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Old August 4th, 2005, 12:20 AM   #1
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PCI Audio Interface Card Advice

Getting close to a new audio interface purchase for editing computer. Would like user comments and feedback on which of the following PC interfaces might be best for audio for video editing and mixing.

Notes on the context: Will be doing limited live recording at present and when I do an external mixer with preamps will be added for input so having on-card mic preamps is not a factor one way or the other. May however be recording analog or digital audio to capture from location sound recorded double system or production music recordings etc. Want to be able to edit, mix and sweeten music, SFX, dialog, general sound design etc properly. Mixing to stereo and 5.1, delivery mostly on DV, DVD, and probably some VHS. Audio software under consideration includes Audition, Acid, Soundforge, Audacity, Vegas, and/or Nuendo (have seen some recent discussion about Traktion that sounds interesting for recording so will be looking at it as well) - am really starting to like the looks of Nuendo but holding off on final software decisions until I've had chance for a bit more hands on with them so this post is hardware rather than software related. Using a Contour shuttle at the moment and planning on a Mackie Control for the user interface as soon as the budget permits. Analog video I/O and capture of digital video sources probably with a Canopus AVC110, 300, or ACEDVio and of course also direct Firewire from the camera. So when it comes down to the soundcard to go with all this ...

Considering only PCI card interfaces for the moment and narrowing it down to the following options, what are people's reactions to and opinions one way or the other on ...

Delta 1010
Echo Layala
MOTU 2408
Emu 1820m
and just to be fair
SB Audigy 4 Pro
SB Audigy 2 ZX

Guess I'm trying to say I want to set up a class "A" audio-for-video mixing and editing suite but not a music recording or MIDI composing studio. If you could take your pick for a Windows-based DAW with very limited live studio recording but strong multi-channel mixing and sound design requirements and using the above mentioned software/hardware, which would you choose and why?

I'm pretty sure I already understand the answer to this one but tossing another question out to the group to make sure I haven't overlooked anything, how does the number of channels in the sound card effect the number of tracks one can work with in the editor at any one time, or does it? As far as recording from the inputs, it's obvious that if the card has 8 input channels, there can only be a max of 8 separate tracks being recorded at once but on the output side, if there are 8 output channels does that mean you can mix an unlimited number of tracks into a maximum of up to 8 output streams or does it mean you only work mixing 8 tracks on the timeline at a time? Again, obviously if you use some hardware signal processing during the mix - external hardware compressors and equalizers for example - each one you use will require a pair of I/O ports for its sends and returns but for the moment lets say all processing will be done strictly in software. In that case does the number of output channels on the card only affect monitoring and final analog I/O or does it also limit the number of tracks that can be worked with any one time in the editing software? If we were working with an unspecified number of multiple files that were already on the computer in WAV format, mixing them down into multiple tracks and ultimately rendering the mix back to saved WAV format or AC3 files on the PC with no external hardware processing or analog output required, and were willing to work deaf with regard to monitoring, would we even need an audio interface in the system at all or could we do it all with software on an otherwise basic PC?
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Old August 4th, 2005, 02:48 AM   #2
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Hi Steve,

I can't say anything but good things about the Delta 1010LT. I needed an audio monitoring upgrade and MIDI in/out for my Mackie Control and it fit the bill.

As for monitoring, each piece of software might it a bit differently and you may want to make sure that whatever you use supports the audio solution considered. I use Vegas and ASIO drivers, regularly monitor full surround mixes. Every audio track is assigned to a bus, and these busses are routed to the sound card outs. So technically, you can have as many audio tracks as the software is capable assigned to one or more channels.

I've heard good things about the Echo Layla as well, but cannot personally vouch for it. I've also heard that Audigy cards should be avoided in an application like this; the DACs are not quite up to snuff.

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Old August 4th, 2005, 07:55 AM   #3
 
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Wow! Quite a broad range there.
I'd highly recommend the Echo Layla, the M-Audio Delta 1010 as I have both. In the PC world, I can't recommend the MOTU, but in the Mac world, they are super sweet. (driver issues, not hardware issues, and their PC tech support stinks) The Emu is too new to know, but know that Emu is part of Creative.
As far as the Audigy well...if I were on a deserted island and had no internet/UPS delivery and found one on the beach....I'd use it. Otherwise, not a chance. Lots of coloration, poor DACs, lots of noise...a very nice looking consumer interface with driver issues.
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Old August 4th, 2005, 09:38 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Douglas Spotted Eagle
Wow! Quite a broad range there.
I'd highly recommend the Echo Layla, the M-Audio Delta 1010 as I have both. In the PC world, I can't recommend the MOTU, but in the Mac world, they are super sweet. (driver issues, not hardware issues, and their PC tech support stinks) The Emu is too new to know, but know that Emu is part of Creative.
As far as the Audigy well...if I were on a deserted island and had no internet/UPS delivery and found one on the beach....I'd use it. Otherwise, not a chance. Lots of coloration, poor DACs, lots of noise...a very nice looking consumer interface with driver issues.
LOL - thanks. Not THAT broad a range in terms of pricing, not compared to the big boy's multi kilobuck interfaces. As Ty said the other day, you can buy good once or buy cheap a lot so the quality and usability issues are far more important determiners than the price issues, within reason of course. Was a little wordy and disorganized, writing at 1am as I was (and I tend to be wordy and rambling anyway). Was trying to say I'm setting up an audio-for-video DAW for professional level editing, mixing, sweetening, and rendering of DV audio, double system dialog and location sound, production music and sound effects libraries, and loop-based music, very limited studio recording mainly of voice over and ADR, but probably no live music recording or midi composing/recording as I'm not a musician. Location sound might include performance music however. Output to be stereo and/or 5.1 surround mixes.

Your prioritizing was pretty much what I was already thinking and only listed the Audigys in order to give them a fair chance. Have been most favouring the Delta and Layla cards, recently leaning mostly towards the Layla. When or if the need arises, for live recording mixing at the analog source level have been thinking of a Mackie Onyx perhaps with its internal firewire interface card when the need begins to justify the cost.
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Old August 4th, 2005, 09:41 AM   #5
 
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FWIW, the converters that drive the Onyx are the same converters that drive the Layla, I believe. Echo Audio developed the hardware/software for the Onyx series boards for Mackie. You'd be happy with either. Keep in mind that with the Mackie, you don't have multiple outputs, just stereo over firewire.
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Old August 4th, 2005, 09:53 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Douglas Spotted Eagle
FWIW, the converters that drive the Onyx are the same converters that drive the Layla, I believe. Echo Audio developed the hardware/software for the Onyx series boards for Mackie. You'd be happy with either. Keep in mind that with the Mackie, you don't have multiple outputs, just stereo over firewire.
According to the OnyxFire manual I dl'd from the Mackie site, it has up to 18 channels output, 12 or 16 pre-fader directs off of each input channel strip plus 2 channels L/R mix and 2 channels returning for monitoring.
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Old August 4th, 2005, 10:24 AM   #7
 
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That's correct. But not over firewire, unlessyou buy the firewire kit.
http://www.mackie.com/products/onyxfirewire/
I probably should have been more clear about that. Sometimes I'm too quick on the "submit" button. :-)

Additionally, you can only monitor a stereo mix from the computer. In other words, if you're expecting the Onyx, which is a very fine console, to act as an I/O card like a Delta or Echo Layla, it won't. It's a different animal, not designed to work this way.
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Old August 4th, 2005, 10:51 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Douglas Spotted Eagle
That's correct. But not over firewire, unlessyou buy the firewire kit.
http://www.mackie.com/products/onyxfirewire/
I probably should have been more clear about that. Sometimes I'm too quick on the "submit" button. :-)

Additionally, you can only monitor a stereo mix from the computer. In other words, if you're expecting the Onyx, which is a very fine console, to act as an I/O card like a Delta or Echo Layla, it won't. It's a different animal, not designed to work this way.
Oh yes, I undestand that. Was thinking of it in addition to the PCI card, not a replacement for it.
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Old August 4th, 2005, 09:25 PM   #9
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As you already know, the Audigy probably don't belong in the same category with the others. I can't remember if it's the same for the Audigy 4, but I've read several times that the Audigy 2 resamples everything to some set rate internally (48kHz maybe?) and then back to whatever sample rate you have set, which seems a little crazy if it's true. Also, do the Audigy cards have ASIO drivers? You'll want ASIO for any serious recording in Cubase or whatever recording program you'll be using. Maybe the Audigy cards come with them, but I'm not sure. In any case, Audigy cards are more geared toward gamers.

Based on what I've read, the 1820M A/D converters are the best of the group in your list, but their drivers can be spotty for some users. Meanwhile, the Echo Layla gets high marks all around, and the M-Audio Delta cards are uniformly praised for rock solid, low latency drivers. If I were in your shoes, I think I'd pick the Layla, followed by the 1010LT, then the 1820M. RME's Fireface 800 is another new card getting good reviews for great sound and good drivers, although it's about twice the cost of the ones you've listed.
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Old August 5th, 2005, 06:51 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian Kennedy
As you already know, the Audigy probably don't belong in the same category with the others. ... Also, do the Audigy cards have ASIO drivers? You'll want ASIO for any serious recording in Cubase or whatever recording program you'll be using. Maybe the Audigy cards come with them, but I'm not sure. ...
Yes, there definitely are ASIO drivers for the Audigy cards. Right now I have a Dell supplied OEM version of the basic Audigy 2 zx card installed and can use the Creative ASIO drivers in applications that support it.

Quote:
RME's Fireface 800 is another new card getting good reviews for great sound and good drivers, although it's about twice the cost of the ones you've listed.
Yep - the MOTU's cost is just about the max I can go. While budget is not a big factor in choosing between the ones listed, it really can't go much higher for this part of the setup. And the Layla, Delta, and EMU are close enough in cost here locally that it's really not a signifigant factor at all in choosing between them.
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Old August 5th, 2005, 07:06 AM   #11
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I've only got the Audigy 1, but it even came with a limited version of Cubase. It may not be in the same league as a Motu, but it does what it is supposed to. The breakout box is the best thing I ever got, as I can jack in through the front now.
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