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Electronic/static noises on external instrument tracks


bdk.nyc
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I'm getting little bursts of electronic noise/static very randomly. It's not the incredibly loud, sudden white noise that some people have reported over the years. This is more like a quiet, subtle noise that will appear for two seconds or maybe two or three little one-second bursts. It can show up in any recording session, but sometimes doesn't show up at all. I've been having this issue for at least a year now, but it's so random that I forget about it until I bounce tracks out and hear it on the recordings.

Currently running Logic 10.7.3, but this has been happening since at least 10.5. My interface is a Focusrite Clarett 8Pre USB, which is running directly into the Mac (not a hub). I had a Scarlett 18i8 beforehand, and was getting the same issue. I'm running two hardware synths through the Clarett and recording them first via MIDI and then audio upon final composition edits. Here's my troubleshooting so far:

  • Eliminate all plugins (no change)
  • Raise the buffer (no change)
  • Watch the CPU meter — the noise can occur with only one track in the entire song and CPU activity barely even registering
  • Check the cables to the synths — all good (I know this is fine because if I monitor directly out of the Clarett instead of Logic, everything is perfectly clean)
  • Listen to other sources outside of Logic going through the Clarett — Tidal, iTunes, Mac system sounds — all clean
  • The sound is, however, only showing up when an instrument channel is on (as in, its input is being monitored in Logic; not when the channel is armed); if I mute all individual channels, there's no noise. But if unmuted, the noise can occur on any of the external instrument tracks (which can be inputs 1-8 on the Clarett)
  • The noise doesn't occur on software instrument tracks, only on external MIDI tracks
  • The noise does show up in recordings on individual instrument tracks, so it's not just a Mac system thing that's not being picked up when recording audio

Here's an example. It's not the cleanest track (there's a lot of other noise throughout — this is just a rough recording); but right around the 0:43 second mark, you can hear a burst of what I'm talking about. In this case, it's amplified because it's also going through the effects chain. But, again, even if there are no plugins at all, that sound is just a lot more subtle.

Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

System:
2019 Macbook Pro 16"
2.3 GHz 8-Core Intel Core i9, 16GB RAM
Logic 10.7.3
Focusrite Clarett 8Pre USB

Edited by bdk.nyc
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Hi, my first inclination on reading the first few lines your post was to suggest there was possibly a VST instrument or plugin for which the license may have somehow been de-activated b/c the symptoms you described seemed point on with how some vendors will injects small increment bursts of noise into their plugins to alert that it requires activation.

But reading more into things you’ve already tried and listening to the sound file I’m going to suggest that you try using another audio interface if you have one available. Or bypass the Focusrite altogether and route through the built in audio core speakers as a troubleshooting technique.

There appears to be a fairly large number of consumers having reported the type of noise you’re getting using the Focusrite Clarett’s so there is a very good possibility that your issue is the Focusrite unit.

Which would also explain the findings in your test scenarios as well. More specifically as described in your last 3 bullet points.

Unless there is audio clipping which I'd initially suspected, memory allocation issues and etc. These types of issues usually can be traced back to hardware and less often software. Could be clipping but your scenarios don't seem to suggest it.

Let us know the result afterward.

 

Edited by Maestro777
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2 hours ago, Atlas007 said:

After auditioning your clip, that sounds like clipping…

The obvious step would be to check and decrease the levels at various points (aka: gain staging).

BTW, very nice music! Did you publish?

Yeah, sorry — that clip wasn't the best example. There's plenty of headroom at each stage, but it's going through an analog tape plugin that's pushing some (too) aggressive distortion. That "burst" that hits at 0:43 is something that can occur even when no synth sound is coming through the input (but the track is still being monitored) — it's just amplified here because of the effects chain (and sounds kinda like clipping).

And thanks, re: the track! I'm just about to head into the mixing phase of my first album. That will be one of the tracks, but it'll be rerecorded.

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2 hours ago, Maestro777 said:

Hi, my first inclination on reading the first few lines your post was to suggest there was possibly a VST instrument or plugin for which the license may have somehow been de-activated b/c the symptoms you described seemed point on with how some vendors will injects small increment bursts of noise into their plugins to alert that it requires activation.

But reading more into things you’ve already tried and listening to the sound file I’m going to suggest that you try using another audio interface if you have one available. Or bypass the Focusrite altogether and route through the built in audio core speakers as a troubleshooting technique.

There appears to be a fairly large number of consumers having reported the type of noise you’re getting using the Focusrite Clarett’s so there is a very good possibility that your issue is the Focusrite unit.

Which would also explain the findings in your test scenarios as well. More specifically as described in your last 3 bullet points.

Unless there is audio clipping which I'd initially suspected, memory allocation issues and etc. These types of issues usually can be traced back to hardware and less often software. Could be clipping but your scenarios don't seem to suggest it.

Let us know the result afterward.

Thanks for the suggestions! That could make sense. As I mentioned in a previous reply, it's not clipping (I just shared a less-than-stellar example with too much of an analog distortion plugin that sounds like it's clipping); that "burst" of noise can occur even when no sound is being played.

Given that I don't hear the noise when I'm monitoring the synths directly out of the Scarlett (bypassing Logic altogether), could that indicate that there's a USB issue with the Scarlett, or a problem with the convertors? I should check if it's the same with GarageBand, which is the only other DAW I have on hand.

I'll see if I can get my hands on another interface to narrow this down. I'll probably also just open up a ticket with Focusrite to see what they say, since the unit is still under warranty. 

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8 hours ago, Atlas007 said:

Does the Clarett requires drivers installation? If so, has it been updated lately?

On a Mac it doesn't. But it does rely on a Control Center software for routing, etc. I was a few iterations behind, so I just updated and will check to see if that helps. My guess is that it won't solve this issue, but it'd be amazing if it did. I also opened up a ticket with Focusrite, so I'll report back when I hear more from them.

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On 9/17/2022 at 8:07 PM, bdk.nyc said:

Wow. That sounds absolutely BEAUTIFUL. I love it. 🥰

So that noise at 0:43 is not clipping for sure. But could be what @Maestro777 suggested, a plug-in in demo mode? Do you get that noise when no plug-ins are used at all in your Mixer? Or is the sound in the audio recording, even if you listen to it using QuickLook or QuickTime?

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2 hours ago, David Nahmani said:

Wow. That sounds absolutely BEAUTIFUL. I love it. 🥰

So that noise at 0:43 is not clipping for sure. But could be what @Maestro777 suggested, a plug-in in demo mode? Do you get that noise when no plug-ins are used at all in your Mixer? Or is the sound in the audio recording, even if you listen to it using QuickLook or QuickTime?

Thanks so much for the kind words! Really appreciate it 🙂

And, yeah — initially I was pretty sure it was a plugin also, but it's not. I've discovered that I get that sound even in a project with no plugins at all (I also don't THINK I have any demo plugins, but you never know...). And, yes, the sound is in the audio recording coming directly from the Clarett output (it's pretty faint when it's not being amplified by effects, etc., but it's randomly there). Which has me now fairly certain that the issue is with the Clarett. Focusrite is currently having me run through a checklist to narrow it down (I probably should've just started there before posting this).

Edited by bdk.nyc
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On 9/17/2022 at 5:34 PM, Maestro777 said:

But reading more into things you’ve already tried and listening to the sound file I’m going to suggest that you try using another audio interface if you have one available. Or bypass the Focusrite altogether and route through the built in audio core speakers as a troubleshooting technique.

There appears to be a fairly large number of consumers having reported the type of noise you’re getting using the Focusrite Clarett’s so there is a very good possibility that your issue is the Focusrite unit.

I was finally able to reproduce the sound while directly monitoring from the Clarett without anything from the Mac going through it (just playing the synths through its inputs). So, the issue is with the interface, as you intuited.

Sadly, this is the third Focusrite interface I've had an issue with since 2020 — one Scarlett and (now) two Claretts. 😑

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Glad to hear the issue has been definitively identified. But not so much regarding your experience with Focusrite. I've never owned their hardware, only the plugins. I hope they'll provide the support you need to get the issue resolved. Being that its still under warranty, perhaps you could research and see if they offer another interface that hasn't had similarly reported issues and request for a trade in?

I hope you get things straightened out b/c as others have already commented. I also think your music is amazing.

Best 😉

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5 hours ago, Maestro777 said:

Glad to hear the issue has been definitively identified. But not so much regarding your experience with Focusrite. I've never owned their hardware, only the plugins. I hope they'll provide the support you need to get the issue resolved. Being that its still under warranty, perhaps you could research and see if they offer another interface that hasn't had similarly reported issues and request for a trade in?

I hope you get things straightened out b/c as others have already commented. I also think your music is amazing.

Best 😉

Thank you! This community has been very supportive — it really means a lot.

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