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Sound Cards for PC

Discussion in 'Computing' started by Keala, Mar 22, 2013.

  1. Keala

    Keala Active Member

    What sound card is considered the "Standard" for studio recordings for PC/Windows 7?
    I'm looking for one that has USB capability.
    Thanks! (y)
  2. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Well.. perhaps some clarification is in order first.

    When you say "sound card", most will think of an actual PCI card that is installed into your MB. These will vary from the very cheap gaming-compatible cards like Realtek and Soundblaster to models that are built much better with improved converters and I/O jacks.

    The problem with a sound card is that it doesn't have a pre amp. It's generally an RCA I/O, usually 2 in, 2 out, sometimes they will give you another 2 in/out through a SPDIF (digital coaxial) jack. This jack is there to accept digital signals from everything from digital consoles to DAT machines. Unless it has a "break out" cable included that provides you with more ins and outs, generally you are dealing with 2 analog ins/outs, in RCA format.

    I think what you are trying ask is about audio I/O's, which generally work through a USB or Firewire connection to your PC. These are external devices, with pre amps and converters. They range from 2 channel models all the way up to 24 in/out. There are some that have no expansion capability, while others give you expansion options (the ability to add more channels by adding another multi channel Audio I/O) through the use of optical I/O.

    As far as a "standard", there really isn't one per se', although there are most certainly very nice units out there, and there are budget models as well...all determined by features, quality of components and overall build. Your own "standard" is going to be directly related to what you can afford.

    Perhaps it would help us a bit more to know more detail as to what you want to do, what DAW program you are using, what mics you have, and in the end, how much you have to spend...

  3. Keala

    Keala Active Member

    Hi DonnyThompson,

    I was talking about the computer sound card.
    Just was wondering if the computer sound card has a role in the quality of the recorded material.

    Another quick question,
    I'm trying to record at a higher sampling rate than 44.1kHz
    Do I have to have a soundcard that supports it, or does that change only need to be made in the audio interface and Sonar sampling settings?
    48kHz worked, but when I went higher, the recorded clips came out blank.

    BTW, the interface I'm using is the RME Fireface UFX.
  4. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Why are we still talking about your PC's sound card???

    The RME you are using IS an audio I/O. You don't need your PC's sound card.

    Explain how you are routing your connections please....

    start with your mic/line... and explain from there how you are getting into the PC...

    We'll worry about sampling rates later.
  5. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    This is where you are confused. Internal computer soundcards and computer motherboards that have the sound chips on the motherboards, are good for personal listening entertainment and to plug a crappy multimedia microphone into, to talk to your friends on Skype. They are never intended for any kind of professional applications whatsoever. And that's why you have the RME. A truly fine high quality external audio interface device... as it should be always, external to the computer. Otherwise, you're going to get clocking noise and other strange noises.

    Computers run on high-speed clocks. High-speed clocks induce a lot of interference to audio devices. That's what you want an external audio device. And you need to be able to tell your BIOS and/or your operating system, to simply ignore that onboard soundcard wanna be. It's kind of like a bad to. No drilling or root canal will save it. It has to be pulled. And computer soundcards are a little like a bad tooth. Not so horrible until you tried to chew on it or pour hot or cold liquids onto it. And then you definitely don't want that tooth, any longer in your jaw. And internal computer soundcards are like that. That's the reason why you bought such a fine piece like the RME. Even I don't have a piece that fine but I do have other pieces that are more than adequate were at least barely adequate.

    So the only way that internal computer sound card will affect your sound is if you record with it. So don't do that because it hurts. You can playback with it while still perhaps being rather underwhelmed in comparison to the output from the RME and rightly so. It's a seven dollar soundcard. Doesn't matter if the cost $100 it's still a seven dollar soundcard. It's still crap and always will be. Some people even spend $250 on a Sound Blaster and think they have a professional audio card. They don't. They have a really groovy entertaining gizmo to play with and nothing more. Nothing serious. Nothing professional. Anything that takes 1/8 inch plugs and jacks... ain't professional. If it takes RCA, its consumer oriented. If it takes 1/4 inch, its musician oriented. If it takes XLR, it is professionally oriented. If it takes XLR and has discrete transistor operational amplifiers, it's the crème de la crème. And that pretty much is your RME. It's one of the crème de la crème's of audio interface devices for computers. So you've made a good decision and purchase. Now put the toy sound card away and get down to some business.

    I'd like to hear what ya come up with? Start recording! I can hardly wait! You've got a nice system.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  6. Keala

    Keala Active Member

    Hi Remy,

    Thanks for clarifying. That's the answer I was looking for. :biggrin:
  7. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    LOLOLOLOL... Thanks Remy? what am I, a stump? LOLOLOL

    No sweat... just found this humorous.
  8. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    The best setup I found was to deactivate the onboard soundcard from the bios and only use my pro audio interface. That way, I'm sure no audio software will try to use it.

    Just a point to keep in mind, there is still some internal audio interface on the market that you put on a pci Slot on you motherboard. While it is an internal card, it often has a breakout box. M-Audio still sells the Delta 1010LT, it has 8 in/out at rec level so you need some external preamps to use it.
  9. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    Yes. This qualifies as an audio interface and not a gamers toy (Soundblaster, SiiG among others) or on-motherboard sound chip. PCIe is the current standard but the older PCI bus is very stable with professional or prosumer audio interfaces.
  10. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Now don't get me wrong here... there are professional audio interface devices for the computers that will plug directly into the PCI/PCI E slots on desktop computers. Some of these feature RCA or 1/4 inch inputs and outputs. They have been compensated utilizing optical devices frequently, to ensure there is no clocking noise. A good example of that would be my earliest Digi-design/Avid, Audio Media III in 1996. And at that time, that's simple plug-in card was about $700 in 1996.

    Today a simple USB 1.1 device such as the Pre-Sonus Audio Box, for around $150 offers up very nice Class A, microphone preamps and the ability to record at 24 bit, 96 kHz. And USB was standardized for such out-of-the-box connectivity. USB 2.0 devices offer a greater level of capabilities by virtue of the much higher to and from data streaming. Does allow for some real-time CPU-based effects, while others include onboard DSP effects capabilities. USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt, are going to offer up a myriad of further high-speed capabilities and better performance overall.

    One of the things we have always relied upon as professional recording and broadcasts engineers was the consistency of quality professional equipment. It wasn't so much as the better audio improvements than it was the operational rugged stability. If it was professional, you'd know it was professional. That's all that mattered.So today the best audio performance is had through external USB/FireWire/Thunderbolt devices and which work usually very well with a laptop and an external capture hard drive.

    Any of this coupled with the laptop usually ensures successful endeavors. Whereas the desktop machine, I have found, they don't always conveniently or successfully, travel well. Laptops are more designed to be roughed around with. And with which, I feel they are more applicable through the audio and video production world than a desktop sitting in an edit room. And even a lowly Intel i3/5, can blow away our custom workstations from just a couple of years ago. And that quad core i 7 (indicating 8 cores through hyperthreading) is what I have in my current laptop and it blows away everything. Ya just have to contend with Windows 8 and run " Classic Shell " to keep from losing your mind. And I think that Microsoft has realized that Windows 8 is going to be about as successful as Vista and that Windows " Blue ", is on the way. Which might get back to some kind of professionally oriented operating system? One can only hope? Damn this keep up game, between Microsoft, Google and Apple. Even Apple is beginning to withdraw as many other manufacturers are, to make everybody go to smart dumb terminal tablets.. Because that's where everybody is making their money today in smart phones and tablets.

    No doubt our smart phones and tablets may soon become as powerful as the current crop of current powerful computers are today, in the next few years? But we're not there yet and they are pushing operating systems and technology that is completely inappropriate and useless to professionals of our kind. Professionals simply must have professional operating systems and software, in which to use because we all are living in the computer age after all and not in the age of dumb terminals any longer, since the late 1970s. And that's a pushback in technology in order for the fat cats to get fatter with this other huge grandiose business plan. And which to a great extent is blowing up in all of their faces. But they don't care. They don't have to care. And they don't. They know the money is in the quantity versus quality or capabilities arena. Another reason why McDonald's has been so successful which is a valid business plan for fat cats and not necessarily for professionals.

    USB 2.0 & 3.0 devices, I believe, will have the longest term of compatibility for much of these newer computers since USB protocol allows for downward compatibility. Meaning that you'll still be able to use your USB 1.1 device even if it is plugged into a USB 3.0 port on the computer. FireWire, a popular protocol created by Apple, has now been completely and virtually phased out into oblivion. And you won't find any FireWire to USB 2.0/3.0 that I have found, that would allow any of these higher end FireWire devices to ever work again on the current crop of computers. Damn this crap! But there is nothing we can do about it except trying to make logical intelligent decisions on these not so inexpensive high-speed external computer audio interface devices. That is to say, I love many of those FireWire computer audio interface devices. But there is no sense in them, any longer. And where many of these manufacturers have a huge stock of these FireWire devices, you're going to see some incredible deals coming up. But it's buyer beware if you cannot find a computer with the appropriate interface port capabilities. And it certainly will not be any laptop, any longer, any further, anymore at all. Leaving only desktop machines where IEEE 1394, FireWire 400 enhancing circuitboards can still be had to plug into the current crop of desktop machines.

    Knowing all of this should be a cause for concerted evaluation of how long you want this computer to be used with your external audio interface device. And how long you want to keep that external interface device, working for you. So it really no longer comes down to what is the best computer to obtain but what is the most compatible computer that would be appropriate for your computer audio interface, selected device. Which really makes your decision-making all the more difficult. It's bad enough my current $1300 laptop is not designed to run anything other than Windows 8. Which is taking me more time to find out, then the time allotted for a return and refund, exchange, anything. And that bites the big one! Even trying to clone the current internal 5400 RPM disk drive over to a more capable and higher-speed 7200 RPM hard drive or, 128/240 GB SSD, was an exercise in futility, for me, since January! And I know what I'm doing!

    It didn't matter that I purchased the right interconnect cable and cloning software. The cloning software was only cloning around with me, driving me to complete total utter frustration, despair, disappointment and depression. The fix only came about with the specialized interconnect cable design for the included software, with someone else's software, after trying a couple of other softwares, from other companies. Finally! FINALLY! Voilà! And it only cost me an additional $400 to get there OMG by golly wow! Even taking it back to the computer store technicians yielded no successful outcome LOL. It ain't funny! I'm not a computer scientist nor actual computer technician... I'm just good with it, somehow? And when the experts that both manufacture the computer and who sell and maintain computers can't help ya, what's a girl to do? Well ya get down, ya get angry, ya get your wallet out and you figure it out. I was even told at the computer store that my Vertex, 16-day-old SSD, had failed. Well it hadn't! And I proved it didn't as I am using it now.

    So want anybody ever tells me what I can't do or what can't be done... it becomes my mission in life, to prove them wrong and to prove them very wrong. Something I've done throughout my more than 40 year career over and over again, without the advantage of any kind of academic training. Because if you have a true engineering mind, ya don't need any skooling. You simply have to become your own Professor. And you only get there through reading and deep investigation into what you need. So I've always known that I've had an engineering mind and the first of my kind of my family on both sides. Everyone else in my family is business or music oriented professionals. No one is an engineer except myself. And then to make me three times better than anyone else, I had the incredible benefit of having 2, incredibly educated, totally awesome, mentor/electrical engineers and that provided me with nearly 10 years of private tutoring which really wasn't any tutoring at all. It was just an explanation of equipment, the designs behind it, where to effectively utilize it, how, where, when. And it's only after that, that you can pick up the ball and run with it.

    Recording.org is the current 21st-century way of mentoring, via long-distance and I find it completely different in that respect than any other similar looking sites. We have a lot more entry-level enthusiasts here, but need to know how to do things, not to discuss who makes the best this or that thingies. We already know who makes those and who doesn't. And even that entry-level stuff yields extremely fine professional results, when you really learn what it can't do not so much what it can do. It can do anything professionally. The software is extremely powerful and capable. So the rest is up to you at that stage. Anything you can not accomplish with the current crop of inexpensive computer audio interface devices, gives every entry-level person, the easiest way out by blaming the equipment for being substandard. It's not substandard. But the technique might be? Might be, it's most definitely that. A lack of recording technique is simply like trying to play an instrument you've never touched before. No one's going to want to listen to you trying to play something you don't know how to play. And an audio engineer is simply an electronic musician, playing an instrument, that makes no sound of its own. And where VST i, would have me eating my words when you talk about virtual computer synthesizers a.k.a. sympathizers in a different American English parlance LOL. And I'm usually quite sympathetic to those that ask me if I have sympathizers in my studio LOL. And where I tell them I really don't have anyone that has any sympathy for me, regarding my studio. Not when it's that kind of good and it is LOL. Just no sympathizers. Jealousy perhaps? Most definitely.

    They're jealous of someone who is out of business.
    Mx. Remy Ann David

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