mic preamp with digital output?

In another thread Ive been advised to buy a mic preamp with digital output (usb/firewire) for connection to my pc.
Does it matter what digital cable standard I buy (my pc supports both and is 1 year old) ?

Today Im using the analogue connectors on the pc to connect to speakers/headphones and to audio sources. As I understand it, on windows vista, you always assign 1 sound device/connector for audio output and 1 for input at any chosen time, and you can only chose 1 device/channel for each direction. I would like to retain my speaker system fed as is today from the analogue output, but if I use a firewire connection to a preamp, dont I have to assign my sound device to the firewire connection, leaving my speakers without signal from the “old” analogue line out (on the pc) ?
Or should I connect the speakers in some other way if I procure a firewire connection ?

not fully sure on how they work but
i understand that some external soundcards
will give you multiple inputs , preamp, monitor, and even playback through speakers while recording . now the question is can audacity drive all that – if not the software with the box should do that.


Apple has professed a failure in faith for their FireWire services even though they keep including it in all their high-end devices and all my stuff around the house is both. However, all three computing platforms directly support USB right out of the box.


USB has a nasty habit of falling over when either the CPU gets busy or there’s too much data. For these reasons Firewire is generally used on multi-channel sound cards. For mono/stereo sound cards the performance of USB is usually adequate (unless they’ve used a really poor quality USB chip) and USB is usually a lot easier to set up and get working correctly. Firewire is also usually more expensive. For an 8 or 16 input sound card I’d definitely go for Firewire rather than USB (though it may not work with Audacity), but for mono/stereo I’d use USB for its simplicity, ease of use and lower cost.

Are you meaning to say that firewire is not well supported by audacity or do you mean that multichannel input is not supported (by audacity).
Since I need 2 xlr mic input on the preamp Im currently looking into the Inspire 1394 (firewire) and M-audio fast track pro (usb), they seem to be both around 250-300$.
The inspire seem to cut cost by substituting mechanical controls on the box with software control panels. Both seem to provide 48v phantom power, which I need.
Anyone has an opinion on either of these?

BTW, I must say audacity is my personal fave among the freewares on the net. Im still little more than a newbie but I have already been able to do a couple of real nice projects.
The last one was to my daughter’s song competition at school, where she covered taylor swift. While not being exactly my cup of tea, I helped her arrange it and put together a full instrumentation karaoke background soundtrack, which completely blew away the competition. I have been fascinated by multi-channel home recording, from the moment my pal bought the Tascam 144 4-channel cassette recorder in the early 80s, and we fooled around with it. Needless to say, coming from that kind of limited hardware, its a real eye-opener to face a software recorder like audacity. For one thing, the number of available channels almost seem unlimited, that’s so cool! And the manipulations you can do if you want to spend the time, the limitations are in your imagination and the time you can spend, not in the soft- or hardware any more.

…the more I surf the more options I get :slight_smile:
So this far Ive found:

Presonus inspire 1394
M-audio fast track pro
EMU 0404
Edirol/Cakewalk UA-25
Tascam US 122
Focusrite saffire 6 usb

Overall, there is no shortage in horror stories from buyers concerning how the usb connection works, or how the gear works overall, quite confusing I think.
I liked the tascam when browsing the manual, for its seeming sturdiness and choice of control knobs and that it looked suitable for placement on the floor very near the spot where you sit and play your instrument.
So again, any thoughts on these, in a audacity/windows vista setting?

firewire was big until usb2
and was used in some sound cards
now even apple has dropped firewire

usb3 will blow all the old methods away
and it is almost here in off the shelf pcs

usb2 is just fine for now
people bringing up old usb problems are reliving history
andor apple propaganda believers

Firewire and multi-channel devices generally are often designed primarily to work with ASIO driver. It seems that Windows drivers are often added on as something of an afterthought. Unfortunately Audacity can not be distributed with ASIO support due to licensing restrictions (though if you build Audacity from the source code it is possible to compile it with ASIO support and it is legal to do so for personal use. Unfortunately this option is rather too “programmy” for most users.

Being stuck with often not very good Windows drivers, many users have reported difficulty getting their firewire/multi-channel hardware to work with Audacity. A simple option that some users have taken is to use an ASIO program for doing the recording and then use Audacity for editing.

On the other hand some users have reported that Audacity works fine with their firewire/multi-channel audio device.
Although we try to encourage people to give feedback about their hardware, there are only a few snippets of information on the forum. (for example here: https://forum.audacityteam.org/t/sound-card-reviews/8375/1 )

Me too :slight_smile:

Firewire still is big. USB2 does not overcome the problem of CPU dependency.
It’s not just about speed, USB is designed for burst data not sustained data. Sure you can buffer the data to cope with gaps between the bursts, but that introduces latency which makes it useless for many DAW applications.

USB 3 has a major advantage over USB 2 for audio applications in that it supports full duplex, but it is still to be seen if it can live up to the hype in real world applications. Firewire is a well established standard for professional audio and video work (though high end equipment tend to use custom interfaces in preference to USB or Firewire). It will take more than hype to make Firewire obsolete.

firewire is obsolete cause apple dropped it
" and it is hard to get to work with audacity"
and other stuff too

usb is so fast there is no way it won’t be the standard for audio
still are firewire users but they will be moving to usb2/3
and usb is bigger than firewire these days

latency is not an issue for users doing recording
only affects those with midi stuff thrown in or trying to overdub
while playing from the pc


Except for the FireWire connection still included on all the higher end equipment. USB is widely considered useless for video production because of its inability to maintain constant high bitrates.


And we get all the overdub people wondering how to get rid of echoes and delay. Sometimes you don’t – at least not without adding external equipment.


I don’t know about those two, but I’m seriously considering buying an ART USB Dual Pre. Check it out! I’ve read good reviews about it and should be quite cheaper than the ones you mentioned. I might order mine tonight in order to get it friday.

I’ve never used one myself, but I’ve had first hand reports from people that do use these and they’ve all been good reports.
If you do get one, do let us know how you get on with it - we’re always interested in first hand experience of hardware with Audacity.

I’ve just placed the order :slight_smile: Can’t wait to get my hands on it… If everything goes as expected I should get it by Friday.

I’ll surely post my first impressions here along with some recording samples.

bgravato: can you also post a review in the overview format in this thread which we maintain on external soundcards that we know work with Audacity: https://forum.audacityteam.org/t/sound-card-reviews/8375/1

I have the ART DJ-PreII phono-preamp which I use in conjunction with an Edirol USB souncard - I suspect that the phono preamp stage in your ART USB Dual Pre is probaly the same innards - you device will also have the integrated soundcard.

I have been very pleased with my ART pre-amp - I already had the Edirol soundcard and was using my wife’s old Technics amp/pre-amp - but sadly that died so I had to get a replacement for my vinyl capture. If I hadn’t already had my Edirol soundcard I would have very seriously considered the device you have just bought.

Looking forward to hearing how you get on with the device.


A note here. Direct To USB, in my experience, tends to be a little wimpy in sound level. The manufacturer’s are perfectly clear that of the two errors, only Too High is immediately damaging and fatal to the show. Too Low is a very minor inconvenience…maybe.

That and I see the spectre of Multi-Channel raising its head again. If the dual-channel MicPre prepares its work as left and right stereo, then you win. If it prepares the work as two independent mono channels, you can only use one at a time – at least in Audacity.


Got my Art USB Dual Pre today :slight_smile:

I already posted it in other thread earlier today but here it is again for those not following that thread…

I only had half hour to play with it and I probably won’t have much time till sunday to get back to it, but here is the first sample recorded on linux: 31-art-usb-dual-pre-sample1.flac

I’ll post some more when I have more time… Still need to try it on the mac, but should work fine too.

Enjoy! :slight_smile:

Hi again, so far I think I’ve narrowed down to Edirol ua-25ex and Focusrite saffire 6 usb. Both units looks pretty good on paper, a little downside with the focusrite is that its a usb 1.1, which I guess means max 12Mb/s. Could this be a problem on a 2 channel unit? Dont know much about bit rates but 12 Mb (is that in either direction?) sounds adequate for a stereo input, and possibly monitor background sound from audacity. I must confess Im a little surprised at the seemingly low number of posts regarding soundcards on this forum, provided the presumably high numbers of home recording people that are using audacity.

i have a ua25ex and a emu0404
but i will run them with usb2

my understanding is that neither works with audacity
because of driver issues
(could be wrong - i am using audacity with built in realtek and soundmax on the old pcs)

in the long run i play to run sonar 8.5 ( 9, 10 ??) when i finally set up my mini home studio for recording and composition

i would say skip the focusrite and go for the faster interface

Have you tried the ua25ex with audacity and not got it to work? Could you elaborate on that?
Im also using realtek currently but is not overly happy with it.