Choosing an Audio Interface
Do a lot
If a facility does more – record voice-overs, create music beds by cutting, pasting, and time compressing music library files, for example – then the choice is more selective when it comes to audio interfaces. Of course, the first decision has to be the workstation itself. It’s hard to believe that less than 20 years ago you had to cough up $100k or so to get the recording and editing capability that any of the current off-the-shelf Macs or PCs leave in the dust.
Let’s say you’re charged with recording voice-overs. You know that Pro Tools has become the de facto recording platform for the video and recording industries, but why spot the cash for the full program when Pro Tools LE – the free version that DigiDesign provides with the hope that it will entice users to buy the complete program – has all the features needed to do the job?
In this case all that is needed from an audio interface is a couple of analog or microphone inputs, and a pair of stereo inputs and outputs, either digital or analog. Even if analog might do the trick, why not spend the extra couple of bucks and get an interface with both sets of outputs. Audio will need to pass through digital connections at some point. This identical scenario applies for Adobe Audition, Samplitude from Magix, or any of the other popular software front ends for a DAW. Be careful though, some of the older proprietary programs designed for radio are not as careful about upgrading drivers. You don’t want to purchase a screaming new quad core i7 Windows 7 machine only to discover that your software hasn’t migrated beyond Windows XP.
When it comes to PCIe cards, AudioScience has two options for analog/digital audio. With the high channel count ASI5680 PCIe audio adapter with eight stereo playback streams fed to eight stereo outputs and one stereo record stream fed from one stereo input, users can mix and route anything to anywhere.
AudioScience also created the ASI5211, a PCIe version of the ASI5111 card. It removes time-critical audio processing burdens from a PC, featuring two stereo record streams fed from either a balanced analog input or an AES3 digital input, four stereo play streams mixed to both a balanced analog output and and AES3 digital output, and a mic input. The analog I/O level has been increased to +24dBu, a noise gate added and GPIO adds two opto-isolated inputs and two normally open relay outputs.
Lynx Studio Technology's AES16e-50 PCIe card offers multiple connectivity options. In addition to 16 channels of 192kHz AES3 digital I/O via its two D-sub ports, it has 32 digital I/O channels using AES50 technology, which provides point-to-point connection for multi-channel audio and system control over a single CAT-5e or CAT-6 cable.
LoLa from Digigram is a low-latency sound card platform for logging and multi-channel recording. Main features of the first LoLa product (the LoLa280) include eight line-level inputs, two line-level outputs and an optional eight-channel mic pre-amp in a 1RU package. It also includes a built-in mixer with automatic gain control and a software control panel.
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