I'm not sure about other operating systems, but if you're using Win2K I wouldn't advise you buy an Maudio card. I'll just refer to my previous post (today, in fact) on this rather than repeat myself here:
I run Window's XP with am M-Audio Delta 1010 just perfectly; I did; however, switch my computer from ACPI mode to standard PC mode.
What's that you may ask?
I believe that W2K runs in this mode,XP definitely does unless you disable it.
ACPI has to do with power saving features, shut down, and driver sharing. The driver sharing is where DAW's (Digital Audio Workstations) has trouble with the ACPI mode. If your device is forced to share and IRQ, many sound cards are unhappy, and spit and sputter to no end, especially at lower latencies.
ACPI seems to force all of your devices to use only a few IRQ's.
Alas, the solution to switching to Standard Mode from ACPI mode can be very dangerous. I did it just fine on my computer by simply going into the device manager and disabling ACPI mode. My computer then gave me a choice to switch to standard PC mode. It had to reinstall all of the drivers, but everything has been working fine ever since with absolutely no trouble with my sound card, which I made sure was not sharing an IRQ.
Let me put out a big WARNING! You might really foul up your computer by doing this. It is recommended to completely start from scratch and reinstall XP. When it gives you the option to set up SCSI device by pressing F6, you press F5 and it will install in standard PC mode.
The drawback is that many of the power saving functions (i.e. sleep mode) are not available. Also, you actually have to press the off button after your computer shuts down. A small price to pay for a stable DAW.
This process took care of all the crackles and pops I was hearing from the Delta 1010, and any loss of sync/control, etc.
There are folk out there who know more about this than I do, so if you are considering this to help out with the sound card, I suggest you do a bit more research by maybe checking out other audio NG's.
I am not sure about the ACPI mode for WIN98SE. I do know; however, that I have had my M-Audio for 3 OS's and it has worked fine for all as long as I used the appropriate driver from their website. www.midiman.com
I think the main thing is to make sure that the M-Audio card in not sharing an IRQ with another device. It may tell you there are no conflicts, but it can still cause trouble.
In the Pro Audio world, M-Audio is pretty highly rated, though there are complaints about it, as well almost all the other similar devices.
Using Delta's on a couple computers here, both XP and Win2K. The Delta is really solid, unless you are running a cheap motherboard and have the old VIA drivers/Bios. Once these are updated, even the cheap motherboards stabilize with MAudio.
I'm running ACPI with an Omnistudio on a VIA motherboard (Abit KR7A-RAID) and I have to say it's working fine - HOWEVER, one important reason it's working fine is that a fellow named George Breese who frequents www.viahardware.com is a VIA chipset guru. He's written a patch which adjusts various registers at bootup, promoting higher efficiency on the VIA PCI bus. Without his patch I notice the odd audio crackling, with it I don't. While it makes me question my purchase decision (granted, I'm running a kick ass system for a great price), it moreso makes me thankful for folks like George who are willing to do more QA testing than the actual manufacturers of the mainboards.
In Win98SE you can't use the latest .41 drivers. - 70% of the time recordings crackle. However if you go back to the .27 drivers - these appear to work reliably - though I have not tested it thoroughly with all sampling frequencies. In your position - I wouldn't go M-Audio again. But then - I wouldn't go VV3 either as it doesn't work with the newer Plextor drives either...
Sonic seem to have gone downhill rapidly both in their programming and marketing in last couple of years.