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importance of soundcard quality

right now my recording signal chain is:

RODE NT1000 -> Mackie XDR preamp -> M-audio Delta 44

Since I'm not totally satisfied, I plan this upgrade:

AT4033 -> Phoenix DRS-1 -> M-audio Delta 44

Obviously the delta 44 is the weak link in the chain, but I don't know whether it really is a problem :?

I know that mics and preamps makes a great difference and of course converter quality makes some difference as well, but compared to mics and preamps how important are sound cards? Do you guys think it's reasonable to do such an upgrade without upgrading the soundcard as well?


anonymous Sun, 03/20/2005 - 20:47
M Audio makes great soundcards. Your Delta 44 is hardly the weakest link. A Mackie preamp, however, would be a significant degrade in signal quality. The Delta series have solid circuitry and PCI connections are much faster than the USB soundcards out there, plus the zero latency compensation board in the Delta is very reliable. I've been using M-Audio cards for a long time now, and i'll never switch. You shouldn't have a quality problem at all, unless you have the sample rate settings or other control properties setup wrong.

TeddyG Mon, 03/21/2005 - 09:38
I don't "know" the M-Audio, stuff(Or the other stuff you have.), so I'm not complaining about YOUR stuff, perse, but just commenting on the general question: "How important is the sound card?"

Having great stuff otherwise and a cheap soundcard could be like having a Ferrari with a Yugo engine... I, too, was slow to catch-on, but once I finally got a real card(I have a Lynx, by the way), I began to realize that everything else was supplementary, or at least dependent.

With a computer-based audio system, a good way of proceeding would be to START with the soundcard that will do everything you need, then work outwords, making EVERYTHING ELSE "fit" your sound card. Today, the world's best anything has no hope without the world's best soundcard to run through and anything, of any quality, can at least work up to the limits of it's abilities if not hindered by a sound card that can't meet the challenge of the other gear/software you have.


anonymous Mon, 03/21/2005 - 10:01
Teddy, I know I'll probably catch hell for this, but here goes anyway...

Have you got a chance to read about or lend an ear to the new Creative card? It's called the Audigy4 Pro. I only mention it because it is the breakout box type card. I had the Audigy2 Platinum eX, and thought it was sufficient for a lot of stuff, but then I got this one, and believe it or not, it seems to be a soundblaster that was worth the purchase.

That said, of course:
I'm saving up to get an E-MU 1820 and build a new DAW, from the ground up. But for now, I have to begrudgingly admit that "so far, so good" with the Audigy4 Pro.

FWIW, of course.

I'd like to see if anyone else has tried this card out.

Also, am I headed in the right direction with the E-MU 1820, as far as bang-for-the-buck?

Anyone? Comments welcome.

Brad Venable
Voice For Hire, LLC

anonymous Mon, 03/21/2005 - 12:49
Teddy, of course every link in the chain is important. If the sound card sounds bad everything will sound bad. That, however, was not my question. My question is how much the difference is when going from a prosumer sound card like the Delta 44 to a Lynx or Rme. Is it a big difference compared to the difference from a prosumer preamp to a pro preamp? or the difference from one mic to another? The other replies in this thread suggests that it is NOT a big difference, but you seem to have another oppinion? What did you have before you got your Lynx?

sdelsolray Mon, 03/21/2005 - 13:48
There's a bit of confusion here. A common soundcard has more than one function. Besides I/O of a digital signal down the computer interface/bus to the hard drive, it also converts analog to digital and converts digital to analog. When folks speak of "quality" of a soundcard, they're really meaning the quality of the AD and DA conversion, not the "quality" of digital IO with the computer itself.

In answer to your original question, the AD and DA converters on most inexpensive sound cards are usually of lower quality. You can spend thousands of $$ for superb outboard AD and DA conversion.

RME and Lynx soundcards have excellent converters, which is why they cost more.

anonymous Mon, 03/21/2005 - 20:02
there is no confusion, obviously a soundcard's main purpose is its A/D conversion process, that's the quality we're referring to... you need to convert to digital if you're running a digital interface, like a computer or a DAT...

anyways...signal quality is extremely important, however, a $500 range soundcard will be more than adequate when it comes to processing other gear within that relative budget...example: you wouldnt want to run a Neuman mic with a Toft pre amp through an Echo or a cheap model M-Audio soundcard. infact, you would probably want a stand-alone A/D converter, probably a top of the line Apogee or Lucid or the likes, then run it optical into your soundcard...anyways, the point is, if you're not going to be spedning thousands of dollars on great condensers and preamps then you dont need to spend tons on the soundcard...i would recommend a Delta 66 or even something with Firewire or USB if you want...

good luck

kingfrog Mon, 03/21/2005 - 20:29
I agree Keep the signal chain consistant. That said I have a friend who has had a home studio for 25 years and he swears by the EMU1212. He also has a UA-610 pre and blu bottle mic.

With regard to the 4033..I would try that mic before you but it if possible. I had one and replaced it with the Rode NT1 which I ultimately replaced with the NT2. I found the 4033 a little brittle for my tastes. I run the NT2 through a VCQ1 and an Aardvarrk card, I would not spend $500 on a 2in 2 out card, but thats just me.

anonymous Tue, 03/22/2005 - 04:08
But does keeping the signal chain consistant equal spending equal amounts of money on each link? It seems like some of you are commenting more on the price than on the sound of the Delta 44.

As for the 4033. I know this is a controversial mic, but I don't need and all round mic. I need a mic which is very up front and present. I will buy it from a place which has a return policy though.

anonymous Tue, 03/22/2005 - 09:28
I would say the Delta is at the bottom of the "acceptable" interfaces, and that replacing it with one ten times the amount would not be worth it in your case. You won't really hear alot of improvement in sound quality. Things may sound cleaner, smoother, more open, etc... with a much better interface - and that's especially important if you plan on dealing with many more tracks at once because it is cumulative. In other words, one track recorded through a Delta compared to one track recorded through a Radar: the difference here you will probably be OK dealing with. But 48 tracks Delta compared to 48 tracks Radar - that will yield a huge difference in sound quality. That is my understanding of it.

I would keep the Delta. Audio interfaces are getting cheaper and are evolving relatively quicker, whereas mics and pres are something you could pretty much hold onto the rest of your life. If you have the money burning a hole in your pocket, or have much more demanding work (as described above for example) then better converters would probably be a noticable improvement.

PROBABLY is the key word here though, lots of people hear it while others just don't. It's a much more subtle things then the difference between the good and the crap preamps.




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