I'm considering buying a new sound card for my laptop(one that supports 24-bit audio). I've been looking around, but I need a bit of advice. Is there any performance difference between using a PCMCIA soundcard or an external USB soundcard? I'm just curious about how the two match up.
I did extensive research before buying my laptop sound card and in the end I decided to go for the M-Audio FireWire 410, I am very pleased with the result I am having with this card.
I do work with Sibelius and notation primarly and at times do Audio recording straight into Cubase SX. Very solid piece of gear and the support by M-Audio is also great.
I have two soundcards for my laptop (above and beyond the built-in nonsense), which I use for different purposes.
My "meat and potatoes" sound card is PCMCIA -- the Indigo I/O. It sticks out from the side of my laptop only about 1/2" - 3/4" and it's a no-brainer. I popped it in my computer the day I bought it, and have never had to take it out or think of it since.
I like having a PCMCIA card because I can just leave it in my computer permanently--never need to carry around another piece of gear, never need to plug in cables. It has 1/8" I/O -- I can plug a pair of headphones into it, or I can have it output into external speakers, an amplifier, a mixing board, a cassette/DAT/Minidisc/HD recorder, anything. I can record stereo in from anywhere. With a mixer or preamp, I can record from 2 microphones simultaneously. It works great with GPO, and has multiple drivers so I can have up to 4 pieces of software access it at once. If the main thing you do is compose with GPO and other software synths, and you don't need to record multiple tracks of live instruments, then this is a great sound card.
When I have to do multitrack recording, I use the Lexicon Omega (I will eventually replace this with a Presonus Firepod). For now, the Lexicon gives me all the tracks I need, and was the best value I could find as far as price to buses. Again, if I did more multitrack recording and had a few more bucks, I would have bought the Firepod instead.
EITHER WAY, I'd recommend getting the Indigo I/O. You're going to want a sound card that doesn't have to be hooked up every time you use it. I think Soundblaster has a similar card, but I can't vouch for it personally.
Thanks for the replies, that's exactly the kind of analysis I was looking for. By the way, Soundblaster does have a PCMCIA card(Audigy 2 for $99), which is actually the one I was looking to get. All I really need one for is sequencing with virtual instruments, so I think I'll go ahead and get the card. Thanks again.
Just to let you know, I think you'd probably be better off with the Echo Indigo than the Audigy PCMCIA card. Through my general experiences, all Audigy cards are pretty crap when it comes to music production, and I'm sure this one isn't any different (though I can't tell you for sure). But they do make awesome cards if you just want to listen to music (or watch movies or play games).