Noise problems when recording harp CI1

I’ve been struggling with noise problems ever since I started recording my stringed harp. Finally I got a little money so I’m thinking about upgrading my gear, but I don’t now where to start.

The signal path I’m having now:

Harp - dynamic mic less than 20 cm away (Shure sm58 and/or JTS TK600) - xlr-xlr-cable - Steinberg CI1 soundcard (gain close to max) - usb to computer (at the moment Sony Vaio, but I’ve had the same problems with earlier laptops and stationary computers)

Somewhere down the line there’s a noise (is it called white noise?) picked up and recorded, I think it’s to loud but maybe it’s a normal noise that I have to live with. What do you think? (here’s a clip, the noise is best heard in the beginning before I start playing. (There’s a metallic ringing noise when I play too, but that’s some part of the harp vibrating, I will try and localize that and muffle it somehow later)).!12304&authkey=!ACcRhlSYuM7ztn0&ithint=file%2cwav
Please let me know if the link doesn’t work.

The noise is all over the spectrum, so it’s hard (impossible?) to remove with EQ. Noise reductions (like Reaper’s fir) makes the harp tone sound too bad I think. Noise gate don’t use to work well with the harps long tones.

I don’t think it’s the noise in the room that’s picked up. I don’t hear any difference from when the room is very silent to when the refridgerator starts buzzing and the computer fan goes on. I also tried to move the harp and mic into the small walk-in-closet (very quiet place) but the noise recorded was still the same. I’m very carefull so the soundcables do not get close to any powercables.

I have tested with both the mics, different cables, another usb-cable, different distance with the mic from the harps soundboard - still the same noise. Ok, I don’t have very expensive gear, and I am recording in my livingroom, but if I should upgrade something, what should I start with? Or is there anything else I could try?

It would be so fun to be able to make nice recordings, I’ve been struggling with this annoying noise for years.
Any tips?


I kept trying some things. I tried to unplug the mics and record with empty sockets - still there was this hissing noise. As I raised the gain I got more noise, less gain less noise. So I guess it’s a soundcard problem?

After that I tried to record with mics again, but with less gain. There was less noise, but still too much for my taste. If I’m ever going to try and score in a loudness war, all I can present is this army of hissing snakes covering my harp tones.

So I guess I have to change my quiestion into What soundcard can get me better noise levels? What price range should I aim for? I don’t need much stuff on it, just two inputs like on the CI1. Actually CI1 meets my requirements pretty good, except for the noise problem.

Any ideas?

Hi Harpkonst.

I’ve listened to your example. Nice playing.
While there is some noise, it’s not that bad at all.
Every soundcard and/or mic preamp will give you noise (hiss), when you max out the gain.
More gain, more hiss. There’s no way around this.

If you want to upgrade your gear, I would try a different mic.
Look for some condenser mic. They have stronger output which means you need less gain and therefore less noise.
Also you can position them further away.

I don’t think that getting a new soundcard would give you better results with the mics you have. Not saying they are bad, just not the best choice for the task.

*I’ve been there myself when started to record classical nylon strung guitar. Need better mic, better soundcard, better preamp… And the noise is still there. :unamused:

Ok, thanks for the confirmation, that’s was actually my first guess too but I got lost on the way,

I agree, that level of noise is really not bad for a full-gain preamp.
I also agree with the above suggestion of a more sensitive mic, if the noise really bothers you.

In the end there’ll always be a weakest link and it’ll never be perfect. I think you’re currently already at the point where 99.9% of the people wouldn’t notice the noise unless you told them explicitly. I know I wouldn’t.

I managed to borrow a condenser mic from my cousin, a Berhinger c-1, don’t know if it’s any good. But… I can’t say it gave me a stronger signal. At least it didn’t solve the hiss problem, more like there’s more hiss instead. I tried some different gain levels, and then stayed at about 40% gain for my trials. (More gain - more signal and more hiss, less gain - less signal and to hear the harp I need to raise the volume and by that also the hiss.)
Here’s two clips:!12372&authkey=!AIyIxfdcRoEBM-I&ithint=folder%2c
1 - harp hiss cond mic 1 normalized = I normalized it to match the levels of a reference track, one step closer to “radio ready”. In my opinion, way to much hiss. I can after this try and eq some away, but I doubt that’ll be enough.
2 - harp hiss cond mic 1 = the same clip but before normalization.

Are there any better ways of gaining more volume but leaving the hiss down? I’m a bit of a novice on all these gains and volumes and speaker volume and all.

And speaking of that… Here’s a story: On my last project I mixed it using speakers and headphones and it sounded allright, even great on the speakers. I listened to it on some really crappy old speakers too, and since it sounded ok on those too I thought I was good to go. Started planning the release party when I happened to take the cd to my office and listened with some, what I thought, really cheap and crappy headphones… You know how some bathroom lights can show you what you really look like, in a quite unflattering way? This was the kind of headphones I had found. And it wasn’t flattering at all to listen to my mastered mix through them - it was truly awful. I could hear Everything! Let’s just say that the releaseparty had to be postponed.
So I thought that hereafter I’m gonna listen with those kind of headphones up first, to make sure the tracks are clean and fixed, and then move over to mix on the speakers.
So, maybe that’s why I hear all the hiss so much, because I’m really trying too, choosing the headphones and crank up the volume until I hear it. Maybe I should just go back to mixing on the speakers and pretend the hiss isn’t there, and pray no end-listener will ever raise the volume or use worse speakers than I use.

So, summary:
Is that hiss level really ok for a condenser mic?
Any tips on how to deal with the volume and hiss after it’s recorded?
Should I use headphones that allowes me to hear the hiss or should I try to ignore it?

News on this: I have ordered a new condenser mic now, a Rode NT1-A, and holding my thumbs it will, if not solve the problem, so at least be a step in the right direction.

Have you definitely got the phantom power turned on for the condenser mic? (and turned OFF for the dynamic mic) That’s an awful noise floor - I use cheap mics and my audio recordings are practically noise free. Have you got the gain on the unused channel turn to minimum? Have you got monitors connected to the sound interface or are you just on headphones - some Steinberg audio devices have noise problems when monitors are not connected.

PS Also ensure that the HI-Z button is not pressed and it’s advisable that you use an XLR (three pin) type cable for your mic not a unbalanced simple jack.

Thank you PeppaPig for dubblechecking me. But yes, I’m using phantom for the condenser mic (no dynamic mic plugged in at that time) and no phantom when I’m using the dynamics. The unused channels gain is turned to the bottom. I have both monitors (well, speakers) and headphones plugged in. And no, HI-Z is not pressed and yes, I’m using XLR.

Yeah, I think it’s so unfair that others don’t get any/not much noise while I’m still struggling with this.

Latest news: I tried with the NT1-A when it arrived, and wow, I could use zero gain now! But still a lot of hiss. I almost lost heart here. But I tried some more and when turning the gain up to about 75% I had a decent signal and in signal-to-noise-ratio, the hiss is at a more acceptable level, I think. (I have to start recording pretty close to naked though, since the clothes is now causing some hiss-like noise.)

In the clip my fridge is on in the background, but I have moved the computer to the closet and run wires for an external screen and keybord and stuff, so I don’t have to worry about the computerfan going on and off. In all, my living room/recording room is very quiet: no central ventilation or fans or noisy neighbours or roads or anything, just an old cabin with a fireplace and oilfilled radiators.

So now I think I can start experimenting some with mic placement and stuff (I’m not so fond of the tone as it is now, sounds a bit like a tin can) but I have hope I can reach better recordings now, with EQ sweetening the tone instead of doing surgery to rescue the sound.

Clip of recording harp with NT1-A!12410&authkey=!AF06UCOq3CURxLU&ithint=file%2cwav
(sorry about any out of tune performances)

By the way, did I understand it correctly that you can plug in a condenser mic and a dynamic mic in CI-1 (with the phantom power on) and use them at the same time?

Yes, a dynamic mic doesn’t care whether phantom power is on or off.

Ok, thank you.