After 'Why does my PC keep crashing', this is the all-time favourite PC question. After all, choosing a soundcard is arguably the most important decision for a PC Musician, since it directly affects not only audio playback, but also the quality of every recording you make with your PC. Deciding which make and model to buy can be confusing, and sometimes frustrating. The following batch of FAQs aims to help you narrow down what you really need, so that your shortlist is shorter.
Here are a couple of general points to start off with.
Each of the available hardware formats, including PCI, PCMCIA, USB 1.1, USB 2.0, FireWire 400, and FireWire 800, has differing capabilities, but in each of these categories you can also buy a variety of high quality audio interfaces, also with differing capabilities. You should choose based on what features you need, and which type of interface is most convenient to you - don't assume that one type of interface is automatically better than another.
Always buy based on what is available now, and not on promises of what is to come (vapourware). There are two main aspects to this advice. First although you may see adverts for audio interfaces in the press, don't assume that this always means they are available - advertising sometimes has to be booked months in advance, marketing folk are understandably keen to drum up interest, but sometimes there are product delays. Second, even if a product is available, on rare occasions it has taken a year or more for promised software or drivers to appear for it.