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How do USB Audio interfaces work along with normal soundcards

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How do USB Audio interfaces work along with normal soundcards

Postby Grunwaldt » Sat Apr 14, 2012 7:37 pm

Hi all,

Excusse my noobyness and poor English (Also I don't know if this forum is the one properly for this kind of questions)

I have a Xonar DX sound card installed. My problem is that I need 2 line-ins for my KORG synth and guitar fx processor, which my current sound card lacks of.

I'm confussed about how USB Audio Interfaces work, do they act as complete sound cards? I don't want that, because what I need is just line-in's that sound through my soundcard at the end, using the Xonar soundcard.

I've been searching the web for these devices (USB Audio Interfaces), but can't find if the sound is routed to the existing soundcard hardware at the end.

I've been considering buying this one:

http://www.rolandus.com/products/productdetails.php?ProductId=1155

I will apreciate greatly if anyone could solve my doubt!

Also *IF* USB Audio Interfaces aren't what I need, how do I achieve more audio inputs? what kind of hardware would I need?

Thanks, any advice is welcome!
Grunwaldt
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Re: How do USB Audio interfaces work along with normal soundcards

Postby Exalted Wombat » Sat Apr 14, 2012 7:46 pm

Grunwaldt wrote:Hi all,

Excusse my noobyness and poor English (Also I don't know if this forum is the one properly for this kind of questions)

I have a Xonar DX sound card installed. My problem is that I need 2 line-ins for my KORG synth and guitar fx processor, which my current sound card lacks of.

I'm confussed about how USB Audio Interfaces work, do they act as complete sound cards? I don't want that, because what I need is just line-in's that sound through my soundcard at the end, using the Xonar soundcard.

I've been searching the web for these devices (USB Audio Interfaces), but can't find if the sound is routed to the existing soundcard hardware at the end.

I've been considering buying this one:

http://www.rolandus.com/products/productdetails.php?ProductId=1155

I will apreciate greatly if anyone could solve my doubt!

Also *IF* USB Audio Interfaces aren't what I need, how do I achieve more audio inputs? what kind of hardware would I need?

Thanks, any advice is welcome!

This very much depends why you need the extra inputs. If you want to make live recordings of more than two instruments (or more than one stereo instrument) TO SEPARATE TRACKS in a DAW program, you need sufficient inputs.

If you want to record multiple sources one at a time ("multitracking") you only need one input pair.

You can, of course, record 100 microphones at once, if you have a 100-channel mixer and are happy to mix to stereo in real time!

If you try to mix inputs from two audio interfaces simultaneously, you'll hit all sorts of problems. Better to buy a single interface with as many channels as you want. Ones with 4, or even 8 input channels aren't all that expensive.

Or you may just need an external mixing board and record the stereo mix. Hard to say, unless you tell us more about your way of working.
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Re: How do USB Audio interfaces work along with normal soundcards

Postby Grunwaldt » Sat Apr 14, 2012 8:03 pm

Thanks for your help Exalted Wombat

The problem with my soundcard (Xonar DX), is that it uses the same input jack for line in and mic, and currently I'm using a mic for skype and similar apps.

I don't need to record record separately simultaneously my 2 sound sources, will a simple jack splitter cable work well, will both sources sound good? (the korg synth and the guitar effects processor)

Also might a second splitter do well to connect my headset mic too?
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Re: How do USB Audio interfaces work along with normal soundcards

Postby ef37a » Sun Apr 15, 2012 7:22 am

Welcome Grunwaldt, That card is really a "gamer", a glorified Sound Blaster and I think your best option would be to get rid of it and buy a modest usb interface with more inputs. That is the ideal but there might be other options..

Does the Korg(model please!) have a digital (S/PDIF)output perchance? If so that gives you a connection for that (note: The card is optical digital in and the Korg might be co-ax out but a converter is only about E20.).The other option is a mixer as has been suggested, a Behringer or better, a Soundcraft Notebook. You will need a phono/RCA to 3.5mm stereo jack plug lead, well two really!

But the best overall solution is a 4 in 4out usb interface and I can heartily recommend (again!) the Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6. This will also give you MIDI!

Dave.
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Re: How do USB Audio interfaces work along with normal soundcards

Postby Grunwaldt » Sun Apr 15, 2012 8:09 am

ef37a wrote:Welcome Grunwaldt, That card is really a "gamer", a glorified Sound Blaster and I think your best option would be to get rid of it and buy a modest usb interface with more inputs. That is the ideal but there might be other options..

Does the Korg(model please!) have a digital (S/PDIF)output perchance? If so that gives you a connection for that (note: The card is optical digital in and the Korg might be co-ax out but a converter is only about E20.).The other option is a mixer as has been suggested, a Behringer or better, a Soundcraft Notebook. You will need a phono/RCA to 3.5mm stereo jack plug lead, well two really!

But the best overall solution is a 4 in 4out usb interface and I can heartily recommend (again!) the Native Instruments Komplete Audio 6. This will also give you MIDI!

Dave.

Thanks ef37a!

Currently I'm considering using an audio jack splitter for pluggin both devices to the same soundcard's line in jack input.

My KORG synth is X5D, it is very old and hasn't digital output. The other device I'm trying to connect along with the X5D is an effects processor for guitar, the BOSS GX-700.

Although I understand your suggestions, this card isn't the ideal for music recording, but switching to another soundcard is not an option for me right now.

So, my only remaining doubt is:

Will the jack splitter work in connecting both devices to the line in? Or will it not sound right?

Thanks for helping!
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Re: How do USB Audio interfaces work along with normal soundcards

Postby ef37a » Sun Apr 15, 2012 9:30 am

A "splitter" is not a good idea IMHO G, because it is actually a "combiner" and will cause the Korg and Boss outputs to load each other. I doubt that this will cause any actual damage but will probably result in some nasty distortion. Setting levels so they balance could also be a problem. But there is another one!
The 3.5mm jack input is stereo. The k'bd and GX are mono and exit on the jack tip so even if the splitter worked you would get both instruments on the same, probably left, channel.
So I think you need a 3.5mm stereo to 2x 6.35mm MONO jack lead to go to each unit. This will give you an instrument in each channel. Best if the card/recording software allows it to record as two mono channels.
But I still think setting levels is going to be a problem and do try for at least a cheap mixer where even the meanest Behringer will give you level and "pan" control.

Dave.
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Re: How do USB Audio interfaces work along with normal soundcards

Postby Grunwaldt » Sun Apr 15, 2012 11:28 am

ef37a wrote:A "splitter" is not a good idea IMHO G, because it is actually a "combiner" and will cause the Korg and Boss outputs to load each other. I doubt that this will cause any actual damage but will probably result in some nasty distortion. Setting levels so they balance could also be a problem. But there is another one!
The 3.5mm jack input is stereo. The k'bd and GX are mono and exit on the jack tip so even if the splitter worked you would get both instruments on the same, probably left, channel.
So I think you need a 3.5mm stereo to 2x 6.35mm MONO jack lead to go to each unit. This will give you an instrument in each channel. Best if the card/recording software allows it to record as two mono channels.
But I still think setting levels is going to be a problem and do try for at least a cheap mixer where even the meanest Behringer will give you level and "pan" control.

Dave.


Thanks Dave.

As for the cables I have soldered my own ones, that's not a problem. I did cut 2 normal mono big-jacks in half and custom soldered them to 2 mini-jacks stereo each other. Each big jack from output channel goes as correct stereo at the end.

What makes me worry is the sound with the splitter. If I don't use them simultaneously will they sound right? I don't need them to sound together, I'm either playing the synth or the guitar. The only scenario that would need both sounding at once is while the keyboard is playing by MIDI on a sequencer and I use the guitar, but that could be solved easily recording the MIDI track as audio.

So, my question is: If I don't use them simultaneously will they sound right?
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Re: How do USB Audio interfaces work along with normal soundcards

Postby Exalted Wombat » Sun Apr 15, 2012 11:46 am

The part of your system that has sockets physically and electrically suitable for Mic, Guitar etc. does not have to be built into your sound card.

However humble your sound card, it will almost certainly have a stereo Line In. Although the Mic input on a budget soundcard is doubtless designed for a Skype headset rather than a recording mic, the Line In is generally competent.

I think you need a small external mixer, with channel inputs for whatever you need to record. Connect this to Line In of your sound card. A slightly more advanced mixer will accept Line Out of your computer, allowing you to route that plus the input to headphones for monitoring while routing only the new input for recording. Now you can multitrack!

I prefer a separate mixer. USB audio interfaces that combine a rudimentary mixer with the "sound card" function are also available.

Don't worry if this is all a bit beyond you at present. Try to get together with someone who DOES this sort of thing, and see it working. But don't spend money until you DO understand!
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Re: How do USB Audio interfaces work along with normal soundcards

Postby Grunwaldt » Sun Apr 15, 2012 11:53 am

Exalted Wombat wrote:The part of your system that has sockets physically and electrically suitable for Mic, Guitar etc. does not have to be built into your sound card.

However humble your sound card, it will almost certainly have a stereo Line In. Although the Mic input on a budget soundcard is doubtless designed for a Skype headset rather than a recording mic, the Line In is generally competent.

I think you need a small external mixer, with channel inputs for whatever you need to record. Connect this to Line In of your sound card. A slightly more advanced mixer will accept Line Out of your computer, allowing you to route that plus the input to headphones for monitoring while routing only the new input for recording. Now you can multitrack!

I prefer a separate mixer. USB audio interfaces that combine a rudimentary mixer with the "sound card" function are also available.

Don't worry if this is all a bit beyond you at present. Try to get together with someone who DOES this sort of thing, and see it working. But don't spend money until you DO understand!

Thanks Exalted Wombat!

I will check small mixers in the future for sure!

Meanwhile my question hasn't been answered yet, will the splitter sound right if I don't use both audio sources at once?
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Re: How do USB Audio interfaces work along with normal soundcards

Postby Dynamic Mike » Sun Apr 15, 2012 11:56 am

I suspect that if unless you're using a stereo mic, or an amp with stereo outputs everything will be panned hard to one side. You could buy a mono to stereo adapter but then everything will be panned to the centre. A really cheap mixer will get you around your current problems, but similarly you can still skype using a USB audio interface like the Beringher U-CONTROL UCA202 or UCA222 which are less than £25 on Amazon including cables & software for skype/podcasting etc.

DM
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Re: How do USB Audio interfaces work along with normal soundcards

Postby Grunwaldt » Sun Apr 15, 2012 11:59 am

My question hasn't been answered yet, will the splitter sound right if I don't use both audio sources at once?
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Re: How do USB Audio interfaces work along with normal soundcards

Postby Grunwaldt » Sun Apr 15, 2012 12:05 pm

Also what small mixer would you guys recommend if I only need 4 mono (corresponding to the 2 stereo sources) input jacks? it should include an output cable ending in a minijack stereo for my soundcard...
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Re: How do USB Audio interfaces work along with normal soundcards

Postby Dynamic Mike » Sun Apr 15, 2012 12:23 pm

Grunwaldt wrote:My question hasn't been answered yet, will the splitter sound right if I don't use both audio sources at once?

No
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Re: How do USB Audio interfaces work along with normal soundcards

Postby ef37a » Sun Apr 15, 2012 12:24 pm

If you are never going to run both outputs into the card at once you could make a simple "break out box". Mono jack in from keys or guitar source and feeding both tip and ring of the 3.5mm stereo jack to put the source dead centre, then just unplug one source and plug in the other?

Or, have a 6.35mm jack for each source and a switch to flip between them. Thing is tho', by the time you have bought all the bits you are a fair way towards buying a Berry X502!

Dave.
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Re: How do USB Audio interfaces work along with normal soundcards

Postby Grunwaldt » Sun Apr 15, 2012 12:43 pm

I'm considering buying this small mixer:

ZEPHYR ZMX862

http://altoproaudio.com/products/zmx862

What do you think?
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Re: How do USB Audio interfaces work along with normal soundcards

Postby Dynamic Mike » Sun Apr 15, 2012 1:16 pm

You're going to need XLR cables to connect a microphone, so it really depends how you're recording your guitar, or else you won't have enough gain. You'll also need to turn phantom power off, otherwise you may not have a mic to worry about. If you're plugging your guitar in to the line inputs then you'll need a DI box because it doesn't appear to have Hi-Z inputs. You may also find the monitoring outputs overly complex & difficult to comprehend, for your requirements. You'll also need to convert the mono line out's to mini-jack or else use headphones for monitoring.
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Re: How do USB Audio interfaces work along with normal soundcards

Postby Exalted Wombat » Sun Apr 15, 2012 1:27 pm

Grunwaldt wrote:Also what small mixer would you guys recommend if I only need 4 mono (corresponding to the 2 stereo sources) input jacks? it should include an output cable ending in a minijack stereo for my soundcard...


Will you be building up multitrack recordings in a DAW program? See my notes about monitoring.

Decent microphones need an XLR input, possible with phantom powering. A synth will be happy with a pair of channels with Line Inputs on 1/4" jacks. An electric guitar (normally a mono source) requires a high-impedance input, again on a 1/4" jack but electrically quite different to a Line In. Many guitarists prefer to play through a combo amp and mic the speaker.

Mixers do not "come with" cables. You can easily buy a cable from whatever the mixer outputs are (probably 1/4" jacks in this price range) to a stereo mini-jack.

Have we established that your computer HAS a Line In? No matter that it uses the same plug size as a mic input (or a headphone output come to that), it's electrically quite different.

Sorry, you wanted an easy answer! There isn't one.
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Re: How do USB Audio interfaces work along with normal soundcards

Postby ef37a » Sun Apr 15, 2012 1:52 pm

Grunwaldt wrote:I'm considering buying this small mixer:

ZEPHYR ZMX862

http://altoproaudio.com/products/zmx862

What do you think?

I would say that stands up well against its "clone" counterparts from Behringer, Tapco, Phonic etc.
I am always attracted to a manufacturer who can write a decent, believeable specification (I do NOT e.g. believe that noise figure quoted for your soundcard!). If you can get one at a good price go for it..
Mind you! I have no idea what it has in it that draws 18watts? I have a JVC video recorder here that only pulls 14W and that has motors and stuff in it!

Dave.
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Re: How do USB Audio interfaces work along with normal soundcards

Postby Grunwaldt » Sun Apr 15, 2012 1:59 pm

The BOSS GX-700 has a stereo output (two 1/4" jacks), thought to be plugged to a mixer or line in input, the dBm level can be adjusted with a knob rear on the device, it can be set from -10 dBm to +4 dBm. It is an fx processor thought to be used without a regular guitar amplifier, it simulates speaker settings for this reason.

Also I'm not going to use any microphone for recording, so no worries.

BTW what dBm should I set on the gx-700 output for plugging it to a mixer?
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