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Old March 25th, 2014, 11:57 AM   #1
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Studio Monitors - Hiss - Dissapointment

Hi everyone,

after years of editing video with headphones and crappy speakers and as I'm getting quite picky with sound I decided to invest in a couple of studio monitors: M-AUDIO - M-Audio BX5 D2 - Next-Generation 70-Watt Bi-Amplified Studio Monitors

Everything fine so far, however when I plugged them to the computer I can hear a very obvious hiss which is not very loud but certainly very annoying when spending hours in front of the computer.
I dont have any fancy sound card and I reckon this is where part of the problem lies? I'm trying to go from the onboard sound minijack output to either TRS or XLR.
Is this the problem? should I have a sound card with proper outputs? and can someone explain why a pair of £40 creative speakers sound 'fine' and these big bad boys hiss all over the place : O ??

thanks!!
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Old March 25th, 2014, 01:06 PM   #2
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Re: Studio Monitors - Hiss - Dissapointment

Not familiar with those monitors but, XLRs or 1/4" TRS inputs normally 'want' to see a +4dB signal.. the computer's 1/8" out is likely unbalanced -10dB. That's probably some of the noise right there. Always use the same operating level on both output > input devices. If one device is unbalanced, wire it appropriately.
Generally, consumer sound cards are notoriously noisy and awful sounding.. in record and playback .
No real sense in having good monitors if the audio source is compromised. (crap in> crap out
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Old March 25th, 2014, 01:13 PM   #3
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Re: Studio Monitors - Hiss - Dissapointment

You are not going to get high quality sound out of a basic computer sound card. All that is happening is that you are amplifying the inherent system noise that comes from the cheap components that are used in most sound cards. you would need to invest in a high quality specialist card if you want to match the quality that your speakers can handle.

You can compare it with putting a VHS player into an HD TV, it will still look like VHS!

Roger
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Old March 25th, 2014, 01:21 PM   #4
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Re: Studio Monitors - Hiss - Dissapointment

Sticking with M-Audio, consider the M-Track. It's a USB-based mini mixer that has balanced inputs and outputs. I've been using M-Audio's Audiophile 192 audio card for years. I'd expect that the M-Track would have similar quality - the 192 is reasonably clean (and about a million times cleaner than a consumer PC audio output) though I doubt that the sound is completely uncolored. But hey, what do you expect for under a hundred bucks. :)

There are many other USB alternatives. Maybe there's a good shootout on the Internets...
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Old March 25th, 2014, 01:55 PM   #5
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Re: Studio Monitors - Hiss - Dissapointment

FWIW, here are some features that I'd look for in a USB audio interface...

1) Balanced outputs - 1/4" TRS outputs are fine, though XLRs are more professional.
2) Front and rear (not top) connections - Top connectors tend to make small boxes top-heavy so a slight tug moves them around. Front and rear connectors help keep the box from dancing around your desk.
3) Independent monitor and headphone levels - When recording a voiceover, doing ADR, or tracking a musical performance, you'll want to hear the computer through the headphones and have the monitors silent.
4) Control over the PC and Input monitoring levels - When recording, you might want to hear yourself or hear the PC so you can sync, or you might want a bit of both. The Steinberg UR22 appears to have this feature.
5) MIDI I/O - If you have a MIDI keyboard, it's nice not to need an additional MIDI box.
6) 24 bits - this is a must.
7) 48 kHz - this is also a must. Don't worry about 96 kHz or 192 kHz unless you are recording for special effects.
8) Phantom power - If you don't plan to use a separate preamp or mixing board, get phantom power so you can direct-plug your mics.
9) USB 2.0 (or 3.0) - 2.0 is adequate. 3.0 is more future proof.

There are other items to consider: price, sound, aesthetics, etc...

Anyway, knowing what features that you want will help you narrow the field.

One thing for sure, built-in PC audio is not a viable option. :)
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Old March 25th, 2014, 05:02 PM   #6
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Re: Studio Monitors - Hiss - Dissapointment

Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Gunkel View Post
You can compare it with putting a VHS player into an HD TV, it will still look like VHS!
Good analogy Roger
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Old March 25th, 2014, 05:22 PM   #7
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Re: Studio Monitors - Hiss - Dissapointment

You should try and run the output from the computer higher and the speaker volumes lower to see if you can tune some of the hiss out of the system. Not sure what your computer output is but you might get better results with a little adjustment. If you can't get enough volume with the speakers volume set lower then amplifying the computer output as others are suggesting might make you happier.
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Old March 26th, 2014, 03:26 AM   #8
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Re: Studio Monitors - Hiss - Dissapointment

You're discovering what the audio coming out of your machine really sounds like for the first time. The M-Audio speakers are very popular with the home studio fraternity for being revealing, and their main drawback is they run out of steam a little at the bottom end. Hopefully the hiss is simply the card and not present on your output media. Anything you do to cure it,apart from making sure the speaker gains are not up high, and the card output low, will mean cutting HF. You can do quite a bit of top end removal by taping one layer of toilet paper over the HF drivers - but this will cloud your judgement on EQ. The sound card in most computers costs less than a blank blueray, so not really a 'quality' product - just serviceable with the usual poor sounding computer type speakers than are pleasant sounding, but sonically inaccurate.
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Old March 26th, 2014, 04:24 AM   #9
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Re: Studio Monitors - Hiss - Dissapointment

Go for this card, it is well priced and does a great job "Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 USB Audio Interface", I ditched my SoundBlaster audio cards and speaker system three years ago and haven't looked back since. I also have a PreSonus Firestudio mobile external sound card (Firewire) which is also excellent.
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Old March 26th, 2014, 06:07 AM   #10
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Re: Studio Monitors - Hiss - Dissapointment

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paul R Johnson View Post
You can do quite a bit of top end removal by taping one layer of toilet paper over the HF drivers
Hence the expression, "That sounds like $#!T."

Do you have a comparison chart, attenuation vs. brand? From past experience I know that not all brands perform equally; this is probably also true as regards attenuation. Russian toilet paper would sound like a kazoo. I actually used it in lieu of hotel stationary when I was travelling there; it's amazingly durable!
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Old March 30th, 2014, 12:21 PM   #11
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Re: Studio Monitors - Hiss - Dissapointment

I have been using a M-Audio Fast Track Pro for at least 5 years as the USB audio interface between my edit rig and my analog audio rack. The drivers interface with all software well and I have been happy with it.

If you are going to buy a USB interface you may want to keep in mind that they also can double as a field interface for your lap top. Many come with LE software for field recording. Mine interfaces with Adobe Audition just fine.

Steve
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