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USB recording VS XLR to Preamp/interface

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Right now I'm running an older version of OSX that does not support USB recording. I'm wondering what the sonic differences are between USB recording and just taking the XLR out into the preamp/interface.

I have noticed that just taking the XLR out of the Helix and into my preamp (Audient ID22) sounds quite a bit darker than the same patches going to my Matrix Q12a (powered speaker), and quite frankly the patches don't sound as good. I was wondering if recording via USB sounds any different and what those differences are.

 

I know that you're dealing with the coloration of the Preamp and also the conversion, but those are pretty good on the Audient, so I can't see that as a "weak link" that's mucking up the sound.

 

I thought of making companion patches for all my useable live patches, but EQ'ed to where they sound better going into my recording interface.

Anyway, curious to hear others feedback, opions and workarounds.

Dylan

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Right now I'm running an older version of OSX that does not support USB recording. I'm wondering what the sonic differences are between USB recording and just taking the XLR out into the preamp/interface.

I have noticed that just taking the XLR out of the Helix and into my preamp (Audient ID22) sounds quite a bit darker than the same patches going to my Matrix Q12a (powered speaker), and quite frankly the patches don't sound as good. I was wondering if recording via USB sounds any different and what those differences are.

 

I know that you're dealing with the coloration of the Preamp and also the conversion, but those are pretty good on the Audient, so I can't see that as a "weak link" that's mucking up the sound.

 

I thought of making companion patches for all my useable live patches, but EQ'ed to where they sound better going into my recording interface.

Anyway, curious to hear others feedback, opions and workarounds.

Dylan

I know it doesn't exactly answer your question as far as what the qualitative differences between the XLR vs. USB output is, but certainly one major difference as you alluded to is that the XLR output is analog and the USB output is digital so the signal is going through a D/A conversion when it leaves the Helix and then an additional A/D conversion when it inputs into your sound card. Perhaps not a significant impact with the quality of A/D conversion these days but I usually try to avoid these additional conversion stages where possible. Which version of OSX does not support USB recording? I am not a Mac user but I thought OSX supported ASIO which supports most USB devices.

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 Which version of OSX does not support USB recording? I am not a Mac user but I thought OSX supported ASIO which supports most USB devices.

I'm running Lion 10.7.3.  Someone on the forum had mentioned a possible workaround, but haven't as of yet had time to explore it. 

 

Dylan

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" I'm wondering what the sonic differences are between USB recording and just taking the XLR out into the preamp/interface."   Apples and Hammer.  

 

It's all about the D/A and A/D converters.  No matter how good a converter is, you loose something with each conversion from Analog to Digital.

 

- Using the USB you are just sending the digital signal that was used by Helix when it digitized your Analog guitar input.  

 

- The XLR out is the above digitized Analog guitar input signal being converted back to analog, then... when you plug it into your computers audio in... converted back to digital.

 

As mentioned above there might not be significant audible difference with today tech, but why risk it?   The fewer the conversions the better.

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Right I know the concept.....but I was just wondering "how much" of a difference it made, since I am not able to do it yet. I'm sure preamp coloration has just as much to do with any change in sound. Has anybody actually done an A/B test? And what are peoples experience in terms of the difference in sound between what they send to their live flat reference speakers, than what they send into protools or logic via the XLR. 

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My setup uses Helix USB as the audio interface and the XLR outputs are connected to my Stagescape mixer and Stagesource speakers. So while I don't record XLRs both my recording playback and live playing are routed through the mixer/speakers. I don't notice any difference between the direct output of Helix vs. the recorded playback.

 

To me that means there is no noticeable difference in the sound of the XLR outputs and the USB signal for recording purposes. That may say as much about my poor ears as it does about signal quality, but for me USB recording quality and XLR direct output quality is indistinguishable.

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Right I know the concept.....but I was just wondering "how much" of a difference it made, since I am not able to do it yet. I'm sure preamp coloration has just as much to do with any change in sound. Has anybody actually done an A/B test? And what are peoples experience in terms of the difference in sound between what they send to their live flat reference speakers, than what they send into protools or logic via the XLR. 

 

I think you are going to have to be the judge if the XLR out is acceptable.  (see below)  

 

 

My setup uses Helix USB as the audio interface and the XLR outputs are connected to my Stagescape mixer and Stagesource speakers. So while I don't record XLRs both my recording playback and live playing are routed through the mixer/speakers. I don't notice any difference between the direct output of Helix vs. the recorded playback.

 

To me that means there is no noticeable difference in the sound of the XLR outputs and the USB signal for recording purposes. That may say as much about my poor ears as it does about signal quality, but for me USB recording quality and XLR direct output quality is indistinguishable.

 

But you are not taking the XLR outputs and putting them back into digital again so you have Helix recording digital, and playing back digitil and converting to Analog.  There isn't as much loss going to analog as there is Analog to Digital.  But in ANY case....

 

 

I can pretty much guess without experimenting that recording audio in on my laptop is going to be crap because it has crap converters but on my PC it will be fine because I have very good converters.

 

You are just going to have to try it yourself because anyone else, unless they have the exact same setup, isn't going to be of much help.

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I'd be willing to bet money that the difference between recording USB direct and going XLR out analog to an interface is absolutely and totally nothing. However, it's perhaps possible that running analog will actually sound BETTER to your ears if the converters color the sound pleasingly...

 

Seriously, in the mix, anybody who thinks they can tell the difference is... well... kidding themselves.

 

Yes, I've tested, but not lately.

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I'd be willing to bet money that the difference between recording USB direct and going XLR out analog to an interface is absolutely and totally nothing. However, it's perhaps possible that running analog will actually sound BETTER to your ears if the converters color the sound pleasingly...

 

Seriously, in the mix, anybody who thinks they can tell the difference is... well... kidding themselves.

 

Yes, I've tested, but not lately.

 

We can debate whether the difference is audible or significant or deleterious or detectable but there is no way it is "nothing". The D/A conversion, cable quality, shielding, and length, and any number of other factors can all make minute or substantial differences to an analog signal and the tone as it gets passed down the chain.  The whole point of keeping the signal path digital is it is all ones and zeros often possibly with error checking to ensure what goes out is what comes in. In a good digital path the signal you send out is exactly what arrives at the digital recording interface. This is not necessarily the case with analog although I have to agree with PeterHamm, which sounds better is somewhat a matter of opinion or as he mentioned, sometimes undetectable, and sometimes more pleasing with analog . So if you can get a great recording, with for the sake or argument, a lamp cord and two cans with a string between them, or multiple D/A conversions and analog (e.g. XLR) cabling, more power to you but it is also a great thing to be able to take advantage of a high quality, highly accurate digital signal all the way to the DAW.

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We can debate whether the difference is audible or significant or deleterious or detectable but there is no way it is "nothing". The D/A conversion, cable quality, shielding, and length, and any number of other factors can all make minute or substantial differences to an analog signal and the tone as it gets passed down the chain.  The whole point of keeping the signal path digital is it is all ones and zeros often possibly with error checking to ensure what goes out is what comes in. In a good digital path the signal you send out is exactly what arrives at the digital recording interface. This is not necessarily the case with analog although I have to agree with PeterHamm, which sounds better is somewhat a matter of opinion or as he mentioned, sometimes undetectable, and sometimes more pleasing with analog . So if you can get a great recording, with for the sake or argument, a lamp cord and two cans with a string between them, or multiple D/A conversions and analog (e.g. XLR) cabling, more power to you but it is also a great thing to be able to take advantage of a high quality, highly accurate digital signal all the way to the DAW.

 

This is so true and I proved it myself.  Very "similar" situation.  In another thread that no-one really cares about I wanted to see if I could get the Helix the match my actual Ampeg B15N which has a very distinct character about it.  

 

Long story short... The Helix wins.   Recording the amp, there are so many variables of microphone, microphone placement, room, gain, tone controls, eq, etc etc etc.. not even talking age of tubes, temperature, line voltage and humidity which have a dramatic affect on classic amps like that...   The tone from the Helix is unmistakably a B15N with all the flexibility to let me drop it into a mix any way I want.

 

Back to the OP...  the XLR out will be different than the direct USB.  If you are using decent gear, better or worse aren't going to be terms you need.  It will be different. I think that's all we're saying.

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Just my simple answer since I do use both scenarios in my studio among other A/D-D/A (multiples) conversions along various signal-paths...

No, you won't hear a difference*. Concentrate on the end result and use any means available.
 

There will always be all kind of noise all along the way back and forth and actually, the small things some might desperately try to get rid off are the things that makes the MUSIC breathe and organic (unless it was digital clipping, ofcourse, but I think there's always more hiss from opamps than clipping from converters when the signal is 'healthy') AND not to mention most of the time we're playing electric guitars, right? One of the most Lo-Fi instrument there is... ;D

I try to make music, not 'sound'. My workaround on these matters is as following:

"If it sounds fine, it must be fine and I should pay more attention to the tuning of my guitar and what am I actually doing with my fingers. Playing the instrument or playing the gear?"

P.s. I am very well aware of the differences and possibilities between XLR and USB but just wanted to point out that this is not a huge issue. Rather a minor inconvenience if the all-digital-path was not available.

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THANKS!!! To everyone who's responded. I tried the updated Mac driver and it still wouldn't see the USB. I'm running a slightly older Hackintosh, and I really don't want to go down that rabbit hole of madness trying to update my OS and have it consume all my time at the expense of everything else, just to have USB recording capabilities.

From what I've heard here, it's not a big difference. So I'm just going to create duplicate patches and then re-EQ them to taste, and they will be my recording patches.

I've also been using Scuffham S-gear, which sounds friggin awesome. I want the helix to sound as good as that, because I like the Helix effects capabilities.

 

Anyyway, thanks for taking the time. I did read all the comments.

 

Dylan 

 

www.dylanschiavone.com

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