I was pleasantly surprised to find that my stock Dell Inspiron laptop (2.4Ghz, 768mb, onboard soundcard with DX driver) is capable of playing the EWQL Silver Steinway B piano with just about acceptable latency for live applications.
At 16ms it's just a tad too slow of a response time for me when coupled with a weighted controller.
So, I've been looking at the M-Audio Firewire Audiophile interface. I'd need a pcm-cia firewire adapter with that too.
What I would like to do, if I go to that trouble, is also to be able to add an external firewire HD. So my question is:
Is there enough bandwidth or whatever to have the two externals running solidly through a pcm-cia firewire buss; or is there perhaps a better way to go?
You will probably have problems running both an external firewire
soundbox and external firewire hard drive simultaneously. However if
your laptop has USB2 you can attach the hard drive there, and you should
be in business.
My laptop is a 1.8 GHz AMD with 1G ram and built-in Firewire. I have an
M-Audio Firewire 410, but the Firewire Audiophile should have similar
performance (I think they share the same drivers). Anyway I can get down
to 3-4 ms latency, although when playing live I usually do 6-8 ms
latency for some additional insurance against dropouts. The system seems
quite snappy and responsive, even with my relatively sluggish Kurzweil
Firewire devices 'reserve' a certain amount bandwidth so they can do
continuous data streaming more effectively than USB. However that means
that multiple firewire devices on the same bus can experience problems.
On my rig when I tried both the sound box and hard drive on Firewire,
sound would drop out. For example in Gigastudio, the system couldn't
read samples off the hard drive _and_ send the audio sample data to the
soundbox. So the attack would play ok, but the instant the hard drive
light came on there was no further audio.
My laptop had only USB1 so I got a USB2 Cardbus card, which worked fine.
Your laptop sounds new enough that it probably has USB2 built-in. If
not, you'll need a combo Fireware/USB2 cardbus card. I would _think_
this should be ok but I've never tried one personally. (BTW "PCMCIA"
cards are 16-bits while "Cardbus" cards are 32-bits. All Firewire and/or
USB2 cards should be Cardbus).
Hope this helps,
P.S. Before you shell out for a Firewire sound box, I'd try the freely-
downloadable KX or ASIO4All drivers on your laptop's internal sound chip
to see if you can get reduced latency that way.