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Sound Card decision, I'm trying this a different way... Please, thank you. :)

Discussion in 'Recording' started by Native2010, Feb 22, 2010.

  1. Native2010

    Native2010 Guest

    Ok, so I haven't had any good luck (Or response) on my other posts and this is probably because I've been asking the wrong question.

    I honestly am not looking for someone to take my hand and give me a lesson on how a sound card / audio interface works and I've already spent a week farming through Google and trying to see what piece of hardware will do what I'm looking for. I know it's out there, I just need to find educated opinions from people who use these items.

    I'm looking for an upgrade from my On-Board audio. First off, here are some system specs / info.

    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 Digital.
    Music Production - Reason (4.01) along with some other programs, but mainly reason. I'm in the learning phase.

    M-Audio Axiom 49
    M-Audio 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)

    My main issue is Latency / Buffers when it comes to Reason and live Midi performance. I want to get a card that can handle that better, while still carry the features of what my on-board audio can do only better.

    I don't need a slew of inputs, but having 1 or 2 nice analog inputs would be great. I have friends that play guitar, and I play Trumpet and would like to record that at some point. (I would hook up the "Silent Brass" system to the input for that).

    My output is mainly through the SPDIF Coax, but I also have the ability to output to Optical and if need be I can also hook up an Analog stereo output for "Monitors" if need be. This is all through my AV Receiver, since my PC also is used as an HTPC.

    I don't need midi I/O on the card as my keyboards all use USB Midi, but it would be nice to have it.

    I know an internal card is always the most responsive choice in performance, but I'd like to know if someone can recommend an external device? (I have a Laptop) Or an Internal card with an external box and not a breakout cable hanging from the back? I'd like to not reach behind the PC to plug/unplug things mainly.

    I've been looking at the following items, I'm sorry if I can't decipher the difference between an "Interface" and "Sound Card", like I said I've spent the last week Gooogling reviews and specs and haven't had any real simple input. That's what forums are for, right? :)

    M-Audio Audiophile 2492
    M-Audio Audiophile 192
    M-AUDIO Fast Track Pro USB
    M-Audio Firewire Solo
    E-MU 1212M PCI-E
    E-MU 0404 USB 2.0
    Lexicon Lambda
    HT | OMEGA CLARO Plus+ 7.1
    ASUS Xonar Essence ST

    This is to give you an idea on what I've been looking at. Some state "DTS Passthrough", but does that mean if I software decide it, will it send it to my AV Receiver? Reading the specs doesn't always give you the answer, I know this from being a PC Tech for over 10 years and being a general gadget freak most of my life.

    Please don't come in with an attitude, or you will get one back. Please don't grunt me an answer, have patience instead and talk to me. I don't expect a magic post saying "This will solve all of your problems!" with a golden ticket and world peace. I can do without the ticket and world peace. :cool:

    Thank you in advance.
  2. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Moderator Resource Member

    Mar 20, 2008
    currently Billings
    The EMU 1616M PCIe seems to encompass everything you need for your desktop. EMU is well regarded for quality and the PCIe will keep latency at a minimum. The M-Audio stuff you mention is IMO not as good as EMI and you have breakout cables. The Lexicon is okay but not as good as EMU for sure and it is USB powered. The others are not for recording but would work for you A/V stuff if you separated the two needs.

    Increase your budget to encompass the EMU 1616M PCIe and I think you are close to exactly what you want.
  3. Native2010

    Native2010 Guest

    Thank you so much, this is what I was looking to hear to start.

    I have to admit that E-MU did catch my eye, but the fact that it's a Creative product had me nervous as I don't hold "Creative" as a studio type product. I was looking at the 1616M but that is double my price range, so I considered the 1212M (Which I can still find) as the possibility. No breakout cable, although I still have to reach in the back it's still more solid than having one cluster all the time. It looks like they are both the same, just less input/no breakout box on the 1212M which is fine, considering I can always find one later on and add on to it. :)

    I see that you're a pro horn player, mind me asking if you have any experience with the Silent Brass system also? Can I just buy the pickup mute and plug that into a mic or line input instead of buying the whole system? I don't need the portable unit with it's effects, just the pickup. Figured I'd throw that question in for you too if you wouldn't mind answering?
  4. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Moderator Resource Member

    Mar 20, 2008
    currently Billings
    Hueseph brought up a good point on your other thread that I had forgotten about. Most media players or cineplayer type programs won't necessarily work with the interface analog outs directly but if you are using spdif pass through it should work. I haven't looked at that specifically for the EMU but probably true. Purchase from a reputable seller and you should be able to return it if it doesn't work. The only thing I'd be worried about inre the 1212 is that the jacks might be fragile being connected directly to the PCIe board which is generally why the breakout cables and boxes exist. Think of them as strain relief. If it were me I'd go the 1616 route. Actually, I'd have dual sound cards but we won't go there. Ok, I'll go there a little. A separate firewire interface could be used with both your laptop and the desktop.......

    The Silent Brass mute requires pseudo phantom power to work, much like those consumer level stereo mid/side microphones Sony sells. What I have done in the past is to route from the mute to the box (I have both boxes but not the newest "studio" gadget) and from the line out or headphone out of the box into a mixer or interface with a splitter (1/8" TRS to 1/4" TS x2). Mostly I use the SB for practicing in hotels or for practicing after my midnight run while the baby and wife and boy are asleep. Best Brass has a similar setup (same design engineer) but I don't recall whether it's still available. Incidentally, the SB mutes all have two electret mic capsules inside which is how they generate the "reverb" fx.
  5. Native2010

    Native2010 Guest

    Ok, so now we're back to a firewire device and running devices? I would think their would be conflicts,, but then again I know nothing of that. I don't think it's like running multiple video cards, or is it? Channeling one program to one card and another program to another card? I thought you had to route it all through one?

    I would be interested in that if it means I can get one device within my budget to cover the studio/midi side of things while the onboard sound covers my movies/music.

    I was nearly considering breaking my budget for the 1616M since I can't find the micro-dock separate. I just paid my credit cards off though. :(

    If you can think of the firewire solution, a good recommendation and a quick way to explain how they work together, I'm all ears. err eyes. :)
  6. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Moderator Resource Member

    Mar 20, 2008
    currently Billings
    OK. Here is your quick primer in computer generated conflicts.
    1-Every professional recording engineer utilizing a computer is running two sound cards-the onboard whatever and their recording interface. For that matter, all serious amateurs and dilettantes are too. The only real way around this is to record to external hard drive recorders like the Alesis HD24XR which many of us also use as redundant backup devices.

    2-You will not get conflicts between the sound cards simply because a DAW program grabs control of the recording card and doesn't let go. Secondary to this is a properly tuned recording pc has disabled windows sounds etc in addition to numerous other tweaks like disabling all networking adapters and all other unused devices; physically unplug unneeded usb devices etc.

    3-For laptops conflicts often arise from components being piggy backed into the controller hub. Onboard firewire chips are invariably bad (excepting some Apple laptops) and always piggy back on other things which cause issues sometimes. Onboard video chips for laptops or desktops are notorious for causing artifacts or latency in recording. This is one reason-other than general mobo routing-that desktops are preferred for recording computers even if many of us like laptops for convenience. One doesn't need the latest greatest GPU, you just need enough video card dedicated memory to not chug on the system ram.

    4-Recording computers are normally dedicated for single purpose and the operating system is stripped of all non essential garbage. I confess to using several of my machines as dual purpose but that isn't ideal or even wise for most folks. Tweaking and retweaking the system for each recording job is a pain in the a## and is one reason why I do have many laptops. One is always ready to walk out the door to a gig.

    5-USB is a first come first serve protocol. Whatever needs it at the time grabs it and if it goes dormant for a second the next thing/device/program that needs it steps in. Also USB is not bidirectional meaning traffic can't travel both directions at the same time. That's why USB devices tend to exhibit higher latency and why the data streams are burst oriented. Much of this is supposed to be rectified in USB 3.0 but it ain't here for real yet. Currently you would never chain a usb recording interface and a usb external hard drive together for a recording project.

    6-Firewire (1394a or 1394b) is a controlled bidirectional protocol. This enables the port to be seized and utilized exclusively by your DAW or whatever and that data can travel both directions which should keep latency lower than a usb device in theory. In the real world it will depend upon how the computer implements it's circuits and a slew of other variables but still this is generally true. Practically, you can chain an interface (or two) and an external firewire hard drive without issues. All firewire chips are not equal. Texas Instruments are the preferred and usually only recommended chips. Some interfaces get picky about whether the firewire card/chip is a combo chip but many do not.

    7-PCIe is always the best option for lowest latency but of course is not available on laptops. Also, many of us like interfaces that don't come in a PCIe version so we have to revert to the next best thing which is firewire.

    If I were an audiophile movie watcher or gamer I would indeed have a nice video card and a nice consumer audio card w/ or w/o DTS capbility. If I also liked to record I would have a separate interface/audio card for the specific purpose of recording. If I wanted it to be used on more than one computer I would make sure it was firewire based.

    Now, there are other folks out there that might see things different than me but that is OK. It's a big wide world out there and I'm not myopic.
  7. Native2010

    Native2010 Guest

    That's a great deal of information, and very helpful at the same time. I suppose I'm just looking to upgrade what I have more than anything, and I'm not looking for a superb recording studio. I thought about recording the trumpet from time to time, but don't see the need for a dedicated audio interface for that. My main form of play is with a USB/Midi Keyboard and a software program with the instruments built in, hence why my concern with Output is more important than Input. I'm glad I didn't pop money into a card last week!

    If getting a firewire device means I get the output of the Midi/Sequencing program to work flawlessly without interrupting my current audio device for movies and what not, that would be nice. I could even work with running it through the analog input to my AV Receiver, since I'm not composing 7.1ch audio. :) It's confusing for me because I go to look at the higher end "Sound Cards", like the HT Omega Claro, Asus Xonar, or even the X-Fi series (which I still am leery of) and yet I'm not 100% that they will solve that latency issue.

    What really sucks is that I really liked the look of the E-MU... But looks aren't everything now!
  8. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Moderator Resource Member

    Mar 20, 2008
    currently Billings
    The EMU is a good card. There is a lot to like about it. But, if it's out of your price range then so be it. Check out the manual. The microphone preamps are going to be far and above anything M-Audio or lower grade gear can offer.

    As far as the Silent Brass, you can run the box into the existing "mic" or "line" input via 1/8" to 1/8" cable. It isn't optimal but it works for just horsing around and you already have all of that equipment. Then if you really get into recording your trumpet you can look at dropping cash on a decent mic for brass and either a recording interface or a Zoom H4n. Beware the addiction. Otherwise known as G.A.S. (gear acquisition syndrome). It can put you in the House of the Rising Sun.

    As has been pointed out somewhere, recording at 192k is useless to someone who hasn't spent beau coups money on a well designed and treated room and has very expensive monitors positioned specifically in that expensive room. I only record at 88.2k for post production purposes since the end result is still 44.1k/16 bit CD audio.
  9. Native2010

    Native2010 Guest

    I've already dismissed the fact of "needing" 192kps sample rate, I'm more concerned about 24bit cards. Oh and don't worry, I've already suffered from G.A.S. Hence why I have a Radium49 & Axiom 49 AND a Korg Nano-Key. I have 3 keyboards, and 2 hands, figure that one out. :)

    The trumpet recording isn't paramount, but thanks for that advice. I have a cousin who is a long time horn player himself, he's teaching now actually down in Broward.

    *sigh* I don't know what to do now. I thought this would be simple, but now I'm just discouraged. I just wanted to improve what I have. Who knew this would be worse than upgrading a video card. :) I can't wait to start researching processors, memory and chipsets again. !!!
  10. Native2010

    Native2010 Guest

    This is funny. I'm going through the Manual for the 1212m, and it talks about watching movies, DVD's and such. I'm going to look into this more at home. However, I have a bad feeling that my video card is taking up 2 slots right now, which means I will have to break the bank and go for the 1616M. Although I'd rather that anyways, since the external dock would be perfect.

    Thanks for that, I didn't think to look into the manual really.
  11. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Moderator Resource Member

    Mar 20, 2008
    currently Billings
    Welcome. Around here we generally advise everyone to read the manual and/or visit the support forums prior to purchase. Everyone has their body of knowledge but no one knows it all. Not even a salty Devil Dog like myself. ;-)
  12. Native2010

    Native2010 Guest

    Yeah well I tried that with M-Audio. It's frustrating with them though. I have 2 of their keyboards and I've been happy with them (had the Radium for over 4 years, just got the Axiom due to Win7 64bit) and yet they are very vague about their support. E-MU has the Creative name strapped to it, even though it's their "Pro" line, but they seem ok with their support and they have had a better track record.

    I guess going with 2 devices will be my answer, although it looks like the 1212 or 1616 would be good for my all in one. I'm not concerned with the processing of DTS/Dolby as that's done by software, and when I'm watching a movie, I'm not producing at the same time. :) I'm not that process-intense! (I do push my PC though regularly...)

    Now if I can just manage to get over that $450 price mark. I was ok with throwing down $200, and I'm going to try and keep it that way. But I know me, and I won't be happy with the bare minimum on something like that, especially in the future.

    Honestly though, I still don't know what I should do. On-board sound has been fine for movies and music really. I mean come on, unless you have at least $3,000 (mid-grade) dumped into an AV Receiver/Processor, would you really know the difference with built in DTS encoding on a sound card? I don't know.

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