Unable to record stereo

Hello - I hope somebody can help with this, as I’ve just about torn out most of my remaining hair!

I’m running Audacity 2.0.3 on Windows 7 Home Premium and been trying to record some of my old vinyl via a phono-to-usb converter. The sound is ‘distant’ and muffled (the vocal sounds like it’s coming from next door!), and the sound from both speakers is identical. I’ve been though a whole series of changing the stylus, cartridge AND the converter and I’m still stuck with the same problem, even with a different brand of converter.

If I unplug the right phono lead from the converter, the sound is unchanged ('distant, muffled from BOTH speakers), If I reconnect the right lead and unplug the left lead it all goes dead. If I plug the left lead into the right input (and leave the other lead out) I get the ‘missing’ channel - all the top and vocals, but almost no bass or drums - out of BOTH speakers. Plugging the right lead into the left input produces no effect whatsoever.

To check the deck & amp wiring, I used the same phono leads to drive the amp & speakers direct (ignoring the PC altogether) - and get perfect strereo out of both speakers!

HELP PLEASE!!!

An

Regardsy ideas / suggestions would be MOST welcome - I’ve been at this for a about 2 weeks now!

So what kind of “converter” are you using now?
What sort did you use before?
Is the problem identical with both converters?

Have a look in the Windows Sound Control Panel. Ensure that recording is set to stereo for your converter and that all “Enhancements” are disabled. Set the “quality” settings to 44100Hz 16 bit stereo.

Have you tried different cables? What kind of cables/connections do you have? (RCA connections on both ends?)

The sound is ‘distant’ and muffled (the vocal sounds like it’s coming from next door!),…

…I get the ‘missing’ channel - all the top and vocals, but almost no bass or drums - out of BOTH speakers. Plugging the right lead into the left input produces no effect whatsoever.

Something like that can happen with a particular kind of defective/broken ground connection…

You can get left-right subtraction which removes the “center channel” (removing everything that’s identical in both channels) Centered-vocals are removed (leaving mostly out-of-phase vocal reverb). Centered lead instruments are removed, and the bass which is also centered.

I used the same phono leads to drive the amp & speakers direct (ignoring the PC altogether) - and get perfect strereo out of both speakers!

And… with a “back door” ground connection to the amp through the power line, the amp may work OK.

If you are using a laptop, its power ground may be isolated from the turntable’s ground. (That’s OK, but you need the proper signal-ground connection through the cables.)

Thanks steve and DVDdoug - appreciate your replies.

First steve: I’m now using an ‘Alesis phono link’ 16-bit 44.1kHz, previously a unit made by ARTcessories ‘Phono Plus’ and, yes, the problem is identical with both units. I’ll check the Windows Sound Control Panel settings as you suggest - thanks.

To DVDdoug: No, I haven’t tried different cables, because when I use the same phono cable output from the deck direct to the amp / speakers, everything’s fine. The cable from the converter to the usb port is, in fact, permanently attached to the converter, so can’t change that. I’ve tried using different usb inputs to the PC, with the same result.

However, the converter is NOT ‘grounded’ - so maybe that’s the problem.
I’m not sure what connections to make - there’s a screw terminal on the back of the converter, but I’ve no idea where to connect this to. Do I just run a single wire to the ‘earth’ terminal on the back of the amp?
I’m not using a laptop - but the turntable isn’t ‘grounded’ either. Should I run another wire from the terminal on the deck to the same one on the back of the amp?

Kindly clarify where these ‘ground’ connections should be made, both from the converter and the deck, thanks.

Appreciate your help, guys.

Kindly clarify where these ‘ground’ connections should be made, both from the converter and the deck, thanks.

The analog connection between the turntable and the converter needs a signal wire plus a ground (for each channel). The ground connection is normally made automatically by the ordinary audio cables. This isn’t necessarily a true ground, but it’s a “common” or “return” that completes the circuit. It’s the analog audio connections that I suspect, not the USB connection.

The outer contact on an [u]RCA connector[/u] is the ground, and the center contact “pin” that sticks-out is the signal. The ground conductor is (normally) a shield in a [u]coaxial cable[/u]. The grounded shield around the signal wire prevents hum pick-up from surrounding power lines.

With most setups, the grounds are connected with both cables on both ends. That means that if only one cable has a break in the ground, everything will still work as long as both left & right cables are connected. If you have a “stereo” 3.5mm cable/connector, there is only one shared ground and a break in the ground can cause this problem. But, I assume you have a pair of RCA cables.

I’m not using a laptop

If the amp and the turntable have a 3-prong AC power connector, that’s an alternative ground path. But, almost all desktop computers have a grounded power cable which would also ground the interface (adapter) through the USB port. So, my hypothesis of a missing ground could be wrong.

I’ve now spent the entire morning trying as many setting as I could find and think I’ve got to the stage where I’d like to throw in the towel!

steve - I found the Windows Sound Control Panel and made the adjustments you suggested. Initially I thought that was it, as I found the ‘mic’ setting was only 1 channel and , sure enough, both channels appeared (and, interestingly, actually produced different waveforms - whereas previously both channels had been identical). However, the sound was badly out of balance with the right channel being still very quiet and missing almost all the treble. Admittedly, it was just about possible to correct this with post-recording adjustments, but the sound was still muffled and nowhere near right.

DVDdoug - Although the PC and amp both have a 3-prong power supply, the turntable is only 2-core, so I added a grounding wire from the turntable to the amp and also from the converter to the amp. I also used new phono leads from the turntable (dual phono leads) but, sadly, this didn’t seem to improve things at all.

I sort of suspect that it might be the converter (‘Alesis Sound Link’) after all, since the ‘direct’ turntable / amp / speaker route gives perfect stereo - and I’m loathe to suspect that Audacity is screwing things up. The only problem with this conclusion is that I already did that with the first converter (‘Phono Plus’ by ARTcessories) which had pretty much identical issues.

On the face of it, the desire to record from vinyl to PC sounded simple enough - and, I suspect, thousands of people have done it. I’m frustrated that, at least in my case, it’s proving to be SO difficult!

If either of you have any further suggestions, I’d be willing to try them out but, if not, I thank you for your efforts to assist and will return the converter for a refund and start some new research on what to try as an alternative. Regards to both.