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”!
LISTEN TO THE CHAIN CHANGE BEFORE & AFTER
“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.