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line-in recordings...volume too low

Discussion in 'Audio' started by gavorney, Aug 3, 2003.

  1. gavorney

    gavorney Member

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    Hi,
    I'm trying to record through my line inputs on my Soundblaster Live! Value sound card. The problem is, I can't get enough volume. I have the recording level turned up all the way, but the record-level meters show only about "half way to the red." I've tried a few different sources, but they all record at low volume. Do Soundblaster sound cards need a particularly high input volume?
    Any tips would be much appreciated.
     
  2. wilkes

    wilkes Regular member

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    Turn up the source. If you are extracting from an amplifier, turn up the volume. If you don't have an amp then the chances are your signal output from the source device is too low. Hunt for a volume control on it somewhere.
    HTH
     
  3. gavorney

    gavorney Member

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    Sources all have line-level outputs...I've tried CD player, DVD player and cassette deck...none of them have variable audio out -- it's preset. When I record from the tape rec output on my amp, that output level is also fixed...the volume control doesn't affect the output. The only variable output on an amp would be a pre-out, but unfortunately my amp doesn't have pre-outs. I even tried running my sources through a stereo mixer which has output level controls, but when set to maximum, the level was the same as a direct connection without the mixer.
    It seems like the sound card wants a higher voltage than the "standard" output level of a stereo component.
     
  4. wilkes

    wilkes Regular member

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    A quick & dirty way of scasring up a bit more level would be to take your signal from the headphone output of an amp. This will definitely be controlled from the volume pot.
    As far as going in line level, it sounds like you have a mismatch on levels. Not all line signals are the same strength. Some work at +4dBv and others at -10dBu. It sounds as if the sound card is looking for +4 where your equipment is at -10. The only solution is a pre-amp, which is where the headphone socket would come in handy.
    Give this a go and let me know how you get on.
     
  5. gavorney

    gavorney Member

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    Thanks, wilkes. I should have thought of that...it should work just fine.
    What do you think about the sound quality sacrifice comparing the headphone-jack solution vs. ripping to HD at the current lower level and then normalizing the file once it's on the HD?

     
  6. gavorney

    gavorney Member

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    ...and because I can't leave well enough alone, I decided to check the output voltages on my components. I found the levels for 6 A/V components range from 300mV to 2.0 Volts. The recording I was making was from my DVD player, which is rated at 2 volts. Therefore, none of these components could supply a sufficient signal to attain a decent S/N ratio. It makes me wonder about the design of the sound card...I also had the same problem with my previous computer which had "on-board" audio.
     
  7. gavorney

    gavorney Member

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  8. wilkes

    wilkes Regular member

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    The sound quality from headphone jack shouldn't be that bad - it's only shoving it through a preamp after all, although a lot does depend on the preamp quality.
    Your figures just go to prove an old argument I've had with a lot of people about "standards" not actually being standard! Our industry loves it's standards - it's why we have so many of them.
    Your other method is just to digitally rip the CD straight to HDD with no quality loss at all, or use the Lame MP3 codec if you need to save on space.
    Personally, as the soundcard is only of "consumer" quality, I'd go for the digital rip. It'll be 16 bit 44.1 KHz with no degradation at all.
    Let me know how it goes.
     
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2003
  9. gavorney

    gavorney Member

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    Ripping is not an option here, as I'm recording from VHS tapes and the audio from a DVD.
    I emailed SoundBlaster TechSupport, and they want me to pull my sound card out and give them some numbers off the card. And so it continues...
    By the way, I tried the headphone-jack method, and it works great. Thanks.
     
  10. FlthyChry

    FlthyChry Guest

    Alot of audio recording apps have a normalizing function that would take it up to 0db. I use Cubase and Wavelab but there must be dozens you could look for...
     
  11. tigre

    tigre Moderator Staff Member

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    That works, but turning up the source gives better results. Soundcards add a constant noise floor caused by radiation of other PC components, (not-so-decent) D/A conversion etc. If a low signal is amplified after D/A conversion this noise floor is amplified too and can become audible or even annoying.
     
  12. wilkes

    wilkes Regular member

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    Aargh - Normalizing. The bane of quality audio!
    Please, never, ever use this "feature" if you wish to retain decent quality. This causes the computer to search for the highest peak, and then adjusts all the rest of the audio until the highest peak reaches 0db(or whatever) FS. IF you do everything at the same time, this may, and I repeat may, work. However, most people do it one track at a time. This is bad because your ears respond to Average levels and not peak levels. Okay - there is a "metanormalizer" option in WaveLab, but try it out and hear for yourself what it does to the dynamics of the song.
    Secondly, normalizing also raises the noise floor by the exact same amount as the music - in other words you are exacerbating the problem, not curing it. The best and only real way to increase the level of a low-level recording is to re-record it at a higher level. There is no real shortcut if you wish to maintain quality.
    The other big problem is the belief that normalizing improves the quality. If you think about it for a minute you will realise that this is a myth. What you are doing is adding a degrading calculation and the resulting quantization distortion - unless you work at FP instead of a fixed bitrate, which most people don't. Also, since the song you have ripped & normalized has ALREADY been mixed - and therefore quantized/dithered to 16 bit, which has already pre-determined the SNR (signal to noise ratio) the resulting SNR of the material cannot be improved by raising it.
    Raising the level of the material in this way will not change the inherent SNR, but will degrade it instead.
    Sorry to go on, but I'm afraid that's the way it is.
    Tigre - your reply appeared whilst I was typing mine. Sorry!
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2003
  13. cfreeman1

    cfreeman1 Guest

    what program do you use for the line in recording.
     
  14. tigre

    tigre Moderator Staff Member

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    I use
    Cool Edit Pro for music and
    Messer for speech recording through a mic.
     
  15. FlthyChry

    FlthyChry Guest

    Well I adsolutely agree that rerecording is the best method but we are talking about recording with a Soundblaster and not an RME card. That SB btw runs at 48kHz so you should record at that sample rate and convert to 44.1 after.
    I got a recording studio, albeit small, and I use Cubase and Wavelab and Nuendo (for surround mixes) via a Delta 1010 and a 66. I rarely use normalize or meta-normalizing but I'd hardly say it degrades the quality of the audio much. I certainly wouldn't throw up after hearing a track that's been normalized a nominal amount. Certainly no worse than pumping it out of a headphone jack or mp3ing it...
    Come to think of it you might want to try a little compression with a couple of db gain. Plenty of free compressors out there. PSP comes to mind.
    If you want to send me the file I'll be happy to clean it up and boost it. If you don't like it then just delete it. No big deal. :) But you know, give it a shot yourself.
    Say what are you recording into? The PlayCenter that come with the Blaster?
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 19, 2003
  16. gavorney

    gavorney Member

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    I'm using Roxio 6. I took a look at the SoundBlaster PlayCentre Recorder as well, and the levels are also low there.
    I got an email back from SoundBlaster, and they won't support me because my card is an OEM Dell.
    In a related subject, the output of my card is also low. When I run my line out into my stereo, I have to crank the volume way high compared with my other components. This results in a low-level background hum/buzz. I think it's time for a new sound card with better specs.
     
  17. tigre

    tigre Moderator Staff Member

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    Last edited: Aug 19, 2003
  18. FlthyChry

    FlthyChry Guest

    And there is an ASIO driver as well somewhere out there.
     
  19. gavorney

    gavorney Member

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    I've updated my drivers to the latest versions according to SoundBlaster...no change when I did that.
     
  20. wilkes

    wilkes Regular member

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    The ASIO driver referred to is not actually a Creative Labs one, but a third party driver. It's apparently very stable though, and worth having. I'll see if I can find a link for it and post back.
     

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