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Summary of laptop soundcard suggestions

Dear List members,

Thank you for all your responses. I have compiled below a summarized list of
the products suggested so far.

Thank you,


Satrajit S Ghosh
Department of Cognitive and Neural Systems, Boston University

They've been grouped into type of interface: USB followed by PCMCIA. See
Dave Isherwood's notes at the end concerning USB and PCMCIA.

Website : www.edirol.com
Product : UA5(2 channel), UA1000(10 channel), UA3D
Interface       : USB
Submitted by: Tomasz M. Rutkowski, Rahul Shrivastav
Notes           : I am using it for sound separation experiments and it
works really great, even with Matlab. Generally in your case USB devices
would be a good choice and additionally you will be free from possible
interference/noise that sometimes occur inside computer boxes.

Website : www.soundblaster.com
Product : Creative Extigy
Interface       : USB
Submitted by: Tomasz M. Rutkowski, Satrajit Ghosh
Notes           : From a price perspective this is a very decent USB card
and is suitable for  many situations. The new external box called the Audigy
Platinum Ex has much better specifications, but I'm still trying to find out
how well it works through the Firewire interface [satra]

Website : www.dolphinmusic.co.uk
        Computer Music > Sound Cards > USB
Product : Multiple USB sound cards
Interface       : USB
Submitted by: John Culling

Website : www.xitel.com
Product : Hi-Fi Link [standard/pro]
Interface       : USB
Submitted by: Lars Bramslow

Website : www.digigram.com
Product : Digigram VXpocket V2, V440
Interface       : PCMCIA
Submitted by: Michael Howes, Ville Sivonen, Frank Ekeberg H.
Notes           : 1. It is a bit touchy to install but seems to work great.
More info through the main site. If you decide to buy one, you can often
find them at musician website's for a good bargain.  (musician's friend,
2. I have earlier used Digigram VXPocket v2 PCMCIA sound card with a laptop.
The sound card was high quality, except at low sampling frequencies
(<16kHz), when the noise floor was quite high for some reason. However, when
using a higher sampling rate there were no problems. [Ville]

Products        : MOTU 828, Nuendo, Emagic's boxes,Metric Halo, DAC
Submitted by: Richard Nance
Notes           : The PCMCIA cards that connect the externals are good if
you need the bandwidth for multiple inputs, but Firewire or even USB can
deliver a couple of channels of 96kHz, 24bit signal. Be sure to always check
out the analog specifications. The digital specs won't matter if the analog
stage is junk.

Website : www.sheldoninst.com
Product : BULLET II
Interface       : PCMCIA
Submitted by: Tony Miller
Notes           : I have used the BULLET II board in the past to measure
otoacoustic emissions and acoustic energy reflectance. It is the DSP board
for the Starkey DP2000 measurement system

Website : www.rme-audio.com
Product : Multiface
Interface       : PCMCIA
Submitted by: Piotr Majdak, Guillaume VANDERNOOT
Notes           : It's an external half-19" box with 8 analog I/Os (24bit,
96kHz) and 8 ADAT I/Os. Together with the "Card-Bus interface" (PCMCIA card)
you can use it in a laptop. There is a PCI-card to connect Multiface to
desktop computers, as well. Using with laptops requires power supply which
is included with the multiface.


I have no personal experiences with USB soundcards but have read and heard
from others that, even with the newer USB 2.0 there are some issues that
have to be born in mind

USB shares multiple devices on a single IRQ so, unlike PCMCIA or PCI
soundcards that have dedicated IRQs, depending on the number of devices
attached and each ones bandwidth, there may be buffer under-runs if the
audio output buffer size is not high enough and latency jitter depending on
the access frequency of the devices.

Remedying these problems boils down to having only the most neccesary USB
devices attached to the PC when using the soundcard and making sure that the
output buffer size is large enough. Apogee also recommend that a USB
soundcard not be connected to a hub and that the cable length not exceed 5
metres (although there are devices that extend the range of USB, e.g.ICRON
Ranger, these are hubs and so should be avoided).

[Added by Satra] I think most computers today share IRQs among devices
although a USB hub/controller is often provided a dedicated IRQ. From a
shielding perspective it does seem better to have the A/D conversion done
outside the computer. I believe the choice would depend on your application