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Audio interface for PC. USB, FW or PCI? Help a newbie!

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by Kipaste, Mar 29, 2009.

  1. Kipaste


    Jun 27, 2006
    Helsinki, Finland

    I'm starting to build a small home studio for my own fun, no need for many channels, as I would be recording one (two at most) track at a time, but I do need the connections for a mic and a midi device.
    I really don't know practically anything about this stuff. USB deviced are really cheap, but are they slow too?

    Oh yeah, the computer I'm using is an amd dualcore 2,8 ghz with 3gb or ram if it matters.

    I've been looking at m audio products. I'm on a very limited, around 250-300$ retail price budget (I live in Europe so discounts don't really apply here)

    The fast track pro USB model has all the connections I need and is very affordable. Would the latency be a problem?

    Around the same price I could buy a firewire solo, which has way less connections, especially I'd miss the midi connection. Also I would have to buy a firewire pci card to get a FW port which makes it even more expensive as well as a midi port of some sort, so this would be the most expensive option.

    And the last option would be the PCI card Delta 1010LT. It would have the best connections/price/speed rate, but I'd really like a controller that could be operated by hand, not just virtually, so I would probably have to buy a small mixer or something too which would make it a bit expensive also.

    I've been looking for m audio products because of the m powered pro tools, but I could get a ableton live 7 from a friend who has no use for it. So is there any point in considering the pro tools? Mostly I'd need the midi operated sampler or whatever it's called for the midi drumpads and keyboard.

    Also any suggestion for other makers products would really be appreciated. I've also looked at line6 products, but since I used to own a bass pod xt so I'm a bit sceptical about them.

    Thanks for anyone who takes the time to help me here!
  2. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    When you record into the PC, do you expect to add effects and reverb and hear it realtime as you record?

    If no, then any interface will work.
    If yes - then you may need to worry about what gets your signal into the digital domain the fastest, allows it be processed, and sent back out to the analog domain so you can hear it in realtime.

    In any case, you may be recording just one or two tracks, so many including USB can work for you. As you record you may be playing back multiple tracks while you record the one or two. In this case, you may need something faster.

    I use PCI now because of Directwire. But it is available on firewire also. Directwire is just too handy, I'd miss it if an my interface didn't have it:

    If you have PCI slots or express bus, you really can't beat them for throughput. If you ever want to take something on the road, then you might want USB. Laptops are now coming with express bus. This will probably be the way I go in the future.
  3. Kipaste


    Jun 27, 2006
    Helsinki, Finland
    Thanks for the reply!

    Now that I think of it, I'll probably go with PCI. The m-audio 2496 card and a 8 channel mixer is still cheaper than any of the other options and has all the inputs I'll need at home. Firewire would just be too expensive.

    I could've probably gone with the USB on bass where I don't wan't any plug ins or computer effects, just the combination of mic and a DI. But for the midi keyboard and drum pads, I'll need more speed.

    I have one question though, what is that directwire and what does it do? I know I'm supposed to understand something from the picture but to be honest, it's just picture of wires and weird abbreviations for me :) I've heard of ASIO, but the rest is just gibberish...
  4. kraigo


    Jun 21, 2007
    Minneapolis, MN
    I've had reasonable luck with my PreSonus FireBox. It's as full-featured as I want. I'm moving to a desktop machine and I'm not sure how well it will do with a 64 bit OS, so I'm looking around, too.

    I recommend Firewire or USB so it's easier to move the interface to different machines if you want to.

  5. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    It's basically a digital patch bay. It will let you route sound from one program to another and keep it all in the digital domain - no loss or noise. It's at a hardware level so there's no software settings or copy protection schemes to to monkey with.

    "Input" is the physical input on the card.
    "MME" is Wave API
    "WDM" is Windows Driver Model is what most the non-pro sound cards now use.
    "ASIO" you know, everyone should at least be running asio4all.
    GSIF - is the now defunct Gigastudio interface from Tascam
  6. 2minkey


    Apr 23, 2006
    i would do the echo audio audiofire4. or tc electronic konnekt. these seem to get the best reviews of anything in your price range. i have an audiofire8 and it is noticeably better sounding that my M-Audio delta 66. also check gearslutz.com forums and do some searches there. a ton of stuff on various interfaces.
  7. Love my Presonus Firepod :)
  8. chjohnst


    Nov 24, 2008
    I have a Line 6 UX1 for personal recording which is USB, works fine. For my studio recording I have a Presonus Firestudio Tube which is firewire. I was able to push 6 mics on my drums, DI for bass, mic for bass and a guitar mic without any noticeable latency. I dont think USB would be able to handle that many live streams happening at once.
  9. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    Guess what also works as a USB interface:
    The Zoom H2 (other zoom models may also but I don't know)
    The H2 has ASIO drivers. I've been playing with it today. Surprisingly low latency. 2 channels. Use the built in mics, or it takes a line input.

    You can use the H2 as an USB PC interface, or carry it in your pocket to record your rehearsals or gigs. Amazing tool.

    ASIO drivers are here:
  10. lbanks


    Jul 17, 2003
    Ennui, IN USA
    I use one of these...
    Only problem I have is, sometimes it forgets how to use its software(X-edit). Seen them in the local pawnshop for less than $250.
  11. groooooove

    groooooove Supporting Member

    Dec 17, 2008
    Long Island, NY
    im also interested in the m audio USB interfaces.. using 6 inputs at a time to record a live band, i wonder if i would get half decent quality recordings. has anyone tried these?
  12. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    The M-Audio Fast Track Ultra looks really good for a band. I have no personal experience but it would be one I'd consider.

    Why - is the separate on board monitor mixes and built in DSP to allow reverb/delay just to the monitor mix. Singers are going to want reverb their monitor mix. To record right you'll want to record them dry and add reverb during mix down. The M-Audio lets you do both at the same time. With separate monitor mixes people can hear themselves better while you record sensible levels. You'll have a better chance of handling all the inputs if you don't run effects on the PC during recording, the built in DSP off loads this from the CPU. The built in monitoring also could allow you to add more latency if your PC has a hard time keeping up - it won't matter because you'll be hearing a direct mix.

    M-Audio generally makes good stuff that lives up to their claims.
  13. groooooove

    groooooove Supporting Member

    Dec 17, 2008
    Long Island, NY
    im glad to hear this..ever since i realised my new macbook diddnt have firewire, i thought i was screwed out of any chances of getting some home recording done.. and before this ive never heard anyone say it was worth even trying a USB interface..

    ill probobly buy one soon.. info on how it is soon to come..
  14. babaseen

    babaseen The BJFE Blueberry for sale Supporting Member

    Apr 15, 2001
    Boston, MA
    I tried both and settled with the Behringer FCA202 since I had an extra Firewire port but the USB interfaces work well too.

    By the way I have a M-Audio JamLab and a Behringer UCG102 for sale. PM me if you are interested.


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