audio hardware

Jonathan Leonard jonathan.adams.leonard at
Mon Sep 17 19:09:05 BST 2007

On 9/17/07, Rafael F. Compte <rfcompte at> wrote:
> I have thought about external audio hardware but I haven't found what
> I'm looking for. That really sounds like a great idea since the
> integrated Intel sound card of my laptop isn't exactly top notch...
> First I thought about an Audigy sz2 notebook PCMCIA but it looks like it
> isn't very well supported in linux. Is it better if it is PCMCIA or is
> it just the same as an external USB device? Any diffrences? Any ideas?
> By the way I also couldn't open Freebirth. There must be a problem with
> the package. I even reinstalled it through Synaptics... did nothing... I
> don't get any messages. Just won't open.
> Rafael

Hi Raphael, freebirth won't open for me either and I am not sure why Ubuntu
would include non-functioning software in their studio flavour.

In my experience pcmcia is much better compared to USB - without inspiring
geeks to counter that declarative statement regarding the protocols I can
only say that the way the gear is built and implemented, USB is still
incredibly unreliable on all platforms - though its great for moving
pictures off of cameras.  PCMCIA cards are usually more professional and
lower latency.  Though you should check to see if your laptop has a TI
chipset.  If not, you may never realize the difference between the 2.  My
advice is if you do not have a dedicated TI chipset to manage the pcmcia
cards and instead have some more generic chipset that manages all the
communication ports - don't bother with pcmcia, go for USB or better, stick
with your integrated card.  If the dynamics and frequency response are the
real issue, maybe this can be improved with another sound card, but you may
have to use very high >1024 samples to get clear artifact free audio.  So my
question for your laptop is - what chipset is handling the pcmcia or cardbus
on your laptop?

On my laptop I use the multiface II from RME with a cardbus host adapter.
In the US you can purchase this as a bundle for around $650.  I can confirm
personally that this is well supported in ALSA - but as with anything in
ubuntu studio, plan on building the alsa firmware, drivers, libs and utils

I am also having great luck with the echoaudio Layla 20 in linux - this is
pci but the same company makes a pcmcia card called the Indigo IO that is
pcmcia.  It may be worth checking the alsa soundcard matrix to see if this
is supported.  The Indigo IO can be purchased for less than $200 and
provides excellent stereo input and ouput in a pcmcia card.  Though its
connectors are not professional - 1/8th inch - it has a professional sound
and can provide reliable sub 10ms latency on a variety of platforms.  The
Indigo DJ has 2 stereo outputs if you need an extra monitor out for
headphones in addition to the main house outputs.

If I can have an influence at all, I wold steer you towards pcmcia because
there is no cable, and the cards are more professional.  I simply cannot
recommend a single USB audio device period.  But I am a musician who demands
low latency and my expectations might be higher than someone just playing
mp3 and watching movies.

Of the 2 companies I mentioned, RME and EchoAudio - both have superior
support beyond your purchase.  In my case, echoaudio replaced my layla20
power supply 4 years after it was purchased at no charge.  They also cleaned
up the unit while it was out for repair.  I bought it in '99 and in Ubuntu
Studio it just plain rocks.

The multiface II would be the class kit for you, but if you are not an audio
engineer or musician it would be overkill.  But it is halfrack ;)

Hope this helps and let us know how things work out!

-Jonathan Adams Leonard
my latest track produced entirely in Ubuntu Studio:
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