Question about the Audio input on DP

Posted by: enzo.sandrolini

Question about the Audio input on DP - 10/07/12 07:00 AM

Hello
I have a question about the strange behavior of my audio input on my DP:
I am trying to use Ivory 2 connected with my DP, and I also try to use the DP internal speaker to reproduce the sound (instead of using a headphone)
My problem is that as soon as I plug the cable from my external sound card (a Berhinger FCA202) to the piano, I get a "buzz" sound from the internal speaker that increases with the DB volume button (I don't any buzz sound from my dp if no cable are connected)
The thing that is strange is that if I connect my sound card to my hifi system, I don't get this "buzz" sound....as well as if I use headphone
I previously had a Kawai CA93, and I had the same problem, I thought it was due to the internal DP amplification system, but I get the same trouble with my NU1 now...
It looks like there is an impedance problem between the sound card and the DP (and not with an HIFI system)...
This problem really disturb me while the piano sound of Ivory is so beautiful...

Anybody as an idea about what is the problem ?

Thanks,
Posted by: MacMacMac

Re: Question about the Audio input on DP - 10/07/12 07:05 AM

The buzz is probably coming from the computer sound card.

Regarding the sound card ... Which output are you using? Headphone output or line output?
Posted by: Kawai James

Re: Question about the Audio input on DP - 10/07/12 07:28 AM

enzo, I expect the buzzing sound you are hearing is caused by a ground loop when connecting the instrument to your computer using a USB cable.

You can try plugging your computer into a different power socket (or is it the same socket?), or if you're using a laptop, tun on batteries.

If this does not resolve the issue, I would recommend a 'Hum Destroyer' product, such as this one:

http://www.amazon.com/Behringer-HD400-2-Channel-Hum-Destroyer/dp/B000KUD2G4

Best of luck!

Cheers,
James
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Posted by: enzo.sandrolini

Re: Question about the Audio input on DP - 10/07/12 07:36 AM

Originally Posted By: MacMacMac
The buzz is probably coming from the computer sound card.

Regarding the sound card ... Which output are you using? Headphone output or line output?

Hello MacMacMac, I am using the line output, not the headphone output which is amplified.
Then I must increase the "gain" control on Ivory as it is the only way I have found for controlling the output volume
Posted by: enzo.sandrolini

Re: Question about the Audio input on DP - 10/07/12 07:44 AM

Originally Posted By: Kawai James
enzo, I expect the buzzing sound you are hearing is caused by a ground loop when connecting the instrument to your computer using a USB cable.

You can try plugging your computer into a different power plug, or if you're using a laptop, tun on batteries.

Hello Kawai James
I am using a desktop, an the DP and the computer are not plugged on the same wall outlet
but perhaps you are right, there is a loop through the sound card & computer & DP
Posted by: Kawai James

Re: Question about the Audio input on DP - 10/07/12 07:45 AM

Originally Posted By: enzo.sandrolini
Hello MacMacMac, I am using the line output, not the headphone output which is amplified.
Then I must increase the "gain" control on Ivory as it is the only way I have found for controlling the output volume


Does adjusting Ivory's 'gain' control alter the tonal character of the sound? Can you not simply adjust the output volume of your computer using the software mixer (on Windows) or volume control applet in the menu bar (Mac OS)?

Cheers,
James
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Posted by: enzo.sandrolini

Re: Question about the Audio input on DP - 10/07/12 07:51 AM

Originally Posted By: Kawai James


Does adjusting Ivory's 'gain' control alter the tonal character of the sound? Can you not simply adjust the output volume of your computer using the software mixer (on Windows) or volume control applet in the menu bar (Mac OS)?

Cheers,
James
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There is no volume option on my Mac for this sound card, no way to control the output audio volume
There is a button on the card front side, but it is only for headphone output volume
And yes, the "gain" control alter the sound a little
I will perhaps try the buzz remover you suggested
Posted by: Kawai James

Re: Question about the Audio input on DP - 10/07/12 08:02 AM

Ah, I see.

Just out of curiosity, why are you using the external sound card? Was there a problem using the Mac's built-in audio?

James
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Posted by: enzo.sandrolini

Re: Question about the Audio input on DP - 10/07/12 08:11 AM

Originally Posted By: Kawai James
Ah, I see.

Just out of curiosity, why are you using the external sound card? Was there a problem using the Mac's built-in audio?

James
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There is not audio output on the mac, only the headphone jack output, which is amplified.
And the sound was not good when trying to connect it to my HIFI system, while it is crystal clear with the external sound card..except for the DP...
But I think you may be right saying that is a ground mass problem as I get the buzz as soon as I plug the cable, even with volume set to 0 on Ivory and the volume output does not impact the buzz volume, but the DP volume really make this buzz sound increase
Posted by: Dave Horne

Re: Question about the Audio input on DP - 10/07/12 09:00 AM

The easiest thing to try might be to plug everything into the same outlet or power strip.
Posted by: Kawai James

Re: Question about the Audio input on DP - 10/07/12 09:01 AM

Yes, that's almost certainly a ground loop, and I'm reasonably confident that the device mentioned above will resolve the issue.

Cheers,
James
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Posted by: enzo.sandrolini

Re: Question about the Audio input on DP - 10/07/12 09:34 AM

Originally Posted By: Dave Horne
The easiest thing to try might be to plug everything into the same outlet or power strip.

Why do you think that I should plug everything on the same outlet ?
Indeed, the DP and the Computer are plugged in different outlet, while the Computer and the HIFI system are plugged on the same (but there is not USB cable loop there)
Posted by: slowtraveler

Re: Question about the Audio input on DP - 10/07/12 01:01 PM

The Behringer HD400 that Kawai James suggested appears (according to its documentation) to use passive isolation transformers to create balanced outputs on 1/4" TRS connectors. If the noise reported by the OP is actually AC hum induced by a ground loop, an HD400 will likely solve the problem.

Note, however, that the AUX inputs on the NU1 appear to be unbalanced on 1/4" TS connectors (inferring from the owner's manual). Therefore, cable connections between the HD400 and the NU1 will remain unbalanced regardless what sort of cable is used, and still subject to picking up stray noise.

Yamaha must be aware of the possibility of noise at the NU1's AUX inputs because they implement a noise gate (!) on those inputs (see p. 28 of the PDF owner's manual) -- a notably poor solution. IMHO, they could have used balanced inputs to begin with and saved themselves the trouble, but that would have raised manufacturing costs by a few bucks.

I believe most manufacturers of DPs with built-in speakers (not just Yamaha) provide AUX inputs mainly for convenience, and not with high-quality reproduction in mind. I hate to say it, but if one really wants to do justice to a high-quality software piano like Ivory, separate monitoring is the best solution.

If noise remains after connecting an HD400, perhaps experiment with replacing or re-routing cables from the PC to the NU1.

In my experience, noise described as "buzzing" in analog audio connections to PCs and Macs often originates not in system grounding problems but in leakage of RF energy from poorly shielded components inside the computer being picked up by unbalanced cable runs. PC manufacturers are not designing their hardware innards with these use cases in mind, of course.

Kind regards,

Ben
Posted by: Dave Horne

Re: Question about the Audio input on DP - 10/07/12 02:24 PM

Originally Posted By: enzo.sandrolini
Originally Posted By: Dave Horne
The easiest thing to try might be to plug everything into the same outlet or power strip.

Why do you think that I should plug everything on the same outlet ?
Indeed, the DP and the Computer are plugged in different outlet, while the Computer and the HIFI system are plugged on the same (but there is not USB cable loop there)


I'm sure there are electrical engineers here who can provide a technical answer to that question.

At the moment I have my CP5 and job sound system set up in my living room. When I initially set up everything the only piece of equipment that was not on the same power strip was the CP5 and there was very noticeable hum. As soon as I plugged the piano into the power strip in my rack case (which supplies the power to everything in my system) the hum disappeared.

I've written the following several times here in this forum - I lifted the ground plugs on every piece of my equipment (except for the power amp) and everything is plugged into the same power strip. Every since I did that my system is extremely quiet. (I have also confirmed with a continuity check that every piece in my system shares a common ground.)
Posted by: enzo.sandrolini

Re: Question about the Audio input on DP - 10/07/12 03:59 PM

Originally Posted By: Dave Horne


I'm sure there are electrical engineers here who can provide a technical answer to that question.

At the moment I have my CP5 and job sound system set up in my living room. When I initially set up everything the only piece of equipment that was not on the same power strip was the CP5 and there was very noticeable hum. As soon as I plugged the piano into the power strip in my rack case (which supplies the power to everything in my system) the hum disappeared.

I've written the following several times here in this forum - I lifted the ground plugs on every piece of my equipment (except for the power amp) and everything is plugged into the same power strip. Every since I did that my system is extremely quiet. (I have also confirmed with a continuity check that every piece in my system shares a common ground.)


I am not sure that would help the discussion (as I am not an electrical engineer), but I tried 2 things:
- first: I plugged my DP on the same outlet than my computer => no differences, still same buzz
- second: I unplugged the USB-Midi cable from DP to computer: the buzz disappeared
I can conclude that the problem origin is not the sound card, but a "loop" as said before.
Now I am not sure I understand the explanation about using same outlet and common ground.

So, I have ordered the hum destroyer, and we will see...
Posted by: Kawai James

Re: Question about the Audio input on DP - 10/07/12 05:49 PM

Please keep us updated on your progress.

Cheers,
James
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Posted by: slowtraveler

Re: Question about the Audio input on DP - 10/07/12 07:00 PM

Does the USB-MIDI cable run side-by-side or bundled together with the 1/4" audio cables? If so, try physically separating them.

B.
Posted by: Dave Horne

Re: Question about the Audio input on DP - 10/08/12 06:29 AM

About 30 years ago I ran into a hum problem that baffled me for at least a few minutes. It turned out that the synthesizer, and more importantly, the power supply of the synthesizer, was too close to the unshielded workings of the Rhodes directly underneath it. Once I lifted the synthesizer a few inches away the hum magically disappeared.

I'm sure I first tried reversing the power plugs and switching out the audio cables. I never forgot that.
Posted by: JFP

Re: Question about the Audio input on DP - 10/08/12 12:01 PM

Usually when using USB (for MIDI etc) in conjunction with a standard audio output of a laptop/PC , you really need to use a ground-loop killer as described. Additional noise etc may come from bad cabling and/or a below average quality of the input of the instrument.

In my setup I use a ground loop terminator, a passive volume controller and well shielded cables. I have just a little noise (not too much; its OK), but the sound isn't very good (unclear, stressed, small, bit compressed). Perhaps we expect too much from the audio inputs of DP's as someone mentioned here before. But I rather had known that before buying my DP with the intention to really use the audio input for my SW piano etc.
Posted by: enzo.sandrolini

Re: Question about the Audio input on DP - 10/08/12 03:34 PM

Originally Posted By: JFP


In my setup I use a ground loop terminator, a passive volume controller and well shielded cables. I have just a little noise (not too much; its OK), but the sound isn't very good (unclear, stressed, small, bit compressed). Perhaps we expect too much from the audio inputs of DP's as someone mentioned here before. But I rather had known that before buying my DP with the intention to really use the audio input for my SW piano etc.

Hello JFP
I have two questions: What is a passive volume controller ? (sorry if it is a silly question)
and what is your DP ?
I don't think the DP audio input is a low quality component, I think, as said before, the problem is more coming from the computer side (internal interaction between the USB in cable and Firewire out ??? )
Posted by: enzo.sandrolini

Re: Question about the Audio input on DP - 10/08/12 03:38 PM

Originally Posted By: slowtraveler
Does the USB-MIDI cable run side-by-side or bundled together with the 1/4" audio cables? If so, try physically separating them.

B.

Hello slowtraveler, the USB cable and audio cables are separated
But, my firewire cable (from Mac to the audio card) is rolled to make a small loop, perhaps is not a good thing...I will have a try unrolling this cable
Posted by: emenelton

Re: Question about the Audio input on DP - 10/08/12 04:30 PM

enzo,

One very popular technique that works very well in many instances is to put a 3 to 2 ground lift power adapter on the end of your dps' power cable.
A good trouble shooting routine is to start with only your computer and DP connected to each other and plugged into the same power, nothing else should be connected to those 2 things or the power strip, then try lifting the power cord of the keyboard with the previous mentioned ground lift. A ground lift at a hardware store is around $1.00.
Posted by: MacMacMac

Re: Question about the Audio input on DP - 10/08/12 05:55 PM

Will a ground-lift work here? Does this piano have a grounded plug? Mine does not.
Posted by: emenelton

Re: Question about the Audio input on DP - 10/08/12 11:25 PM

oops!
Posted by: JFP

Re: Question about the Audio input on DP - 10/09/12 05:20 AM

Many DP's have a power adapter and not an integrated power supply with grounded plug. Laptops are notorious for ground loops when you connect USB and/or FireWire and audio out to a device like an ungrounded DP. The ground loop isolator will kill the hum noise. Good shielded wiring will also help.

In my case it's not so much hum etc, but simply a bad sounding audio input channel. Regardless of what I connect to it. Bad and/ or cheap audio circuitry design for DP audio input certainly won't help much with the either problems (hum / other frequency distortions) either.

I think we're looking at a combination of known traps (ground loops) and prehaps inadequate design on many DP's. It's not advertised as a main feature, but since the input is there anyway , I would like to see it done properly. As far as I understand from posts here on many brands inputs are not very well designed and/or made.
Posted by: emenelton

Re: Question about the Audio input on DP - 10/09/12 10:41 AM

It's my experience that the audio inputs on DPs' are set to 0db gain, which is max. Whenever I plugged into the input, the signal was extremely loud.
I don't know if the NU1 has a inout trim, but if it did I would 'trim it down'.

If it was mine I would again start with only the DP and computer being hooked together and plugged in. Certain extension cords will allow you to flip around the 2 pronged plug. I would try that.

The OP would be smart however to 'bite the bullet' and follow Mr. Kawai's suggestion concerning the Behringer piece.
IMHO, it's absolutely a ground loop issue.
Posted by: enzo.sandrolini

Re: Question about the Audio input on DP - 10/10/12 03:53 PM

Hello,
I finally got the Hum destroyer from Behringer, and it worked perfectly !!!
no more hum, no more buzz.
But, unfortunately, I am completely disappointed with the result using Ivory2 => the sound seems dull, it is not "clear"
I can hear that the sound is deeper than the internal sound of the DP, but:
1. the sound is clearly lacking of clarity (seems like treble have been trimmed)
2. the touch is too light, and I am trying all combination possibles, I cannot get a correct "touch"

For the moment I really prefer the internal DP sound => it is crystal clear and the sound control I get with keyboard is much much more precise...
I don't know if it is a Ivory 2 settings problem, or if the audio input is poor quality, as well as the midi output, but I tried almost all option and tuning in Ivory with always bad results...

Anyway, thanks for the advices, it solved my problem, but did not make me satisfied by the result...
Posted by: emenelton

Re: Question about the Audio input on DP - 10/10/12 04:36 PM

Try turning the output from your Ivory system up so you get nice strong signals on Ivory's output meters and turn the master volume of your piano way down. Play the piano fairly hard and turn its master volume up until you get a decent average volume. Gain stage matching of systems with interdependent volumes controls is tricky, but it's possible you can improve your results.
Posted by: JFP

Re: Question about the Audio input on DP - 10/10/12 05:19 PM

Hi Enzo,

Exactly my problem too;

1) Yes you can get rid of hum etc by using good cabling and a ground loop killer.
2) Yes you can get a grip on volume control (without sacrificing valuable bits on the computer output) by using a good - in my case passive - volume controller
3) Yes you can try to find the best level match for the audio input of the DP , not over- or 'underdriving' the input

But still the sound is dull, unclear , bit stressed and 'small' when using the audio in, with respect to what's coming out of the computer , or other device's output.

What I want to know is if I am doing something wrong and it should be possible to get a clear , delicate sound from the inputs, or that the DP inputs are just not better than this and not meant for real playing pleasure, but more added for convenience / a gift. If that is the case we can save valuable time and stop searching for ways to get a better result from the DP's audio-in. As long is that is not solved, it's frustrating. We may be on the same search mission...
Posted by: slowtraveler

Re: Question about the Audio input on DP - 10/10/12 05:21 PM

One would assume that the EQ and other digital processing tricks applied to the internal DP sounds to optimize performance with the internal amps and speakers, are not available to the auxiliary inputs, not to mention that the AUX IN analog signal path itself may not be so great.

Along with gain stage matching as @emenelton suggests, some additional outboard EQ may help, but I fear that the result will still not show the Ivory piano to its best advantage.
Posted by: emenelton

Re: Question about the Audio input on DP - 10/11/12 10:06 AM

It would be nice not to have those behringer trannys in the way!

Has anyone tried one of those extension cords that you can flip your two pronged plug in?

Local off

What midi volume on your note values are you achieving?

I enjoy trouble shooting but will stop if asked.
Posted by: JFP

Re: Question about the Audio input on DP - 10/11/12 02:29 PM

As slow traveler said , the Aux audio input signal path may not be so great. What I try to figure out is if that is really the case or that it is a flaw on only some units, or still an error in the way things are connected. When I connect a high end audio source (no a laptop or similar), you don't need the ground loop killers and can connect the cable directly to the audio in. No hum or other externally caused sounds, by still no clear audio quality. I'm afraid I have made a mistake in the idea that the audio ins would be prerfect to use my SW instruments alongside the build in sounds. Yes, I do have good monitor speakers and a mixer, but wanted a DP with build-in amp and speakers for the living room, making it a compact and simple elegant setup. Otherwise I could have choosen a model without build in audio signal paths. Bummer ;-((
Posted by: emenelton

Re: Question about the Audio input on DP - 10/11/12 03:59 PM

Originally Posted By: JFP
When I connect a high end audio source....directly to the audio in.


I believe you. I've owned a couple Privias and currently a ES6.
I think my Kawai has that. I've never tried it.

Originally Posted By: JFP

a DP with build-in amp and speakers for the living room, making it a compact and simple elegant setup.


With your scenario just described, turn your piano's master volume almost all the way down. Turn your music sources master volume out, as far up as you can until it distorts and then back down a little. That defines your benchmark. If your music player has a built in eq, try it. At this point your external source should be controllable by the master volume of your dp and be able to be played quite loud out of your DP's speakers..
I believe the audio ins on these pianos might be really hot, -10db -
It sounds like you've run the gamut on this and have probably done all this a million times already.
I will try my ES6, then I will know how you all really feel!
Posted by: slowtraveler

Re: Question about the Audio input on DP - 10/11/12 07:18 PM

I think it must be really hard to produce high-quality built-in audio systems under the cost targets and design constraints faced by DP manufacturers.

Consider that the USD 1000/pair cost of my own Focal CMS40 powered near-field monitors (good but by no means the most expensive you can buy) is comparable with the total cost of some respectable slab DPs with built-in audio.

Consider, also, that the speakers in a DP are often pointed at your knees or straight up in the air, limited in size and weight, and mounted in lightweight plastic or chipboard cabinets with weird resonances.

The built-in audio systems of our favorite DPs sound quite good nevertheless, because the designers work on optimizing system performance as a whole. The "secret sauce" is EQ, reverb, stereo expansion, and other processing techniques applied to the digital audio streams before conversion to analog.

This processing is typically not available to AUX inputs, at least in the current generation of DPs. Even if it were, which would require more hardware and software to implement, I'm not sure what the results would sound like, or what fraction of the total customer base would be willing to pay for such features.
Posted by: MacMacMac

Re: Question about the Audio input on DP - 10/11/12 08:33 PM

Granted that they won't put $1000 speakers into a $1000 piano. But my $100 speakers sound better than the ones in the piano.

And, yes, the down-pointing arrangement of the speakers is suboptimal.

But I'd hardly say that "the built-in audio systems of our favorite DPs sound quite good".

I'd say "the built-in audio systems of our favorite DPs sound quite like crap".

If there's anything good to say about them, it's that "they sound better than a $10 Walgreen's clock radio".
Posted by: gvfarns

Re: Question about the Audio input on DP - 10/11/12 08:50 PM

I don't know that it's a question of blame. Perhaps it's not the fault of the manufacturers that digital piano speakers do not really satisfy. But from our point of view as customers it doesn't matter whose fault it is. If we want the best speaker setup, we simply do it ourselves. Just like if we want the best tone generation, we don't rely on onboard sounds.

By the way, although I say "simply" above, I do recognize the difficulty of finding an amp/speaker/positioning/sound-control situation that really satisfies. It's actually kind of a pain. But you can do better than typical DP speakers with a simple setup.
Posted by: JFP

Re: Question about the Audio input on DP - 10/12/12 03:44 AM

To put the record straight; I'm not talking about the speaker quality here , or the lack of correction EQ for the speakers on the audio input. The signal is simply not transparent / clear on the inputs , when listening on headphone. Even without AB comparing, the sound is touched by some stress/ compression, more narrow in depth and lacks the quality of the source to the extend that it is no fun listening to music or playing a Sw instrument through it. Cabling and leveling are checked.
Posted by: spanishbuddha

Re: Question about the Audio input on DP - 10/12/12 03:52 AM

Originally Posted By: MacMacMac
.
And, yes, the down-pointing arrangement of the speakers is suboptimal.

I don't think the speakers in the OP's DP, an NU1, point down.
Posted by: emenelton

Re: Question about the Audio input on DP - 10/12/12 10:13 AM

I hope I don't expose a shortcoming of my own that I am not currently aware of.

My ES6's speakers sound like a really nice sounding piano while playing the internal sounds. IMHO, the P155 and Privia's internals do not, that's one of the reasons I've kept the Kawai. I do set the tone to 1 level below normal and set the keyboard to heavy, So the tone is warm.
It's just a really nice piano to listen to.
Posted by: enzo.sandrolini

Re: Question about the Audio input on DP - 10/12/12 12:05 PM

Hello
I wanted to add that I don't think the internal speaker of the NU1 are bad quality
there are indeed really good with internal sound (I previously owned several others DPs before the NU1, I can say it is by far the best sound system)
But, when using Audio In, the sound is crappy and the key velocity is completely unnatural...
So, even If I use Monitors, that will not solve the key velocity problem

=> My conclusion is that virtual pianos are far to be a decent alternative to embedded piano sound...(I am so disappointed to say that)
Posted by: Kawai James

Re: Question about the Audio input on DP - 10/12/12 06:04 PM

enzo.sandrolin, I expect the NU1's internal piano sound is EQ'd digitally to optimise the instrument's samples for the amplifier/speaker system.

However, the audio input probably bypasses this EQ-ing, and connects directly to the amplifier, resulting in less than optimal sound from the software piano.

I believe this was also the case with your CA93.

One solution to this is to use the software piano's EQ controls to boost or attenuate frequencies for the NU1's amplifier/speaker system.

As for key velocity, again, it should be possible to adjust the touch curve both on the NU1 and/or the software piano to improve the natural weighting of the keybed.

In my opinion, using a digital piano such as the NU1 or CA93 as a controller (and amplifier/speaker system) is actually quite a good idea. However, unlike hardware digital pianos, may require a little experimentation in order to achieve the best results.

Kind regards,
James
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