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USB audio recommendations? #1430776 05/06/10 02:37 PM
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ukwomble Offline OP
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Turns out my laptop audio is even more uselss than I expected, and my desktop is so far away that running audio/midi cables will be a pain.

So I'm looking for any recommendations for a simple, stable, USB audio/midi interface, which I'll be able use with both machines.

The EMU 0404 USB interface looks good features wise, but it doesn't list Win7 and the drivers are 2 years old. Does anyone have any experience with this under Windows Vista / Windows 7?

Thanks.

Last edited by ukwomble; 05/06/10 02:47 PM.

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Re: USB audio recommendations? [Re: ukwomble] #1430831 05/06/10 03:31 PM
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TimR Offline
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I use the M-Audio Fastrack Pro. It does MIDI in and sound out and seems to work well but I'm not expert enough to really evaluate it.

There's only one MIDI in so if like me you need several keyboards you need another solution.


gotta go practice
Re: USB audio recommendations? [Re: ukwomble] #1430838 05/06/10 03:36 PM
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ChrisA Offline
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Edit: Lexicon Alpha, see link below. Unless you want to plan for the future and buy something more capable

I just got a PreSonus "Firebox" It uses a Firewire connection. Sweetwater has "B Stock" units on sale right now for $180. I've been testing it. It works well and being "class compliant" does not require any drivers.

Presonus also makes a slightly les capable USB version called "Audiobox" that sells for about $150.

One feature I like with both of these is that the monitor andheadphone each have their own volume control, A small thing but in saves having to re-adjust the volume after switching to headphones.

I've not used a Windows computer since the early 90's so I'm no expert but I think If you are using Windwos you need some speacial third party drivers to reduce latency to usable levels so you might not care to much

But if you don't have any good recording software (aka "DAW") look for an audio interface that bundles in a copy of CuBase or something like it. The software typically sells for about the price of the interface, it's like getting one of them free.

Perfect for you usage is the Lexicon "Alpha". It comes with CuBase and is the lowest cost decent spec'd audio interface from a good name brand.
Lexicon Alpha
I like the re-seller too.

The two PreSonus boxes have MIDI. This means you can save the clutter of a seporate USB/MIDI interface.

Re: USB audio recommendations? [Re: ChrisA] #1430859 05/06/10 03:56 PM
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sullivang Online Blank
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Regarding Windows, look for ASIO compatibility. Most will come with an ASIO driver and should work well.

Greg.

Re: USB audio recommendations? [Re: sullivang] #1430862 05/06/10 03:59 PM
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and don't forget to, regardless your OS, look for drivers for windows-7 64bit, if they don't exist run away, because it means that likely the manufacturer is not very supportive with driver releases and you might regret it later on when you update your PC and you have to toss your audio card due to no driver support.

Re: USB audio recommendations? [Re: MarcoM] #1430874 05/06/10 04:29 PM
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Yuri Pavlov Offline
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As write in some forums EMU 0404 USB work at win 7 32/64 succesfully with vista drivers. Some people report about problems with crackle, but this problem can be result of using USB bus some devices in one time. Most pepople works without problem. You can try at your system. Native drivers for win 7 does not expected


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Re: USB audio recommendations? [Re: Yuri Pavlov] #1430897 05/06/10 05:15 PM
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ChrisA Offline
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You can see from all the above that an important issue with audio interfaces when used on Windows based PCs is device drivers. You just never know in advance if the software will work or if latency will be acceptable. It can be made to work but you may need to return some items and try again. So I'd suggest buying from a place that has very good service and return policy. See the link I give above. Call those guys and ask the sales staff there actually knows the products and will take anything back.

I always suggest buying a Mac if the primary use of the computer is music. But if you already have the computer it can be made to work with out "crackels" crashes, drivers issues and so on. The newer and more powerfull the PC the easier time you will have. So As said above "run" if there are no Win 7 drivers, buy from a 1st tier reseller who offers good support and returns and pick one of the better brand names and if you have the cash, Firewire will always give better performance than USB.

Re: USB audio recommendations? [Re: ChrisA] #1430933 05/06/10 05:56 PM
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MarcoM and ChrisA are offering excellent advice! I would add to read the various manufacturer forums BEFORE investing. No Win 7 x64 drivers, or promises of such is a clear warning flag.
That being said, USB offers one advantage over firewire and that is that USB is idiot proof.
No worry about chipsets, IRQ etc.
At it's level USB just works.

My personal advice is a PCI card first, firewire with a TI chipset second and USB a very distant third if you are concerned with latency.
There will always be exceptions, but do you want to risk being one of the exceptions where it all "just works"?

Forget about reading all the theory of speed because it really doesn't apply in real life. There are so many facotrs like quality of driver, chipset used etc.

Go on Gearslutz, Cakewalk, Reaper, DUC and see what they think of USB vs the others.

ChrisA is right on the mark about USB vs Firewire and my real life experience running a studio agrees with his opinions 100 percent.


Just my 2 cents.....

Re: USB audio recommendations? [Re: ChrisA] #1430940 05/06/10 06:05 PM
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This is a tragic subject, particularly when you want decent mic preamps too (not that that was in the OP).

The perfect interface would have two really good mic preamps, 24/96 converters, two headphone outs with separate volume controls (never see this for some reason), 1/4" balanced TRS I/O, MIDI I/O, and maybe optical and electrical SPDIF I/O. And it would have good ASIO drivers.

Tons of boxes on the market but I haven't run across the ideal version of this. I had an Edirol unit at one point that worked pretty well, but I didn't like the internal signal routing, the preamps could have been better, and it was only USB 1.1. It had good drivers though.

I'd be careful of Presonus stuff, they put way too much gain in many of their products. I have their HP4 headphone amplifier and, while it works well and has nice build quality, I have to keep it cranked way down.

Re: USB audio recommendations? [Re: dewster] #1430975 05/06/10 06:40 PM
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Originally Posted by dewster
This is a tragic subject, particularly when you want decent mic preamps too (not that that was in the OP).

The perfect interface would have two really good mic preamps, 24/96 converters, two headphone outs with separate volume controls (never see this for some reason), 1/4" balanced TRS I/O, MIDI I/O, and maybe optical and electrical SPDIF I/O. And it would have good ASIO drivers.

Tons of boxes on the market but I haven't run across the ideal version of this. I had an Edirol unit at one point that worked pretty well, but I didn't like the internal signal routing, the preamps could have been better, and it was only USB 1.1. It had good drivers though.

I'd be careful of Presonus stuff, they put way too much gain in many of their products. I have their HP4 headphone amplifier and, while it works well and has nice build quality, I have to keep it cranked way down.


We have a winner...............

Re: USB audio recommendations? [Re: dewster] #1430986 05/06/10 06:56 PM
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ukwomble Offline OP
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Thanks for all the suggestions.

Both desktop and laptop have 1394(FW) cards already, so that's an option I can look into. I want something I can also use with the laptop, so PCI isn't an option.

I have been working in the Windows kernel/driver space for over a decade, so I'm pretty familiar with the issues there.

My laptop has occasional glitches on playback and Pianoteq even with it's internal audio, probably a bad driver somewhere (maybe not even in audio stack) with long running DPC bugs or something. Latency is acceptable using ASIO4ALL (~7ms).

Primary needs (Pianoteq scenario)

- having it all in one box so I can just run one USB/1394 cable from desktop
- Midi from Yamaha to PC
- Audio line out from PC to Yamaha aux-in
- Audio out for headphones

Secondary

- Midi to/from my old Korg module for patch management
- Audio from Yamaha/Korg to PC (recording)

I won't be recording much, and if I do it'll be purely for my own entertainment (or punishment smile )

Thinking about it, I suppose i could continue to use the EMU XMIDI 1x1 adapter I have for MIDI, which is working flawlessly under Win7 x64, and add an audio only interface.


Last edited by ukwomble; 05/06/10 06:58 PM.

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Re: USB audio recommendations? [Re: ukwomble] #1430991 05/06/10 07:02 PM
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sullivang Online Blank
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Re: the laptop, I assume you are locking the CPU at maximum frequency, yes? (being a developer, I doubt that you would overlook this very basic thing though) Double check by running:
POWERCFG /Q at the command prompt, and verify that the CPU throttling lines say "None".

Greg.

Re: USB audio recommendations? [Re: sullivang] #1431017 05/06/10 07:34 PM
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ukwomble Offline OP
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I tried that, yes smile. Didn't help.


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Re: USB audio recommendations? [Re: ukwomble] #1431255 05/07/10 04:07 AM
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jrcallan Offline
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I use the EMU-0404 USB inteface with W7 with no problems at all.



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Re: USB audio recommendations? [Re: TimR] #1431729 05/07/10 05:48 PM
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ChrisA Offline
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Originally Posted by TimR


There's only one MIDI in so if like me you need several keyboards you need another solution.


You can connect many MIDI devices using just one MIDI input port. The idea is that you chain them one device to the next. MIDI devices can by assigned "channels" so it does not mix up on the same cable


Re: USB audio recommendations? [Re: ChrisA] #1431767 05/07/10 06:39 PM
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sullivang Online Blank
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Would there be a drawback of connecting multiple MIDI devices by daisy-chaining them and using the MIDI OUTs (relying on a "SOFT THRU" function in the device) in that a time delay would be introduced? The MIDI THRU would avoid almost all of that delay, however that doesn't aggregate the outputs of the devices - that merely relays an exact copy of the data received on the MIDI IN out the MIDI THRU connection.

Greg. (off to find out whether my MP9000 has a "soft thru" function!)



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