Suggest sound card for recording ~$200

I guess many members of this forum are professional sound editors or like so I want to ask what sound card they use for recording and why (briefly)?
I started looking at firewire devices (for easy installation and to have compatibility for future system) but prices seem way far from my budget.
One of my problems is that many of US, EU or UK merchants don’t deliver to Australia, but you please suggest a card anyways so I could decide for my next buy and even if it’s a bit more expensive than my badget.

Since you didn’t post a job or type of recording, I would recommend our ever-popular Behringer UCA202. $30 USD. It does a very good job of stereo input/output and it has a headphone jack that allows you to perform perfect overdubbing/multi-track if you need that. It allows you to use cheaper analog mixers and existing sound equipment like I’m doing here.

I have one and we use several at work.

For most of my “pro” work, I use the very good quality soundcard built into my Mac.


Thanks for help, I love Behringer products as I own beautiful monitor speakers and their price is unbeatable for the quality they offer.
However, I did a quick search for the UCA202 and indeed it’s a well regarded interface (especially if compared with its price) but I think that from my average budget of $200 I could look at more expensive interface?
My main use would be recording audio from hi-fi cassette audio player (line signal), recording computer’s own sounds from any sources (mixer settings from audio properties) and so on.
Are these my 2 different requirements (line signal and software mixer) incompatible with the interfaces?

For recording Sounds Made on the Computer, you don’t need an external interface at all. That’s the desperation method and you’re far better off if your computer doesn’t feature Stereo-Mix, to invest in one of the software packages that allows this without leaving the computer.

As far as converting music cassettes like this…

In my opinion, whatever tiny shortcomings there are in the adapter are far outweighed by the noise and distortion of cassette tape. There are much larger and more complex adapters, but the only thing extra you get is the ability to change volume. People have noted under certain conditions that is required. Other elves need to post because I have no experience with them. I go straight to a microphone, mixing board and my Mac which has a terrific digitizer, or straight to the Mac if I’m converting vinyl or cassettes. It’s only if you’re on Windows or Linux that you’re much more likely to require the adapter.

Missed a step. Here…


Since vinyl or cassettes are a thing of the past, I assume you have only a definite, even limited set of cassettes to digitize.

So instead of making life more complicated than it needs to be trying to create a permanent cassette-deck-to-laptop set-up, why not temporarily borrow (use) a desktop PC from a friend, and create a line-out/line-in set-up between your cassette deck and the PC? All you need is a good hi-fi cassette deck, a PC with a reasonably good sound card, the appropriate line-out/line-in cord and jacks, and Audacity. This is exactly what I did myself. The results were amazingly good. The original noise and distortion of cassette tape simply cannot be heard in the digital output (FLAC files saved from Audacity). Somehow they got filtered out in the process.

For external sound cards, recording the computer’s own sounds in Audacity is generally not supported on Windows unless you use a loopback connector (connect a stereo audio lead from the line out to the line in).

For recording tapes/mini-disks etc. it is useful to have recording level controls (which the Behringer UCA 202 does not have).
There are plenty of options available that are well within your budget.
ART USB devices have a good reputation for being solidly built - for example the ART Tube MP project series USB Preamp which also includes a nice pair of microphone inputs.
Alesis have a good reputation for value - the Alesis IO|2 Express may be of interest.
M-Audio are a big name in this price range, but I’ve often found the Windows drivers to be a bit unreliable and since they merged with Avid/Digi Tech I’ve found their customer support to be very poor so personally I’d not recommend their USB devices (your mileage may vary).

I read somewhere that often standard computers’ internal audio devices are just averagely good for the digital to analogical sound conversion such as during gaming or listening at music and so the device (or worse when is an onboard chip) doesn’t have a good analogical to digital conversion capability in my case the recording.
I mainly use a desktop PC and of course it has the line-in socket.

I am still not clear what the benefit is by using your suggestion, the Behringer, does it just swap the signal from analogical to digital or it actually properly digitize it so no work is after the computer?

This is exactly what I did but I’m looking at a specific device to improve recording from analogical external sources.

Finally, you got right to the point.

But I see these devices are mainly aimed at instruments such as guitar or microphone (I would need to use adapters from computer for their slots) so is this the right thing for me to do?
Or should I look at PCI style internal cards like this one:
I remember what you said about M-Audio but I just want to understand what is the best solution for my work then I choose the optimal product.

I convert a lot of vinyl (finished mine, working on Mrs, Waxcylinder’s now)

If I were buying today I would buty the integrated ART device- the USB Phono Plus:
This is a combined phono preamp and USB sound card (and importantly it has a gain control and a grounding point).

I actually use an ART phono pre-amp,the DJ Pre 11:

I have this running through an external soundcard an Edirol UA-1EX (no longer manufactuted but a few still available apparently)

I started with the Edirol taking its input from Mrs Waxcylinder’'s old Technics amp - but when that died I had to source a food pre-amp for the task.

The build quality on the ARTcessories stuff is superb: solid, rugged, aluminium casing - and the sound is excellent too with a very low noise floor

I also note that the Phono Plus has optical and S/PDIF inputs - could be useful if you are also converting MiniDiscs (I have a similar facilty on the Edirol and indeed used it for my MD conversions).

In the UK it sells for £65-80, lists it at US$79, so well within your budget.


If you really want to spend more money I seem to recall seeing a Naim device a while back but I can’t finf the link right now - but I think you would be more than satisfied with the ARTcessories gizmo.


The “FubarIO-MKII” has an excellent specification on paper and is massively expensive for a 16 bit no frills sound card.

Their DAC (digital to analogue converter) devices get pretty good reviews but I’ve not found any reviews of the FubarIO-MKII (which I think is their only model that has an ADC (analogue to digital) converter).

Thanks Steve, yet this device is no frills also it seems to me aimed at Mac users, people who give greater importance to the external design of a device and much lees to what is inside it and they pay much more for what is outdated too. :smiling_imp:
This device is just NEW in the market and it still uses USB 1.1 interface?! :open_mouth:

Yup if you get the ART Phono Plus that’s all you should need.

It’s an integrated device that combines the jobs of my ART pre-amp and my Edirol soundcard.


USB 1.1 is extremely common with USB sound cards, even with new high-end devices.

The data transfer rate of USB 1.1 (12 Mbit/s) is more than adequate for stereo audio at 24 bit 96 kHz or less. It is a well supported, tried and tested format that is recognised by most operating systems without the need for special drivers. For a stereo audio I/O card I don’t think that USB 2 offers any advantages. USB 3 is starting to be used for multi-channel sound cards, though firewire is still a lot more common for these types of devices.

Thanks for help I’m going for it :wink:

What do you guys think about this device??
Terratec PhonoPreamp iVinyl:

Terratec are a well established name in audio equipment. They used to make some semi-pro multi-channel interfaces, though that side of the business seems to be abandoned now. I’ve not used one but I’d expect that the electronics and the performance to be very good. It looks like a plastic box, which would be a shame (the ART pre-amps have sturdy metal boxes) but that’s probably not a big deal for home use.