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Which quality of the soundcard for mastering?

Hey, mastering guys and gals,
Some people says, that if I use for the mastering software equipment only, I don´t need any expansive sound-card, because everything is doing in digital process. I mean that good soundcard is necessary for good monitoring of the mastered sound.
Thanks for any opinion.

Comments

aracu Sun, 02/11/2007 - 14:24
The original question was about soundcards, which vary in some
respects, even if not used for any analog function. I think the thread
got confused with the physics of digital audio. Electronic gadgets are
not as perfect as the physics they are based on, the physics being
different from many of the the social and economical aspects of
recording. Depending on the audio project you are working on, it
could be more useful to have a top of the line soundcard than
a Schoeps microphone!

DavidSpearritt Mon, 02/12/2007 - 02:50
I disagree with this conclusion which is why I posted in the first place. To answer the original question in a more direct way ... if you restrict to digital activity only on your PC sound card, and this is the sensible (best) approach, then any card which has 100% data integrity will suffice and be as good as any other digital card.

More money, generally, buys better domain conversion, A/D, D/A, but I maintain that these are things that should not occur on a PC soundcard in a well designed system.

aracu Mon, 02/12/2007 - 07:22
The physics of digital audio is true in the context of a belief system.
In practice, sound quality, audio performance, software and
hardware compatability, workflow and connectability are not
separate issues. Sometimes computers produce no sound or a
distorted one where nothing is broken or misconfigured, due to incompatabilities, since many different individuals and companies
are developing products independently from one another, although
based on the same theoretical schemes. In some cases each tech
support representative will blame the other product. To minimize
that type of situation it helps to choose the computer componants
carefully.

Cucco Wed, 02/07/2007 - 18:47
None the less, it appears (to me) that driver code can influence sonics. For example, switching between ASIO and MME/WDM drivers for the same audio card can subtly change the sound.
This is implausible and debated many times.

Maybe this has more do with the particular protocol than code quality.
No that can't be it either, its all just data flowing along, if one bit is dropped or changed then the system is broken.
It seems as though this should be VERY easy to test.

Send the same signal into the workstation digitally. One using one driver type, the other using any other variety.

If there is in fact a difference a simple phase reversal would reveal the differences.

Anyone game (and have the extra 10 minutes to try it?)

Mr. Spearritt - I think you know I'm always game for tests like this. Set up the parameters and I'll run it accordingly.

J.

JoeH Mon, 02/12/2007 - 10:45
Sometimes computers produce no sound or a
distorted one where nothing is broken or misconfigured,


This makes no sense; if distortion has not been specifically called for or dialed in, then something IS broken, misconfigured or simply not working properly.

Computers are literal devices, (this is why we like them) they do not deviate; they exactly what you tell them to do, repeatably, over and over again, unless you tell them otherwise. Any change in that process is either the result of a defect, or a deliberately pre-programmed randomizer process, or what have you.

I think 99% of these so-called, perceived "Differences" up in that last 95-100-percentile are due to missed variables: room temp & humidity, head colds, emotional stress (or lack of), euphoria over new gear purchases, depression over late client's checks, the position of the sun, moon & stars at the time of testing, and about 1000 other intangibles. Do a double-blind, scientific test on some of these "theories", and most of it goes right out the window.

I'm hearing the lonely, far-off sound of crickets and tumbleweeds here, which is what usually happens when this type of discussion runs out of steam.

Still waiting......and waiting....for proof......... :roll:

karbomusic Mon, 02/12/2007 - 17:25
Quick lPre-Test Clarification

I'm not sure everyone is fishing from the same pond so I want to clarify something....

I'm testing a system as a whole.

There should be no A/D-D/A conversions whatsoever. Well, maybe the one needed to monitor the results but this is not really the issue at hand. Let's take a different medium such as a Tiff image. Any "math" I do on that image has a finite and predictable result. There is no deviation, it is as simple as the fact that we all know that 2+2 will always resolve to 4 no matter what. Provided each app does the "same math" it has to be the same outcome. "It would not be Logical Captain" as Spock would say.. Computers are founded on that principle, its why they are what they are.

The same exists when playing back a file in two different pieces of software. All things being equal it should be the same result. Both apps call into the same subsystem and exploit the same function calls etc. and the same audio driver makes the same calls in order to stream the audio through the card. However, the number of settings involved with knowing without a doubt that both apps are passing the signal identically from input to output can be high.

Now if Audio App "A" handles a function slightly differently than Audio App "B" does (Nuendo's native Q range is 0-12, in Waves 0-100) then things are no longer equal.

On the otherhand, I do know that rounding errors etc are a fact of computer calculations. For example you can multipy, add, divide some decimal numbers and arrive at a different result than if you just added them all or something like that. However, I believe that even then the incorrect result is completely predictable, its incorrect but predictable..

I think it is just difficult to word the "explanations". I can see exactly what Michael is thinking but for the life of me I cannot put into words and it makes perfect sense. However, if the test is set up properly there will be a line that cannot be crossed for the test to be valid. As soon as you see where that line is a light bulb might go off saying. "Were both right".. Because what Michael hears is very real but possibly falls outside the confines of the test. Its just hard to draw the picture with words...

Best regards-

Karbo

Cucco Sun, 09/17/2006 - 11:43
Well...if you only plan on using plug-ins for mastering, then the soundcard has no impact whatsoever on the sound.

However, for monitoring, yes you do need a decent to good soundcard.

In reality, if you're just using plugs for mastering, the caliber of the soundcard is probably not that important as you're likely to not notice a big difference between big, expensive cards like the Lynx cards or cheapos like the Creative Labs, etc.

J.

Michael Fossenkemper Thu, 02/08/2007 - 20:37
Theoretically this is true, but in the real world I don't find this to be true. I can run the same audio on the same computer from the same hard drive through the same DAC using only different software and it sounds different. I don't see my system as being broke, but I do hear a difference. there can be many things that cause this difference and I can spend countless hours, days, months trying to find out why. OR I can just go with the better sounding one. It's not a subtle difference either. I can run say protools in OS9, play the same audio in OSX and it's different, then play it in logic, different yet again. I'm not tech geek so I can't tell you exactly why although I know enough to paint myself into a corner. But I've got things to do and sessions to complete so I go with what sounds the best to me.

DavidSpearritt Fri, 02/09/2007 - 01:28
Michael Fossenkemper wrote: Theoretically this is true, but in the real world I don't find this to be true.

That's because people's idea of the real world, is to conduct flawed experiments, like ...

I can run the same audio on the same computer from the same hard drive through the same DAC using only different software and it sounds different.

Careful testing is required with software comparisons, checking that no unintended dithering or plugins or gain settings are active. Firstly, very basic testing is required, simple WAV file playback, with the digital output just before the DAC being recorded and data compared, then one works from there.

I don't see my system as being broke, but I do hear a difference. there can be many things that cause this difference and I can spend countless hours, days, months trying to find out why.

Or, you could try to get to the bottom of it with some simple tests, actually there aren't "many things that cause this difference" at all.

OR I can just go with the better sounding one. It's not a subtle difference either. I can run say protools in OS9, play the same audio in OSX and it's different, then play it in logic, different yet again. I'm not tech geek so I can't tell you exactly why although I know enough to paint myself into a corner. But I've got things to do and sessions to complete so I go with what sounds the best to me.

Well, this is a sensible way to go, but you then can't really say one sounds better than the other until you know why, to eliminate any faulty experimental technique. As there is, clearly, no consensus amongst industry professionals about the best sounding software, this is proof positive that flawed experiments generally drive these conclusions.

Michael Fossenkemper Fri, 02/09/2007 - 08:14
Well I've been around the block for awhile and like to think I know a little bit about what i'm doing though I don't really spend time conducting conclusive experiments as to why software sounds different. But when there are a few vet engineers sitting in a room and we all turn and look at each other when we hear a difference... now most of these differences I hear are when you have the audio engine perform some kind of calculation. I'm guessing it has to do with how and where the calculation is being performed, but I don't know. Now when I say "best one" of coarse that's my subjective opinion and is any thing processing wise in audio. are you saying that all audio software or engines perform the exact same calculations in the same way?

Cucco Fri, 02/09/2007 - 08:22
Michael Fossenkemper wrote: are you saying that all audio software or engines perform the exact same calculations in the same way?

That is the argument in fact.

David and I have definitely voiced our opinions on this subject numerous times in the past(opposite opinions that is). We even did a mild test, which, arguably proved his point. However, my thought on the subject (and on that particular test) is that it's not simply how an audio engine *PLAYS* the file, but what happens when calculations are performed on it.

Personally, I have heard significant differences between files with computations performed (even as small of a computation as a simple hard pan then bounce - using no dither).

Since I no longer have Cubase or any other DAW than Sequoia, I certainly can't put my money where my mouth is, but my ears convince me enough that I don't need to "prove" it to myself. I'm content with my decisions. I think that's what it comes down to.

aracu Fri, 02/09/2007 - 08:22
The quality of every component in the computer is related in some way to
the overall audio performance. The sound card especially so,
because depending on how well it´s drivers are written will determine
how well it will function with all of the software. So you want the highest
quality audio interface/soundcard as possible with the best possible track record of compatability and updating it´s drivers for the audio programs
you use. Also, has been already said, with as good converters as
possible to play back the audio. Some good soundcards are made by
Lynx and RME (and Egosys, more popular in Asia). Lynx probably
has better converters, while RME may have better or more complete
drivers. Top of the line Egosys is high quality, low cost, not great technical
support.
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