The Musician's Guide to Home Recording

 

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The Personal Computer Based Music Studio
Soundcards and Computer Audio Interfaces

 

 

Soundcards and Computer Audio Interfaces

Category 1:
$100 or less

Category 2:
$125 - $350

Category 3:
$350 - $800

Category 4:
For Laptops

Category 5:
Professional

         

Related Audio Topics

Games and Multimedia Full Duplex USB and FireWire Compatibility
Alerts
Discontinued
Products
 

 

 

A soundcard or other audio interface is a requirement for any computer-based home studio setup. Today's computers all come with built in audio hardware, but for true CD quality or better results you will want to upgrade to a higher quality soundcard or audio interface — either a PCI plug-in card (called a "soundcard") or a PCMCIA, USB or FireWire interface.

 

There are portable digital mixers that can double as a control surface for your computer's digital audio software and provide multiple digital audio and MIDI I/O options. Mackie has announced its new Onyx series mixers, which are high quality analog mixers that can be equipped with a FireWire interface, to route up to 14 channels of digital audio to a computer. This should work great with laptops!

Speaking of laptops, there are several PCMCIA interfaces available for Mac G4 PowerBooks and Windows XP notebooks. Who needs a DAT recorder anymore?

 


 

Audio for Games and Internet Multimedia on the Windows PC

 

While standards for pro audio and music production such as ASIO, VST, KS/WDM and GSIF have reached maturity (and marketplace acceptance), Intel and Microsoft have been more interested in the development of tools for the delivery of 'multimedia' audio for games and the Internet, such as AC '97 and DirectSound. These multimedia standards usually compromise sound quality in the interest of providing compatiblity with low-bandwidth delivery mechanisms such as Macromedia Flash and Microsoft NetMeeting. As a result, many soundcards and audio interfaces for the professional audio market do not support these consumer multimedia standards. If you are producing audio for PC multimedia projects, a professional audio interface probably won't help you much. The Terratec EWX 24/96 is one product that does combine a 24-bit audio interface with DirectSound compatibility.

 

In the meantime, Apple Computer has incorporated Core Audio into its OS X operating system, making it easier than ever to connect audio hardware to your Mac, from consumer multimedia add-ons to pro audio/MIDI interfaces. No FreeMIDI or OMS needed!

 


 

Audio Over USB

 

There is a wide variety of USB (Universal Serial Bus) audio and MIDI interfaces available for Windows and Macintosh. The original USB spec (USB 1.1) only allows for data throughput speeds of about 1 megabyte per second, which is about the same as an 8X speed CD-ROM drive. Because of this, most USB audio interfaces cannot reliably record multitrack audio into a computer, but most do work well enough for stereo (two channels). USB 2.0 has been introduced with claimed throughput of over 50MB per second. At this point, the only audio interface that takes advantage of the new, faster USB 2.0 is the Edirol UA-1000, but I'm sure it won't be long before there is a wide selection of these things.

 

Audio Over FireWire

 

Digidesign, Mark of the Unicorn and M-Audio have introduced new FireWire audio interfaces that allow multichannel recordings to be made using an Apple iMac, eMac or iBook, or any PC or laptop equipped with FireWire ports (such as the Sony VAIO). FireWire (a.k.a. IEEE-1394 or Sony i-Link) has become a popular way of getting multiple channels of digital audio into and out of a fast laptop computer — which has finally made an inexpensive, portable DAW a reality.

 

 


 

COMPATIBILITY ALERT!!

When shopping for an audio interface, you should
always check with the manufacturer(s) to make sure your choice of audio hardware will work with your particular PC or Mac computer – before you plunk down your hard-earned cash and find yourself calling their tech support!

 

While it's easy to figure out what exact model of Macintosh you have (it's written right on the back of the case), PC users will need to identify the CPU installed and the core logic chipset in the computer's mainboard (motherboard). There are many perfectly fine audio interfaces and soundcards that are not compatible with certain models of computers. Here are a few I know about from first hand experience or bulletins published by manufacturers on their websites:

 

Support for the latest OS's

Apple Macintosh
The latest version of the MacOS, OS X, is a complete redesign based on a UNIX core. OS X requires completely new drivers for hardware to work with it. If you're getting a new Mac, make sure there are OS X drivers for your audio hardware!

 

Problems with Laptop PCs

PCMCIA Controllers
It appears that some recent Pentium 4 laptops use PCMCIA controllers that won't work with PC Card or CardBus audio interfaces. The problem one hears is bursts of "white noise" interrupting the recorded sound. This behavior is caused by the PCMCIA controller not being able to continuously feed the audio data to the audio interface. One PCMCIA controller built by a company named ENE is known to have this problem. This ENE controller is used in some laptop models sold by Hewlett-Packard (e.g. the Pavilion zd7000 series).

If you're putting together a Windows laptop-based recording system, be sure to check around the Usenet newsgroups and audio interface manufacturers' websites to see if the laptop you're looking at will work with the audio hardware you want to use. You may find something like this:

According to the most recent Digidesign Compatibility Documents, current Hewlett-Packard laptops do not meet the minimum requirements for use with the Mbox or Digi 002 systems and Pro Tools LE. Digidesign is recommending laptops from Apple (PowerBook G4 and "ice white" dual-USB iBook), Dell (Inspiron 8500 with P4-M or Centrino), Gateway (400 series), IBM (A and T series) and Toshiba (satellite 1900 series).

Digidesign also recommends that laptop users disable the onboard wireless NIC to save resources. They also recommend that if your laptop has an "ESS AudioDrive" audio circuit built in, that it should be disabled in the laptop's BIOS.

 

AMD Athlon

As new versions of Athlon processors appear, new chipsets are necessary to support their new features, such as the ability to use the latest and fastest DDR-SDRAM or USB 2.0. However, it takes time for manufacturers of audio interfaces to test their products in new platforms, so new drivers may not be immediately available to fix the incompatibilities that can arise. Those manufacturers who have in-house software engineers can write a new set of drivers, but many manufacturers contract out for their products' drivers, which means that your favorite audio interface may not be supported in your brand new computer for a while. Your best bet is to ask your audio interface manufacturer's TECH SUPPORT rep (not a sales rep) whether or not their product works in your configuration — especially if you have an Athlon computer. Don't be upset by all this — the very 'open' architecture of the PC creates compatibility issues all the time. The best companies react quickly to problems by writing new drivers and posting technical bulletins on their websites, and have knowledgeable tech support reps who are willing to explain the issues to you. Some companies have online forums or newsgroups where users of their products can post requests for assistance. You can usually tell how adept a manufacturer is at fixing problems by reading through the messages on its user forums, or by checking out the Driver Download, FAQ and Support pages on its website.

 

 


 

NEWS ON DISCONTINUED OR DEFUNCT PRODUCTS

The musical equipment business is as cutthroat as any other (more than most!). There are always some companies that will fail or pull out of the audio-for-PC field, or have to completely revamp their product lines. You can find great 'fire sale' deals on discontinued products, but one of these is probably only a good choice as a short-term solution for older Windows 98 or MacOS 9 computers (you can forget about future support for most of these products).

 

The Digidesign Digi 001 has been discontinued and replaced with the Digi 002 Rack.

 

Creative Labs, the parent company of both Ensoniq and E-MU, has officially discontinued the E-MU PARIS product line. This is a shame, because the PARIS system is a really good one — some say better than Pro Tools.

 

Yamaha DSP Factory has been discontinued, probably because they now offer a complete digital mixer/hard disk recorder in a box, the AW2816, for the same price — and the AW16G is even cheaper.

 

In Windows PC's, ISA products — Any soundcard or audio interface designed for use with the old Industry Standard Architecture (ISA) bus will not be usable in recent-issue Windows PC's. Only PCI, USB and IEEE1394 are currently supported.

On the Mac side, it's been years since NuBus was put out to pasture.


 

The following is a brief and admittedly incomplete list of audio interfaces and soundcards for musicians (not PC games or Internet multimedia). This list is for reference purposes only — please don't take these brief descriptions as endorsements or recommendations.

 

The products described are organized into five categories grouped by price, from least to most expensive. To find out more about a particular product, click on the manufacturer's name. This will take you to their website.

 

This list is not exhaustive, as I can't possibly keep up with all the new products flooding the market these days. If you know of a great soundcard or audio interface that you think should be included on this list, please drop me an e-mail.



Category 1: Low Budget / Beginner Level ($100 or less)

 

On the low end, these typical 'multimedia' soundcards for everyday computer audio use can also be pressed into service as a basic audio interface for your home studio computer. The microphone input will be a monaural (one-channel) 1/8" phone-jack ("mini-jack"), usually with 1.5V to 5V of phantom power. Neither the jack nor the voltage are suitable for use with professional microphones. If you are using a 'multimedia soundcard' I recommend using a small mixing board for your microphones, instruments and other sources and sending the output of the mixer to the LINE IN on your soundcard.

Also, bear in mind that 'multimedia' soundcards are designed for playing back audio from computer games and DVD movies, or for general "business audio" use. They don't often work very well for recording, mixing and playing back high fidelity audio for music production.

Creative Labs Sound Blaster Audigy 2 - Creative Labs's Audigy 2 cards are based on the latest Audigy 2 DSP chip, which includes a FireWire port, six audio output channels and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround decoding. The Audigy 2 cards include features that are meant to attract desktop musicians and "audiophiles," such as 24-bit/192kHz performance. The internal data path of the Audigy 2 DSP is 24-bit 96kHz for surround sound playback, but audio is sampled at a maximum of 24-bit 48kHz when being recorded from the Audigy 2's line inputs, and then only when using an application that uses the card's ASIO 2.0 drivers.

So the moral of the story is that the Audigy 2 is really good for playing back DVD movie or computer game soundtracks in full 24/96k resolution, or for use with ASIO 2.0 music apps like Cubase SL or WaveLab 4.0 at 24/96 resolution. Just remember that you'll need to add a mixer if you want to use a pro microphone.

Confused? Look, the Audigy 2 is not a pro music production card. It's really meant for playing back DVD movies and games. If you're going to spend nearly $200 on a recording soundcard, maybe you should be looking at an M-Audio Audiophile 24/96, ESI Waveterminal 2496 or Echo Mia-MIDI (see below).

Creative Labs Sound Blaster Live! - The SBLive is probably the world's most common PC soundcard. Millions are out there, and many of them cause a problem - namely, a file the SBLive setup installs called Devldr32.exe will "hang" and keep Windows 2000 or XP from being able to shut down. Here's what Microsoft has to say about it:


Microsoft Knowledge Base Article - 315327
Error Message When You Shut Down Computer: DEVLDR Not Responding

SYMPTOMS
When you try to shut down your computer, you may receive an error message 
similar to the following: 

DEVLDR not responding.

If you click End Now, your computer stops responding. 

CAUSE
This error may occur if you have the Creative Labs SoundBlaster Live 
installed on your computer. 

RESOLUTION
To resolve this issue, remove or turn off the Creative Labs SoundBlaster Live 
Driver and reinstall the driver from the Windows XP CD-ROM. 
To do this, follow these steps: 

- Click Start, and then click Control Panel.
- In Control Panel, double-click System.
- In the System Properties dialog box, click the Hardware tab, and then 
  click Device Manager.
- Expand Sound, video and game controllers.
- Right-click Creative Labs SoundBlaster, and then click Uninstall.

When you are prompted to confirm the deletion, click Yes.

Reinstall the sound card driver.

The SoundBlaster Live! driver that is included with Windows XP does not work. 
To download an update for the driver, visit the following SoundBlaster Web site:

http://www.soundblaster.com/support/winxp/

The information in this article applies to:
Microsoft Windows XP Professional
Microsoft Windows XP Home Edition
Last Reviewed: 11/14/2003 (2.0) 	
Keywords: kberrmsg kbprb KB315327	

I find it amazing that a company that makes such a popular soundcard, with millions in use, would not be able to deliver stable drivers to users of the most current version of the world's most popular operating system, running on the world's most popular computer hardware. The very latest version of the SBLive driver does appear to fix this problem, but I mean, really...

To make matters even worse, this article mentions that the "SoundBlaster Live! driver that is included with Windows XP does not work." Way to go!

I do not recommend using a SoundBlaster Live! in a computer meant to be used for music production.

Turtle Beach Santa Cruz - This is a strictly 'home entertainment' sound card limited to 16-bit audio I/O, but it can be put to use in an ultra-low budget home studio. While the Santa Cruz doesn't offer a very capable MIDI synthesizer, it does have reasonably good audio recording/playback performance at 16-bit/44.1 or 48 kHz. The Santa Cruz was primarily designed for playback of Dolby Digital 5.1 surround playback from DVD movies, so multichannel recording is not really possible with this card. The 1/8" mini phone jack connector for channels 5 and 6 can be used as a S/PDIF digital output, though no S/PDIF input is available.

You'll need to add a mixer if you want to use a pro microphone with the Santa Cruz. The card did receive a generally positive review on Arny Kreuger's
PC AV Tech website.

Windows 9x/Me/NT/2000/XP are supported. No MacOS drivers available.

 


 

Category 2: Mid Budget ($125 to $350)

 

Here are some of the least expensive semi-pro ("pro-sumer") audio cards and interfaces for computers.

If you are planning to record using professional microphones, you will need to add a suitable microphone preamp (such as those from PreSonus, Bellari, ART, etc.) or a good quality mixing board (such as those from Mackie, Behringer, Allen & Heath, Soundcraft, etc.). I usually recommend the mixing board option because it will give you more flexibility in routing inputs and outputs and patching in effects boxes.

 

Here are some of the least expensive semi-pro ("pro-sumer") audio cards and interfaces for computers.

 

Echo MiaMIDI - A basic stereo PCI audio card with great features for the price (~$200), such as 24-bit 96kHz audio converters, +4dB balanced analog inputs and outputs and 8 virtual outputs that fool your software into thinking there are more outputs available than actually exist (good for use with Gigasampler or other software synths). Also includes a MIDI I/O interface. Windows 98/Me/2000/XP and MacOS (ASIO) drivers available.


EgoSys Waveterminal 2496 - EgoSys is a recent entry to the soundcard market from Korea. The Waveterminal 2496 (list price $429) is a stereo PCI card with +4dBu balanced analog audio on 1/4" jacks with 24-bit converters (32-bit internal data path). Includes 24-bit coaxial S/PDIF digital I/O. Features new "E-WDM" (Enhanced Windows Driver Model) support for Windows 98 Second Edition, Millenium Edition, 2000 and XP, along with support for ASIO 2.0, EASI and Gigasampler and Windows MME (MacOS drivers?). EgoSys claims that E-WDM allows latency as low as 1.5 milliseconds when used with WDM-aware music software (like Cakewalk SONAR 2.0) or ASIO 2.0 software (such as Steinberg Cubase and Nuendo, as well as SONAR 3.1).

I have only heard from two people who have actually used Ego-Sys products. One said that his Waveterminal worked OK and considered it a good purchase. The other bought a WamiRack and was seriously disappointed, saying that it was not stable in his system and that he was unable to make decent-sounding recordings with it.

 

M-Audio Audiophile 2496 - This is a simple PCI stereo soundcard with 24-bit 96kHz recording and playback capability. Includes MIDI I/O. If all you need is a simple (but good) stereo soundcard with MIDI and S/PDIF digital I/O for a low-budget price, this card should do the trick. List price is $230, sells for about $175. Drivers available for Windows 98/Me/NT/2000/XP or Mac G3/G4 with MacOS 8.5.1 or higher, including OS X. Comes with a good bundle of beginner software.

For those of you thinking of building a little home studio around a Sound Blaster Audigy 2 or some other "gamer's" card in disguise, I hope you take a close look at the Audiophile 2496. This is probably what you really need...

 

M-Audio Delta 44 - This is a 4-in 4-out audio interface consisting of a small audio I/O box that connects to a PCI card installed in the computer. Think of it as a digital version of the old PortaStudio cassette multitracks. Features 24-bit, 96kHz sampling rate capability. No S/PDIF or MIDI I/O. Drivers support: Windows 98/Me/2000/XP, ASIO, ASIO2, Direct Sound, EASI, multi-card, Gigasampler, Mac Sound Manager, Mac ASIO – and even Mac OS-X!. $400 list price, sells for about $300 (US). Comes with a good bundle of beginner software.

The Delta 66 is the same thing as the Delta 44, but with S/PDIF I/O added.

 

M-Audio Audiophile FireWire - This is a 4-in 6-out audio interface consisting of a small audio I/O box that connects via FireWire to the host computer (much higher performance than USB!). Analog inputs are line level – add your own mixer or mic preamps. Features 24-bit, 96kHz sampling rate capability, with S/PDIF or MIDI I/O. Drivers support: Windows 98SE/Me/2000/XP, ASIO 2, Direct Sound, EASI, multi-card, Gigasampler, Mac Sound Manager, Mac ASIO – and even Mac OS-X!. $350 list price (US).


M-Audio Delta 1010 LT - If all you need is a combination of eight unbalanced analog inputs and outputs, and S/PDIF inputs and outputs for your digital mixer, DAT recorder or standalone A/D converters, this PCI card setup is a good way to get the job done for cheap, at up to 24-bit 96kHz resolution. Sells for about $350 or so. MacOS (including OS X) and WinNT/2000/XP are supported. Comes with a good bundle of beginner software.

 

Terratec EWX 24/96 - This is a PCI stereo "mastering" soundcard that features 24-bit 96kHz sampling resolution and S/PDIF I/O on optical TOSlink connectors (capable of AC-3 and DTS pass-through for use with Dolby Digital and DTS surround decoders). Analog I/O is unbalanced on RCA jacks, switchable between +4dBu and -10dBV. ASIO 2.0, GigaSampler and DirectSound are supported in Windows 95, 98, Millenium, NT 4.0 and 2000. $249 list price (US). Comes with an extensive software bundle including Gigasampler LE, Fruity Loops Express, Emagic Logic Fun and Steinberg Wavelab Lite.

 

Terratec EWS88 D - This is probably the least expensive truly multichannel PCI soundcard around (~$200). Features ADAT Lightpipe input and output connections for simultaneous recording of eight channels of 24-bit 48kHz digital audio from an ADAT deck or a digital mixer such as the Yamaha 01V. The Lightpipe I/O can be switched to optical S/PDIF for stereo transfers. There are also two MIDI I/O interfaces built in. Includes 18-bit stereo monitoring output (there are no analog inputs). ASIO 2.0, DirectSound, Windows MME and GSIF are supported. Drivers available for Windows 98, Me, NT 4.0 and 2000. Comes with software bundle including Emagic MicroLogic A/V and SEK'D Samplitude Studio.

 

 


 

Category 3: Low-End Pro Level ($350 to $800)

 

While some of these more professional interfaces will have built in mic preamps with +48V phantom power and XLR inputs, others have line-level inputs only.

 

Those products which come equipped with XLR microphone inputs with phantom power are designed to function as close to a complete 'studio in a box' as possible. These products usually include a mixer interface built into their driver software so that the computer takes the place of the mixing board in your studio. Others integrate so tightly with your music software of choice (Cubase, Logic, Cakewalk, etc.) that they accomplish pretty much the same thing.

 

Aardvark Aark24 - This is an 8-channel balanced analog I/O, 24-bit audio interface and PCI card setup, with an additional 2-ins and 2-outs available via S/PDIF on RCA's. ADAT Lighpipe I/O and ADAT Sync interfaces are also included, for synchronized, 8-channel digital audio transfers. Word clock sync is included on BNC connectors. There is also an optional TDIF interface available for connection to Tascam DA-38/DA-88/DA-78HR 8-channel digital tape recorders. Drivers are available for Windows 98/Me/2000/XP and Steinberg ASIO 2.0.


 

Aardvark Direct Pro 24/96 - This is a 4-channel analog I/O, 24-bit 96kHz audio interface and PCI card setup, with an additional 2-ins and 2-outs available via S/PDIF. Includes four +4dBu, balanced mic/line preamps on XLR connectors in its breakout box (complete with phantom power), as well as MIDI I/O and S/PDIF I/O (no ADAT Lightpipe I/O). Drivers are available for Windows 98/Me/2000/XP, MacOS, and Steinberg ASIO.


 

Digidesign Mbox- This is Digidesign's USB audio interface for 'personal' home studio use. The Mbox comes with Pro Tools LE software, which now makes it possible to run the same software on your iMac that the big boys run in their studios. Mbox features a pair of Focusrite designed microphone preamps, with S/PDIF and MIDI I/O. Requires a G4 or G5 Power Macintosh or Windows XP computer with USB.


 

Digidesign Digi 002 Rack- Here's Digidesign's entry into the 'low end' studio market (~$800). This is a FireWire-based 24-bit audio interface with 8 line level analog inputs and outputs, 4 balanced microphone inputs with phantom power, headphone output, one MIDI IN and two MIDI OUT, coaxial S/PDIF, and also includes the Pro Tools LE software. The Digi 002 system is basically a 'native' version of Pro Tools, meaning it uses the computer's CPU for DSP and mixing instead of the hardware DSP included with a full-blown Pro Tools rig. That means no TDM plugins, but you can use Digidesign's Real-Time Audio System (RTAS) plugins. Supported in Mac OS-X and Windows XP Home Edition. Windows 2000 is not supported, but the Mac-heads out there will tell you that it works much better on a Mac!


 

Digital Audio Labs CardDeluxe - This is the PCI stereo soundcard that has replaced the venerable CardD Plus in the DAL lineup (~$450). It features 24-bit/96kHz digital audio converters for its stereo, line level, analog audio on balanced 1/4" TRS jacks, and 24-bit/96kHz coaxial S/PDIF (24-bit internal data path). No microphone inputs are on the card, so you'll need external mic preamps or a mixing board. An AES/EBU I/O upgrade is available. Multiple CardDeluxes can be synched from a single word clock for multichannel operation. DAL has developed a reputation for making good, solid, reliable hardware that works. No MIDI I/O, ADAT Lightpipe I/O or Word Clock output available. The CardDeluxe scored very high marks when tested on Arny Kreuger's PC-AV Tech website and was awarded 'Component of the Year' by Stereophile magazine. Windows NT 4.0/2000/XP drivers are available, along with Mac ASIO and of course Windows 95/98 drivers.


 

Echo Gina 24/96 - This is a 24-bit, PCI card/breakout box system for Mac or PC, with +4dBu, balanced 2-in/8-out audio I/O on TRS jacks (~$400). Includes ADAT Lightpipe and S/PDIF digital I/O. Uses a Motorola 56301 DSP for audio mixing and signal routing. Drivers available for Windows 98SE/Me/NT/2000/XP and MacOS (no OS X).


 

Echo Layla 24/96 - This is a 24-bit 96kHz PCI card/breakout box system for Mac or PC, with +4dBu, balanced 8-in/8-out audio I/O on TRS jacks (~$800). Includes ADAT and S/DPIF I/O. Word clock and 256x superclock are built in, along with MIDI I/O. Uses a Motorola 56301 DSP for audio mixing and signal routing. Drivers for Windows 98SE/Me/NT/2000/XP and MacOS available (no OS X).


 

Event EZBus - Here's a new concept in DAW control – the EZBus works as a stand-alone 24-bit 96kHz digital mixer with eight main inputs or connects to the PC via the USB interface and lets you control your MIDI/digital audio software using real faders and knobs instead of the PC's keyboard and mouse. Compressor/limiters and 4-band EQ are included, so you can save computer resources for other plugin software effects. Includes two coaxial S/PDIF outs, one coaxial S/PDIF in, one TOSLink optical I/O switchable betweenn S/PDIF and ADAT Lightpipe, dual MIDI I/Os, Word Clock out, on the fly resampling at up to 96kHz, Main Mix analog outs, two Sends, two AUX Outs, Headphone Out... with so many features I just hope they all work! ~$700.


 

Frontier Design Group Dakota - The Dakota PCI is a 24-bit/96kHz ADAT I/O card offering 2 Lightpipe I/O interfaces for a total of 16 channels on one card. Includes ADAT Sync connector, 2 MIDI I/O ports. The Dakota PCI has no analog audio I/O built in, as it is meant to connect to ADAT recorders and digital mixers that use the ADAT Lightpipe multichannel digital interface. Win95/98/Me and MacOS drivers available (includes ASIO 2.0 drivers). Beta drivers for Windows 2000/XP WDM are available. Frontier also offers the Tango and Zulu AD/DA converters to add multichannel analog I/O capability to the Dakota.


 

Lynx Studio LynxONE - This is a great-looking stereo PCI soundcard. It appears to be built with very high quality parts, and includes 24 bit/48kHz analog audio on balanced XLR jacks (line level only; use a mic pre or mixer to connect a microphone), 24-bit/96kHz AES/EBU digital audio I/O, 32-bit internal data path, with a 2-in 2-out MIDI interface. Multiple LynxONE's can be synched together for perfectly synchronized multichannel audio recording to hard disk. The LynxONE has won unanimous praise from all the reviews I've seen. Windows 98SE/Me/NT/2000/XP and Mac ASIO 2 drivers are available. Sells for about $450.


 

Lynx Studio LynxTWO - This is the follow-up to Lynx Studio's very successful LynxONE card. While the LynxONE is a stereo card, the LynxTWO offers four channels of balanced, 24-bit/96kHz analog audio I/O (line level only; use a mic pre or mixer to record from microphones). Like the LynxONE, the LynxTWO is built to exeptionally high quality standards. Includes 24-bit AES3 and S/PDIF digital I/O (on RCA jacks). Lynx Studio offers TDIF and ADAT Lightpipe multichannel digital I/O options for connection to Tascam and Alesis MDM recorders and/or digital mixers. Win98SE/ME/NT4/2000/XP and Macintosh ASIO 2.0 are supported. This looks like another killer product from Lynx Studio. List price is $1095 (US). TDIF and Lightpipe interfaces are extra cost options.


 

Mark of the Unicorn 828 - The 828 (~$730) is the first multichannel audio interface that uses the FireWire interface to connect to Mac G4 and PC computers equipped with FireWire ports (also known as "i-Link" and "IEEE-1394"). Housed in a single rack-space chassis, the MOTU 828 provides 8 channels of 24-bit, balanced, line-level analog ins and outs, two balanced mic preamps on XLR connectors (with +48VDC phantom power included), 8 channels of ADAT Lightpipe I/O, optical or coaxial S/PDIF and 9-pin ADAT sync connectors. Latest drivers allow connection of two 828's to a single FireWire port, for 16-track recording/playback. List price is $795 (US). MacOS and Windows 98SE/Me/2000/XP are supported, although you will need an IEEE1394 interface card installed in your Windows PC. Of course all the latest Apple iMac, iBook and G4 computers come standard with built-in FireWire ports.


 

M-Audio Omni Studio - Based on the Delta 66, which is a 4-in/4-out audio interface with two additional audio channels available on its coaxial S/PDIF I/O (RCA jacks). Line level audio connections are made to a small audio I/O box which connects to the PCI card installed in the computer. There are two mic preamps with inserts and phantom power on the I/O box, as well as an effects send/return. No MIDI I/O. Driver support for: Windows 98SE/Me/2000/XP, ASIO, ASIO2, Direct Sound, EASI, multi-card support, GSIF, Mac Sound Manager and Mac ASIO (including OS X). $700 list price, sells for about $450 (US).


 

M-Audio Delta 1010 LT - This is a PCI card with eight channels of 24-bit, 96kHz capable analog audio I/O and S/PDIF digital I/O. Two analog inputs are on XLR connectors and can be switched between mic and line level (no phantom power). The remaining six analog inputs and outputs are on RCA jacks. Includes 16-channel MIDI I/O. Two cable 'snake' assemblies connect to the card with multi-pin DB connectors. Driver support for: Windows 98SE/Me/2000/XP, ASIO, ASIO2, Direct Sound, EASI, multi-card support, GSIF, Mac Sound Manager and Mac ASIO (including OS X). Includes Emagic Delta Logic software. List price is $500, sells for about $400 (US).


 

M-Audio Delta 1010 - This is a combination rack mount 8 channel analog I/O box (line level only) plus S/PDIF and PCI card (24-bit, 96kHz capable), somewhat like the Echo Layla described previously, capable of eight channel simultaneous recording. Includes MIDI I/O. Driver support for: Windows 98SE/Me/2000/XP, ASIO 2, Direct Sound, EASI, multi-card support, GSIF, Mac Sound Manager and Mac ASIO (including OS X). Includes Emagic Delta Logic software. List price is $1000, sells for about $600 (US).


 

M-Audio FireWire 410 - This is an analog I/O box (24-bit, 96kHz capable) with 2 mic inputs, 2 line inputs, 8 line outputs, S/PDIF I/O and 1x1 MIDI I/O, that connects to the host computer through FireWire. Driver support for: Windows 98SE/Me/2000/XP, ASIO 2, Direct Sound, EASI, multi-card support, GSIF, Mac Sound Manager and Mac ASIO (including OS X). List price is $500, sells for about $350 (US).


 

RME-Audio DIGI96/8 PAD - This German-made PCI audio interface card ($400) features:
 

Unbalanced, switchable -10dBV/+4dBu, 24-bit 96kHz stereo, line level analog inputs and outputs on 1/4" stereo jacks (requires a mic pre or mixer for use with microphones)

8 channels of 24-bit 96kHz capable ADAT Lightpipe I/O; switchable to optical S/PDIF

S/PDIF I/O on RCA jacks

AES/EBU stereo audio I/O on XLR connectors

 

Windows 98/Me/NT/2000/XP drivers are available (including support for multi-processor WinNT/2000/XP Pro systems), along with ASIO 2.0 drivers for both Win98/Me and Windows NT/2000/XP. MacOS (ASIO 2), Mac OS X, Linux and BeOS drivers are also available.

 

Eight unbalanced, 24-bit 48kHz analog line-level audio inputs can be added using the AEB8-I daughterboard (~$200). Combine an RME DIGI96/8 PAD with an AEB8-I and you'll have a rock-solid 8-in/2-out hard disk recording setup complete with stereo S/PDIF and AES/EBU, and 8-channel ADAT digital I/O, for less than $600!

 

Optional Word Clock input and output is available for syncing with external digital audio equipment is available (add ~$125).

 

RME's Windows drivers allow up to three DIGI96/8 cards to share the same IRQ (this has to be supported by the motherboard's BIOS — both ASUS and Gigabyte motherboards support this). Additional DIGI96/8 cards can be synchronized to a single card acting as the clock 'master', and if the Word Clock option is installed, the whole 'network' (all digital recorders in the studio) can be synchronized to the DIGI96/8 'master.'

I've never seen a bad review of an RME Audio product, and I've had very good experiences using the DIGI96/8 PAD (in a Windows NT 4.0/Celeron system and in a Windows 2000/Athlon XP system). You won't find the impressive features of some of its competitors—the RME DIGI96/8 PAD has no mic pre's, MIDI I/O, ADAT sync or balanced analog inputs/outputs—but you will find that it sounds great, has rock-solid drivers and will always let you get your work done. My DIGI96/8 PAD has performed like a champ in every PC in which I've used it.

 

RME-Audio DIGI9652 ( "Hammerfall") and DIGI9636 ("Hammerfall Light") - This is RME's optimized for ASIO, multi-ADAT Lightpipe I/O card. The DIGI9652 Hammerfall was designed to be used with external AD/DA converters with Lightpipe interfaces such as the RME-Audio ADI-8 or the PreSonus DigiMAX, with ADAT recorders or with Lightpipe-equipped digital mixing consoles like the Yamaha 02R. Since the Hammerfall hardware was specifically designed to work with Steinberg's ASIO audio data handling application layer, latency (the delay between recording a sound at the inputs and hearing it back at the outputs) has been reduced to inconsequential levels—as little as 3mS in a Pentium III running Cubase VST 24! Includes ADAT sync for sample-accurate, multichannel digital audio transfers. Windows 9x/NT/2000/XP (including multi-processor NT/2000/XP Pro) and MacOS drivers available. Project Hammerfall has been getting rave reviews in the European pro audio press... and now Steinberg has made it a part of their Nuendo DAW.


RME-Audio Hammerfall DSP - RME has now added DSP to enhance the operation of their very successful Hammerfall audio interfaces. They've also added MIDI I/O and balanced analog monitoring outputs, with an option for 8 analog inputs and outputs (in the Multiface model only).

Hammerfall DSP Digiface - Comes in either a PCI-bus version for desktops or a CardBus version for laptops. Multiple digital I/O connections (AES/EBU, S/PDIF and ADAT Lightpipe) with 24-bit/96kHz stereo analog monitoring output, ADAT sync for sample-accurate, multichannel digital audio transfers, and MIDI I/O. List price is $965 for PCI, $1005 for CardBus.

 

Hammerfall DSP Multiface - Comes in either a PCI-bus version for desktops or a CardBus version for laptops. Multiple digital I/O connections (AES/EBU, S/PDIF and ADAT Lightpipe) with 24-bit/96kHz stereo analog monitoring output, 8 channels of balanced, 24-bit/96kHz analog inputs and outputs, ADAT sync for sample-accurate, multichannel digital audio transfers, and MIDI I/O. List price is $1175 for PCI, $1215 for CardBus.

 

Hammerfall DSP 9652 - This is the new version of the acclaimed Hammerfall 9652. It's a bus-mastering PCI card with DSP-powered mixing and audio routing capabilities (with sample accurate metering on all audio channels!). The HDSP 9652 includes three banks of 24-bit 96kHz capable ADAT Lightpipe I/O (24 channels in and out), 32-channel MIDI I/O, ADAT 9-pin sync, built in stereo monitoring at 24/96 resolution, and word clock I/O. The HDSP 9652 should sell for about the same price as the older Hammerfall 9652 PCI card ($550 to $600).


Sonorus STUDI/O + AUDI/O AD/24, DA/24, Modular/8 - This system is one of the least expensive ways to put together a truly professional 24-bit/96kHz capable multitrack recording system on your Mac or PC.

The STUDI/O card (~$600) has two ADAT Lightpipe interfaces for 16 channels of 24-bit/96kHz capable digital I/O. The analog, stereo monitor outputs are on balanced 1/4" jacks. All signal routing, metering and on-the-fly resampling is performed by an onboard Motorola 56301 DSP chip, so the host CPU doesn't have to work as hard. There is a word clock/ADAT sync backplate available. Visit the Sonorus website and read all about it! Supported in Win95/98 (including ASIO 2.0), Windows NT 4.0/2000 (including multiprocessor NT systems, though its a beta driver), Mac ASIO 2.0, Linux and BeOS.

The AUDI/O converters are 8-in/8-out, 24-bit (up to 48 kHz sampling rate) AD/DA converters with ADAT Lightpipe connections for hooking up to the STUDI/O or other Lightpipe-equipped gear.


Soundscape Mixtreme ADAT/SPDIF - The Mixtreme (~$450) is a PCI card that holds two Tascam TDIF 24-bit digital audio I/O interfaces and a built in Motorola 56301 DSP (56-bit internal w/ 24-bit I/O) for internal audio processing — the same DSP as used in the Digidesign Pro Tools system. Mixtreme ships with the Soundscape mixer software, which can mix up to 64 tracks of digital audio and comes with built in parametric EQ. All of the mixing and effects processing is performed in the Mixtreme's DSP, without the need to do this in the host PC's CPU. The Mixtreme card requires external Analog to Digital and Digital to Analog converters, such as those in a Tascam DA-78HR DTRS recorder. Soundscape sells daughterboards and rack mount boxes for A/D and D/A, as well as for ADAT Lightpipe, S/PDIF and AES/EBU digital I/O. There is also a pretty wide selection of plug-in effects for the Mixtreme DSP, available from Soundscape, TC Electronics, Wave Mechanics and others.


Terratec EWS 88 MT - 8 channel soundcard that features 24-bit 96kHz sampling resolution, along with MIDI and optical (TOSlink) S/PDIF I/O. The EWS 88 MT (~$400) features an external I/O box that can be mounted in a 5-1/4" bay in the computer's case, or can be used as a tabletop I/O box. The I/O box contains sixteen 1/4" phone jacks (8 channels of input, 8 channels of output). Inputs are individually switchable between -10dBV (consumer) and +4dBu (pro) levels. ASIO 2.0, DirectSound, Windows MME and GSIF are supported. Drivers available for Windows 98/Me/NT/2000/XP. Comes with software bundle including Emagic MicroLogic A/V and SEK'D Samplitude Studio.

 

 


 

Category 4: For Laptops Only

 

Aardvark Direct Mix USB3 - Simple two-channel USB audio interface with 24-bit converters (though it's limited to a 16-bit internal data path), 1/4" line in/out jacks, 1/4" mic/guitar input, 1/4" headphone jack, level controls and clipping indicator LEDs. Can be used with laptop or desktop computers equipped with USB port. Sells for about $230. Drivers are available for Windows 98/Me/2000/XP, MacOS and Steinberg ASIO 2.0.


Digidesign Mbox- This is Digidesign's first USB audio interface. The Mbox comes with Pro Tools LE software, which now makes it possible to run the same software on your iBook that the big boys run in their studios. Mbox features a Focusrite designed microphone preamp and direct box, with S/PDIF I/O. Requires a USB-equipped computer, either a Macintosh G4 or G5, or a PC running Windows XP Home Edition.


Digidesign Digi 002- Digidesign has come out with a FireWire interface that includes a control surface, four microphone inputs with phantom power, eight line level inputs, an Adat interface and MIDI I/O, all in one package that can connect to any laptop or desktop PC equipped with a FireWire (IEEE1394) interface. The Digi 002 comes with Pro Tools LE software, which makes it possible to run the same software on your iBook or other laptop that the big boys run in their studios. Requires either a Power Macintosh G4 or G5, or a Pentium 4 PC running Windows XP Home Edition.


Digigram VXpocket v2 and VXpocket 440 - Big news for portable recordists... Digigram offers pro-quality PC-Card audio interfaces for making 24-bit recordings on your laptop (Windows or Mac)!

The VXpocket v2 is the stereo version with two balanced inputs switchable between mic and line level, while the VXpocket 440 provides four balanced mic/line inputs. Both provide stereo output monitoring, LTC (SMPTE) time code input, coaxial S/PDIF I/O and XLR connectors for the analog I/O.


Echo Layla 24 LapTop and Mona LapTop - Echo Audio, makers of the popular Gina, Mona and Layla 24 audio interfaces, now offers laptop versions of their Mona and Layla 24 products, complete with a CardBus PCMCIA adapter.
 

If you already own a Mona or Layla 24 system, you can purchase the Echo LapTop Adapter separately and use your current digital audio hardware setup with your laptop computer.


Echo Indigo - Echo Audio now makes a series of CardBus audio adapters for basic 24-bit/96kHz audio recording and/or playback. Simple, unbalanced connectors work with the inexpensive cables you'll find at Radio Shack.


EgoSys Waveterminal U24 - From Korea, EgoSys brings 24-bit audio recording and playback capabilities to Windows and MacOS laptops and USB-equipped desktops.

 

Mark of the Unicorn 828 - The 828 is the first multichannel audio interface to use the FireWire (IEEE-1394) interface to connect to Mac G4 and PC laptops equipped with FireWire ports. Housed in a single rack-space chassis, the 828 provides 8 channels of 24-bit 48kHz, balanced analog ins and outs, two balanced mic preamps on XLR connectors (w/ 48VDC phantom power), 8 channels of ADAT Lightpipe I/O, optical or coaxial S/PDIF and 9-pin ADAT sync connectors. Since it uses the FireWire interface, you can now create a portable, multichannel DAW based on a FireWire-equipped laptop computer (such as the Mac iBook or Titanium G4, or Sony Vaio). List price is $795 (US).


Mark of the Unicorn 896 - The 896 is the latest multichannel audio interface to use FireWire (IEEE-1394) to connect to Mac G4, iMac/iBook and PC laptops equipped with FireWire ports. Housed in a two rack-space chassis, the 896 provides 8 channels of 24-bit 96kHz balanced analog ins and outs, 8 balanced mic preamps on XLR connectors (w/ individually switchable 48VDC phantom power for each mic pre), 8 channels of ADAT Lightpipe I/O, optical or coaxial S/PDIF, AES-EBU and 9-pin ADAT sync connectors. Since it uses the FireWire interface, this should be a really good solution for creating a portable, multichannel DAW based on a laptop computer (such as the Mac iBook or Titanium G4, or Sony Vaio), List price is $1295 (US).


RME-Audio Hammerfall DSP CardBus System - RME Audio has made quite a hit with its PCI audio interface cards and AD/DA converters, which they've now incorporated into a system that interfaces with a laptop computer using a 32-bit CardBus interface and several hot-pluggable audio I/O options — and for the first time that I know of, MIDI I/O is included in an RME product. The CardBus interface attaches to the I/O box(es) using FireWire cabling, but RME has devised their own proprietary bus protocol. If previous RME products are any indication, the Hammerfall DSP system should be great for creating music productions with laptop computers.

There are two versions of the Hammerfall DSP CardBus:

 

Hammerfall DSP Digiface - Multiple digital I/O connections (AES/EBU, S/PDIF and ADAT Lightpipe) with 24-bit/96kHz stereo analog monitoring output, ADAT sync for sample-accurate, multichannel digital audio transfers, and MIDI I/O. List price is $1005 for CardBus.

 

Hammerfall DSP Multiface - Multiple digital I/O connections (AES/EBU, S/PDIF and ADAT Lightpipe) with 24-bit/96kHz stereo analog monitoring output, 8 channels of balanced, 24-bit/96kHz analog inputs and outputs, ADAT sync for sample-accurate, multichannel digital audio transfers, and MIDI I/O. List price is $1215 for CardBus.


Tascam US428 DAW Controller - Tascam became well known for the Porta-Studio line of cassette multitracks. Now they're aiming for that same market with the US428 (~$500), a combination mixer, digital audio I/O and DAW control unit that connects via USB to any PC (Pentium II or higher) or Mac (G3 or higher) equipped with a USB port (desktop or laptop). Features mic preamps on XLR connectors, balanced line inputs on 1/4" TRS jacks and S/PDIF I/O. Use the faders and rotary controls to adjust mix volumes and EQ settings in your audio software of choice (as long as that software is able to respond to commands sent from the US428). Ships with Steinberg Cubasis VST software (Mac/Win).


Yamaha AW16G audio workstation with CD-Recorder - While this isn't a laptop audio interface, it is a cheap way to get a digital mixer, effects box, hard disk recorder and CD burner all in one unit. The AW16 has eight mic/line inputs (although not all of them have phantom power), can record 8 tracks simultaneously (record the whole band at once) and has enough storage space to record a lot of material. It's really small and can even burn CDs. Maybe a laptop isn't such a great idea after all?

 


 

Category 5: Professional Level

 

These products are designed for use in professional studios. The computer-based products are designed to be expandable with external interfaces and additional DSP, and to connect to the other digital audio devices that are mormally found in a full-blown recording studio. The stand-alone products are designed to be used as a full-function, portable "studio in a box."

 

Alesis HD24 - Alesis seems to be back in the saddle again, now that the HD24 hard disk recorder/MDM is shipping. For those of you who already have an ADAT-based studio in place, for the price of an ADAT you can now get a 24-track, 24-bit hard disk recorder that is completely compatible with your current rig.


CreamWare SCOPE Fusion Platform - This is a complete line of PCI interfaces with DSP. Different configurations are possible that can allow you to build your own live performance, audio recording and software synthesis system, complete with hardware DSP-powered software effects and mixing.
 


Digidesign Pro Tools HD - Pro Tools is the de facto standard for computer-based hard disk recording equipment. The latest "High-Definition" Pro Tools HD supports 24-bit audio processing at up to 192kHz sampling rates and 5.1 surround mixing. A full Pro Tools rig will feature gobs of DSP horsepower in which to run its own TDM plug-in architecture for mixing and effects processing. This allows these processor-intensive tasks to execute in the Pro Tools hardware, not in the host computer's CPU ("native").

Pro Tools on the PC bulletin:
Check the
Digidesign Product Compatibility Documents on their website for some surprising information on the types of PC configurations that can host a Pro Tools rig.
 

Digidesign Digi 002 - Building on the success of the now discontinued Digi 001, Digidesign now offers the new Digi 002, which connects to the host computer (running MacOS 9.x, OS-X or Windows XP Home) via FireWire. The Digi 002 consists of a digital mixer/control surface/MIDI interface which, when connected to a suitable computer and running Digidesign's Pro Tools LE software, will allow you to record and play back 32 tracks of digital audio and 128 MIDI tracks. Works with RTAS and AudioSuite audio plugins.
 

iZ Technology RADAR 24 - Starting at a base price of about $4,000, the latest version of the RADAR hard disk recording system is a truly professional standalone product designed for high quality digital audio recording and editing. Supports multichannel 24-bit recording at up to 192kHz sampling rate. Many I/O options, hardware controllers and automation add-ons are available.


Mark of the Unicorn 2408mkIII - The new mkIII is an update of the popular MOTU 2408mkII. The mkIII version consists of a MOTU PCI-424 interface card, the 2408 interface itself, and the AudioDesk mixing application for MacOS (Windows users must supply their own software). 'Street' price is about $900. Sampling resolution is up to 24-bit 192kHz. Drivers are included for MacOS (MAS and ASIO), OS X and Windows 98/Me/2000/XP (MME, WDM, ASIO and GSIF). Includes a wide variety of analog and digital audio I/O and synchronization formats, including:

     

24 channels of ADAT Lightpipe I/O

24 channels of Tascam TDIF I/O

8 analog inputs (24-bit 64X oversampling)

8 analog outputs (24-bit 128X oversampling)

2 S/PDIF stereo digital audio I/O

ADAT sync input

Word Clock I/O (can act as clock 'master')

The 2408mkIII is useful for dubbing between ADAT and TDIF or for connection to an 8-bus analog mixer, allowing your computer to act as an 8-track hard disk recorder. The MOTU 2408mkII can be found in many professional studios. It is designed to work with MOTU's high-end digital audio sequencer, Digital Performer (though of course it will work with other DAW software).

 

On the 2408mkII, only three 'ports' could be used at any one time. Each eight-channel bank of I/O is a separate port. This means that you can't transfer 16 ADAT tracks to two DA-78s in one pass using the mkII version. Can you now accomplish this in the new mkIII version? That's something to ask MOTU!


Mark of the Unicorn 896 - The 896 is the latest multichannel audio interface to use FireWire (IEEE-1394) to connect to Mac G4, iMac/iBook and PC computers equipped with FireWire ports. Housed in a two rack-space chassis, the 896 provides 8 channels of 24-bit 96kHz balanced analog ins and outs, eight balanced mic preamps on XLR connectors (w/ individually switchable 48VDC phantom power for each mic pre), 8 channels of ADAT Lightpipe I/O, optical or coaxial S/PDIF, AES-EBU and 9-pin ADAT sync connectors. Since it uses the FireWire interface, this should be a really good solution for creating a portable, multichannel DAW based on a laptop computer (such as the Mac iBook or Titanium G4, or Sony Vaio), Any desktop computer with a FireWire port or FireWire I/O card should work too. List price is $1295 (US).


Merging Technologies Pyramix w/ Mykerinos - Merging is a Swiss company best known in the USA for its multi-channel I/O boxes and post-production workstations. With the introduction of the Mykerinos PCI card with its onboard Philips DSP, Merging has entered the pro and home studio markets in a big way, and at a competitive price (~$3000 for a basic configuration). Pyramix is Merging's audio mixing software with its own built-in DSP-based effects and user-configurable virtual mixing console. The latest version of Pyramix also supports DirectX plugins. The Mykerinos PCI card can be ordered with a variety of different plug-in daughtercards, from dual ADAT or TDIF interfaces to a MADI interface for 64 channels of audio I/O. Pyramix with Mykerinos even supports DSD audio for SACD mastering! Visit the Merging website — these guys are serious!


Roland Virtual Studio VS-890, VS-1880, VS-2480 - The Virtual Studio systems are compact digital mixer/digital effects/hard disk recorders. While the VS recorders don't offer much in the way of I/O (AES/EBU, ADAT or TDIF I/O are available only as additional-cost options for the VS-2480), they are very capable "studio-in-a-box" systems that offer an awful lot of recording/editing/mixing power for the money. Add-ons include a CD-Recorder for direct mixdown to CD-R.


Soundscape products are targeted at the same users who would be looking into a full-blown Pro Tools TDM rig for audio-for-video ("A for V") work. The basic unit provides 28 inputs and 32 outputs via built in TDIF ports, which can connect to Tascam DTRS recorders (or the new MX-2424 hard disk recorder), or to TDIF-equipped digital mixing boards such as the Yamaha 01V and 02R or the Tascam TM-D4000. The Soundscape mixing software is useful, very user-friendly and quite configurable and the system can also be expanded with the many optional I/O configurations available, from 24-bit analog audio to multichannel AES/EBU.

The Soundscape system is DSP-based with its own plugin architecture. The PC is only used as a control interface, not for audio processing (similar in concept to Pro Tools). There are aftermarket effects plugins available from TC Electronics, Wave Mechanics and others.


Tascam MX-2424 - This 24-track hard disk recorder was developed in cooperation with TimeLine, a company specializing in synchronization products and "dubbers" for audio-for-video production. The MX-2424 is not a soundcard based system, but there is a PCI card and software control interface for remote control of multiple MX-2424s. The MX-2424 acts as a very "smart" MDM/hard disk recorder that can record 24 tracks at up to 24-bit 48kHz resolution, or 12 tracks at 24-bit 96kHz. SCSI-UW or LVD hard drives can be swapped in and out of the front panel drive bay for additional storage capacity.


Tascam DS-D98 - Want to start mastering to Direct Streaming Digital or pre-master for SACD, just like the big Sony studios? Yes, you can actually do it! This DTRS digital tape recorder can be used to record two tracks to 1-bit/2.28224 MHz DSD format (that's megahertz), eight tracks to 24-bit/48kHz PCM, four tracks to 24-bit/96kHz PCM or two tracks to 24-bit/192kHz PCM. It uses widely available Hi-8 videocassettes for storage. Up to sixteen DS-D98's can be synched together, allowing up to 32 tracks of DSD multitrack audio. Bleeding edge, yes, but you gotta admit that it's way cool!


Yamaha AW4416 digital mixer/hard disk recorder - While not a soundcard based system at all, the 4416 represents a real breakthrough in home studio digital recording technology. The AW4416 combines a 44-channel digital mixer section with DSP effects based on the industry-standard 02R with a 16 track, 24-bit hard disk recorder, all in one box and all for $3599 list. Includes AES/EBU and S/PDIF stereo I/O, MIDI I/O for automation and Word Clock and MTC I/O for synchronization with external devices. The base unit can be expanded with additional multichannel analog or digital I/O cards and other goodies, including ADAT and TDIF multichannel I/O and additional DSP effects.


Yamaha AW2816 digital mixer/hard disk recorder - Hot on the heels of the breakthrough AW4416, Yamaha has released a less expensive version, the 2816 (list price $2399). Combining an improved user interface, most of the features of the Yamaha 02R digital mixer and a very capable hard disk recorder all in one unit, the 2816 is definitely a product to watch out for. It comes with two XLR microphone inputs (with switchable 48V phantom power) and six additional balanced 1/4" low-Z mic/line inputs, with channel 8 being switchable to high input impedance for direct connection of electric guitars. The 2816 comes complete with lots of DSP, including an improved digital EQ, compression/limiting on each channel, digital reverb/delay and some other more specialized effects. There is a coaxial S/PDIF digital I/O, while 8-channel digital I/O can be added by installing an ADAT or TDIF I/O card. This slot can also be used for adding additional DSP, but there is only one slot in the 2816, so only one card may be used at any given time. MIDI In/Out/Thru is also provided. There is a rear-mounted SCSI port for backing up projects to external drives. For a 'street' price of about $1900, this could be the least expensive pro-quality recorder around. All you need are some microphones and some musicians to record, and you're on your way. It looks like Yamaha's really done it this time!

 

 

 

Background Information

Computer necessities

Studio necessities

High octane options

IDE vs. SCSI vs. USB vs. FireWire

Sound Cards and Audio Interfaces

Introduction to Microphones

Basic Concepts of Digital Audio

MIDI, Synths and Drum Tracks  

 

 



 

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