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The "Poor Man's" radio setup

I've been looking into sound cards for "PlayIt Live" and I thought I would give a cheap Chinese surround sound card a go. I've had it for some years (possibly most of a decade) and not had that much luck with it up until now.



I'm using an old XP computer. The greatest challenge was finding suitable drivers for the USB sound card. Sadly I've lost the little disk it came with.


Extensive use of Google took me to an Australian site which had XP (and other OS) drivers for the CM6206 chip that the USB sound card used.


The drivers installed and in the system tray helper there was a nice test setup that stepped round each of the 6 output channels.


If you buy a card new I'm sure it will come with a driver disk and save you that stage.


Next I installed ASIO4ALL. This was a minor battle as the latest version didn't seem to like XP but the last one in the 1.xxx version series seems to work fine with XP so I used that.


Finally select 6 channel mode on the card.



and we are ready to run PlayIt Live.


I can choose a stereo output for each of 2 players and a third for cue (I've also assigned carts to that channel). This feeds 3 channels on an old mixer I have and I've a low cost production set up.



Finally, I used the built in sound card on the PC to take the mixer audio in and I've got a source to stream. I've got BUTT set up on the same XP machine.



If the streaming server were "outside" my home network anyone could listen.


"Radio Shed" all ready to use.


I would add processing (*or at least limiting) on the mixer output for "serious" use but it's not a bad setup.


Any questions feel free to ask.



Hi. Thanks for this. Being a total novice may I ask why you need two sound cards please? Can't you just run off the sound card in your PC (As you may have guessed my technical knowledge is limited!)

Paul, a good question.


It come down to what you want to do. If you want to have a pre-mixed stream of audio then feeding every source on PlayIt Live to the computer sound card output is fine (assuming the quality of the computer sound card suits you).


One reason you might want an independent sound card is to stop all the computer sounds (from other applications etc.) also being mixed in with your music. 


A second sound output also allows you to use the better sound card for the main audio stream and the sound card output for a "cue" output so (in "manual" or "semi-auto") you can listen to a song before dropping it in the play list.


In that case you still have one "audience" sound output, so if you use a mixer (to add in a microphone or other sources) the PlayIt Live output comes on a single channel.


To allow level adjustment of each song independently and to make it all work more like CD players, you can send each channel to a different sound card (or channel on a multi channel sound card).


In the example above each of two players turns up on its own channel and the carts on a third channel. As carts are not use that often carts can share with cue or the cue can have a fourth channel (I ended up doing it that way on the setup above after writing the post above - using the PC sound card out as the fourth source and the final mixer channel)


That way you can dip a song on the mixer to play a cart over it.


Finally, a word about ASIO.


With PCs you generally have a stereo feed to the PC sound card. The PC mixes the sound from all applications into the "default" sound device (unless the application has a different destination selected, then  sound is mixed into that second destination).


ASIO is a way of an application producing sound without using the windows mixer (Wikipedia has a good article about this - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Audio_Stream_Input/Output).


Some (generally good quality) sound cards come with an ASIO driver and PlayIt Live supports output on ASIO devices.


Alternatively ASIO4ALL lets you use ASIO on some cheap devices (as I did).


Any more questions, ask away.



Hi Mark, Thank you for taking the time to reply. If I have understood correctly, if I had a mixing desk with 6 sliders and a 6 channel sound card, I could assign each slider to a channel and can control volume etc from the mixer? I am looking to set up an Internet Radio show and would want each slider assigned to a different cart and then have spare sliders for mics or attaching other inputs. Would this work please? Again, thank you for your time and for sharing your expertise.

Paul,


Sort of, yes.


Typically, however, you would have players assigned to a fader each (stereo channels for music) and two players (one for the song playing and another for the next song) would suffice.


From the days when "carts" were a physical device, often multiple carts appeared on a single mixer channel and I don't think you can present carts over multiple audio output channels.


As well as the "player" model, PlayIt Live supports "classic" mode where there are multiple channels, each of which is available to be played. These could feed multiple channels.


Sound cards mostly have one stereo output channel, a few have two stereo output channels and a small number support more stereo output channels (as supplied).


Also, mixers with large numbers of stereo channels (more than 6) tend to be at a fairly high cost.


A setup as shown above would be fine to produce an Internet radio programme for many purposes (although I would add some kind of audio processor/limiter - for example the Behringer MiniCom Com800) to prevent overloading the sound card input with voice peaks.


I suggest you install PlayIt Live and experiment.


When you do, from my experience, it is worth just loading a handful of songs at first and trying the software with them.


Then make a separate and structured collection of music (folders with categories) and load the library by each folder assigning it a category and analysing them as they are added (for cue points).


This is quite a lot of work but will make the library much easier to use and it is easiest to do this when you add the music in the first place.


Brilliant, thank you. Having started adding the music I think getting the organisation right in terms of your tracks is crucial. Thanks for all the advice. Time to bite the bullet!

This is very interesting.  I have a couple of these which I don't use.  My understanding is that these have 3 outputs but I could never get PlayIt Live or indeed anything to address the 3 outputs separately.  I wanted to have 3 decks on Play It Live with each one outputting to a separate jack socked on the device but I could only ever figure out how to do it with one.


The problem as I see it is that the drivers do not create a separate audio device in windows device manager and it is these that Play It Live outputs to.

At the moment, I have 5 Turtle Beach USB sound adapters with 4 of the mapped to Play It Live decks and that works very well with a fader on each.  I even have the remote start buttons on my mixing desk programmed to operate Plat It START/STOP so that I can start tracks from the mixer.

You call yours a poor man's system but my setup isn't much more elaborate.  It's a collection of old disused laptops/desktops, a £170 Behringer mixer, Turtle Beach USB sound cards and of course Play It Live!

Stephen.

Question for you -


How exactly did you configure this USB audio box to output to multiple channels using Play It Live?


Because it beat me!


Stephen.


Stephen,


You are (I believe) correct in that the Windows drivers won't present this sound card (or possibly any card) as multiple stereo outputs.


The key to getting 3 stereo outputs is using the ASIO driver (in this case ASIO4ALL).


If you install ASIO4ALL, PlayIt Live will show 3 stereo channels (1/2, 3/4, 5/6). Select these to the decks and you will get 3 separate stereo audio feeds from the one USB sound card.


I'm sure your Turtle Beach adaptors are a reasonable solution as well but I was looking for a single device with multiple stereo outputs and I had this in my junk collection.



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Stephen,


For completeness, the layout I use on PlayIt Live on this setup.



Then the decks and cart setup.




Slightly curiously, on this card, the 3.5mm jacks map as 1/2, 5/6 & 3/4 hence the order I use to get player, player cart on the mixer without a cross in the cables.



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Thanks for the above.  Now I am beginning to understand.  I didn't realise that PlayIt Live could address the ASIO channels.  So, this makes sense.


One further question that I do have is if I install ASIO4ALL, how do you configure it?  I have installed it yet I can find any settings dialog box either in my start menu or control panel.  The manual for ASIO4ALL shows this window with lots of settings on it but how you find these settings is eluding me.  Could I ask you give me a tip as to how I might find these hidden ASIO4ALL settings.


Cheers,  Stephen.




Stephen,


As you can see from the above (note this is V1.8 and the 2.X series looks different) there isn't much to adjust.


Click on the shortcut, select the correct sound card and you should be offered the ASIO channels in the PlayIt Live windows as above.


I would try it with one of the 6 channel sound cards first. I've no idea how it will cope with 2 cards. 


Hope this helps.


Mark Hawkins





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Hello Mark,


Thanks for this.  I have installed ASIO4ALL.  At first, nothing showed up in PlayIt Live under the device settings but after [playing about with settings and a few re-boots, the options to output to the different sockets on the above device appeared.  I have tried them out and they all work and the box produces enough output voltage to give a nice strong signal into the channels on the mixer.  The settings software for the sound box and the ASIO4ALL control panel look a little different than your pictures but functionally they're the same.

I am grateful to you for taking the time to show me how to do this because I would never have figured it out on my own.  I had numerous emails with the supplier of the USB sound box and not once to they say that I'n need an ASIO sound driver to make it output to all of the different jack sockets.  I am still using the Turtle Beach USB sound cards for now but at least I now have another I/O device that I can use.


Incidentally, I do find USB I/O cards quite noisy generally.  The Turtle Beach one's seem good but there is still some slight noise.  The ones that I got from PC World were appalling!  


I was wondering what exactly your mixer is?  Does it have PFL?  You said above that you use one of the outputs of the USB box for prefade.


If you want the original disk for this unit, I am happy to send it to you.


Cheers,  Stephen.

Stephen,


I'm not surprised the suppliers of the USB sound card were not much help with 3 stereo channel use, they intend the device to be used for 5.1 surround.


Pleased to be able to help. I wrote the original article because having taken a while to get it all to work I thought it might be of use to others.


The mixer is the IMG Stage Line MPX-205. I bought it for about £40 on ebay some years back to use with a twin CD player.


It is by no means a great mixer (the faders don't have a very solid feel - not Penny & Giles !) but it has a mic fader and not to many unwanted "DJ" features. It does have a fairly sensible PFL, the only weakness is that you fade between "main" and "PFL" rather than having "main" if you don't select a PFL source or having "main" on another button.


The MPX-205 is fine for "Radio Shed" testing. If I were buying a new mixer now I might look at the Behringer DX2000USB. While the USB feature isn't much use for radio style playout (one channel only) it has faders on the mic channels which is fairly rare at this price point.


I started using the third stereo channel for carts and prefade but found that "scrubbing" audio in prefade upset the other outputs (possibly the card doesn't like different sample rates or something) so I now use the PC sound output for prefade on the fourth mixer channel.


I haven't done much experimentation on the noise level on the system. Subjectively it is OK and the streaming uses the PC sound input. 


I have other hardware which I'm going to experiment with PlayIt Live on in the not too distant future but this was a first step.


A copy of the driver disk would be most useful, if only to compare with what I'm currently using. Perhaps you could e-mail Jason and he could pass it on.. 


Mark Hawkins




I can't seem to email Jason as  that address is for members only I believe.  I could attach it to this thread if you like. 


The Behringer DX2000USB is what I have and I have to give it 5 stars for value-for-money.  I didn't quite get your point about the USB.  I use the USB output of the mixer to a PC running the encoder.  Everything is experimental at the moment but listening to the audio from this mixer on an iPad with earphones via an encoded stream sounds good to me.  One feature I like on  this mixer is the start buttons which I have finally succeeded to interface to PlayIt live giving me the ultimate in convenience.  I have 4 decks on PlayIt Live each going into a separate fader on the Behringer which I am sure you agree is the height of luxury!  I like the PFL and the independent gain pots that allow you to adjust the gain to the 0db line on the fader.  I bought my mixer from Europe and saved nearly £50.  On the downside, there are no independent output channels so you can't create a "mix minus" but there is an output that excludes the mic inputs meaning that you can run the monitor speakers in the studio at a reasonable level and not get any feedback.  I really shopped around before buying a mixing desk and I honestly have no regrets with the DX2000USB even if the faders are on the "light" side.

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