USB Ground Loop

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husker
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2017/09/10 01:34:16 (permalink)

USB Ground Loop

I've been struggling with a USB Ground loop problem in my set since I began this as a hobby last year.  I have a few synths as well as a Focusrite 18i20 Gen 2.  I've tried several suggestions from this forum (as well as the Keyboard Central forum), but nothing has worked.  My next step is to buy an inexpensive PCI to USB 2.0 card to plug the Focusrite into.
 
So, the question is this - does it matter of it is a PCI or PCI card? I can get a 4 port USB 2.0 PCI card for $11, or a 3 port PCIE card for $33. Would it really matter? I understand that I would not plug any of my synths into that, but would it hurt to plug in my Motu into the PCI (or PCIe) card?

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Interfaces - Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 2nd Gen / MOTU Midi Express XT USB
Hardware - Roland FA08 / Moog Slim Phatty / Nord A1R / Maschine Mikro
 
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    fireberd
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    Re: USB Ground Loop 2017/09/10 10:39:08 (permalink)
    With a 170 motherboard you most likely only have PCIe slots.  
    I have a lot of USB devices and do not have any "ground loop" problems.  
     
    What have you done to determine its a ground loop problem?  I've seen and worked on a lot of ground loop problems but never one blamed on USB.

    Franklin D-10 Pedal Steel Guitar (primary instrument). Dobro, Tele, Gretsch Chet Atkins, 4 and 5 string basses, etc. 
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    #2
    fret_man
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    Re: USB Ground Loop 2017/09/10 12:08:45 (permalink)
    I also have a USB ground loop problem with the Line 6 HD500. Both the USB and SPDIF connectors are grounded, thus the loop. Luckily, I only need the USB to setup patches so I can use it w/o the ground loop. Wish they used TOSLINK instead of SPDIF.
     
    A ground loop requires TWO grounded devices for there to be a problem. You've sort of found one of the devices - your USB. But what's plugged into it, the Focusrite? The USB not the problem per se, but what's plugged into it. Then you also have to find the other culprit. What is it that's completing the loop? If you unplug everything except this one USB port and it still hums, then it's probably the power ground between the computer and what's plugged into the USB. 
     
    Why do you think a PCI(e) card will fix the problem?
    #3
    Rob[at]Sound-Rehab
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    Re: USB Ground Loop 2017/09/10 12:24:16 (permalink)
    USB interfaces can be influenced by improper grounding of devices that are plugged into it but also by the PC power supply itself, even with self powered interfaces. What you hear is not the typical 50 or 60 Hz hum but higher frequency interference that is very annoying in the monitoring chain and also printed on recordings.

    Years ago I suffered from these issues. That was before building dedicated treated rooms with power supply totally isolated from the rest of the building. I threw money at power conditioners, DI boxes, ferrit core USB cables but could not solve it. Interestingly once everything was hooked to a separate power line plus a power conditioner for safety the same PC and interface combination went totally quiet.

    So it is not an easy thing to fix. I'd try with plugging everything into the same power socket, try different ones as you will have different circuits in your house and it does make a difference if your AC or washer/dryer are in the same circuit. Also try with nothing plugged into the interface and then add slowly to see if a particular synth, FX or likewise makes it worse.

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    #4
    husker
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    Re: USB Ground Loop 2017/09/10 14:23:45 (permalink)
    It definitely is not an easy thing to fix - I posted and participated in a number of threads regarding ground loop problems here on on the Sonar and other forums, and I have tried all of the normal suggestions, but the problem remains.  Anderton (on another music forum) suggested a PCI card to USB and plug the interface into that.  At this point it is worth a shot.
     
    My Mobo has the following slots per the specs.  I was surprised as well to see the old PCI listed there:
    PCI Express 3.0 x161 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x16 (PCIEX16)
    * For optimum performance, if only one PCI Express graphics card is to be installed, be sure to install it in the PCIEX16 slot.
    1 x PCI Express x16 slot, running at x4 (PCIEX4)PCI Express x12 x PCI Express x1 slots
    (All of the PCI Express slots conform to PCI Express 3.0 standard.)PCI Slots2 x PCI Slots

    Sonar Platinum
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    #5
    fireberd
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    Re: USB Ground Loop 2017/09/10 14:36:59 (permalink)
    The PCI slots on newer motherboard (e.g. Z170 boards) are not true PCI but bridged to the PCIe bus.  I have two PCIe five port USB 2.0 cards installed in my Z170 system.  Work perfectly.   

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    #6
    husker
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    Re: USB Ground Loop 2017/09/10 14:47:23 (permalink)
    OK, thank you, that makes sense. This is what I was looking to get.

    https://www.newegg.com/Pr...166014&ignorebbr=1

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    #7
    abacab
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    Re: USB Ground Loop 2017/09/10 15:24:24 (permalink)
    Just a thought, you may want to consider PCIe, since that is direct and not bridged.  Just in case.  That's because I'm superstitious when it comes to converters/adapters/bridges, etc. Also, your next PC might not even have PCI slots, so with PCIe, you could redeploy the card.

    Not saying it won't work, but if you have issues, you may wonder.  I don't even like USB hubs.

    I just add these cheap header cable brackets to my rear panel and connect them to an extra USB header supplied on my mobo.
     
    Like this one:  https://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=9SIAE4P5VW2097&cm_re=usb_bracket-_-9SIAE4P5VW2097-_-Product



    Cakewalk: Sonar Platinum x64 2017-09; X3e; Dimension Pro; Rapture, Z3TA+2  Other: Akai VIP; AIR AIEP 3; BIAB; Ignite; Iris 2; SampleTank 3; SONiVOX; SynthMaster; Syntronik; VocalizerPro; Tracktion Waveform OS: Win10 Pro x64 1607 System: Homebuilt Asus; i3 3.4Ghz; 8GB DDR3; Intel HD Graphics; Dual Monitors; Samsung EVO 850 SSD, 250GB; WD 1.0TB 7200rpm; PCIe FireWire  Audio: M-Audio FW-410;  Controllers: A-300PRO; Alesis VX49; CME Xkey  Hardware: Roland JV880; JV1080; XP-30; Alesis QS-6; Casio CZ-1000; Mackie 1202
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    fireberd
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    Re: USB Ground Loop 2017/09/10 15:31:15 (permalink)
    I'm not a Rosewill fan.  I've had some of their stuff and it was all cheaply made or didn't last.  Rosewill is newegg's house brand.  
     
    This is what I'm using for one of my 5 port cards
    https://www.amazon.com/Sy...ords=pcie+usb+2.0+card

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    #9
    husker
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    Re: USB Ground Loop 2017/09/11 15:43:59 (permalink)
    Thanks guys, I ended up getting this:
     
    https://www.newegg.com/Pr...x?Item=N82E16815158172

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    Interfaces - Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 2nd Gen / MOTU Midi Express XT USB
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    #10
    husker
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    Re: USB Ground Loop 2017/10/11 02:32:45 (permalink)
    I am still struggling with this, however, I am making progress.  I have tracked this issue down to my Moog Slim Phatty, and it does not seem to be USB ground loop related.
     
    Here are the symptoms - on the Focusrite interface, I turn up the input on the Moog.  I get a wicked buzz from the monitors.  This happens whether or not the Moog's power is actually plugged in.  
     
    As soon as I unplug the TRS cable from the Moog, the noise simply disappears.  I have tried different cables, but it has no effect.   Would balanced vs. unbalanced cables have an effect?  The output of the Moog is unbalanced, but the cable is a balanced cable.  (I don't have an unbalanced cable to test).
     
    I do not have the same issues with any of my other synths, and I have changed inputs on the Focusrite as well, and the problem follows the Moog.
     
    I guess I don't know where to go from here. 

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    #11
    Rob[at]Sound-Rehab
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    Re: USB Ground Loop 2017/10/11 05:06:48 (permalink)
    husker
    As soon as I unplug the TRS cable from the Moog, the noise simply disappears.  I have tried different cables, but it has no effect.   Would balanced vs. unbalanced cables have an effect?  The output of the Moog is unbalanced, but the cable is a balanced cable.  (I don't have an unbalanced cable to test).
     



    if that's the case, a simple DI box plugged between the Moog and the interface should fix it

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    abacab
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    Re: USB Ground Loop 2017/10/11 12:06:36 (permalink)
    Also maybe have an electrician check your AC power outlets to make sure the grounding in your music room is proper.  From the pics I see that the Moog has a direct AC main in, not a wall wart DC transformer.

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    husker
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    Re: USB Ground Loop 2017/10/11 12:11:59 (permalink)
    Abacab, I would tend to agree, but the noise happens whether or not the Moog is actually plugged into the wall or not.  I can have the power totally unplugged, and the noise still occurs.
     
    This is driving me insane, so I spent a few hours in the middle of the night on this.  I also seem to have the problem on the "left" output of my Nord.   The "right" output does not experience the issue.  Both outs of the FA are OK as well.
     
    Basically, if I turn the the input up on the Focusrite on either of those two "inputs" I get that wicked buzz - it matters not if the power is actually plugged in or not.  As soon as I unplug the cable, the noise disappears.

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    #14
    abacab
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    Re: USB Ground Loop 2017/10/11 12:16:08 (permalink)
    And this thread...
     
    Little Phatty very strange problem (ground loop??)
    https://www.gearslutz.com...oblem-ground-loop.html

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    abacab
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    Re: USB Ground Loop 2017/10/11 12:22:33 (permalink)
    Back when I mainly used external synth modules, I ran them all through a small Mackie audio mixer first, then into my audio interface.  That seemed to prevent he sort of issues you are describing, except for a weird humming we used to get from my buddies Telecaster.  Not sure if we ever totally solved that one, but Rob's suggestion of a DI box might be the answer.

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    husker
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    Re: USB Ground Loop 2017/10/11 12:25:27 (permalink)
    Thank you.  Would it make sense that only one of the Nord "outs" experiences the issue?  Would I need an "active" or "passive" DI box?

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    #17
    abacab
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    Re: USB Ground Loop 2017/10/11 12:41:03 (permalink)
    I've never had to invest in a DI, but my understanding is that you would want "active" for anything that needed a pre-amp.
     
    Since your Moog should be outputting at instrument level, passive would most likely work.

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    husker
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    Re: USB Ground Loop 2017/10/11 14:08:52 (permalink)
    Thanks Abacab.  I think I am going to throw in the towel on this.  The cheapest solution I guess is simply just to turn down those inputs on the Focusrite when I don't need them.  I'm just one of these guys who wants to understand everything, and the whole thing has just really bothered me.
     
    This issue has really gotten me sidetracked on what I want to do - learn about Sonar and make some music.

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    Interfaces - Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 2nd Gen / MOTU Midi Express XT USB
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    #19
    abacab
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    Re: USB Ground Loop 2017/10/11 15:10:25 (permalink)
    Since you do have several external pieces of gear, you might consider investing in a good used hardware mixer to connect all hardware modules outboard of the audio interface. 
     
    This compact mixer has very flexible routing options.  I have an ancient version of this that served me well, back in the day.  It has a second stereo bus with the Mute/Alt 3-4 buttons in the channel strip.  This is routed to a separate pair of outputs, so you really can have four outs at a time (Main 1-2 & Alt 3-4).  Plus with control room outs, you can run directly to a set of monitors or an amp without needing a computer to play live.
     
    For example this Mackie 1202 new is only $270. 
    https://www.amazon.com/Mackie-1202VLZ4-12-Channel-Compact-Mixer/dp/B00EDHVQN6/ref=dp_ob_title_ce
     
    On eBay, pre-owned seems to run about $100-150.
    https://www.ebay.com/p/Mackie-1202-VLZ-Pro-Mixer-1202vlz-1202VLZPRO-12-U076692/1519581409

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    #20
    Rob[at]Sound-Rehab
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    Re: USB Ground Loop 2017/10/11 21:10:22 (permalink)
    husker
    Thanks Abacab.  I think I am going to throw in the towel on this.  The cheapest solution I guess is simply just to turn down those inputs on the Focusrite when I don't need them.  I'm just one of these guys who wants to understand everything, and the whole thing has just really bothered me.
     
    This issue has really gotten me sidetracked on what I want to do - learn about Sonar and make some music.


    You should check if the noise is also part of the recorded signal (which I would assume it would be). If so, you should still try fix it, otherwise you won't be happy with your recorded quality.

    I'd order a simple 2 channel passive DI box with a return policy. Probably only costs you about 50 bucks. You can also test the Nord with it ... if it does not help, send it back...

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    #21
    filtersweep
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    Re: USB Ground Loop 2017/10/12 01:04:17 (permalink)
    I had a frustrating similar problem a few years ago. I could make it go away by running a wire metal chassis to metal chassis between my synth and my computer, essentially grounding them together. Another "fix" was when I discovered that several  unused inputs on my Roland  interface had their gain turned up for no reason. Turning down the gain on the unused channels made the hum disappear, even without grounding the synth to the computer. My assumption was that the loop was still there but no longer being amplified. For some reason it was not audible on the channels that have the synth plugged in no matter what the gain on those channels.
     
    I am not sure if grounding devices to each other is safe or not. The effect is similar to lifting the ground on one of the devices, though (not an expert by any stretch here) it seems the devices would still be grounded.
     
    Brian

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    #22
    azslow3
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    Re: USB Ground Loop 2017/10/12 17:21:29 (permalink)
    https://www.music-group.com/Categories/Behringer/Signal-Processors/DI-Boxes/HD400/p/P0387
    That has helped be in 2 cases of USB ground looping:
    1) TC GTX -> (audio) -> DP. DP -> (MIDI) -> TC GTX.  As soon as DP was connected by USB to computer, especially when TC GTX was connected to it as well, there was no fun...
    2) TD-20 -> (audio) -> Mixer. Mixer -> (USB) -> Computer. As soon as TD-20 was also connected by USB to the (same) computer, there was again no fun...
     
    I have different interconnections now, and I have not managed to solve all USB related noise (when TD-20, DP, VS-20 and my mixer all together have USB connection, no matter what I do the result is noisy). But HD400 is cheap, so it may be worse to try.

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    #23
    Fog
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    Re: USB Ground Loop 2017/10/12 17:46:28 (permalink)
    i'd say it was more related to plug sockets (or adapters) that have that bigger voltage, than any pc parts.
     
    you need to eliminate various aspects. e.g. if it's a laptop try without PSU.. if you use a gang socket , cheapo ones here cause issues (first place I looked when finding them for others) , to narrow it down to 1 thing.
     
    depends on where you are, as US is obviously different from the UK.
    have a read
     
    https://support.native-instruments.com/hc/en-us/articles/210293145-How-to-Resolve-Ground-Loop-Issues-Humming-and-Buzzing-Sounds-
     
    #24
    husker
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    Re: USB Ground Loop 2017/10/16 18:42:47 (permalink)
    I appreciate all of your suggestions and help. I think I have finally resolved my issues;  at least enough where I can get back to focusing on what I need to.
     
    Basically, I had multiple electrical noises across two devices. 
     
    On the Moog, I swapped to from a balanced cable to an unbalanced cable, then used a ground lift adapter on the plug.  The combination of those two seemed to have resolved that issue.
     
    On the Nord, I moved the power to the same strip as my interface, then used a USB filter between the device and the computer.
     
    Electrical problems suck.

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    #25
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