My Home Studio Audio (R)Evolution

by | Digital Audio, Software, Studio Equipment, Voiceover

My Home Studio Audio (R)Evolution

By Bobbin Beam


It’s been an extremely interesting year for around my home studio.  I am not the most technically inclined, but ever since installing my home studio over five years ago, I have always desired to output quality sound. The year started going great guns, with production cranking away, and my isolation booth was where I was living most of the time.


First off, I work on a PC. If you own a MAC, this article will probably be of no interest to you, except for perhaps the last few paragraphs.


My audio chain was like this: PC laptop plugged into my Digidesign MBOX usb interface > The mic plugged into a dbx 286 preamp (which was patched to the mixer and to my ISDN codec.


Then the screen on my four-year old laptop went dark in March. It would’ve cost almost as much to fix the aging computer screen was it would’ve been to purchase newer technology, which is what I did.


My jubilation over the new laptop ended when I couldn’t get ProTools to operate in record or playback mode on the new computer.  I believe the audio processing software had a major conflict with the Norton 2010 anti-virus software. Even after deleting the NAV software with a “removal tool”, I still couldn’t get ProTools to work.


Hours upon hours were spent with Digidesign (now Avid) tech support. Before long, my new machine’s settings were so reconfigured, I couldn’t get other things to work, like usb ports and the like. That was when I was so frustrated I literally cried one day over spilled milk!


Finally I reformatted the hard drive, loaded free Microsoft Security Essentials for my internet protection, then installed Protools and it worked! Oh joy! I could finally get back to work.  But not for long.


The program was acting up. Not dependable. My aging MBOX 1 and ProTools LE v. 7.0 (now 5+ years old) will probably not be supported soon, and as my friend Dan Lenard put it, this program was built for MAC, and is very testy with Windows- “like you have to be a grad from MIT” to make it work.  


But work awaited,  and I had clients to keep happy so I had to find a work around. I was running Windows msconfig , then disabling all Windows services, except 2 Digi items, which required rebooting each time in order to get my software to work.


So the toggling back and forth worked. BUT….what a pain!


This work around did indeed work, but slowed me down substantially. When I wanted to do a quick audition, I was rebooting each time to record, and then re enable my settings and reboot again in order to use internet or email.


In recent months, I’d also detected a high-pitch hum coming through my MBOX, which I thought was due to bad grounding, mixer noise, or a connection issue, but I now believe is occurring in the electonics somewhere inside the MBOX! And the noise is obtrusive enough for me to have concern over quality audio.


I was carping to my friend Dan Lenard . He was in town before the VOICE conference this summer and stopped by my studio and we discussed the many software issues and my overall chain configuration. I first met Dan while working together as staff at the VOICE 2008 conference. Since then, Dan’s become a well-respected friend I’ve come to trust when it comes to matters of the home studio.  Dan made some definitive, sweeping suggestions. Dan likes things simple. I listened.


He told me over and over again I should simplify and told me how to do it. I’ve owned  a Mic Port Pro, by Centrance, a magical little usb interface which now runs directly from my mic into the computer. It has zero latency and a solid preamp. I’ve had that little piece of technological magic, only in use as a tool while traveling.  These days,  the Mic Port Pro has a permanent place in my home studio set up. As for my software, I’ve converted to Adobe Audition 3. Now I can record on the fly, and email auditions within moments. I can run other applications, and I don’t have to reboot anymore like crazy. I downloaded the ASIO- supported universal driver for the MicPort Pro from Centrance’s website, and the also works seamlessly with  Goldwave and Word2 Wav software too.


But I must admit I was resistant to change for various reasons, which involved leaving my ProTools MBOX setup and substantial investment behind. Write it off, my CPA would say. (I suspect it’s been fully depreciated by now)


The idea of shedding one software and getting into another, and messing with my audio chain moved me out of my comfort zone. My biggest issue was letting go of my initial hardware/software investment. But I knew I had to do something. And the leap set me free!


 This voicegal’s  audio evolution took time to adapt to something new, and be willing to change.   I’ve found Audition 3 is pretty intuitive and wonderful as audio processing software. Now I only use ProTools for previously recorded/archived projects needing revisions for matching purposes. The dbx preamp is going up on Craig’s list pretty soon. I only turn on the mixer for ISDN sessions, which keeps the booth cooler and saves energy to boot.


But that Dan Lenard guy… He  prodded, he cajoled, he needled, he nagged, he followed up, and in the end, he has helped me to produce cleanest sound I’ve ever had  coming out of my personal home studio. The difference the changes made are truly “Revolutionary”!



 “Before” Audio recorded with ProTools via MBOX- You may need to listen with headphones to hear the difference. Hear that nasty  hum? This BEFORE comprises the first :14 seconds.
The second :14 is my  “After” result- Recorded in Adobe Audition 3.0 using the simple audio chain: MicPort Pro from the mic into the computer.


  1. There’s a huge difference between the 2 setups, and congratulations on your (r)evolution! Looking at Dan’s website, I can see how he’d be such a great help in this process! I can’t imagine having the patience to get projects done with how your computer was behaving prior to all your changes. When you don’t have to fight the gear, you can put your attention on and energy into the audio. I still have some sound demons to fight in my studio, but also like to keep things simple. How did you like the dbx286(a?) ? I have another friend who loves his even if it was just the preamp alone.

  2. Hi Arielle,
    Thanks for checking in. You are so right about  how everything changes when you don’t have to fight your gear! Now my voiceover work  feels more natural, and relaxed.

     I liked my dbx 286a a lot, and didn’t really use it except for the preamp. However, it really intensified my mic signal so much that it was overly sensitizing my already sensitive Neumann TLM 193. It was too much. Picking up everything. Every little mouth noise was getting to be a burden on my editing time. I just sold the preamp to a good friend, and now strictly rely on the sturdy preamp that’s built into the Mic Port Pro.

    All the Best,

  3. Contgrats Bobbin,

    That’s pretty much my setup. Although to tell you the truth I was going more for a cost effective solution at first rather than simplicity. It turns out the two are intertwined.

    I’ve used Adobe Audition every since it was Cool Edit Pro and I’ve seen them use Pro Tools in the studios I recorded at… but I always thought that it was overkill for what I needed.

    The Centrance MicPortPro is not the only kind of product that does that job … but for me it is the best so Kudos and making your life, and rig … simpler.


  4. Hi Bobbin. I’m using a PC setup too – and I used to use a DBX 286-a into my Lexicon Omega usb audio interface, into my laptop computer (a super portable 11.6″ Acer Timeline – which I still love). I’m also using Audition 3.0.

    Just recently when my Lexicon Omega started dying on me, I spoke to a fellow at Sweetwater who suggested the MOTU Microbook. It’s *tiny*. And I love the thing. Now I just use that as my preamp, all the knobs and buttons are in software on my computer, and I’m golden. The signal is much cleaner and my gain is just fine.

    Another thing I picked up is a metal mesh windscreen. I find it *really* cuts down on things like pops and mouth noise. Might be worth investing in, if you’re having issues with too much sensitivity.

    Glad to hear you’re all set up now and ready to go! 🙂 All the best, — Jodi

  5. Bobbin, thanks for your honest review of the dbx! It sounds like it did for you exactly what I’m trying to find a workaround for now so I can use my Neumann TLM 102, so the dbx is likely coming off my shopping list. However, your Mic Port Pro solution sounds fantastic for anyone with a PC-based setup.
    Enjoy your reconfigured studio and props to Dan!

  6. Hi  Jodi,
    Thanks so much for contributing to the conversation. I’ll have to look at that MOTU. I love gear!!!

  7. Hi Taji,
    I actually know how to use ProTools for my application. But it’s true. It was designed for use in large studios to record music with several tracks. Of course we just have our mouths, (1 mono track) and maybe the occasional music bed or sound effects. Most of what I record is raw voiceover, so Adobe Audition fills the bill, and I adore my MicPort Pro!!!

    Thanks for stopping by!

  8. Arielle,
    I can tell you the removal of the dbx cured most of the noise issues, along with mic placement, which is now positioned just above my mouth. An absolute huge difference, and then simplifying the chain and plugging directly from the mic to computer was the icing on my cake. LOVE IT!

  9. The MOTU really is a wonderful little machine. Totally portable, too! And MOTU makes great stuff in general, so you can be pretty assured it”ll be good. I admit that I really like Adobe Audition. I never went to Pro Tools at all though. I went from CuBase LE to Audition 3.0, in fact. I found it to be a fairly easy transition. But yeah – simplifying our chains is a good way to go.

    So glad that you’re happy with your setup now. It sounds like it’s MUCH easier to work with – a definite plus! And your audio sample above with the new setup sounded great! All the best, — Jodi

  10. Bobbin,
    I agree with Dan. My set up is a usb samson into Adobe Audition 3. I haven’t needed to Road Trip with this set up but I’m sure it would work fine. Windows tip: fast restart of windows/ task manager/end explorer then /run/explorer.exe reloads windows!
    you can shutdown background proc w/ a batch file with the netstop cmd too!
    hope that helps!
    Paul J. Warwick

  11. Hi Paul,
    I also use a Samson when on the road, and for skype. It seems to travel well. Thanks for that Windows tip. Fortunately my days of toggling back and forth  to record in PT are pretty much behind me as I become more comfy with Audition 3.

    Thanks for contributing to the conversation.

  12. Hi Bobbin,
    I am a beginner with all this (I actually e-mailed you last year, and have your encouraging words up on my story board/bulletin board ) and I have gotten stuck on studio equipment. I have microphone,boom, headphones, cables, external hardrive (which was purchased for use with ProTools-not yet purchased)…can I simply use Adobe Audition instead of buying ProTools?
    Thanks again!

  13. Hi Linda,
    Thanks for the kudos!
    It sounds like you have just about everything you’ll need to record voiceovers. You didn’t say what kind of microphone interface you’re using. If you’re not using the MBox, you’ll need a way to go from mic to computer.
    (I don’t know whether or not yours is a usb mic or is a standard mic  requiring a usb interface)
    Instead of plugging your mic into an MBOX, you’d plug directly into a usb interface, and in my case it’s a MicPort Pro, which then plugs  into the computer.
    And then yes, Adobe Audition will work. The coolest thing is I can record and save files as mp3.

    With the software installed on your computer’s hard drive, use your external drive for audio processing and storage. But before you spend a bunch of hard earned $$$, there is also free recording software. You might want to download Audacity and try it out. It’s a pretty sturdy program.
    Good Luck and keep me posted!
    All The Best,

  14. Hi Bobbin,
    Thanks for the quick response! I have a standard mic-ADK A51 MK 5.1 which would require usb interface. So, would I only need the MicPort and then I could save money by downloading Audacity?
    Thank you.
    Best regards,

  15. Bobbin,
    ‘Finally got around to reading this “meaty” post. Dan truly is a smart guy with a simple message.
    I still my copy of Pro Tools too, but it’s kinda like firing up an F-16 fighter jet to cross the street. Too much. I switched to AA3.0 some time ago, and never looked back. It’s dependable and (like you said) inituitive.
    Sweetwater also recently steered me towards the Steinberg CI2 interface. Very simple, USB unit with a modest pre-amp built-in…around $200, and very very clean signal.
    Congrats on your (r)evolution epiphany!

    (akd Dave Courvoisier)

  16. Hiya Courvo!
    Thank you for contributing to the post.  This one’s received the most responses I think this blog has ever seen. I’ve not heard about the Steinberg C12. So I appreciate your stopping in and adding to the knowledge base. Hope to see you somewhere soon.

  17. Bobbin–found this blog because I’m downsizing MY gear for 2nd time in just a couple years. Quandry: ProTools is the only software I’ve found that provides pre-roll punch in/out. Makes a HUGE difference in audiobooks and every book narrator I know feels it’s mandatory. Are audiobooks signif business for you? If so, whatcha think? If not for that one function I try to avoid PT at all costs.
    Cheers, Nancy

  18. Hi There Nancy,
    I’ve done a number of audiobook projects, but haven’t done one in a while and not since I’ve made the switch. Audition 3 does have a Rolling Punch in command in its multi-track mode. I haven’t had the need to use it either.

    Downsizing is good. In all areas of life and work. Simplification is clean and blissful.

    Thanks for commenting.

  19. by some means I missed the previous blog post. what’s the address to your blogs archive?

  20. Wanna to thank you for interesting articles buddy. Keep writing

  21. I think that you should improve blog design

  22. Super blog, please add some new articles, can’t wait !

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