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Re: advice on equipment (headphones, microphones, sound cards)

Maria and Auditory Listers,

For sound input I would echo the others in recommending you avoid the sound blaster cards and instead get either an instrumentation data acquisition card, an audio interface card, or a digital recorder.  The audio interface cards are available with phantom power and high quality preamps which makes them much more flexible in their use.

I've had good luck with the Presonus Inspire which is a 2 channel firewire interface for about $200.  One benefit (for me) is no external gain controls - everything is through software.  What that means is that I can repeatably set gain levels and not have to worry about them being changed or bumped.  I also have used a TASCAM USB-122.  The Tascam is good quality hardware, but I don't like the software interface that much.

My favorite device right now is a Zoom H4 digital recorder that sells for about $300.  It is a 24 bit /96 kHZ recorder with a fairly decent set of cartiod mics built in (I use them for measuring reverberation) and a pair of XLR inputs with phantom power and reasonbly low noise preamps.  There is an external gain switch with only low-mid-high (again easy to repeatably set).  The unit stores to SD card and can be used as a digital audio interface through the USB interface.  In other words, you can use it like a high qualiy  standard external audio card and also as a high quality recorder.  Look for it at any of the major music stores (I bought mine from Sweetwater).

As far as microphones go you might want to look at the BSWA Tech line of instrumentation mics if you don't need lavalier mics.  BSWA is a chinese importer sells mostly to companies making sound level meters and dosimeters. Their US distributor is scantek ( http://www.scantekinc.com) They sell the SM 4006 system which is their SM 4000 phantom power preamp and the MP 206 prepolarized 1/2" instrumentation mic for about $150.  These mics are very similar to the B&K 4030  line.


On 8/29/07, Chang, Maria <Maria.Chang@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:

I am purchasing equipment for auditory fMRI experiments run off of a laptop.  I am looking for a sound card (PC card, usb, or ExressCard), headphones and a microphone.

The recording capabilites of the sound card and microphone don't need to be top of the line, they just need to be good enough for us to record quality auditory stimuli ( i.e. we will not be collecting speech data from subjects).  Although, if a sound card with outstanding recording capabilities is only slightly more expensive, then I would be willing to invest in it in case we decide to collect speech data in the future (same goes for the microphones).

So far I've found the following options:

Headphones - Sennheiser HD280 PRO
Microphones - Shure SM-93, Audio Technica AT803B
Sound Cards - Echo Indigo, M-Audio Transit, Digigram VxPocket, SoundBlaster Audigy 2Zs, SoundBlaster X-Fi Extreme

Any recommendations (on or off this list) or objections?  Any advice is greatly appreciated!



Ralph T. Muehleisen
Assistant Professor, Civil and Architectural Engineering
Illinois Institute of Technology, Chicago, IL 60616
tel: 312-567-3545    fax: 312-567-3519
email: muehleisen@xxxxxxx    url:http://acoustics.iit.edu/muehleisen