SPOT: Would like advice on Sound

wcoxe1 wrote on 1/10/2005, 11:57 AM
I have been reading a LOT of things pro and con all over this board concerning sound cards. Seems that I just don't understand a LOT. (Boy, is THAT an understatement!)

My wife is looking at an HP xw4200, 3.4GHz, 2GB RAM, 160GB HD, which, according to HP, has an integrated AC97 sound system. Means nothing to me.

I am definitiely NOT into Video as much as you are an awful lot of the others on this board. Still, I need advice. Perhaps, all the more because of that.

I see people extoling the virtues of the Sound Blaster Audigy 2, and condemning it in the next post. I can't make heads nor tails of all the fine comments on the M-Audi, E-Mu, or Echo products. I just don't know enough.

I would like something dependable, SIMPLE, and not absurdly expensive for BASIC things: Nice OUTPUT, I like classical music while I work, and the ability to do a decent Voice Over. I would LIKE it to have 5.1, but, hey, I don't have any expectations of ever doing it. ASIO, don't even understand what it is.

The machine we are looking at is primarily for high precision maps, satellite photos, big databases, and spreadsheets, I'll be sneaking time for Video when my wife isn't looking. I REALLY like to play, but the money is for the computer's real work, not video. Still, I really LOVE Vegas, and plan to do more and more of it, and of course, good sound is important.

Any recommendations for a sound card with all that bagage stated? Anything to avoid like the black death?


Laurence wrote on 1/10/2005, 1:14 PM
My name is not "Spot" but I have a dark mole under my right ear so it could have been... ;-)
The SB series, including the SB Audigy 2, are all locked at 48k. This is a problem for some musicians since CD's are at 44.1k and since that is their end product, that's what they would like to use. Video is at 48k though so for video guys this really isn't a problem. I use a Sound Blaster Audigy 2 Platinum Pro and really like it. I do plenty of audio work as well and have no problem there either: I just work at 48k and let CD Architect do the 44.1k conversion when I write CDs. The Audigy 2's surround sound implementation works well with Vegas as well. Count me as a vote for this card.
vitalforces wrote on 1/10/2005, 2:02 PM
You might look at Voyetra Turtle Beach's Santa Cruz card. About $60 and even though it's last generation, it gives wonderful sound fidelity.
daryl wrote on 1/10/2005, 2:08 PM
Hmmm,not sure what "locked in to 48k" means, I have a couple of Audigy 2's, they put out whatever rate i ask them to using Vegas or Sound Forge, they run voice quality 11.5 k up to 96k.

Onboard audio is sometime a probem, but if you can disable it and add your card of choice as an upgrade later it'll be okat though.

C ya guys.
wcoxe1 wrote on 1/10/2005, 2:53 PM
Any explanation about that "AC97 on board?" Is that just beeps and grunts?
JohnnyRoy wrote on 1/10/2005, 3:17 PM
> Hmmm,not sure what "locked in to 48k" means

It means that internally, in the hardware, the Audigy 2 is only capable of 16-bit/ 48kHz. If you ask it to do anything else, it will gladly resample whatever you want down in its software to 16/48, process it at 16/48 resolution, and then re-sample it again out to whatever you want. So while you THINK you are getting 24/48 or 16/44.1 you are getting 2x re-sampled audio with all the artifacts that go alone with it (unless you use 16/48 which just happens to be the sample rate of DV audio so strangely enough, this is not a concern for videographers). If you want the highest quality possible, you don’t want an Audigy unless you plan to work exclusively at 16-bit/48Khz.

If you don’t believe me, go to the Creative Audigy 2 ZS web page and read about their ASIO support. It clearly states:

ASIO drivers for low latency(<2ms) multi-track playback and recording at 16-bit/48kHz

This is because ASIO drivers talk DIRECTLY to the hardware so Creative can’t do any software cheats here. They must publish their HARDWARE specs with are 16-bit/48kHz internally. The chain is only as strong as its weakest link.

JohnnyRoy wrote on 1/10/2005, 3:21 PM
> Any explanation about that "AC97 on board?"

AC97 is fine for listening to DVD’s playback in 5.1 surround. It’s not built for recording but its fine to just listen to music through.

Rednroll wrote on 1/10/2005, 4:34 PM
AC97 is a soundcard built into the motherboard. In looking into buying that PC, the first thing you should be asking is how many available PCI slots does it have for peripherals? If there are no PCI slots available, then there's no need in asking about a sound card, unless you're going to look at Firewire or USB sound card options. Basically, to add hardware to a PC the motherboard needs to have available slots to plug the hardware into. In a lot of these pre-built machines they don't offer a lot of expandability for adding additional hardware. If there are available slots in the HP machine, I would recommend buying an Echo card, and don't even waste your money on an Audigy. If you're into gaming the Audigy's are fine, but if you're recording they are too noisy. Some may say, the Audigy's are fine for recording but, ask them if they've ever recorded through a professional sound card, like an Echo, M-audio, or any other professional recording sound card. Their noise floor reference is just off because they've grown acustom to the Audigy.

My name is not Spot either but I do know a couple things about audio and Vegas.
Spot|DSE wrote on 1/10/2005, 5:35 PM
You've gotten some pretty good advice here. Sorry I'm late to the party, but between CES and training the ABC folks, travel has been a bear.
I'd recommend anything from Echo or M-Audio. Avoid Creative like the plague. Whether you understand good audio or not, you'll definitely hear the difference. As Red said, Creative cards are WAY too noisy to use for any kind of recording. will show you a stream using a Creative card vs an Echo card.
I use Echo on the road and in my studio A and C rooms, we have M-Audio Deltas in the B room, not to mention my portable rack system which also has Echo cards. I also use the Echo Indigo in my laptop. No, I'm not an endorsee and am paid nothing for this message. I simply LOVE their gear, and it's what most of the Sony engineers use in their systems too.
wcoxe1 wrote on 1/10/2005, 5:45 PM
OK. Echo or M-Audio sound good. But, what am I going to do with all those things hanging on to the card. I don't really do all that much, if any recording, so which of their cards will provide a good minimum of hanging hardware?

Hearing a difference, that I can understand, but will that only be in what I record, or in playback of something already recorded.
Tattoo wrote on 1/10/2005, 6:09 PM
Was looking at the M-Audio options. Read a user review that said the M-Audio (OmniStudio, I think) didn't have the connector from the CD player and that normal Windows programs (like MusicMatch jukebox) couldn't use their built in volume adjustment - had to use the physical volume knob on your speakers.

Basically said it was a great audio setup for recording enthusiasts, but not for the average joe. I realize many internet reviews aren't worth the nanometer of hard drive space they take up, but would love to hear from you M-Audio users (and Echo, for that matter): Do you use the M-Audio card as your only sound card, and if so, is that on your "everyday" computer or do you have a computer dedicated to video/audio applications?

Bluemoon wrote on 1/10/2005, 8:00 PM
I use the m-audio delta 66 audio card as the only audio card on my pc. I've got the Omni I/O box connected to it for input. I use the pc for recording mostly and some video. The value of the sound card depends on your purpose and your 'system'. If you are going to be listening to your audio through stock pc speakers and not recording much then it might be too expensive for you, but the Omni studio set up is relatively cheap. I've never had any problems using volume controls on windows media player or winamp. I don't remember if I've tried the music match software.
planders wrote on 1/10/2005, 9:12 PM

I'm also an ex-Audigy user. That card is indeed great for games, but very awkward as a recording tool--and the recording quality is definitely lower than that of the other cards mentioned here.

If all you need is a 2-in, 2-out card, you don't have to worry about external boxes. My "spare" computer has an Echo MiaMIDI; it appears that the specs for this card are the same as their external Layla, and for an internal card it's as noise-free as I've heard. I'm sure that the M-Audio Audiophile would be similar, but I have no experience with their cards; based on reviews here and elsewhere, I thought that Echo was the safer bet. I also have a (brand new) Layla3G on my main workstation, and the Indigo IO for my laptop--which I frequently use to run FX and music cues for my local live theatre group. I'd definitely buy any of these cards again. And I'm anxious to see their FireWire units, which are apparently out next month.
Rednroll wrote on 1/11/2005, 6:11 AM
Take a look at the Echo Gina. I believe the latest Gina has 2 Analog inputs, 1 s/pdif stereo digital input, 6 analog outs, and 1 s/pdif digital out. Giving it a total of 4in/8out. For a 5.1 monitoring system, you need at least 6 outputs, which the Gina has with it's 6 analog outputs. The nice thing about the Gina cards, if you decide later you need more I/O you can add multiple Echo cards on the same PC. I've been running dual Gina's with Vegas for the past 6 years with solid performance.
Laurence wrote on 1/11/2005, 7:18 AM
I still like my Audigy 2 Platinum Pro even though it's on most people's "avoid list". I do have external converters on both the front and back end though so I guess it's not fair of me to judge the sound quality. I had these long before I had the Audigy 2 because until recently, none of the soundcard converters sounded that great to my ears.
craftech wrote on 1/11/2005, 8:40 AM
The M-Audio Audiophile 2496 has dropped tremendously in price. $99.95 with free shipping. I paid $80 more when I bought mine.
Here are some reviews:
Home Recording Connection