Purchasing A New Sound Card

I just spent the last 10 minutes re-reading the long thread concerning the hyped CreativeX-FI soundcard here in the forums.

I am struggling to determine how I want to do things.

As it stands, I have been composing music with renoise and using my motherboard’s audio with the crappiest pair of speakers you can imagine (sic); which is easily noticed when listening to many of my tracks.

I want a soundcard that is going to sound very clear and accurately represent what I have created. I plan on picking up some studio monitors soon.

I am not looking for a flame war. I have read at least a dozen reviews and they all suggest the X-FI as having better sound quality (signal to noise anyway) than the maudio cards and at a very attractive price point. Not sure if they are creative “fan-boy” sites or if there is any truth to the claims.

Would this be a good soundcard to use to monitor the output of what I am creating?

I don’t know whether I should continue eqing everything within renoise and rendering to wave or going another route.

I like the idea of doing all of the mxing internal within the computer. The idea of using analog outs and an analog mixer really seems like going backwards when I could work in digital.

Should I forget about trying the production side of things and just get a sound card with good outputs and a nice pair of monitors and just save as individual *.wavs and then pay someone to eq them for me?

My ideal situation would be some type of multi-track software I can use on the pc. Be able to open each individual rendered .wav file on it’s own track.

Freely switch between tracks on the fly and eq with some type of external breakout box of sorts with knobs. It’s so tedious making adjustments with the mouse and seems to take entirely too long.

Anything available for the computer that has some external knobs I can use to tweak certain eq ranges while listening to the tracks? Knobs of course changing the eqing of what I am listening to while switching between audio tracks and then I can render back to a single wav?

Does this sound like a smart way to go? I have a midi keyboard with a ton of knobs.

Do programs like audition, soundforge, etc. allow people to map treble, mid, bass, etc. on their midi keyboard so they can tweak in real time and just use the mouse to switch between tracks to make adjustments?

Sorry for the long post. My computer has been in storage. Kinda between places and don’t have a perminant address at the moment so I am working like 60 hours week and socking a lot of money away to move into a new place and design a new rig.

Thank for any recommendations,


don’t feel bad, i am using onboard audio as well… i need to get a for real soundcard sometime too :)

I have a M-audio Audiophile 24/96 PCI, i got it a year ago for about 150 euros

The Drivers for windows XP seem to be excelent, ASIO and Direct Sound.
I got tired of the AC97 onboard and its noisy signal. The audiophile is a recommended card. I hate all creative products(i had too many in the past)


Don’t get anything from the Mackie Onyx series (maybe not your price range, but a warning just in case). Great interface, but terrible, TERRIBLE drivers. Focusrite Saffire is a good interface, but the drivers are pretty bad for that one too IMHO. Maybe the new LE is better.
Presonus has some good entry level FW interfaces.
Maybe check out MOTU UltraLite and TC Konnekt 24D, though I know nothing about them.

I use Creative for years now (Live, Audigy and Audigy 2)
I never had problems, drivers are stable too.

It got 8 out of 10 in the swedish music production magazine Studio and they are certainly no fanboys.

The audio is top quality and the latency is low.

The connections of the card is the weak side. I can’t fit my mic and my speakers at the same time because they are next to eachother but I have the cheapest version and the mic has quite a big plug.

But if you also want to play a game or two its a perfect card and now you can really find it cheap.


Before I recommend a card I have to give my advice on mixing: Once you get a good card and monitors you’ll find you will need to EQ less. If you’re spending hours on those EQs then you’re working too hard… I really have to write a tutorial to show everyone what I mean. There’s too much boosting, not enough subtractive filtering out there, mostly because people have poor gear, and haven’t had a chance to learn on good stuff.

And vst eq/filters are the way to go: less noise. Physical pots (knobs) are great for feel, but they breakdown over age and get noisy. If you use mathematics sympathetic to audio harmonics a good parametric EQ with saturation can get you a long long way. I use the A0 parametric eq - the Renoise eqs are way too phase-heavy. Use the moog LP and HP filters instead, especially to “focus” tracks to their “essential” range. Yeah ok, tutorial on the way…

You want to make awesome sounding songs? Then the law is: it takes a long time, even when you’ve got heaps of ‘ear experience’.

Ok… the card I’m using - MAudio Delta 1010 - wonderful sound and options, drivers stable, gui a little old. But I must say MAudio’s tech support are really average, almost hard to work with and unsupportive. I’ve had a problem with heat with one of my pre-amps on CH1, so if you live in a really hot place you might want to get other gear or get a ‘hardware fridge’.

PCI is generally more powerful than USB, but firewire is better than both. If you have the $$$ I’d go MOTU.

Hi guys! :) Im finally back from my trip to UK… have to cach up with the forum now :P

i have both sb audigy 2 a m-audio audiophile 192 installed in my comp. My monitors are connected to m-audio and some multimedia speakers to audigy 2.

I am satisfied with my audiophile 192, good sound quality, great stable drivers, balanced outputs etc… The only little downside is that it emits small hiss (i use balanced outputs, cables and inputs so i dont think the hiss is because of bad cabling or something)
I have little input level adjusters on the back on my monitors. If i turn that input level to the max then hiss is quite audiable and disturbing. But i have ajusted the input level to the half… Its good for me in 2 reasons, first is tha the hiss is gone (well i can hear it only if i put my ear right next to the tweeter but that doesnt bother me) and the second is that i have plenty (and i mean it :) ) of spare volume left to cranck up via drivers but not too much that i could blow my speakers, should i accidentally max up volume with wrong mouse click or something. Ohh, and btw, that hiss is not affected by volume that you adjust in software, it is affected only by signal input level that i send to monitors…

I must say though that my audigy 2 has quite ok audio quality also, the bad thing is that it supports asio only in 48 khz mode and it has only simple small stereo jack connections… Im not too familiar with X-fi cards but if its better then audigy 2 range then you should propably be OK with it too…

I’ve been using the M-Audio Delta1010 (Rack version) on varying Athlon systems for around 4 years now, and have not once had issues with it. An ideal solution if you want to use outboard effects as it has balanced outputs and (from what I remember reading), some top notch D-A converters. If you don’t really plan to use the extra channels, the Delta 44 is what I use at work, and once again, no problems (and this is on a P4). The drivers are simply excellent, with a handy, easy to configure interface residing in the system tray, which no longer have a great need for updates. Not once have I had a hang due to audio issues, even at 96KHz/256 samples (1ms latency)!

They might be a few years old, but they’re going for some silly prices now!

I would only recommend Creative stuff if you’re into gaming/cinema (Delta 1010 does support dolby 7.1 though). I’m pretty sure they still don’t have balanced outputs on them which makes them susceptible to interference, especially as all the D-A conversion is done in the PCI slot as opposed to a breakout box.

I have an E-mu 0404. It’s cheap and sounds pretty good. I hate the drivers. I also have an M-audio audiophile 2496 which is now probably the same price range. I think the e-mu sounds a little bit better, but I like the m-audio drivers and card performance much more than the E-mu. So over-all I have to say I really don’t like Creative/E-mu. I’m not doing anything surround sound, or games. Both those cards have kickass sound quality compared to any motherboard audio I have used (like Intel 865/Nvidia Nforce2).

I have a couple of friends with RME cards and I think they are excellent, although perhaps more expensive than what you would want to spend? And the features and options that RME provides may be overkill if you are just using Renoise.

Another idea just to make things more complicated. You could look for an external DAC like Lavry Black or Benchmark DAC-1 :w00t: and run spdif out of your PC…

Edit: also for multitrack DAW editing, check out Reaper:

It’s high quality, development is advancing rapidly from what I’ve heard. You can currently download it and try it out for free.

looks boring …


made by an ex- tc-works developer


powerful, cheap (only 90 EUR), an amazing user interface and simple to use!!!

For last couple of years I’ve been using Audiophile 24/96 with Soundcraft Compact 4 mixer. It’s perfect match for me - I don’t need several i/o’s and that’s enough (4me) to connect POD XT and MXL 2003 mic.

At wrk I used also other equipment but my home system is based on these two components.

Few months ago I’ve bought Toshiba laptop and I’m thinking about firewire interface. There are some great solutions, and some other are coming in the nearest future. I mean RME FW400 and high-powered and low-priced (as for unit with 2 professional TC effects) Konnekt 24D.

If you need mobility, you can think about Saffire from Focusrite, the other good choices are Edirol FA-66 and “old” Esi QuataFire.

Saffire is latency killer. It outranks EMU1820 system based on PCI and enables you to mix more tracks. I don’t know how they achieved this - propably the drivers are zero-latency kind or they fixed up issues with Firewire sample buffer someway.

As for the soundcards, the most ppular in Poland are Maya44 and Esi Julia. And M-Audio interfaces, I owned Delta 1010 before but after one year I stopped “proffesional” recording business and made it a hobby :)

Yo tre…

I would seriously have a look at emu stuff… mainly the 1212m. It has the p-tools mastering converters built in and is a nice nice soundcard. If you look it up and read reviews, people will trash it because of the shitty onboard dsp chip… don’t get it for that… that part of it is just lame- it works perfect for monitoring with effects though. Anyway, I can run my machine at 2ms latency without any problems, but for medium to large projects I go with 6 ms. It’s a sweet card and can also be expanded to an 1820m if you ever feel the need to upgrade to something a little bit more serious. It plays perfect with renoise (except renoise doesn’t like odd numbered latency settings for some reason). I’m a big fan of emu’s cards- they are quality. And there costumer support is like no other. My friend had bought one of their portable breakout box rigs for his laptop and lost his pcmcia card that it works with, and they sent him another one free of charge! I have emailed them with questions and I get prompt replies that get right to the point and resolve issues easily most of the time. I have the 1212m, 1616, and the 1616m and they all work sweet.

1212 has ever kind of input a person would need… optical adat, spdf, 1/4 ins and outs, midi i/o… sick card. If you want to skip the nice p-tools converters, you can get the 0404 for like 70 bones and those are sweet budget cards too.

Oh yeah- balanced outputs too!

I’m using an ESI Juli@ 24/192 - AU$269

Its not bad atall , it’ll get me thru untill I can save for a good mobile firewire dealy…

FGreat quality AWESOME LATENCIES and drivers are small and stable , good updates too

It may have slight issues with audio cracks and pops , but thats for the tweakage to fix…

You should look into a 1820m beats all the cards mentioned hands down its got the same A/D converters used in Digidesigns ProTools HD 192 I/O interface and its sounds so so clear im producing better then i ever have done casue the sound quality is just o so nice,Ive been running renoise super smooth better then ever real beast!Can not beat it for the money!!


Mmm, now that does look nice :o

ive got echo audio gina3g, super quality ADDA converters and pretty good preamps (hi-z, mic)… and it wasn’t too pricy.

i don’t recommend you to buy creative shit, it’s too expensive, for a budget musician it’s way better to get some m-audio interface (or esi julia for example)…

I don’t know man… for the same price as alot of those m-audio units, emu (owned by creative) will give you way better converters and solid drivers… I mean for $170 you get pro-tools 192 I/O a/d converters… Not to mention they are expandable… I don’t see how an m-audio doo doo unit would be better- they cost about the same if not more than creative’s cards do.

my .02

The Emu 1820m is bar far the best audio card you can buy for that price range and its not creative who make them its Emu its creative who own Emu now which means Emu has alot more money to spend on development ,

This cards sounds a hell of alot better then my old M-audio delta 66 and any other M-audio card!M-audio are still good cards dont get me wrong its just the 1820m sounds so much better and is much more stable and packs a very big punch for the price,

It makes a Echo Gina 3G PCI Audio Interface look like a ant looking up at a Human!!!

It has the the same A/D converters used in Digidesignr’s ProToolsr HD 192 I/O interface which makes the card sound better then anything near its price range even if you spend alot more money you still dont gain sound quality at all,

You will never regret buying this card infact you will love it so much,You cant find a card better then this for twice its money you have to dig a little deeper,

Juts buy the card :P

I second the motion :D