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Help me choose? Read Carefully...

Discussion in 'Recording' started by Native2010, Feb 19, 2010.

  1. Native2010

    Native2010 Guest

    Hello All!

    I use my PC for lots of entertainment, from watching movies, recording TV, listening to music, and I dabble in music production.

    I'm looking for a reasonable audio interface for under $200 that will suit my needs but not give me buyers remorse shortly after the return policy expired.

    Right now my I'm using the on board audio, which has worked fine for just listening to music and watching movies. My PC is hooked up to my surround receiver via SPDIF Coax. It's nothing spectacular, it's an older JVC that supports Dolby/DTS and has both Optical & SPDIF Coax digital inputs, I'm not in the market to buy another receiver just yet, and I'm not looking to buy studio monitors anytime soon. My PC also is plugged in through Component to my TV as well, so I'm not using an HDMI connection (yet...) I would be ok with switching between the Digital and the Analog (Stereo) inputs on my receiver, it's just a press of a button after all. :)

    System Specs.
    HP M9000T
    Intel DualCore 2.33ghz
    4gb Ram
    Windows 7 Pro 64bit
    NVidia 9600GTS (Overclocked) - 2-23" Acer Monitors & Component Breakout to TV

    Listening to music - ITunes mainly, or Winamp.
    Watching/Recording TV - GBPVR, also watch Movies in GBPVR with K-Lite Codec Pack using ffshow to decode DTS/Dolby.
    Music Production - Reason (4.01) along with some other programs, but mainly reason.

    Axiom 49 (Just got it, and LOVE it so far)
    Radium 49 (Revived now that I can use the Midi ports off the Axiom and daisy chain them!)
    Korg Nano-Key (Mostly to dedicate to ReDrum or use on my laptop to toy around with)

    I don't use any analog outputs really as I don't have a pair of Monitor Speakers, I use the 2nd speaker output of my receiver with a nice pair of Boston Acoustic bookshelf speakers as my monitors. So basically all of my audio runs out to my receiver.

    I don't have a use for a million analog inputs, I may have a friend with his guitar hook up to it from time to time. So something with 2 Stereo or 4 Mono analog inputs is fine with me.

    My biggest concern is ASIO & Latency with Midi/Software. You know how annoying it is when you press down on a key and hear the note .5 seconds later? Or when the note comes out short or the beginning is cut off? I like to play stuff live or play along and record it into the sequencer, I hate sequencing with a mouse.

    My interface choices are PCI/PCI-E and USB (too many complications with Firewire). I already have a bundle of wire coming out of it. I was hoping to avoid having breakouts, but it seems that most of the USB options are either not good enough (24bit/96khz vs 24bit/192khz) plus latency issues, and problems with the device dissappearing and all.

    To give you an idea of what I'm looking at. I've been looking at an M-Audio Audiophile 192, M-Audio 2496, and also the E-MU 1212M PCI-E. A friend of mine has an older M-Audio Audiophile USB (I don't remember exactly what model number) and I have seen Reason work great with virtually no latency issues on his system.

    I need the ability to have the Digital output for DTS/Dolby playback of movies, good software / hardware control and a good bit rate (24bit/96khz or better?). I'd also like it to handle the latency issues better than my onboard sound, which that shouldn't be too hard now should it?

    Thanks Guys!
  2. hueseph

    hueseph Well-Known Member

    Your asking for a lot. I don't think you will find that in a card under $500.00. I don't know of any that have DTS decoding. If I were you I would buy an interface for audio and continue to use your on board card for games and video.
  3. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    The E-MU 1212M is a great product and offers better quality sound and value than any other product in it' price range, and even out of it's price range. But it is an audio interface not a soundcard. It won't do dolby or DTS decoding, or the fly sample rate conversion, or play files less than 44.1k, and you will need to use a mixer or outboard for preamp and headphones, but no doubt in it's audio quality and powerful signal routing capability. You also get a lot of various E-MU DSP effects, but that is not that the real strong point.
  4. Native2010

    Native2010 Guest

    Wow, really. So there isn't a single sound card within my price range that can improve what my onboard sound is doing? Not between M-Audio, E-MU, HT Omega, or anyone? I find that hard to believe and an uneducated statement really. Come on, the card just has to pass through what the codec processes, right?

    At least give a little more information than a "You're asking too much".
  5. Native2010

    Native2010 Guest

    Can someone kindly explain the difference between an "Audio Interface" and a "Sound Card" ? This is an honest question, because everywhere else no one seems to know what they're talking about. I'm not a techno-retard, I've just haven't had to research the specs on a soundcard in almost a decade. The last time I even bought a soundcard was then they came out with the first Soundblaster Audigy series, if that tells you anything. But back then, I wasn't playing DTS/Dolby Digital movies on my PC or using a music production studio at the same time.

    Seriously, do I have to build another pc? Do I have to have multiple sound cards / interfaces? You see the setup I have, so instead of telling me what won't work, how about someone tells me what will work? What specs to look for? Put some effort into the answer, I would greatly appreciate it. I would do the same in return, I've been on the support end of things.
  6. jg49

    jg49 Well-Known Member

    Maybe I'm just reading the attitude here wrong but Native2010 wrote "I find that hard to believe and an uneducated statement really. Come on, the card just has to pass through what the codec processes, right?" Then says "I'm not a techno-retard, I've just haven't had to research the specs on a soundcard in almost a decade. The last time I even bought a soundcard was then they came out with the first Soundblaster Audigy series, if that tells you anything. But back then, I wasn't playing DTS/Dolby Digital movies on my PC or using a music production studio at the same time."
    How does one know if the statements made are uneducated when by your own admission you've done no homework on the state of soundcards today and their uses?
    Native2010 "so instead of telling me what won't work, how about someone tells me what will work?"

    Isn't that exactly what Hueseph did when he said "If I were you I would buy an interface for audio and continue to use your on board card for games and video."

    You then ask a legimate question but follow up with this "Put some effort into the answer," Here let me put a little effort into this
    Let me google that for you
    Let me google that for you

    Maybe like I said this is just me reading your language the wrong way but its doesn't really make me want to jump in and offer some help. I think that you should follow the two links and if you need some clarification or advice try asking in a way that doesn't disparage those whose opinions you are seeking.
  7. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    As I understand DTS/Dolby Surround, the audio interface isn't going to decode the DTS. That is done either in your software via codec or in the AV receiver. The audio card or interface is left out of the equation unless it is designed for 5.1/7.1/whatever and can output the required number of speaker channels. And if you only have two speakers it's a moot point.

    The most latency free interfaces or sound cards are always going to be PCIe or PCI (for older computers). That's just a fact of life. USB is more problematic generally than Firewire but if you don't have a firewire port handy that would be an issue. Know also that interfaces HATE USB hubs. Also, I think $400 needs to be your starting point not $200.
  8. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    In brief:
    Soundcard: Either an onboard chip or addon device that converts digital audio signals to analog and routes those audio signals out of the computer to speakers. Very minimal or nor provisions are made for bringing audio into the computer. Those that do have appalling implementation not only in the 1/8" jacks but the lack of ground isolation etc. Generally these are the cheapest end of things are found on most modern computers. Generally there is zero MIDI capability in a basic soundcard.

    Audio Interface or Computer Audio Interface: These can also be used to route audio out of the computer however the main designed goal of an interface is to convert analog audio signals to digital and bring them into a computer based DAW (record). These are never onboard audio. Interfaces come in all varieties and sizes. Computer connections include PCIe/PCI/USB/1394a&b. Some interfaces also provide DSP capabilities to take processing load off of a computer's CPU. Inputs might range from one mic/line combo jack up to ten or more XLR mic jacks plus multiple ADAT and SPDif jacks. Outputs range from a pair of 1/4" jacks up to eight or ten 1/4" jacks and multiple ADAT and SPDif jacks. MIDI in or MIDI input/output/thru is sometimes included in basic 2-4 channel interfaces but more regularly included in high end interfaces (though not always).

    This is about as basic a description as I'm capable of right now. Mendelssohn, a tall glass of Scotch, and my restless baby sapped my energy last night.
  9. musicman691

    musicman691 Guest

    With what you're using for 'monitors' you'll never hear the difference between 44.1 KHz and 192 KHz sample rates. I suggest for a sound interface you look at an Edirol unit, either Firewire or USB2.0. Either of those interface protocols will give you enough oomph to do what you want with the equipment you have despite what others may say. As to the difference between soundcard and audio interface - a lot of the time those terms are used interchangeably with each other. A soundcard is an audio interface plugged into a card slot in the computer and an audio interface can be either internal or external to the computer chassis.
  10. Native2010

    Native2010 Guest

    Thanks for not being a snot about this. It seems as though I'm not going to get the answer I am looking for, and it looks like no one can tell me (No fault of their own I would think) that for my price range I can get what I'm looking for.

    I just want a sound card or whatever that will be a bit better than my on-board audio as for latency mainly, without robbing me of the current abilities.

    I will look elsewhere for an opinion, since I seemed to have offended some people here with being honest. Oh and FYI, searching on Google for a wiki on what a sound card and what an audio interface is, really isn't much of a help. But thanks for going through the trouble of setting up those cool links, they were really impressive. Now if you could have impressed me with an answer of your own, as I came here for, then that would have been quite a bit more helpful. :) I'm not a 14 year old brat looking to flame, I'm an adult looking to get another adults educated opinion and experience on things. I guess that's too much to ask from someone with such great HTML skills?

  11. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    If you had left off the desire to record everyone would have told you to just buy some version of Soundblaster to watch DVD's and game. By throwing in a desire to record you are now looking for something beyond the reasonable ability of the average sound card even if it has a "mic" jack. If you adjust either your budget or your expectations then perhaps specific recommendations could be made. You received plenty of responses of all tones and tenor. Apparently you think everyone here treated you the same. So be it. Whether 14 or not, if the shoe fits. You can't always get what you want. But if you try hard and not be so prickly you might just get what you need.
  12. hueseph

    hueseph Well-Known Member

    You haven't offended anyone it's simply that you are trying to get an all in one solution where none exists. Although an audio interface is a kind of soundcard. A recording interface is not designed to work with media player. Likewise a gaming soundcard is not designed for recording, despite what others may say. I'm currently using two "soundcards". One is my audio interface. The other is for system sounds, youtube et al. There is nothing wrong with that. It works fine.

    I've owned several different audio interfaces. Only one of them supported surround output but only if the DAW supported it. None of them supported Media Player or Power DVD or anything of that sort. I've ALWAYS ran two soundcards. They are each designed for their purposes. Use them for their designed purpose.
  13. Native2010

    Native2010 Guest

    I considered going with 2 sound cards (1 sound card & 1 interface) as well but didn't see much info on that. For what I'm looking for, I don't think I need to go that route just yet. I just need something with a little more BEEF than my on-board sound, something more dedicated I think. I might have looked to shoot a bit too far I suppose.

    Thank you though, I think the latest post I made seems to be working a bit better for me. :)
  14. hueseph

    hueseph Well-Known Member

    You already have one soundcard. Just buy an audio interface. If you already know the answer that you want. Don't go fishing for it. Just do what you want to do and no one will be the wiser.
  15. Native2010

    Native2010 Guest

    Yeah, but then I have to try and get the two working together. I'd rather just find one decent solution honestly. In the near future I intend on building a new PC, and would like to take this solution with me.
  16. hueseph

    hueseph Well-Known Member

    You won't be able to plug your current speaker into an audio interface anyway. Not without some mickey mousing. Of course, if what you want to do is mickey mouse, go right ahead. Why don't you buy one of the Soundbasher XFI cards with the 1/4" "mic" input on the front or breakout box. That sounds like it's your speed. It'll do everything you want with the exception of 192k which, as it has been pointed out, is overkill for most people(restricted to a fudged 48k. in actuality 44.1 upsampled). It's what you wanted to hear. Just go do it.
  17. Johnny_B

    Johnny_B Guest


    You do not want to be using a machine for a variety of tasks...

    A DAW (digital audio workstation) should not have an internet connection (ideally)
    and should have a video card that isn't a gamer's card.

    Complications from FW are a result of having the wrong controller...
    You can't use chipsets like Ricoh, O2 micro....it's either Texas Instruments or YMMV.

    The BEST audio interface (in your price range) is E-MU.
    They are synonymous with value and low pricing.

    I also suggest getting rid of your computer and building something else.
    In this business you have to be realistic about your budget.

    Having only a few hundred to spend, when you already have an inferior computer doesn't help your situation out much.

    i7 920 minimum should be your goal on a system.
    OR you can search slickdeals.net for some outstanding deals on systems.

    I've seen C2Q (two C2D's slapped together) for $400.00 or less.
    I've seen i7 920 systems as low as $500.00 and as competitive as $750.00
  18. Native2010

    Native2010 Guest

    I guess you missed the part where I mentioned that I dabble in music production, and this isn't a money making thing for me.

    Thank you for the suggestion of the E-MU, I think that's the route where I'm going to go.

    Also I should mention that so far my PC has worked flawlessly for what I've wanted it for with this one exception. I should also mention that a friend of mine has an M-Audio USB Audiophile (Older model) hooked up to a much older HP brand PC running Windows XP Mediacenter, and he doesn't have issues with latency and what not. So telling me that my PC is inferior is a bit much, don't you think? You may be taking this to an extreme here.

    Thank you anyways. :)
  19. musicman691

    musicman691 Guest

    And we offended you by us being honest?
    Come on, you stated what you have, what you wanted to do, and were told it couldn't be done.
    If you want to be serious about your music, you need a serious computer system, not something that's the hub of a home entertainment system. In spite of their promise as 'universal machines' with programmability, there's no one computer that can cover all the bases at one time.
  20. Native2010

    Native2010 Guest

    This can go on for quite some time, but I'll make this short and sweet as possible.

    10 years ago, the equipment being used was not even 1/20th of what it is today. The horsepower in todays home PC can run circles around what most top end servers and "super computers" were doing not more than a generation ago, even less. Unless I'm recording 64 simultaneous tracks or more of a symphonic masterpiece, I believe building a modern super pc is a bit over kill for someone who Dabbles. So with being honest taken into effect here, I believe it's severe overkill to tell someone who's "Dabbling" that they should ditch their "inferior" PC which has been doing just about what he's wanted it to do with one minor issue, and spend what, over $2,000 or more on a super PC just so he can mess around and learn his way around some stuff? Right...

    I'm not a graduate of MIT, or some NASA grade tech school (I'm more of a hands on work in the tech fields and I'm better at fixing than creating), but that doesn't mean I'm a complete n00b. I've gotten a bit of an impression from SOME (Not all, there are some humble folks here and I appreciate their word very much) people here that happen to think their word is law and if you disagree, then you're just oppositional. No, I just like to make sure I get all of my information.

    I've gone a bit out of my budget and ordered an interface, and have already researched it plenty along with finding out that I can use it in conjunction with my current onboard audio. Thus giving me all of the abilities I want, with room to expand. Yes, I plan on building a new PC in the near future, but not right now. I'm learning, and that means I start off small and manageable. To the person (or people) telling me my computer is Inferior, you either have no real clue what you're talking about or you just don't look into all of the facts of what I was looking for. In regards to processing power, data transfer rate, and capabilities, I know for a fact that my PC can handle what I'm looking to do. As I said, it's worked up until now, my only bottleneck was with the lack of proper ASIO/MIDI support that was built in, and yes I wanted some more input options. I'm not looking to re-create ILM here.

    Thanks for your time and help those who have contributed positive remarks and advice.

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