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Audio interface for orchestral VSTi's

Postby Calevera » Mon Dec 12, 2011 5:01 am

Hi everyone!

I'm building a system that will be dedicated to writing music in Sonar X1 with EWQL Holywood strings, hollywood Brass, etc. I will only be connecting a MIDI keyboard. What audio interface will allow me to do this, has reliable drivers, is also quite stable, and not too expensive.

I did a search but couldn't find anything specifically for a dedicated VSTi machine.

Thanks!
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Re: Audio interface for orchestral VSTi's

Postby alzilla » Mon Dec 12, 2011 10:18 am

A simply 2in/2out card with MIDI would seem to fit your needs. If you want the lowest latency, then a PCI or PCIe card would be best. Then it simply comes down to your budget and the kind of audio quality you want. Some cards to consider include the M-Audio Audiophile 192, E-MU 1212M or one of the RME HDSP cards. If you really want great audio quality, the Lynx L22 would also be great, but you're looking at £500+ for a new one.

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Re: Audio interface for orchestral VSTi's

Postby Calevera » Mon Dec 12, 2011 10:43 am

Thanks for your help. I called up my local dealer to find out about the RME HDSPe AIO and it is $899 so that is above my budget. I'm thinking of ordering the E-MU 1212M, do you know if it is a reliable audio interface? It's only $169. Would you rate it better or worse than the M-Audio one?

Many thanks!
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Re: Audio interface for orchestral VSTi's

Postby Pete Kaine » Mon Dec 12, 2011 11:04 am

Unless your using quite an old keyboard, you'll find the vast majority (if not all) of the new one's are hooked directly into the PC via a usb cable.

From our own driver/performance testing.

£0 - £400 - Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6
£400+ Motu or RME - I find the RME drivers less hassle but the pre-amps/convertors in the MOTU are better in recent testing we've seen.
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Re: Audio interface for orchestral VSTi's

Postby alzilla » Mon Dec 12, 2011 11:12 am

Calevera wrote:I'm thinking of ordering the E-MU 1212M, do you know if it is a reliable audio interface? It's only Calevera69. Would you rate it better or worse than the M-Audio one?
In terms of audio quality, I think they're quite similar (Martin Walker's reviews suggest as much). In terma of driver quality, the E-MU cards are iften associated with driver problems and difficulties. FWIW, I've always found the drivers for M-Audio's PCI interfaces to be mature and very stable, and had no problem at all running at very low latencies.
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Re: Audio interface for orchestral VSTi's

Postby ef37a » Mon Dec 12, 2011 12:05 pm

Hi Calvera.
You are proposing much the same setup that my son uses. We have a WIn7 64 bit pc with an M-Audio 2496 card in it. Never a problem. We have a usb Evolution keyboard but the usb feeds and is powered by another pc and the 2496 is fed from the DIN output*.

The AP 192 is a better, later card and has balanced audio I/O. I would like an RME as well! There is a more affordable PCIe option from ESI but I have no idea of its driver/audio qualities (Mr W?).
FWIW: The pc will play Pianoteq at 64samples without a glitch but we find 256 is fast enough for most things and leave the card set there for safety (son is also a bugger for leaving things minimized on the taskbar!).

*I have both my MIDI and audio brought up to a breakout box screwed to the wall behind the pcs, save a lot of rumaging about among the spiders. Beer into water to build if you have any DIY skills at all.

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Re: Audio interface for orchestral VSTi's

Postby Pete Kaine » Mon Dec 12, 2011 12:20 pm

alzilla wrote:
In terms of audio quality, I think they're quite similar (Martin Walker's reviews suggest as much).

The EMU's got better converters (from memory) but the drivers on the M-Audio are far better.
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Re: Audio interface for orchestral VSTi's

Postby uphillbothways » Mon Dec 12, 2011 1:10 pm

If you don't know what you want, you probably want a Komplete Audio 6. There's nothing at twice the price that'll match the low-latency performance and audio quality. I've only seen better performance from (much more costly) RME interfaces.
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Re: Audio interface for orchestral VSTi's

Postby ef37a » Mon Dec 12, 2011 2:38 pm

uphillbothways wrote:If you don't know what you want, you probably want a Komplete Audio 6. There's nothing at twice the price that'll match the low-latency performance and audio quality. I've only seen better performance from (much more costly) RME interfaces.

Has that usb AI been thru' the latency checking mill? I would be very suprised if it can stay in the same room with a PCI interface.

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Re: Audio interface for orchestral VSTi's

Postby Martin Walker » Mon Dec 12, 2011 3:41 pm

ef37a wrote:There is a more affordable PCIe option from ESI but I have no idea of its driver/audio qualities (Mr W?).

I haven't been sent an audio interface from ESI for review for several years now, but whenever I did so in the past I've also been impressed by the versatility and performance of their drivers 8-)


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Re: Audio interface for orchestral VSTi's

Postby Pete Kaine » Mon Dec 12, 2011 3:42 pm

Yeah, it has Dave.

Pulled around 5.7 on Vin's util.

The Profire is better than it for £250 if you have a firewire card it's your best choice driver wise althrough the convertors are no where near as good. The Delta's were slightly better as well, but they went end of life a few weeks back so I'm not counting them or their suspect drivers (depending upon your configuration) and the quality of the convertor in there was well below the level of the Audio 6.

The EMU's are pulling somewhere around 3 on a good run... wouldn't touch them with a long stick used for opening canal locks at this moment in time.
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Re: Audio interface for orchestral VSTi's

Postby Pete Kaine » Mon Dec 12, 2011 3:47 pm

Martin Walker wrote:
I haven't been sent an audio interface from ESI for review for several years now, but whenever I did so in the past I've also been impressed by the versatility and performance of their drivers 8-)

Having seen the rather shoddy performance of the latest M-Audio units in comparision with the great scores of the last generation, I'd hesitate making that statement from generation to generation Martin... or at least whack on a huge big disclaimer on the end of it ;)

Saying that, having seen both Focusrites launch driver issues and Steinbergs as well it does seem like a lot of this years big interface announcements are still a work in progress!
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Re: Audio interface for orchestral VSTi's

Postby ef37a » Mon Dec 12, 2011 3:55 pm

Ahhhh! Shhhhoot!
I am in need of a 4 in 4(2 mics is fine) out AI and the Focusrite Scarlet was very imminent, now that Kontakt6 has scuppered me!

Needed to run with Win7/64, care to "plump" Peter?

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Re: Audio interface for orchestral VSTi's

Postby Pete Kaine » Mon Dec 12, 2011 4:59 pm

What's up with the Audio 6?

NI Komplete Audio 6 is the best USB thing under £450 currently if you can wait a few weeks for back orders to be met. The Scarlet pulls about 4.7 on the LLP test in comparison to the 5.7 offered by the NI unit which whist sounding modest is a cracking score when you see what everything else at that price point pulls!

The Maudio Profire 610 pulls a very impressive 7 and if the have the ability to plug it in (Ie a decent firewire port) it is still available and probably the best option on a budget but still about £100 more than the NI A6.

I think the problem is with internal that whilst they are great performance wise, getting one that meets you requirements is harder. The components M-Audio use are no longer in production, so all the tried and tested older solutions are being phazed out otherwise I suspect a Delta 66 would have ticked the boxed.

You can now pick up a RME HDSP 9632 for under £300 new, but it lacks the inputs you need without another breakout box, which I suspect will add a hefty chunk to the price.
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Re: Audio interface for orchestral VSTi's

Postby Calevera » Mon Dec 12, 2011 11:31 pm

Yeah the NI Komplete Audio 6 looks great. Does anyone know if it supports ASIO 2 though? The website only mentions ASIO but not ASIO 2.
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Re: Audio interface for orchestral VSTi's

Postby Pete Kaine » Tue Dec 13, 2011 10:23 am

It does. The ASIO 2 standard has been around for the best part of a decade now, so I suspect they've just stopped feeling the need to differentiate as I'd have trouble naming a card that isn't these days.
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Re: Audio interface for orchestral VSTi's

Postby ef37a » Tue Dec 13, 2011 10:30 am

Pete Kaine wrote:It does. The ASIO 2 standard has been around for the best part of a decade now, so I suspect they've just stopped feeling the need to differentiate as I'd have trouble naming a card that isn't these days.

I seem to have missed this! Has SoS done a piece on it?
I am presently emailing around trying to source a six!

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Re: Audio interface for orchestral VSTi's

Postby Pete Kaine » Tue Dec 13, 2011 11:35 am

ef37a wrote:
Pete Kaine wrote:It does. The ASIO 2 standard has been around for the best part of a decade now, so I suspect they've just stopped feeling the need to differentiate as I'd have trouble naming a card that isn't these days.

I seem to have missed this! Has SoS done a piece on it?

I'd assume so, somewhere in the dark distant....

ef37a wrote:
I am presently emailing around trying to source a six!

Stock ran out last week, as the offer was over subscribed. New product is due in the country first few weeks of Jan at the current price if you pre-order it will be honored... if you can wait that is.
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Re: Audio interface for orchestral VSTi's

Postby ef37a » Tue Dec 13, 2011 10:29 pm

Found one!
Well, two actually, guitarguitar.co.uk had two Komplete 6's left and I have bought one of them.

Be interesting to see how it flies with my i3 HP laptop.

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Re: Audio interface for orchestral VSTi's

Postby ef37a » Fri Dec 16, 2011 9:07 am

Arrived yesterday at 16.49 just about plumbe centre of the ETA I was given!


Chunky little thing, fits well under an A5 footprint, weighs 1kg I guess. Has latches on the combo XLRs! Rare these days.

Setup: Now, I might have cocked up here but I don't think so. I did as per the book and ran the installation disk first on my HPi3 w7/64 laptop. This took feckin' AGES to run and update and generally faff about. Then I plugged in the Audio 6. Nowt, just was not seen. I re-read the handbook about setup but it did not seem to help but clearly I had no drivers so I downloaded same from NI and ran them. Plugged in the box. Bazinga! Works. I recorded a bit of HD Radio3, soprano and orchestra, yes, very clean on headphones but in truth no different from my 2496 but then my ears!!! I then tried an SM57 and as expected the gain needed to be near max for -20ish with mic 100mm from chin, normal speech. The playback was very clean and "silent" part commendably quiet but again, no better than the ZED10/2496 setup. Is there some complex but clean music I can download from SoS please?

I then tried it on my old P4 3G EiSytems but this time I just installed the drivers. Not a problem.

Lastly I tried the full install from disc on an Asus MOBO AMD 2 core 3G running XP Pro. Same'ish install time as the HP and again no drivers found...Keep 'em on a stick with my car/house keys now!

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Re: Audio interface for orchestral VSTi's

Postby Pete Kaine » Fri Dec 16, 2011 10:40 am

ef37a wrote:no better than the ZED10/2496 setup.

Everything sounds better through a A&H ;)

Isn't that a USB connected mixer through? Can you not record via the Zed10 stright into the box without the 2496?
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Re: Audio interface for orchestral VSTi's

Postby ef37a » Fri Dec 16, 2011 11:58 am

Pete Kaine wrote:
ef37a wrote:no better than the ZED10/2496 setup.

Everything sounds better through a A&H ;)

Isn't that a USB connected mixer through? Can you not record via the Zed10 "stright" into the box without the 2496?

Din't know you were antipodean Pete? Yes I can but it is only 16 bits and I would have thought the ZED's usb 1.1 converters were pretty "cooking" grade and no better than the 2496? They certainly have an issue with the (daft IMHO) Win 7 sound system, fixable but definately an issue.

But I bought the A&H for all its other qualities the usb facility does not get used.

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Re: Audio interface for orchestral VSTi's

Postby Pete Kaine » Fri Dec 16, 2011 2:42 pm

ef37a wrote:
Din't know you were antipodean Pete?

Strewth mate, wan't it obvious?

ef37a wrote:
Yes I can but it is only 16 bits and I would have thought the ZED's usb 1.1 converters were pretty "cooking" grade and no better than the 2496?

Sorry, I was under the impression it was 24bit but apparently that's the FX version. Hmmm... point taken!
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Re: Audio interface for orchestral VSTi's

Postby Calevera » Sat Dec 17, 2011 2:18 am

Finally got my NI Komplete Audio 6. Now I have to wait for the rest of my computer to ship before I install it. One question, however, can I install it on more than one computer (I wanna start playing around with it on my laptop)?
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Re: Audio interface for orchestral VSTi's

Postby ef37a » Sat Dec 17, 2011 8:28 am

Calevera wrote:Finally got my NI Komplete Audio 6. Now I have to wait for the rest of my computer to ship before I install it. One question, however, can I install it on more than one computer (I wanna start playing around with it on my laptop)?

Yes, in fact the first computer I put mine on was an HP i3 laptop. I would suggest however that you first go into Control Panel>System>Device Manager and disable the laptops' soundcard. Next visit the NE site and download the Audio 6 drivers (about 16meg). Now FAR be it from me to argue with NI so run the installation by the book, making sure that you do not have the box connected in the first instance.

I shall be very interested to see if, after some ~20 minutes of file copying and updates, you find the AI does not work when finally plugged in! If that obtains, worry not! Just unplug, run the drivers and plug in again. All will be tickertyboo.

Later this weekend I intend to try mine on an ancient HP laptop that is but 850mHz and has 1/2 G of ram. It sports but ONE 1.1 usb port but has a Maplin 4port Cardbus 2.0 unit which always seemed to work ok. The laptop will run a Fast track pro (usb 1.1) faultlessly, be interesting to see wha'appen!

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Re: Audio interface for orchestral VSTi's

Postby ef37a » Sat Dec 17, 2011 10:02 am

"Sorry, I was under the impression it was 24bit but apparently that's the FX version. Hmmm... point taken!"

I have the FX model. The effects are 24bit but the usb link is 16. Now I do not want to do A&H any disservice, I have tried the usb system and it is very good (certainly on a par with my M-A Fast track pro but with better pres!)but I cannot help wondering why it was not a 24 bit setup? Compared to the Pro it has "little" to do as the latter not only runs 2 channels of audio but MIDI and S/PDIF as well. Would 24bit converters be THAT much more costly?(I see they have just about made their way into usb mics?). Instead of a useless(to me) 16bit converter I would find the icing on the cake for the ZED10 would have been a 24bit S/PDIF output, not even bothered about a digital input!

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Re: Audio interface for orchestral VSTi's

Postby Calevera » Sun Dec 18, 2011 9:00 am

Dave, I don't know about you but the end user license agreement for my Komplete Audio 6 is telling me that I can only install it on one computer (one CPU). So I guess I'll be waiting for my new computer. Let me know how you go installing it on more than one comp.
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Re: Audio interface for orchestral VSTi's

Postby ef37a » Sun Dec 18, 2011 9:25 am

Calevera wrote:Dave, I don't know about you but the end user license agreement for my Komplete Audio 6 is telling me that I can only install it on one computer (one CPU). So I guess I'll be waiting for my new computer. Let me know how you go installing it on more than one comp.

Nah! That would be daft! There is a stack of bundled software: Cubase LE5 (which you CAN run on lots of pcs for a long time before commiting it to just one) Guitar Rig4 and the Kore Audio synth will be registered to just one pc but again you get a demo period, not as long as Cubase but 30days I think. Traktor LE2 too, not tried that yet.

In any event, you can only USE the Audio 6 on one pc at a time! But if you are worried of course wait. How long before the pc arrives? Maybe an email to NI will put your mind at rest. As to how? Just download the drivers, run them, then plug in the AI...Rock and Roll!!

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Re: Audio interface for orchestral VSTi's

Postby ef37a » Sun Dec 18, 2011 9:35 am

By the way, software often, IMExp, tells porkies and it is sometimes best to ignore warnings that certain things won't work.
An example is when I tried to install Cubase LE5 on my laptop. I was warned that this was not possible because a later version of Cubase was already installed (Cubase LE6). Thinking "Well I can't very well use 6 if Son has the dongle on the Biggy" I pressed on. Bazinga! All went in like paint. The warning was even more studid because the laptop already had an instance of Cubase Essential 4 installed (not that E4 works at all well with Win7) I even have an XP pro machine with E4 E6 LE4 all installed and all work perfectly well...Ok they won't interchange files too very much but that is Steinberg being a PITA.

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Re: Audio interface for orchestral VSTi's

Postby ef37a » Sun Dec 18, 2011 10:11 am

Aha!I see now where I went wrong and where you get this "one pc only" idea from.

I 1/2 pulled out a DVD and it said "TRAKTOR LE2 Installation disc" Don't want that then, next one, "KOMPLETE Elements" That then must have the divers on it, Nooooo! The blessed drivers are on what I thought to be just a bit of bundled software!

Every bit of hardware I have installed to date has had a disc dedicated to drivers, XP, Blista,W7 various mac osesses...Then a second or more discs with any bundled software on them. Of course, had I removed the Traktor disc completely I would have seen the wee box "Komplete audio6 drivers included"!
And yes mate, the warnings DO give the impression that all the data on the disc is *hit or bust, one computer install only but I can assure you that the drivers are not. Still, wait if that makes you feel safer.

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