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How do I know if my sound card is good enough?

Discussion in 'Recording' started by tamiros, Nov 26, 2011.

  1. tamiros

    tamiros Active Member


    I got an onboard sound card.
    how can I tell which one is it and if it's good enough for a home studio ?

    would also like to put it in my profile
  2. nismoalti420

    nismoalti420 Active Member

    i would like to know the same thing, any one know???
  3. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Short answer - No. Longer answer - the vast majority (I'm tempted to say "all," but I'm a mathematician) of stock internal "sound cards" have analog to digital and digital to analog converters that are inferior to even the cheapest "audio interfaces." Entry level interfaces connect to the computer via either USB or Firewire. Most have not only converters, but other things needed for a home studio like microphone preamps, inputs for multiple instruments, outputs for headphones and monitors, midi in and outs. Check out the big on line stores to see what kind of things are offered. There are so many options that it is a bit confusing. There are a lot of posts about choosing an interface in the archives. After you check those things out come back with a clear description of your goals and budget and you can get more specific answers.
  4. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    One of the reasons why onboard sound cards are typically bad is because they generally suffer from computer clock noise. When you move the sound device outside of the computer chassis via USB or FireWire, clocking noise virtually vanishes. Plus your computer sound card is they are so you can hear crappy Internet audio, playback a CD or watch a movie. They really aren't intended to be quality input devices. I have on occasion utilized a cheap computer with an internal sound card device. The microphone input is 100% worthless and only is designed for multimedia headsets so you can talk to your friends with quality similar to a telephone. And when have you ever heard that a rock 'n roll hit was recorded with a telephone? The line input on the internal sound card frequently offers quality approaching that of a 30-year-old cassette deck. That's OK, if you know how not to overload that input from an outboard microphone mixer. Especially when the levels look correct on the mixer, you'll know that you're already overloading the line inputs. So if your mixers meters don't go any higher than -10, you might be OK recording to the line inputs of an internal sound card that will work but certainly won't sound great. Just think, 30-year-old cassette decks with bad tape. And that's what an internal sound card is equivalent to. While an outboard $80-150 USB audio interface will be as high in audio quality as any of the 8 XLR input, $500 + FireWire audio interfaces are. And that's quality sound. Then all you need is a SHURE SM58 or, 2, four, eight, you can never have enough of those and they'll last forever even when they keep falling 5 feet onto cement floors.

    I like cheap stuff even though I have the expensive stuff and I use them together interchangeably.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  5. JesseCarlMusician

    JesseCarlMusician Active Member

    I wouldn't even bother with a inboard sound cards they are 2 dollar pieces of junk. But most interfaces have built in sound cards which are significantly better.
  6. GZsound

    GZsound Active Member

    You can buy internal sound cards that offer professional features. However, those are mostly older PCI cards like the Delta 1010, etc.

    The best way to see if your sound card is a "professional" grade card is to start searching the main internet music retailers like Sweetwater, Musicians Friend, etc. and see what they carry.

    The trend is toward USB and Firewire interfaces, but you can buy an internal card that will produce professional results..just not some crappy Soundblaster type card.
  7. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    A few years ago back in 1995, since I was already an audio professional, I purchased a reasonable, in computer, PCI soundcard called the Audio Media I I I by Digidesign, now AVID. Back in 1995 most everything was pretty much all 16-bit, 44.1 kHz. This particular soundcard had brand-new state of the art 18 bit converters. So you knew it would do 16-bit better than most. But it was still a couple of hundred bucks. Because you really don't get quality for $15, which is what the average soundcard costs in 99% of all computers. There are those few others such as by M-Audio, most I can't even remember. Those were well designed & costly enough to make sure that you weren't plagued by horrific SMPTE Timecode sounding computer clocking. Some of the finer, more expensive computers, do have better quality internal soundcards that are even capable of 24-bit, 96 kHz. Even still, while they are better quality playback devices, their recording quality still leaves much to be desired.

    Computer soundcards are adequate enough for most novices who just want to learn what software might be capable of. After all, you probably aren't charging someone $80/hour. But you could if you think about it. How many grease monkeys do you know who fix your cars for $80 per hour and still don't know what they're doing? Answer. Most.So go ahead, what have you got to lose except your life? I mean wife. Dog? REPUTATION. Now that's different. So that's worth a few extra bucks. Screw your wife and your dog.

    You can try one but not the other.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  8. tamiros

    tamiros Active Member

    I think I should get an usb audio interface one 1 mic input at the price range of $100-$180 (new). is that good enough ?
    I'm just wondering if the preamp that the audio interface has built in will get me reasonable mic recording with my Shore c606 mic. or do I HAVE to throw in a stand along preamp?
    I want to record vocals and electric guitar with that gear.
  9. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    For what you want to do, most any dynamic microphone into a entry level USB audio interface should do just fine without the need for any kind of boutique microphone preamp. Most entry level equipment frequently doesn't offer quite as much internal gain structure that external higher price devices offer. But then, you're not recording any soft oboe solos from 30 feet away utilizing inexpensive dynamic microphones. So no problem. I've seen plenty of entry-level USB computer audio interfaces that feature 2 XLR microphone inputs so you can record in stereo the things you want to record in stereo. Which wouldn't be a solo vocal up close. For that you only need that single input like you're thinking.

    This one word of advice, check out what the multitrack software package bundle is first before you purchase your computer audio USB interface. All the software is quite similar in their capabilities which is pretty awesome and feature packed. What's different, is the GUI (graphical user interface). You need the one that speaks to you the best. So, you might want to check out some of the trial software of the type that will be bundled with your choice of hardware before your purchase. Most of the software will work with anybody's equipment/hardware so you can get a feel for it. I definitely have my favorite software based upon mostly it's GUI and the features I needed. And as a result, I utilize more than one. That costs some bucks. But hey, if you knew where I spent on consoles, recorders, microphones, dynamics processing and digital effects devices, it's a mere pittance to purchase multiple software packages. It's like Frito-Lay potato chips.

    Bet you can't eat just one? (That guy had a lot of courage to tempt us with that)
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  10. tamiros

    tamiros Active Member

    thanks for the reply.
    I currently use Cubase 3. is there any reason I would need that multitrack software that comes with the audio interface ?
    or did I not understand the advice?
  11. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    If you are a user and comfortable with your cubase3, then you merely need an audio interface that has the features you need. And if you're not interested in the software bundled with it, you are also in essence paying for some software you might not be interested in. But how about an upgrade to version 4LE? Most manufacturers bundle something with their hardware of which you may be able to Reap the benefit of? Either way, you might want to Audition the computer audio interface first? So basically, you can buy anybody's hardware you want as your software is generally compatible with most everyone's hardware. Really though, get yourself a stereo interface with 2 XLR microphone inputs. Walt Disney solved this problem for us back in the 1930s with Fantasia, it was called stereo. How cool is that?

    I helped put stereo television on the air in 1984
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  12. hueseph

    hueseph Well-Known Member

    Cubase 3? SX 3? That was a hefty bit of software when it came out. It was not cheap. I can't help but think that this is a hacked version. I'm going to guess that it is. In that case by all means, delete it. It's not worth the hassle and you won't likely get more advice in regards to the use of it on this forum. Cubase AI which is included in many packages is more than capable if you are just learning. Get a grip with that first and then when you are ready, make an investment. Cubase Essentials, Sonar Essentials, Abelton Live! Lite or even Pro Tools Essentials will be just fine for you for a good while. I can guarantee that.

    For that matter you should seriously consider Reaper which is Nag-Ware. It's free to use for 30 days at which point you get nagged to purchase it for a mere $60(the nag goes away after a short while and you can continue to use it but you will see this nag every time you start Reaper). Reaper is a full featured "next gen" DAW. Worth your time. There are many champions for Reaper on this forum. I've only ever used it to a limited extent but it is pretty powerful, I can tell you that. No less useful than any of the DAWs that I've paid for.
  13. Animaldrummer04

    Animaldrummer04 Active Member

    I hope i don't add confusion to this thread, but I have read in various stops around the internet of the importance of ASIO audio drivers. If you have an external interface, you don't need an internal PCI sound card or ASIO drivers, correct? or incorrect?
  14. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    ASIO drivers were created originally from specific software manufacturers. That driver was designed to have much lower latency than standard wave drivers. But then there was this other bunch of programmers that came up with " ASIO for all ". This unique driver could be utilized with built-in sound cards on a computer or external soundcards originally intended to utilize wave drivers in an effort to lower the latency. Your assumptions are incorrect. It really depended upon the hardware and the concept in the design of the devices & software manufacturers. If you have a computer audio interface that requires ASIO drivers and they are supplied, it doesn't mean that it will work with all software. Some software like the earlier versions of Adobe Audition 1.5 don't respond to ASIO drivers. Whereas the later releases of Adobe Audition are either exclusively ASIO or can work with both ASIO and with wave drivers. And in essence, that's separate from the hardware even though some hardware requires ASIO drivers. As long as the software can work with the same drivers, you're OK. In the land of computers, latency will never go away but it has been reduced appreciably as computers have speeded up, appreciably. And with the help of ASIO drivers, the latency has been reduced even more. I utilize some computer audio interfaces that don't work with ASIO drivers but only with wave drivers. With those, the hardware features direct pass through monitoring which has no latency. Latency won't go away until our computers start running at the speed of light which will likely be never. Analog has no latency because it does run at the speed of light along with all of the other little electrons. And even then, the process of encoding and decoding Pulse Code Modulation is dependent upon the computers CPU & motherboard chipset as to how much latency may be realized. We have even less problems with latency with the multicore processors of today. And that's because they excel at multitasking and parallel processing. None of which works well with a single CPU core, anymore. But even with a single core CPU, depending upon your software, you can still add gobs of plug-ins, VST's, direct X processing but not necessarily all in real time. So I like software that allows me to render my mixes rather than to play them out in real time like ProTools only does. It just requires a slightly different workflow and way of working along with a slightly different thought process. And that's what individualism is all about.

    Individually fabulous
    Mx. Remy Ann David

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