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My Home Studio (R)Evolution:
New Simplicity Improves Audio
 
By Bobbin Beam
Voice Actor
 
It’s been an extremely interesting year for my home studio.
 
I am not the most technically inclined, but ever since installing my home studio over five years ago, I have always desired to output quality sound.
 
This year started going great guns, with production cranking away, and my isolation booth was where I was living most of the time.
 
First off, I work on a PC. If you own a MAC, this article will probably be of no interest to you, except for perhaps the last few paragraphs.
 
My audio chain was like this:
  • PC laptop plugged into my Digidesign Mbox USB interface.
  • The mic plugged into a dbx 286 preamp (which was patched to the mixer and to my ISDN codec.
SCREEN GOES DARK
 
Then the screen on my four-year old laptop went dark in March.
 
It would’ve cost almost as much to fix the aging computer screen was it would’ve been to purchase newer technology, which is what I did.
 
Buyt my jubilation over the new laptop ended when I couldn’t get ProTools to operate in RECORD or PLAYBACK mode on the new computer.
 
I believe the audio processing software had a major conflict with the Norton 2010 anti-virus software. But even after deleting the NAV software with a “removal tool,” I still couldn’t get ProTools to work.
 
SPILLED MILK
 
Hours upon hours were spent with Digidesign (now Avid) tech support.
 
Before long, my new machine’s settings were so reconfigured, I couldn’t get other things to work - USB ports and the like.
 
That was when I was so frustrated that I literally cried one day over spilled milk!
 
STARTED OVER
 
Finally, I reformatted the hard drive, loaded free Microsoft Security Essentials for my Internet protection, then installed Protools - and it worked!
 
Oh joy! I could finally get back to work. But not for long.
 
The program was acting up. Not dependable. My aging Mbox 1 and ProTools LE v. 7.0 (now 5+ years old) will probably not be supported soon, and as my friend Dan Lenard put it, this program was built for Mac, and is very testy with Windows.
"Like you have to be a grad from MIT” to make it work, he said. 
BUT I'VE GOT WORK.
 
But work awaited and I had clients to keep happy ,so I had to find a work-around.
 
I was running Windows msconfig, then disabling all Windows services, except 2 Digi items, which required rebooting each time in order to get my software to work.
 
So the toggling back and forth worked. BUT … what a pain!
 
SLOW GO
 
This process did indeed work, but it slowed me down substantially.
 
When I wanted to do a quick audition, I was rebooting each time to record, and then re-enable my settings and reboot again in order to use the Internet or email.
 
In recent months, I’d also detected a high-pitch hum coming through my Mbox, which I thought was due to bad grounding, mixer noise, or a connection issue. But I now believe that it is occurring in the electonics somewhere inside the Mbox!
 
And the noise is obtrusive enough for me to have concern over quality audio.
 
PLEASE HELP!
 
I was carping about this to my friend Dan Lenard . He was in town for the VOICE conference this summer, and stopped by my studio and we discussed the many software issues and my overall chain configuration.
 
I first met Dan while working with him as staff at the VOICE 2008 conference. Since then, Dan has become nationally known for his home studio consulting, and I've come to trust his judgment.
 
Dan made some definitive, sweeping suggestions. He likes things simple.
 
SIMPLE SOLUTIONS
 
I listened. He told me over and over again that I should simplify, and told me how to do it.
 
I’ve owned a Mic Port Pro, by Centrance, a magical little USB interface, which now runs directly from my mic into the computer. It has zero latency and a solid preamp.
 
I’ve had that little piece of technological magic, but only used it as a tool while traveling.
 
These days, the Mic Port Pro has a permanent place in my home studio set up.
 
SWITCHED SOFTWARE
 
As for my software, I’ve converted to Adobe Audition 3.
 
Now I can record on the fly and email auditions within moments. I can run other applications, and I don’t have to reboot anymore like crazy.
 
I downloaded the ASIO-supported universal driver for the MicPort Pro from Centrance’s website, which also works seamlessly with Goldwave and Word2Wav software.
 
RELUCTANT TO CHANGE
 
But I must admit I was resistant to change for various reasons, which involved leaving behind my ProTools Mbox setup and substantial investment.
 
Write it off, my CPA would say. (I suspect it’s been fully depreciated by now.)
 
Plus,the idea of shedding one software and getting into another, and messing with my audio chain, moved me out of my comfort zone.
 
FINALLY, DID IT!
 
But I knew I had to do something. And the leap set me free!
 
This voicegal’s audio evolution took time - to adapt to something new and become willing to change.
 
Yet I’ve found that Audition 3 is pretty intuitive and wonderful as audio processing software.
 
Now I only use ProTools for previously recorded/archived projects needing revisions for matching purposes.
 
And the dbx preamp is going up on Craig’s List pretty soon.
 
I only turn on the mixer for ISDN sessions, which keeps the booth cooler and saves energy to boot.
 
DAN PERSISTED
 
But that Dan Lenard guy ...
 
He prodded, he cajoled, he needled, he nagged, he followed up, and in the end, he has helped me to produce the cleanest sound I’ve ever had coming out of my personal home studio.
 
The difference the changes made are truly revolutionary!
 
ABOUT BOBBIN ...
 
Bobbin Beam is a very active voice talent, based in the San Diego - Los Angeles area, who specializes in projects for broadcast and business. She also writes a very entertaining and informative blog, Bobbin's Blog.

Web: www.bobbinbeam.com

Blog: http://blog.bobbinbeam.com
 
Email: bobbin@bobbinbeam.com
 
Note: VoiceOverXtra presents Dan Lenard, the Home Studio Master, in a special workshop, De-Mystifying Audio Recording and Editing, on Oct. 23 in New York City. For details, please visit: http://conta.cc/AudioWorkshopNYC.
 
 
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Comments (5)
Tom Conklin
10/14/2010 at 9:54 PM
Sounds like you had a rough time, but came through it just fine. I have listened to Dan's advice myself ... he sure does know his stuff. Glad you are doing well now, Bobbin!
Sanjo Ogunseye
10/12/2010 at 4:31 PM
On the power of this post, I bought a Mic Port Pro and now that's all I use. It's perfect and works seamlessly with Adobe Audition 3, really heaven. It has this warm tone to it that just gets me every time. Thanks, Bobbin!
Larry Wayne
10/12/2010 at 3:45 PM
Bobbin .... As a former Pro Tools user (on a PC), I've been using Adobe Audition ever since I realized "stepping up" in the PT world meant spending more money on the next big thing so each component would like the other components. AA plays well with others in my studio and has not ever given me any probs!
Bobbin Beam
10/12/2010 at 11:48 AM
Hey Joe,
I hope my story is something some folks can relate to. It's really not to slam ProTools or editorialize on hardware or software solutions for the home studio. It's just a story about my journey, parts of which were painful. And now, I have a lot less stress during my work day. At least I can laugh now about the spilled milk part of it.
;)
Best,
Bobbin
Joe
10/12/2010 at 10:37 AM
That's a wonderful story, Bobbin. I'm so glad you got your audio chain simplified and sorted out. It just goes to show you that bigger and more complicated, is not always better!

Joe Rodriguez
http://www.voiceoverthespian.com
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