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Author Topic: Laptop Playback cable  (Read 1104 times)

Tony Mamoh

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Laptop Playback cable
« on: July 28, 2017, 04:32:38 pm »

For those situations where one wants to use a laptop (with recorded music tracks)  as an input to a mixer; what is the preferred input type? Assuming a mic (XLR) input is the preferred input type; then I realize that one will need the appropriate cable/adaptor (mini TRS to XLR). However; if the gain optimization is such that a line level is more appropriate to use an the mixer input; then I would need a mini TRS to 1/4" TS cable.

So I will like to know which mixer input gives a better signal quality with playback from a laptop. I have deliberately excluded using a mixer USB input because that is not always available in some of the (older) mixers at my disposal.

Thanks!
« Last Edit: July 28, 2017, 05:16:45 pm by Tony Mamoh »
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Joel Mevis

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Re: Laptop Playback cable
« Reply #1 on: July 28, 2017, 04:41:11 pm »

Radial USB Pro DI. This is the best cleanest sound I have ever gotten.

Radial also makes a "stage bug" but the USB DI bypasses the laptop sound card. Its excellent I use it to run backing tracks every week.

I have always found 1/8 inch jacks to be troublesome after a while of using them the way you are describing. Or maybe its just the cables all went bad.

But the USB DI can get LOUD with out distortion.
« Last Edit: July 28, 2017, 04:48:53 pm by Joel Mevis »
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Mac Kerr

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Re: Laptop Playback cable
« Reply #2 on: July 28, 2017, 05:43:09 pm »

Most cost effective, Peavey USB-P. Balanced line level out on XLR, better audio than headphone jack, no drivers needed.

Mac
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Sammy Barr

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Re: Laptop Playback cable
« Reply #3 on: July 28, 2017, 06:02:55 pm »

Most cost effective, Peavey USB-P. Balanced line level out on XLR, better audio than headphone jack, no drivers needed.

THIS! Cheap and works great.
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Erik Jerde

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Re: Laptop Playback cable
« Reply #4 on: July 28, 2017, 06:07:51 pm »

Im not sure about current models, but older macs had a crosstalk problem between left and right in the built in headphone jack.  Not noticeable with a stereo track but very noticeable in a mono track + click situation.

I've used the radial usbpre and it's great, no drivers needed.  Output level knob and headphone jack for monitoring.

With Mac vouching for the peavy unit that ones gotta be solid too.
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Mac Kerr

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Re: Laptop Playback cable
« Reply #5 on: July 28, 2017, 08:31:15 pm »

Im not sure about current models, but older macs had a crosstalk problem between left and right in the built in headphone jack.  Not noticeable with a stereo track but very noticeable in a mono track + click situation.

Curiously I have tested this with my MacBook Pro and there is no crosstalk, however there is crosstalk with every Windows laptop I tried. This was an issue on the 4th of July fireworks in Boston this year. Fireworks vendor had all HP and Panasonic laptops that mixed L&R when playing back out of Audacity, my MBP did not. Headphone jack or USB interface same issue.

I own 3 of the Peaveys myself.

Mac
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Erik Jerde

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Re: Laptop Playback cable
« Reply #6 on: July 28, 2017, 08:42:09 pm »

Curiously I have tested this with my MacBook Pro and there is no crosstalk, however there is crosstalk with every Windows laptop I tried. This was an issue on the 4th of July fireworks in Boston this year. Fireworks vendor had all HP and Panasonic laptops that mixed L&R when playing back out of Audacity, my MBP did not. Headphone jack or USB interface same issue.

I own 3 of the Peaveys myself.

Mac

That's really interesting that it was regardless of the interface.  Which model MBP do you have?  A keys player I've worked with who does lots of tracks work has observed the crosstalk on multiple models but it goes away when using an external interface.
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Mac Kerr

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Re: Laptop Playback cable
« Reply #7 on: July 28, 2017, 10:22:20 pm »

That's really interesting that it was regardless of the interface.  Which model MBP do you have?  A keys player I've worked with who does lots of tracks work has observed the crosstalk on multiple models but it goes away when using an external interface.

I have a mid 2015 MBP, but I did not have crosstalk on my 2011 MBP either. It had been used for split track TC plus PGM, and I would have noticed. I was surprised that there was no setting on the HPs that would make the tracks isolated.

Mac
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Bill Koonce

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Re: Laptop Playback cable
« Reply #8 on: July 29, 2017, 08:16:58 pm »

Tony, if you're using older mixers, does that mean analog mixers too? I'd have two strategies: one for an analog signal path, another for a digital signal path. IJS

I do a regular gig where we must provide a 3.5mm TRS cable for whatever laptop the speaker might bring. The house supplies the gear, and I usually get a DI box like a Whirlwind IMP 2. What's important here is to have galvanic isolation, meaning a transformer between the unbalanced and balanced parts, and a ground lift to keep chassis grounds out of the equation. If the laptop is ever an unknown factor, this is the safest way I know for all-analog applications. If you need stereo, use 2 DI boxes. The same 3.5mm TRS to 2x1/4" TS cable that sums L + R channels w/ one DI will give you stereo w/ 2 DI boxes & 2 balanced lines.

When dealing with laptop stereo TRS outputs, look for a "line out" and use that instead of "headphone out" whenever possible. If it's your laptop, choose one with a line out, so you're better prepared. Also, if your mixer has a spare set of RCA inputs and the laptop is right there, you're not gaining anything by going to a balanced line for 3 feet. If a simple 3.5mm TRS to 2x unbalanced cable works, use it.

For all-digital, I like to use the Toslink optical interface, again for galvanic isolation at home. And that's the laptop that I'll bring, so if there's an AES3 input handy, I'll use a Hosa Toslink <--> AES3 box and keep it all in the digital domain whenever possible. This will vary with your gear; you may have better results using Dante if that's being used. Digital isn't going away, so thinking about how to make a digital link to digital gear makes sense to me.

I have a growing collection of devices that will function as USB DACs, and yes they'll work, and even if you're making some unnecessary D/A & A/D conversions, a good one will sound better than the headphone jack. But since this is a piece of powered gear, you might want to check to verify that the improvement in quality is worth the extra complexity.
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Niels Hempel

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Re: Laptop Playback cable
« Reply #9 on: July 30, 2017, 12:31:02 pm »

I am really happy using both the radial J+4 and the radial JDI Duplex for stereo sources.. Both have 3.5mm, rca, and 1/4".  The J+4 is active so you need a power source but it has a volume knob that is helpful. 

The passive JDI Duplex is a beast!  It is a bit more $$, but it isn't bad considering you can actually run two stereo sources through it (assuming you can balance the levels between the two),  it is linear from 10hz-40khz and has two Jensen trannies that seems to help with super hot/clipping signals (*chough* ...dj's). 



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Niels Hempel
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