection which I’m trying to transfer to my PC, I’m of an age which pre-dates computers by a VERY long time, so I beg your indulgence!
Actually from looking at the images of the back panel of your Phono Plus it looks as though the RCA outs are just to provide the output of the phono pre-amp, bypassing the ADC and the USB services - but it’s worth reading the manual and having a try. But yes you would run the RCA outputs into the inputs on your amp CD or Tape-In or Aux-In. And yes if you were using Audacity to playback through the PhonoPlus you would need to set the output device to be the USB device.
Yes, when you use the USB connection the ADC (Analog to Digital Conversion) is done in the PhonoPlus and the signal is sent digitally to the PC, bypassing your onboard soundcard. This is normally a good thing as these external soundcards are often of better quality that the onboard ones in PCs which tend to be cheapies.
A question for you: The PhonoPlus has a gain control on the front, doesn’t that let you control the signal level that is sent to the PC?
Me too, I’m a greybeard It’s only easy when you know how …
Interestingly, the Phono plus didn’t come with a manual (what does, these days?) - there is a fairly basic ‘get you started’ instruction card with the unit which is all about how to connect the turntable / whatever to the converter and then running the usb lead into the PC in order to make recordings. It doesn’t even mention ‘PREAMP LINE OUT’, so I’ve no idea what this is supposed to do. I’ll dig around on line and see what I can find.
The ‘gain’ control on the front HAS to be set to the absolute minimum (-10db) to get the signal down to a point where Audacity can deal with it without overloading - and even then the input slider has to be set right back to 0.1, or 0.2, depending on the original recording level. However, having said that, it does work - just.
Thanks for the sympathy - I’ve been struggling to understand computers ever since 1990, when my son came back from his first year at University with one of the very first Apple Macs (with a mono green on black screen about 7 or 8" wide) and I asked him what a spreadsheet was and how did it work! Trouble is, by the time I’m starting to get to grips with something, the world has moved on and I’m struggling again!
I meant, to make sure in the third (input) box of Audacity’s Device Toolbar that your are selecting the ART USB Audio CODEC (or however it is described) - and not choosing stereo mix or your built-in mic to record from.
“Stereo Mix” is an input for recording computer playback that a few machines offer. If you had Windows set to “listen to” the ART, Windows would play what ART was sending through the built in sound device and stereo mix would record it.
If you are choosing the USB Audio CODEC, have a look at this: http://artproaudio.com/support/faqs#windows7 . ART suggest “training” the USB input using Speech Recognition. I am sceptical that would do anything but adjust the input level somewhere in its current range - you could already do that using the volume slider for the input. But you could try it.
Thanks Gale Andrews - all clear now. The third box is set to ‘Microphone (USB Audio CODEC)’ which seems to be OK, but I’ll try the link you suggest and hope it improves the levels somewhat.
For waxcylinder: I looked up the Phono plus manual which says the Preamp Line out is for monitoring or use as a stand-alone preamp,. There’s also a previous post I found in this forum which confirms that Phono plus can’t be used for PC playback:
Posted by steve on Feb 19th
The current “Project Series” USB Phono Plus provides monitoring of the phono input, or the computer output or both via the headphone socket (switchable from the from panel with a separate monitor level control).
The RCA outputs are direct from the phono input which allows the unit to be used as an ordinary phono pre-amp without the computer connected but does not play back from the computer.
There are 2 optical digital connections, one for input into the computer and one for playback from the computer.
There is on S/PDIF co-ax input for input into the computer (when connected this overrides the optical input).
Thanks a lot for your input, guys - really appreciated!
Hello, waxcylinder and Gale Andrews (and steve) - me again! But, GOOD news this time!
I got the Phono plus unit back to try again and, after a frustrating couple of hours, finally managed to get it all working - in glorious stereo!
The key to the whole issue was undoubtedly the Sound setting in Windows 7 (thanks steve). It’s set to 1-channel recording as a default and when I changed that I got a decent, although far from perfect, result with the Alesis Phono Link I had on trial. Having got that far, I thought it would be worth the gamble to get the original Phono plus unit back (which I’d returned as faulty, as I was only getting 1-channel sound coming through).
This arrived on Saturday and having re-set all the various bits in Windows and Audacity I was distraught when once again I only had 1-chanel sound. I spent the following couple of frustrating hours checking & re-checking all the settings, changed the cables - still with no improvement.
It was only THEN that I discovered that, when I re-routed the turntable output directly to the amp as a check, I discovered one of the speaker wires had become dislodged from the back of the amp! Having re-connected that I was back in business with 2-channel sound. It was just bad luck that this wire had become dislodged as I was shifting stuff around on Saturday morning (it had been working fine as the regular stereo speaker setup for sound for my PC in regular use Friday and first thing Saturday).
It took me a little while longer to get the volume settings working (the Phono plus unit’s ‘gain’ control HAS to be set to its minimum (-10db) and even then the input slider on Audacity needs to be right down to around 0.1), but eventually I got a halfway decent recording - in glorious STEREO!
So, all’s well that ends well, as they say!
I’d like to thank you all for your patience and helpful suggestions along the way - and finally confirm that there’s nothing wrong with Phono plus by ARTcessories, that a spot of adjusting in Windows 7 won’t cure!
Yes, I did have a go at the Windows ‘Speech recognition’ process, but found that all it did was to set the recording volume very low, presumably based on whatever ‘measurements’ it was getting from the input - which is just about the same as adjusting the input slider in Audacity to give an optimum setting without overload. In other words rather a waste of time, since these need to be reset from time to time to take account of different recording levels anyway.
It would be nice if there was some (simple, inexpensive) way to cut down the signal from the Phono plus, but I’m learning to live with it!