Which Soundcard to Purchase

Recording at home

I am trying to set up a small system at home to record 4-5 acoustic instruments.
I have a Dell computer with 2.8G Dual Core, 1 gig of Ram.
can someone give me a list of cards to check out?
I would like to be able to plug a microphone directly into the soundcard without the use of a preamp.
Thanks in advance!

Good starter guide and recomendations:

http://www.tweakheadz.com/soundcards_for_the_home_studio.htm

I currently use a Motu828mkII but started out with an Echo Mia (a M-Audio Audiophile or Emu-0404 are also great starter cards, all 3 are about $100each).

Eyup!

Welcome to the forum!

It’s always a good thing to hear that someone is setting up a home studio.
I hope you have many happy hours and that we get to hear the fruits of your labour!

I use a simple Creative Soundblaster Live! value. You can use the microphone input directly (no preamp) but I know you will be disappointed with the results.
If you can run to a small, inexpensive mixer, that will give you two mono inputs to the line-in on the soundcard.

Steve

I started with a Dell and purchased an Audigy soundcard, then plugged the mic directly into the mic in of the soundcard. Starting out, the soundcard is less critical, and as Steve said, a simple Soundblaster will do the job.

As Steve said you will be disappointed plugging a mic into the mic in of the soundcard. The amps on soundcards are VERY low quality. A halfway decent mic plus a mixer/preamp will be necessary. If you want to record more than one source, a mixer is best. Behringer, though lower quality, can be had starting at $50 at Guitar Center.

You have to decide if you want to record each instrument simultaneously, or add each track one at a time. That will determine if you need a multi-input card, or a basic stereo card.

If you decide on a stereo card, I would recommend avoiding the Creative Soundblaster Audigy 2 series unless you only record at 48KHz. That card always records at 48KHz and resamples the results if you set it to record to other bitrates, such as the CD standard 16bit-44.1K. In doing so, it has a flaw that causes the waveform to drop 5% so that a signal that reaches 100% within the card’s A/D converter will peak out at 95% when recording at 16bit-44.1K. What that means is with 16-44.1K recordings you will never see the peak level meter flash and won’t know when you are clipping. When you are done recording, you will see peaks smashed at 95% of full scale.

The Creative X-Fi doesn’t resample and would be the stereo card of choice from the Creative line.

For multi-input cards, see the website recommended by TimOBrien.

Quote (vivona @ Dec. 18 2006,17:32)
You have to decide if you want to record each instrument simultaneously, or add each track one at a time. That will determine if you need a multi-input card, or a basic stereo card.

VERY good point.
Also look into MIDI capabilities, if you need them.

Quote (teryeah @ Dec. 18 2006,18:52)
Also look into MIDI capabilities, if you need them.

Another very good point!

If you need MIDI and find a card that has everything you need, but MIDI, you can add MIDI capabilites with a MIDI interface like the M-Audio MidiSport http://www.m-audio.com/products/en_us/MIDISPORT1x1-main.html
and use a soundfont or software synth. That is exactly what I ended up doing with my X-Fi.

If you’re comfortable buying used I would recommend getting an M-Audio Delta 66 with an Omni box. The card records 4 channels simultaneously at 16 or 24 bits up to 96 khz. The box has two mic preamps, regular outputs + headphone outs for monitoring, and loads of other I/O options.

The drivers are solid and this setup worked very well for me. I added a Delta 1010 so I now can do 12 channels at once. You can get the Delta 66/Omni on ebay for under $150.

If they’re doing 4-5 instruments at once and just want to plug straight into the soundcard, that’s going to limit the options to something with a number onboard pres. Most units might have 2 at the most.

I’m beginning to think that units like this:
http://www.alesis.com/product.php?id=40
are good value, and very useful. If they’d been around when I got my Herc 16/12fw I’d definitly be looking at them instead of of berry desk/herc combo I have now.

Willy.