Sound Card Reviews

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R_G_B
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Re: Sound Card Reviews

Post by R_G_B » Sat Jul 31, 2010 11:23 am

Roland (Cakewalk) UA-1G

I focussed on use to transcribe from vinyl to digital.
There is a thorough review about recording from guitar input at
http://the-gadgeteer.com/2009/07/08/cak ... ce-review/

Manufacturers Specification:

2 channel (stereo in/out at analog line level and optical digital, plus headphone out)
1 channel microphone and guitar in

SAMPLING FREQUENCY
Advanced (ASIO) driver On: 24 bit 32/44.1/48/96 kHz
Advanced Driver Off: 16 bit 32/44.1/48 kHz

LINE IN
Twin RCA jacks, nominal input level -10 to +4 dBu

GUITAR IN (switchable to MIC IN)
1/4” phone jack, nominal input level -30 to -16 dBu

MIC IN (monaural dynamic type)
1/4” phone jack, nominal input level -40 to -26 dBu

MIC IN (plug-in powered monaural miniature condenser type)
1/8” powered phone jack; can be used simultaneously with the ¼” guitar/mic in jack

DIGITAL IN (shared jack with powered mic in)
Optical mini type conforms to IEC60958

LINE OUT
Twin RCA jacks
Nominal output level -10 dBu

PHONES OUT
1/8" TRS stereo jack
adjustable volume knob

DIGITAL OUT (shared jack with phones out)
Optical mini type conforms to IEC60958

USB 1.1 type A

POWER SUPPLY
USB connection 5V 200 mA

CONTROLLERS
Input level dial (for all analog inputs)
Phones volume dial
Switch for guitar/mic level from shared jack
Switches for sample rate, play or record at 96 kHZ, input monitor (below 96 kHz), analog or digital input, advanced driver on/off.

INDICATORS
USB (red LED for power from the USB port)
IN (green LED flashes above a moderate analog signal level to ADC)
OUT (green LED flashes above a moderate analog signal level from DAC)
PEAK (red LED flashes “if audio input signal exceeds the allowable level”??)

Performance tested using:

HP mini 5102 (Intel Atom N450 1.66GHz, X-25M G2 SSD, 2GB RAM)
USB 2.0 port
Windows 7 pro 32 bit
Audacity 1.3.12 beta

Noise levels (tested by recording with no input connections at 24 bit in Sonar LE then examining zoomed waveforms in Audacity) were around -78 dBFS with the UA-1G input level knob set at 100% (5 o’clock), -86 dBFS at 2 o’clock, and -89 dBFS at 0% (7 o’clock).

Set-up per manufacturer instructions (with Advanced Driver installed and switched on) gives Default Format = 2 channel 16 bit 44,100 Hz (CD Quality) under Windows Sound > Recording Devices > Microphone Properties > Advanced. Cakewalk Technical Support advised that this setting applies only to use in shared mode (simultaneous use by multiple applications). I changed it to 24 bit in any case.

The owner’s manual states for each analog input to “Adjust the input level knob until the level is as high as you can get it without causing the PEAK indicator to light”. I tried this with various input signal strengths. With music at nominal 350 mV (-9 dbV) from my Rotel RA-1312 consumer pre-amp it needed the input level dial at about 2 o’clock. With higher input signals (up to nominal 1.5 V from an FM receiver) it required correspondingly lower settings on the dial. But in every case, recording this way (with software input level set at 100%) in either Audacity or Sonar LE always gave the peaks of the recorded waveform at -10 dBFS. I emailed Cakewalk Technical Support several times to try to establish exactly what are the triggers for the peak indicator. I asked explicitly whether it is intended to indicate clipping at the analog input stage or clipping at the digital output stage or some defined (-10 dBFS) headroom. I explained that I was trying to establish whether it was sensible to ignore this peak indicator and set levels based on the recorded waveform when users did not want to trade S/N ratio for 10 dBFS of headroom (for example when transcribing to digital from finished vinyl records). I did not get an answer about the exact triggers, but the advice was

“This is a good question. The peak indicator on the UA-1G is more of a warning signal than a traditional peak light.

Basically, the UA-1G is geared toward beginners; the average consumer. It was made to not peak or clip, which is why there is a maximum output of -10 dBu on the device. The only way your signal would sound distorted when coming through the UA-1G is if the signal coming into the device was already super hot and over driven.

So yes, you can sensibly ignore the peak indicator on the UA-1G in this case. For more accurate dBu levels, we recommend devices like the UA-25EX which has better preamps and a higher output level than the
UA-1G.”


That is confusing to me, as the peak indicator has nothing to do with the output line level (-10 dBu). So I gave up on the emails (no offense, compared to some other companies Cakewalk were great to reply at all and the replies were relevant if slightly vague; but it is a noreply system so you have to jump through hoops again on the Cakewalk web site every time you would like clarification). Instead I ran a test for clipping when recording the same track (from the Thelma Houston Sheffield Lab LP via my Rotel RA-1312 pre-amp line out) with:

1. The UA-1G peak indicator just off (which required the UA-1G input level knob at 2 o’clock and gave recorded peaks near -10 dBFS)
-10dBFS.jpg
-10dBFS.jpg (34.74 KiB) Viewed 10167 times
2. The recorded waveform peaks around -1 dBFS (which required the UA-1G input level knob at full scale and illuminated the UA-1G peak indicator much of the time).
-1dBFS.jpg
-1dBFS.jpg (32.83 KiB) Viewed 10168 times
In both cases, the Audacity = Windows input level slider was left at 100%. From the zoomed waveforms (note the different vertical zoom levels), I think we can conclude that:

(i) With this kind of (consumer line out) signal level the UA-1G peak indicator can indeed be ignored (it seems to be set for -10 dBFS digital output).

(ii) The input level knob can be set to full scale without analog clipping.

(iii) The recorded waveform can be used to confirm that there has been no digital clipping.

(iv) Edit: Noting that the noise floor increases by almost the same amount as the recorded peaks (8-9 dBFS) over this range (2-5 o'clock on the input level knob) the S/N ratio is not going to be improved much (sorry, I got this wrong in the initial post).

The recorded tracks sounded fine to me. Given that plans are afoot to implement 24-foot recording in PartAudio / Audacity for Windows: if you have equipment that can benefit from the lower noise floor, or if you believe in other magical benefits of 24-bit recording (and you don’t pay too much attention to that PEAK LED), the UA-1G may be worth the extra cost. Unfortunately, you may still then need to compile a private version of Audacity with ASIO to get the 24-bit recording capability (or use an ASIO-capable program like Sonar LE which is supplied with the UA-1G device). If you want those extra ins and outs the UA-1G is an obvious choice.
Last edited by R_G_B on Mon Aug 02, 2010 8:23 am, edited 2 times in total.

steve
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Re: Sound Card Reviews

Post by steve » Sun Aug 01, 2010 2:38 pm

Thank you for the three very informative posts R_G_B.
R_G_B wrote:Unfortunately, you may still then need to compile a private version of Audacity with ASIO to get the 24-bit recording capability (or use an ASIO-capable program like Sonar LE which is supplied with the UA-1G device).
It may be worth mentioning here that although Audacity does not currently support 24 bit recording on Windows, it does support 24 bit / 32 bit float for importing, editing, processing and exporting. For anyone that wants to take advantage of 24 bit recording, and use Audacity for editing, they could record with an application that supports ASIO (such as Sonar or Wavosaur), then export the recording as either 24 or 32 bit WAV, then import that file into Audacity.
9/10 questions are answered in the FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQ)

R_G_B
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Re: Sound Card Reviews

Post by R_G_B » Mon Aug 02, 2010 2:13 am

I ought to admit that I could not hear any quality improvement in 24-bit (Sonar / ASIO) over 16-bit (Audacity / DirectSound) recordings from vinyl (without any further application of effects or filters), provided care was taken with levels to use the available dynamic range and resolution without clipping (all with the UA-1G as described above).

In fact with default settings, the 24-bit captures were worse, due to added clicks and pops. I run a lean Win 7 system in which aero and most ‘optional’ startup programs are disabled, and wireless is off when recording. It passed the latency check mentioned below (results around 500 us) but it is still just a netbook with an Atom N450 1.66 GHz processor. Latency is irrelevant to me for transcription from vinyl, so the solution is probably just to increase the buffer size in the ASIO driver.

Anyone who wants to record in 24-bit should listen to some familiar, challenging test tracks recorded in 16- versus 24-bit, and adjust their system settings if necessary before recording in earnest. Recording at 24-bit is more demanding on the computer, and those clicks and pops occur when it can’t keep up, as many people have found to their dismay.

First check your system capability using the free tool at http://www.thesycon.de/deu/latency_check.shtml and follow the advice there to locate problem drivers if necessary (and hopefully obtain updates that solve the problem or perhaps disable unnecessary drivers while recording).

Also be prepared to adjust audio buffer settings (in ASIO, I am not sure about WASAPI).

If you still get drop-outs, try turning off background activities such as virus checking (while disconnected from any network for recording sessions) and/or adjust Windows > Performance Options > Advanced to allocate processor resources for best performance of Background Services rather than Programs.

If you record while on battery power, check that your power settings do not reduce processor power while running on battery (or plug into a power brick instead).

Or, if you can’t hear any improvement and don’t want the hassle, stick with 16-bit recording!

kozikowski
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Re: Sound Card Reviews

Post by kozikowski » Mon Aug 02, 2010 3:27 am

Past your running out of computer power at some awkward times, you won't hear much difference between 16 bit and 24 bit. The reason to use higher bitrates is post production. If you intend to apply multiple filters and tools to the show, errors will appear sooner at lower bit rates and sampling frequencies. It could be argued that 32-floating should be used for everything and downsample to the delivery format.

Koz

waxcylinder
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Re: Sound Card Reviews

Post by waxcylinder » Tue Aug 03, 2010 12:58 pm

kozikowski wrote: It could be argued that 32-floating should be used for everything and downsample to the delivery format.
An argument I support, as it's what I do to produce WAV files for CD burning and import into iTunes. The CDs when payed on my hihfi ( Rega CD deck, QUAD 33/303 ESL-57 electrostatic speakers) sound extremely good - at least to my aging ears ;)

I record from my old Technics SL-150 deck with SME 3009 Improved tonearm, through an ART phono pre-amp and then on to an Edirol UA-1EX (the pre-cursor the the UA-1G) set at 16-bit using the latest drivers from the Edirol website.

@R_G_B: may I echo Steve's thanks for the informative posts - much appreciated.

WC
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mpanwar
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Re: Sound Card Reviews

Post by mpanwar » Fri Sep 10, 2010 11:14 am

Recording at 24-bit is more demanding on the computer, and those clicks and pops occur when it can’t keep up, as many people have found to their dismay.



I have successfully recorded 24/192 without any clicks or pop using a Roland EDIROL UA-101 and Audacity running on a Windows 7 IBM Thinkpad.

Yeah once even the screen saver came on but Audacity kept moving.

Just to say it works. And previous to this I have done numerous 24/96 using Audacity on same and TASCAM US 144 ... no issues.

theseus75
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Re: Sound Card Reviews

Post by theseus75 » Sat Sep 11, 2010 8:37 pm

@ mpanwar - Indeed so, and even a process running in the background can be the culprit. I got pops in my audio when I had a DVD menu running the background (never thought about it being that tasking). Every few minutes, a nice pop that's neigh impossible to remove. Grrrrrr...

waxcylinder
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Sound Card Reviews - my Edirol hisses slightly

Post by waxcylinder » Tue Sep 14, 2010 1:18 pm

Following some recent threads on noise removal on the forum I ran some tests today on my audio setup.

Onne conclusion that I was drawn to is that my trusty Edirol UA-1EX USB soundcard introduces a tiny bit of hiss into my recording. It is so tiny as to be undetectable in normal recordings and is certanly less than the noised added bt my ARTcessories preamp (or the TT itself - I didn't test that far back down the chain).

For details of the tests see this thread: http://forum.audacityteam.org/viewtopic ... 27&t=39702

WC
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Irish
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Re: Sound Card Reviews - ART USB Phono Plus

Post by Irish » Sat Dec 11, 2010 1:31 am

Just lately took delivery of an ARTcessories USB Phono Plus, because I needed a sound card with an input that could switch between Phono and Line-in, input gain control and a headphone out socket. I don't need a microphone input because I have a small 8-channel mixer that will take care of all that.

Manufacturer's Specifications
Frequency Response: 10 Hz to 50kHz +/-0.5dB
THD: 0.01% typical at 1kHz
Hum and Noise: > 90dB below clipping
Input impedance: 47k Ohm / 100pF (phono), 270k Ohm (line)
Max. Input Level: 40Mv rms at 1kHz (phono), +19dBu (line)
Max Gain: 45dB at 1kHz (phono), +6dB (line)
Analog Output Connections: RCA (preamp line output), 1/8" (monitor / headphone output)
Max Output Level: +6dBu (1.4V rms)
Filter Type and Response: Switchable, High Pass, -3dB at 22Hz
A/D and D/A: 16-bit 44.1kHz or 48kHz USB Selectable
Digital Audio Interface: TOSLINK in and out, S/PDIF coax (RCA) in
Computer Interface: Usb 1.2 compliant, Windows 98SE or newer, Mac OS 9.1 or newer
Power Requirements: 7-12VDC or 9-12VAC at 150mA, or USB bus power
Dimensions: 1.75"H x 4.2"W x 3.5"D (44.5mm x 107mm x 89mm)
Weight: 1.35 lbs (0.61kg)

http://www.artproaudio.com/products.asp ... =13&id=128

The unit is well built, and looks good in a black anodised aluminium case that looks like it could survive any ill-treatment. The front panel features Phono/Line and Rumble Filter buttons that light up when pressed, an input gain trim knob (+/-10dB), headphone socket and (small) volume knob, Signal/Clipping indicator and Power indicator. The rear panel manages to fit nine assorted sockets and a ground lug for the TT into a very small space.

Performance is impressive too; it worked "out of the box" on my Windows XP system, and the gain trim control allowed me to set the peak recording level between -3 and -6dB on a wide range of vinyl.

The spec. claims hum and noise at -90dB, but the best I got was -70dB when powered from the mains adapter, with my turntable connected, rising to -50dB when USB powered. In either case, while I could see the noise on Audacity's recording meters, (and I could see every hard disk access on the meters when bus powered) I didn't hear anything I shouldn't.

It also comes with a CD containing the manual and a copy of Audacity 1.2.6.

I have two minor complaints. Firstly, the mains adapter that came with it was a 120V unit with a US plug - not much good on a 220V Irish system! Secondly, the price if you live in Europe. It costs around $70 plus shipping from US distributors, but they won't ship overseas, and the best deal I could get was €110, including shipping, from a German distributor. Still, on balance, it is worth it.

Conclusion:
Very good build quality and performance. Excellent value for money if you live in the US, but expect to pay more in Europe. Recommended.

POL
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waxcylinder
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Re: Sound Card Reviews

Post by waxcylinder » Mon Dec 13, 2010 11:06 am

Irish, the Uk supplier I used for my Edirol soundcard and my ART phono pre-amp is Dolphin Music. They have the ART USB Phono Plus, listed at UKL76.62 (plus shipping). They do have bricks-based shops too - the main one is in Liverpool (the other in Huddersfield).

Thanks for the review of your new device - if I hadnt already had the Edirol soundcard I probably would have bought the consolidated ART device.

Do you think you could possibly edit the original posting in this thread, which has the potted summaries - in the format shown there. I think your elf privileges will let you do that.

WC
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