(Semi) professional soundcards compared


Welcome! This website contains old info. I stopped updating it years ago. It's still online for who knows can use it. There are a lot of new soundcards on the market today.

This site is meant to make your choice in buying a (semi) professional soundcard for producing music with your computer, just a little easier. Cards outlined on this site can be used for softsynths in ASIO compatible sequencers. If you are looking for a gaming audiocard, you should probably look somewhere else. Please note that the information on this site may be incomplete or incorrect. The builder of this site cannot be held responsible for any problem you may encounter by using the information on this site in any way.

If you see any flaw, if you have missing information or if you have an opinion about a sound card shown here, please contact me. I hope you can especially help me find the information noted with (?). If you want to have another soundcard outlined next to the others, you have to send me all information (in a table like shown on this site) about this soundcard. I am happy to add your information to the site if it's complete. I will not search for this information myself.

Good luck and have fun producing your music with the card that fits your needs ;)

Special thanks go out to www.electronicmusicworld.com for hosting this site for years on their server. And to all members at www.synthforum.nl for helping with the content of this site.

Quick links: General Drivers Software I/O Specifications Other Opinions

 


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Photo (click to enlarge)
Cheapest found price incl. VAT excl. Shipping
€ 179,- @ Thomann
(8-11-2002)
€ 199,- @ Thomann
(8-11-2002)
€ 149,- @ Thomann
(8-11-2002)
€ 159,- @ Feedback
(8-11-2002)
€ 179,- @ Thomann
(8-11-2002)
€ 219,- @ Feedback
(8-11-2002)
€ 199,- @ Feedback
(8-11-2002)
 Not sold anymore
(Last known price found: € 79,-)
€ 105,- @ Thomann
(18-9-2003)
Platform
PC
PC/MAC
PC
PC
PC
PC
PC
PC
PC
Slot/Card type
PCI
PCI
PCI
PCI
PCI
PCI
(32bit, PCI Bus-Mastering support)
PCI
(32bit, PCI Bus-Mastering support)
PCI
PCI 2.1
Compatible OS’s
Windows
9x/Me/2000/XP
Windows 9x/Me/2000/XP
MacOS 8.6/9.0/OS-X
Windows
9x/Me/NT/2000/XP
Windows 98/Me/2000/XP
Windows
9x/ME/NT/2000/XP
Windows 98SE/Me/XP/2000
Windows 98SE/Me/XP/2000
Windows 98/Me/2000/XP
Windows 98SE/Me/2000 SP2/XP
Plug and Play
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
System Requirements (PC)
(?)
-Pentium III 500Mhz - (96kHz operation)
-Pentium II 400 - (48kHz operation)
-128 MB of PC100 RAM - (96kHz operation)
-64 MB of SDRAM - (48kHz operation)
-UDMA EIDE or ATA 33/66 HDD
(?)
-Intel Pentium II CPU
-64MB of RAM
-One available PCI slot
-UDMA 33 hard disk drive
-Pentium 200 or compatible systems (K6 / K7) with at least one free PCI
slot
-Windows 9x, NT 4.0 (Service Pack 3 or higher)
-VGA or S-VGA graphics adapter
-Intel Pentium II 350 MHz CPU or higher
-Mainboard with Intel chipsets
-64MB of RAM
-One available PCI slot
-Ultra DMA 33 hard disk drive
-Intel Pentium II 350 MHz CPU or equivalent AMD CPU
-128MB of RAM
-One available PCI slot
-Ultra DMA 33 hard disk drive
-Virtually any Pentium-based system.
-32MB RAM
-1 available PCI slot

-Processor: Genuine Intel® Pentium® II, Celeron 350MHZ, AMD-K6® 450MHz or faster -Motherboard: Intel®, AMD® or 100% compatible -System RAM: 64MB for Windows® 98SE and Me, 128MB for Windows® 2000 SP2 and XP
System Requirements (Mac)
 
-G4 or G3
-128 MB RAM - (96kHz operation)
-64 MB RAM - (48kHz operation)
-OMS 2.3.8 for MIDI operation
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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ASIO2.0
Yes,
3ms @ 96 kHz (Fast computers)
Yes,
2ms @ (?) kHz
Yes,
2ms @ 96 kHz
5ms @ 44.1/48kHz

Yes,
3ms @ (?) kHz
12ms @ 44.1 kHz

Yes,
2ms @ (?) kHz
(Future drivers will use ASIO-IN-HARDWARE. It's not known when this function is available)
Yes,
(?)ms @ (?) kHz

Yes,
(?)ms @ (?) kHz
Yes,
3ms @ 44.1 Khz
Yes,
2ms @ 16-bit/48kHz (ASIO only for 16-bit/48kHz)
GSIF
Yes
Yes (Multiclient)
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
No
DirectSound
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes (Multiple)
Yes
Yes
Yes
MME
(?)
(?)
(?)
Yes
Yes
Yes (Multiple)
Yes (Multiple)
Yes
Yes
Other Drivers
None
None
None
None
None
None
-Direct KS (SONAR)
None
None

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Control Panel
-Straight forward user interface.
-Many colours
-Straight forward user interface
-‘windows’ look
-Straight forward user interface
-Great graphics
-Straight forward user interface
-The user interface graphics don’t look nice
-Straight forward and simple user interface
-Separate windows for inputs and outputs.
-Possible to set windows “Always On Top”.
-Not really straight forward user interface
-User interface looks nice
-Not really straight forward user interface
-User interface looks nice
-Straight forward user interface
-The user interface graphics look terrible
Work in progress
Control panel picture (click to enlarge)
Work in progress
Included software
-GigaSampler LE
-Arturia Storm EWX 24/96 edition
- FruityLoops Express
-24/96-capable version of MicroLogic AV sequencer
-Bitheadz's Retro Lite and Black & Whites Grand Piano, Sonic Foundry's Acid Xpress 2.0 (the latter PC-only), and Cycling 74's Pluggo (for Mac only)
-Emagic Logic SoundTrack 24 (working with 24-bit/96kHz functionality)
None
None
None
None
None
- Creative MediaSource Go
- Creative MediaSource Organiser
- Creative MediaSource Player
- Creative Audio Stream Recorder 2
- Creative Audio HQ
- Creative Diagnostics
- Creative MiniDisc Center
- Creative Restore Defaults
- Creative Wave Studio
- Creative SoundFont Bank Manager
- Creative Speaker Calibrator
- Creative Speaker Settings
- Creative Surround Mixer
- Soldier of Fortune® II
- Hitman 2

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Analog inputs
-1 stereo (2*cinch) gold-plated, maximum level +4dBu or -10dBV (software-switched)
-1 stereo (2*cinch) gold-plated, maximum level +2dBV
-1 stereo (2*cinch)
-Internal analog input for CD or aux signals
-Line In 1-2 (6.3 mm stereo jack)
-Line In 3-4 (6.3 mm stereo jack)
-1 Mic In (Mic Preamp with Phantom Power supply on Line In 1-2)
-1/4" TRS jack. signal level can be adjusted between
-40 dB and +18 dB.

-1 Unbalanced +4dBu Stereo Line Input (1/4" TRS Phone)
-1 Balanced Mic Input (1/4" TRS Phone) + MIC preamp with +12V Phantom Power
-10dBv & +4dBu Balanced/Unbalanced

-1 with -10dBV unbalanced 1/8"(3.5 mm) mono input + MIC preamp with +5V Phantom Power
-1 with -10dBV unbalanced 1/8"(3.5 mm) stereo
-1 stereo (2*cinch)
-1 mono microphone + amplifier: +45dB pre-set; +20dB switchable; 0-18dB adjustable; 12V phantom power switchable
-Line in
-Microphone in
-Analog / Digital CD Audio in
Analog outputs
-1 stereo (2*cinch) gold-plated, maximum level +4dBu or -10dBV (software-switched)
-1 stereo (2*cinch) gold-plated, maximum level +2dBV (consumer setting) or -4dBV (-10dBV setting
-1 stereo (2*cinch)
-systemsound-/monitor-output (1/8" mini-jack)
-Line Out 1-2 (6.3 mm stereo jack)
-Line Out 3-4 (6.3 mm stereo jack)
-1 Headphone Out
-1/4" TRS jack. Output level can be reduced to -60 dB.
-3 Unbalanced +4dBu Stereo Line Outputs (1/4" TRS Phone) + 1 with headphone amp
-3 x stereo -10dBV unbalanced 1/8"(3.5 mm) outputs
-1 stereo (2*cinch)
-Line level out (Front / Rear / Centre / Subwoofer /Rear Centre)
Digital inputs
-1 optical TOS-link S/PDIF
-internal electrical (CD-ROM TTL or S/PDIF), all selected by hardware jumpers on card
-1 co-axial S/PDIF, via included 9-way D-type connector plus breakout cable
-On optional bracket
-None
-1 optical TOS-Link S/PDIF 24 bit and and 32 kHz to 96 kHz
-1 electrical RCA S/PDIF 24 bit and 32 kHz to 96 kHz
-Digital audio CD connector
-On optional bracket
-On optional bracket
-None
-None
Digital outputs
-1 optical TOS-link S/PDIF, all selected by hardware jumpers on card
-1 co-axial S/PDIF, via included 9-way D-type connector plus breakout cable
-On optional bracket
-20 bit S/PDIF Out (Cinch, coaxial and TOS Link, optical)
-1 optical TOS-Link S/PDIF 24 bit and and 32 kHz to 96 kHz
-1 electrical RCA S/PDIF 24 bit and and 32 kHz to 96 kHz
-Optical 24-bit/96kHz S/PDIF stereo
-Optical 24-bit/96kHz S/PDIF stereo
-Digital RCA 24-bit/96kHz S/PDIF stereo
-1 optical S/PDIF TOS-Link 44.1/48kHz
-Digital Out for 5.1 support
-SPDIF output up to 24-bit at 48 or 96kHz
MIDI ports
-One In and Out. 15-way D-type connector (Compatible with standard MIDI kable. Kable not incl.)
-One In and Out via included 9-way D-type connector plus breakout cable
-On optional bracket
-On optional bracket
None
-On optional bracket
-On optional bracket
-On optional bracket
-15-pin MIDI / Joystick port extension header
Other connectors
-15-way D-type connector (for standard MIDI connection kable or Terratec phono preamp)
None
None
None
None
None
None
None
-SB1394™ / FireWire® port
Break-outs and extra’s
-2 meter optical cable for connection to MD-recorder/player
-Short breakout adaptor cable that provides you with both co-axial S/PDIF digital input and output and MIDI input and output
None
None
None
None
None
None
None

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Soundchip
-AKM: AK4524
-AKM: AK4528

-AKM: AK4524VF (I2S stereo codec)
-AC'97 stereo codec SigmaTel STAC9721T
-DSP chip, a multichannel PCI controller ENVY24 from IC Ensemble

-Crystal: CS4298-KQ Frequency Response = 20 .. 20000 Hz +/- 0.5 dB
Dynamic Range = 85..90 dB FS A
THD + N = -86 dB FS A

-AKM: AK4524VF
(?)
(?)
(?)
Work in progress
A-D and D-A converters
24 bit 64x oversampling (part of AK4524 Codec chip)
24 bit (part of AK4528 Codec chip)
24 bit 96 kHz (part of AKM AK4524VF Codec chip)
(?)
24 bit 96 kHz (part of AKM AK4524VF Codec chip)
-24bit 96kHz AD
-24bit 192kHz DA
(?)
-18bit ADC (90dB real dynamic range, A-weighted)
-20bit DAC (90dB real dynamic range, A-weighted)
-24-bit Analog-to-Digital conversion during recording in 8, 16 or 24-bit at sampling rates of 8, 11.025, 16, 22.05, 24, 32, 44.1, 48 and 96kHz
-24-bit Digital-to-Analog conversion during playback with sampling rates of 8, 11.025, 16, 22.05, 24, 32, 44.1, 48 and 96kHz in 6.1 mode and up to 192kHz in stereo mode
Full Duplex
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Yes
Work in progress
Dynamic range
-100dB (inputs)
-110dB (outputs)
(for converters only, not the card on it’s whole)
-100.4dBA (inputs)
-104dBA (outputs)
-100dBA (inputs)
-110dBA (outputs)
85..90 dB FS A
(?)
-100dB (inputs)
-104dB (outputs)
-100dB (inputs)
-104dB (outputs)
(?)
Work in progress
Total harmonic distortion
(?)
<0.002%
(?)
THD + N = -86 dB FS A
-THD + N: 0.005% @ 90 dB
(?)
(?)
(?)
Work in progress
Signal to noise ratio
(?)
(?)
(?)
(?)
S(N+D): 95 dB
(?)
(?)
(?)
Work in progress
Frequency response
(?)
22Hz to 22kHz, ±0.4dB
(?)
20 .. 20000 Hz +/- 0.5 dB
-20 Hz to 20.000 Hz @ 44.1 kHz
-20 Hz upto 40.000 Hz @ 96 kHz
(?)
(?)
(?)
Work in progress
Supported bit depths
8, 16, 20, 24
8, 16, 20, 24
(?), 16, 24
(?), 16, 24
8, 16, 20, 24
(?), 16, 24
(?), 16, 24
16 (?)
Work in progress
Supported sample rates
8 kHz – 96 kHz
-8 kHz – 96 kHz
(with internal clock )
-32 kHz – 96 kHz
(with S/PDIF clock)
(?)
(?)
11 kHz - 96 kHz (analog in and out)
32 kHz - 96 kHz (digital in and out)
16, 22, 24, 32, 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192kHz
16, 22, 24, 32, 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, (176.4, 192kHz : playback only)
32, 44.1, 48 kHz
Work in progress

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Options (Not included with card)


-Terratec phono preamp
None
-Backet with digital I/O (coaxial and optical S/PDIF) and MIDI I/O
(63,- Euro)
-Audiotrak Miditrak2120 (2 In/ 2 Out MIDI connections)
None
-MI/ODI/O add-on card (24-bit/96kHz S/PDIF Optical (Tos-Link) Input and Coxial I/O, analog 1-in/i-out MIDI interface)
-MI/ODI/O add-on card (24-bit/96kHz S/PDIF Optical (Tos-Link) Input and Coxial I/O, analog 1-in/i-out MIDI interface)
-Audiotrak Miditrak2120 (2 In/ 2 Out MIDI connections)
Work in progress
Others
 
-Up to 4 cards simultaniously in one system.
-Direct monitoring for input signals (zero latency, by hardware)
-AC3/Dolby Digital/DTS throughput to external decoder
-DirectWIRE ® Audiorouting
-In a system, up to 4 Marian cards can be operated simultaneously requiring only one installed driver.
-Copy protection via digital connectors is ignored
-Zero Latency Monitoring
-Automatic latency response for Directsound
-Headphone amp
-Compatibility with Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 surround formats
-Headphone amp
-Compatibility with Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 surround formats
-DirectWIRE ® Audiorouting
-AC3/Dolby Digital/DTS throughput to external decoder
Work in progress

 
(Known) Positives
-Very good sound quality.
-Bit-for-bit digital transfers.
-Optical, co-axial, and CD-ROM digital inputs
-Variable input gain up to +18dB.
-5-piece software bundle.
Source
 -Very good sound quality.
-Bit-for-bit digital transfers.
-10-piece software bundle with 24/96-capable version of MicroLogic AV sequencer.
-Drivers for both Mac and PC.
Source

-Thanks to the professional I2S codec from AKM the sound is better than in any multimedia sound card including the leading Creative SB Audigy.
-The quality of the digital-out is at the level of professional sound cards.
-A full set of digital interfaces on a daughter card.
-Multi-client support in 5 virtual devices.
-MME/ASIO/GSIF support assigned separately
Source

-Special headphone jack
-Possibility of software routing of sound streams (DirectWIRE);
-Confident operation in DirectSound applications (games)
Source
-“ASIO IN HARDWARE” will make this card less CPU consuming and lower latencies WHEN the driver software has been updated for it.
 
 
 
 
(Known) Negatives
-Digital input selection can only be made with hardware jumpers before the card is installed.
-Bundled sequencer package doesn't support 24/96 format.
-No Mac drivers.
-Terratec misleads us with some specs that are really the specs of the chipset. Not mentioning the real (for example) signal to noise ratio of the ‘card’.
Source
-Drivers are not currently GSIF-compatible.
Source
-Not very "honest" support of the 24/96 format.
-Quite conditional support of the DirectSound which requires one more sound card in the system for all modern games.
-Digital-outs only on the daughter card.
Source

-Lack of the 24/96 mode support since this is not possible with the Crystal CS4298-KQ codec.
-Lack of a digital input and a MIDI interface
-Extremely low quality of the microphone preamplifier
Source

-No MIDI connections and no upgrade possibilities for MIDI connections.
 
 
 
 
What users say
-"You can get trouble getting the Maya44 stable on a Windows XP and VIA-chipset system"

-"Don't even bother to get response when you send an e-mail to support@marian.de. The support doesn't suck... You'll just don't GET any support :("

-"On my Athlon 750, 384 MB PC100, AMD 750 chipset; the ASIO drivers do stutter a lot with more then 4VST(i)'s running... This is BAD!!! Perhaps the ASIO-IN-HARDWARE function will overcome this, but when is it available?"

-"Great for it’s price. But ofcourse not the most proffessional card around."

 

-"Most serious musicians would advice never to use a sound card from Creative Labs if you're serious about making music. But many people that use a Soundblaster are happy with how it works for them."