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The sound quality on submitted assignments is very poor.  It is impossible on most recordings to evaluate the tone quality of the student performances. The recordings also vary greatly in terms of what actually arrives to my SM. Sometimes I hear the accompaniment, sometimes not.  Sometimes there's no audio at all.

I'm sure this has to do with the wide variety of devices/machines and microphones. Nevertheless, it's tough to sit in a parent conference and tell a parent their child's tone quality needs improvement when my hard data is a poor recording on SM.

13 comments

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    Brandon Stover
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    Yes, the sound phases in and out (gets really loud, then soft again). These recordings are terrible quality, it almost sounds as if the microphone is in a glass of water while they are playing. My students are using the same mics and set up they were using last year on old smart music and the quality has dropped greatly.  

    If the goal of New Smart Music is to preserve recordings for students and allow them to listen back to them years later, then this poor level of quality is a failure of that goal.

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    Scott Herman
    0

    I wonder if this is related to the microphone calibration system. I also wonder if this calibration must be done with or without the earphones in and if it makes a difference?   

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    Clint Steinbrunner
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    This is still an issue. Has there been any sort of response from SmartMusic about this issue?

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    Tom Shuman
    0

    I'm going to go ahead and bump this too in hopes of getting a response from somebody from SM team. 

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    Diana Reents
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    Still and issue for me too.  Has anyone figured out a solution?  

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    Jon Cielinski
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    Hi everyone. The recording quality in SmartMusic, or audio software in general, is largely dependent on the microphone, as well as the space being used to record. Microphones built into computers, especially in Chromebooks tend to vary greatly in quality and are commonly designed with speech in mind, rather than the frequency and dynamic ranges of instruments. That said, there are a couple things that can help make sure you get the best performance possible with the equipment at hand. 

     

    First, we'll want to minimize any background noise in the room. When possible, it's best to record in a smaller space, like a practice room to avoid excess reverberation. It's also important to make sure that other students aren't playing in the background. I also recommend using headphones to ensure that the microphone isn't picking up the accompaniment from the speakers. This is especially important when using a device where the speakers and microphone are next to each other, like an iPad.

     

    If it doesn't seem like room noise is your issue and you're still getting poor recording quality while using headphones, then it's more than likely going to be related to the microphone. As I mentioned above, built-in computer mics are designed with speaking in mind and have a relatively low SPL level - or the decibels a microphone can take before it begins distorting. Where a built-in microphone can sound great when voice chatting, or using Skype, when for example picking up a trombone, the microphone can essentially become stressed and distort the recording. Although the new SmartMusic will generally work with most built-in mics, if you're seeing this kind of problem, using an external microphone will often yield improved results. 

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    TERESA MARINO
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    They keep saying that we're somehow setting up the microphone incorrectly, the mic has gone bad, or the internal mic in the laptop is made for voices and not instruments. My reply to that is twofold:

    There are FAR too many of us, FAR too many different devices being used, FAR too many internet providers, and FAR too many students of all ages and abilities (in technology as well as music) for this to always be a user error or equipment failure of some sort. I do not have a single student who has yet to experience serious playback quality.

    As well as teaching Band, I teach Chorus. I have been using SmartMusic with all of my ensembles for over a decade. My choral students had never before experienced the playback quality problems that seem to be inherent in this new platform - internal mic or not.

    Frankly, I'm beginning to feel insulted! Vocal or instrumental, internal or external mic, it matters not. 

  • Avatar
    TODD MASTRIC
    1

    If the mic is being overpowered then it's turned up too high.  This is an internal issue for the platform since we cannot alter that setting that I have found in our settings.  If, as Ms. Marino suggests, this is new to this version then find the setting from the old version and alter this version so that we can use it.  I love the idea of this service but I cannot use it like this.

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    TODD MASTRIC
    1

    The real shame here is that this post is 3 years old and nothing has been done to rectify the problem.  Smart Music seems like such a good resource but I won't be purchasing it for next year if this is what I can expect.

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    Isaac Vandeveer
    0

    I've been playing with this all day.  I've used the internal mic on the Macbook air that's running SmartMusic and I've used a usb podcasting mic and an Apogee One which is supposed to have a quality internal mic.  I can get an ok recording if I turn the input levels way down and I have to back away quite far (playing brass instruments by the way).  The problem is something in SmartMusic or Chrome keeps turning the input up too high automatically.  I've looked everywhere for a way to turn off the auto level and cannot find it.  I assume SmartMusic is taking control of the input level because, at this point, I've denied access to any other app that might use the internal  mic.  If anyone knows how to "pin" the input volume it is an improvement. 

    If SmartMusic is taking control of the input level, can you please give us a way to turn that off.

    I suspect the other issue might be the cloud based nature of the new SmartMusic.  It sounds like the recordings are being sent back and forth into the cloud.  So that's a lot of data to transfer and things sound garbled.

    It's a shame because the older version seemed to give better recordings but then there are advantages to being online.

  • Avatar
    Denis Shebukhov
    0

    Same problem. Students complaining about sound quality!

  • Avatar
    Dale Sharkey
    0

    I am following this, as well.  It is one of the most frustrating things for students - it really makes them HATE using Smartmusic.  That is NOT what we want from the software or from our band programs.  IT turns kids off to practicing, rather than turning them on to it.  The classic Smartmusic was more fun and encouraging for kids, as they didn't have these crazy mic issues.  I guess a better way to state it is that they had the issues, but we were able to adjust volume and help solve the issues.

    I did some experimenting today.  I am using a Lenovo X13 Yoga running Windows 10, and I am running Smartmusic on the current Google Chrome browser.  I used some cheap open back headphones when recording.

    Using a Presonus Audiobox USB96 Audio Interface ($99.95) and the following mics all gave me a decent recording.  I set the input volume on the interface at roughly 65%, and had the mic input on my computer at a volume level of 12 (out of 100).  The mics were set 5 feet away from me.

    • Shure SM58 Cardioid Dynamic ($99.00)
    • Audio Technica ATM 650 Dynamic Hypercardioid ($99.00)
    • Audio Technica AT PRO 41 Cardioid Dynamic ($59.00)
    • Audio Technica ATM 250 Hypercardioid Dynamic ($199.00)
    • Audio Technica AT 2021 Cardioid Small Diaphragm Condenser ($79.00)
    • Presonus M7 Hypercardioid Large Diaphragm Condenser ($45.00)
    • AKG P420 Large Diaphragm Condenser, set on Cardioid ($199.00)

    These all produced a pretty decent sounding recordings.

    I tried my cheap USB plug and play Maono Elf Pro Omnidirectional Small Diaphragm Condenser ($20.00).  It was set 5 feet away from me.  I set the audio input at the same level that it was on using the audio interface.  It produced a pretty decent recording, at a comparable level to the other mics.  I was quite surprised, as it usually doesn't produce good recordings on Smartmusic.

    Next, I tried using the built in mic on my computer.  I tried various volume input settings - 100%, 50%, 25% and 12%.  They all sounded like weird garbled digital audio recordings.  The volume made little, if any, difference in the quality.

    I went back to the Maono Elf that I had just used.  I set the input settings exactly the same way they were set a few moments ago.  IT sounded like the garbled digital audio that the built in mic provided.  I am convinced there are gremlins living in my laptop (and all of my student's laptops, as well) who's sole purpose in life is to frustrate us with crappy sound quality.

    I did this all a second time, just to be sure.  I didn't use all of the high quality mics that I used the first time, but got similar results.  What is going on with the audio?  Does the high quality using the interface trick the computer into thinking the Maono Elf is also a good mic?

    Please help us resolve these issues.

     

     

  • Avatar
    DAVID WRIGHT
    0

    I agree with all of these comments. Based on SmartMusic support's response, I don't think they have addressed the problem. If this problem is so wide spread, it has to be a programming issue. I have used SmartMusic (Classic) for over ten years and never had to 1) Be in a small room, 2) Use a specific microphone, 3) Use headphones for recording. This problem is unacceptable. SmartMusic - if this browser based version wasn't RIGHT when it was developed, why did you release it? I loved the old program, but this version is such poor quality I probably won't use it next year. The sound issues are only the tip of the iceberg! Like I said, I have been using SmartMusic for over 10 years with somewhere between 150-200 students per year using the platform. I don't believe the statistics of 40% of students using Chrome Books.Most school districts now are dumping those awful machines in favor of the much more usable and robust Windows and Mac operating systems. I'm sure I am speaking for the vast majority here. Please return to the quality you once aspired to or you will be out of business from all your customers dropping an unusable program.

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