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Low-Mid budget pro sound card for making trance/house Audio Interfaces
Old 2nd January 2011
Gear Head

Low-Mid budget pro sound card for making trance/house

Hi everybody,

I've been producing electronic dance music (mainly trance with house influences) for a while now and I really like it! So given the fact that the current soundcard I have is not that great, I want to buy a professional sound card that is great for electronic music production. I only have a standard Behringer UMX midi keyboard (which suits me just fine, I use soft synths) and I bought some plugins, using Ableton live as my DAW. Besides my midi keyboard, I really don't have any outboard gear.

My budget is between 100 and about 200 euros. Can you guys recommend me a professional soundcard that is perfect for me? Are they even available at these prices? Thank you very much!

P.S. I have regular Sansui speakers that came included with my Sansui CD/radio installation (not really expensive whatsoever, pretty basic but decent) and I have WIRELESS Sennheiser headphones:

Do I need to upgrade my headphones as well? Will the fact that it is wireless make any difference or are they just fine?
Old 3rd January 2011
Headphones/monitor-wise - you can always improve on this thing, however, in my experience, it moreso down to how well YOU know your monitors.

They can be pretty low-end with all sorts of distinctive traits in the sound (really bassy etc or too trebly etc), but as long as YOU know that the sound isn't accurate, it can be dialed out in your mix.

By having flatter/tru-er monitors, it just makes it easier!! (don't read that as "EASY"! heh )

That said, there's a LOT to be said for mixing on home speakers - after all, your buying public probably won't have studio monitors to listen to your product on.

FWIW, when I go into studios, I rarely take my own monitors (I might take a ghetto-blaster that has aux input - just to listen to my mix on something familiar) but I do take lots of music that I know sonically inside-out. I can then tell how the sound differs in the studio, in comparison to what it should sound like.

Audio-interface wise.....

200 euros will get you something pretty cool. I assuming that you're on PC. is a great internet source (I use it in the UK)

There are loads to choose from, but I personally like the Focusrite Saffire range -
FOCUSRITE SAFFIRE 6 USB - U.K. International Cyberstore
It's got XLR Mic inputs, 6 outputs (useful for when you get a mixer etc) and MIDI I/O for when you start getting slutty hardware!! heh

The best bit of advice I can give you is whatever you spec, try and buys something slightly better! You'll regret buying to basic spec as your rig increases in size, and you're left having to replace under-specc'd kit.

hope this helps!
Old 3rd January 2011
Gear Head

Thanks ScoobyDoo555! I got a question though:

XLR Mic inputs, 6 outputs (useful for when you get a mixer etc) and MIDI I/O

I don't reallly know what you mean by the 6 outputs and the XLR inputs. Is that only relevant if I get real hardware? And how is the sound quality on that one? Also, it looks more like a box than an actual sound card (at least, it doesn't look like the PCI soundcard I am using right now). How come? Is this supposed to be linked via USB to your PC or something?

I'm sorry, I pretty new to all of this so I want to learn it all. I appreciate the help a lot! Thanks
Old 3rd January 2011
No worries!!

6 outputs - your audio normally comes out of 2 outputs (Stereo - left & right). 6 outputs means that you can have 6 (mono) outputs from your computer. Example:
Output 1 - drums L
Output 2 - drums R
Output 3 - Bass
Output 4 - Lead Vocal
Output 5 - Synth sounds L
Output 6 - Synth sounds R

These 6 outputs go to a mixer - you can then eq, effect, stick compressors etc on to it.
OR in the meantime, just use 2 outputs for a stereo signal from the computer.
XLR inputs - microphones use XLR cables (the big 3 pin ones) IIRC it also has 1/4" jack inputs for line sources (all signals that aren't mics!)
Is that only relevant if I get real hardware?
Yes and no (!) I've put "no" because if you've soundcard already, it will work.
The downside being that a generic soundcard will have issues with performance (latency - how quickly the sound from the softsynth will playback when being triggered by your keyboard).
And how is the sound quality on that one?
Very good (imho)
Also, it looks more like a box than an actual sound card (at least, it doesn't look like the PCI soundcard I am using right now). How come? Is this supposed to be linked via USB to your PC or something?

Yes - external box that connects via USB. Usually better than PCI equivalent cards. Also means that if you change the computer (or a get a laptop) you can take the interface with you easily

I've tried to phrase this for the "layman" - nice and easy: there's SO much more you can do with it too!

Old 4th January 2011
Gear Head

You're my saviour Scooby! Thank you so much for your kind help!

I've got some more noob questions though
1) Can I input my normal stereo jack input of my Sennheiser headphones in the Focusrite? Or do I need a converter to put them in one of the 6 outputs? Because right now, my sound card has a stereo jack in and obviously that is were my headset 3,5 inch jack gets plugged into.
2) Will the fact that it is connected via USB not make the latency slower in comparison to a PCI card? Why is an USB audio interface better than PCI?
3) I've listened to the Inception soundtrack and everytime there are low frequencies I can hear a hiss in the background. However, I'm not sure this is my soundcard or my wireless Sennheiser headphones, since I hear the hiss with low frequencies more often. Could it be that I need wired headphones to ensure higher quality (which will do my mixes well)?
4) How will I connect my midi keyboard to the soundcard, via USB to PC (like it is now) or directly to the soundcard via a MIDI cable (which I can't do with my current soundcard). Is there any preference or pros/cons between these two options?

I can't thank you enough Scooby, I really appreciate your help! Oh. and additional advice and information from everybody is still appreciated. I'm learning an awful lot here..!
Old 4th January 2011
Thumbs up

Q1 - look at the pic - there's a (head)phones output
FOCUSRITE SAFFIRE 6 USB big view - Thomann UK Cyberstore

Q2 - PCI technology is now pretty old. USB offers no real problems in terms of latency (in comparison to a PCI card), plus you can use it on multiple computers...

Q3 - Try some wired headphones to confirm. Put the soundtrack (if it's on CD) onto a HiFi system and try to hear it.
It *could* be a compression issue (if it's MP3) - it *could* be the bass drivers in your headphones trying to move so much that you're hearing the effects of the driver movement rather than the audio waveform.

Q4 - either method is good. The + of using the existing USB, is that it frees up the MIDI I/O on the interface for future toys!!!

Glad I can help bud.

Old 6th January 2011
Gear Head

Thanks Scooby! I can start to see clearly now that the rain is (almost) gone

I've also heard that the M-Audio Fast Track Pro is also a very good one to get. Are there any differences between so and if yes, what are they and are they considerable? Or are they more or less the same in terms of sound quality? Thanks for the help once more!!

Old 6th January 2011
Simple - the M Audio only has 2 inputs and 2 outputs. Compared to the functionality of the Focusrite, it is lacking.

I personally don't like the sound of M Audio interfaces, but would trust the Focusrite MUCH more. Check out the rest of the Focusrite range (and prices!) - they are MUCH more "pro".

But the choice is yours
Old 28th December 2013
Here for the gear

Hello there, wonderful sound people from the internet. I too have been producing Electronic dance music for the last few years, and just recently started a professional production course.

Now, I used to use FL Studio (from 7 to 11), and I learned a lot, but recently I began working in Ableton Live 9. Now, as you can imagine, electronic dance music usually means layering, lots of processing and all that good stuff. Right, 5 days ago I began work on a new track, and I have since been pushing the limits of that which I know (production wise). I'm halfway through the track and I've used 65 channels so far, trouble is, my laptop (i3 QuadCore 1.8GHz & 4GB RAM) can't seem to handle anything from this point onward...

So, buying an external audio interface came to mind. Thing is, I don't know enough to know which one I should get, and I really need one, cause I just can't roll back on the sound quality just because dearest laptop is a ****e, pardom my french.

Which soundcard would allow me to use at least about 200 channels of both audio & midi, with no crackles or dropouts ?

An answer would be much appreciated.

Old 28th December 2013
Lives for gear

Im selling a focusrite 2i2o for 90$. Its absolutely mint condition. Only one month old. (have the receipt) I only purchased it because my recording interface was out for repair for far too long, and needed something to get buy. Im quite satisfied with it. I just have no need for it any longer.
Old 30th December 2013
Gear Nut
XMaramena's Avatar

Originally Posted by ScoobyDoo555 View Post
Headphones/monitor-wise - you can always improve on this thing, however, in my experience, it moreso down to how well YOU know your monitors.

I use M-Audio BX8s - they're not shabby, but they're hardly Big Blue Skies! I find that when I mix in the large studios with top end Genelecs and BBS monitors, I don't get as good a product as I do when I use my regular BX8s, because I've learnt to know how things are meant to sound on them over the course of 4 or 5 years.
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