I'm curious: Why would you prefer a FW device over and PCI/PCIe? If I didn't do remote or use a laptop (which I don't), I'd choose an internal card 100% of the time. I do agree that USB is a poor choice unless one never has high track counts or needs to record more than 1 or 2 channels.
Good question. This is an upgrade for me from a SB Live Platinum. I'm building up a new computer.
I don't do anything with Vegas on a professional level. I do edit video and audio for personal and home use. Two inputs (left/right) is the minimum. Preamp mic inputs might be kind of fun to have, but not necessary. I'm also hoping this card would replace all the basic functions of a standard SB card.
Open to any (not just M-audio) cards. I'm not sure I see the advantage of a USB interface...especially with USB 2 and USB 3 now here.
I prefer the Echo Audio cards over the Maudio but they both are good and have shown to work well with Sony apps, especially the Echo units. I would certainly consider the AudioFire 2 or 4 or the MiaMidi for your needs (www.echoaudio.com). Just make sure when you build your computer that you install a firewire card with the Texas Instruments chipset. You may be able to a get a mobo that has this onboard.
And I would agree in that case. My question was prompted primarily because the OP seemed implicit that his computer was a desktop - full sized unit, and did not mention anything about the need for portability.
Any of the interfaces mentioned will be a major step up from what you have. I have a Digi002 rack (firewire), an M-Audio 1814 (firewire), and an M-Audio Audiophile 192 (PCI).
With recording, it seems you can continue to "upgrade" until the cows come home. And that means spending more and more money.
I would suggest that you consider something that connects via firewire. Make sure your computer has a FW card or on-board FW that uses a TI chipset. This is very very important. I am the second person on this thread telling you this.
To me, the most important thing about your new interface is that it has very good AD/DA converters. Next, it should allow you to connect your current devices and allow for some future ones. At some point you will likely want to add a microphone or two so a couple of transparent preamps with phantom power should be included. Midi connections aren't as important as they used to be because most new midi devices connect just fine via USB.
Firewire interfaces are portable and have breakout boxes that will allow you to connect your devices without crawling behind your computer. Firewire also allows for greater, consistent throughput than USB so you will be able to hook more stuff up to it and not have to worry about limits.
FWIW, none of the input devices I have have really good converters. For most things I record, I use the converters in my Focusrite ISA 430 Mk ll or Octopre.
In the long run, it is better to save your money and buy decent equipment rather than continually upgrading. You will spend less money this way. You will never regret getting a good quality audio interface with good converters and a couple of good, transparent preamps. Be patient, do your research, make sure what you buy will run well on the computer that you have or will buy and is compatible with the software you want to use.
Not to slam Guitar Center or the other large stores, but usually the sales reps don't know what they are talking about. Sweetwater is the exception - they do give good advice, especially about compatibilty of equipment.