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Discussion Starter #1
Hi shacksters,

I'm looking for a simple external USB soundcard to connect to my latop in order to take measurements.

I've got the 1124 model behringer, and I'm using an Onkyo tx-sr607 amp and a BK monolith.

I've already used the REW software, but this was years ago. Since I've moved I'd like to take another shot at calibrating my sub frequencies, as the whole audio situation has changed.

I'm looking for a soundcard because I don't want to drag my desktop pc downstairs.

Can you help me by recommending a simple inexpensive soundcard which is suited for measurements?.

Thank you,

Dimitri
The netherlands.
 

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Hi Dimitri,

Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a “one size fits all” for an inexpensive sound card, because few (if any) seem to work well with all operating systems.

The Behringer UCA202 is about the cheapest thing we’ve come across so far. It works great with Windows XP and with some hassle can work with Windows 7.

Aside from that, your best bet is to dig up some likely candidates and then search the internet for user reviews. This post describes what to look for in a review.

Regards,
Wayne
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Hi wayne,

Nice to see you again.

If you say that the behringer is ok, I'll order it.

I'm running on XP so that shouldnt be a problem, and it's cheap.

When I do get it, I'll start the calibration process, and I'll probably be back with some questions.

Thanks,

Dimitri
 

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For what it is worth, I have been using the Creative USB Soundblaster X-fi 5.1 on Windows 7 with success, however I did have issues with the Windows 7 standard drivers (difficulty with input level) which was resolved by going to the Creative site and getting updated driver.

Windows 7 also had the challenge of having to dig out all of the level control from the control panels (vs. being present in the mixer).

With that said, I also use the Behringer ECM8000 calibrated mic and Xenyx 502 mixer/pre-amp, not to mention DCX2496 crossover and have been nothing but happy with Behringer products.
 

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Windows 7 also had the challenge of having to dig out all of the level control from the control panels (vs. being present in the mixer).
I am also using the SoundBlaster X-Fi. Could you be very specific about where to find the level controls in the Windows control panel? I haven't been able to adjust levels properly in Win 7, and have been using it with Windows XP, which is not desirable.

Thanks!
 

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I am also using the SoundBlaster X-Fi. Could you be very specific about where to find the level controls in the Windows control panel? I haven't been able to adjust levels properly in Win 7, and have been using it with Windows XP, which is not desirable.

Thanks!
Here are my notes of what I needed to do to get it to work (from memory):

The key issues I had (and yours may be the same) were:

1) I kept getting "Level to Low" when running "Check Levels" in the Measure dialog box (regardless of setting input level).

2) I kept getting the input routed to the output (regardless of what was checked/un-checked, more on this later).

Both issues (appeared) to go away when I updated the drivers from the Creative website (device manager shows Driver Date as 12/15/2009 and Driver Version as 1.1.99 under the "Device" tab of the device properties).

Note that some of the property pages for the for the setting in the control panel with the update drivers for the input level that was not present with the "stock" drivers.

Here is a shot at the steps:

1) Select/click: Control Panel -> Hardware and Sound ->Manage audio devices

2) Select/click: Playback->"Speaker SB-XFi Surround 5.1..."->Properties->Levels

step2a.png

- In my case, I set speaker to 50, mic/line-in to 50 (but muted)

step2b.png

3) Select/click: (Playback->"Speaker SB-XFi Surround 5.1..."->Properties)->Sound Blaster
- In my case, I selected "Disable Sound Blaster enhancements"

step3.png

4) Select/click: (Playback->"Speaker SB-XFi Surround 5.1..."->Properties)->Advance
- In my case, I have 16bit @ 48Khz (DVD Quality) selected
- and both options under Exclusive mode selected

step4.png

5) Select/click: Recording->Line-In/Mic SB-XFi Surround 5.1..."->Properties->Listen

step5a.png

- Here where that comment about #2 comes in, I learned this weekend, that I actually needed to check "Listen to this device", then "Apply", then un-check, and then "Apply" again to get it to turn of the direct mapping of the line in to the output.

step5b.png

6) Select/click: (Recording->Line-In/Mic SB-XFi Surround 5.1..."->Properties)->Custom
- In my case, "Microphone Boost" is un-checked

step6.png

7) Select/click: (Recording->Line-In/Mic SB-XFi Surround 5.1..."->Properties)->Level
- In my case, Line-In/Mic-In set to 50 (un-muted), this is the dialog that I believe showed up with the updated drivers that caused me to believe this address the issues (you will note the level on the playback page is muted).

step7.png

8) Select/click: (Recording->Line-In/Mic SB-XFi Surround 5.1..."->Properties)->Advance
- In my case, I have 16bit @ 48Khz (DVD Quality) selected
- and both options under Exclusive mode selected

step8.png

9) I have any other inputs under Audio devices muted (as I was trying to find where the feedback/direct mapping the the output was coming from, and left all muted).

I also check the setting as they do not seem to persist (not sure what the trigger to losing them is, but have seen them change when I could not explain what may have changed them so I check them regularly).

With those changes, then I set the level to 50 for all inputs and outputs and have no problem any longer with the input levels. Note lots of things have changes in my setup as I went through this and upgraded from the RS SPL meter to the calibrated microphone with pre-amp, but I am pretty sure that the issue above was with the drivers, but don't recall if actually confirmed it without using the microphone vs. the RS SPL meter.

I hope this helps!

Kevin
 

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Kevin,

Thanks a lot for these very detailed instructions. The tip on checking and unchecking "Listen to this device" might be the adjustment that I have been missing (not obvious!). I'll give this a try and report back the results. You did quite a bit of work on your reply--I hope this will be useful to others as well.

Regards,
Jerry
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Hi,

Just tried to calibrate the soundcard(uca202) and I think the calibration graph doesn't look good...

I followed the instructions and set the input level in the windows audio panel a little over 50% of it's max. capability. This gave me around -12 db for both out and the right channel in REW soundcard panel.

Is there a problem here?...

Thanks,

Dimitri
 

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I hope either Kflory or JohnM is still monitoring this thread, because I have followed the advice and am still unable to use this soundcard.

Being an engineer type, my approach to problem solving is by process of elimination. Since my original post, I have:

- Used three different computers, to eliminate the computer as the problem.
- Returned the original SoundBlaster X-Fi and got a replacement unit.
- Swapped out all cables to eliminate a bad cable as the issue.
- Tried Windows XP, Windows Vista, and Windows 7, all with current updates.
- Ensured that the latest SoundBlaster drivers (1.1.99) were downloaded and installed.
- Ensured that all settings are as previously recommended by Kflory.

Even with these extraordinary steps, REW will still not function properly with this soundcard. The issue I see are as follows:

Issue 1: the input volume control seems to have a mind of its own. There are three ways to control the recording (line in) volume--the "line-in/mic-in properties" in the Control Panel, the Mixer in the Creative Console, and in the REW Settings screen, with "Control input mixer/volume" box checked. When I launch REW, the line in is set to a default value of .251. When I attempt to adjust this value higher by dragging the slider in either the Contro Panel, or the Creative Console, when I release the slider, the value that I have selected doesn't "stick", i.e. the slider starts creeping downwards by itself back to a lower value. Sometimes it returns all the way to .251, sometimes it stops decreasing at a highter value. What the is happening here? Why does the input volume control seem to have a mind of its own??? Although perplexing, I can work around this issue.

Issue 2: The SPL meter level is high even though there is no signal. I am using a RS SPL with the standard RadioShack-33-2050-CS calibration file. The cables are connected properly, and I am ready to run the SPL calibration. When I click "Calibrate", the SPL meter reading in REW shows a value of 74-78 dB, before the test tone is output to the speakers, i.e. in a totally quiet room. The reading persists even if I disconnect the cable to the SPL. When I output the calibration tone to the speakers, the SPL reading in REW goes up to around 94 dB, yet the actual reading on the front of the RS SPL is only 60-62 dB (i.e. a very low sound level coming from the speakers). I have ensured that I am not monitoring the signal, yet it seems like there is a signal coming from somewhere. This issue is a show-stopper.

Issue 3: Measure, Check Levels results in a "Level is Low" warning. This is with both Output Volume and Input Volume set to 1 (i.e. Max), and the Level in the measurement screen set anywhere from -12 to -3. In other words, I cannot get a Check Level test to yield a result "Level is OK". This issue is also show-stopper.

The only other explanation for these issues is my understanding of how it works. Does anyone see what I am doing wrong? Any help would be greatly appreciated. :help:
 

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Jerry, which version of REW are you running? If it is V4, you should download the latest REW V5 beta, but try the steps below first.

Re 1, Uncheck the boxes in the REW settings to control mixer volumes.

Re 2, the reading on the REW meter before you have gone through the SPL calibration is essentially meaningless. Until you tell REW what SPL the signal it is seeing corresponds to in the real world, it shows a number based on a guess at how they might relate.

Re 3, the check levels button on the measure screen is affected by the sweep range that is set, if (for example) the sweep is set to measure up to 20kHz but REW is connected to a sub it will put out a full range level check signal but the sub will be able to reproduce almost none of it, so the level would be low. You do not need to use the level check on the Measure dialog, but before you measure use the REW signal generator to make sure you are getting signals to what you want to measure.
 

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Hi Jerry,

I hope either Kflory or JohnM is still monitoring this thread, because I have followed the advice and am still unable to use this soundcard.
Still here, but on vacation, so I don't have my access to my setup/soundcard while away but will do what I can.

A few comments I do have from your's and John's comments above are:

  • Although I am not quite sure what it is, I am not using the Creative Console. I just loaded the drivers (I figured the less things trying to control the sound card the better). I do see a Creative Audio Control panel under Program Files, but do not recall what was there (can't open without the hw to look at now), but do no run with REW.
  • All of my comments and experience are with REW5 beta.
  • I have the check boxes unchecked to control the mixer settings in the soundcard preferences (as John suggested above, actually they are grayed out).
Re 1: If John's suggestions does not address this, my next question would be what applications are running when you experience this? (to isolate, I would close what I could from the desktop, REW, any Creative software, including anything running in the icon tray.

Re 2: If I follow correctly, from "Issue 2" it sounds like you have not calibrated the REW SPL with the RS SPL.

Re 3: If my understanding about #2 is correct, then you need to resolve that first (and this may go away).

Hang in there, sounds like you are close. Keep us updated and I will try to get you over the hump here.
 

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Thanks, JohM and Kflory, for sticking with me on this. I am really counting on using REW to determine the optimal location for the speakers in my listening room.

Since your recent replies, I have performed two prep activities:
1. Downloaded and installed REW V5 beta.
2. Completely uninstalled all Creative components, including the drivers, and re-installed the drivers only (latest version from the web).

Following John’s advice, I have unchecked the boxes for “control output volume” and “control input volume” and am using the Windows Control Panel to adjust input and output levels. All soundcard enhancements are turned off, of course, and the “Listen to this device” option is unchecked (I toggled it on and back off as per Kflory’s recommendation).

To start, output volume is set to 1.0, and input volume is set to .25. The SPL is set to C weighting, slow, and range equal to 80 dB. I then click on the SPL icon, and click “Calibrate”, using the subwoofer calibration signal. The SPL needle shows -6 (i.e. 74 dB, and the reading in the REW calibration screen shows 74.8 dB (close enough!). I adjust the REW setting to 74.8 and click “Finished”. So far, so good.

I then click Measure, and select 20-200 Hz as the measurement range, -12 dB level, 4 sweeps. When I click “Check Levels”, it shows -31.2 dB, level is low. So, in the Control Panel, I move the input volume slider to the right from 25 to 50 and release. The slider immediately starts moving back to the left until it settles back to its original value of 25. It seems like there is some interaction with something else in the computer (REW?). I find that if I adjust the input slider all the way to 100 it will stay put. With the input level at 100, I click on Check Levels again, and this time I get -19.9 dB, Level is OK. Moving on!

I then click Start Measuring, and get a good measurement!

So, something has changed since last time. Either REW V5 is the difference, or unchecking the boxes in the REW preferences screen did the trick. Still don’t know why the input volume slider seems to have a life of its own, but if everything works OK with the volume set to 100, I can live with it.

Any comments or suggestions? Once again, thanks for your support and feedback!
 

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Two comments: if you change the input level you need to re-do the SPL meter calibration, as it will be wrong by whatever amount you have shifted the level. To see if the mysterious moving volume control is related to REW, try adjusting it when REW is not running.
 

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Yes, I understand the relationship between the input volume and the SPL calibration, I have indeed been doing exactly as your recommend.

Here are some addional observations, based on my experiments over the last several hours. I can start with the input volume set to 100, and it is stable. However, immediately when I click on Measure, the slider starts moving down the scale by itself. What is strange is that it stops moving at different spots each time, sometimes at 97, then 92, or 86, etc. There seems to be no pattern or logic.

The same behavior occurs when I click on SPL calibration, i.e the slider starts moving down the scale by itself.

Here is my current workaround:

1. Open SPL calibration.
2. Adjust input level back to 100.
3. Enter the SPL reading while the input level is at 100.
4. Click on Measure.
5. Re-adjust the input level to 100.
6. Take a measurement while the input level is at 100.

In my opinion, there is some peculiar interaction between REW and the SoundBlaster X-Fi drivers that is causing this behavior.

My workaround is getting me by for the time being, but I would not call it desirable for the long-term. Your thoughts?


Edit: Re your question, does the strange slider behavior exist outside of REW? No, the slider stays exactly where I move it.
 
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