Which Soundcard?

I have this lousy integrated soundcard, and I’m a total noob regarding those.

Can anyone recommend a cheap and decent card or a class of cards? What I’m looking for is ASIO support, low sound delay and if possible low noise when recording.
I considered getting an external one, cause I understand they are less prone to interference from other components of the computer. Is this true and is it worth the extra clutter? My PC is a sprawling mess of cables already!
Frankly to my untrained ears the integrated trash that I have sounds just fine already. Perhaps you only notice the difference once you have a good soundcard, but I’d hate to think that my skills have improved just because my card makes it sound nice! Does this kind of thinking make any sense?
Only hardware I plan to use with it are a mic and MAYBE a midi keyboard (cause I think playing on a regular keyboard is kinda cool in a hardcore way).

Please help, cause I’m reluctant to dish big bucks for a soundcard before I really get into making music.

On the other hand, is there a card that works especially well with Renoise, and if there is, in what way?
I’d think about spending an extra buck if it makes my experience with Renoise much more enjoyable.

Thanks in advance.

Firewire or USB?

You said you are going to use a mic and a keyboard with it, so does that mean you are looking for something with MIDI I/O and phantom powered mic pre-amps?

I’ve owned two external cards and so far I’ve learned one thing - stay away from M-audio (unless you are a Mac user). So far I’m happy with NI’s Audio Kontrol 1, but it’s not the cheapest one you can find (200-250eur/~$300).


I can recommend mine, very basic with 2 xlr in , ok preamps, two balanced tele outputs , and headphones out wich is the only one I use for my phones or stereo. Very good sound quality and it works with Linux too. no noise. No MIDI . This must be one of the best cards for the portable studios since it is small and metal cased. It is a lot of quality for less bucks. I agree with that M-AUDIO Is over estimated, no need for it if you do not use Pro-tools. Good phones is always recomended. Check Headroom for good reviews on those.
The card is an Artcessories USB Dual Pre . I can not say anything about latency though I have not tried it out yet.