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USB/FW midi/audio interface + [amp?] + headset - around $200 #1781293 11/01/11 04:43 PM
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Csillag Offline OP
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Hi,

Now that I have ordered my DP, (Kawai CL-36, since I am on a very tight budget), I need to buy a few accessories:
- I need a USB or FiewWire external sound card, to channel midi into a computer, and get the sound out
- A headphone (to be used both with the DP when using the builtin sound, and with the computer, when I use a virtual instrument)
- If the headset requires this, then I need to buy and amp, too.

The total budget for this is something like 200 USD.

The problem is that I know way too little about this, so I have no idea how to spend the amount balanced properly.

Here are my requirements:

1. The USB or FireWire audio interface should have a MIDI in and out channel, a stereo analog audio out channel (optionally amplified, optionally with an analog volume controller knob), and optionally some kind of digital output, too (so that if I ever get a proper amp and speakers, I can use it with them). It should have a line in, too, so that I can channel the output of the DP into it directly. The device should have a low latency, the lower the better. (Both on the midi-in side, and on the audio-out side.) I prefer USB (because it's available everywhere), but if FireWire is much better, then it's OK, too. It should work with Linux. (I can research this bit, if you can give me some type recommendations.)

2. The headset is going to be used solely for practicing the piano. I prefer accuracy above "sounding good". Currently I use a Sennheiser HD-201 and a HD-202 for listening to music (again, tight budget); it only makes sense to buy new headsets if they are better quality than this one. If this is not possible on this budget, then I intend to skip this item now, and spend the money elsewhere.

3. If the headset needs a pre-amp, then it can be a separate device, or it can be built into the audio interface, I have no preference here. I would like to have an analog volume control though.

* * *

Do you have any advice how should I partition my budget to reach the best possible overall sound quality?

(I am aware that one can easily spend the multitude of my complete budget to any single component listed here, but for me, this is not the right time to do that. So I accept that the result is not going to sound that great; I aim for a minimum acceptable quality here.)

* * *

If you have specific model suggestions, that is welcome, too.

Thank you for your help:

Csillag

Last edited by Csillag; 11/01/11 05:19 PM.
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Re: USB/FW midi/audio interface + [amp?] + headset - around $200 [Re: Csillag] #1781352 11/01/11 06:37 PM
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gvfarns Offline
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Hmmm. I'd say consider:

1) Get a midi-USB converter and run the USB straight into your computer. They can be had very cheap I believe. [$5.12 on amazon]

2) Get a super-cheap interface like Behringer UCA202 (doesn't handle MIDI, but it does the rest). [$27.23 on amazon]

3) Get whatever headphones make sense to you. Spend the rest of the money here as it will make the most difference. I believe the Behringer can drive high impedance headphones.

Re: USB/FW midi/audio interface + [amp?] + headset - around $200 [Re: Csillag] #1781365 11/01/11 06:54 PM
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Your $200 budget is pretty tight. You could spend it all on headphones, and still need the other stuff. Anyway ...

You didn't say why you intend to send the piano MIDI to a computer. I'm guessing that you will either:
a. Record the MIDI on the computer, edit it, and then play the MIDI back into the piano?
or
b. Feed the MIDI into a piano software package on the computer, and have the software generate the sound (to replace the piano's own tone generation)?

If either of those is true, then ...

1. I had a similar need. I got advice on another audio board, and that led me to buy a used Presonus AudioBox USB for just $75. (It costs twice as much new.) It can accept MIDI input from the piano. (But I don't need that. I feed MIDI over USB directly into my computer.) The box gets power from the PC. It uses provides higher quality audio than the computer's built in sound card. And it comes with a customized ASIO driver that eliminates the latency problem. It even has a headphone output.

2. I don't use that headphone output because I feed the Presonus box audio into a four-channel amplifier with four speakers. I plug the headphones into the amplifier when they're needed. The amplifier and speakers cost a total of $160. That was all used equipment, which would have $600-$700 new.

3. My Beyerdynamic headphones cost $100. You can find lots of good headphones for $100. I'd really recommend spending some money on phones to replace the Sennheisers that you have. Senns are good, but you have to spend money to get the good ones.

If you need item #1 sound card and item #3 headphones (but not #2 amplifier and speakers), then you can do it all for $200 or less.

But what about item b above? (the piano library software.) If you need that, figure on spending at least $70 more, possibly $300 ... depending on your choice of piano library.

Re: USB/FW midi/audio interface + [amp?] + headset - around $200 [Re: Csillag] #1781377 11/01/11 07:09 PM
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ChrisA Offline
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Get something like the Presonus "audio box". It is USB, has MIDI and a really good headphone amp built in. Has monitor outputs and some microphone/instrument inputs. The built-in headphone amp can drive my K240 headphones to ear-damage levels. It can make headphone sitting on a desk be heard across the room

I like the MIDI built into the audio interface best. This way youhave only one USB cable going back to the computer and the MIDI cables can be any length. Those MIDI/USB converters are hard to extend and also need their own USB slot

Shoud you ever want to record analog adio from the DP having onoy one cable going to the computer means you can't ever have a ground loop. (two cables is by definition a "loop") The "firebox" sells for about $149.00

whatever you buy, get something marketed to musicians and recording studios NOT to gammers and home theater use. Look for the good well know "studio" brands.


I like the AHK K240 headphones. These are pretty much the "standard" in the industry, have been for decades. Sweetwater has them for $99. Even if you have other headphones get these too as they are a standard reference. One thing is they are "open" and the sound is not blocked in either direction. Some people need "closed" headphones. Closed headphones cost about double the prices of open headphone for the same audio quality. It's the the physics they have to deal with that it is harder to make good closed headphones.


I have a larger Presonus firewire audio interface because I wanted more analog inputs for mikes, a guitar and so on. and more "outs" to drive more speakers. The USB firebox is about the same quality build but with less jacks on the back.

Last edited by ChrisA; 11/01/11 07:13 PM.
Re: USB/FW midi/audio interface + [amp?] + headset - around $200 [Re: Csillag] #1781378 11/01/11 07:10 PM
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Dr Popper Offline
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Presonus AudioBox USB


"I'm still an idiot and I'm still in love" - Blue Sofa - The Plugz 1981 (Tito Larriva)
Disclosure : I am professionally associated with Arturia but my sentiments are my own only.
Re: USB/FW midi/audio interface + [amp?] + headset - around $200 [Re: ChrisA] #1781461 11/01/11 10:00 PM
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gvfarns Offline
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Originally Posted by ChrisA
I like the AHK K240 headphones.


Just to clarify, that's AKG K240, not AHK.

Re: USB/FW midi/audio interface + [amp?] + headset - around $200 [Re: Csillag] #1781571 11/02/11 04:19 AM
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Csillag Offline OP
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Thank you for all the replies.

About the prices:

I live in Hungary, Europe, and the prices for the same items are typically a lot higher here than in the US, or even in Western Europe. (No, this does not make any sense, but that's an other topic.)

It goes like this:
- The new price for the Presonus AudioBox USD is about 220 USD here. If I order it from Germany or the UK, then I need to pay about 200 USD + shipping - which is around the same. So, I am now hunting for a used item on the UK and German Ebay. (Both the Firebox and the Audiobox USB is fine, right?)

- The AKG K240 goes for around 200 USD here. (And this is the new "Studio" version, not the classical one.) If I order it from Western Europe, that will cost around 125 USD, plus shipping. I will need to hunt some more about this.

About my goals:

Yes, I intend to record MIDI on the computer, mainly to archive and analyze my (and my children's) development.
I also plan to run some educational software like Linthesia, which use MIDI input.
And yes, I intend to run some Virtual Piano software, too - but that's a whole new field, which i will need to do more research about (and allocate a separate budget later, based on my findings.)

Thank you for your help:

Csillag

Re: USB/FW midi/audio interface + [amp?] + headset - around $200 [Re: Csillag] #1789285 11/15/11 04:29 AM
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Csillag Offline OP
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Just for the record: I fetched a used Presonus Audiobox USB from the German ebay, for ~97 USD. (Local price here is ~200 USD.)

Thank you for the suggestion.

Together with the pair of used M-Audio BX8a monitors (fetched for ~230 USD), this should be sufficient for now.

Will report my findings when all the stuff (DP, monitors, audiobox) gets here, and I finish the setup.



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