I'm supposed to figure out what I want for xmas with a $200 budget. So much for surprises. I was interested in getting a small interface to use here at home. Nothing fancy - one or two mic inputs, quality DI, headphone outs, MIDI optional. I've boiled my choices down to the Tascam US-122 or the M-Audio Firewire Solo. There will be times when I'll need to work here at home on sessions created at my studio, so it could be 30+ audio tracks and possibly some MIDI/VSTi tracks. With that in mind, my question is whether or not the USB connection create any problems down the road? Can the US-122 handle high track counts? This question arises from the soundonsound.com website:
In the past I've heard concerns expressed about the reliability of USB audio and MIDI devices, and about whether the USB 1 protocol in general is capable of reliably handling the simultaneous transfer of audio and MIDI data. Tascam themselves acknowledge this as at least a theoretical issue, and actually provide users with the option to disable the US122's audio capabilities for situations where large quantities of MIDI data need to be transferred and accurate timing is critical. It's sensible, of course, not to load up your system with lots of other USB devices when recording, since bandwidth on the bus is undoubtedly finite. Similarly, if you expect to be dealing with dozens of simultaneous stereo audio tracks on a regular basis, it might be worth considering a Firewire or PCI device in preference to a USB one.
The US122 ships with a dedicated version of Steinberg's Cubasis VST sequencer.
That said, my experience was that US122 worked well, and was quite reliable. I think it's unlikely that many users will run into serious problems in the normal course of their work; in my experiments with the bundled Cubasis VST application I found the US122 quite capable of handling eight audio and a dozen MIDI tracks at once without any noticeable undesirable side-effects.
I trust Tascam quality and the US-122 has more features, so I would really like to go that route but that USB connection seems like it will be a definite hinderance.
My computer is a PC, AMD XP 2500+, 1.5GB RAM, two big harddrives, running Nuendo 2 (maybe N3 if I upgrade.)
Here's a card which sounds great and performs well:
The E-MU® 1212M Digital Audio System delivers everything you need to produce audio on a PC with professional results - 24-bit/192kHz converters, hardware-accelerated effects and mixing, and seamless compatibility with your favorite PC audio/sequencer software.
I own one and I can't say enough good things about it, it's a really great card with a ton of features and impressive sound. 8-)
USB bandwidth is unrelated to your track count. It's only related to the number of physical inputs and outputs. It doesn't handle a large number of hi-resolution ins and outs very well, but both options you've looked at are just stereo.
In your sequencer, all of your tracks get mixed to a stereo signal before going to your sound device, unless you configure it specifically to output on different channels. With the devices you've selected, you'll be doing the default, which is a stereo in/out.
That said, I'm not a huge fan of the US-122. I helped a friend purchase one, after some research, and although it does the trick, it's really not that great. There's a lot of cross-talk (the output signal bleeds back into the input, sometimes detectable without additional gain).
If it's in the $200 range, you can also consider the Line6 TonePort UX2. Even if you're not a guitarist, the mic channels sound pretty good for the price. No MIDI.
The TonePort was another option since I probably will be doing mostly guitar/bass work, but I don't need the models. I guess I don't even really need the mic inputs since I have good mic pres at the studio I could bring home....
Calgary - Can you use the 1/4" inputs on the EMU as a guitar/bass DI?