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M-Audio Audiophile USB Support...
alt_audio
post Oct 24 2006, 16:09
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Hi there,

I’ve just received my M-Audio Audiophile USB sound card, and as I’m new to this I’m a little bit stuck with its setup, or maybe this card will not fulfill my requirements after all? I hope you can help...

Is there anyway at all to capture the Audiophile ‘output’ on the PC? What I’m meaning Is for example: Playback in OtsDJ, output to an encoder on the same PC which then streams the audio.

I’m able to hear the audio from the card when rigged up to my headphones (and I can see all the levels moving), but I just cannot seem to capture the audio from within windows (so the stream is silent), anyone know a way around this?

If there isn’t a way around this, and I’ve bought the wrong card for this job, could you point me in the right direction for a suitable alternative?

Thanks in advance
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Melomane
post Oct 24 2006, 17:54
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virtual audio cable, soundtap


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alt_audio
post Oct 24 2006, 18:52
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It's still not picking up any output from the Audiophile USB in that soundtap program.

I've still been trying to fiddle around with it, and i cannot think of any logical reasons why there just doesn't seem to be any output within windows from this card.
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AndyH-ha
post Oct 24 2006, 19:49
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Because the soundcard is not part of the computer. Everything is external. The digital data is sent off-computer. If the soundcard is there to pick it up, great, but it is no longer Windows' responsibility.

If you need to do any on-computer processing, that need to be before any involvement with the soundcard. The final result of that processing is what will be sent to the soundcard. As to whether or not you can reasonably do the particular things you want to do, I can't say, never having had an interest in OtsDJ or anything similar.

Anything done on the computer always has to be pre-soundcard, as far as the main function of a soundcard goes: the DAC. Many PCI cards ALSO has DSP capabilities by virtue of a DSP processor on the card. For them, data must always be routed to the DSP before being sent to the soundcard proper (the DAC). Everything prior to the DAC (where the stream becomes analogue and no longer suitable for any digital processing) must be in computer data format. USB 1 is much too limited a bandwidth to use for sending digital data (1) to an external DSP, (2) back to the computer (3) back to the soundcard for the DAC. The nearest similarity of PCI cards to USB cards in this respect would be a PCI card with no DSP chip. Such a card would only be able to do what the USB card does.

Virtual Audio Cables is pretty powerful as far as routing data within the computer. It must, of course, be routing the data from some program to some program. It can also route data from a program to your soundcard but that would be the end of it. Output data does not come back from the soundcard for any more computer processing.
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alt_audio
post Oct 25 2006, 00:42
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QUOTE (AndyH-ha @ Oct 24 2006, 19:49) *
Because the soundcard is not part of the computer. Everything is external. The digital data is sent off-computer. If the soundcard is there to pick it up, great, but it is no longer Windows' responsibility.

If you need to do any on-computer processing, that need to be before any involvement with the soundcard. The final result of that processing is what will be sent to the soundcard. As to whether or not you can reasonably do the particular things you want to do, I can't say, never having had an interest in OtsDJ or anything similar.

Anything done on the computer always has to be pre-soundcard, as far as the main function of a soundcard goes: the DAC. Many PCI cards ALSO has DSP capabilities by virtue of a DSP processor on the card. For them, data must always be routed to the DSP before being sent to the soundcard proper (the DAC). Everything prior to the DAC (where the stream becomes analogue and no longer suitable for any digital processing) must be in computer data format. USB 1 is much too limited a bandwidth to use for sending digital data (1) to an external DSP, (2) back to the computer (3) back to the soundcard for the DAC. The nearest similarity of PCI cards to USB cards in this respect would be a PCI card with no DSP chip. Such a card would only be able to do what the USB card does.

Virtual Audio Cables is pretty powerful as far as routing data within the computer. It must, of course, be routing the data from some program to some program. It can also route data from a program to your soundcard but that would be the end of it. Output data does not come back from the soundcard for any more computer processing.


Thanks for the reply, I did have a fear I didn't research this product enough before I bought it. Do you know if the Audiophile 192 PCI card will work much better for the requirements I have?

I was going to pip for the PCI card in the first place, but I chose the USB version because I wasn't sure what system here would be best for it - and I didn't want to keep changing the card between systems.
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AndyH-ha
post Oct 25 2006, 01:54
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If your intention is to play something which comes out of the soundcard to your speakers or headphone, and to simultaneously capture that in an on-computer recording program, the Audiophile 192, or the less expensive 2496, should do the job with no problem. I'm familiar with the Audiophile 2496 and I'm assuming the 192 has pretty much the same capabilities.

You might also be able to run the USB card outputs to its inputs (with any standard interconnects) and record that input. The data will be going through two conversions, but the results might be quite acceptable if you don't have a phobia working against you.
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smz
post Oct 25 2006, 02:53
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I can't understand why Virtual Audio Cable wouldn't work with M-Audio Audiophile USB or any other USB sound card. What VAC does is to implement a virtual (hence the name) sound card that you can use as your primary output device. The virtual device can also be seen as an input device, so you can configure an application to "record" from it. At the same time you can also "fork" the output to a physical device, your real sound card, using its "Audio repeater". I 'don't understand why that physical sound card couldn't be an USB sound card...

Just theory, as I don't have an USB sound card! biggrin.gif

Sergio

Edit: In other words, what I mean is that with VAC the loopback occours inside the virtual device, so nothing goes out and then in to/from the USB port. Only the output from the VAC "Audio repeater" should go to the M-Audio USB device driver and then out to the USB.

This post has been edited by smz: Oct 25 2006, 02:58


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AndyH-ha
post Oct 25 2006, 05:03
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It doesn't seem quite correct to call VAC a virtual soundcard. It can't process audio data, it only routes it from someplace to someplace else. It may, however, be a means to accomplish what alt_audio wants. I indicated that at the bottom of my first post, although I'm not really sure just what he/she is trying to accomplish.
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smz
post Oct 25 2006, 08:39
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QUOTE (AndyH-ha @ Oct 25 2006, 06:03) *
It doesn't seem quite correct to call VAC a virtual soundcard.

IMO it is perfectly correct and exactly what it is. This comes from the VAC site:
QUOTE
Virtual Audio Cable is a Windows WDM multimedia driver allowing you to transfer audio (wave) streams from one application to another. It creates a set of "Virtual Cables" each of them consists of a pair of the waveform input/output devices. Any application can send audio stream to an output side of a cable, and any other application can receive this stream from an input side. All transfers are made digitally, providing NO sound quality loss. VAC is a "wave-version" of the "MIDI loopback cable" like MultiMid or Hubi's Loopback drivers.

Cheers!

Sergio


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AndyH-ha
post Oct 25 2006, 09:08
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VAC routes data from one place to another. Soundcards process data, VAC does very little of that and none of the processing that is a soundcard's primary function.

Soundcards may have a DSP chip that acts as a digital mixer. Some soundcards DSP chips do various kinds of effects processing. These parts are not the soundcard, however, they are just extras on the soundcards. Many professional soundcards have none of that stuff, except maybe some digital mixing facility for monitoring purposes. Soundcards do A to D and D to A. This requires hardware.

VAC seems to be able to do sample rate conversions and to change levels. This is a bit of DSP processing, but not actual soundcard stuff. Hundreds of audio applications do these kinds of things. Does VAC do them on its own or via calls to Windows' mixer functions? VAC can be a very useful application but "virtual sound card" is silly. Might as well call the Windows mixer a soundcard while you're at it.
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smz
post Oct 25 2006, 09:39
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Try to do that with the KMixer... cool.gif


You see? VAC exposes its software interfaces exactly as a (virtual) sound device (card). The possibility to do DSP stuff is not what characterize a sound device (card). Many (real) sound cards can't do that. What characterize a sound card is that it exposes its interfaces as a WDM device and to have I/O ports. Those ports can be analog (a typical sound card) digital (e.g. a SPDIF port) or virtual (e.g. VAC).

Another quote from the VAC (Version 3.x) on-line help:
QUOTE
VAC seems like a set of real full-duplex sound cards with its digital outputs hardwired to its digital inputs.

So, IMHO, it is silly not to call VAC a virtual sound card.
If you are still not convinced I give up and let everybody else to make their own opinion on this matter on the base of the evidence we provided.

Cheers!

Sergio


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alt_audio
post Oct 25 2006, 12:07
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QUOTE (AndyH-ha @ Oct 25 2006, 05:03) *
It doesn't seem quite correct to call VAC a virtual soundcard. It can't process audio data, it only routes it from someplace to someplace else. It may, however, be a means to accomplish what alt_audio wants. I indicated that at the bottom of my first post, although I'm not really sure just what he/she is trying to accomplish.

I'm a guy by the way wink.gif .

Anyway thanks for all the replies everyone, it's really appreciated. I don't want to join in on the VAC debate, but I personally don't like it, that's just my preference though.

The idea of running the USB’s outputs to it’s input’s is something I considered doing at the start, but then there still isn’t the guarantee that would work flawlessly. So basically I think the easiest and most straight forward thing to do, would be for me to get an Audiophile 2496 or 192 PCI Card (I might be able to swap the USB for the 192 as they are the same price at the store)

With the 2496 card for example, can you adjust the inputs/outputs via the windows mixer, or does it still bypass that and utilize it's own? As you said anyway, you're able to record what's playing out using that card - and that's exactly what I’m looking to do.

Thanks again.
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AndyH-ha
post Oct 25 2006, 19:14
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I don't think any professional or semi-pro soundcard uses the Windows mixer.

Sometimes the urge to buy new toys is overwhelming and reason can play no part in the decision. However, as far as "the guarantee that would work flawlessly" goes, running the output back into the input would probably work every succeeding time the same way as it works the first time. It should be very easy to test that first time and decide if the results are satisfactory.

Its true, VCA makes applications "think" it is a soundcard, but it does not do anything else that a soundcard does. It just routes data from its 'outputs' to its 'inputs.' That's probably why it is named Virtual Audio Cables rather than Virtual Audio Cards.
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AndyH-ha
post Oct 25 2006, 19:27
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My opinion on soundcards, however, is that unless you really need something in particular such as the ability to move your one and only soundcard between different coumpters, PCI is definitely a better choice. If you do need to utilize one soundcard on different computers, firewire is a better choice than USB. USB is at the bottom of the list, only for where firewire ports are not available and you can live with USB limitations.
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smz
post Oct 25 2006, 20:22
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QUOTE (AndyH-ha @ Oct 25 2006, 20:14) *
Its true, VCA makes applications "think" it is a soundcard, but it does not do anything else that a soundcard does. It just routes data from its 'outputs' to its 'inputs.' That's probably why it is named Virtual Audio Cables rather than Virtual Audio Cards.

That's ridiculous! Isn't it enough for you that its developer define it as a virtual audio card and that Windows see it as an audio card? What a virtual audio card should do in your opinion, beside feedings audio bits to/from virtual audio ports? Maybe provide virtual sound through virtual air and virtual ears to a virtual brain? Please, give us a break or explain your reasons.

And please stop giving uninformed advices on this forum, like the one about a PCI card being better than a firewire card that in turn is better than an USB card. Why? In which terms? For what application? Maybe only for realtime applications. Certainly not for general purpouse applcations. Please provide technical details and/or ABX testing if you don't want it to be taken as an unwarrented assertion. Otherwise you are just talking about your "feelings". That's something very few people would care about, I guess.

Sergio


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Firon
post Oct 25 2006, 20:27
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A soundcard would decode audio, VAC does not.
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smz
post Oct 25 2006, 20:29
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QUOTE (Firon @ Oct 25 2006, 21:27) *
A soundcard would decode audio, VAC does not.


Does a SPDIF audio card "decodes" audio?


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Firon
post Oct 25 2006, 20:48
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A card had nothing but an S/PDIF interface wouldn't be actually be a soundcard.

This post has been edited by Firon: Oct 25 2006, 20:50
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smz
post Oct 25 2006, 21:01
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QUOTE (Firon @ Oct 25 2006, 21:48) *
A card had nothing but an S/PDIF interface wouldn't be actually be a soundcard.


Windows does not agree with you. Me neither.

If you think VAC is not a virtual sound card, please:

A) Define a sound card.

B) Define a virtual sound card

I already did my homework some posts above, BTW...

Cheers!

Sergio


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Klyith
post Oct 25 2006, 21:12
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QUOTE (smz @ Oct 25 2006, 15:22) *
That's ridiculous! Isn't it enough for you that its developer define it as a virtual audio card and that Windows see it as an audio card? What a virtual audio card should do in your opinion, beside feedings audio bits to/from virtual audio ports? Maybe provide virtual sound through virtual air and virtual ears to a virtual brain? Please, give us a break or explain your reasons.

And please stop giving uninformed advices on this forum, like the one about a PCI card being better than a firewire card that in turn is better than an USB card. Why? In which terms? For what application? Maybe only for realtime applications. Certainly not for general purpouse applcations. Please provide technical details and/or ABX testing if you don't want it to be taken as an unwarrented assertion. Otherwise you are just talking about your "feelings". That's something very few people would care about, I guess.

I think that was needlessly argumentative. Nothing Andy said deserved that kind of flame.

Virtual cable vs card is just semantics. (Edit: Both of you need to let this go.)

And PCI vs USB, in the general case and for the average home user, Andy is clearly right. Unless you need USB for some reason, PCI is the way to go. This thread is an example, other problems might be windows games, os support, latency problems, and miscellaneous weirdness from programs that expect the capabilities that normal PCI soundcards have. A USB sound device should only be for laptops, needing portability, or total lack of pci slots -- some of the new pci-e mobos have distressingly few. The only other thing I can think of is a computer with such bad noise problems that only an external device is free of hum, and in that case I would look to find and replace whatever component is causing the noise: it's probably broken.

(I have no opinion of firewire soundcards, having never worked with one.)

As for having to provide ABX tests, he's making usability claims, not audio ones. I don't there's any way to ABX usability. If there was a lot of computer software would be a lot better! smile.gif

This post has been edited by Klyith: Oct 25 2006, 21:17
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smz
post Oct 25 2006, 21:43
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QUOTE (Klyith @ Oct 25 2006, 22:12) *
I think that was needlessly argumentative. Nothing Andy said deserved that kind of flame.

You're right. I've only been told that that me calling VAC a virtual audio card was silly.

QUOTE
Virtual cable vs card is just semantics. (Edit: Both of you need to let this go.)

Correct. That's all it is about: semantics. And I stand semantically correct.

QUOTE
And PCI vs USB, in the general case and for the average home user, Andy is clearly right. Unless you need USB for some reason, PCI is the way to go. This thread is an example, other problems might be windows games, os support, latency problems, and miscellaneous weirdness from programs that expect the capabilities that normal PCI soundcards have. A USB sound device should only be for laptops, needing portability, or total lack of pci slots -- some of the new pci-e mobos have distressingly few. The only other thing I can think of is a computer with such bad noise problems that only an external device is free of hum, and in that case I would look to find and replace whatever component is causing the noise: it's probably broken.

(I have no opinion of firewire soundcards, having never worked with one.)

As for having to provide ABX tests, he's making usability claims, not audio ones. I don't there's any way to ABX usability. If there was a lot of computer software would be a lot better! smile.gif

I said and/or ABX. He didn't explaind in which terms a PCI card would be preferable, so that could be either for technical and usabilty reasons or for acoustical quality reasons. In either case he (and you) should give positive evidence of the assertions. That would be ABX in case of acoustical reasons.

Sergio


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AndyH-ha
post Oct 26 2006, 06:40
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First, it never occurred to me that anyone would take what I said personally. I was seeing this purely as a logical discussion (regardless of the quality of my logic). In retrospect I see that ‘silly' was a poor choice for the adjective. I apologize for any emotional distress I caused.

It is possible to do many ‘virtual' things with a computer. Virtual synths, virtual computers, virtual realities. A virtual computer can do anything a ‘real' computer can do (depending upon the extent of the emulation) although it can not have the direct I/O to the outside world of the primary hardware computer. A software synth will produce real (digital) audio signals, although those needs a soundcard to reach the analogue domain where real sound can exist.

A real soundcard does A to D and/or D to A; it is an I/O device. Anything else is extra, via extra hardware such as DSP chips. S/PDIF, ADAT, and other digital passthrough ports are also just extra. The inputs and outputs presented to an audio application are also extras, not part of a soundcard. They are functions of the driver, a bit of software.

Since the soundcard's function is to translate between two realities, one inside the computer (or anywhere else the digital data may live, such as a stand alone digital recorder), the other outside the computer a simulation of a soundcard isn't possible in any way I can think of. However, if it pleases someone to think of software as a soundcard, even though it is totally incapable of preforming a soundcard's basic functions, ....

I think most of the ‘why' for my ranking soundcard types have been pretty adequately covered by now. Functionality is my point of view. Decent USB is just as good as PCI from an audio quality viewpoint, but it is considerably more limited in what it can do, even in terms of basic audio I/O.

Firewire does not have the USB bandwidth limitations, and while there are quite a few very high quality firewire cards, firewire cards can't do all the extra on-computer processing that PCI cards can because they are not on the computer. That isn't a real limitation for their intended professional use, but I've seen other threads like this one where people were unhappy with their new firewire card's inability to do something they used to do via PCI.

Most professional firewire cards are created mainly to contain analogue capabilities within the same unit. These are such things as microphone preamplifiers and advanced mixing boards, things that are too bulky for PCI. From that viewpoint, they are superior to PCI cards, but that is basically a convenience viewpoint. All those capabilities are readily available by using separate analogue boxes.

USB 2 soundcards are now being manufactured. Those I've seen are considerably more expensive that USB 1 cards. They also seem to be somewhat more limited than firewire cards, but do not have the bandwidth limitations of USB 1. They seem to only come in the same flavors as professional firewire cards, with microphone preamps and such.

Now since someone else would probably point it out anyway, I might as well say that this viewpoint might be called somewhat inconsistent. Except for the limited USB 1 bandwidth, and the extra latency one may get off-computer, the why of my ranking is about aspects other than the primary soundcard functions, the "extras" as I labeled them in the virtual section.

This post has been edited by AndyH-ha: Oct 26 2006, 06:42
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smz
post Oct 26 2006, 18:08
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QUOTE (AndyH-ha @ Oct 26 2006, 07:40) *
First, it never occurred to me that anyone would take what I said personally. I was seeing this purely as a logical discussion (regardless of the quality of my logic). In retrospect I see that ‘silly' was a poor choice for the adjective. I apologize for any emotional distress I caused.

Andy, no problem. We can have a beer together any time! beer.gif
But if you tell somebody that what he says is silly, be prepared that he answer that what you say is ridiculous! wink.gif

QUOTE
It is possible to do many ‘virtual' things with a computer. Virtual synths, virtual computers, virtual realities. A virtual computer can do anything a ‘real' computer can do (depending upon the extent of the emulation) although it can not have the direct I/O to the outside world of the primary hardware computer. A software synth will produce real (digital) audio signals, although those needs a soundcard to reach the analogue domain where real sound can exist.

A real soundcard does A to D and/or D to A; it is an I/O device. Anything else is extra, via extra hardware such as DSP chips. S/PDIF, ADAT, and other digital passthrough ports are also just extra. The inputs and outputs presented to an audio application are also extras, not part of a soundcard. They are functions of the driver, a bit of software.

Since the soundcard's function is to translate between two realities, one inside the computer (or anywhere else the digital data may live, such as a stand alone digital recorder), the other outside the computer a simulation of a soundcard isn't possible in any way I can think of. However, if it pleases someone to think of software as a soundcard, even though it is totally incapable of preforming a soundcard's basic functions, ....

This is just your opinion. Mine is different. My opinion is that a sound card is characterized as any device that is built "to be seen" by a middleware abstraction layer conceived to handle audio information, be it WDM, MME, ASIO, DirectSound, the new Vista standard which name I can't now remember, or whatever. What this interface does to the digital audio stream is not relevant. It can do an D/A or A/D conversion, it can encapsulate/extract it into/from digital protocols like SPDIF, AES/EBU, ADAT or whatever, it can or cannot have DSP processors on board. Actually it can be a card or not. We all agree to call a thing "an USB sound card" even it is not a "card" in strict terms. Actually "sound card" is a poor name: audio interface would be much better. So... why not to call something that is just software and exposes the typical software interfaces of a sound card a "virtual sound card"? As a matter of fact not just me, but the developers of this kind of software too call it just like that.

Try this: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&lr=...l+sound+card%22

Or you can even try to google for "AES/EBU sound card", or "ADAT sound card"

Granted, in all cases "audio interface", as I said, would be a prferable choice.

In other terms: if it "looks like" a sound card but it is just software, man, this is a "virtual sound card"!

QUOTE
I think most of the ‘why' for my ranking soundcard types have been pretty adequately covered by now. Functionality is my point of view. Decent USB is just as good as PCI from an audio quality viewpoint, but it is considerably more limited in what it can do, even in terms of basic audio I/O.

Firewire does not have the USB bandwidth limitations, and while there are quite a few very high quality firewire cards, firewire cards can't do all the extra on-computer processing that PCI cards can because they are not on the computer. That isn't a real limitation for their intended professional use, but I've seen other threads like this one where people were unhappy with their new firewire card's inability to do something they used to do via PCI.

Most professional firewire cards are created mainly to contain analogue capabilities within the same unit. These are such things as microphone preamplifiers and advanced mixing boards, things that are too bulky for PCI. From that viewpoint, they are superior to PCI cards, but that is basically a convenience viewpoint. All those capabilities are readily available by using separate analogue boxes.

USB 2 soundcards are now being manufactured. Those I've seen are considerably more expensive that USB 1 cards. They also seem to be somewhat more limited than firewire cards, but do not have the bandwidth limitations of USB 1. They seem to only come in the same flavors as professional firewire cards, with microphone preamps and such.

Now since someone else would probably point it out anyway, I might as well say that this viewpoint might be called somewhat inconsistent. Except for the limited USB 1 bandwidth, and the extra latency one may get off-computer, the why of my ranking is about aspects other than the primary soundcard functions, the "extras" as I labeled them in the virtual section.

OK, so you are just talking about USB 1.1, not USB 2.0. While we are at it we could also talk about parallel port audio interfaces! Do you remember them? smile.gif

And what kind of "processing-in-the-card" are you talking about? The infamous 44.1 to 48 KHz resampling of most "gamer" PCI cards? Very few very-high end PCI audio interfaces have usable processing power on board and even fewer software can put this processing power to good use.

Please, prove me wrong: I will be happy and will buy that card/software combination. rolleyes.gif

PCI is dieing. PCI-Express is the only bus interface you can expect to find on a motherboard in a year or so. Both USB 2.0 and Firewire are here to stay for longer and are of much more practical use, and far easier to move from a PC to another. Beside that they isolate the A/D - D/A converters far better from the digital noise you have inside your PC cabinet. PCI Express sound cards... there are very few of it if any around right now, but this will change. You'll see.

My list of preference would be:
Firewire > USB (2,0, of course) > PCI Express > PCI > USB (1.1)

Cheers!

Sergio

Edit: It seems we all forgot about PC Card and ExpressCard. Thay deserve a place in the list, somewhere, too! biggrin.gif

This post has been edited by smz: Oct 26 2006, 18:23


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Sergio
Revox B150 + (JBL 4301B | Sennheiser HD430)
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AndyH-ha
post Oct 26 2006, 23:53
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PCI vs PCI express isn't a significant difference. The physical card interface, and some of the electrical specifications, will have to change, but that does not necessarily mean anything for the electronics that go on the card.

The often touted problems of computer generated noise is mostly a boggy man. A few cards, such as some MB built-ins and some Soundblasters, haven't been adequately designed, but the noise floor on most PCI cards is below any worry figures (they are as good as, or better than, good home audio equipment). The best such cards are at the limits of non-cryogenic electronics. Moving them off the computer could not improve noise figures.

I've played with some very noisy USB cards, but I know that many are fine in that respect. Have you seen any USB 2 card that isn't an expensive professional recording interface with microphone preamps and such? I couldn't fine any the last time I looked. Within the context of the main topic of this thread, every USB card is deficient.

The game was fun, but I have no more energy for it now. No hard feelings, I hope.
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smz
post Oct 27 2006, 00:56
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QUOTE (AndyH-ha @ Oct 27 2006, 00:53) *
The game was fun, but I have no more energy for it now. No hard feelings, I hope.

Not at all!

But, seriously, it wasn't a game for me. I just felt the need to defend what I, in good faith, believe is correct and confute what I believe are wrong arguments. From my point of view, of course.

Cheers! Sergio

P.S.: ... but there ARE substantial differences between PCI and PCI-E. And even all the rest being equal PCI-E is the future, PCI the past. But this will be all another story, so... let's go! wink.gif

This post has been edited by smz: Oct 27 2006, 00:59


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