How I got rid of high pitched USB noise – once and for all

Something I have been trying to fix for a long time is the annoying high pitched noise that I would hear in the background when recording sounds from my external gear. I guess it has been there more or less since I got my expensive Asus motherboard for the PC. That was years ago but it wasn’t really until I started building and using my modular synth that I started noticing the noise. Somehow it was enhanced by the modular to a degree where I couldn’t ignore it anymore.

I tried a lot of things to solve the issue including buying two kinds of audio ground isolators. They did work. Well sort of… First of all I had to use a lot of them, because I have a big selection of external gear I want to record. Secondly the isolators capped a good part of the lower end spectrum, so a bass sound or kick drum would sound very week. I could compensate with an EQ but it was just too much hassle and I would never get it to sound exactly like it did without the isolators.

Hi-speed USB IsolatorThere is this thing called an USB isolator which you can buy on the cheap from Amazon or from China, or whatever. And they really do work as promised, by removing just the USB noise and keeping everything else. The problem is, until now if you wanted an USB isolator that could be used for Hi-speed USB, meaning it should be able to shuffle enough data for more than two audio channels, they would cost in the range of $250-300. But luckily, technology tends to evolve and today a hi-speed USB Isolator is finally affordable.

HiFImeDIY is now selling a Hi-speed USB Isolator with a price tag of $79. I got mine a few weeks ago and I’m super happy with it. All USB noise is gone and I’ve had no problems like dropouts etc running 16 channels in 24 bit and 96 kHz sample rate.
So.. yeah I’m super happy. One less problem to worry about. :)

Fixing my original Nintendo Gameboy

Gameboy Color and Gameboy DMG-01

I was digging through my crates with old electronics and found my two old Gameboys, the original grey (now yellow) DMG-01 from 1989 and the newer Gameboy Color from 1998. I used them about 10 years ago when I had my latest chip tune phase. I also found the cartridge with Nanoloop 1.2. It still works but the battery on it must be going bad as all the old presets are gone.

The reason I used the old original Gameboy for Nanoloop was that the sound quality on it is better. It has less noise than on the Gameboy Color and a bit fuller sound as well. The screen however is pretty crappy so I used to do the tunes/noises on the Gameboy Color, which has a better screen and then record them from the original Gameboy.

When I turned on the original Gameboy today, first it didn’t go past the Nintendo logo. After doing the old magic “blow into the cartridge slot” technique I could get Nanoloop to start. Next two problems are 1: Only parts of the screen is working and 2: The joystick up and right doesn’t work. Lets see what can be done about that. The screen is easily fixed and I think the joystick is as well. Should be fun.

I’m also thinking about installing backlight mods on both Gamboys, but thats a project for another rainy day.

Finally it’s quiet

I recently re-wired my studio and also decided to fix a problem that have been plaguing me for awhile – USB noise.

Now exactly what is USB noise, you might ask. Well it’s a sort of digital, high pitch buzzing noise you can get whenever you have external audio devices connected to a computer via USB. For example my Waldorf Blofeld, XoxBox and LXR Drum machine has it.

It’s pretty easy to get rid of, either by disconnecting USB from the device or by using some sort of Audio Ground loop isolation thingy on the audio out signal from the device. I got a bunch of pretty cheap isolators from a local electronics store. They worked great for my synths. The noise was gone as soon as I connected them.

Recently I got another problem and this time it’s from my Eurorack modules. The two external soundcards I use to get 16 channels of sound into the computer, the Traktor Audio 6 and 10 are both connected to my computer via USB so that’s where the noise comes from. As soon as I connect audio out from any of my modules to any of the audio ins on the soundcards I get that dreaded USB noise on top of the wonderful analog sound. I tried to fix the problem with another cheap ground isolator but that didn’t work as it also cut away all the lower frequencies.

I figured the isolators probably had to high resistance so I looked online for something more sensitive. Today Mr postman brought me three of these from Thomann: The Sirius Pro Cable GL Isojack extension. They work pretty well, but not perfectly. The USB noise is gone, however there is a ca 20 dB drop in volume around 40 Hz, which means there is much less punch to the sound. I can compensate it OK with an EQ but it’s still doesn’t sound exactly what it did without the isolator, minus the noise of course. It will have to do for now, but I will probably get hold of a more professional solution in the near future. Like the Behringer DI800 Ultra-DI Pro, which has 8 channels of wonderful ground-lift.

If anybody knows a better solution please let me know.

August 3rd, 2016|Hardware, modular, Studio|
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