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Hoontech Soundtrack Audio DSP24 & ADC/DAC2000 PC Recording Interface By John Walden
Published July 2001


Hoontech may be a new name to most SOS readers, but those interested in affordable multi‑channel digital audio cards for Windows platforms may want to get to know them better. John Walden puts their Soundtrack DSP24 and ADC/DAC2000 package to the test.

The world of computer audio continues to evolve at an ever‑increasing rate. When it comes to choosing the right audio I/O hardware, the range of possibilities is now staggering. Almost every combination of number of analogue inputs, analogue outputs, digital connections, sample rates and bit depths is now catered for. Furthermore, as Martin Walker's reviews of the Marian Marc 4, M Audio Audiophile 2496 and Terratec EWX 24/96 (in the March and April 2001 issues of SOS) demonstrated, even high‑quality 24‑bit, 96kHz audio recording is reaching a price point that almost everyone can afford.

Given the strength of the competition, it would take a brave manufacturer to attempt to break into this market. However, South Korean company Hoontech are attempting to do just that, with a range of PC audio systems. These start with the Soundtrack Audio DSP24 Value pack which, at £116, provides a PCI card offering 24‑bit/96 kHz recording with driver support including ASIO 2.0 and GSIF. However, the subject of this review is the Soundtrack Audio DSP24 and ADC/DAC2000 bundle. This system also supports 24‑bit/96kHz recording, but includes a range of digital ins and outs and a rackmountable breakout box that provides eight‑in/eight‑out analogue connectivity. At a current price of £340, it seems to offer a great deal of functionality for a very modest outlay (see the Fully Specified box for details). Perhaps the most obvious comparision is the M Audio Delta 1010, reviewed in the January 2000 issue of SOS, which has a current 'street' price of over £500, though the Delta 1010 uses balanced analogue connections throughout whereas the Hoontech only has one pair of balanced inputs and outputs, the remainder being unbalanced. So is the Hoontech package a credible solution for the PC musician needing high audio quality and lots of connectivity but having to work on a very tight budget?

The Complete Package


The Soundtrack Audio DSP24 and ADC/DAC2000 package contains three hardware components: a PCI card, a daughterboard and a breakout box. The Audio DSP24 PCI card is fairly compact. Its rear plate features Mic In, Line In and Line Out sockets, all on stereo mini‑jacks, plus a 44‑pin D‑Sub connector for linking to the external I/O provided by the ADC/DAC2000 rack unit. The card itself uses the popular Envy 24 I/O controller chip and the AC97 codec converter chip, providing fairly modest 18‑bit A‑D and D‑A conversion — suitable for general Windows multimedia use and basic monitoring, but probably not for high‑quality audio recording.

The main body of the card also features a number of other connectors. These include a CD‑in socket to allow you to bring in audio from your CD‑ROM drive, but the most significant is the connector for the XG DB1 daughterboard (so called because it also works with Hoontech's Digital XG card, based on Yamaha's XG technology). This provides a choice of stereo in/stereo out digital signals via co‑axial S/PDIF, optical S/PDIF or AES‑EBU. It has a standard back‑panel mounting plate like a PCI card but it does not need a slot on the motherboard so, for example, it could be placed over an unused ISA slot rather than hogging space that could otherwise be used for another PCI card.

The ADC/DAC2000 external I/O box is in a 1U rack format and seems sturdily built. The front panel features a stereo headphone jack with gain control, two balanced XLR inputs (plus a small button to switch their phantom power on/off) and eight unbalanced quarter‑inch input jacks. Connecting a signal to the first two unbalanced inputs overrides any signal at the XLRs. Inputs 1 and 2 have built in preamps, and whichever source is being used (unbalanced or XLR), the two gain controls provide between ‑12 and +40dB of level adjustment. From left to right, the rear panel of the rack unit houses two 44‑pin D‑Sub connectors, a wall‑wart power supply input (if needed), one MIDI in and two MIDI outs, eight unbalanced quarter‑inch output jacks and two balanced XLR outputs. The lower of the 44‑pin connectors links to the PCI card via the suitably supplied cable (about six feet in length). The upper connector is not used in this system but could provide a link to other audio hardware.

The converters in the external rack use AKM's AK4524 Codec chips (as used on the M Audio Delta 66 and some other popular soundcards, and in contrast to the M Audio Audiophile 2496, which uses the better‑specified AK4528 chip) on all stereo inputs and outputs. These converters provide 24‑bit/96 kHz recording and themselves offer a 100dB A‑weighted signal‑to‑noise ratio. The actual audio performance of the Hoontech system, of course, also depends upon other factors such as the quality of the analogue circuitry and the screening used on the PCI card. Disappointingly, neither the manual supplied with the review unit nor the Hoontech web site provided any further detail on the overall audio performance that might be expected of the system, or on the specification of the preamps for the XLR inputs.

Also included with the system are two CDs. One contains the various drivers and controller software, while the second provided a customised version of Emagic's Logic Audio (Logic Soundtrack 24), which is essentially a tailored version of MicroLogic AV v4.2. While no Mac support is available, the driver support for the PC appears to be very comprehensive. Every flavour of Windows is catered for along with ASIO 2.0, DirectSound and GSIF (Gigasampler) support. With the ASIO 2.0 drivers, support for latency values of approximately 3mS and 7mS is available at 96kHz and 44.1kHz sampling rates respectively, so providing all else is happy in your PC, software synths or samplers should prove very responsive.


The External Links window — something of a triumph of graphics over functionality!The External Links window — something of a triumph of graphics over functionality!

Two slim printed User Guides are provided with the system: one for the PCI card and one for the external rack unit. It has to be said that the documentation is not of the highest standard. Throughout, it suffers from a rather poor translation into English and, while the installation procedures are described well enough, the explanations of the system's functions are poor. For the more experienced user this will perhaps just be an inconvenience, but it could certainly make a novice's first experiences with the system very frustrating. For example, the external rack unit has a 12V power supply socket on its rear, but no power supply is included with the system. Page nine of the rack unit's manual recommends using an external power adaptor. However, don't rush off to Argos before you read page 15, where the very last paragraph of the manual provides the information that the 44‑pin D‑Sub cable supplies the necessary power via the PC! Hmmm... Checking the Hoontech web site produced a slightly updated version of the documentation and, very usefully, this included a few pages on how to configure the system for use with Logic Soundtrack24 or full versions of Cubase, Logic, Cakewalk and Gigasampler.

Once I had installed the PCI card and daughterboard, made the necessary connections, and rebooted the test system, Windows automatically detected the new hardware and provided the usual prompt for drivers. Driver installation was duly completed without incident and, once done, a whole new series of entries appeared under the Windows Control Panel Multimedia Properties dialogue. The next step involved installation of the system's control software, which essentially consists of three components: the External Links application, the Internal Mixer and the External Mixer (see screenshots, right). This installation, and that of the customised version of Logic Audio from the second CD, took just a few minutes and passed without incident.

Software Control

The Audio DSP24 Internal Mixer is used to control the levels of the PCI card audio sources.The Audio DSP24 Internal Mixer is used to control the levels of the PCI card audio sources.

After installation, the External Links software is automatically loaded and displays as an icon on the Windows taskbar. The documentation describes the External Links software as the 'command centre' of the PCI card. As shown in the screenshot, it provides a graphical representation of the various inputs and outputs of both the PCI card, the XG DB1 daughterboard and the external rack unit. As in Propellerhead's Reason software, virtual cables can be used to make the required patches between the various ins and outs. Unfortunately, some of the graphics are perhaps not as well designed as they might be, and neither manual provides much in the way of detailed explanation of how things should be configured in order to achieve particular results. That said, a small amount of experimentation was all that was needed to get signals both in and out of the unit.

The Internal Mixer and External Mixer applications serve the PCI card and the rack unit respectively. Each provides a series of faders for the various audio signals (see screenshots) plus pan, mute and solo buttons where appropriate. The Internal Mixer basically replicates the usual Windows soundcard controls, but the External Mixer is obviously of much greater relevance in terms of multitrack audio recording. The File menu of both the External Links and External Mixer application allows a Hardware Settings dialogue to be opened, from where the digital Clock Settings and Device Settings (to adjust audio buffer size) can be made. No real surprises here but, again, the description of these settings in the current documentation would be insufficient to help the novice user.

In Use

The Audio DSP24 External Mixer provides level control for the external rack unit.The Audio DSP24 External Mixer provides level control for the external rack unit.

Testing the audio quality of the Hoontech, my overall impression was one of respectable, if unremarkable, audio performance. Comparisons with the Yamaha DSP Factory/AX44 breakout box combination (the latter featuring 20‑bit converters) that was already in the test PC consistently showed the background noise levels of the Hoontech to be 2‑3dB higher than on the Yamaha, whether using the unbalanced or the balanced analogue inputs. In addition, with the monitoring level turned up and no signal present, the analogue outputs of the Hoontech were noticeably noisier than those of the AX44. Given that the Hoontech system boasts 24‑bit converters, this might seem a little disappointing, but it must be born in mind that it provides quite a lot of hardware at a pretty low price point. The best‑quality analogue circuitry comes at a price and, while Hoontech's converters themselves may be well specified, it is perhaps understandable that some of the other components within the rack or the shielding on the PCI card are not off the top shelf. Given the price, this unit is clearly being targeted at the home studio user and, in that context, where the benefits of the whole package have to be considered, its audio performance is likely to be perfectly acceptable.

All the ins and outs seemed to function well enough. In particular, the co‑axial S/PDIF connections on the XG DB1 produced excellent playback and recording quality and, given the choice, for stereo recording I'd work via these digital connections rather than the analogue inputs on the ADC/DAC 2000. The balanced inputs on the rack unit are useful in that they provide phantom power, allowing a suitable condenser microphone to be used, but the preamps themselves do not seem to be of a very high standard (which is, again, understandable given the price). Strangely, the phantom power switch on the review unit did not seem to be working and the phantom power could not be switched off.

Hoontech make great play of the stability of the drivers for the Audio DSP 24 range, the range of Windows flavours supported and the low latency values possible. While I was only able to test the system under Windows 98 SE, in the main, these claims seem justified. First under the spotlight was the supplied version of Logic Soundtrack24. As mentioned earlier, this is essentially a version of Emagic's MicroLogic AV and, for someone new to PC multitrack recording, would provide enough functionality to make fairly polished recordings without offering too many bells and whistles to get in the way. The software supports recordings of up to 24‑bit/96 kHz and a maximum of 16 mono or stereo audio tracks. Each track has basic three‑band EQ and two Aux Sends for applying global effects. The effects include a small number of Emagic's plug‑ins such as a basic reverb, delay, chorus and flanger, and the program also allows DirectX effects to be accessed. However, no insert points are available to apply effects to individual channels. On the 800MHz Pentium III test system, I was easily able to record four tracks at 16–bit/44.1kHz while playing back a further eight plus some MIDI parts without the Logic System Performance Monitor getting into too much of a sweat. A suitable upgrade path is available from Logic Soundtrack24 to either Logic Gold or Platinum for users who find themselves outgrowing the supplied software.

Performance with the full version of Logic Platinum (v4.7) was even better. Using the ASIO 2.0 drivers, I was easily able to achieve simultaneous recording of eight tracks with playback of a further eight plus some MIDI parts and a few plug‑in effects for good measure. Subjectively, within the context of an overall mix, the audio quality obtained was quite usable. Feeding a MIDI click through the ADC/DAC2000 and recording it to an audio track resulted in a delay of about 16mS between the two signals — no worse than many other audio devices I've used and a lot better than some.

Throwing a range of other applications at the Hoontech didn't seem to bother it either. For example, Acid, Sound Forge, Cool Edit, Sonar and Reason all behaved remarkably well in brief tests. Testing the latency in Reason using a sampling frequency of 44.1kHz, I was able to select the lowest latency setting available (Reason gave this as 6mS, while the Audio DSP24 ASIO Control Panel displayed 8mS). Playback performed very well and, as a consequence of the low latency value, playing new parts via a MIDI keyboard felt extremely responsive.


The supplied version of Logic Soundtrack24 in full swing. The Arrange and Mixer Windows provide most of the action, but a reasonable level of audio and MIDI editing is also possible.The supplied version of Logic Soundtrack24 in full swing. The Arrange and Mixer Windows provide most of the action, but a reasonable level of audio and MIDI editing is also possible.

There is no doubt that Hoontech's Soundtrack Audio DSP 24 and ADC/DAC2000 system provides a very flexible range of I/O configurations. The drivers appear to be very stable and the low latency values achievable via the ASIO 2.0 drivers make it very suitable for use with software synths and samplers. The system also appears to work quite well with a range of popular audio software. The audio quality is perhaps not exceptional but, given the range of hardware features provided at what is a modest price, this is hardly surprising. The Hoontech simply represents a different balance between quality and quantity than, for example, some of the other 24‑bit/96kHz soundcards currently available, which tend to provide only stereo in/stereo out connectivity.

Hoontech would appear to be pitching this system at the home studio owner. For such a person needing to record multiple inputs (perhaps with enough basic microphones to record a full band performance) rather than just mono or stereo overdubs, achieving the highest audio quality is unlikely to be absolutely critical. Flexibility, reliable performance, low latency and low cost would therefore make the Hoontech well worth considering. My main reservation would be the supplied documentation. SES Computing, the UK distributor, informed me that Hoontech are very conscious of the weaknesses in this area and that a new version of the English documentation is in development. They indicated that it will soon be available via the web and hope it will be shipping with production units by the time you read this. Fingers crossed, as the current documentation lets down what is otherwise a very respectable budget‑level system.

Fully Specified

The analogue and digital I/O connectors are shared between the front and back of the rackmounting preamp unit, the inputs being sensibly located on the front.The analogue and digital I/O connectors are shared between the front and back of the rackmounting preamp unit, the inputs being sensibly located on the front.
  • 10‑in, 10‑out 24‑bit/96kHz full‑duplex recording supported.
  • 2x balanced (XLR) inputs with built‑in preamps providing up to +40dB gain and switchable phantom power (48V).
  • 2x balanced (XLR) outputs.
  • 8x unbalanced quarter‑inch jack line‑level inputs (‑10dBV).
  • 8x unbalanced quarter‑inch jack line‑level outputs (‑10dBV).
  • S/PDIF co‑axial, optical and AES‑EBU I/O connections via XG DB1 daughterboard.
  • Audio DSP24 PCI card: Envy 24 I/O controller chip and AC97 codec rated at 95dB S/N ratio (A‑weighted).
  • ADC/DAC 2000 external rack: AKM AK4524 converter chip rated at 100dB S/N ratio (A‑weighted).
  • Stereo headphone output with volume control (quarter‑inch jack).
  • MIDI connectivity (1‑in/2‑out giving 32 MIDI channel output).
  • Up to four systems can be combined to give 40‑channel I/O with sample‑accurate sync.
  • Direct monitoring of input signals for zero latency.
  • Drivers: available for Windows 95/98/ME/2000/NT, including ASIO 2.0 (providing latency down to 3mS) and GSIF (Gigasampler).



  • Plenty of functionality in a single package.
  • Drivers seems to give reliable performance with a range of applications.
  • Low latency.


  • Other components perhaps do not make the most of the 24‑bit converters.
  • Documentation is poor.


A well‑featured multiple in/out audio system with stable performance and low latency, but let down by weak documentation.