AlpineSoft Support Forums

Forum List => Technical Support => Topic started by: Paul Sanders (AlpineSoft) on October 07, 2008, 10:17:43 am

Title: Where has my Recording Level Slider Gone?
Post by: Paul Sanders (AlpineSoft) on October 07, 2008, 10:17:43 am
We get a lot of questions about this. The fact is that many USB devices (including most Ion turntables, the Behringer 202 and the NAD-PP4) have no recording level control that can be adjusted via VinylStudio's recording level slider.  This means that if the signal is be clipped (i.e. exceeds the maximum level that your PC can handle) on loud passages of music there is nothing VinylStudio can do about it.  This is because the signal is clipped before it even enters the PC.

Some devices, such as the NAD PP-4, offer a gain control on the front on the unit and this is a simple and effective solution.  Others (most, in fact) do not, which can be awkward.

At the software level, VinylStudio deals with this in one of two ways:
It is tempting to reduce the slider setting if VinylStudio tells you that the signal is clipping, but all that does is mask the problem. If clipping is occurring, the flat tops of the waveforms will still be there and if they are severe enough, audible distortion will result.  All that turning the slider down achieves is to hide them from the clipping indicator.

Some USB devices (including the PP-4) also incorporate traditional (analog) line-out sockets.  If so, you can run a cable like the one pictured here (http://www.alpinesoft.co.uk/VinylStudio/connecting_up.aspx) to line-in on the soundcard built into your PC or (older) Macs.  If the clipping is severe this is often the best solution.

If, on the other hand, your recording is too quiet, you can boost the playback level after recording by normalising the recording as shown on our videos page (https://www.alpinesoft.co.uk/forum/index.php?topic=725.0).  Boosting the input signal with the recording level slider (i.e. by moving it above the 'Set Digital Gain to 1' setting) is then also a viable solution, but please be careful. Never, ever, set the slider below that level if that button is on show, for reasons already given.

Please note that XP users are unaffected by any of this.  There is still no slider, nor is there any need for one as XP does not meddle with the input signal in any way.  And it works the same way on the Mac.

Note: Some of the posts below refer to older versions of this post, which has now been substantially revised.  Most of them therefore probably don't make much sense anymore.
Title: Re: Where has my Recording Level Slider Gone? - Technical Explanation
Post by: Paul Sanders (AlpineSoft) on January 14, 2009, 09:03:17 am
Question: You say there is no point providing a recording level control in software for USB devices.  Why?

The reason why this doesn't work (or it least, doesn't do anything useful) is that the signal is digitised before it enters the PC.  The digitised signal is limited to 16 bits per sample and if it exceeds that level it will be clipped inside the USB device.  After it reaches the PC, all that can be done is to scale the numbers down.

To put it another way. each sample is just a number and if it exceeds 16 bits (-32767 ..  32767), the excess cannot be transmitted across the USB bus.  The glass is full.  Period.
Title: Re: Where has my Recording Level Slider Gone?
Post by: Muddler on March 22, 2009, 04:21:24 am
Could you please clarify something regarding the NAD PP-3 - you say that the device implements "soft-clipping".  When recording from the device, the software registers literally a thousand or more clips each song.  My cartridge outputs 5,5 mV.  If your software is registering clips, there are indeed clips, correct?  In other words, this "soft-clipping" isn't stopping clipping when your software registers clips, right? 

Fortunately, I have an alternate recording option, so if the answer is that I'm going to lose audio quality using the PP-3 as a USB out device, better to know now before I do a lot of recording only to play audio back later and wonder why it sounds off.   

Thanks.
Title: Re: Where has my Recording Level Slider Gone?
Post by: Paul Sanders (AlpineSoft) on March 22, 2009, 08:59:48 am
Actually, I can't.  I will talk to NAD about this and post back to this thread, but I think the idea is that the waveform is rounded off somewhat, rather than being just sliced off like the top of an egg.  I believe the processing is analogue (a bit like a valve amplifier, which has some soft-clipping characterics) rather than digital, but I could be wrong about that.

As for using an alternate recording option, I would record the loudest thing you can find using both alternatives and have a listen on headphones.  Also record something quiet (or even silence) and listen to that.  Hiss and hum pickup can be a problem with vinyl recordings and the PP-3 has a particularly low noise floor.
Title: Re: Where has my Recording Level Slider Gone?
Post by: dmerrick on March 28, 2009, 02:38:50 am
I Use the ART USB Phono Plus II.

With Version 6 my input is clipping 100% all the time.
My preamp has built-in clip indicators, they work as they should.
But something is different.

This has made the software unusable for me.
Is there a link to DL Ver 5 from somewhere?

Without that gain control, I can't record.

Title: Re: Where has my Recording Level Slider Gone?
Post by: Paul Sanders (AlpineSoft) on March 28, 2009, 08:11:59 am
Hi Dave,

The slider in VinylStudio 5 did nothing useful.  It merely hid the fact that the signal was being clipped before it entered the PC.  I promise you I'm not pulling the wool opver your eyes here; that's the plain and simple truth.

Unless I am missing something, the thing to do is to turn down the gain control on the ART until VinylStudio stops reporting that the signal is being clipped.  You can do this in the Check Level dialog before you start recording for real.  I don't understand why the ART does not report clipping when VinylStudio does.  A shortcoming of the unit itself possibly.

Technical info: ART's own website (http://www.artproaudio.com/products.asp?type=90&cat=13&id=128) states that the unit uses a 'standard A/D interface package'.  This is probably the Texas Instruments 2904 USB chip, which (for reasons I cannot fathom) has no gain control.  You can confirm this by opening the Windows Sound Applet via VinylStudio's 'Recording Controls' button.  It wil most likely report the device as Microphone on USB Audio CODEC, which is the driver Windows uses to talk to the 2904.


----- Original Message -----
From: D Merrick
To: AlpineSoft
Sent: Saturday, March 28, 2009 3:04 AM
Subject: Gain Control gone (via webform)

Hi I know you've covered this in the forums, but I *NEED* the gain control with my ART Phono Plus V2 preamp.

The ART has a built in gain control on the box, and my clip indicators are normal.  However, now in VS6, even though the gain on the art itself shows nominal, I'm 100% clipping (Even on quiet passages) within vinyl studio.

With ver 5, I would turn down the slider and life was good.

Apparently, this preamp is actually chained preamps and the 2nd stage is wide open! (Not good)

IN VS-5, that slider worked.
Now the program is pretty useless.

Like a dummy, I didn't keep a version 5 installer, do you have somewhere I can download version 5?  Right now, I'm out of business.

-Dave Merrick
Title: Re: Where has my Recording Level Slider Gone?
Post by: jonk on July 15, 2009, 11:47:22 pm
Hi Paul
I believe the clipping problem is due to a bug in VinylStudio running under Vista. Like Keter (post of 1st Feb), I found that the signal from my standard cartridge (4 mV output) into my Vista-based Sony  laptop (via NAD PP-3 and USB) was saturating. Also like him, I found I could solve this by adjusting the “microphone” volume slider to about 35% after pressing Record in VinylStudio. The recordings sounded fine. I have three reasons for thinking that the clipping is due to software (probably VinylStudio), not hardware:
1. The PP-3 should work fine with a standard cartridge, without clipping.
2. If I use exactly the same record, track, turntable, PP-3, USB cable and VinylStudio 6.1 with my other computer (a new PC running XP Pro), there is no clipping: with the “microphone” slider set to the default of 100%, the signal is only about half of that needed for saturation. So, the hardware is OK. Unfortunately for me, this computer is usually in another room, away from the turntable!
3. To test this further, I recorded the same track on my Vista laptop with the microphone slider set to 100% (top panel in the attached file) or 35% (bottom panel). First, you can see that the slider has made a difference to the recorded signal amplitude, so Keter was right. Second, the fact that clipping occurs with the slider at 100% but not at 35% shows that the clipping is not occurring in the PP-3 but happens after the slider control, i.e. either in Vista or VinylStudio. My guess would be that VinylStudio is not talking correctly to the USB drivers with Vista (though it does do this OK in XP).
I think a bug-fix is necessary (the work-around using the microphone slider is pretty tedious!)
Thanks,
Jon
Title: Re: Where has my Recording Level Slider Gone?
Post by: Paul Sanders (AlpineSoft) on July 16, 2009, 08:59:46 am
You know what? You could be right.  I will investigate as a matter of urgency and post my results back here.

I know for sure that there is no hardware control of the recording level - I have checked the specifications of the USB audio chip that the PP-3 uses - but it may be that Vista is boosting the recording level (in software) when the slider is set at maximum.  If so, we do have a bug and we will fix it straight away.

Thanks very much for taking the time to post.
Title: Re: Where has my Recording Level Slider Gone?
Post by: jonk on July 16, 2009, 10:30:26 am
Thanks. I hope you find something!
Title: Re: Where has my Recording Level Slider Gone?
Post by: Paul Sanders (AlpineSoft) on July 16, 2009, 04:46:32 pm
We did (find something).  Microsoft changed the way things work on Vista SP1 and later.  See 'Update' at the top of this thread for more details.  I have to say I can see absolutely no point in them doing what they did.  Nobody benefits by it.

Anyway, I owe you a thousand thanks for the work you put in on this.  Without your help, things would have just rumbled on as before and users would continue to be adversely affected.  As for me, it's 50% humble pie and 50% irritation that MS make changes like this with no warning.  And a slap on the wrist for making assumptions and not testing the software properly.

Once again, apologies to all users affected by this issue, and sorry to have offered faulty advice.  We will release a software update today or tomorrow which will reinstate the slider.
Title: Re: Where has my Recording Level Slider Gone?
Post by: jonk on July 16, 2009, 05:38:01 pm
Great news! Glad to be of help. Thanks for your prompt action.
Title: Re: Where has my Recording Level Slider Gone?
Post by: hesson11 on February 05, 2013, 07:31:22 pm
Paul,

There's something implied here that I want to make sure I understand (apologies for being the slow one in the class):

Using ANY USB input device (i.e., an audio interface or a phono-preamp-interface like the Parasound Z-Phono USB, etc.) will defeat the recording-level controls of VinylStudio? And in order to adjust the level, the USB device must offer the ability to make that adjustment? Do I have that right? THANK YOU!
-Bob
Title: Re: Where has my Recording Level Slider Gone?
Post by: Paul Sanders (AlpineSoft) on February 05, 2013, 07:39:58 pm
More or less.  It's actually any USB device using the Texas Instruments / Burr Brown 2902 / 2904 / 2906 USB controller chip.  Most budget and mid-range USB audio devices use this chip, hence the need (ideally) for a gain control on the device itself.  In the case of the NAD PP-3, NAD have calibrated it for the most popular cartridges and implemented a soft-clipping algorithm.  Not perfect perhaps but it seems to work in practise.

The problem is rooted in the hardware.  These chips offer no software-adjustable control of the recording level.  It's simply not possible, they left it out of the design, I have no idea why.
Title: Re: Where has my Recording Level Slider Gone?
Post by: hesson11 on February 07, 2013, 01:05:07 pm
Thanks, Paul.

In case anyone else may be considering using the HRT LineStreamer+ as an A/D converter, I've contacted the company to see what kind of USB controller it uses, and the reply was:

"The LineStreamer + utilizes a custom USB interface based upon the TAS1020B front end."

Sounds like it does not use the chips you mentioned. I'm guessing this means the LineStreamer+ will probably not defeat VinylStudio's gain control. Perhaps this information will be useful to others. THANKS!
-Bob
Title: Re: Where has my Recording Level Slider Gone?
Post by: Paul Sanders (AlpineSoft) on February 07, 2013, 01:38:48 pm
OK, thank you.  Are you planning to purchase one of these?  If so, perhaps you could report back.
Title: Re: Where has my Recording Level Slider Gone?
Post by: hesson11 on February 07, 2013, 02:42:14 pm
Hi Paul,
I'm just thinking about it now, but I certainly will report back if I get one.

Despite having downloaded VS months ago, I really haven't had a chance to do much recording yet, so I'm still just kind of getting my bearings. Before I make any decision, I want to spend more time evaluating the results I get from "going naked" (just running cables from my PS Audio GCPH phono preamp into my MacBook Pro's input). So far, those results have been very good, to my ears.

-Bob
Title: Re: Where has my Recording Level Slider Gone?
Post by: jromaz on February 20, 2013, 03:15:52 am
Okay, I think I am finally understanding this.  I also have the clipping problem in Vinyl Studio due to not being able to adjust the level.  So, if I purchase the Project Phono Box USB without level control, will Vinyl Studio be able to work with it?  I do not know what chip it has; the specs say only 16-bit Delta Sigma.  If that is the case, then I would need to get something like the Project Phono Box USB V, which has a level control.  Correct?
Title: Re: Where has my Recording Level Slider Gone?
Post by: Paul Sanders (AlpineSoft) on February 20, 2013, 01:09:50 pm
Hi,

I'd get the one with the level control.  You can always ask the manufacturers about this of course.
Title: Re: Where has my Recording Level Slider Gone?
Post by: jromaz on February 21, 2013, 03:14:48 pm
Not to beat a dead horse, but I am still a little uncertain why, with my analog setup, I cannot convert albums properly to Vinyl Studio for the Mac.  I have a Rega Planar 2 turntable, with a Benz Ace moving coil cartridge, connected to a Phonomena phono preamp, plugged into a Cambridge Audio integrated amp.  I am using the Behringer A/D converter (red model), to connect the phono preamp out to a Macbook Pro via USB.  As expected, I cannot control the gain in Vinyl Studio resulting in severe clipping.  The MAC sees the Behringer device as a USB Audio Device and allows no control over input level.  With all the equipment I currently own to play vinyl, I am reluctant to purchase another USB phono preamp.  However, if there is no alternative, would the NAD PP 3i Digital Phono Preamplifier work properly with my setup, even though it has no gain control?  Is there another, better alternative to the Behringer that would work or allow gain control? 

Thank you for your time.

Jim
Title: Re: Where has my Recording Level Slider Gone?
Post by: Paul Sanders (AlpineSoft) on February 21, 2013, 03:40:13 pm
Hi,

To use your Behringer you will need to control the signal level on the input-side of the device as this is evidently too high.  You can purchase in-line attenuators but these are generally for pro-audio use and are priced accordingly.  They also offer a fixed, rather than variable, level of attenuation and may therefore still not offer a suitable recording level.

The NAD PP-3 would be a better bet, yes.  It is calibrated for the output level of most popular cartridges and rarely clips.  Another alternative, and a slightly cheaper one, would be the Griffin iMic.  This has a software level control and accepts a line level input and converts it to USB.  It doesn't work with Windows Vista though, so look out for that.

Finally, consider running a cable from line-out on your amp (or phono preamp) to line-in on your PC or Mac.  There's no rule that you have to go via USB and this usually gives excellent results at no cost.  You just need a cable like the one pictured here:

http://www.alpinesoft.co.uk/VinylStudio/connecting_up.aspx
Title: Re: Where has my Recording Level Slider Gone?
Post by: AvFan on April 13, 2013, 05:02:28 pm
I have a Focusrite 2i4 with adjustable left and right channels and my recording slider is greyed out.  I can understand it being gone with a NAD PP3 or a Behringer but not when my ADC has level controls.  To deal with this I listen the much of an album to find the peak volume and adjust accordingly to avoid clipping.  If I understand the slider it will knock off those clipped parts so it would be very handy to catch those unexpected loud passages.  Having the slider would save me considerable time.  Thanks.
Title: Re: Where has my Recording Level Slider Gone?
Post by: Paul Sanders (AlpineSoft) on April 13, 2013, 05:13:24 pm
No, a slider would not help you (and nor can we provide one as there is no hardware support for it).  The controls on your ADC do an equivalent job.
Title: Re: Where has my Recording Level Slider Gone?
Post by: sliderhs on May 03, 2018, 02:55:57 am
I have been using Vinyl Studio for a number of years with the level slider without problems.  However, since the last update the slider has been disabled.  If the slider had been disabled when I did the Trial I would not have bought the product.  Why has the slider been disabled in the recent update?
Title: Re: Where has my Recording Level Slider Gone?
Post by: Paul Sanders (AlpineSoft) on May 03, 2018, 08:33:09 am
Hi,

Can you please send me a screenshot of VinylStudio's Check Level dialog.  I will then report back to you.

To take a screenshot:

1.  Click on the window you want to capture.
 
2.  Press ALT + Print Screen.
 
3.  In your email program, press Ctrl+V or select Paste from the Edit menu and then email it to: p DOT sanders AT alpinesoft DOT co DOT uk

Thanks.
Title: Re: Where has my Recording Level Slider Gone?
Post by: Paul Sanders (AlpineSoft) on May 03, 2018, 11:02:46 am
Hello again,

Many thanks for the email and screenshot you sent me (which I have attached to this post).

The change we have made in VinylStudio 9 is to make WASAPI mode available for devices like yours.  The 'Use WASAPI' checkbox was not shown in VinylStudio 8 due to a programming error and, instead, it fell back to the old MMSystem drivers, which are inferior in most cases.  You can get the old behaviour by unchecking 'Use WASAPI for Recording'.

However, we made this change for a reason.

The slider is disabled because your M-Track has no recording level control, and the slider available to you when you uncheck 'Use WASAPI' does nothing useful.  Reducing the level there just operates in the digital domain and only serves to mask the clipping shown in the screenshot, which is happening inside the device itself (in the ADC, in fact).  If you click on 'Set Digital Gain to 1' (as recommended, see second screenshot), you will find that you get as much clipping as you do when using WASAPI, and that is the true picture.

So, you have two options:
What are you feeding it from?  Some kind of attenuator might be in order.
Title: Re: Where has my Recording Level Slider Gone?
Post by: sliderhs on May 03, 2018, 07:22:56 pm
you're right, I have been getting distortion and clipping in the sound.  I have been trying to get rid of it by re-recording at lower levels.  To solve the problem I will be buying a Schiit Audio Jil ADC which has a gain control.
Title: Re: Where has my Recording Level Slider Gone?
Post by: Paul Sanders (AlpineSoft) on May 03, 2018, 09:04:26 pm
OK.  That's a wise move by the sound of it.