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John Deacon

Sound card or USB adapter with 2 stereo (4) outputs

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I can't move my M-Audio Delta 1010LT sound card to my new PC as the new PC doesn't have any PCI slots, only PCIe. (There are PCIe to PCI adapters but there are also reports of sound cards not working in these adapters; and they're not so good on full height cards anyway).

The Delta 1010 was always overkill anyway. All I ever do is record one stereo input at a time or use MIDI/VST. I do however need at least 2 stereo (i.e. 4) outputs: one stereo for the main mix output and another for a headphone mix.

Most budget USB adapters seem to target either very simple use with 2 in and 2 out, or people who are recording several audio tracks at once and want more ins than outs. That's the wrong way around for my needs.

Is anyone using a budget USB sound adapter (around £/$ 100 but up to £/$ 200 (I am in the UK)) with, say, 4 outs (2 x stereo) and not too many ins? (I'm not against the idea of a PCIe card but they seem to be way more expensive).

Thanks.

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I can recommend the Focusrite Scarlett 6i6, which is around £175. This gives you 4 analog ins and outs, plus a SPDIF in / out.

Also look at the Focusrite Scarlett 2i4, which gives you 2 ins and 4 outs, at £139.

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26 minutes ago, msmcleod said:

I can recommend the Focusrite Scarlett 6i6, which is around £175. This gives you 4 analog ins and outs, plus a SPDIF in / out.

Also look at the Focusrite Scarlett 2i4, which gives you 2 ins and 4 outs, at £139.

Excellent. Thanks.

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 It will be a sort of sad day when I have to retire my PCI cards.   Those M-Audio Deltas are quality hardware.   I don't know how old my first AP2496 is but they still run solid on W10. As much as one wants to bash MS at least they value legacy support and those W7 drivers still work.  None of the legacy M-Audio products will work on a current Mac.

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Wish they still they made M-Audio Deltas Audio Cards for PCI bus. Well now PCI-express slot.

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I do miss having PCI slots. My gaming pc has a nice gaming PCIe audio card - but that isn't the same as a proper audio interface for music work. My DAW workstation doesn't even have PCIe slots (it is an Intel NUC). So a good USB Audio Interface is where I'm at now. The good news is this looks like a nearly future proof setup. The bad news is the bucket of PCI and soon PCIe cards that I have that have nowhere to live!

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I have this weird PCI sound card made by a company called  a Card Deluxe --  http://www.pcrecording.com/carddlux.htm  

They were made for Radio stations I think. Anyhow I installed it to a W7 computer and it works real good. I use it to watch movies.  

I should try and see if the driver works with W10. It might, the download page is still there but it only supports up to W7 64 bit. 

I did used it a few years ago with Sonar and it had super low latency and never had any issues.  

It is a shame they stopped making these cards.  The jacks are all balanced TRS... The RCA jacks are SPDIF,, but only clocked to 48Hz. 

 

CDXweb.jpg

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It's a shame.We seemed to have gone backwards in Audio Cards.  Wish someone still made a simple audio cards that don't cost a fortune to  get low latency under load.

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I switched from a Delta 1010LT to a Focusrite 6i6 when I bought a new PC. Been happy with it ever since.

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23 hours ago, InstrEd said:

It's a shame.We seemed to have gone backwards in Audio Cards.  Wish someone still made a simple audio cards that don't cost a fortune to  get low latency under load.

I'm with you on this. My first interface was an M-Audio Audiophile 2496, It was a PCI card, and the latency must have been low, because I used amp sims and I never even thought about latency. It cost $99 and was completely trouble free the whole time I had it. I had to get a USB device when I got a new PC, or I'd still be using it.

Audio on the PCI bus must be inherently faster (I assume), so I wonder why somebody isn't making an affordable "simple audio card," as you say.

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FWIW, The best USB-2 Audio interfaces *are* on par with the best PCI audio interfaces.

  • M-Audio Delta and Audiophile series yields 5ms total round-trip latency at a 64-sample ASIO buffer size 44.1k
  • RME USB-2 audio interfaces yield 4.9ms total round-trip latency at a 64-sample ASIO buffer size 44.1k

 

A 64-sample ASIO buffer is 1.5ms at 44.1k (doesn't matter that audio interface you're using).

Latency differences between various A/D D/A is negligible. 

When it comes to round-trip latency, the "X-Factor" is the driver's safety-buffer (which is often hidden).

The best audio interfaces can use a smaller safety-buffer.  Lesser audio interfaces use a larger safety-buffer (resulting in higher round-trip latency).

 

Round-trip latency is the sum of the following:

  • ASIO input buffer
  • ASIO output buffer
  • A/D D/A converter
  • The driver's (often hidden) safety-buffer

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2 hours ago, Jim Roseberry said:

FWIW, The best USB-2 Audio interfaces *are* on par with the best PCI audio interfaces.

  • M-Audio Delta and Audiophile series yields 5ms total round-trip latency at a 64-sample ASIO buffer size 44.1k
  • RME USB-2 audio interfaces yield 4.9ms total round-trip latency at a 64-sample ASIO buffer size 44.1k

 

A 64-sample ASIO buffer is 1.5ms at 44.1k (doesn't matter that audio interface you're using).

Latency differences between various A/D D/A is negligible. 

When it comes to round-trip latency, the "X-Factor" is the driver's safety-buffer (which is often hidden).

The best audio interfaces can use a smaller safety-buffer.  Lesser audio interfaces use a larger safety-buffer (resulting in higher round-trip latency).

 

Round-trip latency is the sum of the following:

  • ASIO input buffer
  • ASIO output buffer
  • A/D D/A converter
  • The driver's (often hidden) safety-buffer

Thanks for the info, Jim. I didn't even know about latency when I started out with Cakewalk and the M-Audio card, but if it had been too high I wouldn't have been able to work, so I would have had to learn something then. When I had to get a new interface was the first time I seriously thought about latency, and I had no idea what I should shoot for. I'm not technical, and I asked everybody on the old forum. I think I read some stuff you wrote back then, telling the basic facts, but milliseconds didn't mean much to me. Eventually I figured out that if sound travels through normal air at normal temps at 1100 feet per second, that's roughly one foot per millisecond, so (for me) anything less than about 15ms is acceptable -- that is, I can easily play in time using amp sims, as 15ms is approximately the equivalent of standing 15 feet in front of your amp on stage, which I have done all my life. In some ways I envy people who can hear the difference a millisecond makes, but I can't, so my life is a lot easier. I'm currently using a first gen Focusrite Scarlett 6i6, and it's all I need. Apparently the 2nd gen box is faster, but I don't know how much or if it would be worth it to get one.

EDIT: I took a look at RME USB 2 interfaces on Sweetwater and they start at about five times what the M-Audio 2496 cost (same for their PCI devices). They have more I/O and more features, but they are no faster than that old card. So that's why the nostalgia for the good ol' days. 🙃

Edited by Larry Jones
say more stuff
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7 hours ago, Jim Roseberry said:

FWIW, The best USB-2 Audio interfaces *are* on par with the best PCI audio interfaces.

Beside hidden buffers there's one more factor in play, which is the on-board USB controller (I think it's called hardware controller). PCI card doesn't use any additional controllers while USB interface does have to go through it and your PC have to compensate that with it's CPU power, unfortunately. That's one more extra additional cost when comparing USB to PCI audio interfaces.

Edited by chris.r
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Jim Roseberry said:

<<<Do any of you remember the DAL CardD+?

The first "Pro" audio interface for the PC.  😉 >>>

 

Not only do I remember DAL CardD+, I still have mine!  I was cleaning out some storage a week or two ago and I found it.  It was such a great little interface when it came out, I can't bear to let it go.  My first foray into computer audio as well as opening up and upgrading a computer.

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13 hours ago, Larry Jones said:

Eventually I figured out that if sound travels through normal air at normal temps at 1100 feet per second, that's roughly one foot per millisecond, so (for me) anything less than about 15ms is acceptable -- that is, I can easily play in time using amp sims, as 15ms is approximately the equivalent of standing 15 feet in front of your amp on stage, which I have done all my life.

Larry, nice said. I really like when people have common sense like you!

It is the reality that we have to compare to the numbers that we get supplied by the marketing divisions of hardware companies. They always want you to believe that you need more performance again!

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On 2/2/2019 at 9:29 PM, chris.r said:

Beside hidden buffers there's one more factor in play, which is the on-board USB controller (I think it's called hardware controller). PCI card doesn't use any additional controllers while USB interface does have to go through it and your PC have to compensate that with it's CPU power, unfortunately. That's one more extra additional cost when comparing USB to PCI audio interfaces.

With any reasonably current (Intel) build, you'll have Intel USB-2 or USB-3 integrated into the motherboard's chipset.

That eliminates most compatibility problems.

Prior to Z77 chipset motherboards, literally all USB-3 ports were third-party add-on controllers... as USB-3 had not yet been integrated into Intel chipsets.

 

The CPU load from the USB controller is negligible on a reasonably current CPU.

If you run a dense audio stress-test using a PCIe card vs. RME USB-2 audio interface, you'll find you can run the same amount of processing with each.

Using the PCIe card doesn't result in more DSP processing power.

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On 2/2/2019 at 4:12 PM, Larry Jones said:

Eventually I figured out that if sound travels through normal air at normal temps at 1100 feet per second, that's roughly one foot per millisecond, so (for me) anything less than about 15ms is acceptable -- that is, I can easily play in time using amp sims, as 15ms is approximately the equivalent of standing 15 feet in front of your amp on stage, which I have done all my life. In some ways I envy people who can hear the difference a millisecond makes, but I can't, so my life is a lot easier.

If it doesn't bother you... it doesn't bother you

Most guitar players I've seen are either using wedge monitor or IEMs (in addition to their amp).

Our guitar player wants to hear the sound from his Amp (about 4' behind him)... plus in the wedge directly in front of him (doesn't use IEMs).

Monitoring via wedge or especially IEMs eliminates higher latency of standing 15' from an amp.

I like the tight timing from using IEMs, but I don't like the feeling of being isolated/separated from the audience.

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Jim Roseberry said:

Most guitar players I've seen are either using wedge monitor or IEMs (in addition to their amp).

It would be great to have these advantages, but in my decades of playing clubs, parties, bars and auditoriums I have not seen this kind of support more than, say, a quarter of the time. I have spent my own money to provide vocal monitoring for my own band, but we were never a name act and facing competition from DJs and internet jukeboxes connected to cheap but powerful sound systems it hasn't been economically feasible to carry a very elaborate sound system, not to mention somebody qualified to run it.

But my point wasn't meant to be about live performing. I only mentioned that as a way of saying that we may at times go overboard in our quest for the lowest measurable round-trip latency in our DAWs. As I have said, I admire those with the ability to hear the difference between 7.3ms and 4.9ms, but sometimes good enough is... good enough.

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