Audio Recording Methods Revised

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ADVANTAGES of the New Recording Procedure

The "Point of Origin" Problem Solved — By increasing the recording distance to one meter, the exact spot where the microphone is pointing is now much less crucial. Our new system should do a much better job of capturing system noise where there are several simultaneous noise sources.

Lower Background Noise — The Sennheiser mic introduces less electronic noise to the signal. The one meter recording distance means that ambient noise will now play a greater role, but this is a good thing, since ambient noise makes a good reference level against which recordings can be judged.

Lots of Detail — Our new system is capable of picking up a significant amount of detail from one meter — almost as much as the previous system could at three inches. When the noise source falls below ambient at one meter, a distance of one foot provides more detail with less distortion than previously.

Minimal Low Frequency Emphasis — The longer mic distances stop noise sources from developing chesty FM announcer voice.

Ambient Noise Reference Added — By including sections of ambient noise in every recording, it is possible to judge how audible a product is likely to be. This is made possible by the lower line noise of the Sennheiser mic. Of course, it is possible that your ambient conditions may be quieter than ours, but we think that most are likely to be louder...

Difficult Setup Ameliorated — The ambient noise recordings allow the relative volume to be more accurately judged. The cost is a sacrifice in absolute accuracy: We no longer expect people to hear our recordings at the same volume that we heard them.

Still Beyond Our Control

Playback Fidelity — The fidelity of the recordings depends heavily on the fidelity of the sound system they are played back on — something that SPCR still has no control over.

In-System Conditions — Because products are recorded on an open test bench, the recordings do not convey how the products would sound in an actual system. There's no way around this without doubling the time spent on each review, something we're not willing to commit to.

Overall, we are pleased with our new methodology. Many existing disadvantages have been addressed, and, to our knowledge, only one — the loss of super near-field detail — has been introduced. We expect to learn more as we get used to the new system, but we do not expect to run into any serious issues. As it is, our existing recording system served us well for two years and was already the best resource of its type among hardware web sites; hopefully our improved audio recording system will last at least as long.

The rest of the recording system remains unchanged, as shown below.

Audio recording system: Modified Shuttle Zen PC running a P4-2.53 and suspended Samsung 40G 2.5" notebook hard drive, with single channel M-Audio Tampa mic preamp and M-Audio Firewire 410 external digital sound interface feeding the signal from the microphone. This PC measures less than 17 dBA@1m, a touch below the accurate sensitivity of our SLM.

Mic Preamp & Sound Interface: The top item is a M-Audio FireWire 410, a FireWire-compatible audio/MIDI interface with 4-in/10-out configuration complete with preamps. However, for best results, I use the M-Audio Tampa professional microphone/instrument preamp which has lower noise and higher performance than the preamp built into the FireWire 410. The Tampa integrates a 96-kHz / 24-bit A/D converter, which means the signal remains in digital format from the Tampa onward. Both instruments were purchased directly from M-Audio.

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