Sound Card Reviews

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Sound Card Reviews

Permanent link to this post Posted by steve » Tue Apr 07, 2009 2:23 pm

This topic concerns mono/stereo sound cards and recording devices. Multi-channel recording devices are listed here: viewtopic.php?f=27&t=38626

How well does your sound card work with Audacity?

Audacity will work with the vast majority of sound cards, however some sound cards are known to have issues, while others are known to work flawlessly. Given that many Audacity users will at some point want to replace/upgrade their sound card, and the huge range of products available, it will be useful to have a list of sound cards that Audacity users actually use.

Post a review of your sound card.

!!! NO LINKS TO SALES WEB SITES !!!

This is NOT an advertising forum, it is a help forum. While it is useful to have a link to the manufacturers web site, this is NOT an invitation for promoting specific retail outlets. Any links to sales sites in this thread will be deleted immediately and the poster may be banned from the forum. Spam will not be tolerated.

Please include in your review the pros and cons of your sound card - please mention the type of inputs and outputs that it has (line-level/microphone/phono) and any special features. Also mention any features that do not work with Audacity.

It is not necessary to mention that Audacity does not work with ASIO drivers, as this is a known issue for all sound cards. http://audacityteam.org/wiki/index.php? ... _Interface

ONLY POST A REVIEW OF A SOUND CARD THAT YOU HAVE PERSONALLY USED WITH AUDACITY


Moderators will transfer a summary of your review into the list below.
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THE SOUND CARD LIST
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Alesis iO|2
USB 2-channel audio interface with 24 bit 48 kHz max recording capability that really works nicely both on windows and in Linux without any big troubles or glitches so far. Powered by USB connection.
Manufacturer's website:
http://www.alesis.com/io2
Ins and outs:
Inputs: 2 x MIC XLR (with optional +48 V), 2 x Guitar/Line, S/PDIF IN, MIDI IN
Outputs: MAIN L/R 1/4", Phones 1/4" stereo/mono, S/PDIF OUT, MIDI OUT
Pros:
Robust case, controls and switches feels pretty reliable. Very easy and straightforward to use and Audacity has no problems handling it. It's possible to mix the monitor feed anywhere between direct and USB sound. It works with Linux!
Cons:
The meter LEDs are not that finely graded so it's a bit difficult to set the levels exactly. At very high gain levels it of course gets a bit noisy. There's a tendency to introduce DC offset with the recordings.

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ART USB Phono Plus Project Series
Preamp with one stereo input switchable between Phono and Line-in, with input gain control, line-out and headphone-out connections.
Manufacturer's website:
http://artproaudio.com/artcessories/turntable_preamps/product/usb_phono_plus-ps/
On-line Manual:
http://artproaudio.com/files/owners_manuals/om_usbphonoplusps.pdf
Ins and outs:
Inputs: (stereo)
RCA input, switchable between phono and Line-in, with input gain trim.
TOSLINK Digital Audio input
RCA S/PDIF input
Outputs: (stereo)
RCA Line-out
1/8" headphone output with volume control
TOSLINK Digital Audio output
USB Input/Output:
16-bit 44.1kHz or 48kHz, USB 1.2 compliant
Pros:
Excellent build quality, anodised aluminium case. Low noise (-50dB when bus-powered, -70dB when mains-powered). Input gain control and headphone output volume control. Worked "out of the box" on Windows.
Cons:
Significantly more expensive in Europe than in US.
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ART USB Dual Pre Project Series
Dual-mic preamp which can be used as external usb soundcard too.
Ins and outs:
Inputs: 2x XLR / 1/4-inch TRS Combi jack balanced/unbalanced
Outputs: 2x 1/4-inch TRS; 1x 1/8-inch TRS headphone
Pros:
- no drivers needed, works out-of-the-box in Linux (Debian, running kernel 2.6.32), Windows (XP Pro) and MacOS-X (Snow Leopard)
- can be powered from usb, external power supply or 9V battery (or a combination of all these)
- rather small size compared to what it has to offer
- headphones monitor output can be used to play sound from the computer through USB.
- very low noise for the price tag
- can provide phantom power to the mics
Cons:
Some people complain about the size of the 9V battery pocket, I haven't tried it so can't complain about it...)

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Behringer UCA 202
No frills 16 bit stereo line level USB sound card.
Manufacturer's website:
http://www.behringer.com/EN/Products/UCA202.aspx
Ins and outs:
2x line level inputs, 2x line level outputs (RCA connectors), 1x headphone output
Pros:
Works well with Audacity. Inexpensive upgrade for PC laptop computer.
Cons:
Plastic case. Label peels off eventually. No ability to adjust input level on Windows or Mac with the plug ' n' play driver it comes with (not tested with Behringer's optional drivers for Windows). On Ubuntu 10.10 the input level can be changed using the system slider, but this does not change the "gain" in the UCA itself, just scale the signal it sends. So whatever the operating system, always check the level of the input being sent to UCA 202.

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Behringer UFO-202
Basically a UCA-202 with the input switchable between line and phono, plus a phono ground lug.
Manufacturer's website:
http://www.behringer.com/EN/Products/UFO202.aspx
Ins and outs:
switchable stereo RCA line/phono inputs
phono ground lug
stereo RCA line outputs
stereo mini-jack headphone output with volume control
Computer connection:
USB 1.1
16 bit
32, 44.1 and 48 kHz
Pros
Initial listening tests comparing transcribed LPs to their CD versions suggest that the phono pre-amp is accurate.
No apparent power supply noise although the unit uses the power supplied by the USB port.
Cons
Self-noise is higher than a stand-alone analog phono pre-amp, but still below typical vinyl surface noise.
No input volume control (on Mac, possibly on other platforms too), but volume is low enough on the phono inputs that clipping is unlikely to occur - in Audacity (again, on Mac) level is typically -10 dB. Input level on line input not tested.

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Creative SoundBlaster Live! Value (obsolete)
Inexpensive version of the SoundBlaster Live" series (without digital I/O)
Ins and outs:
Mini-jack inputs and outputs
Inputs: Line / Mic
Outputs: Front / Rear / Headphone / Sub
Pros:
On board hardware digital signal processing.
Reasonable sound quality (16 bit 48 kHz).
Upgraded pro quality drivers available for Windows.
Sound Font support.
Lots of nice features normally only found on much more expensive sound cards.
Cons:
Discontinued

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Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi HD

Manufacturer's website:
http://uk.creative.com/p/sound-blaster/sound-blaster-digital-music-premium-hd

User review at http://forum.audacityteam.org/viewtopic.php?p=254585#p254585

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Edirol UA-1EX - Superseded by the Edirol Cakewalk UA-1G - in turn superseded bt the Roland Duo Capture
24-bit/48 or 44.1kHz External USB soundcard.
RCA, S/PDIF and an electret condenser microphone input.
Headphone output with volume control
Manufacturer's website:
http://www.roland.co.uk/products/productdetails.aspx?p=1155
Ins and outs:
LINE IN jack (Stereo miniature phone type),
MIC/GUITAR jack (1/4-inch phone type),
PHONES jack (Stereo 1/4-inch phone type)
PHONES (LINE OUT) jack (Stereo miniature phone type)
USB connector (USB Type B)
Pros:
Input volume control (controls signal level sent to computer/Audacity)
Audio I/O signal indicators
Zero latency, direct monitoring (using the headphone output - NOT from Audacity)
Good manual available online - and helpful helpline for trouble-shooting
Cons:
More expensive than the Behringer UCA-202 (but has more features)

Update 3Feb12: Roland UK confirms that the UA-1G is in its turn now superseded by the Rolad Duo Capture also known as the Roland UA-11. They tell me that the UA-11 has broadly the same functionality as the older UA-1EX but with some increased functionality - the S/PDIF digital input appears to have been dropped from this updated model..

If anybody has experience of using the UA-11 with Audacity we would love to hear feedback from you.


User bartjy reports that he cannot get the UA-1G to work in Advanced mode on Windows-7. The device records fine in Standard mode. See: viewtopic.php?f=16&t=52918

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StarTech ICUSBAUDIO
This USB to Stereo Audio Adapter Converter lets you add headsets and microphones to your computer without the need to unplug other devices.
Manufacturer's website:
http://www.startech.com/Cards-Adapters/ ... ICUSBAUDIO
Ins and outs:
Inputs: 1 x 3.5mm mini-jack MIC socket
Outputs: 1 x 3.5mm mini-jack headphone socket
Computer connection:
USB (USB 1.0 and 2.0 compliant)
Pros:
Works well on all three major platforms (Windows, Mac, Linux).
It will supply 5v computer battery to a "computer microphone" to run it. If your microphone has its own battery the plug just works around the 5v battery.
If your built-in sound card isn't up to the job or you have a Mac, this will adapt your simple, single, microphone for recording.
Compact and easily portable
Relatively cheap
Cons:
The most serious problem is the creation of a DC offset in the sound; most of them do it, but not all. You may find that there is a downward going DC level at about -38 dB or so. However, post capture you can easily get rid of it with the Normalize effect.
The microphone system is slightly noisy.
It works with the 5v USB battery, so if you have a noisy or unstable computer, this battery system will be noisy and make your sound noisy too.
It could be argued that this system was made for noise reduction. A slightly noisy performance can be made very nearly perfect.
The headphone volume is all you can achieve with a 5V battery -- which will not make your ears bleed.




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Note to Moderators: Please leave this pro forma in place.

model (obsolete)
summary
Manufacturer's website:
Ins and outs:
Inputs:
Outputs:
Computer connection:
Pros:
Cons:
Last edited by Gale Andrews on Fri Sep 19, 2014 10:38 pm, edited 25 times in total.
Reason: mentioned user review of Creative X-FI HD
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Re: Sound Card Reviews - Edirol UA-1EX

Permanent link to this post Posted by waxcylinder » Tue Apr 07, 2009 6:27 pm

Edirol UA-1EX
External USB soundcard (which is also ASIO compatible - but this will not work with Audacity) interface capable of 24-bit/96kHz operation (the sampling rate is switchable 32/44.1/48/96 kHz - the bitrate is also switchable betwwen 24-bit and 16-bit). In addition to RCA and S/PDIF inputs it also has an electret condenser microphone input similar to the "MIC-IN" on most internal soundcards and a headphone output with volume control to quickly and easily listen to audio from your computer. The device is self-powered from the USB connection.
I use mine configured to 44.1kHz 16-bit, for LP/tape/minidisc transcription and for recording FM broadcasts off-air and occasional spoken-voice mic work - the device has performed well in all these applications - Waxcylinder

Ins and outs:
Inputs:
Line level RCA or 1/8" phone type S/PDIF optical in & out & MIC input (powered electret condenser type - stereo)
Outputs:
Line level RCA
1/8" phone type S/PDIF optical in & out
1/8" headphone jack and independent volume control
And of course, the USB output to computer
Pros:
Works well with Audacity (on both my desktop and laptop PCs running Windows XP)
Input volume control (controls signal level sent to computer/Audacity)
Audio I/O signal indicators
Zero latency, direct monitoring (using the headphone output - NOT from Audacity)
RCA sockets are gold-plated
Good manual available online - and helpful helpline for trouble-shooting
Cons:
Plastic case - but has proved sturdy enough.
More expensive than the Behringer UCA-202 (but has more features)stevethefiddle

WC
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Re: Sound Card Reviews - Edirol UA-1EX

Permanent link to this post Posted by Gale Andrews » Mon Apr 27, 2009 7:28 pm

waxcylinder wrote:Edirol UA-1EXPros:..Good manual available online - and helpful helpline for trouble-shooting


We should always include the web links I think.

Here is the current web page for the product:
http://www.roland.com/products/en/UA-1EX/index.html

with the link to the Manual:
http://www.roland.com/products/en/_supp ... &iCncd=839

Also where (as here) the USB device has a driver download, I think we need advice on whether to install those drivers. From reports I have seen, installing the special drivers on Behringer USB products causes Audacity not to recognise the device by default, because the device defaults to ASIO drivers. Does this Edirol device work using the generic USB Audio Class drivers built into the OS?

Thanks

Gale
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Re: Sound Card Reviews - Edirol UA-1EX

Permanent link to this post Posted by waxcylinder » Tue Apr 28, 2009 8:59 am

Gale Andrews wrote:
Does this Edirol device work using the generic USB Audio Class drivers built into the OS?


Yes, I use it with the standard drivers that came with XP on both my PCS (one is XP-HE and t'other is XP-PRO).

My understanding is that you only need the Edirol drivers if you want to drive the soundcard at its highest speed and then require ASIO support (which of course you would need to build into Audacity yourself - As it cannot be distributed with Audacity for licensing reasons).

WC
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Re: Sound Card Reviews

Permanent link to this post Posted by waxcylinder » Wed May 13, 2009 9:43 am

ION appear to have launched a standalone external USB soundcard - the U RECORD - with an inbuilt pre-amp (suitable therefore for use with turntables, cassette decks or FM radio input). See http://www.ionaudio.com/urecord

I have no experience of this device itself - but I am assuming that it is basically the electronic "guts" of the ION USB turntables. I ran one of these successfully for a while until I found the lightweight platter gave me too much wow&flutter - but I was always impressed with the quality of the electronics.

The device (like all their TTs) comes packaged with Audacity - so I'm assuming that they have tested it with Audacity ...

It's switchable between phono and line level inputs - has a grounding post to ground the TT - and has a gain (volume) control.

It would be interesting to hear a review from any Audacity user out there who is also using this product.

WC
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Re: Sound Card Reviews

Permanent link to this post Posted by steve » Sun May 17, 2009 10:06 am

waxcylinder wrote:I have no experience of this device itself - but I am assuming that it is basically the electronic "guts" of the ION USB turntables.

Let's hope that it proves to be more reliable than the turntables. OK, I know that many users have no problems at all with ION turntables, but there have been an awful lot of people complaining of poor USB connectivity of ION turntables.
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Zoom, Zoom, Zoom

Permanent link to this post Posted by kozikowski » Sun May 24, 2009 5:41 am

No, not the Mazda product, and this strictly isn't a sound card, but a stunning number of people are using the Zoom recorders to capture live performances.

http://www.zoom.co.jp/english/products/h4/

I know a number of audio and production types that are using an H2 or H4 daily. Nobody is putting an H4 in a dusty box in the garage. Several of them have achieved Successful Equipment Status. That is, there's no paint on them, you can't read the knobs any more, and they're always out in the field doing capture jobs.

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Re: Sound Card Reviews

Permanent link to this post Posted by steve » Mon May 25, 2009 12:38 pm

Good one Koz - I regularly use the Zoom H2, which as well as being an excellent standalone pocket recorder can also be used (with Audacity) as a USB microphone (also works in stereo!)
I'll write a review as soon as I have a few minutes to spare.
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Re: Sound Card Reviews

Permanent link to this post Posted by kozikowski » Mon Jun 22, 2009 5:30 am

I found a significant hole in my recommendations -- sound card related.

I have six line-level perfect, clear mono feeds and I want to get all six into Audacity at the same time. No mixing. All three platforms.

How?

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Re: Sound Card Reviews

Permanent link to this post Posted by steve » Mon Jun 22, 2009 5:20 pm

kozikowski wrote:I found a significant hole in my recommendations -- sound card related.

I have six line-level perfect, clear mono feeds and I want to get all six into Audacity at the same time. No mixing. All three platforms.

How?

Koz

I do that the easy way - I record on an 8 channel Yamaha hard disk recorder, then import the WAV files into Audacity.

Yes it would be nice to get some feedback from users of multi-channel sound cards (preferably ones that work). Somewhere on the forum is some information about the M-AUDIO DELTA 1010LT saying that it works, providing you use old drivers for it.
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