SNR for Professional sound cards

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SNR for Professional sound cards

Post by sdancer75 »

Hi,

I currently own an audiophile 2496 PCI card and I am looking to buy an external usb sound card ie m-audio Fast Track to improve my voice recording quality.

Searching on the net I found out that sone non-pro sound cards like ASUS Sonar or Creative E-MU 1212M have better SNR ratio, reaching up to 120dB while the semi-pro m-audio Fast Track and my audiophile are restricted somewhere to 100dB.

Am I missing something here ? Better SNR means lower noise right? So, why a sound card that costs about $250 have worse features from others that cost less ?

As I mentioned I need only voice recording thru a mic (44Khz 16Bit mono). Can you suggest me a good sound card that has a crystal clear recordings without background internal noises ? Will I hear any differences from my currently installed PCI sound card audiophile 2496 ?

Best Regards,
George
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Re: SNR for Professional sound cards

Post by ef37a »

sdancer75 wrote:Hi,

I currently own an audiophile 2496 PCI card and I am looking to buy an external usb sound card ie m-audio Fast Track to improve my voice recording quality.

Searching on the net I found out that sone non-pro sound cards like ASUS Sonar or Creative E-MU 1212M have better SNR ratio, reaching up to 120dB while the semi-pro m-audio Fast Track and my audiophile are restricted somewhere to 100dB.

Am I missing something here ? Better SNR means lower noise right? So, why a sound card that costs about Hi,

I currently own an audiophile 2496 PCI card and I am looking to buy an external usb sound card ie m-audio Fast Track to improve my voice recording quality.

Searching on the net I found out that sone non-pro sound cards like ASUS Sonar or Creative E-MU 1212M have better SNR ratio, reaching up to 120dB while the semi-pro m-audio Fast Track and my audiophile are restricted somewhere to 100dB.

Am I missing something here ? Better SNR means lower noise right? So, why a sound card that costs about 50 have worse features from others that cost less ?

As I mentioned I need only voice recording thru a mic (44Khz 16Bit mono). Can you suggest me a good sound card that has a crystal clear recordings without background internal noises ? Will I hear any differences from my currently installed PCI sound card audiophile 2496 ?

Best Regards,
George 50 have worse features from others that cost less ?

As I mentioned I need only voice recording thru a mic (44Khz 16Bit mono). Can you suggest me a good sound card that has a crystal clear recordings without background internal noises ? Will I hear any differences from my currently installed PCI sound card audiophile 2496 ?

Best Regards,
George

George: There are lies, damned lies and "specifications"! In general the top end guys tell the truth, those lower down, err, don't!

You need 3 extra "things" to make clear, low noise recordings.

A small mixer or a decent mic pre amp.
A capacitor microphone and I would go for a small diaphragm type, the big, side address jobbies LOOK sexy but can be bothersome.
FORGET 16bits!

Cheapest setup that will give you results better (bet you a mic cable!)than your room allows noisewise..
Behringer Xenyx 802 mixer> AKG Perception 170 cap' mic.

Record at 24bits 44.1 kHz and let the DAW meters average around -20 to-18dBFS with peaks no higher than -12or so.
Record 20secs thus then shurrup for a minute.
Playback and listen to the "silence". All you should hear is a clock somewhere, people moving in the house (or next door!) cars, birds (air rifle, I JEST!)
So, along with the rest of us studioless unwashed, you become a 2am recordist!

Dave.
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Re: SNR for Professional sound cards

Post by sdancer75 »

Thank you for your reply.

My gear is somewhat like you mentioned. My mics are AKG 3000C and AKG AKG CK-55L, mixer Behringer UB-1002 and Behringer shark DSP-110. My sound card is a PCI audiophile 2496.

Will I get more if I change the internal PCI audio card with an external like m-audio track pro or Lexicon Omega sound card ?

If you used some of them, what do you recommed ?
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Re: SNR for Professional sound cards

Post by The Elf »

The Audiophile 2496 has digital inputs doesn’t it? If so then instead of a new audio interface you could get a decent mic pre with digital output and plumb that into the 2496 digitally. That bypasses any effect the card can have on the incoming audio.

After that I’d begin looking at some higher-end mic’s.
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Re: SNR for Professional sound cards

Post by ef37a »

sdancer75 wrote:Thank you for your reply.

My gear is somewhat like you mentioned. My mics are AKG 3000C and AKG AKG CK-55L, mixer Behringer UB-1002 and Behringer shark DSP-110. My sound card is a PCI audiophile 2496.

Will I get more if I change the internal PCI audio card with an external like m-audio track pro or Lexicon Omega sound card ?

If you used some of them, what do you recommed ?

Try this: Connect the mixer via RCA rec' out to the card. Power up the mixer but leave all controls at zero. Setup to record, 24 bits 44.1kHz and run for 1 minute. Play back and look at the DAW* meters. They should return a noise floor of better than 90dB ref 0dBFS, IF they read that low, many don't! I have just run that test on my 2496(Samplitude se8) and get 96/97dB rms below 0dBFS. If your setup is significantly worse then investigate wiring around the card but I have to say that I have fitted 2496's in 4 pcs now and always get much the same noise floor.
In short, the card is going to be much better than any analogue electronics you can afford (I suspect!) and certainly not the weakest link in the chain.

The AKG 3000 has a decently average sensitivity of 20mV/Pa and a good, but not exceptional noise figure of 14dB, better than the 170's tho' and I never have any trouble!
Forget the lavvy mic!

Gain staging: Set the level pot to "0" 12o'clock same for Main Mix and then advance the gain trim to get the 0vu LED jeee'ust blinking. This should reflect in a DAW level of -18dBFSish. If too high back off the gain trim, advance trim for a bit more welly but always err on the LOW side.
I found the Berry/AKG combination more than good enough for acoustic guitar. I now have a ZED10 which IS of course better but is really only noticeable using an SM57 (at near max gain).
*If you have poor meters, dld the demo of Sony Soundforge, they are superb.
Just thought;For voice work run with the LF EQ backed off a bit.

Dave.
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Re: SNR for Professional sound cards

Post by sdancer75 »

I have made some tests according to your directions.

1. Using only the mixer and from it directly to sound card (left channel only) I get a noise floor about -80dB (using cooledit 2 level meter)

2. Using only the sound card (no input cables connected) I get around
-83dB.

2. Using the mixer->DSP->soundCard I get noise floor about -65dB

This means that the DSP is for garbage ? I want it for eliminating noise using thevgate threshold. What do you suggest ?

Regards,
George
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Re: SNR for Professional sound cards

Post by ef37a »

Ok,
I would be a bit dissapointed with those noise figures so maybe pull the card, redress any cables in close proximity and refit. Never hurts to run drivers again! It would be interesting to run the noise thru a Real Time Analyser (Google RightMark).

But still that is some 20dB or so better than you actually need. I have just done a run of AKG into ZED10 into 2496 on my quietest computer, just about quiet enough for acoustic guitar, and I set speech, 300mm from mic to peak to -20, -18dBfs then shut up. The pk noise in the room was -53dBFS and the ambient room noise around 25dBC SPL and that I suspect is lower than a lot of people can get since I live in a VERY quiet suburb surrounded by old fekkers (Oh! I'm one as well!).

I did not mention the Bery noise gate since you don't need it and as you see it only makes things worse. Had you a guitar rig with very noisy pedals, maybe.

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Re: SNR for Professional sound cards

Post by dmills »

yea dump the shark (Horrible things), you can do the noise gate in software after you have the take if you really need it (You probably don't).

Those 24/96s in spite of being unbalanced IO (and so a bit prone to earth loops) are actually not too shabby at all, and are certainly not the first thing I would look at to solve a noise problem.

Regards, Dan.
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Re: SNR for Professional sound cards

Post by sdancer75 »

Thank you for your reply.

But I am still curious, why when the card is not accepting any input it show about -80dB noise ? Maybe my PC is too noisy ? Can I improve the quality if I buy an external usb sound card ?

PS : I have made to decrease the noise from the shark using its gate and settings this about -60dB.

Regards,
George
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Re: SNR for Professional sound cards

Post by ef37a »

sdancer75 wrote:Thank you for your reply.

But I am still curious, why when the card is not accepting any input it show about -80dB noise ? Maybe my PC is too noisy ? Can I improve the quality if I buy an external usb sound card ?

PS : I have made to decrease the noise from the shark using its gate and settings this about -60dB.

Regards,
George

Heh! We would ALL love a 120dB noise floor George!My 2496 can be as low as -97dBFS but I get a blip at -93 at 50Hz on one channel. Totally inaudible but it drives me nuts that it is there!

There are people here with vastly more experience of AI's than I but yes, I think a good usb AI such as the Saffire 6 should better 90dB? IIRC my usb Fast track pro comes in at about 85dBFS.

But don't give up on the PCI card yet! It should be better. As I said pull it out and move any wiring as far away from it as possible. Then you have not really given it a fair test since you really should have the inputs shorted. Easy answer, buy a 99p RCA to somerthing lead from Rockbottom of similar leave about 150mm back from the plugs and strip 50mm or so down to copper. Twist all wires together and plug into the 2496. Now run a 24bit/44 test. Did you dld RightMark?

If the noise is better then you know the source of it is not the card.

Dave.
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Re: SNR for Professional sound cards

Post by Martin Walker »

ef37a wrote:There are people here with vastly more experience of AI's than I but yes, I think a good usb AI such as the Saffire 6 should better 90dB? IIRC my usb Fast track pro comes in at about 85dBFS.

Well when I reviewed the Focusrite Saffire LE its background noise level measured - 105dBA

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Re: SNR for Professional sound cards

Post by ef37a »

Martin Walker wrote:
ef37a wrote:There are people here with vastly more experience of AI's than I but yes, I think a good usb AI such as the Saffire 6 should better 90dB? IIRC my usb Fast track pro comes in at about 85dBFS.

Well when I reviewed the Focusrite Saffire LE its background noise level measured - 105dBA

Martin

Lovely Martin but that is about 100quid more than the usb Saff6. Do you have a record/play noise figure for that please?

And (sorry!) you can't turn the mic pres off fully on a pro I have just realized so a fair test would be with the returns shorted.

Dave.
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Re: SNR for Professional sound cards

Post by Folderol »

Simply moving the card to a different slot can make a lot of difference. Do you have a graphics card, or on-board graphics? If you have a graphics card then the sound card wants to be as far away from it as possible!
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Re: SNR for Professional sound cards

Post by Martin Walker »

ef37a wrote:Lovely Martin but that is about 100quid more than the usb Saff6. Do you have a record/play noise figure for that please?

Sorry Dave - I wasn't sent that one for review, so it's not in my database :beamup:

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Re: SNR for Professional sound cards

Post by Martin Walker »

Folderol wrote:Simply moving the card to a different slot can make a lot of difference. Do you have a graphics card, or on-board graphics? If you have a graphics card then the sound card wants to be as far away from it as possible!

That certainly used to be true, but I haven't experienced any such inter-card interference for many years now - and remember, Lynx Audio cards offer some of the best audio quality around, and many of them sit inside your computer :headbang:

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Re: SNR for Professional sound cards

Post by ef37a »

Martin Walker wrote:
ef37a wrote:Lovely Martin but that is about 100quid more than the usb Saff6. Do you have a record/play noise figure for that please?

Sorry Dave - I wasn't sent that one for review, so it's not in my database :beamup:

Martin

Ok. In fact just quoting a bare figure for an AI (as against a line in only soundcard) is not all that useful I am thinking. Surely we need to know what the round trip noise is with a specific gain setting on the mic amps?

It would help greatly if manufacturers gave us an input figure, mV at max gain that produced 0dBFS?

Dave.
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Re: SNR for Professional sound cards

Post by Martin Walker »

I think most audio interfaces have background noise levels specified for line level inputs - otherwise you’re only really testing the mic preamp :headbang:

And besides which, the noise levels would be a lot higher if the mic preamp was in the signal path, and would as you rightly say vary hugely dependong the current gain setting :beamup:

Marketing departments wouldn’t like this either ;)

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Re: SNR for Professional sound cards

Post by ef37a »

"Marketing departments wouldn’t like this either"

^ Yeah! Right! What about the point of a sensitivity figure for 0dBFS?

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Re: SNR for Professional sound cards

Post by sdancer75 »

Hi,

I use a PCI-express Nvidia external video card. The audiophile is plugged at the last PCI on M/B which is the biggest distance between those cards. Between them there is no other PCI card.

I don't know if the power cable across the cards is a problem. I have 4 fans in my M/B and the power cables are passed up and down from those cards.

Regards,
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Re: SNR for Professional sound cards

Post by James Perrett »

sdancer75 wrote:I
2. Using only the sound card (no input cables connected) I get around
-83dB.

Try shorting the input - noise will always be higher with an open circuit input.

James.
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Re: SNR for Professional sound cards

Post by Martin Walker »

Hi James,

I've always done with this for my background noise tests 8-)

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