why should i buy an expensive soundcard?

Discussion in 'Converters / Interfaces' started by raize, Jan 14, 2002.

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  1. raize

    raize Guest

    i've recently been researching the ins and outs of home recording as it looks like i'm taking over the role of 'engineer' for my little band in a box (read people that show up in my basement to play).

    there are a lot of threads on pc hardware, which do me no good because i've been working in computer hardware for 10 years now. that part is safe.

    there are also a lot of threads on which soundcards people prefer for their DAWs, including echo, m-audio, and so on. these also do me no good because they never actually explain what high end soundcards do.

    in other words, i'd like to know about high-end DAW recording soundcards the way i know about regular pc hardware. what do they do, why do they do it, what can i accomplish with them that i can't with a regular soundcard (keeping in mind i'm not about to go out and purchase a regular one, not even the sb audigy).

    even resources or reference material on how i use them, what they offer me, and what i can accomplish with all their advance features and so on).

    all i know now is "high end soundcard = high end home recording". it's very dreamy, but also leaves me in the fog.

    i'm hoping this turns into a question and answer thread because i've never seen an informative post on true DAW soundcards to date in all my fruitless searching.

    please help me.
  2. Doublehelix

    Doublehelix Well-Known Member

    Oct 7, 2001
    Well, I am by no means a technical expert here, but have some real-life experience with quality differences between sound cards...basically, it is "crap in = crap out".

    From what I understand (in laymen terms...) sound quality is hugely dependant on the quality of the A/D converters. This seems to make the biggest difference in the quality of the signal...which I guess makes sense, especially to us non-technical types!

  3. Caveman

    Caveman Guest

    Cold and Ugly,

    The good cards are so good that you don´t hear them. Especially on acoustic instruments the difference in unbelievable. Once I did guitars for an album at home using a Roland VS 1680 (!) , just took a synced stereo backing track , played more tracks and bounced back to PT two tracks at a time,digitally. Professional?

    The thing is, I was using an Apogee Rosetta A/D for recording. Steel strings... vocals... Marshall walls... no eq,nothing but normal mikes and preamps -and the Apogee. Compared to Roland´s XLR input- no can do! Oh yes,some percussion,too.

    The faces in the big studio later,watching me connect the little workstation... and then the faces hearing what is coming out of it!

    At least that session made me a believer because I bought the Apogee and won´t leave home without one. I obviously got what I paid for, let it only be two channels. Even one channel sounds more stereo than an El Cheapo 5.1, heheheheh!

    Go for a good card,then you can take your DAW:s
    full potential in use. It only hertz once!
  4. Logan

    Logan Active Member

    Apr 21, 2001
    Elm Tree Ont. Canada
    Why buy a good mic or guitar? The sound is the thing. Good converters are the point. It will be obvious if you take a good mic and record a track with an el cheapo card and a decent card. Now this does not mean that all cards are justified in their excessive price, but by in large a good card with good converters is essential to getting your tracks into the DAW. Also the ease of use and the latency of the card and the drivers are all important, and again you will find that the good companies keep these things current. A search of forums like this and others that deal with DAW recording will yield a wealth of info on what problems and successes folks are having with various products, check them out and you will find that certain names come up as either good or bad. take care Logan
  5. knightfly

    knightfly Active Member

    Jan 18, 2002
    Hey, Cold - (I won't give up the title of "ugly" without a fight - OK, you win)

    Here is my version, besides just "because I said so" -
    1. All the guys in the above posts are right about converters, because the things that improve on the digitization process (slap me if I miss anything) are (a) get the analog audio out of that RFI generator know as a computer (b) do all the things that help analog sound good (balanced audio, quality analog path, clean power supplies, higher levels (all else equal, +4, especially REAL +4 dBm which is 600 ohm balanced, NOT 10k, kicks the crap outa -10 any day) - if you digitize crap with an Apogee, it's just well-digitized crap ! (c) Now that you're digitizing real audio, do it the best you can, and do it before you EVER let it into the RFI generator ! (This is another reason why not all multi-I/O sound cards sound the same - some of them, to save costs, put the converters on the PCI card instead of in the separate box - Even with valiant attempts at shielding, this is a no-no. (One of my many favorite sayings is "The best way to get rid of noise is not to generate it in the first place!")

    Whether you can afford an Apogee (can you NOT ?) or use the built'in converters in a mixer or other sound card, any time you can give ANYBODY's sound card more stable word clock than it's used to you will improve the sound, because in the conversion process, WHEN each sample is taken is nearly as important as HOW. The more "jitter" in the timing of the conversion process, the more "Un-Analogous" the audio. This is just one of the considerations companies like Apogee use when designing a new product - But, economics usually rear their ugly head even here, and you can't expect ANY company to be able to give you ALL the quality of a $1500 dedicated Word Clock generator AND a $2000 or so A/D/A converter, and still sell it to you for $1995. All this is part of the reason virtually ALL pro's try to set up their studio so that ALL digital equipment is clocked by ONE source, with the least jitter and most functionality they can find or afford.
    Disclaimer - I haven't checked out Apogee's specs on internal clock jitter, but if an Aardsync or a Nanosync has lower jitter, then even an Apogee should sound better driven by them.

    I know I missed a ton of stuff, but hopefully this helps a little - I'll check back later, but right now I gotta be somewhere else about an hour ago... Steve
  6. the kid

    the kid Guest

    great info from the group -- anyone have a view on converter/clock quality difference between apogee rosetta and rme/steinberg 8 i/o breakout?

    i would guess the higher end apogee products have a much better clock than both, but at the rosetta level, i wonder what the difference would be, if any.
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    The New AT5047 Premier Studio Microphone Purity Transformed

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