I have just purchased GPO for use my score writing/MIDI software (SmartScore by Musitek) - I am a classic tenor and looking to produce backing tracks.. I run this on my HP NX8220 laptop which has
a 2.13GHZ CPU with 2GB RAM running XP SP2. I want to maximise the quality (96GHz) and help out my laptop's CPU.... although I think the RAM is more critical. So what card should I go for...??
I am wanting to play out to the Zoom H4 recorder for good quality recording so will be looking for a standard line out as opposed to the headphone jack. I am a little interested in recording off MIDI keyboards although I accept that a USB/MIDI cable may be simpler.
Some ideas I have had so far include:
a) Echo Indigo DJ
b) Native Instruments Audio Kontrol1.
Can you tell me the value of an onboard DSP which the Echo Indigo has, but the breakout boxes do not. I get the impression that they are only of use if yourwant realtime effects. They will not help the laptop playback midi instruments more efficiently.???
Welcome to Northern Sounds. There's a plethora of options out there that will fit your requirements. I recommend you look for a USB or FireWire-powered option as these soundcards (now they call 'em audio interfaces) can be used on future laptops and desktops as well. While nothing is wrong with PCMCIA (there are some very good things about them), it is being replaced by expresscard and is not directly supported by desktops.
The Tascam models mentioned are USB. M-Audio also makes some decent USB units as does EMU.
This is the stuff I've inferred about what you'll need. Did I miss anything?
ASIO low-latency drivers
At least one stereo out in addition to headphone jack
At least one XLR input to connect a microphone
If you have PCMCIA, I would recommend the Echo Indigo -- I would recommend the Indigo I/O (as opposed to the DJ) so that you can record in. As far as I know the DJ only has outputs, not inputs.
I LOVED my Indigo before my latpop's PCMCIA stopped working. It's pretty small and you can just insert it and leave it there permanently--never need to worry about carrying around an extra piece of gear, plugging in cables, making sure drivers are loaded, moving around a web of interconnected doo-dads, etc.
My PC's PCMCIA is on the fritz and I've had to switch to a USB interface (M-Audio FastTrack Pro). It's a great card and I'm very happy with it (and it has more features than the Indigo), but even with its small size it's pretty inconvenient to carry around/plug in/etc. compared with small, always-on Indigo.
Reegs makes a good point about PCMCIA. If you're planning on upgrading to a new laptop soon then you might want to reconsider PCMCIA.
Personally though, I'd recommend the Indigo anyway. The convenience is very worthwhile to me. And when you finally do upgrade your PC, you can always pick up a new USB interface for around $100--which isn't much of a sacrifice if you're already spending several hundred (or thousand) on a new computer.
Also this way, when you get a new PC you can continue to use your old one as well.