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Need new soundcard for stereo, 5.1, gaming & DJing, Windows 7 x64, USB device preferred
Gecko
post Oct 3 2011, 10:59
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Hi folks,

my old soundcard kicked the bucket so I'm looking for something new and I'm hoping you can help me. I thought this should be trivial in 2011, but I'm stumped. Some features I would like:
  1. Good analog out to my 5.1 PC-Speakers
  2. Basic (no Dolby Pro Logic) upmixing of stereo sources with bass-management and delay
  3. Low-Latency playback (ASIO)
  4. Decent analog stereo line-in
  5. Windows 7 64bit support. Should survive sleep-mode.
  6. USB so I can use it on different PCs

Thing's I'd like to do:
  • Listen to stereo sources on all channels. The "Channel Mixer" plugin for foobar does this well for my music, but I don't have a solution for youtube and the likes.
  • Watch movies with a 5.1 soundtrack. Needs bass-management.
  • Play the occasional game. Since games today bring their own 3D-Sound engine, this should be the same as watching movies.
  • DJing. Since I want to use my laptop for that, a portable USB solution which I could unplug from my main rig would be great. If the outputs are strong enough to drive a PA-Amp directly and also get headphones reasonably loud, thus avoiding a separate mixer, that would be a plus.

It seems that there is no product which can do all of the above. You have consumer equipment which lacks ASIO and seems to focus on 10-year-old internal PCI designs with OS compatibility starting from Win98SE (!). Or it is some variant of Creative's X-Fi. Then you have professional equipment which often has 4xMono out at 48kHz/16bit because it still uses chips which can only do USB1.1. Professional equipment either focuses on recording (I don't need 48V phantom power) or caters to the digital DJ crowd. But can you tell a DJ sound-device that channels 1/2 should be front L/R and that it should cut frequencies below 120Hz on channels 1-5 and mix/route them to channel 6 along with the LFE channel in movie soundtracks?

I'm wondering if I should invest in an A/V-Receiver to do all the upmixing and bass management which connects to the HDMI out of my graphics card and get something like the Native Instruments Traktor Audio 2 for the DJing part.
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RonaldDumsfeld
post Oct 3 2011, 13:19
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This might be what you are looking for.
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Gecko
post Oct 4 2011, 18:14
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Thanks for the reply. The product page doesn't mention ASIO and it seems like I would be paying for video connectivity I don't need. Unfortunately Motu's pure audio interfaces don't seem to be what I'm looking for either.

I'm wondering whether the TerraTec DMX 6fire is my type of interface. I remember the old 6fire 24/96 being well regarded at the time.

At least it is advertised for both DJing and gaming. It even boasts upmixing 2.0 to 5.1. I wonder if this includes bass-management. It's light on the recording side so I wouldn't pay too much for unneeded mic-amps. I'm hesitant because driver support for Terratec products has been pretty bad in my limited experience. The supposedly strong headphone out is a plus though.
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Alex B
post Oct 4 2011, 19:17
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Terratec DMX 6Fire USB is probably your best option (if not only) to have the hardware features you listed. I like its feature set quite a bit. Unfortunately it does not have 7.1 channel analog outputs like the discontinued Terratec Aureon 7.1 Firewire had. Though, personally I have been happy with just 5.1. Seems like in Germany you can buy one at a relatively inexpensive price: http://www.preissuchmaschine.de/in-Multime...-6Fire-USB.html

I am still using the original Terratec DMX 6Fire 24/96 PCI on 32-bit Windows 7 and it works fine with the last Vista driver that Terratec released for it.

Regarding the bass management features, I am only aware of some crappy device control panel / driver implementations for onboard devices. Perhaps you could consider a software solution. JRiver Media Center 16 would provide an advanced built-in bass management and room correction system that has been designed to replace the similar features in AV-Receivers. The system works with audio and video files.


--------------------
http://listening-tests.freetzi.com
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robert
post Oct 4 2011, 19:59
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I'm still using the Terratec DMX 6Fire 24/96 PCI on 64-bit W7, it works thanks to some Vista beta drivers. Occasionally I have to de-/re-activate the driver, though.

As I'm looking for a USB Sound solution for my Notebook, I'm tendered to buy the "LogiLink 7.1 Dolby USB Sound Box".
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RonaldDumsfeld
post Oct 4 2011, 20:45
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QUOTE
The product page doesn't mention ASIO and it seems like I would be paying for video connectivity I don't need.


Well the audio spec quotes:-

QUOTE
Supports Core Audio, Wave, and ASIO drivers


Take your point about the extra expense of video though. Still @ 400 retail it's not really expensive for what it does. Although it is twice the price of the Terratec DMX 6Fire USB . I have similar requirements to yourself and combine a oldish Kenwood receiver and a MOTU Ultralite Hybrid (USB &/or firewire). The hybrid on it's own is more than the HD express mind.

let us know how you get on please.....I's be interested to hear what you come up with and how satisfied it makes you.

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Gecko
post Oct 7 2011, 20:24
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Alex B, it does seem to be a viable option. Unfortunately the "surround expander" doesn't seem to be configurable, i.e. the crossover frequency for the subwoofer is fixed and there are no delays. Better than nothing, I guess, but probably not better than what onboard solutions have to offer. Regarding JRiver Media Center: I'm looking for a system-wide option which will also work for browser based sound (youtube, vimeo, audiojelly, ...).

robert, wow, that Logilink is cheap! Please share your experience with it in case you buy it.

RonaldDumsfeld, ah, I missed that, sorry. I clicked through the links on the left and stopped after the "workflows". Would have expected to find this info somewhere near the "features" or the audio I/O description. But I see now that this device uses a proprietary connection and thus I couldn't connect it to my laptop (no card slot). I was wondering how they got uncompressed HD video over a USB connection in real-time, but obviously this is not possible. The MOTU ultralite is a tasty product, but I guess it's both more and less than I am looking for, and at ca. 500 is no bargain.

Terratec calls the new DMX 6Fire the "unofficial successor" to the old one. I wonder why it's not official. Sounds to me like this is a completely new product which inherits the I/O concept of the old one and the established name. The fear being that it's cheap crap on the inside. For example they state "24 bit / 192 kHz D/A converter with 114 dB (A) // SNR* (outputs 1-6) // * dependent on the converter used". When looking at the German page (Terratec is located in Germany and their English is a bit weird) it becomes clearer: "* technische Daten vom verwendeten Wandler". So they don't mean to say that you can swap D/A converters, but that 114 dB is the spec of the used component (Cirrus Logic CS42426-CQZ) under lab-conditions. The performance of the assembled device is a mystery. Not that I am expecting to actually hear a difference but posting specs which do not reflect actual performance is disconcerting. Then again, other companies wouldn't even add the asterisk. RMAA looks OK: http://www.notebookcheck.net/Review-Terrat...rd.20015.0.html

I'm still dabbling with the thought of going the HDMI --> A/V-Receiver route which should give me all the speaker-management needed. It's an expensive route to take though...
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