After much research based on my set up (mostly softsynth composition with need for only one or 2 external inputs at any one time) I narrowed my decision down to the M-audio Delta 66 or the EMU1212.
(Specs 3.0 cpu, hyperthreading, 2 gig ram, 2 120 gig Sata drives)
Goal lowest latency possible when using my keyboard controller.
First question: Which sound card works better with Sonar5/Garritan.
I made up my decision to purchase the delta 66 ($39 more than the delta 44) due to digital and surround sound features but then realized that it does not have midi input. I currently use a UM1 usb/midi cable to connect to my keyboard controller. My second question is:
Is it better to have a midi input directly on the sound card or does having a separate USB / midi cable potential for increased latency due to the extra processing of the USB/midi driver?
I originally had a cheap Soundblaster Live! 24-bit card. Thought I would get better sound if I upgraded to the 1212M, so I did.
I noticed no audio difference. But the EMU software interface is an awful lot more complicated, and I have enough other things to learn, I want an automatic transmission. So I pulled it out and you will see it soon on Ebay. Or let me know if you want a deal on a barely used 1212M.
I should say that I have no external MIDI devices to drive or get input from. Just Sibelius and GPO (and a little mixer for my speakers and AKG phones). Devices could influence your decision.
On specific features of specific cards you can find a lot of useful information (and ask questions) at:
I don't think I've ever heard a bad word spoken about the RME gear.
Personally, I use an RME Hammerfall 96/52 on one of my PC's, and it has served flawlessly for years. I use MIDIOverLAN with this PC. A simple MOTU Fastlane USB Midi interface would take care of a couple of MIDI ins and outs. Inexpensive.
I have the Delta 66, and use Sonar5 as well as GPO and JABB, and the lack of midi on the card (and the Omni preamp I got with the 66) isn't a problem at all for me.
I have two midi keyboards. The Yamaha P120 is connected via a midi thru into my PC's joystick port, and the Evolution MK 461c connects via USB. Everything seems to work fine. Don't know that this is the best way, but "it ain't broke," so...
BTW, I'm very happy with the 66. If I ever needed more midi I/Os, though, I'd either have to deploy some daisy-chain type setup, or get one of those Midisport boxes or something. But I don't foresee needing this any time soon.