sound

Getting low input level with a USB mic or audio interface? Check your hub

A few months ago, I decided to get more serious about my recording setup in my home office. I do a lot more screencasts both for my YouTube channel and for other purposes than I used to, and I can't stand poor audio quality. Therefore I finally decided to get some sound absorption panels for my office, rearrange furniture a little for better isolation, and—most importantly—buy a proper USB audio interface and microphone.

So, after purchasing and connecting a U-Phoria UMC202HD and an Electro-Voice RE320 microphone, I was quite pleased with the sound quality!

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: 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.

Review: Sony MDR-XB40EX Extra Bass Earbuds

Jeff's Rating: 3/5

tl;dr: Solid performers for those wanting a bass-heavy aural experience and good isolation. The headphones can bring new life to some songs, but are often overbearing for those with sensitive ears.

Sony MDR-XB40EX Earbuds

Finding a good pair of headphones can be an lifelong vocation. In my short lifespan, I've probably given a good chance to about twelve different pairs, from earbuds to large cans used in professional/studio environments.

Signal to Noise

... or, Liturgical Music: Finding Hymnody to Enlighten the Mind and Lift the Soul

Having been a Seminarian for the Archdiocese of Saint Louis—an Archdiocese with great diversity in liturgical music, priestly ministry, and culture—I have had a great variety of liturgical experiences. Also, being a young adult with twenty-four years of musical listening habits under my belt, I've listened to a wide variety of genres, most especially alternative, classical, and pop music (with a bit of country music thrown in on the side). My most consistent favorite is soundtrack music (which can incorporate many of these styles in a single album).

Priestie Boyz - Lost in Ecstasy

A project on which I am proud to have worked is the recording and mastering of an album (pictured above) for a Seminarian rock band—I helped with everything besides the musical talent. (You can buy the album, Lost in Ecstasy, by the Priestie Boyz, on CDBaby or iTunes). I also had the privilege to work in radio engineering for five radio stations over the course of five years—two pop stations, one soft rock, and two AM/talk radio stations.

These experiences recently came to my mind simultaneously as I attended a youth-oriented Mass, at which many liturgical hymns (published in OCP) were sung with the accompaniment of two guitars, a drum set, and some percussion instruments.

In my analytical mind, I was using my mind's waveform analyzer (didn't know I had one of those until now!) to 'see' the music. What I saw made me think quite a bit about the different genres of music, and different purposes of music—especially liturgical music. In particular, I thought about the efficacy of different styles of music in worship, and how fitting (or unfitting) are different styles, especially for different audiences.