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Old June 26th, 2005, 07:47 AM   #1
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Audio Interface - Firewire or PCI?

Planning to add to or replace the Dell OEM Soundblaster Audigy card in my desktop with a real audio interface soon. Computer is intended to be used for as a video editing and sound editing / mixing / recording workstation but don't anticpate signifigant music creation needs at present. Debating the merits of a PCI card versus Firewire based interface. For example, the MOTU 2408 and 828 seem quite close to each other in general specification, the principal difference being how they connect to the host computer. Disregarding other factors and just looking at the method of connection, what would folks choose, and why? Is there a compelling performance reason to go one connection method or the other, all other things being equal? I know Firewire would give me portability so I could, for instance, take it and a laptop on location but what I'm interested in here is if there are any inherent performance differences between a native PCI card interface versus an external Firewire interface connecting to a PCI card 1394 port?

In a related issue, according to their tech support at least one PCI card, the Emu1820m, isn't compatible with other soundcards such as the Audigy in the system. I assume this would generally be true with other PCI interface cards as well. But can a Firewire interface peacefully coexist with another sound card? Or should I even worry about it, the Audigy becoming redundent anyway once another multichannel audio device is installed? (I don't want to lose the ability to play the occasional Dolby Digital Surround DVD on my multimedia speakers. I should note that this OEM version of the Audigy 2 does not support S/PDIF output or hardware DD/DTS decoding so the decoding is presently done in software anyway. So is a product like PowerDVD that provides DD/DTS/DVD-A decoding in software likely to work properly with a "real" audio interface of either stripe?)

For what it's worth, except for possibly MS Flight Simulator gaming is simply not of any interest so any playback or multimedia issues related to games are not at all a factor.

Opinions and suggestions eagerly awaited....
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Old June 26th, 2005, 12:30 PM   #2
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I would go for a firewire or USB2 device. that keeps all your audio recording electronics away from your noisy computer electronics, also, I currently have an emu 0404(PCI) in my box, it's cheap and records well, however it is a pain in the 4ss for anything else and doesn't play nice with other sound cards.... I think I am ultimately going to switch to an external device. Mark
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Old June 26th, 2005, 10:25 PM   #3
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I own the MOTU 1224 interface, which is directly compatible with the 2408 unit. I absolutely love the audio quality. Note that these devices (the 1224, 2408, and 24i) utilize AudioWire technology, a proprietary MOTU interface for connecting to the PCI-324 card in the computer. It looks like a Firewire port but it isn't. On the other hand, the AudioWire is all digital, meaning that even though it takes a PCI card, all of the analog audio circuitry is in the external unit.

I have it configured alongside my onboard nVidia sound device and have had no conflicts to speak of yet. The PCI-324 card can be picky about motherboard chipsets, though. I had to replace my old motherboard (with an Ali chipset) with a new one (nVidia nForce2 chipset) to get it to work. Supposedly Intel chipsets are best.

I imagine their new true Firewire devices are very comparible in audio quality, and like you say, offer flexibility with laptops and such. Firewire may work slightly better than USB due to the nature of audio versus the burst data transfer I've heard USB can have (I could be wrong on this, but it seems logical), but we're probably splitting hairs here (especially with USB2 now).

The 1224 has 10 analog outputs and 8 analog inputs (all balanced) which can be used simultaneously. Drivers can occasionally be glitchy, but I haven't updated them in awhile. I have not yet found a way to output surround sound with it. One of these days I may spring for the 24i expansion unit (one PCI card can host three rackmount interfaces) for a mind-boggling 32 total inputs! Live band tracking, here I come!
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Old June 27th, 2005, 11:18 AM   #4
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one argument in favor of pci would be that if you'll be using the interface simultaneous with capture and playback of video over firewire, it's usually preferred to just have one high-bandwidth device at a time running on your firewire bus.
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Old June 27th, 2005, 09:35 PM   #5
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I'm surprised Spot has responded; must be on the road. I've heard him recommend PCI first, Firewire second and USB last.

Good luck.

Dennis
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Old June 27th, 2005, 09:45 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dennis Vogel
I'm surprised Spot has responded; must be on the road. I've heard him recommend PCI first, Firewire second and USB last.

Good luck.

Dennis
That's pretty much the truth. PCI is able to support higher sampling rate/bit depth combinations than the other 2 methods. Firewire is fast, but it's not PCI.

-gb-
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Old June 28th, 2005, 12:30 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Greg Boston
That's pretty much the truth. PCI is able to support higher sampling rate/bit depth combinations than the other 2 methods. Firewire is fast, but it's not PCI.

-gb-
Well I suppose if you were interested in recording some multitrack super audiophile 24/96 audio then firewire might have a bandwidth problem, but for a stereo feed it's not an issue. And if the recording is going to be an audio track on a DVD video then it's probably going to be squashed into an AC3 stream, or at most 16/44 PCM, so I am not sure there is much point to recording HD audio. I would buy what you need right now, or what you'll need in 6 months. Multitrack music recording capabilities which you may or may not, use later will cost more money, add complexity to your rig, and potentially become obsolete before you use them...
Having a PCI card currently, I would be interested in the merits of it, versus a firewire, or USB2 device such as the tascam US122 for about $200

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Old June 28th, 2005, 12:36 PM   #8
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Actually, firewire can handle 24/96 but that's pretty much the upper limit. I agree about not needing to do super high quality audio on some projects.

-gb-
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Old June 28th, 2005, 05:55 PM   #9
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Greg and MArk

I agree with your points and don't anticipate the need for super duper music scooper levels as the ultimate target target will be DV tape and DVD. I *hope* I prove good enough at this to eventually make it to the indie film, festival, and commercial broadcast level so planning a setup that would grow into that level without requiring a total replacement at some point down the line. Since I'm seeking to be a video professional who realizes the importance of superb audio in his productions I want to go with professional quality all down the line. I'd also like to include lcoation music recording in my repertoire. Even so, from what I can acertain 24bit/96kHz is more than suitable.

At the moment trying to put together a setup that incoorpates both a decent pro-level video NLE workstation for projects shot on an XL2 or similar and a pro-level DAW all in one workstation that can handle multitrack sound editing, narration and effects recording in studio, Foley and light ADR if needed, and music mix from library music, Acid or Sonicfire, and also location recording of performances to both accompany the video projects and also as stand-alone music CD releases. An example of what I mean, a local semi-professional chamber orchestra and chorale does a concert each christmas - thinking of both shooting a video of the performance and at the same time making a professional quality sound recording to burn to CD and offer as a package with the video DVD and hope to assemble a single workstation that would allow me to do both.
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Old June 29th, 2005, 10:59 PM   #10
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Hi Steve,

I can highly recommmend the M-Audio Delta 1010LT PCI card. I believe it will do just about anything you've mentioned.

I use mine with Vegas and its great. Balanced and unbalanced inputs, 8 outs, midi (for a control surface) and good specs.

Cheers,

-Matt
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Old June 29th, 2005, 11:44 PM   #11
 
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The Delta is a great card, the 410 is a great card...I'm always in favor of PCI vs Firewire when the choice is available and the budget supports it.
You'll find it rare to need to go greater than 24/48K on most things, but it's nice to have the option. Heck, might as well have the option for high def audio too....24/192
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