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Troubleshooting Common Issues in the Recording Studio

Audio engineer in recording studio

Even is a recording studio, there are issues that pop up from time to time. The difference between an amateur audio engineer and a professional is knowing how to troubleshoot these issues. Professional audio engineers rely on the training from audio production and engineering programs. Because of their education, their knowledge allows them to handle any issues that can come up.

Sound Board Challenges

One of the main issues happens to be the mixing console or sound board. The sound board is critical in a recording studio and any issues also impacts recording project taking place. Although in many recording studio issues are human error, it takes experience and a keen eye to identify the problem. Here are some of the most common issues and how an audio engineer can troubleshoot the problem.

Audio Latency

To begin, audio latency is a time delay that a producer or audio engineer hears between the live performance of the musician or singer in a session. This issue is very common in recording studios, and often amplifies when a studio relies on on digital audio workstations or DAWs.

How to Troubleshoot Audio Latency Issues

Audio latency becomes an issue when the time goes above 10 milliseconds. At this rate, the audio engineer notices the issue on the output. One of the most common ways to troubleshoot requires the audio engineer to look at the buffer size.

What’s Buffer Size?

Buffers are part of the computer’s RAM, and the audio passes through it, and so that the flow of data is uninterrupted. The latency occurs in that spot as the data that is the audio signal passes through. As a result, that transfers from the input attached to the computer used with the sound board.

Buffer Size

Normally, buffer sizes are set at larger rates for recording audio to avoid playback issues. Unfortunately, this also introduces more of a delay. If an audio engineer sets the buffer size smaller, that reduces that latency heavily, but you may also have more glitches.

For this reason, it is easy to adjust the buffer size in a DAW. This is done in a two-step process: first, the engineer switches to a low size to reduce the latency as recording takes place. After that, the audio engineer changes it to a larger size to make full use of the playback sources.

Standard Buffer Sample Rates

For reference, a standard buffer sample rate is at 128 kHz. However, there are DAWs that are powerful enough for 64- or 32-sample buffers. 128 kHz is the sample standard because it translates to a latency of 6 to 8 milliseconds as it passes through. This sample rate puts the recording in the correct threshold for audio latency.

How An Audio Engineer Troubleshoots Buffer Rates

There are also analog-based fixes for this issue. One way for an audio engineer to fix this issue is to connect the performer’s microphone to an analog mixing board. From there, the engineer splits the signal into the headphones and mixes the playback from the DAW. Because of this, the engineer creates an all-analog signal path with no latency.

Another option utilizes an interface on the DAW to use onboard digital signal processing (DSP) to work in tandem with plug-ins in the studio’s software.

Troubleshooting DAW Issues

Sometimes the sound board experiences some hiccups due to issues with the computer. These issues often impact the DAW’s abilities. Luckily, there are easy solutions for these issues.

The first and easiest step in this regard is to take a look at any other programs and processes that are running in the background on the computer. If there’s any that aren’t connected to the current recording session, close them out. CPU usage can take up a lot of the RAM that’s needed for audio work.  This happens even with the most powerful of computers with multi-core processors.

Browser Issues with DAWs

The type of browser a computer uses also impacts RAM. In many cases, it helps to restart your computer to see if the issue resolves. If there’s too many plugins and tracks in the mix. To test this, it’s helpful to delete or turn off inactive plugins to limit any obstacles.

How to Troubleshoot Driver Issues

In addition, a driver can cause delays while recording, in conjunction with the sound card. Driver creators often issue updates to keep them running smoothly, so its best to check for updates first. Some programs used with a mixer come with more intricate controls to work with buffer size and the processors to deal with the aforementioned issue of audio latency.

How to Troubleshoot Preset Issues in DAWs

Lastly, recording engineers use presets on their DAWs along with the sound boards. The audio engineer has to manually adjust as the track is playing. This helps so that there are no unwanted frequencies that can mess with compression.

In addition, it’s also good practice for an engineer to check the hard drives on the main computer for the DAW. This is a good idea because storage space impacts the entire process.

Other Issues

Furthermore, there are times where the issue where recording studio issues happen due to gear. Some studios still utilize analog and digital equipment for their session work. This leads to problems that are also magnified through the sound board.

When in Doubt, Check the Connection

One issue could be that a cable in use for a connection to the DAW isn’t working properly. With larger systems, this could require a process of elimination for the audio engineer to go through to find which of these cables is the culprit.

The engineer first checks the patch bay and reviews each cable. A cable could be loose due to tension. Another common issue is that connector within the patch bay itself that has to be replaced. It is important that the patch pay is clean and free of debris so that issues may be avoided.

Another common issue lies within the microphones in the recording studio studio. Sound issues with microphones are incredibly common, but have an easy fix. Most recording issues can be corrected with pop guards. For serious problems, an audio engineer may need to replace or repair the microphone.

Recording Studio: Troubleshoot Analog Sound Boards

If the recording studio utilizes an analog sound board, that can add on a couple more issues to contend with. There will be some noise that can be detected, and it can be multiplied depending on how many channels are being used and they’ll come up on the monitors. In this situation, the engineer should pull down all the faders on any unused channels. They should also focus only on routing audio channels that will be used into the mix.

Some studios will employ sound boards where these channels were routed permanently in order to limit the amount of crosstalk that could occur between them. If the analog sound board has AUX returns, these can also add challenges to deal with. AUX returns are used to bring in the output of external effects such as delay and echo into the board. If these aren’t being used, turn them all the way down to limit their impact on the mixing.

Conclusion

The sound board is at the heart of many things in a recording studio, as it takes all of the audio from the performers allowing it to be fine-tuned by the audio engineers and producers. While there can be many things that can go wrong while its being used, a clear head and in-depth knowledge of all of the equipment and software that’s used in the studio with the board will clear everything up. It’s important to remember that whenever an issue arises and one is tempted to bang their head on the nearest wall in the studio.

Want to Learn More?

Being able to handle studio issues such as mishaps related to the sound board is a prized skill. In order to do that, a lot of professional training is necessary. If this kind of challenge is something that piques your interest and you’re curious enough to learn more, take a moment to check out IPR’s Audio Production Program and the training that they provide on-site about the tools needed to succeed in that area.

Contact us today to learn more about the audio production and engineering program and starting a rewarding career in the music industry.