so let me get something straight. preamps in usb interfaces are absolutely worthless?
I just bought a new interface thinking that my old interface had dead preamps and the same thing is happening. There is absolutely no gain whatsoever on this thing. no headroom hardly at all. I have to turn the device ALL THE WAY UP to get any kind of workable sound out of my sm57 or pg48.
I don't get it. I should have plenty of headroom for the mic to pick up low level signal (ex: talking) but this thing has to be cranked up pretty much all the way to even be heard.
totally confused. :confused:
What is the interface in question, and what software are you using?
The former was a Yamaha Audiogram 3, the current is a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2... both set correctly in Cubase.
OK, so you're using a balanced XLR cable (both ends) and you can see the clipping indicator come on on the front panel at some gain setting?
yeah. but its awfully quiet for such a high level setting, especially compared to my sansamp output, which also uses an XLR cable.
I assume you are using a USB2 or USB3 input on your computer. Neither of the units you've been using will work properly with USB1.
What do you hear when you use headphones plugged into the unit? If you hear the sound normally from the preamp unit, but quiet from the computer then it's a good bet the problem is the computer. If it's quiet from both preamp and computer, then it's likely to be something in the preamp unit. As you've had the same trouble in both units I would guess it would be a setting that is incorrect, (as suggested above regarding mic/line input level setting*) rather than some kind of failure.
It's a long shot, but perhaps try a different XLR cable.
* From the Focusrite 2i2 user manual:
The front panel input sockets are Neutrik Combo®, which accept either an XLR male connector (you will probably have one on the end of your microphone cable) or a ¼” (6.35 mm) jack plug. Note the Scarlett 2i2 has no “Mic/line” switch – the Focusrite preamplifier stage is automatically configured for a microphone when you plug an XLR into the input, and for a line or instrument when you connect a jack plug. Set the LINE/INST switch next to the socket to INST if you are connecting a musical instrument (a guitar in the example) via an ordinary 2-pole (TS) guitar jack, or to LINE if you are connecting a line level source such as the balanced output of a stage piano via a 3-pole (TRS) jack. Note the Combo connector accepts both TRS and TS types of jack plug.
I've been using the software and hardware correctly. Sound comes out normally when playing music from my computer into my headphones. Sound is also fine when using my samsamp. Using a different XLR cable has no effect. Microphones act normally when used with my friend's Onyx 1640i and leave plenty of headroom. My sm57 works the same as my friend's other five sm57s.
I simply get no sound until about the last quarter of the gain knob on both the Yamaha and Focusrite, and its still really quiet when talking WITHOUT space between my mouth and the mic. 1-2 inches away from the microphone produces almost no sound unless I turn the gain knob all the way up.
There is simply no headroom/no volume. I either record quietly or I overload the input.
Now you know why I stopped using Cubase. I went through the same routine. Output levels were OK. Input levels were waaaaaaaaaayyyyyyy too low. Changed everything around. Different mics, different interface. No improvement. I changed DAW software... BOOM! BTW, the same thing happens with many of the "Lite" or "LE" versions of different software titles.
I'm using Cubase Essentials 4... but its not the DAW. its the interface itself. I'm using direct monitoring (sends the input signal directly to the headphones) and I cant hear anything.
This is a serious issue. Turning it up to its highest settings crates a lot of noise and I cant record well with all that noise.
That doesn't seem normal but I did find this on the Focusrite support page.
I use Cubase 5 with a Motu 828 interface but usually use stand alone mic pres's into the line inputs. The mic pres on the Motu will work with a 57 etc. but I find that the preamp gain also "jumps" when I use higher levels. My other preamps tend to be more linear in the gain range.
You might try borrowing a hotter mic like a Beta 58 or a phantom powered condenser mic as they will have more gain.
Does the Focusrite have it's own mixer panel that works independently than your DAW. With my Motu I have a screen that allows me to change the gain settings of the interface.
Just recently I returned the Focusrite and upgraded to a Tascam US-1800... im keeping the Yamaha. All the units do the same thing. Its normal to turn the knob all the way to record things like acoustic guitar with dynamic mics. It just matters if the preamp gets noisy when you do that. I guess you just have to make sure the unit has preamps that are really quiet, even when turned up all the way.
However, it is an issue when direct monitoring yourself while playing to a recording. I wish the makers would realize that this is a bit of an issue with lower end interfaces. You simply cant hear yourself play with headphones on.
The SM58 microphone is well known to be a low-output microphone which requires a lot of preamp gain to boost most sound to acceptable electrical levels. Most recommend about +55dB of gain for this mic, which coincidentally is the max rated preamp gain for your Scarlett 2i2 interface. So, it is not surprising that you had to turn your preamp gain all the way up to get a decent level.
Try switching to a higher-output condenser microphone that uses phantom power.
Or, if you really want to use SM57s/58s for recording, run through a small mixer or dedicated mic-pre first. A lot of budget interfaces have less preamp gain than most budget mixers. If you're only recording two channels at a time, this is a really cheap and practical solution to get more gain without too much noise.
For example, here is a $100 budget Behringer mixer that has +60dB of mic gain, which is more or less the standard baseline these days:
Even this inexpensive ART TubeMP preamp would give you much more gain (although I doubt it can deliver +70dB as claimed without noise):
An inline preamp booster is a very handy thing to have in your toolkit. The Cloudlifter CL-1 and Triton FetHead are good examples and will give you 20-25 dB of super clean boost.
That said I have never heard of an interface that doesn't have enough gain for a 57 or 58 under normal conditions.
....assuming "normal conditions" are a loud enough source (like a cranked up guitar amp or acoustic drums)
however acoustic guitars and vocals I assume are recorded with condensers for that reason.
This. A 57 is designed for pretty loud sources. I used to use mine when I did BG vox, but you had to e right on the grill to get any sound out front.
That said my 57 has plenty of volume on my 2i4, so I'm at a loss.
However a PG48 microphone is made for vocals. How come it is also tailored for louder sounds?
A couple of questions regarding your setup:
I ask these questions because if your meters in Cubase are showing good levels then the issue is not the mic preamp, but likely the headphone amp or the headphones themselves. Case in point: many have inadvertently bought the AKG K240M cans and didn't know they are high impedance (600 ohms) and designed for large scale, high-powered monitor systems like in broadcast or large recording studios as opposed to the K240S which is low impedance (55 ohm) and designed to work with standard headphone amps. Using high impedance headphones with a standard headphone amp yields significantly less volume and headroom.
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