I would gladly be using the Search function to find clues to some current questions I have, but the Search doesn't work for me--I'm just a lowly moderator ya know. It always says I don't have permission or access or some such craziness.
I've finally gotten a laptop since I'll be traveling soon and need a mobile verison of my home studio on it. I've finally gotten my key programs on it, Sonar, Sibelius, Sound Forge, and, but of course, all my Garritan libraries.
I'll be doing some music work, and not just by mouse. I'll be adding as small a MIDI keyboard as possible (KORG nano-keys due to come out soon---that's what I'd like)--but I can already see that the built in sound card probably isn't up to the tasks I want to do.
It's a great laptop, 4 gigs ram, Dual Core, 200 gig storage space--It's an HP Pavillion, aimed at being an entertainment center. But as usual with built in cards, I'm rather sure it doesn't have the specs I need--um, for instance, there's no ASIO available for it apparently.
I've Googled and seen for the first time these tiny USB sound cards designed for laptops. Is that what I'll be needing to get--after a pretty big ticket price I've already gone through with the laptop?--Probably so--I thought perhaps someone here could help me find a suitable USB card so I can bypass this built in card, whatever it is. I've seen some of these in the 3 to 4 hundred $ range--um, that's not in the budget.
SO--if you have info on this topic, I'd appreciate hearing it!
I can't think of a single laptop containing an onboard with enough horsepower to handle our audio applications, so don't worry having made a bad decision about that part. Personally I use a Focusrite Saffire with my laptop and it plays quite nice. A bit out of your desired budget though.
I recommend the M-Audio Fast Track Pro to a lot of people, and for the needs you've described I think it will work well. It runs at 24-bit/96K, has ASIO drivers, and officially supports Vista 32-bit (but not 64). It should have enough inputs and outputs to handle all of your needs, and its only physical drawback is the wall wart of a power supply. Retails for $199 at Sweetwater.
The EMU 0202 and 0404 models are also sound units and would do what you're looking for, featuring ASIO, 24/192K capability, and converters said to be better than the FTP's, though I've never compared them. Their latest official drivers support both 32 and 64 bit versions of XP and Vista. Pricing for the 0202 and 0404 are $99 and $199, respectively.
If those options don't float well, here's the usual set of questions to help narrow the playing field:
How many inputs, if any, do you need for recording (mics/lines in)?
Do you need mic preamps? With phantom?
How many outputs (headphones/dual monitoring)?
We know you can do USB, but is Firewire an option?
Need MIDI support or will the keyboards have their own USB connection?
Max sample rate? (96K is usually plenty)
What's the price range you're looking in? Sub $200 or so?