Sound Card Recs Pls

Hello the forum, newbe here.

I’m just getting into sound recording and very much want a decent sound card that I can afford.

I’m running windows10, audacity 2.3.3 and have a dell inspiron 7000 series laptop.

I have an xlr mic at my access, with an xlr to 1/4" adaptor.

Lastly, I would love to find a good soundcard that comes in around (or under) 100 bucks.

Lmk if there is any other info that would be helpful.

Thx in advance :ugeek:

I have an xlr mic at my access

Look for an [u]audio interface[/u] (with a “proper” microphone input) rather than a “soundcard”.

Typically, they have switchable mic/line or mic/instrument inputs.

One feature I’d look for is “zero-latency direct-hardware” monitoring so you can monitor yourself without the latency (delay) you get when monitoring through the computer. (Sometimes you can get the latency down to an acceptable or unnoticeable amount but I’d rather avoid the issue completely.)

You’re a prince among men. I believe that your timely and well articulated advice just gave a tremendous boost to my future production quality. (oh,oh,oh, causing and affecting positive change to the future - it’s like scifi, only it’s real now.)

New question - do different audio interfaces work better with different software when it comes to layering tracks and mixing?

And a follow-up question - do you have any recommendations for freeware?

Many thanks, both present and future!

The most affordable thing I’ve found is also the most intriguing . . . a tubed preamp/usb interface. Do you see any reason why this wouldn’t be a good place to start? While it doesn’t claim zero latency, some reviewers report this.

New question - do different audio interfaces work better with different software when it comes to layering tracks and mixing?

Most of them are similar and most have good audio quality. As you can see from the link there are multi-channel interfaces for multi-track recording.

The “small” interfaces are usually USB powered and sometimes noise can get into the preamp from the USB power. The same thing can happen with USB microphones (or with a regular soundcard). In addition, all analog electronics generate some noise. If there is a difference in “sound quality” it will be noise. You can’t rely on the manufacturer’s specs because they don’t all use the same test methods and of course, they test with a “clean” power supply.

But usually, the biggest problem is acoustic noise since most of us don’t live in a soundproof studio. :wink:

And a follow-up question - do you have any recommendations for freeware?

Besides Audacity? There are some free [u]DAWs[/u] (Digital Audio Workstation applications) but I don’t use them so I can’t make a recommendation.

The quality of your recording isn’t affected by the software (assuming no “problems”). Your recording software simply has to capture the digital audio stream and send the data to your hard drive as a file. The same goes for mixing & editing except for any effects which can sound different. (The reverb that comes with Audacity will sound different than the reverb that comes with a different application, etc.)

A DAW is better suited to multitrack mixing & recording than Audacity (Audacity is an “audio editor”) but they are more complex. Audacity can mix, but mixing is done by summation and you can get clipping (distortion). A DAW will have a “master” level control, plus a level control and meter for each track, so you can more easily control the level of the mix. And it will have better volume/level automation, etc.

a tubed preamp/usb interface.

IMO, it’s silly to use 1950’s technology. Guitar players tend to like the way tube amplifiers sound when driven into distortion and some recording engineers like the same “effect”, much more subtly, in a preamp.

“Audiophiles” are mostly “nuts” and they tend to like whatever is the most exotic & most expensive or almost anything outdated (like vinyl records & tubes)."

It’s possible to make a tube amp that’s just as “clean” as a solid state amp (and/or one that hard-clips like most solid state circuits) but it’s more expensive to make a good tube circuit. And if a tube amp does distort, every tube amp is going to sound different so that’s what the “modeling” is supposed to do. Of course, modeling and all kinds of other effects can be done in software, if you can find the effect/plug-in that emulates your desired preamp.

Thank you so much for your guidance. I ended up going with a Behringer Xenyx 302 USB mixer

Now I just have to wait for it to show up!