buy a sound card

Karlheinz Noise khzmusik at
Wed Feb 4 15:11:23 GMT 2009

> what's the main difference between a first price sound card and a
> professionnal one ?

An amateur sound card needs a stereo in/out, for converting tapes and LP's, gaming, and the usual computer stuff. You can record with these, but the DAC's are usually not so good (though better than even 5 years ago). You do not need to have more than 16bit/44.1KHz for these (though if you do, good for you).

Medium soundcards are for non-pro musicians and home studio users. These will probably need MIDI, and AT LEAST 24bit/96KHz stereo. Most likely there will need to be 4, 8, or 16 discreet channels to hook up to your mixer. This is where the majority of Linux users are.

Professional sound cards should be 24bit/192KHz, with oversampling DAC's, minimum 8 channels I/O, and ideally include a mixer (motorized faders are nice). The computers that run these cards should NEVER be connected to the internet, and should have no software on the machine other than what is needed to run specific music apps. In other words, it would be a package system. Historically, ProTools is the model for this sort of system, but others have been tried (e.g. PARIS, MOTU).

Since Cory's suggestions are WAY too cheap, I'll learn ya sum things:

> - what's a cheaper price for an amateur sound card ?

Free with your motherboard/laptop.

> - what's a good price for a medium sound card ?

Anywhere from $100 - $600, depending on your needs.

Stereo I/O with MIDI will be $100-$200, 8 channels I/O will be $300-$600.

> - What's a good price for a professional sound card ?

Over $600. Typically over $1000. Almost none are supported by Linux.

> I need too examples of sound card that runs without any trouble or very
> easily under GNU/Linux,
> for beginners (and cheaper) :

Just make sure Linux supports your motherboard's sound card...

> for medium use, semi-pro :

I personally use the M-Audio Audiophile 2496. M-Audio in general is fairly Linux-friendly, and with this soundcard you get stereo I/0 with MIDI for around $100. There is also the Audiophile 192 which goes up to 192KHz, for about $80 more. I have heard terrible things about the USB version, though.

If you want to step up to 8 ins and outs, the PreSonus FP10 (formerly FirePod) is listed as "reported to work" under ffado:

I don't own one, but I have used one, and PreSonus is generally considered very good for their DAC's. You can get one for $400 nowadays.

However, the PreSonus only goes up to 96KHz. If you need 192KHz, I'd go with the Echo AudioFire 8, which is fully supported:

I haven't used Echo in years, but back in the day they were considered pretty top-notch. The AudioFire 8 is around $500 or so. You can also spend an extra $100 and step up to the AudioFire 12, which has 12 inputs and outputs.

> for professionnal use :

For Linux? RME. That's about it. However, everyone on this list who has one loves theirs. Note that the FireWire versions are NOT supported. Those are way out of my price range, so you'll have to ask other people for their recomendations.

Also: I have an old Tascam TDM1000 board with an M-Audio TDIF PCI card. I have no idea if it's supported or not, since I don't use Linux in my "studio". 

But digital boards are also something to consider - and should probably be a seperate entry, as they're a different beast than just an audio input. There are lots of boards that come with a USB out nowadays (from Mackie and Behringer for example), of varying degrees of quality, so perhaps people with those boards could chime in as well.

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