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Old March 21st, 2011, 01:55 PM   #1
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A Last question regarding USB soundcards

I see lot of people saying that the SoundBlaster is yesterdays card and that an external USB device such as the Focusrite, M-Audio USBpre 2 is a much better option.

Can someone explain to me the difference in real terms rather than tech specs. It seems impossible to get a demo of any of these devices and I don't fancy spending £150 to £600 on something I can't hear or get any convincing reason to buy.

I recently purchased a set of M-Audio A40 monitor speakers based on reviews and I am not that impressed so far. Would a better USB soundcard noticeably improve performance? For pop music they seem OK, but when it comes to Mahler's 2 symphony then it might just as well come out from the Creative speakers I just binned.

Any thoughts or views please?
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Old March 21st, 2011, 06:09 PM   #2
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Re: A Last question regarding USB soundcards

The M-Audio monitors are pretty marginal as serious monitors go - a major step up from computer "multimedia" speakers to be sure but still not quite into the territory of serious studio monitors. As to why they are not delivering on Mahler, there's only so much you can get out of a 4-inch woofer. Also, monitors are designed to be flat and you're probably used to hearing an over-hyped bass on the speakers you replaced.

As to what an improved external interface will do for you, the real difference is going to be on the mic inputs rather than the line outputs. Cleaner preamps and better S/N ratios (both I and O on the latter) than an internal card.

My monitors do just fine with Mahler et al but then I'm feeding a pair of JBL Pro LSR4328 (£950 the pair) with an Echo Audiofire 8 firewire interface. IMHO that represents an entry-level system for mixing.
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Old March 22nd, 2011, 01:57 AM   #3
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Re: A Last question regarding USB soundcards

Thank you Steve, yes I can see (and hear) the M-Audio speakers are just a step up from my previous computer speakers. I did listen to these in the store before making the purchase. The trouble was that the only music they had was head banging rap and other loud pop songs. However, I have no intention to record the London Symphony Orchestra, nor use the speaker to listen to music, I just need them for editing voice over tracks for my DVD productions.

Regarding the USB device, I am moving in the direction of the USBPre 2. This may be an overkill for my needs, but it does look like it will do the job for the next few years. I presume that I can still play the audio timeline and other sounds from my PC using this device.

I will also probably end up replacing the speakers t a later stage - you are an expensive advisor Steve, but I appreciate you taking the time to reply to my post's - Thank you.
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Old March 22nd, 2011, 04:16 AM   #4
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Re: A Last question regarding USB soundcards

Your AV-40s should be just fine for editing dialog and voice-over but mixing final tracks is more demanding.
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Old March 22nd, 2011, 06:06 AM   #5
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Re: A Last question regarding USB soundcards

Thanks for the input Steve, I have just ordered a Presonus FireStudio Mobile together with a Rode NT1a mike - bundle deal for £329. I did like the look and features of the USBPre 2, but not the price. Hope I don't regret it :-]
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Old April 1st, 2011, 02:06 PM   #6
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Re: A Last question regarding USB soundcards

Just for interest, I ditched the M-Audio A40 speakers (took them back and got a full refund) The quality of sound was dreadful, I am mainly using speakers to monitor my voice over work for my DVD productions. Through the M-Audio my voice sounded like a 1980's Hollywood trailer commercial.

I have now purchased a set of Yamaha HS50M, these give a much cleaner, flat sound, I can actually hear all the words clearly - and the lip smacks etc. I am pleased with the monitors. Others that I considered were Tannoy and KRK, but both of these also embellished the bass although not to the same extent as the M-Audios.

I have yet to use my Rode NT1a, it picks up far too much ambient noise, including the computer fans. Unfortunately I do need to capture screen shot movie's for my production and it is easier to do these on the fly. I am now using a Rode NTG2 with a Dead cat, the sound is processed by a Firestore Mobile this combination seems to work OK for me, but no doubt I will tweak things before the weekend is out..

Enough rambling, thanks for all the advice.
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Old April 1st, 2011, 11:36 PM   #7
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Re: A Last question regarding USB soundcards

Vincent, Sounds like you made some good choices. I'd love to hear how they work out for you. I currently use usb audio interfaces to do live audio capture for live web events. I am currently using this one which I just got. .
ART USB Dual Tube Pre Two Channel USB Tube Preamp/Computer Interface. I also have a couple of Tascams like the Tascam US-144MKII. I really love these devices, so much better than the laptop sound card. And so far i haven't had any synch issues with my video.
I first bought a Presonus audio box and the right input blew out at the beginning of a live event. Lucky i had backup I still think Presonus is good stuff, I just had bad luck with mine. Also what I assumed was a line input on both left and right channel was not. The right side is a instrument level and not a true line level. Your device may be different. Anyway good luck and let us know how it works out.
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Old April 2nd, 2011, 12:45 PM   #8
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Re: A Last question regarding USB soundcards

This thread seems to have started out discussing sound cards (as the title would suggest), but then ended up talking about speakers.

I wouldn't agree that Sound Blaster is "yesterdays card". I don't think it was EVER a viable product for serious audio use. They are clearly designed for people who play shoot-em-up games on their PCs and want to hear (artificially generated) sound effects. For that purpose, Sound Blaster cards and fancy plastic "computer speakers" are probably OK. But NO "computer speaker" is suitable for even serious amateur audio production.
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Old April 2nd, 2011, 01:25 PM   #9
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Re: A Last question regarding USB soundcards

I didn't want to start a new thread, I was just reporting back on how my audio setup has developed.

You are quite right about computer speakers not being up to the task, these Yamaha speakers offer a new aspect to my video productions. Maybe I should have invested earlier in a better audio setup, but glad I have done so now.
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