Preamp required - or new Interface?

Hi Guys
My son-in-law has a budget focusrite USB interface. The XLR inputs on it are noisy (they hum when you add any gain). I’ve tried all his kit (mics and leads) in my audio interface and there’s no problem there. I’ve also tried my mics and leads in his and again he gets hum. But oddly he doesn’t get hum on the same input channels but using the jack inputs. I presume that’s something to do with the balanced / unbalanced set up.

Any way - it seems to me he either needs some kind of preamp to sit between his mic lead and the interface. I’m thinking XLR into the preamp and jack out / in to the interface and use the preamp to get the gain he needs for the mics with no noise.

Or… he just to needs to suck it up and buy a better quality interface.

I’m genuinely not sure what to tell him to try - he’s on a budget - he only wants to use mics to record a podcast with his mates - so any advice from you guys would be appreciated

many thanks!

I don’t consider Focusrite to be a “budget” interface, no problems here using a Neumann TLM 193 with my 18i20 3rd gen unit.
It would help more if you would say what model of Focusrite you are talking about and what model of mic, and does it require phantom power .
You could have the wrong setup in the Focusrite control panel.

Hi thanks for replying

It’s a 18i8 1st gen -
For comparison - your interface retails at around £400-450 and his retails around £150 so I would consider that budget

You’ll see in my post I’ve swapped his mics and leads into my interface and they’re fine - no problem there - I’ve put quality mics and leads into his interface (using both phantom power and not) and there is hum on the XLR input. I’ve been through the settings and can’t see anything that would affect it -

Can you get to the XLR’s internal connections? I’m wondering if its ground wire got disconnected.

@raino the OP did say he used the mics and cables in his interface and they worked fine.
@Usersince1993 you did try the mic/cable in all 4 inputs I presume. Input #1 & 2 are Mic/Line/Instrument and 3 &4 are Mic/Line
Did you turn off the instrument switch on all 4 inputs ?

from inside the audio device you mean?

Yes, although I’ve never run across the term “leads” I assumed it meant cable.

However, Steve can read my mind

Thanks Paul for replying - I did try in all 4 yes. They all have hum just in the XLR input.

I’m starting to come to the conclusion that he needs a better interface. I had a cheap focusrite (very briefly, and a while ago) and it was terribly noises on all the input channels. Might just be that.

He uses logic pro - so I might have to bite the bullet and join one of their user forums and ask what people are using that are compatible (like the steinberg kit is for Cubase)

Hi - did you say you’ve never come across the term ‘mic lead’ or ‘guitar lead’?

That’s amazing - it’s pretty common (has been for the 40 years I’ve been playing music) - here’s a whole section in an online shop (first I quickly found online) covering them - hope that helps

Guitar and Mic leads

You have a grounding issue or that device is not grounded properly. Buy a new interface IMO. Its more than likely a faulty unit unless you are cranking the mic pre all the way up to get gain.

Thanks I tend to agree. There is hum even on zero gain and it only gets worse if you increase the gain at all.

Well if you’re not an ex-Brit like me, lead would seem a strange term.
As for the Focusrite 18i8 1st gen, I guess it might be either defective or just a poor quality unit. I do not have any of those problems in my 18i20 3rd gen, if I did it would be gone in a heartbeat !

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True enough. I assume it’s a British term like your cars have bonnets while ours have hoods. Do you sometimes use “cable” or is it always “lead”?

Could be a ground loop hum.

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I / We use ‘power cable’ a fair bit - and to be fair they are generally quite interchangeable :slight_smile: