M-Audio Delta 1010LT by zgraf
This is a review of the M-Audio Delta 1010. This bad-boy (bad-girl?) has been around for ages -- seriously, I think it came out in January of 2000, and it's now almost 12 years later. And M-Audio is still actively selling the thing. Not bad "staying-power" for a sound-card.
The important thing to know is that it is a PCI interface. M-Audio may now be delivering it as PCI-e, I'm not sure. But if you want USB or Firewire, look elsewhere.
When I got rid of my prior sound card a couple years ago, I had a choice. I could have plunked down upwards of $400 - $700 on a sexy new USB interface, or go with the "old, ancient" 1010. Nowadays you can grab a used one on E-bay for around $250, which is a pretty good deal for a 10-input, 10-output card. That's what I did. If you buy it new it's still $599, which is too expensive... You mind as well get the M-Audio Profire 2626 or the FastTrack Ultra 8R (newer technology) for about the same price -- that's why I only gave it five stars for "bang-for-the-buck".
Here's the thing, the SNR and dynamic range are quite good on this Delta 1010 -- around 112 dB -- or in that range, if memory serves. That's better than most of the new cards! Unless you pay $1000 or more for an RME or Lynx you won't get close to these numbers. This is a clean, powerful card. That is, if you can get the drivers to work properly for you [drivers for Windows XP work flawlessly. There were initially some driver issues with 32-bit and 64-bit Windows 7, but I think M-Audio has worked out most of the kinks now].
Has S/PDIF in and out too which is nice. Never tried the MIDI on it.
I use it under 32-bit Windows 7 and it works pretty well. The only major annoyance I've found is that when booting up my PC the card will sometimes emit a loud blast of static for several seconds -- until the Windows 7 O.S. loads. If you have your volume up, it can scare the you-know-what out of you.
But I'm not 100% convinced this "static" is a problem with the card -- it could be an artifact of my DAW environment and hardware, or maybe just some "funkiness" in the Win 7 drivers. Who knows. The important thing is that I can record and play back a dozen or so tracks with pretty good latency. I can get down to 2.9 msec using the 128-samples ASIO/WDM buffer size within my DAW (Sonar). With Windows XP I had used the WDM driver mode exclusively, but now in Win 7 I've had better luck using the ASIO mode for whatever reason. "Your mileage may vary", as they say.
By the way, the M-Audio Control Panel app for the unit is pretty straightforward and easy-to-use. It's the same one the Delta 44, 66, 1010LT and the Delta line uses. I've heard that some folks install several units at once in one machine (to double or triple the channel-count), daisy-chaining the cards together using the S/PDIF ins and outs. But I've never tried this, and can't say how well it works.
If you happen to aquire a very old unit, there may be a few components that need to be replaced, like leaky / "bulging" capacitors. From what I hear, M-Audio will generally replace those things free-of-charge. But of course it's a hassle to ship your unit off and wait to get it back.
They say technology is always improving, and products today are much more powerful than they were 10 years ago -- but that's just not true with the M-Audio Delta 1010. This "vintage" 10-in, 10-out audio interface is still in-league with newer hardware. Compare the specs and see if you don't agree...