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cheapest soundcard with the best converters
Old 26th November 2005
  #1
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gizeh12's Avatar
cheapest soundcard with the best converters

In order to proffesionalise my sound I need to record all my hardware into my pc to mix it there because my mixing console is to noisy.

can anyone give me a few pointers on wich affordable soundcards (300$ and under)
have the best converters?? ive heard that some sound cards got for instance the same converters as the Mackie D8B.



thanx
Old 26th November 2005
  #2
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moon_unit's Avatar
 

How many inputs do you need?

That's kind of important. heh
Old 26th November 2005 | Show parent
  #3
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AdamJay's Avatar
 

yamaha i88x
Old 26th November 2005 | Show parent
  #4
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gizeh12's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by moon_unit
How many inputs do you need?

That's kind of important. heh
I would rather have a card with only 1 stereo i/o with good converters, then a card with 16 i/o crap converters.

I need my soundcard to record all my hardware synth into my pc, so when the converters are good, im willing to work a little harder and record everything step by step
Old 26th November 2005 | Show parent
  #5
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John The Cut's Avatar
 

EMU 1212M - stupid the price Vs quality.

If you want more inputs go EMU 1820M
Old 26th November 2005 | Show parent
  #6
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gizeh12's Avatar


Is that the EMU with the DIGI002 converters???
Old 26th November 2005 | Show parent
  #7
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atticus's Avatar
In this scenario I would try to find a pre owned LynxOne card. You can find them used under $300. They have good converters on them and the company is top notch. You could also look for a Lynx L22 but it would likely be over $300 even used. Good luck!

http://www.lynxstudio.com/lynxone.html
Old 26th November 2005 | Show parent
  #8
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moon_unit's Avatar
 

A used Lynx wouldn't be bad. But actually, I'd have to say the very best-sounding converters are on the DAL (Digital Audio Labs) CardDeluxe.

That particular card gets overlooked because they're not the kind of company that agressively markets itself. Their control panel is basically nonexistant (it incorporates itself to Windows volume control panel the way a stock soundcard will), thus it's not the most convenient card out there ... nor does it incorporate itself well with other cards you might already have installed (or will install in the future).

But if you just need 2 really good-sounding channels, I'll be damned if that little bugger doesn't deliver the goods. It uses the same a/d converter chip as the Lucid and Myteks, I believe (CS5396). At close to 120 db dynamic range, it's a nice step up from the codecs used in the more expensive Lynx I. It also uses the AK4393 for D/A, which I believe is the same used in the Masterlink and several others nice d/a interfaces.

The analog section uses OP275s, which are unusually good compared to other cards on the market ... far faster/cleaner than the EMU cards. Strictly in terms of sound quality of the converters, there isn't another card - or even standalone unit - on the market that offers what it does for $300.
.
Old 26th November 2005 | Show parent
  #9
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junior's Avatar
 

if you're looking for a firewire box, l'll second the i88x recommedation. very good pres and converters for stupid cheap. you can find em for $350 if you look around...

https://www.gearslutz.com/board/low-end-theory/48954-yamaha-i88x-mlan-faq.html

if you're looking for a pci card, i've had very good luck with rme cards... good luck
Old 26th November 2005 | Show parent
  #10
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John The Cut's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by gizeh12


Is that the EMU with the DIGI002 converters???
No the EMU 'M' series is the Pro Tools HD (AKM AK5394) converters in the AD stage and the Cirrus Logic (CS4398) on the DA.

Incidently the exact same AD as the Lynx 2 and Lynx L22. Lynx also use an older Cirrus Logic chip on the DA (CS4396)

If you want jitter specs as well EMU's are 500ps (approx.) compare to RME's quoted <1000ps.

So you see - cheapest with best = EMU 1212M
Old 27th November 2005 | Show parent
  #11
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gizeh12's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by mogWai
No the EMU 'M' series is the Pro Tools HD (AKM AK5394) converters in the AD stage and the Cirrus Logic (CS4398) on the DA.

Incidently the exact same AD as the Lynx 2 and Lynx L22. Lynx also use an older Cirrus Logic chip on the DA (CS4396)

If you want jitter specs as well EMU's are 500ps (approx.) compare to RME's quoted <1000ps.

So you see - cheapest with best = EMU 1212M
and emu 1212m its gonna be,, i ordered it already heh
Old 27th November 2005 | Show parent
  #12
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DrDeltaM's Avatar
 

Don't forget it's only the same convertor chip, not the same convertor in total.

Anyway, the EMU's are still great value for money afaik
Old 27th November 2005 | Show parent
  #13
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moon_unit's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by DrDeltaM
Don't forget it's only the same convertor chip, not the same convertor in total.

People put way too much stock in the "D" side of the equation rather than the "A." And most of these PCI cards just have very poor performing analog stages. Most of them have harmonic distortion and speed/slew rate specs that are bordering on unacceptable levels for professional audio. And unfortunately, everything you record will have to go through that before it gets "converted." It's a shame.
.
Old 27th November 2005 | Show parent
  #14
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Well actually the 1212m has extremely low levels of distortion in both the DA and AD sections.
The only thing bad I have to say about it is that it is rather boring and sterile, but I will say that a mix going through it in loopback is totally indistinguishable from the original up till about 7 generations of DA-AD loopback, at which point the high-end seems to have been rolled off a bit.

I admit this is using a modded card which has the DC-filtering caps bypassed and new opamps in the output section, though only the former seemed to make any qualitive sound quality change to my ears.
Old 27th November 2005 | Show parent
  #15
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moon_unit's Avatar
 

The chips these things use in the analog section are horrendously under-spec'ed for serious audio work. Again, you're looking at a card manufactured by a gaming card company that still doesn't really understand a whole lot about audio.

As long as transient response and slew rate aren't important things to you, then the cards we're talking about should do just fine. The analog sections in these cards are designed for one thing: to keep noise specs down in an effort to improve their published dynamic range so that the unwashed masses will ooh and ah over it's specs. That's not to bash the converter chips, which are more than up to the task. But what good is it to use such nice converter chips when the audio is essentially compromised right before it hits them?
Old 27th November 2005 | Show parent
  #16
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The JRC's they use actually measure quite well. They have more than enough slew rate to handle frequencies far beyond the audio spectrum. I have heard some debate but no conclusion when it comes to whether slew rates far beyond what is necessary for HF reproduction contribute to audio quality within the audible band or not.

Consider that they are FAR better opamps than those used in last-generation's mid-level "studio" offerings such as MOTU, RME, etc. And already the EMU costs far less.
Obviously there are better-sounding chips out there, but frankly I was surprised to see that chips even as good as these are used in such a low-budget card.
I've also found that the design makes a far bigger difference in both sound and measurement of converters than the opamps themselves. Seriously, if you come across an E-MU, swap the opamps for something you like (I popped in some AD8066's), and do a true A/B/X. I honestly couldn't tell the difference between the JRC's and AD's in this design.

I think the JRC's were chosen because they a) were absolutely necessary to keep the costs down and b) are among the few chips out there that measure well enough to NOT significantly compromise the converters.
If you want to talk compromise, take a look at the DC-blocking caps instead. Cheap polarized electrolytics. They significantly shave off transient response.
Once those caps are bypassed, the 1212M is one of the fastest-sounding DAC's I've ever heard.
Old 27th November 2005 | Show parent
  #17
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moon_unit's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by dasbin
The JRC's they use actually measure quite well.

Are you talking about the 2068? It's even worse than I thought.

Why did you change yours out if it really isn't so bad? Probably because it has poor specs in regards to speed and THD figures, I'm guessing. No?
Old 27th November 2005 | Show parent
  #18
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Why are you so concerned that the 2068's (which DO measure better than most of the cheap alternatives) are going to have such an abysmal effect on sound quality when so many people are running through mixing desks or preamps or active monitors using TL072's, 4558's, 5532's everywhere? These are far, far worse opamps being used in far more expensive equipment. This is why I say I am surprised to see anything as good as a 2068 in the E-MU. I am even more surprised that you are so disgusted by their apparent poorness.

Yes, some small quality differences can sometimes come from using better opamps in a circuit. Would anyone actually notice unless they took it apart? Highly doubtful.

I swapped mine simply to see what would happen. To see if the approach that you're taking has merit to it. Frankly, after testing, it doesn't. Unless maybe you're got a million-dollar monitoring setup with better opamps used everywhere else - in which case I doubt you would go anywhere near a $199 soundcard anyway.
Old 27th November 2005
  #19
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i have very little to compare it with, but my echo mia midi sounds pretty good for $99. balanced stereo in/out and midi in/out. i recall reading on rap that the converters are the same as in the tascam firewire units.
Old 27th November 2005 | Show parent
  #20
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moon_unit's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by dasbin
Why are you so concerned that the 2068's (which DO measure better than most of the cheap alternatives) are going to have such an abysmal effect on sound quality when so many people are running through mixing desks or preamps or active monitors using TL072's, 4558's, 5532's everywhere?
Precisely for that reason. Why pile the crap any higher than it has to be? And because A/D conversion has different types of demands than some of these other processors you mention.

And I'm not talking specifically about the 2068 as much as I'm talking very generally about PCI sound cards in general. There just seems to be this prevailing theme towards minimize noise specs, and the choice of opamps seems to reflect those priorities, overall. And I have a theory that it's because it's one of the easiest things to be measured when magazines review them, and because dynamic range is one of the easy published specs for the non-educated consumer to understand when comparing options (how many people walking in to Guitar Center even know what "slew rate" is?).

And another relatively easy thing to digest is converter chips. If it "has the same ones as Pro Tools" then it must be good, right? heh So between that and noise specs, that's where the manufacturer puts their money.

From a marketing standpoint, it's pretty sharp. If I were trying to sell a lot of a given product, I would probably do the same. Like you were mentioning, the typical consumer in the market for a $200 card isn't likely to be digging very deeply in to a lot of these things. And to the less discerning ear, I suppose it doesn't make a heckuva' lot of difference in the end.

But to the 1% of us whom it does matter to, I don't see anything wrong with pointing out the possible shortcomings, particularly when there are other options in that price bracket ala Lynx and CardDeluxe, that might not make the same types of compromises ; or at least who don't make them to the same degree.
.
Old 28th November 2005 | Show parent
  #21
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John The Cut's Avatar
 

Lynx and Card Deluxe arent in the same price bracket.

The question was "which is the CHEAPEST with the BEST" - the poster is obvioulsy looking to spend a minimal amount of cash for the best quality.

Of course you can get into arguments like spend an extra £100 here and get that... well £200 there gets you this... yea before you know it you've just bought a Prism for £6000

Here is an interesting article - http://www.digit-life.com/articles2/creative-emu-1820/

Also, SOS uses an 1820M and Echo Mia as the benchmark against which all other interfaces are judged.. in a subjective listening test using *shock* ears.

The only interface so far that has beaten the 1820M (ableit only just) is the Echo Audiofire...


These reviews are just one man's subjective listening, but it makes very interesting reading for me as an 1820M owner to read how it fares against the latest competition - check this months review of the ESI Maxio XD heh

Admittedly .. yes, it all focuses on the DA side of things. But I am happy with recordings I make, vocals sound good and present, guitars sound nice and twangy. Not that there isnt better.. but for what price? You would have to spend about 3 times as much to equate outlay to sound quality imo.. basically Apogee territory.

On the other point of saying the EMUs are designed by a gaming company..

I'm not aware of any EMU gaming products.. I always thought they were serious sampling and synth manufacturers. Sure they have got Creative's "professional" marketing power and programmers behind them but.. whats bad about that? Soundblaster is the most successful audio interface ever made!

And also, Ted Fletcher pre-amps and an ex Apogee engineer designed the clock. Seriously not much to complain about at this price point.

.. or does that annoy you
Old 28th November 2005
  #22
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And what about external soundcards? Which ones in the same price range (roughly) have the best converters?
Old 28th November 2005 | Show parent
  #23
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moon_unit's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by mogWai
Lynx and Card Deluxe arent in the same price bracket.
The Carddeluxe goes for around $400 new while the Lynx I goes for about $500 or so. I consider that to be at least roughly in the same ballpark.


Quote:
Also, SOS uses an 1820M and Echo Mia as the benchmark against which all other interfaces are judged.. in a subjective listening test using *shock* ears. The only interface so far that has beaten the 1820M (ableit only just) is the Echo Audiofire...


If you're talking about the Martin Walker review, then I'm afraid you're not quite accurate in that assesment. He happens to own both the Mia and 1820M, which is why he uses those in tests for his reviews -- because he's familiar with them. Not because of any sonic superiority of either. If you really want to know what he considers to be "the best," you can check out a quote from his review of the Lynx II:

It's certainly the best-sounding soundcard I've ever reviewed, but as you might expect, it doesn't come cheap at around £1000. .... the real comparison should be with high-end stand-alone converter boxes, and by replacing the rack casing with two high-quality breakout cables, the Lynx Two provides audio performance on a par with rackmount gear costing considerably more. In short, I can't think of any other product that comes close!"


Quote:
... or does that annoy you


Not really. It's kind of fun to debate about this kind of stuff when I'm bored. It is kind of mildly annoying when people misquote, or make innacurate inferences from other people's published reviews, etc. but then I guess that's what they're for. heh
Old 28th November 2005 | Show parent
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by moon_unit
It is kind of mildly annoying when people misquote, or make innacurate inferences from other people's published reviews, etc.
.. or take them out of context .

How long ago was the Lynx 2 review? I would guess before the 1820M came out about 18months ago.

I would have also thought that familiarity is the whole point. And in very review I have read, when he compares to the 1820M the 1820M is better (except for AudioFire).

Everything else being equal, it at least tells you that the 1820M is a leader.. we're not talking massive sonic benefits by spending more money.

So maybe they use sub-"pro" components, and we all agree corners have to be cut, but maybe every other manufacturer does the same thing? Until you get into Lynx L22 and RME - but what EMU have that these dont is a massive company behind them for marketing, distribution and I suspect .. software development.

and the 1212M is £129 in real money... should be something like $100 I suspect
Old 28th November 2005 | Show parent
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mogWai
So maybe they use sub-"pro" components, and we all agree corners have to be cut, but maybe every other manufacturer does the same thing? Until you get into Lynx L22 and RME ...

I don't think we're even arguing any more. You're basically saying everything I was saying.

heh
Old 28th November 2005 | Show parent
  #26
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Here is another one http://www.echoaudio.com/Products/PCI/Layla3G/index.php

From my experience with the foregoing Darla card the one above should be outstanding for the 500 bucks class it´s in.

Ruphus
Old 28th November 2005 | Show parent
  #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by moon_unit
The Carddeluxe goes for around $400 new while the Lynx I goes for about $500 or so. I consider that to be at least roughly in the same ballpark.
And the E-MU M-series measures significantly better than both of these in THD, IMD, Dynamic range, noise... you name it.

I should also note that when I swapped out my opamps for AD's as well as some LT's, both dynamic range and THD measured slightly worse in a loopback RMAA test than with the JRC's. And it was increased third-order harmonics that worsened the THD rating.

I'm not here to say that these specs are everything, but the very point you seem to be making about the THD of these chips doesn't seem to be valid in this particular circuit. I think this is a case of a clean, clever design around less-expensive parts that happen to fit the bill quite well.
Old 28th November 2005 | Show parent
  #28
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moon_unit's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by dasbin
And the E-MU M-series measures significantly better than both of these in THD, IMD, Dynamic range, noise... you name it.

According to? ? ?

And how about speed and slew rate?
Old 28th November 2005 | Show parent
  #29
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Quote:
According to?
Published specs, some done on an AudioPrecision, real-world RMAA loopback tests, you name it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by moon_unit
And how about speed and slew rate?
This is an electrical performance characteristic, not an audio one. Why do you keep bringing this up?
It CAN be related to certain aspects of audio performance, especially frequency response. But it is not anything in itself, and practically all modern audio opamps are fast enough to handle WAY above the audio band.
Old 28th November 2005 | Show parent
  #30
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John The Cut's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by moon_unit
I don't think we're even arguing any more. You're basically saying everything I was saying.

heh
Hmmm not quite. I'm saying that the 1820M is just as good if not better than the Lynx and RME costing twice the price. You certainly dont get twice the sound by spending more money. This is due to the 1820M being 1) a new design 2) supported by Creative's marketing muscle.

Whatever your opinion on the components, listening tests show the 1820M to sound "good" heh
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