Soundcards/audio Interfaces

I’m in the process of picking out the right soundcard/audio interface to add to my studio, and I was wondering what kind of audio interfaces you people would recommend getting? I’ve been looking at the M-Audio products and must say I’m pretty impressed, as well as getting more and more confused over all the available options. I’m most likely going to be buying Dynaudio BM15A monitor speakers soon and I think I’d like to have something that incorporates both a soundcard with high-end D/A converters, as well as a breakout box or rackmount unit that performs the basic basic functions of a mixer, with one or two mic inputs, instrument inputs and speaker outs, as well as possible inserts and aux sends for effects or synths I may get at a later date. What exactly are the differences/advantages of getting a PCI, USB or firewire system? I also notice all of the interfaces I’ve seen so far take 1/4" jack connectors for the monitors, whereas the connecters on the BM15As are XLR. I suppose there would be converters for this sort of thing, but wouldn’t there be a loss of quality? And so what sort of interfaces would you guys recommend getting? Any advice would be much appreciated.

Ok, a lot of my questions have already been answered through doing a lot more research, and I’ve come to the conclusion of either going for the M-Audio Omni Studio, or the M Box. Does anyone have any thoughts or opinions on either of these products?

i would recommend a firewire based interface. it’s the prevailing standard at the moment. the motu 928 is one of the best cost/performance/support solutions for an entry level yet professional quality studio interface for a computer. it has several analog inputs, mic preamps and digital interface options. it connects to the computer via firewire (which is faster than USB, though i’m not sure about USB 2.0 which isn’t as well established as firewire). m-audio has a device called the firewire 410 wich i think is probably a pretty decent piece of gear (i haven’t tried it) but most of their other hardware is mainly useful for PC/home theater and gaming.

M-audio firewire 410 is great, we have it here in work and it works just great…highly recomended
or check this new card from m-audio firewire18/20

Interesting to know that most of M-Audio’s hardware is mainly useful for PC/home theater and gaming, though I believe going for the likes such as the MOTU 928 might just be getting a bit too expensive. I have had a look at the FireWire 410, though it does have 8 speaker outs, which would really be a waste as I’ll only be using two of them. But then again it does have the MIDI ports, which I’m thinking might actually come in useful at one stage or another. And I suppose the other advantage is that it’s mobile, which means I could use it with a laptop if I decide to go travelling again in a few years time. I guess the only thing it’s missing would be the effect send/return and inserts, but I really don’t see myself actually getting any hardware effects anyway. Thanks for all the advice anyway. I may just end up buying the FireWire 410 actually.

But TranceJax, what is this 18/20 you’re talking about? I can’t find it on the M-Audio site.

i like some of m-audio’s controllers, and midi gear, but external usb audio devices in general aren’t good for music making and production because the latency is too big and you get too many signal drops. firewires is the way for audio interfacing computer gear (for now at least).

Are you talking about latency as in monitoring the sound through the speakers, or when inputing more audio signals than the USB port can handle? Because I’ve read that with USB you can only record two sources simultaneously. That’s another reason I wanted to go for the PCI interface first, but with the FireWire 410 it shouldn’t be a problem either. While the Omni Studio (PCI) claims to have low-latency software monitoring, the FireWire 410 is stated as having ultra-low latency software monitoring and near-zero latency hardware direct monitoring so I guess it would be safe to say this wouldn’t cause much of a problem. Or is there a better option that would minimise latency even more?

I havent tried any firewire interfaces yet, but I PCI is definetely better that USB.

M-Audio Audiophile 2496 has been recommended a few times on this forum and if you’re only gonna be using 2 outs then its ideal for that.

NB! 2 outs = one stereo pair. Unless you can use both the digital and analogue outputs.

That’s true, but it’s important to have the interface outside the computer - that ables you to record with higher quality.

there’s less signal noise outside the computer than in.
to the best of my knowledge the only ways you could possibly connect a highspeed audio interface to a computer these days would be USB, USB2.0, firewire, PCI, PCI64. AGP is a high bandwidth device interface but it’s only for Graphics Cards. USB is too slow, and USB2.0 isn’t widely implemented. firewire is everywhere and fast. i don’t know if PCI is faster than firewire or not. PCI64 is sort of like ISA32 (local bus, remember?) an extension on the standard PCI 32bit connection. i’ve really only seen it on dual processor pentium 2 and 3 boards, i don’t know how it works or if anyone makes an audio card that takes advantage of it. like local bus it’ll probably give way to a new architecture now that 64-bit processing is becoming more accessible.

I found a benchmark here which compared USB2 and Firewire. The test was done with a HD so it’s not really fair. However in most cases it seems USB2 has a higher theoretical speed but Firewire is better in practise.

Yes, but the Audiophile doesn’t have mic inputs and monitor outs, so that automatically leaves that out of the question.

Basically I’ve put it down to either going for the FireWire 410 due to its easy mobility and slightly higher playback quality than the Omni Studio, at the cost of having all those extra outputs I will probably never need anyway, or the Omni Studio for its tons of extra features, and most importantly, the aux and effect sends. And seeing as though I see myself getting hardware effects before buying an additional 6 monitor speakers, I might actually go for the Omni Studio after all. Only here in Australia and New Zealand it isn’t suppliable as a single unit, but only as a combination of the Delta 66 and Omni i/o units, which seems really stupid if you ask me. I’ve been told I may now have to order directly from the States, so I’ll have to find out how to do that.

Thanks for all the advice, and of course any more is more than appreciated. :)

Atlantis, you can monitor with zero latency, whats being recorded through the inputs on the stereo outs. You’re right about the not having the mic input, but for a budget soundcard the audiophile is pretty good.

I read that the Firewire 410 is a pretty good soundcard. Plus it has 2 headphone outs and I’m not sure also a mic preamp.

Yeah, I understand the Audiophile is pretty good for a budget soundcard, and if I recall correctly I believe most of you here are actually using it.

But, I’ve had a change of mind again and am now definitely going for the FireWire 410. All the I/Os of the Omni Studio proved to actually be pretty useless for what I want to achieve anyway (the inserts are really for adding things like a compressor at the recording stage only), and as FireWire seems to be the way of the future, not to mention it being a much newer interface than the Omni Studio altogether, I think I’ve finally come to the right decision.

Yeah… It’s everywhere… but not on my mainboard :(

it’s built into my laptop and i don’t use it. gotta get a MOTU.

Neither do I, but I’ve been told you can buy cards for it that aren’t too expensive.

Is a firewire interface actually faster than a PCI one? I understand that its a very fast one 400mb/s or something, but PCI is actually built on to the motherboard.

Does anyone know which is faster? ;)

And just at the last minute I realise the FireWire 410 doesn’t have balanced outputs, something I’d definitely need with the Dynaudio BM15As I’m planning to get. I think I’m beginning to realise that M-Audio’s products really aren’t suited for pro-level after all.

And so I’ve been looking at some of the MOTU products, and the 828MKII FireWire 24/96 surely looks very promising. Only a tad more expensive than the FireWire 410, but I guess if I’m planning to get high-end monitors, I shouldn’t just settle for a cheap D/A converter.

But then there’s also Digidesign’s Digi 002 LE Rackmount. How does this brand compare to MOTU? And Florian Mosleh, what about this MOTU 928 you were talking about? I can’t seem to find any reference to it, or were you talking about the 828MKII?