audio

Hum or Buzz with a Logitech USB Headset

Logitech USB HeadsetProblem: I've heard from a lot of people about hum or background 'buzz' in recordings and Skype conversations when using a USB headset (like the one I have, the Logitech USB Headset H350). Almost every time I hear someone having this trouble, they're having the problem while using the headset with a laptop.

Solution: about 99% of the time, the problem is fixed by simply plugging the laptop into a grounded (3-prong) outlet.

Review: Audio Technica PRO88W-R35 Wireless Lavalier System

Jeff's Rating: 5/5

tl;dr: A solid value for a reliable wireless mic solution. Perfect for most uses up to 35', and usually good even further away.

Audio Technica Pro-88W/T and Pro-88W/R with accessories

The Audio Technica Pro-88W lavaliere microphone system is a very good wireless lavaliere microphone system for a very low price (in comparison to most quality UHF systems). I've been able to use a wide variety of wireless gear, costing from tens to thousands of dollars, and for my money and my projects, I'm quite happy with the Pro-88W.

Buzz or Hum in Computer Speakers

I recently spoke with an audio engineer (my Dad, who has worked in radio for many years) about something that's been bugging me for many years: Why do almost all computer speakers have some sort of annoying buzz or hum?

I know it has to do with voltage differences, power, RF emissions, etc... but I wanted to know more about what I could try to do to reduce the level of the noise. I've tried things like plugging everything into one outlet/power strip, using a filtered power adapter, using a ground loop reduction magnet, etc., with varying degrees of success.

Power/Amp-induced buzz

60hz buzz in a speaker is typically induced in the power lead. If that is the case, the buzz will be in the speakers even if the audio connections are removed.

If the buzz is there with audio input to speakers is disconnected, the problem is the AC adapter, the actual power supply (from your mains), or the amplifier for the speakers (usually, for computer speakers, these are in one of the speakers or inside the subwoofer).

Review: GuitarJack Model 2 - Audio Interface for iPhone 4/4S, iPad

Jeff's Rating: 5/5

tl;dr: For stereo audio input, mic input, and guitar input, there's nothing better. Sound quality is excellent, and the unit is physically solid—almost too solid!

[Update on iPhone 5 compatibility: Sonoma says the GuitarJack works like a champ with the iPhone 5 if you use one of Apple's 30-pin to lightning connectors.]

In my quest to find the killer solution for audio recording/input on my iOS devices, I've tested a ton of different external microphones and audio interfaces for the iPhone 4/4S, iPad, and iPod Touch. One class of device—a multi-channel input through the iPhone 4's dock connector—has been elusive until just recently, when three different devices were introduced a year after the iPhone 4:

Review: Fostex AR-4i iPhone 4/4S Stereo Audio Interface

Jeff's Rating: 4/5

tl;dr: Five stars for the capabilities, four for the fit and finish. It's a great tool, but not without a few rough edges. (See note about iPhone 4S compatibility).

[UPDATE on iPhone 4S compatibility: I've heard many reports of people having trouble with the AR-4i and the iPhone 4S; my own usage indicates that there is one quirk with this combo: the wireless signals on my phone go away while plugged into the AR-4i. Example recordings with various firmwares below:

Review: Bose Companion 2 Series II Multimedia Computer Speaker System

Jeff's Rating: 4/5

tl;dr: Five stars for sound quality (especially considering the size of the speakers), but a 3 for the price (you still pay for the Bose® name).

For a very long time, I've used my computer, with a 24"+ display, as my TV, computer, DVD/Blu-Ray player, Xbox 360 setup, etc. Because of this, I had my 5.1 surround sound system, with some very nice speakers and a great sub, plugged into and surrounding my computer. It enveloped me in the most amazing aural arena I've ever experienced.

However, after marriage, I moved the surround sound system into the living room, along with a new TV and the Xbox and and Apple TV. That means I went back to the stone-age days of computing sound, using the tinny built in speakers on my iMac (now MacBook Pro). For a while, I was satisfied with this, as I didn't do a lot of music listening or gaming on my Mac.

iPad 2 - Mobile Audio/Video Recording + External Microphones

iPad 2Apple's announcement of the iPad 2 today left me speechless in many ways, but maybe the most promising and awesome announcement was not the iPad itself, but rather iMovie and GarageBand for the iPad.

One thing that I've constantly had to do for video production is lug around my Mac, a camera, cables, etc., just because there was nothing that was as easy as iMovie to quickly hash out a video, with voiceover, etc. The iPhone's iMovie app is just not good enough for me, though it's great for a quick YouTube edit.

Luckily for me, all the work I've done in testing microphones and audio input adapters for the iPhone 4 applies directly to the iPad 2's audio input. You'll still need an adapter to get the audio into the TRRS input jack on the iPad, but being able to record to 8 tracks using GarageBand is completely amazing.

Articles on Professional Video and Audio Distribution

In the past few months, I've finally had time to post more information about two projects I've worked on in the past year or so at the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Louis—both of them having to do with the sending and receiving of video and audio signals through a very large building.

Click one of the titles to read the article:

XLR over Cat5 - Balanced XLR Mic/Line Audio over Cat5e

In this article, I explain how we sent crystal-clear audio (used for both communication/VOX and broadcast TV) over a distance of about 300' using nothing but shielded Cat5e cable. Pictures, diagrams, etc. included.

Sending High-Definition Video over Long Distances with Cat5

In this article, I explain how we sent very sharp high definition video (up to 1080p) over about 100' using component video baluns and shielded Cat5e cable. (You can also use these baluns to send digital/coax audio).

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