Need help choosing firewire audio interface!

Discussion in 'Converters / Interfaces' started by RaS, Feb 10, 2006.

  1. RaS

    RaS Guest


    I'm using my home computer (PC) both to audio editing (for video), music listening (cd/dvd), and games. Very rarely I'll watch dvd video on the pc.

    I'm about to replace my poor PC speakers with professional stereo monitors. I do have really nice headphones, but I would like to have speakers, too. Hence, I will need an audio interface. Firewire is preferred (usb2, pci, pci-x, pci-e possible).

    As the monitors have XLR connectors, I'm looking for something with 1/4'' TS/TRS outputs - and a headphone output. I have a few XLR mics, too. Ability to record would thus be a bonus - not strictly necessary, but could become usefull.

    There are plenty of alternatives: M-Audio FW 1814/410, Edirol FA-66/101, Presonus Firebox, Terratec Phase X24, Hercules 16/12, Esi QuataFire 610, ...and possibly others. They all do recording and stereo playback/monitoring very well. This is the easy part. Just pick one...

    However, I chose a difficult life and installed 64bit XP. The result: My options are: 1) Edirol v.1.0 drivers 2) M-Audio beta drivers (ok for me) 3) Terratec drivers TO BE released in dec 2005. So, this has simplified to a choice between Edirol FA66/101 and M-Audio Firewire 410/1814 I guess...

    The problem:

    I'm going to do editing on a multipurpose PC (no, I'm not going to have a dedicated audio computer even if that would be the recommended thing to do - I'm not doing this for work), so I'm also going to listen to music (cd audio, dvd audio), watch dvd movies (seldom), and play games on the same computer. I have installed the nVidia Purevideo Plat. DD / DTS decoder, so I guess all music and movie listening will be successfull as long as the audio interface provides at least four (surround for movies) analog outs...

    Games, however, present a challenge: I would hope to hear at least something. Stereo would be sufficient. Surround even better. Should I then get an ASIO/DirectX/unbalanced interface (eg. M-Audio 410) or an ASIO/WDM/balanced interface (eg. Edirol FA-66)? There's going to be lots of 240V 50Hz power cables, computer cables, wireless keyboard/mouse/network around... I'm not quite sure if balanced would be important... Any idea? Do you know any ASIO and DirectX compatible card with balanced outputs?

    I could also possibly skip "DirectX" alltogether and connect the stereo miniplug of the motherboard to the stereo input (2xRCA) of the non-directx audio interface and have some satisfactory game audio...

    What do you think? Any advice?
  2. RaS

    RaS Guest

    In addition to my DirectX/unbalanced vs. NoDirectX/balanced dilemma, I would also like to know what the benefit of 88.2 kHz sampling rate would be. Does it offer any better sound output?

    If I choose the Edirol devices (with balanced and no DirectX) then I can choose one with 44.1/48/96/192kHz or one with 44.1/48/88.2/96/192kHz. The one with 88.2kHz costs a bit more, but it also haves a sampling rate knob in the front...
  3. jcnoernberg

    jcnoernberg Guest

    alright the experts had a week to answer... now its my turn :)



    what monitors are you getting? i like usb2.0/firewire interfaces because they are portable... if you ever get a laptop, there ya go...

    so you're not planning on recording anything, maybe in the future?
    unless all your gear-chain is balanced, there's no need to introduce it later in line. (dont quote me on that!) but if youre coming from a simple signal/ground TS cable from player for instance.... theres no benefit to have balanced out to the monitors. again, i could be wrong. i just used the 1/4 on my monitors.

    i dont see how any could make much difference at that price range. i'd personally go for features. i have a usb 2 channel edirol interface. its small simple cheap, and it gets the job done.

    so hows that xp64 working out for you? i just built a new 64bit system but im still usin the old 32bit windows. im hearing so many bad things about the compatibiilty issues... what do you think about it? any performance increase?

    you dont have to "dedicate" a pc for audio purposes, but some tweaking is almost required (for recording at least, playback should be fine). at the very least, research "windows service configuring" or see my other post about the subject. it wont take you long, and you wont lose anything... you'll just gain some more power for all your pc needs.. its not just for audio.

    that doesn't make any sense... you would come out of your firewire port into your interface (which is a D/A converter) then out to your amp/speakers. you arent ever using the miniplug... its lousy!

  4. RaS

    RaS Guest

    1) I would get a pair of Genelecs: 2x 8020 or 2x 8030.

    The Genelecs are locally available and I have heard them, so I would know what I'm buying. They are also rather compact and they don't have a bass/treble knob... Instead they have optional treble tilt, bass tilt, bass roll off, rubber isolation from desk...

    And they match the color of my computer :wink:

    2) Balanced mics, balanced monitors, balanced audio interface -> everything balanced.

    3) I would want an firewire box for portability. USB starts to become a little crowded...

    4) For security reasons I have allready disabled every service I could.
  5. RaS

    RaS Guest

    "theres no benefit to have balanced out to the monitors"

    I don't understand this.

    Balanced connections use differential signalling and are generally less susceptible to noise, I assume. I don't know how much it would help if the audio cables are just a few meters long (and unfortunately near power cables). Balanced doesn't necessarily cost a lot more, so why not use it? I'm trying to achieve some noise reduction here... as soon as I get this system together and manage to choose a NR plugin... Oh yes, I have headphones, too...
  6. RaS

    RaS Guest

    On WinXP x64: "Not recommended".

    About the only security suite you can install is Avast Antivirus. Maybe some other, too, but very few work. Many drive imaging applications don't work, either (BootIt NG does). Expect trouble with exotic backup devices (read: Iomega). Firewalls might not work (nVidia nForce4 Pro does). If you hate file scanning security tools and want a host based IPS system (Prevx), you'll soon notice that it doesn't install on XP x64. So generally you will have trouble with security applications.

    All device drivers must be native 64bit
    -> Built-in cd burning often uses built-in 32bit drivers. Doesn't work.
    -> No film scanners work. Better not have film rolls.
    -> A choice of TWO firewire audio interface vendors: Edirol and M-Audio.
    -> Every hardware device (pci-card, usb, firewire, ...) is plug'n pray.
    -> Programs using certain cd/dvd -based copy protection (read: games) don't install
    -> If an application comes with a copy protection usb-dongle, it might not work

    and so on...

    Many installers don't work (16bit code) or they don't recognize your new operating system (too new...). A determined IT pro debugs this by opening the msi packet and rebuilding it. You'll need some software for that.

    Some software can be installed using the "compatibility mode for XP", but then they don't work, possibly consume lots of system resources (like 100% cpu), and - aaaaaaargh - refuse to uninstall. You only know it afterwards. Learn to use the system restore and configure it to take automatic snapshots regularly. Also do it manually prior to installing anything.

    64bit benefits as of now:
    + More memory than 4GB
    + The retro user experience. Just like Linux five years ago.
    + No-one else has it. You are ahead of your time.

    Stick with 32bit XP if you want everything to "just work". XP x64 gets more support each day, but Vista is coming anyway...

    XP x64 - the final frontier...
  7. RaS

    RaS Guest

    Ok, but I'm a little bit lost here:

    - I don't know when balanced connections give a real, measurable benefit
    - I don't know what 88.4 kHz sample rate is used for (44.1 is cd, 48 is DV)

    - If it doesn't cost much extra, then I would like to get an interface that supports 4 channel surround sound from analog outputs to active monitors. No, I'm not going to get an amplifier. It would be cheaper to upgrade from two monitors to four, than to upgrade to amplifier and four speakers. This 4ch is not that important for editing, but it would be great for some entertainment...
  8. jcnoernberg

    jcnoernberg Guest

    I'm not saying not to use balanced cables, but I would imagine you would have to have a 100% balanced signal chain to benefit from it. Check out
    that's a neat little explanation of how it works.
  9. RaS

    RaS Guest


    Now how much interference do 240V 50Hz power cables (grounded) cause? What if I have seven power cables and two audio cables close together and no alternative routings? And fluorescent lights, halogen lights, energy saving lamps? Don't these cause RFI? The question is just how much.
  10. RaS

    RaS Guest

    Anyway... I already got a relatively nice audio interface (Edirol FA-66). It has four balanced line outs. The monitors I'm testing have balanced inputs. My mics have balanced outputs...
  11. jcnoernberg

    jcnoernberg Guest

    fluorescent lights are not the best for recording. keep the on/off switch wired close by, and shut them off when recording/mixing. i have a neat little usb powered LED light that is bendable. I use it to light the keyboard in the dark.

    as far as the cables, try to stay away from the power. don't be zip-tying them together. use high quality balanced cables.

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