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USB extensions for remote gear in sound booth

Postby RionZ » Thu Feb 07, 2019 5:50 pm

Hi all, I'm producing audiobooks and have a sound-proof booth in which i record. I'm looking into running a remote monitor, USB DAW controller, USB keyboard and USB audio interface into the booth (the fan on my laptop is too noisy to take it in there).

The distance from the laptop to the proposed position of these peripherals in the booth is roughly 10 metres.

For the monitor i can just use a monitor extension cable, no problem there.

For the USB gear It seems i have a few options how to go about this. i could buy individual USB repeaters to do the job although i've had mixed experiences with these in the past (since they have no external power i dont see how they can really help with voltage drop). I could put a powered usb hub about halfway (5 metres) between the laptop and the devices. Or i could splash out a bit and buy a four port usb to ethernet transmitter and receiver.

The latter two options involve an external power supply, which is fine as long as it doesn't add noise to the audio signal (if this is possible even?).

Has anyone any experience of this sort of set-up? Any advice would be handy, my main concern is keeping the noise floor low and having reliable power and communication to my devices.
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Re: USB extensions for remote gear in sound booth

Postby Sam Spoons » Thu Feb 07, 2019 6:03 pm

Have you considered using an iPad/'droid based DAW controller via WiFi? That would cover most of it. I'm just investigating the same process, did it years ago with some success but my rig has moved on since so new apps required.

Otherwise a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard? Leave the AI next to the laptop and run the mic cable to the interface rather than take the interface to the mic? That just leaves the monitor and DAW controller..... iPad mirroring the monitor, then it's just the DAW control to worry about.

Or is there any reason why you can't move the laptop closer to the booth (but still outside the acoustically controlled space) USB is usually fine over 2 or 3 metres?
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Re: USB extensions for remote gear in sound booth

Postby Wonks » Thu Feb 07, 2019 6:08 pm

You won't add noise to any audio signal once it's in the digital domain, though there's always the risk of creating a ground loop path that could affect the audio interface once you start adding remote power supplys.

Quite a few audio interfaces don't like being on a USB hub, so that's probably something you could test out before committing yourself.

I haven't any experience with the other items mentioned, so I won't say any more.
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Re: USB extensions for remote gear in sound booth

Postby Mike Stranks » Thu Feb 07, 2019 6:10 pm

I do a fair bit of spoken word work in my 'studio'.

The way I get round the computer noise issue is simply not to use a computer. I use a Zoom F4 and connect straight to that. Then when I'm finished I just transfer the tracks into my DAW for editing and any post-processing work. I use this method both for recording myself and visiting voices. Before I had the F4 I had an H5 which produced perfectly acceptable results using the same technique. However, a low output dynamic needed too much gain with the H5... hello preamp hiss. Thus I used a capacitor mic or an in-line preamp like a Cloudlifter or FetHead.

That may not suit you, but whatever problems I may have with my recordings the noise floor isn't one of them! :)
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Re: USB extensions for remote gear in sound booth

Postby RionZ » Thu Feb 07, 2019 6:19 pm

Mike Stranks wrote:I do a fair bit of spoken word work in my 'studio'.

The way I get round the computer noise issue is simply not to use a computer. I use a Zoom F4 and connect straight to that. Then when I'm finished I just transfer the tracks into my DAW for editing and any post-processing work. I use this method both for recording myself and visiting voices. Before I had the F4 I had an H5 which produced perfectly acceptable results using the same technique. However, a low output dynamic needed too much gain with the H5... hello preamp hiss. Thus I used a capacitor mic or an in-line preamp like a Cloudlifter or FetHead.

That may not suit you, but whatever problems I may have with my recordings the noise floor isn't one of them! :)

That's what i am doing at the moment. It works great but i'm trying to cut down editing time. The ability to pause recording, roll back, punch in, etc at the touch of a button, plus dropping in edits on the fly is something i think will make a huge difference.
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Re: USB extensions for remote gear in sound booth

Postby RionZ » Thu Feb 07, 2019 6:25 pm

Sam Spoons wrote:Have you considered using an iPad/'droid based DAW controller via WiFi? That would cover most of it. I'm just investigating the same process, did it years ago with some success but my rig has moved on since so new apps required.

Otherwise a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard? Leave the AI next to the laptop and run the mic cable to the interface rather than take the interface to the mic? That just leaves the monitor and DAW controller..... iPad mirroring the monitor, then it's just the DAW control to worry about.

Or is there any reason why you can't move the laptop closer to the booth (but still outside the acoustically controlled space) USB is usually fine over 2 or 3 metres?

I did consider a tablet controller, but i really want the hands-on feel of buttons and a jog wheel - this is what i have in mind - https://www.contourdesign.com/product/shuttlepro-v2/

Speed is of the essence since i love the reading but the editing is tedious, being anywhere from 5 to 10 times the length of time to actually read!

Bluetooth is a good idea although will it still work through 6 inches of insulation and plasterboard? Also not sure if i can get the interface to work that way.. which i definitely do want in the booth with me - i'm bound to want to adjust headphone level and/or gain from time to time.
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Re: USB extensions for remote gear in sound booth

Postby Brian M Rose » Thu Feb 07, 2019 6:55 pm

+1 for Mike's comments.
I only do voice work. And yes, a Zoom H6N via a Soundcraft mixer.
Whether it's me, or another voice artist, I much prefer to simply pause (and thus lay down a marker) and let everyone get on with it. Or they will simply say 'take 2' or 'take22' whatever. I feel that everything goes much smoother, I can release the voice artist and take my time in the edit (Adobe Audition),
Well, it has to be faster than 1/4" tape!
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Re: USB extensions for remote gear in sound booth

Postby CS70 » Thu Feb 07, 2019 7:06 pm

Assuming you have a spare electrical socket, you could use a 5mt active cable and 5mt regular cable as that’s the max length of a regular one. A good quality cable can probably go a little further. If you need more than one connection, you can take the non-audio interface via a hub (keyboard, mouse) so you need only an active cable two the hub (and two sockets)
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Re: USB extensions for remote gear in sound booth

Postby Sam Spoons » Thu Feb 07, 2019 7:24 pm

BT will be fine through plasterboard and insulation but 10 metres is about the limit of it's range so WiFi would be better. But you imply you do your editing in the booth too? If that's they way that works for you then fine, in which case I'd see if there is a way to get the laptop closer to the booth and have USB and audio tie lines through the wall.
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Re: USB extensions for remote gear in sound booth

Postby Wonks » Thu Feb 07, 2019 7:34 pm

Has your laptop got a SSD drive or standard hard drive? If a normal HDD, then a swap to an SSD will mean the laptop uses less power, stays cooler and the fan won't run so often or fast (if variable speed). Also worth opening up the laptop and vacuuming out any dust as that can make a big difference to internal temperatures.
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Re: USB extensions for remote gear in sound booth

Postby Mike Stranks » Thu Feb 07, 2019 8:48 pm

RionZ wrote:
Mike Stranks wrote:I do a fair bit of spoken word work in my 'studio'.

The way I get round the computer noise issue is simply not to use a computer. I use a Zoom F4 and connect straight to that. Then when I'm finished I just transfer the tracks into my DAW for editing and any post-processing work. I use this method both for recording myself and visiting voices. Before I had the F4 I had an H5 which produced perfectly acceptable results using the same technique. However, a low output dynamic needed too much gain with the H5... hello preamp hiss. Thus I used a capacitor mic or an in-line preamp like a Cloudlifter or FetHead.

That may not suit you, but whatever problems I may have with my recordings the noise floor isn't one of them! :)

That's what i am doing at the moment. It works great but i'm trying to cut down editing time. The ability to pause recording, roll back, punch in, etc at the touch of a button, plus dropping in edits on the fly is something i think will make a huge difference.

Fair enough; each to their own.

FWIW I like to keep the voice (mine or anyone else's) as 'active' as possible so that tone, pace etc are maintained as far as possible. Thus, the recording keeps rolling and they or I do the retakes as they come... sometimes up to 10-12 for me on one phrase! I work all the way through then 'release' the voice and turn to editing; personally I could never get the joins seamless enough on drop-ins.

As an aside I bucked the house-style when doing BBC location recording - easy enough when you're working independently! House-style is to note fluffs, keep going and do retakes at the end and then drop them in. I found you got better consistency - especially with non-professionals - by encouraging them simply to retake immediately and then move on. Psychologically that was good too: problem identified; problem fixed, rather than them having to come back and try and get the right mood and tone/tempo again after a (sometimes) significant gap.

But whatever works for you...
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Re: USB extensions for remote gear in sound booth

Postby James Perrett » Thu Feb 07, 2019 9:43 pm

I have a remote computer and use a USB hub built into the monitor for keyboard, mouse and other things. I use long USB cables between this and the computer with no problems. I have a digital only audio interface built into the computer so run long ADAT and S/PDIF cables into the control room but, in your case, I would go for a separate long USB cable to your interface. If you use good USB cables there should be no need for any fancy extenders or anything like that for a 10m run.
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Re: USB extensions for remote gear in sound booth

Postby Wonks » Thu Feb 07, 2019 10:16 pm

For long cable runs, the Lindy brand come highly recommended by Max/SSG, and he's used loads in his studio installations. He's found he can run a lot further with them than the quoted design lengths without any problems. Other brands have given him so many problems that Lindy are the only cables he'll use now if given a choice.
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Re: USB extensions for remote gear in sound booth

Postby RionZ » Fri Feb 08, 2019 12:50 pm

Mike Stranks wrote:
RionZ wrote:
Mike Stranks wrote:I do a fair bit of spoken word work in my 'studio'.

The way I get round the computer noise issue is simply not to use a computer. I use a Zoom F4 and connect straight to that. Then when I'm finished I just transfer the tracks into my DAW for editing and any post-processing work. I use this method both for recording myself and visiting voices. Before I had the F4 I had an H5 which produced perfectly acceptable results using the same technique. However, a low output dynamic needed too much gain with the H5... hello preamp hiss. Thus I used a capacitor mic or an in-line preamp like a Cloudlifter or FetHead.

That may not suit you, but whatever problems I may have with my recordings the noise floor isn't one of them! :)

That's what i am doing at the moment. It works great but i'm trying to cut down editing time. The ability to pause recording, roll back, punch in, etc at the touch of a button, plus dropping in edits on the fly is something i think will make a huge difference.

Fair enough; each to their own.

FWIW I like to keep the voice (mine or anyone else's) as 'active' as possible so that tone, pace etc are maintained as far as possible. Thus, the recording keeps rolling and they or I do the retakes as they come... sometimes up to 10-12 for me on one phrase! I work all the way through then 'release' the voice and turn to editing; personally I could never get the joins seamless enough on drop-ins.

As an aside I bucked the house-style when doing BBC location recording - easy enough when you're working independently! House-style is to note fluffs, keep going and do retakes at the end and then drop them in. I found you got better consistency - especially with non-professionals - by encouraging them simply to retake immediately and then move on. Psychologically that was good too: problem identified; problem fixed, rather than them having to come back and try and get the right mood and tone/tempo again after a (sometimes) significant gap.

But whatever works for you...

I know what you're saying, i do multiple retakes on the fly, especially with character voices. This can be a bit frustrating when i come to editing and find myself removing them one by one... but i find it's the only way to keep the flow going in my reading. My solution to the time-cost of the editing side in those situations is to use a dog clicker while recording so if i fluff a line, i do a click before the retake. When i come to edit i have an easily identifiable reference point to edit out the unwanted parts. The mark audio function in Adobe audition makes it easy to skip through these.

However, the situations where i want to be able to pause and/or roll back would be where i decide to retake a long section of reading, and also quite often i will pause for a while before doing an upcoming bit of character voice or a difficult passage. These pauses have to be edited later, but with full control at my fingertips i can pause the recording as i go along, giving me time to gather myself then continue.

Lastly, no matter how hard i concentrate and/or rehearse there are always some errors that make their way in... "it's" instead of "it is", words reversed, that sort of thing, so i do end up doing some manual retakes. In order to do this effectively i have to transfer the recording to an mp3 player for reference to voice tone/inflection of the section, then record the retakes, then open those retakes in audition and finally drop them in. Obviously recording these directly into audition would save a lot of time.
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Re: USB extensions for remote gear in sound booth

Postby RionZ » Fri Feb 08, 2019 12:52 pm

Wonks wrote:For long cable runs, the Lindy brand come highly recommended by Max/SSG, and he's used loads in his studio installations. He's found he can run a lot further with them than the quoted design lengths without any problems. Other brands have given him so many problems that Lindy are the only cables he'll use now if given a choice.

There's also startech cables: https://www.bechtle.com/ie/shop/startec ... -919310--p

i think i'll go for one of these for the audio interface. The keyboard and controller will hopefully work fine on long standard extentions, if not i can use a hub for those.
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Re: USB extensions for remote gear in sound booth

Postby Wonks » Fri Feb 08, 2019 1:34 pm

There are lots of cable makes, but finding one that makes consistently good quality cables is the problem. If that brand has always been 100% reliable for you (allowing for the fact that even the best cables will get damaged if misused or run over by the wheels on a chair etc.) then fine. But don't go by price alone.
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Re: USB extensions for remote gear in sound booth

Postby James Perrett » Fri Feb 08, 2019 2:58 pm

Startech stuff has usually been fine in my experience although I've not used their active USB cables. I guess finding Lindy cables may be a bit difficult where you are as they are a UK based company and I'm not sure who the US equivalent is.
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Re: USB extensions for remote gear in sound booth

Postby ef37a » Fri Feb 08, 2019 7:10 pm

I don't think you will have much trouble with a 10mtr run of USB except for the AI and for that you might find this is the answer? https://uk.farnell.com/newlink/usb-boos ... 9714695233

Yes, AIs can be fussy about hubs but my NI KA6 isn't. I can also run the KA6 from a 5mtr USB cable and also a Focusrite 8i6. If your AI has local power from a wall rat, voltage drop over the extension will not matter (in fact the drop will be very, very small anyway)

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