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Topic: PCI audio interface vs USB

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  1. #1

    PCI audio interface vs USB

    I have a dell dual core w/3.0 chips and 4 gigs RAM. At present I have a creative XFI sound card. I run Vista Home Premium. I use Sibelius 5.1 and Sonar 7 Studio.

    I want to get a better soundcard. Actually what I want to do is hook up a mic to record my guitar. My brother plays games and is looking for a decent card for his games. My plan is to give him mine, once I purchase my new one.

    I have been looking at both USB and PCI audio interfaces and want to know opinions of which way to go and which specific one to buy. I am looking to stay around $200 or less and will probably buy the Rodes NT1-A Mic (a large diaphragm Condenser mic) to record the guitar. This mic needs Phantom power. I am open to suggestions on the mic as well.

    I am also looking for what not to buy as well. So if you have had problems with something, let me know as well.

    I know nothing about what I just typed, but am learning.

    Thanks

    Ron

  2. #2

    Re: PCI audio interface vs USB

    It's interesting you should ask about this now, Ron. I have been considering an upgrade too.

    I used to know everything about sound cards and what was the best deal out there. I always used to try to buy the best quality too. Things have changed now, though and I have completely lost touch. The processing power and RAM of your PC is really what counts, for performance of audio recording and playback. The actual quality of the sound can still be very high, even on lower end sound cards, now that most of them record in 24-bit AND support up to 7.1 surround playback.

    Personally, what I am looking for now, is an interface like the M-Box, where I can have several inputs and outputs running together, each one controllable individually. In other words, should I wish to record a guitar and a bass at the same time, onto seperate audio tracks, while both players listen to the drums on their own headphones, set to their desired level, then I can do that.

    However, this is where it becomes all hazy for me. Are there external soundcards out there which accomplish this or is there a seperate interface (like the M-Box) which plugs into a soundcard? Or does this interface just plug directly into a USB port and then talk to the internal PCI soundcard through software?

    What I can say is that you have more options for splitting inputs to seperate tracks if you go USB. With a PCI card, I think you have one input only for mic and one for line in. So, whatever comes in, all gets recorded on the same track. How to route different inputs to different channels/tracks in the software has been a mystery to me for years, but Pro Tools and M-Box seem to do it flawlessly. But can Pro Tools do what Cubase and Sonar do (ie midi data and VST instruments)?

    I hope I have not made your choices harder by rambling on about all this. I am happy to hear that there are others out there in the same boat as me!

    Please let me know if you learn of more about this and I'll do the same.

    Regards
    Paul
    "Life is rarely fair..." - Garlan, of Thorandall
    http://pjdeakin.blogspot.com/

  3. #3

    Re: PCI audio interface vs USB

    Paul

    M-Audio makes PCI cards that can handle up to 10 in and 10 out like the Delta 1010LT for $199. So I know that you can get a internal system to work easily. But I have heard from here a while back, when someone complained about a M-Audio interface. I don't know which one it was though. Then there is their Audiophile 192, which is 24
    bit/192kHz and by the picture looks like 4 in and 4 out for 179$.

    But E-MU has the same for 99$.

    There is tons of stuff though that is USB. I have no idea who makes the good stuff , nor which way to go. Hopefully sooner or later someone that really knows this stuff can tell us which way to go.

    Ron

  4. #4
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    Jun 2000
    Location
    Chandler, Arizona
    Posts
    4,045

    Re: PCI audio interface vs USB

    Definitely go for PCI over USB. I have the EMU 1212M which works okay but the EMU is a little slow on updating their drivers. It also doesn't have a mic input.

    The Echo Gina 3G gets good reviews over on the Cakewalk forum. They have great drivers and this interface includes 2 mic inputs plus headphone output. They have both XP and Vista drivers in both 32 and 64 bit.

    Jim

  5. #5

    Re: PCI audio interface vs USB

    I can vouch for the Emu card, but be aware that it does not have any mic pre's for your mic. All it has are line inputs and SPDIF (as well as MIDI). However, there are several inexpensive mic pre's on the market for less than $100 (ART makes at least one, for example, and you can search on Sweetwater.com or guitarcenter.com or something similar for other alternatives) so the Emu is still a viable option. You would connect the mic to the ART pre and then run cables from the ART pre into the Emu.

    Also, be aware that "Pro" or "Pro-sumer" level soundcards do not have synth chips onboard. They make no sounds of their own. They only serve as input/output devices. I say this just in case you're using the synth on the X-fi card to play sounds.
    Paul Baker
    Baker's Jazz And More
    Austin, Texas, USA
    www.bakersjazzandmore.com

  6. #6

    Re: PCI audio interface vs USB

    Also, since you're a Sonar user, go over to the Sonar forums (cakewalk.com - click on the FOrums tab), lurk and research, and ask all the questions you need to. The people there are very knowledgeable and willing to help newcomers.
    Paul Baker
    Baker's Jazz And More
    Austin, Texas, USA
    www.bakersjazzandmore.com

  7. #7

    Re: PCI audio interface vs USB

    Quote Originally Posted by bmdaustin View Post

    Also, be aware that "Pro" or "Pro-sumer" level soundcards do not have synth chips onboard. They make no sounds of their own. They only serve as input/output devices. I say this just in case you're using the synth on the X-fi card to play sounds.
    I have no idea where my sound comes from. I finally figured out I didn't have an orchestra in my old computer when I tore it open to add some Goat...No, make that RAM. Just Kidding, but not by much. I built my first computer 20 years ago and had it for 15 years. I am so far behind the times now, I really don't know where the sounds come from.

    I will check out The Cakewalk site. I should have thought of that earlier myself. I checked out all the old posts here and none really answered me.

    But this gives me placeds to look.

    Thanks guys

    Ron

  8. #8
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Perth, Western Australia
    Posts
    233

    Re: PCI audio interface vs USB

    Hi

    If you already have an X-Fi, you could just get an X-Fi I/O Drive Upgrade Kit. Costs around US$80.

    This little device has a mic input, as well as 1 Midi in/out, SPDIF I/O, Optical I/O auxiliary I/O and headphone out.
    http://us.creative.com/products/prod...ct=14659&nav=0

    With the mic input, there is a knob to adjust input gain on the panel. Turning the knob all the way 'off' will allow you to use this for line level input as well, such as a cassette player or an electric guitar running through a Pre-amp FX Box


    Otherwise, there is also the Live Drive, http://us.creative.com/products/prod...ct=14711&nav=1

    Personally I think that the I/O drive is better value.


    Edit: Just noticed that you want to give the card to your brother, for gaming. so this may not be a good idea after all. The above will also not work with the Extreme Audio range. Needs a Fatal1ty series or better


    Cheers...

    Daz :0)

  9. #9

    Re: PCI audio interface vs USB

    Quote Originally Posted by rolifer View Post
    I have a dell dual core w/3.0 chips and 4 gigs RAM. At present I have a creative XFI sound card. I run Vista Home Premium. I use Sibelius 5.1 and Sonar 7 Studio.

    I want to get a better soundcard. Actually what I want to do is hook up a mic to record my guitar. My brother plays games and is looking for a decent card for his games. My plan is to give him mine, once I purchase my new one.

    I have been looking at both USB and PCI audio interfaces and want to know opinions of which way to go and which specific one to buy. I am looking to stay around $200 or less and will probably buy the Rodes NT1-A Mic (a large diaphragm Condenser mic) to record the guitar. This mic needs Phantom power. I am open to suggestions on the mic as well.

    I am also looking for what not to buy as well. So if you have had problems with something, let me know as well.

    I know nothing about what I just typed, but am learning.

    Thanks

    Ron
    Hello Ron,

    I agree with Haydn that PCI is the better option than USB.

    You mention the M-Audio 192 and I have this card. As you say this has 4 in and 4 out. I don't know about any interface problems with M-Audio; my 192 is superb. There have been no problems whatsoever from the day I installed it.

    BmdAustin makes a very good point regarding pro audio cards not providing any on-board sounds. You say you don't know where your sounds come from. Do you not have GPO or some other library for your orchestral sounds? If you use just General MIDI for both orchestral work and games then your version of Windows should have a softsynth or you could go for the Roland Sound Canvas which also has GM2 sounds. However, none of these can provide anywhere near the quality of GPO for orchestral work.
    Michael
    Patience is a virtue, sensitivity is a gift

  10. #10

    Re: PCI audio interface vs USB

    Darrob

    I didn't know that Creative had these. But I have been told by many that for gaming, Creative is great, but for audio production, it leaves much to be desired. In sibelius, Creative doesn't seem to work at all.


    Michael

    I have been seriously considering the M-Audio 192. Do you know of any problems with Vista and the 192?

    I use GPO and a number of other libraries. I thought that is where my sounds came from but was thrown for a loop by BmdAustin's comment.

    So if I download any song, I will still hear it, I just can't use some of these cards to produce horrible sounds. If that is right, then who cares?

    THanks

    Ron

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