...This page provides a setup guide for a software-based digital audio workstation (DAW) as an effective alternative to conventional hardware-based audio processing techniques.
(1) A digital audio workstation (DAW) is an electronic device or computer software application for recording, editing and producing audio files such as songs, musical pieces, human speech or live sound such as Amateur Radio transmissions. Regardless of configuration, modern DAWs use effects processors to tailor audio. For Amateur Radio, DAWs are primarily used for real-time transmit audio processing purposes.
(2) The scheme presented in this article describes a methodology for using a USB microphone input together with a software-based processing system for onward routing of process transmit audio via USB to a Kenwood TS-590SG (or TS-590S).
(3) Alternatively, Appendix A provides a guide for setting up up a conventional XLR microphone together with an outboard USB audio interface in lieu of a USB microphone.
(4) Perhaps you prefer to first experiment with a USB microphone without any software processing. If so, follow the guidelines presented in Appendix B.
(5) Some will prefer at purely analog (hardware based) approach to audio processing. Appendix C describes a simple, inexpensive and hightly effective scheme that can be implemented for about $200.
How this scheme works
- Digital audio output from the Rode NT-USB microphone is routed to the computer via a type A/B USB cable. Note: Type A/B USB cable is a standard issue USB 2.0 cable. This is the most common A to B Male/Male type peripheral cable, the kind that's usually used for printers.
- Digital audio is then processed within the computer by the software based DAW system "Presonus Studio One 3".
- Digital transmit audio output from Studio One 3 is then routed via Type A/B USB cable to the Kenwood TS-590 . Finally, it is converted from digital to analog and transmitted.
- 55 watts RF output from TS-590SG transceiver.
- 700 watts RF output from the ACOM 1010 linear.
- 700 watts RF output from Palstar AT1500BAL to a horizontal loop antenna.
- Received audio from the Kenwood 590SG is transported via USB cable from the 590SG back to the computer and outputted to the speakers. Alternatively, receive audio can be routed from the 590SG's rear panel speaker output jack direct to a pair of near-field monitor speakers.
Why do it this way?
- > Less expensive compared to conventionally audio processing hardware.
> Several higher quality of USB microphone choices have recently become available for purchase over the internet as discussed at https://ehomerecordingstudio.com/usb-microphones/.
- > Less drain on computer audio processing and memory resources since USB microphones essentially have self-contained A/D converters 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 and hum than a conventional microphone.
- > Ability to process transmit audio with freely available software rather than expensive external processing hardware.
- > Facilitates remote operations especially when used via the Internet.
Note: KC5YR enjoys using the Rode NT USB microphone. More about this highly capable 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, as discussed in Appendix A of this article, a condenser, or conventional dynamic microphone such as the Heil model PR35 is used together with a Behringer U-Phoria UMC202 USB audio interface as described at http://adamivy.com/behringer-umc202hd-review/.
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 real-time, along with dials to adjust the monitoring level and mix between the computer audio and the microphone input. To learn more, watch a video review of this microphone at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=st0RFt8miuA .
Type A/B USB cable connected to the microphone and computer. Another type A/B cable connects the computer to the TS-590SG.
The following software needs to be downloaded and installed:
- “ASIO4ALL” which can be downloaded free from http://www.asio4all.com/ . Audio Stream Input/Output (ASIO) is a computer sound card driver protocol for digital audio providing a low-latency and high fidelity interface between a software application and your computer's sound card. ASIO is a computer sound card driver protocol for digital audio specified by Steinberg, providing a low-latency and high fidelity interface between a software application and a computer's sound card. Whereas Microsoft's DirectSound is commonly used as an intermediary signal path for non-professional users, ASIO allows musicians and sound engineers to access external hardware directly.
ASIO bypasses the normal audio path from a user application through layers of intermediary Windows operating system software so that an application connects directly to the sound card hardware. Each layer that is bypassed means a reduction in latency (the delay between an application sending audio information and it is reproduced by the sound card or input signals from the sound card is available to the application). In this way, ASIO offers a relatively simple way of accessing multiple audio inputs and outputs independently.
Its main strength lies in its method of bypassing the inherently high latency and poor-quality mixing and sample rate conversion of Windows NT 5.x audio mixing kernels (KMixer), allowing direct, high-speed communication with audio hardware. Unlike KMixer, an unmixed ASIO output is "bit identical" or "bit perfect"; that is, the bits sent to or received from the audio interface are identical to those of the original source, thus potentially providing higher audio fidelity. Also, ASIO supports 24-bit samples, unlike Windows NT 5.x MME and DirectSound which truncate 24-bit samples to the upper 16 bits, whereas Windows NT 6.x mixer provides 32-bit floating point output. Higher bit-depth samples offer the potential for a higher signal-to-noise ratio.
- PreSonus Studio One® 3 Artist, a software-based audio processing digital audio workstation (DAW) which contains everything you’d expect from a modern digital audio workstation with a fast, flow-oriented, drag-and-drop interface. You can purchase and download it from https://shop.presonus.com/products/new-noteworthy/Studio-One-3-Artist. It has the advantage of being a stand-alone complete system with its own organic plugins. Better yet, purchase a PreSonus AudioBox USB 2x2 audio interface from the webpage at https://www.amazon.com/PreSonus-AudioBox-USB-Audio-Interface/dp/B00154KSA2 and receive the software as a free add-on complete package! This is surely a "no-brainer" package deal!
Note: As discussed in Appendix A of this article, there are several other alternative software-based processing systems that you can experiment using including the use of VST plug-ins, many of which are free. Ham's wanting to pursue this approach should download "Cantabile 2 Lite (x64)" VST host from https://www.cantabilesoftware.com/download/ provided you have a 64 bit Windows operating system. There is also a 32bit alternative available. Then consider installing the VST plug-in package ReaPlugs described at http://masters-of-music.com/free-plugins-reaplugs-vst-fx-suite/. Alternatively, for a more simplified "cookie-cutter" approach, consider installing Nectar 2 available for purchase at https://www.izotope.com/en/products/mix/nectar/features.html. Indeed it is expensive but bound to perform beyond your expectations.
Kenwood 590SG settings: (Menu numbers differ in the 590S)
|31/33||TX filter ssb/am low cut||300||100|
|32/34||TX filter ssb/am high cut||2700||2900|
|35||Speach processor effect (see note below)||hard||soft|
|36||TX equalizer (see note below)||off||Off|
|59||HF linear amp control relay (if applicable)||off||3|
|67 & 68||Com speed||9600||115200|
|69||Audio input line for data||ACC2||USB|
|70||Audio source of send/ptt||front||rear|
|71||USB input audio level||4||3|
|72||USB output level||4||3|
MIC - Level 12 when routing outboard hardware processed analog audio to the 590SG. This control is not applicable when handling virtual audio via the USB connection.
Menus 36 and 37 are not applicable when using outboard processed transmit audio techniques to the rig as compression and EQing are integral to most outboard processing schemes.
Hams who prefer using the 590SG's built-in TX EQ should install Kenwood's control software as discussed at http://www.kenwood.com/i/products/info/amateur/ts_590g/arcp590g_e.html which facilitates setting up this functionality.
Use a type AB USB cable for hookup to the 590SG. Windows should automatically install the necessary silicon labs driver. Check Windows Device Manager to determine which port is designated for the UART and make certain that the 590 and ARCP-590 software is set up to reflect the correct port, baud rate (preferably 115200).
Windows sound manager settings:
Step 1 - ASIO device driver software setup:
“ASIO4ALL” should first be downloaded free from http://www.asio4all.com/ . Once installed you should search for and open the Windows "ASIO4all offline settings" in order to set up appropriate inputs and outputs as per the below screenshot. It should be noted that the computer's built-in Realtek soundcard is not selected as it is essentially only used for non-ham radio applications.
Step 2 - Purchase and download Studio One 3 as per the foregoing instructions. Once installed and started, click "configure Audio Device" from the lower center portion of the opening splash screen which will reveal a "Options" window similar to the one shown below.
Once you have completed entering data to conform to what is shown in the above screenshot, click the "OK" button in the lower right-hand corner of the window which will bring you back to the opening splash screen.
From the splash screen click "Create a new Song" which will reveal a window similar to the one shown below.
Enter selections like shown in the above screenshot and click the "OK" button which should reveal your new song project workspace similar to the screen shown below.
Right-click and select "remove" to delete any Inserts shown in the lower portion of the above screen. Then select the "Effects" tab in the upper right corner of the screen. From the drop-down select the "Fat Channel" effect and drag it to the open space under " Inserts" which will then reveal its setup GUI similar to the one shown below.
Notice the presence of a collapsible dropdown list under the Fat Channel where you can select desired presets as a starting point in perfecting your effects. It is suggested that you initially select Male 1 as shown above. Once you do this, the GUI will then reveal the details of this preset.
You can individually double-click each of the four effects listed, i.e., gate, compression, equalizer, and limiter. Unlike is shown in the above screenshot, I suggest you change the order of effects to make the eq precede the compressor. You may also want to click the thumbtack icon on the upper bar of each effect to keep the effect on top in a free-floating manner. Each effect is equipped with numerous presets for you to experiment with and modify to suit your audio preferences. Click https://www.google.com/search?q=fat+channel+xt&rlz=1C1EKKP_enUS753US753&source=lnms&tbm=vid&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwi29ZGvgf3XAhVH54MKHcaPBkwQ_AUICygC&biw=1536&bih=759 to watch videos which is the easiest way to learn more about the functionality of this wonderful multi-purpose "Fat Channel" effects processor".
Now comes the all-important task of making final adjustments to your entire system. Do this by routing your transmit RF to a dummy load, listening to your transceiver monitor with headphones and speaking into the microphone. If necessary, adjust input and output gain levels on the above window together with the audio level of the “Speakers” device in the Windows sound manager playback tab together with the “Microphone” audio level in the recording tab and the rig’s audio input gain control as necessary to achieve just a slight deflection of the ALC meter on voice peaks while all the while listening to yourself from the rig’s audio monitor. This is a necessary “balancing act” to find your “Sweet spot”. Take your time and get it right! Appendix B provides additional info regarding each effect.
Once you have arrived at a preferred scheme, be sure to save your setup by selecting File/Save as. Conclusion:
USB microphone operations via a USB cable connected between a computer and the 590SG deliver exceptionally well. Moreover, this can be accomplished without the necessity for using any Kenwood specific software. You can be this without the usual latency shortfall.
Alternative processing software:
This article has described a method of transmitting audio processing with the stand-alone DAW, Studio One 3. There are many other alternatives that KC5YR continues to experiment using including:
- "Breakaway Live" audio processor as described at http://www.claessonedwards.com/live-audio/breakaway-live. 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 screenshot. Pay particular attention to the settings panel on the left-hand side of this screen. They will provide a good starting point for hams wanting to experiment with this system. Click GUIDE to learn more about these settings and how they function together within this powerful stand-load system.
- the use of VST plug-ins, many of which are free. Ham's wanting to pursue this approach should download "Cantabile 2 Lite (x64)" VST host from https://www.cantabilesoftware.com/download/ provided you have a 64 bit Windows operating system. There is also a 32bit alternative available. Then, experiment with the VST plug-in package ReaPlugs described at http://masters-of-music.com/free-plugins-reaplugs-vst-fx-suite/. Click GUIDE to learn more about these VST plug-ins and how to use them in your station setup. It should be noted that this guide contains instructions for using VST host "LiveProfessor" which is no longer available. You will want to use "Cantabile" instead.
- Alternatively, for a more simplified "cookie-cutter" approach, consider installing Nectar 2 plug-in available for purchase at https://www.izotope.com/en/products/mix/nectar/features.html. Indeed expensive but bound to perform well beyond your expectations. Install this VST Plugin into "Cantabile" like any other plugin. You will then enjoy experimenting with this plug-in's many Voiceover & Dialogue presets, then make quick corrections for pesky sibilance, volume fluctuations, and unwanted breaths. You may just prefer this system to any of the rest! It is a "piece of cake" to lean...much easier than any other system than Breakaway Live.
- There are many other systems to also experiment with. Just let the Google search engine be your guide to finding them.
XLR microphone together with a USB audio interface in lieu of a USB microphone
Hams often already own one or more conventional microphones and may understandably be reluctant to spend the extra dollars on a USB microphone. Assuming that they desire to experiment with the digital (or analog) processing techniques, they may want to consider integrating their microphone with a USB audio interface or, as discussed in Appendix C below, a hardware-based analog processor.
Oher pros and cons
- USB mics are less complicated to set up.
- XLR mics require an audio interface.
- XLR mics are typically more sophisticated in design.
- USB mics are preferable for portable radio operations with a laptop.
Choosing an audio interface
The webpage at https://www.sweetwater.com/insync/audio-interface-buying-guide/#io provides a useful buying guide for hams who elect to purchase an audio interface to use with their favorite conventional XLR microphone.
KC5YR's audio interface choice
That's a Behringer U-Phoria UMC202HD USB audio interface sitting atop KC5YR's 590SG. This one is hard to beat from a value perspective. Moreover, unlike some other interfaces, the Behringer's companion software driver is rock solid dependable. More about that, later on, is this Appendix. You can learn more about it by watching the video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hr0CnElTug. You can purchase one at https://www.sweetwater.com/insync/audio-interface-buying-guide/#io or from another vendor of your choice.
Nothing could be more simple!
- Download and install the driver for the interface from https://www.musictri.be/Categories/Behringer/Computer-Audio/Audio-Interfaces/UMC202HD/p/P0BJZ/downloads.
- Run an XLR cable between mic and front panel of the interface.
- Hookup a Type A/B USB cable between your PC and the rear panel of the interface.
- Restart your PC and enter your PC's windows sound manager. Setup the recording and playback devices to conform to the instructions below.
Recording tab - Note that the interface is set up as the default device. Levels at 52, no Enhancements and Advanced tab at 2 channel, 24bit, 19,2000 Hz.
Playback tab - Note that this tab is essentially set up much like the one previously discussed above when using a USB microphone. The Behringer speakers are not set as the default device in order to continue to listen to Internet-delivered audio and other entertainment through the ham shacks default near field monitor speakers. This scheme runs contrary to the Behringer's documentation which calls for the audio interface to drive your speakers rather than your PC's Realtek sound card. Moreover, in order to make this scheme work, you will need to rely on your ASIO4ALL driver in lieu of the Behringer driver. Not that you shouldn't use the Behringer scheme, KC5YR prefer this scheme is far more simple to implement than the Behringer scheme. Moreover, keeping ham radio audio separate from PC audio simply is the better way to do things.
Now, restart your PC and open your ASIO4All offline settings app and make it conform to the screenshot below.
Restart your PC once again and proceed to make a test run together with your overall processing scheme.
That's about all there is to implementing this scheme other than ensuring all input and output levels are correctly adjusted between elements of your audio path to exhibit just a slight deflection of your 590SG's ALC meter on voice peaks. The scheme presented in this appendix is equally applicable to processing audio input from a USB microphone.
Using only a USB microphone without the benefit of any software processing of the transmit audio
Keep things simple when setting up this scheme. Perform the following steps to set up your microphone for direct transmission without any other editing software being necessary:
- Enter windows sound manager utility and select the “recording” tab.
- Select your USB mic from the list and make it the default device.
- Double-click the device to open the Microphone Properties drop-down window.
- Select the “listen” tab and check the box adjacent to “Listen to this device.” Then, enter your “USB audio CODEC” playback device from the drop-down box.
- Select the “Levels” tab and set the slider to 30 as a starting point to minimize the microphone’s pickup of ambient noise. Adjust as necessary. (see below monitoring steps)
- Select the “Advanced” tab and select 2 channel, 16bit, 4800 Hz or whatever your Microphone is cable of producing. Un-select Exclusive Mode.
This scheme will hopefully work well for you. To further set up this scheme and monitor your output:
- Check Windows Device Manager to determine which port is designated for the UART and make certain that the 590sg and ARCP-590G software are both set up to reflect the correct port, baud rate (preferably 115200).
- To keep things simple, use VOX to key the rig by setting menu 69 to “USB,” menu 70 to “rear,” menu 71 to “3”, menu 76 to “on,” menu 77 to “15”, and menu 78 to “4”. (adjust settings as necessary)
- To monitor your transmit output, first turn on the 590’s monitor by double pressing the “power” button on the front panel. Turn the multi-knob initially set the monitor level to “15”.
- Plug in your headphone to the 590’s front panel and speak into the microphone. You should hear yourself transmitting. If not, repeat the preceding steps. If you do hear yourself, adjust the foregoing settings as necessary to achieve a slight deflection of ALC on voice peaks with minimal background noise and no distortion in your transmit audio.
- Depending on which USB microphone used, you may be able to make other level adjustments on the microphone itself.
- Initially, you may want to try setting menu 36 set to “Hb1” which often works well in cleaning up the low end. Listen to yourself in the 590's monitor to evaluate the results.
- Want to fine-tune your transmit audio? Then, try creating your own personalized user “U” defined tx EQ settings with the Kenwood ARCP-590G software. Again, listen to yourself on the monitor as you tweak your settings.
- Although some hams will disagree, KC5YR recommends keeping the rig's internal speech processor off (except in weak signal conditions). Adjust microphone gain for only a slight ALC meter deflection on voice peaks. Using the internal EQ (when properly adjusted) is a far better technique to increase SSB duty cycle (talk power) than using the processor. This includes breaking a pileup without causing needless IMD.
"Old school" approach using A DBX 286s analog microphone preamp/processor in lieu of digital (software based) processing techniques.
There is simply no better value in a hardware-based preamp and processor than the DBX 286s. Purchase one at https://www.amazon.com/DBX-286s-Microphone-Pre-amp-Processor/dp/B004LWH79A/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?ie=UTF8&qid=1513127582&sr=8-1-spons&keywords=dbx+286s&psc=1&smid=A2LXBKOLL3J3K6. You won't be disappointed. To learn more, watch the video below.