Hydrogenaudio Forums

CD-R and Audio Hardware => Audio Hardware => Topic started by: PoisonDan on 2002-04-29 09:58:18

Title: Soundcard: help me decide
Post by: PoisonDan on 2002-04-29 09:58:18
Right now I have a SBLive! card in my system, and I'm not really satisfied with the sound quality.

After doing quite a bit of research, I want to do one of these two things:
- Rip out my SBLive! and buy a Hercules Game Theater instead
- Keep my SBLive! for gaming and buy a Stereo-Link 1200 for music
(as you can probably notice, gaming compatibility is important for me)

I can't really decide between those two options. The problem is I don't really know how the audio quality of the GTXP compares to the 1200.

If the difference between those two is very small (as in: hardly noticable), I would prefer the GTXP.

If anybody of you has listened to both these audio systems, I would appreciate some feedback. How do they compare when listening to music ?
Title: Soundcard: help me decide
Post by: CiTay on 2002-04-29 13:32:04
Well, i can only speak for the Hercules GameTheater XP, which i currently use, i haven't tried the StereoLink yet.

I bought the GTXP for the same reason, to replace my SB Live. I must say, the sound quality is outstanding, keeping in mind that this is only an AC'97 card... if you listen a lot with headphones (like i do), you'll surely appreciate this card. Without exaggeration, it's miles better than the Live in this respect.

About speaker output.. hard to tell. I'm currently using quite crappy speakers, looking to upgrade soon. But the sheer versatility with the external box is great. I can hook my stereo up and can keep the normal speakers plugged in at the same time. It does 6.1 in hardware (now if i only had such a setup).

The drivers of the GTXP are quite good, again a lot better than the SB Live's. CPU load is minimal in all situations. Game support is good; EAX, A3D, it's all supported. EAX effects are not always 100% on par with the Live, but i can live with that. This is the only point where a Live/Audigy is unbeaten: game f/x.
Title: Soundcard: help me decide
Post by: Trelane on 2002-04-29 13:52:16
The Stereo-Link SL1200 gets two thumbs up from me.
Title: Soundcard: help me decide
Post by: gdougherty on 2002-04-29 16:43:44
Quote
Originally posted by PoisonDan
Right now I have a SBLive! card in my system, and I'm not really satisfied with the sound quality.

After doing quite a bit of research, I want to do one of these two things:
- Rip out my SBLive! and buy a Hercules Game Theater instead
- Keep my SBLive! for gaming and buy a Stereo-Link 1200 for music
(as you can probably notice, gaming compatibility is important for me)

I can't really decide between those two options. The problem is I don't really know how the audio quality of the GTXP compares to the 1200.

If the difference between those two is very small (as in: hardly noticable), I would prefer the GTXP.

If anybody of you has listened to both these audio systems, I would appreciate some feedback. How do they compare when listening to music ?


I'd consider an Audigy as your internal card also.  If you're okay with the gaming capabilities and the sound quality in games from your Live card, then the st1200 really is an excellent device for audio.  I've used an Extigy also, which also doesn't work for gaming, but does an excellent job in terms of audio quality and provides a boat-load of features.  It doesn't have RCA outputs, opting instead for 1/8" mini-stereo connections, but it does provide both optical in and out as well as a number of other features.  I've seen it online for about $135.

I suspect that the ST1200 is slightly better than an Extigy in terms of audio quality, given the price and fewer features which would indicate better components for what it does do.  The Gametheater will probably not be a huge upgrade in sound quality over the Live! card, and depending on how you use things now and the stereo you're plugging into, the external boxes might not make that audible of a difference either.
Title: Soundcard: help me decide
Post by: Trelane on 2002-04-29 19:38:35
Your best bet for gaming and good sound would be from a GameTheater XP or a Santa Cruz. The Audigy has too many flaws to even consider. If you're not happy with the sound produced from your Live! you won't be happy with an Audigy.

As for external USB devices, SL1200 wins hands down. It doesn't have recording capability but the audio playback quality is extremely good.
Title: Soundcard: help me decide
Post by: fewtch on 2002-04-30 10:29:33
After a bad experience with the TB Santa Cruz (constant blue screens & system crashes), I'd advise Win9x users to stay away from it.  There are known compatibility issues with newer version of DirectX, and TB hasn't updated the VxD drivers since January of '01.  Irresponsible, considering the large installed base of Win9x systems.

I'm thinking about an M-Audio Audiophile 24/96, after reading reviews comparing it to the Terratec EWX, it comes out superior.  $159 retail is a good price for this card.

Cheers...
Title: Soundcard: help me decide
Post by: PatchWorKs on 2002-04-30 12:54:07
Audio Video Guide (http://www4.tomshardware.com/video/index.html)


Creative Labs suck...
Title: Soundcard: help me decide
Post by: Odin on 2002-04-30 12:54:24
I guess it all comes down to what you want your card to do and how much you are willing to pay for it.

I left creative labs products about 1 year ago and have never been happier. I use active studio monitors that are directly connected to my soundcard and the sound is crystal!

My soundcard of choice is the EchoAudio MIA which is an excellent card if you are looking for the perfect studio sound. Driver support is also excellent and always work. This card is a TRUE 24/96 card and you also get ASIO and GIGA support as well as 8 virtual channels. What you do not get is surround, 5+1 and environmental audio effects.

If you, like me, want a perfect sound 1st and a great stereo sound in games, look no further. This is a great card and I can only so warmly recommend it.

More info on www.echoaudio.com (http://www.echoaudio.com)

Odin
Title: Soundcard: help me decide
Post by: PoisonDan on 2002-04-30 13:54:47
A few follow-ups:

I know the sound quality of the SBLive! is not very good, but I already mentioned game compatibility is very important for me. Say what you want about Creative Labs, but the gaming compatibility of their cards is unsurpassed. Does anybody know an audiophile-level soundcard that is also a great gaming card ?

I would also like to mention that having two internal cards is also not an option: I simply do not have a free PCI slot left. If I had, I would also consider adding an Audiophile 2496.

I would also like to mention that the MIA is certainly overkill for me. I don't want a card for recording or creating music, only for listening. About my equipment: I use the Sirocco Crossfire speakers and (most of the time) a Sennheiser HD535 headphone (BTW, I like the fact that both the GTXP and the SL1200 have a separate headphone input with volume control).

Keeping my SBLive! and adding a SL1200 seems to give me the best of both worlds: SBLive! is unbeatable for games, SL1200 is ideal for listening to music. And I like the idea of the SL1200: no need for a free PCI slot, and it has an external DAC.

However, having one card that does everything well is convenient. If the GTXP sounds about as good as the SL1200, and has no major issues in games, it looks like an attractive option for me.

Therefor, it would have been cool if anybody has listened to both cards and can comment on the sound quality of both (and any differences).
Title: Soundcard: help me decide
Post by: dB on 2002-04-30 14:29:06
Quote
Originally posted by Odin


My soundcard of choice is the EchoAudio MIA which is an excellent card


You're right, but Echo MIA doesn't support Linux.


Bye, dB
Title: Soundcard: help me decide
Post by: fewtch on 2002-04-30 14:50:49
Just about any card is overkill for me.  What I'd like is a card that simply has excellent sound quality, digital I/O as an option, and allows recording/playback at 24/96 (digital & analog) without resampling.

I couldn't care less about all the 3-letter acronyms, to me they just mean bloated drivers & less system stability.  Unfortunately, the 3-letter acronyms sell more sound cards (even the high-end ones)...

If someone ever makes an excellent card with basic functionality at a reasonable price, I'll be the first in line.  Fat chance tho...
Title: Soundcard: help me decide
Post by: JohnMK on 2002-04-30 15:10:39
Quote
Originally posted by PoisonDan
I already mentioned game compatibility is very important for me. Say what you want about Creative Labs, but the gaming compatibility of their cards is unsurpassed.


As far as I know, stereo is supported by all sound cards under discussion. Do you need something more out of your card? After putting up with the Live! for several years, and the constant background hiss and instabilities that accompany it, I switched to an Audiophile 2496. I went into it thinking about how much I might miss the 3D positional audio of the Live! and later series, but honestly I do not. I'm finding that super-clean, perfect stereo does my ears perfect justice.
Title: Soundcard: help me decide
Post by: PoisonDan on 2002-04-30 15:30:13
Quote
Originally posted by Keynes


As far as I know, stereo is supported by all sound cards under discussion. Do you need something more out of your card? After putting up with the Live! for several years, and the constant background hiss and instabilities that accompany it, I switched to an Audiophile 2496. I went into it thinking about how much I might miss the 3D positional audio of the Live! and later series, but honestly I do not. I'm finding that super-clean, perfect stereo does my ears perfect justice.


To make things perfectly clear:
- I do not need 3D positional audio
- I do not need all kinds of spiffy EAX effects, reverb, etc...

When I mention "game compatibility" I mean "getting problem-free sound in games". All I want is that my music sounds great and that the games sound decent (no need for 3D or EAX).

I've read a lot of reports about non-Creative cards that have missing sounds, static, distortion, hiccups and other problems when playing sound in games. I do not want this.

As an example, take the Terratec 6fire 24/96. According to everything I've read about the card, the audio quality is great. However, it has several issues with games.

A quote from the 3DSoundSurge forums:
"I tried MoHAA demo and AvP2. Huge noise and static - almost no game sounds audible anymore.

In both games the sound turns randomly to steady noise, drowning all game music/effects behind them. This is not minor noise and it seems to have nohing to do with mixer input settings."

Tomshardware also compared the SB Audigy to the 6fire and said this about the Audigy in games:
"No sound is missing or patchy as it is sometimes with the Terratec DMX 6Fire 24/96."

That's why I am so afraid to use only a non-gaming sound card, like  the Audiophile 2496 you mentioned. I would really appreciate some feedback from users who have used this card extensively with games.
Title: Soundcard: help me decide
Post by: Odin on 2002-04-30 16:48:13
Sounds to me like you have already decided to go for creative labs. In that case, it would have to be the audigy in it's cheapest package...

Odin
Title: Soundcard: help me decide
Post by: PoisonDan on 2002-04-30 21:38:25
Quote
Originally posted by Odin
Sounds to me like you have already decided to go for creative labs. In that case, it would have to be the audigy in it's cheapest package...

Odin

I beg your pardon ????

I wouldn't buy a new Creative Labs card even if my life depended on it. I'm just wondering if I should keep my SBLive! to play games, and get another card for music. If I can find a high-quality soundcard that is also suitable for gaming, I will probably ditch my SBLive!

The point is: do you know a high quality soundcard (e.g. Audiophile 2496) that will also sound decent in games (no audio glitches) ?
Title: Soundcard: help me decide
Post by: Trelane on 2002-04-30 21:59:26
Gaming should be fine on most cards (you've already stated that you don't need 3D audio or EAX). Hell, I play games with my SL1200 and they all work fine.

The Audiophile and SL1200 are both of high quality. If you need 24 bit/96 khz and/or recording capability, go with the Audiophile. Otherwise, I'd recommend the SL1200. But it's really a close call because both are great products.

If you do decide on the SL1200 and you run Windows XP, make sure you download the Windows Update for Audio. It corrects USB audio bugs present in the release of Windows XP. I am not sure if they were present in Windows 2000 or not.
Title: Soundcard: help me decide
Post by: KikeG on 2002-05-01 22:20:09
I think the SL1200 maybe has the disadvantage that being an USB device it may have a higher load on your CPU with games.

The advantage, that it has headphone connector with volume control.

And about the issue that it is an external device and DAC, the fact that it is external is not a reason for being better or worse on audio quality. One of the best sound cards, if not the best of all, is internal, the LynxTwo: measured dynamic range of 130 dB (see www.pcavtech.com (http://www.pcavtech.com)).
Title: Soundcard: help me decide
Post by: Trelane on 2002-05-01 23:04:55
The SL1200 does indeed use more CPU during games. However, I have not noticed any significant decrease in performance (maybe a few FPS). In any case, I was merely pointing out that game compatibility shouldn't be a problem.

The SL1200 has its uses... one of the biggest I can think of is great audio quality for laptop users (such as myself) who often get shafted in the sound department. I'm sure that you'll agree that in its market (USB audio), the SL1200 is at the top of its class.
Title: Soundcard: help me decide
Post by: Pio2001 on 2002-05-02 00:06:14
I've got a Marian Marc 2 (24/96), and noticed a strange behaviour in games :

With the digital output (in Windows98 / control panel / multimedia), lots of static and distorded noise in American McGee's Alice, no sound in Unreal Tournament.

But no problem at all if analog output is selected in the control panel, and the digital output source set to analog output in the Marian router !

So maybe there's a sync and/or resampling problem in the digital output handling of the 24/96 chip.
Are the gaming problems of the 6fire present in all output settings ?
Title: Soundcard: help me decide
Post by: Surge on 2002-05-02 01:56:54
What about Philips sound cards? I've read somewhere that they are quite good qualitywize and not bad in gaming...
Philips Soundcards (http://www.consumer.philips.com/global/b2c/ce/catalog/subcategory.jhtml?groupId=CONNECTIONS&divId=0&catId=PCSPEAKERSSOUNDCARDS&subCatId=PCSOUNDCARDS)

Any more comments on Hercules card? I also plan to drop my SB Live! for a better card and I need a good support for headphones, since just a month ago I've got HD-600 (what a great purchase).

Any Linux issues with these cards? Are they supported? In mid May plan to ditch WinXP in favour of Debian or Slackware, hence if card works not well under Linux, it is not a good choice for me.
Title: Soundcard: help me decide
Post by: greenirft on 2002-05-02 02:42:58
Your two best bets for decent musical and gaming audio are:

- Hercules GTXP
- Turtle Beach Santa Cruz

From what I'm heard the Santa Cruz has better sound quality, but not all the cool "whiz bang" features of the GTXP. But the GTXP has incredible game support, and some of those cool features that you might find useful, I cannot comment on the Santa Cruz's gaming ability.

But, the Santa Cruz does include the EAX and such, so it's there, but you got get the nice breakout box with all of the connectors.

As for the Soundblaster, Creative really needs to get it's act together. Sure the Audigy has nice featuers and all, but there still plagued with some of the problems that the SB Lives! had (but, VIA isn't exactly working too well with CL).
Title: Soundcard: help me decide
Post by: PatchWorKs on 2002-05-02 08:19:01
ECHO (http://www.echoaudio.com/) really rulez...

TERRATEC (http://www.terratec.com/ttrow/default.htm) seems not so bad...

CREATIVE LABS still sucks...
Title: Soundcard: help me decide
Post by: user on 2002-05-02 09:42:57
I can recommend:
Terratec EWX 2496
Title: Soundcard: help me decide
Post by: cd-rw.org on 2002-05-02 09:43:50
I have the SL1200 and recently I wrote a little article about it ( http://cd-rw.org/articles/archive/stereolink.cfm (http://cd-rw.org/articles/archive/stereolink.cfm) ). I am running a PIII/500mhz and havent noticed the USB Audio consuming CPU time so that I could notice it. Works with the very few games that I have tried also. My neighbour hates it.
Title: Soundcard: help me decide
Post by: Sachankara on 2002-05-02 09:44:46
Quote
Originally posted by greenirft
Your two best bets for decent musical and gaming audio are:

- Hercules GTXP
- Turtle Beach Santa Cruz

From what I'm heard the Santa Cruz has better sound quality, but not all the cool "whiz bang" features of the GTXP. But the GTXP has incredible game support, and some of those cool features that you might find useful, I cannot comment on the Santa Cruz's gaming ability.

But, the Santa Cruz does include the EAX and such, so it's there, but you got get the nice breakout box with all of the connectors.

As for the Soundblaster, Creative really needs to get it's act together. Sure the Audigy has nice featuers and all, but there still plagued with some of the problems that the SB Lives! had (but, VIA isn't exactly working too well with CL).
First of all, GTXP and Santa Cruz/SonicFury uses the exact same audio DSP... The only difference is the frontpanel of the GTXP... So there shouldn't really be any difference in quality... (SonicFury is the European version of Santa Cruz... It's exactly the same card except the names... It even says Santa Cruz on the SonicFury PCB...)

And second of all, the so called "VIA bug" is really a "Creative bug" since Creative's Live! and Audigy cards does not fully support the PCI 2.1 standard which VIA's chipsets heavily depends on... They depend on the fact that the hardware has 100% PCI 2.1 support, and when the hardware doesn't, well then it won't be able to sync the bus correctly with the card and will then cause instabilites and data loss... It's a simple as that... Though Creative denies it, but what they say means nothing to me... (Intel's i815 chipset is also known to have problems with some configurations of Creative's cards... They also have some serious incompatibilites with GeForce 4 too... Two good example of the fact that the card screws up the bus timings...)
Title: Soundcard: help me decide
Post by: fewtch on 2002-05-03 00:58:04
Quote
Originally posted by user
I can recommend:
Terratec EWX 2496

I read a very "scientific" review somewhere on the Web (sorry, didn't save it) that concluded the M-Audio Audiophile 24/96 is a better card than the Terratec EWX 2496.  Just to let anyone know in case they're curious.
Title: Soundcard: help me decide
Post by: Tes on 2002-05-03 01:26:22
Quote
Originally posted by fewtch
I read a very "scientific" review somewhere on the Web (sorry, didn't save it) that concluded the M-Audio Audiophile 24/96 is a better card than the Terratec EWX 2496. Just to let anyone know in case they're curious.


Do you happen to remember why the Audiophile 24/96 is supposed to be better than the EWX 24/96? I am currently trying to decide between either one of these two cards or the Delta 410. I am leaning toward the EWX 24/96 because it is fairly cheap and has an optical S/PDIF output, but if the Audiophile 24/96 is better . . .
Title: Soundcard: help me decide
Post by: user on 2002-05-03 07:09:44
I have decided between those two, too.
I have found on web very detailed tests about them. But no direct comparing, unfortunately.
The terratec has excellent technical values, too, I have seen no difference in those tests.
Title: Soundcard: help me decide
Post by: user on 2002-05-03 08:03:02
Here are 2 different tests comparing m audiophile vs. terratec 2496.


http://www.sospubs.co.uk/sos/apr01/articles/soundcard.asp (http://www.sospubs.co.uk/sos/apr01/articles/soundcard.asp)



http://www.io.com/~kazushi/audiocard/ewx2496/ (http://www.io.com/~kazushi/audiocard/ewx2496/)

http://www.io.com/~kazushi/audiocard/audiophile/ (http://www.io.com/~kazushi/audiocard/audiophile/)

http://www.io.com/~kazushi/audiocard/ (http://www.io.com/~kazushi/audiocard/)
Title: Soundcard: help me decide
Post by: niktheblak on 2002-05-03 09:32:49
Greetings,

I also am in the middle of purchasing a new sound card and I would like to have some clarification about couple of matters.

Are the M-Audio and Terratec centralized in some particular geographical locations? Because here in Finland I have never seen any M-Audio products and to my knowledge not a single store sells the Audiophile 2496 here. But there seems to be plenty of Terratecs around. I heard somewhere that the Audiophile 2496 is cheap and abundant in USA whereas Terratec dominates Europe.

And there seems to be only one specialized homepageless store selling Echo Mias with an astronomical price tag :eek:.

Has anyone tried out Hoontech's 24/96 cards? They seem to be using the same DSP as Audiophile 2496 and are generally praised despite the extremely poor Win2k/XP drivers (no GSIF/ASIO).

My motives for purchasing a new sound card differs from the gaming folks' because I especially intend to use it for creating music. I need MIDI and GSIF/ASIO multi-client support. Because of the unavailability of the Audiophile and Echo Mia, my candidates are Terratec and Hoontech.

This is a real dilemma. I'm using Win2k and Hoontech doesn't seem to bother making drivers for it while Terratec is much worse at every other aspect. I would really appreciate it if someone would share some experiences about this matter!
Title: Soundcard: help me decide
Post by: user on 2002-05-03 16:51:39
You could buy M audiophile via online shop, eg. from Germany ?!
It should be no problem, from Germany to Finlandia.
In germany there is M audiophile

But the Terratec ewx is well, too.
I don't see important differences, but it depends on preferred usage.
For the M audiphile there is from M available one adapter coax.-optical and optical coax converter, costs about 50 Euro or more, dunno exactly.
Look at m audiophile German homepage.

Personally i am using terratec ewx, it seems to work fine, I have it only for a week, I have used it up to now only once, for recording two vinyls to CD-R.


And there raised some problems:


It would be nice, if you could record  eg. from digitally source CDDA or DAT several following songs in one pass and the tracknumbers would be added automatically.

There are about 3 possibilities:

1. the recording program recognizes a new track by silence.

Not so well method for live concerts eg......
But of course the only way for recording analogue material like vinyl....

2. track numbers are recorded digitally automatically.
The best way, only possible for digital source like DAT or CDDA, of course.
Following preconditions:
1. the digital source (DAT-player or CD-player) must be able to pass trough digitally the track numbers. Not all CDplayers, DAT-tape-players are able to....  (mine old Sony DAT DTC 670 is not able AFAIK, but perhaps the latest follower model should be able to....)
2. & 3.  (Soundcard), driver and recording program must be able to recognize track numbers, if they are passed trhough by the player.


3. Manually adding track markers/numbers. Eg. a method for analogue recordings, or live recordings, where no silnece exists and method 1 does not work. Or for digitally recordings, if there is no way for automatically adding track markers.


I asked Terratec support about ability of ewx 2496 reagrding automatically recording tracknumbers.
The answer was very disappointing. They have signed with "EWX support team", but it seems that they never have tried out recording personally. They answered: "We don't know programs for that aim..."
So the answer was complete unprofessional, useless.

Because: In German forum www.DVDboard.de (http://www.DVDboard.de) I discussed this problem with "Musicplayer", who ownes a terratec ewx, too.

He told:
3 programs for the 3 methods above:


1. Audiograbber
2. Samplitude 2496 Producer or called: Samplitude Production Studio 24/96
3.  Feurio  www.feurio.de (http://www.feurio.de)



Does somebody know another good solution for automatically recording track numbers / markers ?
Title: Soundcard: help me decide
Post by: niktheblak on 2002-05-03 21:00:00
Quote
Originally posted by user
You could buy M audiophile via online shop, eg. from Germany ?!
It should be no problem, from Germany to Finlandia.
In germany there is M audiophile


Good tip user, but I very seldom even consider international orders because I don't own a credit card . I might try checking out few companies if they would accept Eurocheques or something.

After hour of googling, I just found a shop in Finland that sells Audiophile 2496, but at a price of 320 € :eek:. I thought they sold it at $160 in the US?! Terratec EWX 24/96 is sold at 190 € so I don't think I have much choice anyway. The Audiophile is ridiculously overpriced and I simply refuse to pay 130 € for a marginal difference...
Title: Soundcard: help me decide
Post by: Annuka on 2002-05-05 00:10:56
I have a "perfect" listening room, a $7,000+ stereo and pretty good ears. My Live card does not sound ghastly - but then again not sublime either. It is possible there exists bad and good batches of this particular product.

The driver issue is my major complaint. Creative Labs cannot write drivers. However, the standard Micrsoft supplied drivers in Windows XP works fine and they support digital out.

If you use this particular operating system, consider buying an external D/A-converter. It will make the sound card transparrent. I am using a $1,000 Sony EP90S, but it is 4 years old and something cheaper should be avalible.
Title: Soundcard: help me decide
Post by: jrbamford on 2002-05-05 00:24:05
I've had a quick flick through your replys to your question and just thought I'd add my own alternative..

keep the SBLIVE..

Before you stop reading on let me just explain.. I've just brought a daughtercard for my SBLIVE value for £20 .. slotted in and using a £5 coaxial digital cable (shortly to be improved to a higher spec version) I am now listening to mpcs through my computer through my new Tag Mclaren DAC20 ... quite simply I would recommend this to anyone wanting quality.. not so much the DAC20 tag tho it is lovely.. but the use of an external DAC.. now a days everyone wants 5.1 decoders which means its a great time to buy a stereo DAC... for similar money to these "hifi" sound cards you are able to get the benefits of hifi sound from a real hifi component.. it cost me about £400 but I wanted the tag DAC and reasonably (£80) interconnects between the DAC and my amp... all I am saying is that I'm now hearing a silky smooth and defined sound that I previously only really got from my hifi components and not my computer.. tho the same DAC still sounds better from a CD transport the gap is far closer and I think its more to do with using loss compression than anything else.. anyways thats my 2 cents worth.. maximise what you have already got
Title: Soundcard: help me decide
Post by: gdougherty on 2002-05-05 01:29:37
Quote
Originally posted by jrbamford
I've had a quick flick through your replys to your question and just thought I'd add my own alternative..

keep the SBLIVE..

Before you stop reading on let me just explain.. I've just brought a daughtercard for my SBLIVE value for £20 .. slotted in and using a £5 coaxial digital cable (shortly to be improved to a higher spec version) I am now listening to mpcs through my computer through my new Tag Mclaren DAC20 ... quite simply I would recommend this to anyone wanting quality.. not so much the DAC20 tag tho it is lovely.. but the use of an external DAC.. now a days everyone wants 5.1 decoders which means its a great time to buy a stereo DAC... for similar money to these "hifi" sound cards you are able to get the benefits of hifi sound from a real hifi component.. it cost me about £400 but I wanted the tag DAC and reasonably (£80) interconnects between the DAC and my amp... all I am saying is that I'm now hearing a silky smooth and defined sound that I previously only really got from my hifi components and not my computer.. tho the same DAC still sounds better from a CD transport the gap is far closer and I think its more to do with using loss compression than anything else.. anyways thats my 2 cents worth.. maximise what you have already got


I second this opinion.  A decent stereo, say a good low-end home theater receiver like my Yamaha HTR-5460 ($320US) hooked up using an SBLive! daughter card via an optical connection gets the conversion and noise away from the PC, and entrusts it to things that are better designed for quality audio.  My HTR-5460 drives 100watts RMS into 5 channels and does it very cleanly at all bearable levels.  I've never really pushed it up over -20dB (ranges from -100dB to 0dB) and in a quick test just now all hiss fades away at about -18dB with no signal in.  At -20dB on most music you can't really hold a conversation in the room, just as a reference, and -28dB is about as loud as I push it for movies.

If you've already got a decent stereo with optical inputs, then all you need spend to get better music is the few bucks on a daughter card, much better than the 100+ on any of the other options.  If you don't I'll just say that good clean power makes a big difference in a system, and what's the harm in being set for full surround sound down the road?

G

[Edit]  Creative sells the Digital I/O daughtercard for $60 direct.
Title: Soundcard: help me decide
Post by: jrbamford on 2002-05-05 03:08:24
Firstly look at hoontech.. they sell the same daughter cards (2 variants) for half the price of the creative ones.. the SBLIVE is now so old I don't even know if Creative still sell them.. I looked and couldn't find anything on them on their site but then I found hoontech and its working fine..

Other than that tho I completely agree.. computers are cool, but I still prefer my hifi for music.. moving stuff over to there with regards to computer audio is just a good thing..

My DAC ways 10kg and is in its own isolated case with its own isolated power supply with an extrememly low jitter master clock.. I just don't think this is possible inside a computer on a standard card..

Finally tho one point I do semi-disagree with and that is using optical as the lead to connect.. go coaxial.. preferably terminating at BNC at the DAC end (not sure why on this, firmer plug fit?) basically optical is regarded as the poorest transmission means available for digital.. even £150 optical leads are trounced by £30 coaxial ones.. other than that tho its quite simple..

Surround sound recievers are popular at the moment and do the job ok, I wouldn't rate any of them musically apart from the really expensive one but I'd still rate them above a PCs output... if you don't have a 5.1 reciever look into a stereo DAC.. remember the SBLIVE digi out is locked at 48khz tho..
Title: Soundcard: help me decide
Post by: JonPike on 2002-05-05 10:20:15
Quote
Originally posted by niktheblak
Greetings,

Has anyone tried out Hoontech's 24/96 cards? They seem to be using the same DSP as Audiophile 2496 and are generally praised despite the extremely poor Win2k/XP drivers (no GSIF/ASIO).

My motives for purchasing a new sound card differs from the gaming folks' because I especially intend to use it for creating music. I need MIDI and GSIF/ASIO multi-client support. Because of the unavailability of the Audiophile and Echo Mia, my candidates are Terratec and Hoontech.

This is a real dilemma. I'm using Win2k and Hoontech doesn't seem to bother making drivers for it while Terratec is much worse at every other aspect. I would really appreciate it if someone would share some experiences about this matter!


I don't have direct experience,  but reading a review in Computer Music magazine (UK)  from November,  they say the DSP24 value is:

It's a good, basic card..  has AC97 for some game capability.. 

Comes in two versions, one without and one with a "expansion slot" bracket, which is actually a card that fits in a second slot.  You have to buy the bracket version, if you need S/PDIF optical in/out, coaxial in/out,  and MIDI!  You can't buy one later if you change your mind,  apparently they don't sell it  separate.  Difference is between 116 UKP and 163 UKP for the two versions.. 

They say you get ASIO 2.0, GSIF, and MME drivers,  for 98, Me, and 2000?

No bundled software to speak of..

They say good audio, but not really a "pro" card..  no balanced connections, or ability to adjust the d/a and a/d sensitivity (?)  like the Terratec.

They mention that on a P3-350,  they couldn't even run at 96Khz..  but it ran OK on a P3-1Ghz,  with 6ms latency.

So it sounds like a really cheap deal,  but when you want the other features (like most musicians would) the more expensive version is priced like the other ones..

On the SBLive and digital concept... donno if they're still making em,  but I still see OEM versions sold new at computer shows here in the US..  for about $30..  OEM Audigy's  for $60... (bought one..  even though Audigy isn't really 24, or 96.. but it's good for 12-15db lower noise floor than my Live, and actually has ASIO finally)

A newer product..  I read in the March Computer Music mag..  is the TerraTec DMX 6fire 24/96..  a six channel card,  that has digital optical and coax,  as well as analog,  ins and outs..  mic in's  headphone outs,  even phono input! all in a drive bay box,  like the more expensive Live/Audigy's,  a good bundle,  and it costs 170 UKP...    sounds like another good choice.    It was a short bit,  they promise a full review in the near future..

Hope it helps..

Jon
Title: Soundcard: help me decide
Post by: JonPike on 2002-05-05 10:29:10
Aha...  here ya go for more DMX 6fire info:

http://www4.tomshardware.com/video/02q1/020115/index.html (http://www4.tomshardware.com/video/02q1/020115/index.html)
Title: Soundcard: help me decide
Post by: fewtch on 2002-05-05 19:27:59
Nice internal front-panel rack on the 6fire, but for my money I would still bet on the M-Audio Audiophile 24/96 for slightly better sound quality and about US $40 cheaper.  Still, that's a damn nice looking card.

If anyone knows of tests comparing the 6fire with any M-Audio, Terratec or Midiman cards (especially quality of DAC/ADC), I would appreciate a link and/or results.  I'm still considering what to replace this SB PCI128 with, and it would be easy to make the wrong choice...
Title: Soundcard: help me decide
Post by: KikeG on 2002-05-05 21:40:35
A few things:

- The Live! series of soundcards resample quite badly to 48 KHz everything that is thrown at them at 44.1 KHz, even if you use the digital outputs. Better stay away from Creative!!

- The cheap Hoontech card needs an extra card to provide digital I/O. I've read in some reviews that this card is more unstable than M-Audio or Terratec cards, and the audio quality a little bit worse.

- The Terratec cards are said to have worse driver support than M-Audio cards.

- I'm from Spain, and I bought my Audiophile 2496 for 150$ plus shipping (few more $) from  www.midi-store.com (http://www.midi-store.com) with my credit card. If you don't own a credit card, you could ask some friend or relative to use his card.
Title: Soundcard: help me decide
Post by: fewtch on 2002-05-06 07:51:44
Wish I could afford an M-Audio Audiophile 24/96 at the moment.  I just got done spending another $65 on vinyl stuff (new stylus, bottle of Disc Doctor cleaning fluid (1 pint - $21.95), applicator brushes).  Gosh, anything related to vinyl is insane expensive... 

Maybe this summer... but it would feel funny to have a quality card and be ripping vinyl with a $100 turntable & listening with $45 speakers.  One thing at a time, i guess...

Anyone know any good lottery number choosing programs?
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