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General Discussions => The Lab => Topic started by: [email protected] on June 10, 2005, 01:14:22 PM

Title: Looking for good quality USB audio interface
Post by: [email protected] on June 10, 2005, 01:14:22 PM
Hi,

There are so many products out there, but there is so little time
to test these gadgets.
Can someone recommend a good USB (or firewire) based audio interface?
It needs to have line level balanced I/O and do 24bit/96Khz.
I am running WinXP on a laptop and the primary use of the interface will be making audio measurements with TrueRTA and RMA Analyzer.

Thank You,
Tamas
Title: Looking for good quality USB audio interface
Post by: AnalogPackrat on June 10, 2005, 01:36:57 PM
Tamas,

I have a Presonus FirePod which works fine with my Athlon desktop running Win XP.  The FireBox might be an option if you only need a few ins/outs.  It also has better drivers than the FirePod and comes with a little app to allow some mixing/routing inside the unit.  The FirePod (which costs more, but came out first) has older drivers and no mixing app.  Both of these boxes will do [email protected]  They have balanced I/O, decent mic pres, and DI inputs.

One thing you may run into with firewire interfaces is PCI latency tweaking.  If you search the Cakewalk forum you will find a huge thread on this issue.  If you run into trouble, let me know and I can try to help you out.  I had some "fun" with this on my system.  I don't have any experience with USB interfaces, but I think Edirol make a nice USB2.0 unit.  There's also that new portable firewire unit from MOTU.

Do you plan on using this only for one or two channels of test/measurement at a time?  If so, the FireBox might be the ticket for under $400.

Good luck,
Analog Packrat
Title: Looking for good quality USB audio interface
Post by: [email protected] on June 10, 2005, 01:50:37 PM
Quote from: "AnalogPackrat"
Do you plan on using this only for one or two channels of test/measurement at a time?


Yes, this interface will be dedicated to measurements, and reference recordings, mostly to compare one circuit to another. Compactness is a an adventage.
Thanks for the recommendation.
Title: Looking for good quality USB audio interface
Post by: [email protected] on June 10, 2005, 02:24:00 PM
Anything useful in the USB camp?
Title: Looking for good quality USB audio interface
Post by: AnalogPackrat on June 10, 2005, 02:29:19 PM
Tamas,

Another possibility is to buy a Mackie (wait, don't vomit yet) FW card for their 16xx series of mixers.  Somewhere recently (maybe it was here) there were some folks talking about doing a DIY FW interface using the card.  Apparently its analog inputs are easy to get at and you just need to download the drivers to get it working.  This would allow you to have more control over the analog end of things.  I think the bare cards go for around $300 and have 8/8 I/O or something.  I'll try to dig up the link for you.

Analog Packrat
Title: Looking for good quality USB audio interface
Post by: Mark Burnley on June 10, 2005, 02:40:33 PM
Tamas,

I'm looking for exactly the same thing right now- preferably just a balanced stereo line-in without any bells-and-whistles. I want to add my own front end with variable gain, so even a high quality unbalanced input will do, as I'll do the balancing bit myself.

It's for portable equipment testing and calibration, so any other suggestions (preferably USB) would be great thanks!

Mark
Title: Looking for good quality USB audio interface
Post by: TomWaterman on June 10, 2005, 02:53:10 PM
If you're going to add the balancing bit yourself, maybe the Echo PCMCIA cards are worth a look as long as your laptops support it. Not the highest quality conversion on the planet but should be reasonably low noise.

About 199quid for the stereo in/out 24/96 job.

    *  1 stereo 1/8" connector
    * Frequency Response: 10Hz-20kHz, ±0.5dB
    * Dynamic Range: >109dB A-weighted
    * THD+n at -3dbfs, 1kHz sine wave: <0.0014% A-weighted
    * Crosstalk at -3dbfs, 1kHz sine wave:  <0.0005% A-weighted
    * Nominal Input Level: -10dBV
    * Maximum Input level:  +7.2 dBu
    * Input Impedance: 10KOhm

sh*tty 1/8" connectors and the headroom is poor.

Not much else out there for reasonable money.

-Tom
Title: Looking for good quality USB audio interface
Post by: TomWaterman on June 10, 2005, 02:55:29 PM
M-Audio have a 2in-2out unbalanced USB job.

Audiofile 24/96.

-Tom
Title: Looking for good quality USB audio interface
Post by: daArry on June 10, 2005, 03:27:42 PM
the ti/bb PCM2902 might be an idea - not the greatest of specs but a v simple 1 chip usb solution - http://focus.ti.com/docs/prod/folders/print/pcm2902.html
Title: Looking for good quality USB audio interface
Post by: AnalogPackrat on June 10, 2005, 03:52:24 PM
Tamas,

Another possibility is to buy a Mackie (wait, don't vomit yet) FW card for their 16xx series of mixers.  Somewhere recently (maybe it was here) there were some folks talking about doing a DIY FW interface using the card.  Apparently its analog inputs are easy to get at and you just need to download the drivers to get it working.  This would allow you to have more control over the analog end of things.  I think the bare cards go for around $300 and have 8/8 I/O or something.  I'll try to dig up the link for you.

Analog Packrat
Title: Looking for good quality USB audio interface
Post by: AnalogPackrat on June 10, 2005, 03:52:34 PM
Tamas,

Another possibility is to buy a Mackie (wait, don't vomit yet) FW card for their 16xx series of mixers.  Somewhere recently (maybe it was here) there were some folks talking about doing a DIY FW interface using the card.  Apparently its analog inputs are easy to get at and you just need to download the drivers to get it working.  This would allow you to have more control over the analog end of things.  I think the bare cards go for around $300 and have 8/8 I/O or something.  I'll try to dig up the link for you.

Analog Packrat
Title: Looking for good quality USB audio interface
Post by: AnalogPackrat on June 10, 2005, 03:53:46 PM
Sorry bout the double post...note to self: do not go "back" and then "forward" through a set of pages that include a forum post  :oops:  :oops:
Title: Looking for good quality USB audio interface
Post by: moosapotamus on June 10, 2005, 10:38:59 PM
Check out Edirol... I have the UA-1000 (USB 2.0) and I know you don't need that much I/O, but they make basic stereo USB 2.0 interfaces, too. When I did my research prior to getting the UA-1000, it seemed that Edirol has historically had some strong collaborations with Microsoft (well, maybe you are running a MAC). Anyway, I heard that Service Pack 2 for WinXP was developed and released mainly to provide greater support for Edirol's USB audio drivers. YMMV, so do your own research. But, I am very happy with the UA-1000 in my home-based studio. :cool:

~ Charlie
Title: Looking for good quality USB audio interface
Post by: Nat M. on June 11, 2005, 12:06:28 AM
I've got the Edirol UA-1000, too, and I'm satisfied with it. Edirol is now making a slightly smaller version of the UA-1000 called the UA-101:

http://www.edirol.com/press/html/2005/040605_ua101_pr.html

I might have prefered this smaller size and fewer features over the full 1U rack space of the UA-1000. It's not a whole lot cheaper, though.

There is also a FA-66, which is a 2-pre-amp, 6-input, small box size, FireWire unit that costs less than $400.

http://www.edirol.com/products/info/fa66.html

Don't know a thing about it, but it's not super expensive, and the UA-1000 was easy to set up and never had trouble, even recording 8 inputs at 24/44.1. Maybe their other units would be pretty good, too. The FA-66 is, like the UA-101, a smaller version of a product that has existed for a while. I think that's a plus.

Some people think that FireWire may be more stable for audio than USB 2.0. I don't know, but I haven't had trouble with USB 2.0.

You might want to research whether Presonus has got its drivers working well for its newer audio interfaces. I bet you really couldn't go wrong with most of the new FireWire or USB 2.0 interfaces out there now.
Title: Looking for good quality USB audio interface
Post by: [email protected] on June 11, 2005, 08:05:47 PM
Oooh, those Edirol products look very interesting. They tend to have balanced I/Os.
Title: Looking for good quality USB audio interface
Post by: BR on June 12, 2005, 04:07:29 AM
Check this one out
http://www.siasoft.com/products/accessories2.html

sold at siasoft, which is the company who makes smaart live..  It must be pretty good.  I thinking about getting that myself...

Besides that, the only thing that comes to mind is the Digi MBox.  It has the balanced ins and outs and it works pretty good.  You can find some for as little as $200 on evilbay.

take care
Gil
Title: Looking for good quality USB audio interface
Post by: [email protected] on June 14, 2005, 05:31:21 PM
I think I am going to try this: "Terratec Phase 24 24/192kHz Firewire Audio Interface". With its two line level inputs/output it seems to fit the purpose, besides being affordable (~$250).
Title: Looking for good quality USB audio interface
Post by: BR on June 14, 2005, 10:40:51 PM
Please let me know how it turns out, since I'm looking to get something similar to that..
thanks
Gil
Title: Looking for good quality USB audio interface
Post by: soundguy on June 15, 2005, 12:16:51 AM
holy, this is what I was freaking out a few months back.  Feature wise, this is what Ive been looking for.

TK, check this link, $199, free shipping.

http://www.jdsound.com/store/product1.asp?SID=2&Product_ID=4225

I might try this out, has anyone used one of these?

This box perhaps would be a candidate for replacing the analog input buffer with a lundahl, that could have some potential.

dave
Title: Looking for good quality USB audio interface
Post by: [email protected] on June 15, 2005, 12:41:32 AM
Dave,

That is a good deal on that unit. I will order one sometimes next week.

Thanks
Title: Looking for good quality USB audio interface
Post by: soundguy on June 15, 2005, 12:46:54 AM
I couldnt help myself, I just bought one.  If it sucks, off to ebay.  One of my friends has a metric halo that I borrowed to transfer some stuff, I'll make some comparisons and see.

$200 to my door, if it doesnt sound terrible, is not so bad for non mission critical transfers IMO.

dave
Title: Looking for good quality USB audio interface
Post by: [email protected] on July 27, 2005, 09:36:25 AM
OK. So I got this Terratec Phase 24 thingy. The performance is pretty good. I get -107dB noise floor and 0.0012% THD with the loopback test in RMAA. Oddly, I get better measured performance at 96KHz sampling than at 192KHz sampling rate. Trading down a bit here from the the ESI [email protected] that cost less and has better performance. However, I am moving to the laptop setup so I need something to do measurements with.
The only problem I am having with the Phase 24 is occasional glitches in the signal, like drouputs. Once in a while they dork up measurements.  I have no prior experience with Firewire interfaces. Can someone help tweak something to eliminate these droputs?

I have gone to the website and upgraded to the latest driver and firmware already with no improvement.

Thank You,
Tamas
Title: Looking for good quality USB audio interface
Post by: rodabod on July 27, 2005, 09:46:24 AM
Quote from: "[email protected]"
Oddly, I get better measured performance at 96KHz sampling than at 192KHz sampling rate.

 Can someone help tweak something to eliminate these droputs?


I think this is usually the case and is always experienced when increasing sample rate.

What operating system are you using? Windows XP?

Have you set it up correctly for audio? Is your computer cluttered with lots of different programs running in the background (startup)?
Title: Looking for good quality USB audio interface
Post by: Scenaria on July 27, 2005, 09:54:17 AM
Hi,

I cant recommend presonus at this time.. ifyour curious as to why then check the brewery...their business model is horrible.
Title: Looking for good quality USB audio interface
Post by: [email protected] on July 27, 2005, 10:28:07 AM
Quote from: "rodabod"
I think this is usually the case and is always experienced when increasing sample rate.

I thought higher sampling rate would yield better performance. Going from 44k to 96k seems to be an improvement.

Quote from: "rodabod"
What operating system are you using? Windows XP?

Yes.

Quote from: "rodabod"
Have you set it up correctly for audio?

I haven't a clue how to do that. Where do I start?

Quote from: "rodabod"
Is your computer cluttered with lots of different programs running in the background (startup)?

It is a new Toshiba laptop and it has a few things already configured to show up on the right hand corner of the bottom toolbar. There are things like wireless network monitor, firewall, anti-virus protection, laptop power management and pointing device shmegema-jiggy tidbits.

I just need to run a single in and single out at 24bit/96KHz. This was a really simple thing on my old Win2000 PC and the ESI card. I am getting a sense that laptops are fussier.  :sad:

Would a PCMCIA based solution like the EMU 1616 be more reliable out of the box?

Thanks,
Tamas
PS.: I am not good with computers.
Title: Looking for good quality USB audio interface
Post by: rodabod on July 27, 2005, 11:05:04 AM
Oh bollocks..... just deleted all that I wrote accidentally.

I will write a summary then.

Increasing sample rate increases Nyquist rate - I think the increased bandwidth will relatively increase noise levels.

I am using a newish Toshiba laptop too: fine.

Programs in taskbar sound ok. Set power mode to full for battery and mains power - ie. don't allow it to ever switch off hard disks, etc. Maybe allow monitor to switch off. Not too sure about network / antivirus programs - probably ok if they don't prompt you though.

Look here:

http://www.musicxp.net/tuning_tips.php

I have used all of these settings - much better. I keep "system restore" enabled though, in case I mess everything up.

I'm not great with PCs either, but your setup sounds fine.

I would not bother getting a PCMCIA card - you will need to persevere with your setup - most things don't work perfectly out of the box.

Roddy
Title: Looking for good quality USB audio interface
Post by: mcs on July 27, 2005, 11:17:46 AM
Quote from: "[email protected]"
It is a new Toshiba laptop and it has a few things already configured to show up on the right hand corner of the bottom toolbar. There are things like wireless network monitor, firewall, anti-virus protection, laptop power management and pointing device shmegema-jiggy tidbits.

I would get rith of all the auto-start stuff. Including firewalls and anti-virus. You can do manual virus scans when you're NOT recording.

And don't enable any nice 3D screen savers either :grin:

Best regards,

Mikkel C. Simonsen
Title: Looking for good quality USB audio interface
Post by: AnalogPackrat on July 27, 2005, 11:49:34 AM
Tamas,

I had (and periodically have again) the dropout problem that you describe.  I'm using a Firepod on a desktop system running XP Home edition.  You do need to disable all of the hardware parts that are not needed for recording.  If these things interrupt the processor and cause the Firewire data stream to dry up you will get a dropout/glitch.

One way to do this is to set up two hardware profiles--one for normal laptop use and one for recording.  In the recording one you will disable all the nonessential features like the network controller (wired and wireless), COM ports, etc.  As a couple of others have stated, you should also set your virus scanner and other "auto" programs to manual startup so they won't interfere with time critical recording processes.  Many programs also periodically check for updates (via the network) and will cause problems.  You'll need to ferret out these things and set them so they do not automatically check for updates.  

It can be really annoying, but every time you install new SW, get into the habit of going through the options/preferences and turning off all of the stuff that might interfere with recording.  Here's a site that should help you get started:

http://www.musicxp.net/

Good luck,
Analog Packrat
Title: Looking for good quality USB audio interface
Post by: [email protected] on July 27, 2005, 03:52:38 PM
Much, much Thanks for the links and suggestions. I will create a separate login and profile for audio use, and follow the tuning tips.  :grin:

Cheers,
Tamas
Title: Looking for good quality USB audio interface
Post by: Ghengis on July 27, 2005, 07:24:40 PM
If your laptop is a centrino or one of the AMD processors, you should make sure it is running full throtle when doing your recording/playback to avoid glitches.  This has been a bit of a pain for me on desktops and on laptops.  

I installed Giga 3 on an AMD64 3200 and kept glitching.  The processors throttle down the bus and sometimes the multiplier to conserve power/heat.  When load at the throttled down speed exceeds 100% the FSB and multipler and voltage can get shifted to maximum.  This is supposed to be instantaneous, but isn't of course.  In audio processes this can give you a glitch.

If you are running a centrino, same applies.  You can download this software which shows more whats going on: http://www.pbus-167.com/chc.htm plus also lets you change AC or DC processor stepping.

Hope that helps!
Ghengis
Title: Looking for good quality USB audio interface
Post by: [email protected] on August 01, 2005, 02:24:22 PM
This is working out great! Just turning the wireless network off seems to cure the glitch problem.
Now I have to finish my switchable 150 ohm input and 600 ohm output attenuators for measurements.

Cheers,
Tamas