sound cards

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Alastair
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sound cards

Post by Alastair »

I'm looking to update my desktop computer (vintage 2006 and showing its age), and the main thing I use it for is pre-production for my radio programme. On first looking at my options in various "build your own PC" scenarios it seems as if the soundcard is barely mentioned any more. Something to do with better processors? Anyway, given that audio is going to the main output of the computer, should I be looking at specific soundcards, or just getting the fastest processor I can afford?

Any help gratefully received. I am a novice as far as the tech sides of this goes.

Hayao Yamaneko
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Re: sound cards

Post by Hayao Yamaneko »

I may be wrong in this, but so far as I can tell, most modern desktops include a (poor) soundcard on the motherboard. If you want an internal card you can probably spend very little and get something better than comes on the motherboard.

I think the trend has been towards external rather than onboard soundcards (since it moves the analog audio away from all the noisy internal components).

I use an old Motu 828 mk2: they're cheap second hand and sound good but they're probably overkill for what you need. There are lots of options with less ins and outs, preamps and things, but good quality DACs and outputs and it sounds like that's what you need. I had a mackie satellite for years that was small, cheap, and plenty good enough. There's probably a successor.

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Moon
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Re: sound cards

Post by Moon »

It doesn't sound like you would need a lot of processing power for what you're doing, unless you're looking to get a whole suite of high end mastering plugins with your new setup. A few standard things like compressors and eqs are fine with any modern complooter. What you could do is put a little extra emphasis the ram, but again if you managed to get by on an 06 model that's not going to be a problem either. So any byoPC is probably going to be perfect. Unless you're planning a whole new process for this pre-production?

What do you need the soundcard to do? Is it to record the radio show or just critical listening of the production? Since you said pre-production I'm guessing it's not full-on mastering listening maybe, so if it's headphone okay then Fiio and Schiit seems like the good options for modest desktop dacs, and I think they have options for plugging to powered monitors as well. Studio tech usually isn't served with output only options, as far as I know, but you'll usually get better outputs from those hifi options I mentioned than an entry level external sound-card. Not a comment on the Motu suggestion, just my general impression. You get lucky, but so often they cheap out on the dacs, and always on the headphone amps.

Maybe this one: Modi 2
For listening setup. Then you'd need an amp, too, but it does what you're after. It's a good chip (apparently). They do sell amps that go with it, but I have no idea how neutral they would be. If you go a step higher in price you can get 32float. Don't know what your end product quality is, but it's nice to have high options anyway in case you have to edit a few extra times. I wish I had that, my daw crashes a lot. 24/96'ing it like some animal

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Alastair
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Re: sound cards

Post by Alastair »

Thanks for your detailed and helpful replies, guys.

I think Moon is closer to what I'm talking about. I was getting by on my 06 machine but man was it ever slow and prone to crashes...I'm not looking for loads of inputs into the computer - recordings either come by good old CD, downloads or via my handheld digital recorder. The only "instrument" I'm likely to plug in is my Audio Technica AT2020 mic.

For critical listening/editing the Modi 2 looks like something worh investigating, pairing up the DAC with their Magni 2 Uber headphone amp, which appears to also have outputs to drive my monitor speakers should I want to mix in the open air (so to speak). Am I reading their description/pictures right?

I want to make things sound as good as possible but whatever the quality of my output it's going to broadcast over FM Stereo and/or Digital Radio. Our share of the digital spectrum is pretty narrow so it'll probably actually sound worse than the FM broadcast, which is ironic given the fuss people are making over digital radio. This is interesting.

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Moon
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Re: sound cards

Post by Moon »

You're welcome!

Yes, you got the combo idea right. My only worry would be that the amp would be a little on the not neutral side. I wanted to give you some suggestions for a studio oriented alternative, but I couldn't find any. Not with headphone amp and option for preamp out to powered monitors, at least. Maybe have a look through the wealth of chinese digital amps on amazon, I've noticed that a few of them are sometimes 'approved' by audio geeks.

If you need to record mics later on you could get something like CEntrance MicPort, which is a portable mic preamp that connects to usb. I was looking at it for doing emergency field recording with a tablet and have heard many nice things said about it.

Heh, that poor 80kbps stereo dab waveform. Hopefully the new setup will help in optimising the signal for that kind of rough treatment, though :D You still have fm in the us? Also, not relevant, but curious: when they finally close it down for good everywhere, will it be illegal to broadcast? Or will it be a pirate free for all?