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Hi! I am interested in doing line-in recordings and I need something portable. After realising that my laptop (using Realtek ALC892) could do only 16bit/192khz recordings, I decided to research more and had the following options.

Option 1: Portable Recorder (Zoom H2n)
I read that they can do up to 24bit/96khz and very portable. Problem is, a SD card can never hold as much as a laptop. I was a little uncomfortable with it converting all recordings to WAV immediately (unlike the laptop which allows me to record everything in Audacity, which I could then edit and then turn them into FLACs.)

Option 2: Laptop with Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Surround 5.1 Pro
I also noticed that it could do 24bit/96khz. I am considering it as it allows me to record everything in Audacity, which I could then edit and then turn them into FLACs (unlike option 1). But I am hearing reports that Creative is getting bad to worse?

Option 3: Laptop with ALC892, using Microsoft's drivers
Based on this thread elsewhere that I have just read, I realised that my laptop could actually do 24bit/192khz recordings, but required me to lose the usage of some of my onboard speakers after changing to Microsoft's drivers.

Hence, what I really need help in is knowing which option provides the best quality. Or rather, am I making sense in deciding these (still quite new to the audio scene here)


PS: If there is any portable DAC that has USB output, that will be excellent as I am considering getting a portable amp/DAC too.


RemyRAD Wed, 03/21/2012 - 22:58

For reasons I'm not clear on, you are asking a question and answering your own question with some of the worst information I've seen here in a while. I'd ask for the manager and tell the manager to fire that guy that suggested those devices you've just posted. The nerve of some people to give you such bad advice. So let's be realistic here. You want the best of the most awful sound card you can buy right? You are trying to judge the quality of the crappy soundcard by the misinformation of its supposed quality specifications. And of course, you can certainly hear the difference between that device and the one that cost $15 like the one you are currently using. But unfortunately it's crap. Better you should spend your money on an actual, designed for professional use, USB soundcard that has a pair of XLR microphone inputs that also double as actual line level inputs. And you're going to find pretty much just 24 bit, 96 kHz. 192 kHz really doesn't make any difference in fact it can be counterproductive. That nonsense doesn't mean anything if you don't have the quality microphones and the quality preamps to go into a integrated circuit chip gizmo that can convert your analog audio that came in via decent input and decent output electronics instead of toy junk like you are currently thinking about screwing up your life with. Don't go there, please don't. We can't keep you from jumping and we won't call the police. And since you indicate budget issues are already a factor, you probably need to keep this under $150? Maybe less? And you really have a lot of Audacity... asking us a question about a crappy soundcard that you only use with Audacity, when a $150 soundcard will also get you a $200 entry level multitrack audio software package. And that's what you need not this toy stuff.

16-bit, 44.1 kHz since 1983 for me.
Mx. Remy Ann David

darkarn Thu, 03/22/2012 - 00:15

Hmm... Perhaps if I were to explain my usage a little more carefully it will help?

I am not doing vocal recordings (hence I did not talk about mics), but rather, line outs from other audio sources. Specifically, stuff that have a 3.5mm jack (e.g. laptops, that VHS recorder with a adaptor). And no, I do not need multitrack audio too; that's why I am ok with Audacity (will test out Adobe Soundbooth if I have the time; happen to have a copy lying somewhere in my house).

Also, my budget is 150 SGD, which translates to around 110 USD. And there are very few shops selling such pro grade stuff.

PS: I got all these information by reading up on my own and still unsure, hence my posts here.

RemyRAD Thu, 03/22/2012 - 12:24

You've obviously investigated your choices. It's not that you're area has very few shops selling such Pro grade stuff. They simply don't have Pro grade stuff in the $110 US price range you are looking for. That's unrealistic. I mean there is and I have a Edirol UA 1EX (by Roland) that works just great at 24-bit, 96 kHz with line level only inputs and outputs. Actually, it also has a 1/8 inch multimedia microphone input which is not stereo and not considered to be a professional input. But it does have goldplated consumer oriented RCA jacks for stereo input and output & its original going price was $85 US. And it's made in your neck of the woods, somewhere. I've had mine for quite a few years and it has received some rather heavy use and it still chugging along just fine. The Avid/Digi-Design, Transit, is another unit in the same price range which I also have and is also capable of 24-bit, 96 kHz. So the 24-bit, 96 kHz standard is currently the most prolific. You need a much bigger budget to go after the high range esoteric style of equipment that will start at many thousands of dollars, hence, my other recommendations. Answers that device did not come bundled with any software, your use of Audacity would work out just fine. If you have a copy of Adobe Sound Booth, you should probably load that program also. Not sure why you haven't yet?

Your desire to take the audio output from a laptop to record it back into another computer makes very little sense. That's precisely why we are living in the digital age. Whatever is on your laptop, in your laptop, can simply be output on a USB memory stick. There is no logical sense to taking the audio output. The VHS machine, that's a different scenario obviously. It's not already in your computer. So that actually requires a real-time analog playback to digital ingestion. It seems like you're having digital indigestion? So you need to be reading up a little bit more because you're not quite there yet. You have the basic understanding and fundamentals now you just need the proper direction and directions. So anything already in a computer is already in a computer and is ready to be manipulated and output from the computer in a digital manner because that's what they do. Anything that is purely analog, old records, VHS, Betamax all has to be digitally ingested through a conversion process and you don't need 192 kHz that's crazy. It's not crazy if you have a client that has requested 192 kHz 24-bit and is providing you with the proper and associated studio time payment to accomplish said project, which is going to have to be more than $110. On a personal level for yourself, you need nothing more than 16 bit, 44.1 kHz. I've been using that since 1983 and that's the standard we have adopted for broadest Playback compatibility around the world. And it still sticks to this day. IF, you are a record label and you'd need to archive stuff at its highest quality capabilities within the state of the art, you'll be spending a little more than $110 US on your equipment with which to transfer with. But you're not a record label. You're an individual consumer, with low-end consumer investments to be made of $110 US. My equipment and facilities have been a greater investment than $150,000 and I'm not a record label. That's a little more than $110. So you can utilize and $85 USB computer audio interface device which will yield much better results than trying to utilize the awful internal soundcards of every stinking computer on the market today. That $85 gizmo yields perfectly professional results for everyone. If you must have 24-bit, 192 kHz, I would suggest you find yourself a rich family to adopt you?

I've already spent my retirement money and I haven't retired yet.
Mx. Remy Ann David

darkarn Thu, 03/22/2012 - 13:14

The Roland sounds good; managed to find a more current version known as the Cakewalk UA-1G. Problem is, it is not sold here (and I am not comfortable with importing electronics).

As for the Adobe Sound Booth, I am in my dorms, hence my inability to use it for now (It's in my house as mentioned earlier). Will have to set some time for it too (I hope I can do it soon!)

And the laptop example was a poor one, I apologise. A better example might be audio from (handheld) gaming consoles. I also admit that 192KHz was mad (after some more reading up).

RemyRAD Thu, 03/22/2012 - 14:06

So it sounds like your direction is coming in to better focus now. There are so many decent entry-level USB audio devices, I'm sure you will find one within your price range and budget. One of the nicer units that also includes an incredible and expensive software package is the Pre-Sonus USB Audio Box which can be had for around $150 US. Now this particular device is incredibly well built and 100% professional. It's almost like having a little recording studio with a mixer you can hold in your hand. It has a line level inputs and quality XLR microphone inputs as well. The software package while being designed for avant-garde music production, it includes very important equalization, dynamic range and digital effects processing and enhancements in the software. This is far more comprehensive than Audacity and is included with the $150 device. It's not the Pre-Sonus, there are so many others to choose from and not just the Cakewalk unit since it is not available where you are. Surely being in a country where all of this is already made, there must be some avenues in which to obtain this? You live in a country that's rather large. Importing electronics? You should have no need to import any electronics because it's already built in your country. It's not built in the United States, Mexico, Germany, it's all made in China. You do know where China is don't you?

Sing your poor heart out
Mx. Remy Ann David

RemyRAD Thu, 03/22/2012 - 14:31

Sorry about that. My geography sucks. I've always thought it was "Singapore, China"? But I am much better at recording and broadcasting. At least I know my aural way around that. So typically, what manufacturers are available to you in your area of the world? Let's find you something good, within your budget. Just about anybody's USB 1.1 device capable of 24-bit, 96 kHz, even within your budget, will generally also have XLR balanced microphone inputs along with unbalanced instrument and line level inputs and a software bundled package. Don't let that intimidate you or sway your decision because it has XLR microphone inputs. Even TEAC/TASCAM makes some very good and affordable units. Surely, something like that should be available in your area? Most everything is 24-bit, 96 kHz capable today. And that simply comes from just a small handful of chip manufacturers that make those converter chips. And they are used throughout the industry by numerous different manufacturers that incorporate them. Everything beyond those, the price goes up exponentially and is not within your budget. Don't wait for the day when cheap 192 kHz converters might happen. It's a ways down the road. A couple of more years and you might be good? But then inflation will have jacked up the prices yet more again. It's never-ending so don't wait. It might be your first unit but it won't be your last, guarantee. You are just starting to scratch the surface.

We don't want to hear about any surfaces being scratched
Mx. Remy Ann David

RemyRAD Fri, 03/23/2012 - 23:53

Well there is nothing wrong with 24/48. I know a lot of recording engineers that are still working in that format. You know you still end up having to downconvert and dummy down to 44.1 kHz for a CD and to make sure that most everybody you want to hear this will be able to hear this. Unless you are the only one? Then I could understand your personal preference. But as I also indicated I'm still utilizing 16 bit 44.1 kHz and it is perfectly, marvelously, 100% adequate. 96 DB of dynamic range in which nothing in your recording has. A frequency response to 20 kHz of which, most folks can't hear any higher so why do you need to go to 40 kHz or higher? Sure there may be some slight perceivable and perceptual harmonic overtones one might be able to detect, provided your playback system is as highly esoteric as your recording system. And perhaps that is what you are striving for? So now you're armed to the teeth with everything you need to know to get the right thing and that will be everything you wanted to be.

Let us know what you get?
Mx. Remy Ann David

darkarn Sun, 03/25/2012 - 10:27

Yep, I am doing the recordings for my own use, should have made that clear in the first place, sorry about that. And I will be playing the files on computers instead (CDs aren't my thing I guess), hence my preference for 96KHz (or just 48KHz; 44.1KHz sounded a little weird but then again, I did those recordings a long time ago without much knowledge then). I also felt that as they will be for archival purposes, the better the formats of the recordings could be done in, the better. But then again, maybe I should do a serious hearing test and decide from there, after all, hard disk drives aren't cheap.

Talking about dynamic range, I am not sure how to "see" it in the first place. I am having some problems understanding it (other than that "don't fall into the loudness war" trap).

I did take a look at some recommendations (like the Tascam models you have mentioned earlier). Good prices, but they are too little huge and heavy for me though. If only the Cakewalk model could be gotten...