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Ultimate USB, Firewire, External Soundcard List

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  • Ultimate USB, Firewire, External Soundcard List

    Its hard to keep up with all the sound cards since they change so rapidly. This is just a list of External USB and Firwire cards available. Do not confuse these with DACs. For a good section on DAC see DAC stickey.

    Pros of using a External Card

    -Low noise
    -Better sound quality (>90dB S/N) than onboard sound having a Signal to Noise ratio around 76-90dB.

    Cons

    -Bandwidth hungry, lots of CPU usage depending on computer (10-50% depending on processor speed).
    -Some cards have hibernation issues (search because this is system dependent)

    I wanted to compile a list of all sound cards old or new for those who want options. I will update as much as possible with all the following info:
    1. Maunfacturer/Model
    2. Price
    3. Basic features and specs
    4. Links on info
    It is broken down into 2 groups:
    • consumer products (products you can find locally or easliy on the internet)
    • Professional products (geared more towards audiophile/music production quality found usually in Pro Audio type stores) .
    Please be patient as I compile as much info as possible and condense it for easy reading. And here we go...

    Consumer Level
    Creative Labs





    Live! ($30-50 Still available)
    SPECIFICATIONS
    • 16/24bit @ 48kHz in 5.1 mode and up to 96kHz in stereo mode.
    • SPDIF out with up to 24-bit at 96 kHz quality.
    • USB 1.1 Bus powerd
    • Can run 5/6 channel stereo with CMSS management
      • Supports Windows XP SP2.
    Audigy 2NX ($100 hard to find/no longer in production)
    SPECIFICATIONS
      • Front/Rear/Center/Sub 102dB @ 2Vrms
      • Headphone/Side 96db @ 2Vrms
      • 24-bit/96kHz ADC for various analog inputs
      • 24-bit/96kHz DAC for up to 7.1 channels output
      • S/PDIF format input signal of up to 24-bit/96kHz quality
      • Can run up to 8 channel stereo using their CMSS management
      • USB 1.1/2.0 External power supply needed
    Turtle Beach





    Micro ($30)
        • Analog 2 channel out
        • SPDIF Out
        • USB bus powered
    Amigo ($50)
        • Analog 2 channel out
        • SPDIF out
        • Mic IN
        • Volume Control
        • USB bus powered
    Roadie ($80) Available @ MP3CAR store HERE
        • 5.1/7.1 Analog out/Digital out (Analog 2,4,6 or 8 Channel)
        • Can run in 2/4/6/8 channel stereo mode
        • 10 Band EQ (individual speaker)
        • Speaker Delay/Position
        • Environments
        • USB bus powered
    Xitel
    HiFi Link ($50)
        • Analog Output Only
        • 90db SNR @ 1Vrms
        • 20bit DAC
        • USB bus powered
    Pro HiFi Link ($80-100)
        • Analog/Digital Outputs
        • RCA/Optical/Coax
        • 90db SNR @ 1Vrms
        • 20bit DAC
        • USB bus powered
    ADS
    RDX-150 ($35-50)
        • 16 bit DAC
        • 96 dB S/N
        • Analog/Digital Ouput
    ESI
    Gigaport AG ($200)
        • -8 x RCA Analog Output (8 x 24 bit D/A Converter)
        • - SPDIF Optical Output
        • - One Headphone Out
    Audiotrak
    Maya EX ($???)
    5.1 Sound
    Zalman
    ZM-RSSC ($50-70)
        • Input: 1 USB connection port (USB 1.1/2.0 compatible)
        • Output: three 3.5 stereo jack (Front, Rear, Center/Subwoofer)
        • one digital port (both optical and coaxial, capable of outputting 5.1 Ch.)
        • Chipset: Sonix 5.1 sound
        • Sampling Rate: 24bit 96KHz D/A & A/D converter
    SIIG
    USB SoundWave 7.1 ($17-35)
        • SIMULATED 7.1 sound (2 channel out)
        • 10 BAND eq
        • Speaker position
        • USB bus powered
    M-Audio
    Sonica (Old model $80???)

    Transit ($100)
        • mobile 24-bit/96kHz USB audio upgrade
        • Optical digital output allows AC-3 and DTS pass-through
        • Optical input (not sure if it digital signal with pass thru to analog out)
        • 104dB Dynamic Range
        • 100dB S/N
        • Maximum output Voltage 0dBV
        • ASIO compatible
    AOC
    USB-AUDIO 5.1($16)
        • SIMULATED 5.1 sound (2 channel out)
        • USB bus powered
    Pro Audio
    Behringer


    U-CONTROL UCA202 ($30 price indicates possible lower quality than "Pro")
        • Analog RCA Ouput
        • 2dBV / 400ohm unbalanced
        • Digital Optical Out
        • Line Input
        • Headphone Out
    M-Audio


    Fast Track ($130)
        • 2 Channel Analog
        • 24bit/48kHz
        • USB bus powered
        • ASIO compatible
    MobilePRE ($180)
        • 2 Channel Analog
        • 16bit/48kHz
        • USB bus powered
        • ASIO compatible
    Fastrack Pro ($200-250)
        • ASIO support with monitoring
        • 24-bit/96kHz
        • 4 unbalanced outputs (RCA)
        • 2 balanced outputs ( TRS)
        • S/PDIF supports pass-through of AC-3/DTS
        • Powered via USB or wallwart
        • SNR -103dB, A-weighted

    Firewire Audiophile (Firewire connection) ($350)
        • 4 Channel in 6 Channel out (analog)
        • Digital Ouput
        • 24 bit/96kHz
        • 106 dB S/N
        • ASIO support
    Firewire 410 (Firewire connection) ($400)
        • 4 Channel in 10 Channel out (Analog)
        • Digital Ouput
        • 24 bit/96kHz
        • 107dB S/N @ 20-40kHz +/-1dB
        • ASIO support
    EMU (Creative Professional)
    E-MU 0202 (???)






    E-MU 0404 ($200)
        • Sample Rates: 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192kHz from internal crystal (no sample rate conversion)
        • USB 2.0 Hi-Speed: - Full 24-bit resolution at all sample rates
        • - 4 in/4 out channels from 44.1-96kHz
        • - 2 in/2 out channels from 176.4-192kHz
        • Anti-Pop speaker protection: Minimizes noise during power on/off
        • Ultra-low jitter clock subsystem: < 500ps RMS in PLL mode
        • (48kHz, Coaxial S/PDIF Sync)
        • Analog Line Outputs (2) Balanced, AC-coupled, 2-pole low-pass differential filter
        • Level (auto detect): - Professional: +12dBV max (balanced)
        • - Consumer: +6dBV max (unbalanced)
        • Frequency Response (20Hz - 20kHz): 0.06/-.035dB
        • Dynamic Range (1kHz, A-weighted): 117dB
        • Signal-to-Noise Ratio (A-weighted): 117dB
        • THD+N (1kHz at -1dBFS): -100dB (.001%)
        • Stereo Crosstalk (1kHz at -1dBFS): < -114.5dB
        • Digital I/O:
        • S/PDIF: - 2 in/2 out coaxial
        • - 2 in/2 out optical
    Edirol/Roland






    UA-25 ($240)
        • 24bit/96kHz Sampling
        • Balanced outputs
        • Digital outputs
        • Matched low noise A/D D/A converters
    RME

    Firewire 400 (firewire connection)($1000)
        • Analog 6 IN/6 Out
        • 1 Digital In/1 Digital Out
        • 110dB Dynamic Range
        • 100 dB S/N
        • Sample rate up to 192 kHz
        • Output Level +2 dBV
    Terratec
    Aureon 7.1 (Firewire connection)(230 Euros)
        • -8 Analog Outs 24bit/192kHZ
        • -Analog Line Input 24bit/96kHZ
        • -Optical Digital S/P DIF Input (TOS Link) 24 bit/96 kHz
        • -Optical Digital S/P DIF Output (TOS Link) 24 bit/96 kHz
        • -Buspowered or optional power supply
        • -Windows XP only
    MOTU
    Ultralite (Firewire connection)$600

        • -14 Analog Balanced/Unbalanced Outs 1/4" jacks @ 24bit/96kHZ
        • -COAX Digital S/P DIF Input/Output 24 bit/96 kHz
        • -Buspowered or optional power supply
        • -48V Phantom power for Mic Input
        • -ASIO Compatible
    System always under construction



  • #2
    behringer and pro-audio in the same sentence, uhmmmmm
    Xenia & Isabelle, totally in love!

    'T SQiekenkot: VOLVO 740GL 2.3

    CarPC: none at the moment
    CLARION HX-D2
    CLARION APA4300HX => Fountek NeoCd1.0 + TB W4-1337SD
    CLARION APA4300HX => CSS Trio8
    CLARION APA2100 => Dayton IB385-8

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by IC-C30 View Post
      behringer and pro-audio in the same sentence, uhmmmmm
      hahaha. I couldn't agree with you more, but that is where you can find it... Pro audio stores. Price would indicate it's not as "pro" as they say. I could move it to the "consumer" group if people might get confused.

      Edit: I decided to clarify my wording and grouping techniques.
      System always under construction


      Comment


      • #4
        price is'n t always good indication. in Germany the edirol UA-EX one is cheaper than a turtlebeach roadie
        Xenia & Isabelle, totally in love!

        'T SQiekenkot: VOLVO 740GL 2.3

        CarPC: none at the moment
        CLARION HX-D2
        CLARION APA4300HX => Fountek NeoCd1.0 + TB W4-1337SD
        CLARION APA4300HX => CSS Trio8
        CLARION APA2100 => Dayton IB385-8

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by IC-C30 View Post
          price is'n t always good indication. in Germany the edirol UA-EX one is cheaper than a turtlebeach roadie
          ...and also don't forget...Just because it was engineered in Germany doesn't mean it's quality.

          (It's ok I work for a German owned company) hehehehe
          System always under construction


          Comment


          • #6
            one other thing, most of us can't use the EMU cards, because of slower cpu. those cards requier a 1.4GHz cpu....
            Xenia & Isabelle, totally in love!

            'T SQiekenkot: VOLVO 740GL 2.3

            CarPC: none at the moment
            CLARION HX-D2
            CLARION APA4300HX => Fountek NeoCd1.0 + TB W4-1337SD
            CLARION APA4300HX => CSS Trio8
            CLARION APA2100 => Dayton IB385-8

            Comment


            • #7
              Here is an incredible option:

              http://www.rme-audio.de/english/hdsp/hdsp9632.htm

              Take a look at the info on that page and see where you can add on modules that will allow for multiple outputs.

              I'm currently looking heavily into this option.

              Also, all of the cards in the Audiotrack lineup appear to be good options for people on this board. Might as well link entirely to their site.

              Also, for the benefit of those who are willing to spend the money to get good, very high quality cards, be sure to post them up, even if they seem to be out of your price range.

              EDIT:

              PS: one thing I've found incredibly helpful is to link to the page on the manufacturers web site for the particular product. It makes research a lot easier.
              Jan Bennett
              FS: VW MKIV Bezel for 8" Lilliput - 95% Finished

              Please post on the forums! Chances are, someone else has or will have the same questions as you!

              Comment


              • #8
                http://www.audiotrak.net/mayaex.htm double the cost of a turtle beach roadie, but multiple output also, which the roadie doesn't have.

                only 16bit though
                Xenia & Isabelle, totally in love!

                'T SQiekenkot: VOLVO 740GL 2.3

                CarPC: none at the moment
                CLARION HX-D2
                CLARION APA4300HX => Fountek NeoCd1.0 + TB W4-1337SD
                CLARION APA4300HX => CSS Trio8
                CLARION APA2100 => Dayton IB385-8

                Comment


                • #9
                  http://www.synthzone.com/sndcard.htm

                  Good place to find other options.

                  If someone has the time, they could make a GREAT list using this web site.

                  http://sounden.terratec.net/index.php?

                  Great options.

                  The Aureon 7.1 FireWire looks like a great option. Going to email them and see if I can find out more (like voltage outs). - found out through the manual that it's 2v outputs, which would work for many people on this site, however, I'd like a little more.

                  One of the main issues I'm running into, and I'm sure others will or have too is that on these surround sound cards, I need to know how the unit handles the sound. I'm not wanting surround sound in my car. I'm wanting stereo sound, how would I go about changing the outputs of the card to be what I need/want them to be.

                  For instance, take a 7.1 card.

                  You have RCA channels for Right and left for front, rear, and surround (that's 6 channels right there), then you have a center, then a sub, for 8 total channels. However, if I don't want to process the sound into 7.1, but would rather take the front for tweeter, rear for mid-bass, surround for mid-range, and sub for sub.

                  Going to see if I can get that info as well.
                  Jan Bennett
                  FS: VW MKIV Bezel for 8" Lilliput - 95% Finished

                  Please post on the forums! Chances are, someone else has or will have the same questions as you!

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Auzentech X-Meridian has 5 Volt output. User replacable Opamps and clocks too.

                    If KX project supports it, that would be my answer. I don't know if it does, or if they are working on it.

                    It has 8 channel output. Configurable in any way we want..

                    ActiveXover, EQ, delay, effects etc all in digital domain... infinitly reconfigurable....

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by jasonsjwou View Post
                      Auzentech X-Meridian has 5 Volt output. User replacable Opamps and clocks too.

                      If KX project supports it, that would be my answer. I don't know if it does, or if they are working on it.

                      It has 8 channel output. Configurable in any way we want..

                      ActiveXover, EQ, delay, effects etc all in digital domain... infinitly reconfigurable....


                      man...it's great to have home theater pc's taking off like they are. we are reaping the benefits! nice find
                      New System in progress:
                      M10k
                      Phaze TD1500 ~> Dynaudio MD130
                      Phaze TD1500 ~> Seas g18rnx/p
                      Zapco Ref 500.1 ~ 12" tc-9
                      Behringer DCX2496 ~ Envision Electronics psu
                      Transflective Xenarc

                      My Car Pc Install
                      My Boat Pc worklog

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        That's the same company that I sent an email a while back, here's what I wrote:

                        Hi Jan,

                        Thanks for sending us feedback and request for next sound card product. All your requests and feedback are taken into serious consideration from our R&D people.

                        [Regarding] Currently I'm using the Audigy 2 ZS PCMCIA card with the optical output into my Alpine processor. Ultimately, I'd like to use a sound card, with high voltage RCA outputs direct into my STEG amplifiers. This would only leave me with the need to find a computer program that includes 1/3 octave 31 band eqs, as well as time alignment and cross over points.


                        [AZT] We are actually planning on development for RCA outputs (however, it might not be the perfect product as per your description above). In order for us to provide you with precise base management in the PC system, we will need to request C-Media (our chipset developer) for further R&D, thus, we cannot confirm at this time whether this is possible as it depends on C-Media’s willingness for further improvement on their chipset.

                        [Regarding] There are a few of us on the mp3car.com forums that are constantly searching for an option like I have mentioned. For some, the solution is to use a cheap USB DAC, like the Silverstone unit. However, there is research that proves that USB DACs can be prone to much jitter. All of the USB DACs I've found, however, only have one set of RCA outputs.

                        [AZT] If the USB DAC is using 5V 500A USB bus power, it will not be possible to be free from the jitter. Even if you use the 12V from your car, the system will not be secure depending on the Car battery, cigar jack, and the related circuit board, therefore, you will need to secure these by checking testing, and making some changes in the car. This is however, a great potential product that you have brought up to us. With the current USB chipset that C-Media has, we would not be able to develop such product. However, we can consider it once C-Media release their USB 2.0 chipset.

                        [Regarding] Would your company possibly be interested in developing a sound card along these lines? Possibly a PCMCIA card, with a tail of RCA outputs with high voltage outs? Or possibly a USB card with these features? Else, a PCI card for use in either small or no computer case?

                        [AZT] For PCMCIA card, VIA and CL have solutions, but for notebook PC, the PCMCIA is outdated, therefore, we are not considering any development based on this.

                        We have already road map for USB sound adaptor or DAC planned for next year.

                        We do not have plan for LP type PCI card at this time.

                        Your feedback helped us understand the Car audio market better and we will definitely look into this market further.

                        We appreciate your support for our company and product.

                        Sincerely,

                        Stephane Bae
                        AuzenTech, Inc. (www.auzentech.com)
                        tel 408.727.6212/ fax 408.727.6275/ cell 650.861.2755
                        Thought some might find it interesting.
                        Jan Bennett
                        FS: VW MKIV Bezel for 8" Lilliput - 95% Finished

                        Please post on the forums! Chances are, someone else has or will have the same questions as you!

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by jasonsjwou View Post
                          It has 8 channel output. Configurable in any way we want..

                          ActiveXover, EQ, delay, effects etc all in digital domain... infinitly reconfigurable....
                          can you show me where you read up about all of this?

                          I'll send them another email as well, need to know if it can support ASIO.
                          Jan Bennett
                          FS: VW MKIV Bezel for 8" Lilliput - 95% Finished

                          Please post on the forums! Chances are, someone else has or will have the same questions as you!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            The Auzentech X-Meridian Website

                            http://www.auzentech.com/compare.html

                            It says "5Vrms (Differential DAC output with gain adjustment / approximately full swing from +/- 8V dual power supply)" - This should be good enough for Car Amp.

                            The potential for KX project is enormous, especially for CarPC Audio scene. It's real light on processor resource, infinitly configurable so all the ActiveXOver, GEQ,PEQ,Phase/Delay, Surround, etc can be done in digital domain. The KX project:

                            www.kxproject.com
                            http://www.driverheaven.net/forumdis...?s=&forumid=67

                            I can't find it now, but I read it somewhere that they are working to get the C-Media CMI-8788 chipset (X-Meridian's chip) to work with the KX project. I might be wrong.

                            The best soundcard that currently works with the KX project is SoundBlaster Audigy 2 ZS (SB0350) series. SB X-FI's are not compatible with the KX Project, because Creative is not willing to share the architecture with the KX developer. (or something along that line)

                            REDGTi, I am sure you know all about KX project, but it might be a good read for someone new.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I've been reading up on the KX Project, but I was not aware that it has the ability to do X-over functions and all that other jazz...is that truely the case?
                              Jan Bennett
                              FS: VW MKIV Bezel for 8" Lilliput - 95% Finished

                              Please post on the forums! Chances are, someone else has or will have the same questions as you!

                              Comment

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