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White noise with all gain at 0

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White noise with all gain at 0

Postby akihitoRK » Thu Oct 03, 2019 9:50 am

So I've recently gotten myself a new pair of headphones and everything is so crystal clear that the white noise that didn't bother me as much before is a lot louder.
This white noise is persistent even though every knob is a 0, no matter what I try:

- Different audio interfaces (Presonus audiobox USB, Behringer 302USB)
- Different adapters and cables
- Different power source (PC USB port, external battery USB port, USB to wall adapter)
- Different headphones

What could cause this...?
I've looked up the interfaces and although some people have noise issues, doesn't seem to be the same.
I'm beginning to think it's my home studio that's the problem...
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Re: White noise with all gain at 0

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Thu Oct 03, 2019 10:34 am

All electronic equipment produces noise. Normally it's so low, relative to the wanted audio signal that it's unnoticeable. However, it can become noticeable if you're listening at silly loud levels, and/or if the headphones are particularly sensitive/efficient.

Or, you could have an input channel turned up with nothing connected to it, or a ground loop problem, or even a fault somewhere....

I'd suggest simplifying the system to its bare minimum, with nothing else connected apart from the computer, interface and headphones. Make sure no analogue inputs are selected/faded up. Then replay a commercial audio track from the computer and adjust the headphones to listen at a reasonable level. When the music stops, is the background noise still a problem?
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Re: White noise with all gain at 0

Postby Exalted Wombat » Thu Oct 03, 2019 1:47 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:All electronic equipment produces noise. Normally it's so low, relative to the wanted audio signal that it's unnoticeable.

Happy days when we can say that about even cheap audio gear. You don't have to be THAT old to remember the days when it certainly wasn't so!
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Re: White noise with all gain at 0

Postby CS70 » Thu Oct 03, 2019 2:58 pm

akihitoRK wrote:This white noise is persistent even though every knob is a 0, no matter what I try:

Besides what Hugh says, the common denominator seems to be the PC itself?
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Re: White noise with all gain at 0

Postby akihitoRK » Thu Oct 03, 2019 5:21 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:I'd suggest simplifying the system to its bare minimum, with nothing else connected apart from the computer, interface and headphones. Make sure no analogue inputs are selected/faded up. Then replay a commercial audio track from the computer and adjust the headphones to listen at a reasonable level. When the music stops, is the background noise still a problem?

CS70 wrote:Besides what Hugh says, the common denominator seems to be the PC itself?

That's the thing, I've tried running both interfaces with just:
External battery or Power outlet -> Interface -> Headphones
and the noise is still present... used their own USB cables too

I've tried my headphones on phone and tablet so they aren't the problem either.
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Re: White noise with all gain at 0

Postby CS70 » Thu Oct 03, 2019 7:44 pm

If you have another pc available you could try and connect one interface and cans to it.

A possibility is RF interference from somewhere inside the PC. Or, do you have stuff like neon lights or even extension cords with a light switch nearby?
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Re: White noise with all gain at 0

Postby akihitoRK » Thu Oct 03, 2019 8:54 pm

CS70 wrote:If you have another pc available you could try and connect one interface and cans to it.

A possibility is RF interference from somewhere inside the PC. Or, do you have stuff like neon lights or even extension cords with a light switch nearby?


So I just went out to my yard and hooked it up again. (No PC involved, just a portable battery, both interfaces and headphones) , same old noise...
I was thinking these are lower end interfaces so just maybe... Don't really have high-end hardware to try out so... out of ideas.
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Re: White noise with all gain at 0

Postby Wonks » Thu Oct 03, 2019 9:25 pm

What are you playing back from? Music stored on the PC? Something you've recorded on your DAW?

What headphones are they? And how high do you have to turn the volume up on the headphone volume knob?

When playing back on the Presonus, is the mixer knob set fully to 'playback'?
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Re: White noise with all gain at 0

Postby akihitoRK » Thu Oct 03, 2019 11:01 pm

Wonks wrote:What are you playing back from? Music stored on the PC? Something you've recorded on your DAW?

What headphones are they? And how high do you have to turn the volume up on the headphone volume knob?

When playing back on the Presonus, is the mixer knob set fully to 'playback'?

I'm actually not playing any audio... The noise is there whether there's input or not, so I'm testing things without any input at the moment.
All knobs are set to 0 and I tried Mee audio M6, Sony MDR7506 and my regular phone headset. Only difference is how loud I can hear the noise
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Re: White noise with all gain at 0

Postby CS70 » Fri Oct 04, 2019 12:03 am

Hm so:

- all you have is the interface, plugged in the mains, and the headphone attached to the interface's headphone amplifier.
- the same happens with two completely different interfaces
- the same happens with both headphones, one is simply more revealing than the other

Right?

If absolutely nothing else is attached to the interface, you should definitely not hear anything at all in the headphones - unless you keep cranking the gain of the headphone amplifier so much that you are simply hearing the amplifier self noise.

But you say you aren't.

So the things that can be in common, on the top of my head:

- power supply
- power supply cable
- a jack adapter for the headphones (do you use one?)
- the EM field around your area (any radar, large antenna, base station or source of high electromagnetic energy nearby?)

If it was just the one interface it'd be easy to chalk it down to some malfunction, but it's very unlikely to have two with the same failure mode.
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Re: White noise with all gain at 0

Postby akihitoRK » Fri Oct 04, 2019 1:13 am

CS70 wrote:Hm so:

- all you have is the interface, plugged in the mains, and the headphone attached to the interface's headphone amplifier.
- the same happens with two completely different interfaces
- the same happens with both headphones, one is simply more revealing than the other

Right?

If absolutely nothing else is attached to the interface, you should definitely not hear anything at all in the headphones - unless you keep cranking the gain of the headphone amplifier so much that you are simply hearing the amplifier self noise.

Yep, I had nothing else hooked up to it and the knobs were all the way down...

CS70 wrote: - power supply
- power supply cable
- a jack adapter for the headphones (do you use one?)
- the EM field around your area (any radar, large antenna, base station or source of high electromagnetic energy nearby?)

If it was just the one interface it'd be easy to chalk it down to some malfunction, but it's very unlikely to have two with the same failure mode.

Hmmm I tried different power supplies (PC, portable battery, power outlet)
also 2 different USB cables. No difference.
Far as adapters go, I tried in-ear monitors, headphones and headsets with and without a Y-stereo splitter, no difference either.

Interference though is one thing I can't be sure of... I have a speaker receiver nearby with access to radio channels...? But I tried moving 2 floors away, didn't change much.
If anything else, I live 200m away from power line towers
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Re: White noise with all gain at 0

Postby CS70 » Fri Oct 04, 2019 7:40 am

Hm but there is no USB cable when you try only with power supply-interface-headphones right?
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Re: White noise with all gain at 0

Postby Wonks » Fri Oct 04, 2019 7:51 am

The Sony MDR7506 have a very definite high frequency peak, rising up from 2kHz to about +9dB at 10kHz so they are certainly going to highlight any high frequency noise in the system.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=5um1BfdmqiM

Do you get similar noise issues when playing back music from a phone/iPod/mp3 player?

I don't think overhead power lines 200m away are likely to cause general white/pink noise issues, certainly not unless you were much closer and even then any noise is far more likely to be noticeable at the lower end of the frequency spectrum in the 50Hz-120Hz area.

I'd be looking for big radio or phone masts nearby. These are much more likely to be generating and broadcasting noise.
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Re: White noise with all gain at 0

Postby Mike Stranks » Fri Oct 04, 2019 8:07 am

Hugh has given you a suggested approach which should give some sort of objective assessment of whether/not this is an actual issue or a perceived one. Put that into action and then report back on what you found.

It seems strange to come here asking for the advice and then ignoring the best advice you've been given so far... everyone else is just making guesses based on... not very much. :)
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Re: White noise with all gain at 0

Postby Wonks » Fri Oct 04, 2019 8:23 am

Mike Stranks wrote:Hugh has given you a suggested approach which should give some sort of objective assessment of whether/not this is an actual issue or a perceived one. Put that into action and then report back on what you found.

It seems strange to come here asking for the advice and then ignoring the best advice you've been given so far... everyone else is just making guesses based on... not very much. :)

I seem to be reading different replies to you, Mike.

If the interface has been run unconnected to anything and powered from a battery pack and with all the gain controls set at minimum, then there should be no ground loop at all, and minimal added noise from the inputs.

The Sony headphones are 63 ohms, so easy enough to drive without having to use excessive volume.

It's just very hard to diagnose without being there.
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Re: White noise with all gain at 0

Postby akihitoRK » Fri Oct 04, 2019 9:15 am

Wonks wrote:If the interface has been run unconnected to anything and powered from a battery pack and with all the gain controls set at minimum, then there should be no ground loop at all, and minimal added noise from the inputs.

The Sony headphones are 63 ohms, so easy enough to drive without having to use excessive volume.

It's just very hard to diagnose without being there.

Thanks.

Indeed... I've tried a whole lot of things, all possible combinations with whatever gear I have, was just hoping for more ideas so I can give another stab in the dark.
Might have to get my hands on higher-end interfaces to rule out innate hardware noise.
The headphones themselves work perfectly on other media devices... The noise is twice as loud when I try in-ear monitors, probably since it doesn't cut/round frequencies as much.
I'm usually pretty handy with these things but this is a real mystery.
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Re: White noise with all gain at 0

Postby CS70 » Fri Oct 04, 2019 10:08 am

Wonks wrote:
I seem to be reading different replies to you, Mike.

If the interface has been run unconnected to anything and powered from a battery pack and with all the gain controls set at minimum, then there should be no ground loop at all, and minimal added noise from the inputs.

The Sony headphones are 63 ohms, so easy enough to drive without having to use excessive volume.

It's just very hard to diagnose without being there.

My thoughts exactly.
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Re: White noise with all gain at 0

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Oct 04, 2019 10:18 am

Given that the OP has apparently compared different interfaces and entirely different computers and power arrangements, all reportedly with the same levels of hiss, the only logical conclusion is that the OP is just particularly sensitive to ordinary electronic hiss, or has unrealistic expectations of the headphones amps in these budget interfaces.

The only query remaining unanswered is how the level of his relates to the normal levels of commercial music -- and it would be helpful to know that to gauge how reasonable or otherwise it might be.

But this kind of issue is impossible to diagnose remotely. The best course of action would be for the OP to take his interface into a local music retailer, or to a friend with different equipment and compare it with their own devices, and to get the opinions of the staff who might be more familiar with the equipment's capabilities.

H
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Re: White noise with all gain at 0

Postby Arpangel » Fri Oct 04, 2019 10:42 am

I used to be "overly concerned" with hum/hiss in my system, turning up all gains, and monitor volumes to maximum to try and get rid of the smallest hums and hisses.
Then it suddenly dawned upon me that if I was to listen to music at these volume levels the cones in my monitors would fly across the room and my windows would blow out.
I think we have to adjust our perspectives on this type of thing, and our expectations of certain types of equipment.

:)
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Re: White noise with all gain at 0

Postby The Red Bladder » Fri Oct 04, 2019 10:59 am

I am not going to comment on the two boxes here - suffice it to say that I wouldn't buy either of them.

BUT for those of you out there who want to do a 'quick-n-dirty' test of any audio equipment, one of the standard final QC checks at any mixing desk manufacturer is to route everything, set all inputs to 0dB, activate all EQs and put the controls to zero (i.e. not boosting or cutting anything) bring all faders up to 0dB and set the output to 0dB - and at normal listening volumes, you should hear nothing. As in not a sausage!

I once hired a desk for a mobile recording from a very well known manufacturer in the UK who claims to make desks for professional applications (they definitely are expensive enough!) and my assistant asked me what I thought of it and how it compared to the studio desk we have that, of course, passes that test with flying colours with all 60 inputs routed.

On that rented desk, when I got to fader number eight, the white noise became very noticeable. With all 36 faders up, it was just one very large and heavy white-noise-generator.
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