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Acceptable Noise Levels?
Acceptable Noise Levels?
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Old 7th July 2011, 06:52 AM   #1
wormywyrm is offline wormywyrm
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Join Date: Jul 2011
Default Acceptable Noise Levels?

Hi I am interested in recording some acoustic guitar and voice using this equipment I have recently bought:

M-AUDIO FastTrack Pro USB Interface
RODE NT 1-A Condenser Microphone

I am very new to it all.

I find that I have to turn the gain knob up nearly all the way on the fasttrack box for the microphone to come through properly into my software program, Audacity. Is this normal?

Here is a screenshot of audacity: the top recording line was recorded in my bedroom with my computer (containing several noisy computer fans) nearby. The bottom sound line is in a quieter room.

Are the noise levels shown in that picture normal and expected? Do you think that it would be worth the money to have quieter fans installed in my computer and invest in PC insulation to lower fan noise?
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Old 7th July 2011, 02:16 PM   #2
geraldfryjr is offline geraldfryjr  United States
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Join Date: Feb 2008
Location: Jackson,michigan
When you turn the gain up on a mic preamp you will be suprized at what noises you will pick up.

I am not familar with usb type interfaces but if it applies make sure that the input gain in the audio control panel is up I normaly run mine all of the way or almost all of the way.
This will allow you to cut back on the preamp gain and should give you a wider dynamic range with less ambient room noise prevelent.


P.S. Give the article "What is Gain Structure" a good read as it is great info on how to set gains along the sound chain of several stages.

Last edited by geraldfryjr; 7th July 2011 at 02:20 PM.
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Old 7th July 2011, 02:28 PM   #3
chrispenycate is offline chrispenycate  United Kingdom
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Location: W.Sussex
Looks pretty noisy to me. Oh, the low frequency in your "quiet" room can probably be eliminated (from a guitar, at least) with a simple high-pass filter (the audacity can do one)(a darn sight cheaper than trying to soundproof the room down to those frequencies, which is a major task) but the computer noise… If you have to record quiet instruments in the same room as the computer (mine's next door, totally isolated, with extensions on keyboard, screen, mouse…) could you put it in an enclosure of some kind? This is a DIY forum, and it doesn't have to be the build quality of a speaker cabinet; actually I think I've got a drawing.

Is it a particularly quiet guitar, or are you miking from a long way away? (This is not a "don't do this; if it's the sound you want, you've got to try. But sometimes you can fake distance with a bit of EQ and some synthetic reverb, and closer miking improves signal strength as the square of the distance.) If you know your levels, could you set up your mic in the "quiet" room, start the machine recording, go in and play, then come back and edit off the unwanted bits?
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Old 28th July 2011, 12:43 AM   #4
ChrisA is offline ChrisA  United States
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Join Date: Jan 2008
Better/different equipment might help but first there are a few cheap and easy things to try first then move to expensive things.

0) Buy/borrow a few books on "home recording". Every hour of reading wil save to 10 of fooling around. Books are a big time and money saver and this IS a book-length subject

1) Get some REALLY long cables for the computer and place it in a closet or in another room.

2) Use some "EQ" on the guitar. any nose outside of the frequency range of a guitar (about 80hz to 5KHz) can be squashed with an equalizer.

3) move the mic close to the guitar maybe 1/2 way between the 12th fret and the sound hole. Guitar player has to learn not to move around and keep the mic 6 inches away 12 inches at the most. Fist have him play a few chords then move the mic to the guitar, not the guitar to the mic. The mic has to be close unless you are in a really good studio. Set preamp so that an extra loud chord is just under the clipping point.

4) if you really have problems have a guitar tech place an electronic pickup inside the guitar. A Pizo or the like and then room noise is a non-issue. Yes the mic sounds better but only in a soundproof studio, the pizo makes better home recordings with trucks outside and the TV next door and so on.

5) for voice, while studio mics sound good they are VERY sensitive and pick up even small noises. try a stage mic like the SM58. These need to be 2" from the mouth and only pick up sound that is close.

6) get a better mic preamp. Get one powerful enough that you only need to turn it up half way or less. Cheap preamps have lots of self-noise when turned up full. Or maybe just buy a better audio interface box that has a better built-in preamp. So with a better "pro" brand.

7) your software is very low-end. You do better with even something as simple as Garage B. But mostly software does not effect the quality of the raw tracks. But the better software allows for non-destructive edits, better end result.

Last edited by ChrisA; 28th July 2011 at 12:49 AM.
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