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#127616 - 08/31/11 07:29 AM Sound card vs midi / audio interface
toucher Offline
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Registered: 04/20/08
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Loc: Arizona
In all my years of home recording and learning about midi, etc, I still have what I can only attribute to a mental block regarding certain signal flow issues. I know there are some Midi / Audio interfaces that are basically a fancy patch bay albeit some with fx and pre amps etc. These units basically direct signal flow from a guitar or mic and or midi keyboard into the computer sound card or VSC or Coyote.

I have seen write ups for midi / audio interfaces such as some focusrite models that sound as though they are complete recording systems in and of themselves and would work thru Real band or similar recording software such as cubase etc, even if my computer had no sound source of its own.

There are cards like the 2496 that have both midi and audio that plug into your computer so all of your sounds coming out of the computer speakers are coming from that card.

My confusion is this; Is there a stand alone sound source that will do both midi and audio so that I would not even need a computer except to operate the software program like cubase, or powertracks etc. Something with drivers that will allow me to switch between the computer sounds system if so desired or take it out of the loop entirely. I can do it with midi ie; the ketron,or similar, I can use a digital recorder arranger like the Boss or roland or even some of the new workstation keyboards.

What I am looking for is a sound module that will accept signal from Real Band etc both midi and audio and play it through speakers or phones, without coloring the sound. The realtec isn't all that bad but i'd like to upgrade somewhat and get better midi etc. All in one unit that also acts as an interface / mixer.

Whew./

Any input is appreciated.

Rob
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#127617 - 08/31/11 07:38 AM Re: Sound card vs midi / audio interface [Re: toucher]
Mac Offline
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First, the AP2496 card does not have any MIDI sound capabilities of its own. Most soundcards do not have that anymore. The MIDI on most sound devices is just a MIDI connection port designed for the hookup of MIDI controller instruments and MIDI synths.

If I follow what you are after, the M-Audio USB Fast Track Pro sounds like what you may be after.


--Mac
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#127618 - 08/31/11 09:31 AM Re: Sound card vs midi / audio interface [Re: Mac]
rharv Offline
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#127619 - 08/31/11 01:03 PM Re: Sound card vs midi / audio interface [Re: Mac]
Kent - PG Music Online   content
PG Music Staff

Registered: 11/05/08
Posts: 278
Quote:


If I follow what you are after, the M-Audio USB Fast Track Pro sounds like what you may be after.





Please note that if you're using any operating system other that Window 7 64-bit, the Fast Track's ASIO drivers won't work with Band-in-a-Box. You'll be able to use ASIO with RealBand, but will be stuck using MME with BIAB. For some people, that's not an issue, but others find that to be a deal-breaker.

Cheers
Kent
PG Music

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#127620 - 08/31/11 01:11 PM Re: Sound card vs midi / audio interface [Re: Kent - PG Music]
jazzmandan Offline
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Registered: 12/08/02
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Quote:


Please note that if you're using any operating system other that Window 7 64-bit, the Fast Track's ASIO drivers won't work with Band-in-a-Box. You'll be able to use ASIO with RealBand, but will be stuck using MME with BIAB. For some people, that's not an issue, but others find that to be a deal-breaker.

Cheers
Kent
PG Music




Boy that is sure the information you want to know before a purchase. I don't think I knew that there was an issue. I would assume there is a "compatibility" thread somewhere with this info so we can direct newbees.
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#127621 - 08/31/11 01:34 PM Re: Sound card vs midi / audio interface [Re: jazzmandan]
Matt Finley Offline
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Isn't that right. I have one of these and never gave it any thought once the Windows 7 64-bit drivers came out, since it worked fine. This is important info, though, since there were other recent threads requesting info about Fast Track and BIAB.
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#127622 - 08/31/11 02:12 PM Re: Sound card vs midi / audio interface [Re: Matt Finley]
Kent - PG Music Online   content
PG Music Staff

Registered: 11/05/08
Posts: 278
Hi guys,

There was a thread a while back regarding ASIO compatibility using different interfaces, but everyone in the thread who was using the Fast Track also happened to be using Win7, so had no problems.

I've mentioned the compatibility issue a few times, but the Fast Track comes up a lot a lot... Luckily, Windows 7 is getting more widely adopted, so this issue has been coming up less and less.

Here's a link to that thread, if anybody's interested:
http://www.pgmusic.com/forums/showflat.php?Cat=0&Number=319047&an=&page=&vc=1

Kent
PG Music

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#127623 - 08/31/11 03:20 PM Re: Sound card vs midi / audio interface [Re: Kent - PG Music]
rharv Offline
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Thanks Kent.
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#127624 - 08/31/11 03:52 PM Re: Sound card vs midi / audio interface [Re: toucher]
jazzmammal Offline
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Registered: 06/07/05
Posts: 4896
Loc: Redondo Beach, Ca.
This is very confusing and extremely difficult to nail down because of all the tradeoffs.

First, none of the modern interfaces have any on board sound except for the Sonic Cell. I have a SC and it works great. It's a full Roland hardware synth including a nice GM sondbank that retails for about $700. I bought mine used for $400. Things change so fast I probably shouldn't say none, maybe there's others now. Most are like you indicated, input/output devices. My $500 EMU 1820M has midi in/out, two XLR mic inputs and eight RCA ins/outs. This is for multitrack live recording. My SC is a good interface, the ASIO works fine but it's only got one combo XLR and 1/4" input with a line in and two 1/4" stereo outs. Not good for multitracking like my 1820M. The 1820M has no built in synths or other sound but it has a very complex and sophisticated PatchMix digital mixer. Not a physical mixer. I don't believe any of them come with a physical mixer but I think Tascam and/or Mackie have a fairly expensive physical mixer that will interface with their regular interface. I see the SC is now discontinued so I don't know if anything is available to replace it.

You said this:

Quote:

I have seen write ups for midi / audio interfaces such as some focusrite models that sound as though they are complete recording systems in and of themselves and would work thru Real band or similar recording software such as cubase etc, even if my computer had no sound source of its own.




This is confusing. If you installed a softsynth like the VSC or Forte DXi, then your conputer has an internal sound source, right? Every computer has a built in sound chip on the mobo so they all have a built in "sound source".

I mentioned tradeoffs. The biggest one is do you like being able to do direct rendering or not? Direct rendering requires software VSTI or DXi synths, it won't work with external hardware synths. If you're using hardware then you have to route the audio output from a synth like my SC, back into your interface, the 1820M in my case, route it internally to Real Band or other DAW and record your finished song in real time as it plays back. A five minute song takes five minutes while a direct render may only take 20-30 seconds.

The way you worded your conclusion sounds like you need a good multi in/out interface similar to my EMU. With that you can use either your internal softsynths or external hardware. Something like my SC with a full synth plus multiple ins/outs that also acts as an interface may not exist.

Bob
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#127625 - 08/31/11 04:42 PM Re: Sound card vs midi / audio interface [Re: jazzmammal]
jazzmandan Offline
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Registered: 12/08/02
Posts: 3475
Loc: Chicago
Quote:

This is very confusing and extremely difficult to nail down because of all the tradeoffs.





You said that right.

Quote:

sounds like you need a good multi in/out interface similar to my EMU. With that you can use either your internal softsynths or external hardware. Something like my SC with a full synth plus multiple ins/outs that also acts as an interface may not exist.





But you don't seem confused at all, this is my understanding also.
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#127626 - 08/31/11 06:44 PM Re: Sound card vs midi / audio interface [Re: jazzmandan]
rockstar_not Offline
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Registered: 01/14/02
Posts: 6301
Loc: Colorado Springs, CO, USA
I was going to say there was no device with a built in synth that also is an audio and midi interface but rharv shot that down. It's not that confusing except win 7 64 has thrown a mankey wrench into things.

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#127627 - 08/31/11 06:56 PM Re: Sound card vs midi / audio interface [Re: rockstar_not]
eddie1261 Offline
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Registered: 04/08/11
Posts: 2824
Loc: Cleveland, Ohio
I get really lost in these discussions only because until VERY recently I never used anything other than the Cakewalk soft synth that came with Sonar, and very little of that. I played parts in through a controller and played them back through my synthesizers. Granted I could get a lot of studio space back by not doing it that way but there's just something about the sounds in those old Ensoniq synths that I can't let go of. The warmth of those strings, the bite of the pianos....
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#127628 - 08/31/11 08:07 PM Re: Sound card vs midi / audio interface [Re: eddie1261]
toucher Offline
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Registered: 04/20/08
Posts: 996
Loc: Arizona
Wow!!

To sum it up, it sounds like the market is wide open for an external device that can do it all with quality results. I've found lots of options with trade offs, but no magic super device as of yet.

Although I still have to check out the link posted by Rharv.

Thanks for the input guys, I thought I must be really out to lunch not being able to find the magic button, maybe it only exists in my wishful thinking.

Rob
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#127629 - 08/31/11 08:47 PM Re: Sound card vs midi / audio interface [Re: toucher]
rockstar_not Offline
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Posts: 6301
Loc: Colorado Springs, CO, USA
Robert - there's really not a big demand for this because soft synths rule the roost in the recording world these days. The computers are way more powerful than necessary to make this a reality.

I'm guessing Roland doesn't sell a whole bunch of those devices.

Another much more expensive option, but is truly a one box solution is to buy one of the workstation keyboards that has the whole audio interface built in, a PC built in with access to all of the soft synths you need, etc.

I haven't recorded the sound of a hardware synthesizer to disk in over 6 or 7 years. No need. I have way better sounds at my fingertips in soft synths for nearly zero financial outlay than my hardware synth; an Ensoniq VFX SD.

Most DAW software works with these very very nicely; with some elbow grease. Less grease than hauling them all over the place and maintaining them. Seriously. ASIO is what makes this a reality.

ASIO can be problematic, but most interfaces and recording software crossed the bridge to functioning ASIO many many moons ago. This isn't to say there aren't issues now and then, but truly working ASIO became part of my stable of tools in the mid 2000's, and I would never, ever want to go back. No way, no how.

Once your brain makes the jump that you don't have to have a dedicated hardware synth, to get synth sounds, you will drink the Kool-Aid and join. It's o.k. to do so.

In fact, it's getting to the point that what you seek is available with an iPad and some very clever interfaces for the iPad. I know Alesis just dropped an announcement a week or so ago. http://www.alesis.com/iodock

See that - no hardware synth and definitely some GM midi synth is available for the iPad is already out there. I haven't looked, I'm just sure that this happened probably long ago. But General Midi is not what you hear with today's songs. You are hearing immense sample playback synths/samplers, dedicated software synths that mimic old-school electromechanical keyboards and synthesizers etc. Guitar amps are very often amp simulation, in the box.

So, while Roland is making it, I doubt there will be many copycats simply because of the dominance of soft synths and the available computing horsepower in today's multi-thread processors.

I realize that I am in the minority here in PG world, but that is simply because most that post here SEEM to still be using MME, because PG products still are dodgy with ASIO.

This is not the case in the rest of DAW software world.

This doesn't mean I don't like hardware synths and keyboards. I really do - I lust for a Nord Stage like you wouldn't believe, or a Roland V-Combo to a lesser extent - but I can't afford it with 4 kids, the mortgage, a minivan with 181,000+ miles on it, etc. However I can crank away some very authentic B3 and Rhodes and Minimoog sounds way better than most dedicated hardware synths and it cost me exactly zero dollars. The VB3 emulation I won in a songwriting contest, the rhodes in a different contest, and the Minimoog sounds have come from the freebie MinimogueVA softsynth. It simply rocks.

Drums, fuhgetaboutit in a hardware box. All the kids are using EZDrummer or Jamstix, etc. on their computers. Many times you don't even know they are programmed drums. Have a listen to Dimitar Nalbantov's stuff for some great progressive rock drum programming on Youtube. Here's a tasty one just to get the feel for what EZDrummer can do in the hands of a talented home-recordist and ridiculously good instrumental rock guitar player. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UCbxeO32Nj4&NR=1

Because the computing power of an iPhone or iPad or certainly many laptops currently provide a flexible solution to your 'magic button' you just will not likely see companies clamoring for an all-in-one standalone box.

-Scott


Edited by rockstar_not (08/31/11 08:51 PM)

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#127630 - 09/01/11 12:04 PM Re: Sound card vs midi / audio interface [Re: rockstar_not]
toucher Offline
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Registered: 04/20/08
Posts: 996
Loc: Arizona
makes sense. I guess I need to educate myself more with softsynths, samples etc. My old yamaha harware piano still sounds like a real piano compared to some of the software, but I must admit to having listend to ony a few, and not willing to lay out big bucks at this stage in life.

Thanks for the detailed info Scott
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