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Soundcraft Notepad 5 Audio Interface Review

Rate this interface

  • 1. Poor (headless panther)

    Votes: 77 65.3%
  • 2. Not terrible (postman panther)

    Votes: 31 26.3%
  • 3. Fine (happy panther)

    Votes: 9 7.6%
  • 4. Great (golfing panther)

    Votes: 1 0.8%

  • Total voters
    118

PeteL

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This thing is supposed to be cheap. I don’t necessarily think it is supposed to be for podcasts as there is only one mic preamp in it. Most podcasts I’m familiar with have multiple participants.

I think this is really for the one or two-man/woman band and/or solo singer/songwriter playing at a cafe or hotel bar. You have a mic input for vocals and then a 1/4” in for guitar (or similar), a line in for keys or drum machine (or similar), and a USB input if you are using a laptop running garage band or something similar to supply drums and bass. Use this to set the levels and connect to powered PA monitors and it’s good enough to get the job done for live music. It can be thrown in a backpack and is easily transportable to/from low key gigs with limited room.

I do not think it is good enough to record with. Not seriously, anyway. But then again, it’s $130.

I’d like to see the analog inputs/outputs also tested because that is the most probable use case for this device.
I don't know any singer that would accept to sign without reverb, even in minimalist venue, and such minimalist eq possibility. I think most will at least purchase one with an aux out for FX, or onboard fx. I see those more for speech, typically, a iphone with a playlist in one and maybe an other source for the audio of your power point presentation or video on the other, and a mic and there you go you have an event, It can be just anything, an art exhibition, a conference, a party... In the end it don't matter, it's a mixer, you can mix 2 stereo sources and a mic, it's cheap. Whatever you do with it don't matter, it just mean that whatever you do is not worth spending more money than that is perfectly fine. Sometime, all that's needed is to be able to understand what the guy or gal is saying over there, it's called public adress not called "the sound of this performance is giving me goosebumps"
 

Billy Budapest

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I don't know any singer that would accept to sign without reverb, even in minimalist venue, and such minimalist eq possibility. I think most will at least purchase one with an aux out for FX, or onboard fx. I see those more for speech, typically, a iphone with a playlist in one and maybe an other source for the audio of your power point presentation or video on the other, and a mic and there you go you have an event, It can be just anything, an art exhibition, a conference, a party... In the end it don't matter, it's a mixer, you can mix 2 stereo sources and a mic, it's cheap. Whatever you do with it don't matter, it just mean that whatever you do is not worth spending more money than that is perfectly fine. Sometime, all that's needed is to be able to understand what the guy or gal is saying over there, it's called public adress not called "the sound of this performance is giving me goosebumps"
That’s true, a singer would probably want ‘verb in the vocal and most probably some compression too.
 

SMJ

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I think a lot of you have missed the point of this product, it's not there to provide the highest quality on any of the ins & outs, USB or analogue. It's about having a small convenient device to provide a mic, line and a DI like input with an headphone or line out to powered speakers for monitoring at the quality level of just above the 'yep, something's happening' point.

I have used these at broadcast studios where you need a simple mic feed into the broadcast audio server via a networked desktop or laptop. The quality is perfectly adequate for news and sport V/O items. You can then edit the actuality clips together with your newly recorded voice piece as a 'package' saving it to the server for broadcast.

I have also used them in sessions where a group of new trainee reporters are being introduced to the delights of audio editing. With a room of 10-15 PCs with Adobe Audition etc. all needing mic/line inputs and HP monitoring, the idea of a budget $100 mixer as part of the DAW setup starts to make sense.

Soundcraft are an OK company, but here you are looking at the very very bottom rung of the ladder as far as their product range goes.

As with a lot of these products it is designed to meet a marketing price point or serve a consumer/competitor expectation and it has some expected short comings as a consequence. I think the obvious ones are:

1. The mic gain is too small, not enough for a Shure SM7B (or any dynamic) at normal V/O levels. Works fine with a cheap P48 condenser though.
2. No channel pan control.

A big plus is the high pass filter in the analogue signal path, it's essential for recording V/O in the average news production office. A surprising number of high-end interfaces get it wrong (or cheat) by putting the HPF in the digital domain after the ADC conversion - any LF distortion will have already happened at this point in the signal path unless the ADC is extremely high-end.

And how come they're cheaper in the US than in Europe, Thomman currently lists the Notepad 5 at £109 + £10 shipping.
 

Geert

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And how come they're cheaper in the US than in Europe, Thomman currently lists the Notepad 5 at £109 + £10 shipping.
The UK is not Europe.. anymore ;) In Europe it's cheaper; 125€ and free shipping.
 

PeteL

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As with a lot of these products it is designed to meet a marketing price point or serve a consumer/competitor expectation and it has some expected short comings as a consequence. I think the obvious ones are:

1. The mic gain is too small, not enough for a Shure SM7B (or any dynamic) at normal V/O levels. Works fine with a cheap P48 condenser though.
2. No channel pan control.
It's all fair, but 1 dB stereo imbalance is simply not acceptable at any price, even more so if you don't have a balance pot to compensate for it. In the end it may do a lot of stuff, your use cases are valid and there are plenty more, but no one wants to listen to a stereo source clearly panned off.
Now it would have been interesting to see if the stereo rca in does that too or if it's a flaw of the DAC, or any other analog performance metric, but Amir does tend to cut the reviews very short when he don't like the first test.
 

SMJ

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Older Soundcraft Folio series mixers did have an internal pot to tweak channel offsets, but I haven't pulled a Notepad apart since before they added USB. Probably the mechanical tolerance on the stereo ganged pot used on the stereo channel gain or output fader at fault, rather than circuit design. Many companies fudged the issue by having two mono faders on the main output but it was marketed as giving added flexibility, typical on the Mackie mixers that Behringer cloned.

Geert, the last time I looked the British Isles were still part of the continent of Europe... but I get your point. The last 30 years of work and collaboration with other EU broadcast companies now dust. I can't even access my own material that I contributed to EU funded projects in the past, even though the UK is still theoretically part of the European Broadcast Union.
 

PeteL

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Older Soundcraft Folio series mixers did have an internal pot to tweak channel offsets, but I haven't pulled a Notepad apart since before they added USB. Probably the mechanical tolerance on the stereo ganged pot used on the stereo channel gain or output fader at fault, rather than circuit design. Many companies fudged the issue by having two mono faders on the main output but it was marketed as giving added flexibility, typical on the Mackie mixers that Behringer cloned.

Geert, the last time I looked the British Isles were still part of the continent of Europe... but I get your point. The last 30 years of work and collaboration with other EU broadcast companies now dust. I can't even access my own material that I contributed to EU funded projects in the past, even though the UK is still theoretically part of the European Broadcast Union.
Normally "Internal pots" are not to tweak channel offset by the end user. They are to be used at quality control... Or if years later the unit develop a problem, then by a maintenance technician. A manufacturer should not ship it like that assuming that who buy this will have the measuring equipment and the skill to "tweak it".
 

AnalogSteph

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A big plus is the high pass filter in the analogue signal path, it's essential for recording V/O in the average news production office. A surprising number of high-end interfaces get it wrong (or cheat) by putting the HPF in the digital domain after the ADC conversion - any LF distortion will have already happened at this point in the signal path unless the ADC is extremely high-end.
Either our definitions of "extremely high-end" are very different, or this might be more of a PEBKAC issue. Any ADC that's kept in the better than -80 dB or so THD+N range at all times should be linear enough to allow for some software HPF. All bets are off once the input is pushed into the grossly nonlinear region or even straight up clipping, of course. So you do need accurate metering to keep track of input peak levels pre-HPF.

The last 30 years of work and collaboration with other EU broadcast companies now dust. I can't even access my own material that I contributed to EU funded projects in the past, even though the UK is still theoretically part of the European Broadcast Union.
Bummer. The joys of Brexit. (Not one of the UK's finer moments in history, but that's stating the obvious.)

On another note, does anyone know what kind of USB codec or whatnot they are using in the Notepad 5? The specs are extremely sparse when it comes to that aspect (with more detail only provided for the larger models). It doesn't look like a trusty PCM2904, ADC passband ripple and input dynamic range seem rather better than that.
 
Last edited:

PeteL

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. Any ADC that's kept in the better than -80 dB or so THD+N range at all times should be linear enough to allow for some software LPF. All bets are off once the input is pushed into the grossly nonlinear region or even straight up clipping, of course. So you do need accurate metering to keep track of input peak levels pre-LPF.
I think that's not the point, SMJ is talking about high pass, not low pass. if the mic pops at the preamp due to microphone proximity effects you can try to filter the subs digitally but the attack of the pop will still be present on the recording.
 

AnalogSteph

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I think that's not the point, SMJ is talking about high pass, not low pass.
Sorry, little brain fart moment there. I mistakenly wrote LPF but did mean HPF. Corrected.
if the mic pops at the preamp due to microphone proximity effects you can try to filter the subs digitally but the attack of the pop will still be present on the recording.
But that has nothing to do with where the highpass is. An equivalent filter before or after the ADC would still have the same effect (assuming the ADC is never even close to being clipped). Your example is something that can only be properly fixed by mic technique, e.g. placing the mic off-axis.
 

PeteL

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Sorry, little brain fart moment there. I mistakenly wrote LPF but did mean HPF. Corrected.

But that has nothing to do with where the highpass is. An equivalent filter before or after the ADC would still have the same effect (assuming the ADC is never even close to being clipped). Your example is something that can only be properly fixed by mic technique, e.g. placing the mic off-axis.
I am talking about clipping the preamp. Not the ADC. Yes it can be prevented with a High pass, that's the reason for it, audio engineers has to work with performers eating dynamic mics all the time, a Hi pass is a must have. Speakers and vocalist like the proximity effect, it's not poor mic technique to talk into a mic on axis, but it's up to the engineer to make sure that you don't let it pop.
 

SMJ

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From a practical point, trying to teach correct mic placement and level setting to a journo is quite easy, getting them to remember to repeat the process consistently when under pressure is another challenge. It may not be possible to place the mic slightly off axis, even in radio studios now. With more and more live video streaming, the mic choice and positioning often takes second place to the lighting and camera angles or artistic look - it's getting more and more like a TV studio everyday. Unless the ADC is 24 bit or better and the levels have enough headroom, I would still prefer the HPF in the analogue domain pre converter, especially at the budget end of the market. Classic mic amp design puts the HPF before any gain stages for a reason.

Always been quite common to have to 'lift the lid' to change default settings on mixers in the semi-broadcast world. I've seen them all from plug on DIP headers, DIP switches, hex rotary switches, plug-in DIP modules right the way to bridging solder pads or manually adding wire links. Often used to move insert points or AUX/Monitor sends pre or post EQ, PFL/Solo/AFL modes, Clean Feed/Mix Minus/M-1 settings. I view channel gain tweaks as a benefit too as it allows for component drift over time that's expected in an analogue system. It's also not limited to the budget end either, I've had my soldering iron out on £100,000+ desks too.

I don't know what CODEC Soundcraft is using as I've lost my contacts there since Harman split Soundcraft and Studer closing the factory that manufactured modules for the high end digital consoles for both companies in the UK. My main dealing was with Studer who are now owned by Evertz of Canada since 2021.
 

galgogergo

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I don't know why only the converter part was tested. I would very much like to know how the headphone output performs, and how much noise the analóg mixer makes. And more importantly, if it is any better than a Behringer Xenyx for the added price.

Most people would use these as a monitor console for the electric drums, where they can adjust the ratio of ther mix from the phones, and such.

All the other things (including ADC/DAC just being a complementary function) has been said before me.
 

Postlan

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I'm surprised to find this is better than popular Audient iD4. Not bad at all...
 

AnalogSteph

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The ADC SINAD chart on the first page of this thread.
That's a good illustration of the perils of comparing SINAD/THD+N then.

Which one would you rather use?

This
Soundcraft notepad 5 audio interface ADC THD vs Level Measurements.png

or this
Audient iD4 Audio Interface MIC ADC THD+ N Audio Measurements.png

?

Assuming you can keep levels below -2 dBFS at all times, it's not even close IMHO. Keep it below -3 dBFS, and distortion is never worse while you've still got 10 dB more dynamic range left.
 

ousi

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I purchased this a couple years ago and returned to Amazon within 1 day of use. It has a very high noise floor which is a deal breaker immediately.
 
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