...This page describes a  scheme for software based  processing and routing of transmit and receive audio via USB for use on the phone bands.  

 

 

 How it works

(1) Digital audio from the Rode NT-USB microphone is routed to the PC via type A/B USB cable. 

(2) Audio is subsequently processed within the PC by a software based effects processing system. 

(3) Processed digital transmit audio output from the PC is then routed via type A/B USB cable direct to the Kenwood TS-590SG via the USB cable, thence converted to analog and transmitted.

(4) Receive audio from the Kenwood 590SG is routed to a pair Behringer MS-40 near field digital monitor speakers.  Audio can be sent from the 590's back panel speaker out jack or via the same USB cable back to the computer and thence outputted to the speakers.

 

 

 Why do it

There are several advantages to using a USB microphone together with real time software based transmit audio processing software including:  
  • Less expensive compared to conventionally audio processing hardware.
  • Many USB microphone choices have become available for purchase over the internet.  
  • Less drain on computer audio processing and memory resources since USB microphones essentially have built-in sound cards and therefore do not directly rely on the computer's sound card.  The same can be said for using a USB cable connecting the 590 to the shack computer.
  • Potentially less susceptibility to rfi than a conventional microphone.
  • Ability to process transmit audio with freely available software rather than expensive external processing hardware.
  • Facilitates remote operations.

Note: KC5YR initially used the Audio Technica AT2020 USB microphone.  More recently, he shifted to the new Rode NT USB microphone.  More about this microphone at http://www.rodemic.com/nt-usb .  There are many excellent USB microphones to consider including those described at http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/feb07/articles/usbmics.htm. Alternatively, a conventional dynamic microphone such as the Heil model PR35 is used together with an inexpensive "Icicle" mic preamp with XLR to USB converter as described/reviewed athttp://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YcpW3ojjsjU .

KC5YR's setup includes:

 Hardware: 
  • Kenwood TS-590SG
  • PC running Window’s 10 with internal Realtek sound card
  • Rode NT USB microphone which is a highly versatile side-address microphone that is ideal for recording musical performances in addition to spoken applications such as podcasting, voice-overs and Amateur Radio. The body of the NT-USB features a zero-latency stereo headphone monitoring (3.5mm) jack which allows users to monitor the microphone input in realtime, along with dials to adjust the monitoring level and mix between the computer/iPad audio and the microphone input.  Watch a video review of this microphone at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=st0RFt8miuA .
  • Type A/B USB cable connected between the microphone and computer (provided with the Rhode NT mic). Another type A/B cable connects the computer to the TS-590.

Software: 

The following software needs to be downloaded and installed: 

       Note:  There are several other alternative software based processing systems you can experiment using including VST plug-ins, many of which are free.    You may want to try ReaPlugs described at http://masters-of-music.com/free-plugins-reaplugs-vst-fx-suite/.  You will also need a VST host to house your plugins such as Cantabile lite described at https://www.cantabilesoftware.com/.

Kenwood 590SG settings:

Windows sound manager settings: 

"Playback" tab  
> Speakers High Definition Audio Device set as Default Device.  Properties set at level 82, no enhancements, 16 bit, 48000 Hz and no exclusive mode.> Speakers-USB Audio CODEC set as Default Communications Device.  Properties set at level 56, no enhancements, 16 bit, 48000 Hz and no exclusive mode.   Adjust level as necessary to increase or decrease transmit audio input to the 590 as necessary in order to achieve a slight ALC meter deflection on voice peaks.  
"Recording" tab  
> Microphone Rode NT-USB set as Default Device.  Properties set at level 24, 16 bit, 48000 Hz and no exclusive mode.  Close talk ( about 2 inches) the microphone in order to alleviate pickup of shack noise.
> Microphone-USB Audio Codec set as Default Communications Device.  Properties set at level 82, 16 bit, 48000 Hz and no exclusive mode.  This controls receive audio output from the 590 to your desktop speakers. Lastly, select the "Listen" tab and select the check box opposite "Listen to this device". Make certain that your desk top speakers are designated as the default playback device.  
Why desktop speakers?

It seems that many hams continue to use either their transceiver's built-in speaker or a external monaural speaker. This is somewhat surprising considering that many hams also have a computer in their shack that is often hooked to a pair of inexpensive powered desktop stereo speakers capable of delivering vastly superior fidelity. Operators without USB connectivity from their rig to their PC sometimes route receiver audio direct to their powered stereo desktop speakers. Better yet, some even route receiver audio to their computer's sound card "line in" connector. Either scheme typically requires a Y monaural to stereo adapter. Audio is then passed from the sound card's "speaker out" jack onward to the desktop speakers.

There is a better way for Kenwood TS-590 owners by taking advantage of USB cable connectivity to achieve superior received audio fidelity. Doing so simplifies cabling hookup and results in less chance for rfi and reduced annoying speaker hiss. All that’s needed is a pair of good quality powered stereo desktop speakers and a type AB USB cable between the  590 and the computer as described elsewhere on this website.

Why not give it a try. Windows 7 and 8 users wanting to try the above scheme should first disconnect any speaker cable that may have been connected to the 590's external speaker jack. Menu 65 on the 590 should be set to "2 or 3". Then, go into Windows Sound Manager and select the "Recording" tab. Select your  "Microphone USB Audio Codec" device as described above. Make sure it us set to "default communications device". Then, click the "Properties" button and select the "Levels" tab. Set the level to about "80". Lastly, select the "Listen" tab and select the check box opposite "Listen to this device". Make sure your desktop speakers are designated as the default playback device. Click the "Apply" button and "Ok" button to exit the window. Note: Depending on your sound card, you can also adjust loudness equalization as well as eq presets. Alternatively, you can use the 590’s built-in receive eq. To adjust speaker volume, click the "Speaker" icon on your bottom right task bar on your desktop. Then click "Mixer" . From the pop up window, adjust (or mute) the level of your "Microphone USB Audio Codec device” as desired.

Some hams believe in using sophisticated communications speakers to improve clarity, etc. K4QKY prefers to leave this important task to the 590 together with a set of powered desktop speakers (preferable near field monitors) to take advantage of the 590’s exceptional received audio fidelity.

Note:  K4QKY suggests the Behringer MS40 near field monitor speaker system described at right. 

Software setup:

Step 1 - ASIO device driver software setup:

“ASIO4ALL” should first be downloaded free from http://www.asio4all.com/ . Then, simply install it. It should recognize your sound devices and set itself up accordingly. More about this in step 3 below.

Step 2 - LiveProfessor software initial setup:

“LiveProfessor” should next be downloaded free from http://audiostrom.com/?page_id=12 (for 64 bit Windows). Then, simply install it .  Create a new folder on your desktop and name it “VSTplugins”. This is where downloaded VST plug-ins including Nectar Elements will be stored.

Step 3 - Nectar Elements initial setup:

  • Download and add the VST plug-in "Nectar Elements" to the storage folder you created in Step 2.  Then, start LiveProfessor from an icon appearing on your desktop. Click “Options” from the menu bar and select “plug-in” manager. Click the button “Add directory” to designate where the Nectar Elements downloaded VST Plug-in (see above) is stored.  Once selected, you can exit the window.
  • Next, Click “Options” from the Live Professor menu bar and select “Audio options” which will bring up a window like the one below.  Select ASIO device "ASIO4ALL v2" and sample rate of 48000. Then, click the button “Control Panel” to make sure that your USB mic and USB audio codec are desigated as active as shown in the second screen shot below.  
      

            

  • Now, click “Default audio patch” from the left menu.  Plugin inputs should be listed as Input 1-(your mic)1 and Plugin outputs as USB Audio Codec 2 as depicted in the screenshot below.

  •  Lastly, click “Inputs & Outputs” from the left menu which will reveal a window like the one below designating your (mic) 1 as the available input and USB Audio Codec 2 as your available output.  Click the “OK” button to exit the window and return to the main screen.
A screenshot of Live Professor togehter with the Nectar Elements VST plug-in graphical user interface is shown below.
You will note that K4QKY has selected the Voice Over and Dialog Preset "Meditation" .  The various sliders have also been adjusted somewhat to fine tune the preset.  Click K4QKY soundbite to hear a sample over the air recording of this particular preset courtesy of Duke "NA1A". There are many other presets to chose from depending on your personal preference.  See the the various categories in the screenshot below.
   

You might encounter a few potential “bumps in the road” including:

> Hum in the audio – often present to some extent while doing audio via USB but needs to be curbed if excessive. Can be tough to cure... most likely it is a ground loop emanating from PC power source. Hopefully, it won’t be an issue for you. If it is, you might want to try isolating your PC's power supply from ground.

> No audio reaches your rig - can easily happen since there are so many variables. Check all your settings to make sure you didn't skip something during setup. Remember that this system relies on a triangular relationship between your rig, Windows sound manager and the software. Settings for each component, especially input and output levels, must work in unison so as to achieve just a tick of ALC on voice peaks. No speech processing in the rig. Leave that task entirely to the plug-ins.

> Sometimes, unexpected glitches happen - first thing to always do is reboot your PC. Windows Sound management/device management can experience unpredictable behavior. 

Alternative Software:

K4QKY has previously experimented with the Breakaway Live system as described at http://www.claessonedwards.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=78&Itemid=55.  You can download and install the fully functional demo version from this site.    Once installed, the graphical user interface (GUI) will look similar to the below screen shot:  Note: these windows may appear in a different order than shown here.  Click Guide to download a more detailed explanation of the GUI.

  
Select the "Plutonium"  or "Microphone2" preset. Both work well for Amateur Radio purposes.  Adjust the various green sliders (see pop up tool tips for each) to achieve desired tx audio characteristics.  Now, click the "Settings" button at the top left of the screen. Make the settings conform with the below screen shot:
 
Next, click the "I/O Configuration" button from the above window. This will  bring up a configuration windows similar to the one shown in the below screen shot:  
 

Select the appropriate input and output audio devices.   Make certain that your settings conform to the above screen shot.  Finally, click the "Finish" button.  Restart Breakaway live and Windows sound manager.  While speaking into your microphone, adjust the levels of microphone-USB Codec in the playback tab and microphone AT2020 in the recording tab as necessary to achieve just a slight deflection of the ALC meter on voice peaks while listening to yourself from the 590's excellent audio monitor.   Note:  Hams wanting greater latitude in processing choices may want to consider other software based systems.   One  of the more popular "live performance" systems that K4QKY has evaluated is called "Ableton Live" as described at https://www.ableton.com/en/live/  .    More recently, he has acchieved excellent results with the VST plug-in host Live Professor and several plug-ins including an noise gate, EQ, split band compressor and spectrum analyzer as described on a four page handout you can download by clicking reaplugs.   Conclusion:  

USB microphone operations via a USB cable connected between a computer and the 590 works exceptionally well and can be accomplished without the necessity of any Kenwood software. Moreover, it can be done without the usual latency shortfall. For those who prefer to use a conventional dynamic or condenser microphone instead of a USB microphone can simply purchase an inexpensive "Icicle" mic preamp with XLR to USB converter as described/reviewed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YcpW3ojjsjU.

The Kenwood 590's simple to use USB cable connectivity is one of it's "killer" features!  It is another in a long line of reasons why the 590 is way out in front of the competition in that price range. Want to hear a soundbite? Try it for yourself and Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. with your questions, thoughts and recommendations. It is anticipated that more hams will come to embrace the use of a USB microphone on the phone bands once they learn more about the inherent advantages of this method of operating.

     Note:  Additional setup tips for phone, digital and remote operations with the 590 are provided elsewhere on this website. Return to the top of this page and select the appropriate menu item.

 

K4QKY has achieved excellent results with the VST plug-in host Live Professor and several plug-ins including a noise gate, EQ, split band compressor and spectrum analyzer as described on a four page handout you can download by clicking reaplugs.

More recently, he has been using Presonus Studio One Artist, a stand alone Digital Audio Workstation (DAW).  Want to learn more?  Click Studio One to download his detailed setup guide.