Digital Recording Research
Content updated 11/29/01. This information is obsolete and many
of the links are broken. That's just the way the internet is — it changes.
I will not be updating the links, but the information is here for you to do
your own research.
If you just stumbled on this page, it was put together as a way to organize my notes while
tring to decide how to build a home studio. The starting point was a HP brand P4 computer
running Windows 2000. There was no choice in the computer - I just got a great deal on it
(over 2/3 off) due to an agreement with where I used to work. So the search consists of
what to fill it with for both hardware and software. The most limitting factor was the use
After the poll, the rest of the page consists of notes from the forum, from manufacturer's
product pages and other resources.
The following poll was copied as a starting point for my research. I got it from:
Home Recording dot com BBS > General Discussions > Computer Recording and
Soundcards > Which software you use to make audio recording.
link may take you to the current results, I don't know how long it will stay valid.
Which software you use to make audio
Cakewalk Pro Audio
Cool Edit Pro
Sonar was the final software selection. I might
have been able to get by with n-tracks, but didn't like the midi support.
Much of the selection was motivated the upgrade price since I had version 7 of
home studio. The upgrade price made it much less than anything else with its
It seems to work very well with Win 2k, but there are still a lot of small bugs
in version 1.3.0. Stuff that should easily been caught in basic testing. But most
of it is in the midi area, and I think they are concentrating on digital audio
MOTU's products don't look like an option. Mac is
the platform of choise for MOTU. They say get a Mac if you want to use MOTU. This
doesn't apply to their hardware.
"I love MOTU stuff, but not on the PC (and this comes from their largest dealer!)"
Cool Edit Pro - No midi. Loads of commenters use Cool
Edit Pro, but nobody's planning to move in that direction if they're not there already.
And CEP does not record midi data. You need a sequencer. $399. 30 min. demo available
from the Syntrillium web site. The interface
looks kind of cheap. Not a lot of info on their website. Supports 24/192.
Pro Tools - No, probably. The Digidesign web site compatibility docs list specific PCs, hard
drives and loads of incompatibilites. Some of their hardware only runs on Win 98,
software on W2k.
Free - No. Pro Tools FREE can NOT be installed on systems running Windows 2000,
NT, 95, or 3.1. There are also lots of stability problems reported, but one guy
running Win 2k (!?!) loves it.
LE - No. Pro Tools LE can NOT be installed on systems running Windows 2000, NT,
95, or 3.1.
E-Magic was listed in another (European)
poll as tops. Need to look further, but their site is confusing and slow. They make
hardware and at least 3 versions of their Logic Audio
They don't list W2k as supported on their software.
Includes midi support.
Uses a "CD authorization system", which probably means the CD has to be installed
to run the program. Another site listed it as having a dongle.
MME, direct sound and ASIO support.
Their top of the line (platinum) product would probably be needed from a feature
standpoint. Their silver version doesn't even have fast forward/reverse to a
marker position. Gold doesn't have over 16/48k support.
Their site map has a hardware compatibility page that gives details on a wide
variety of hardware and tests that they have run.
I'm tempted to stay away from E-Magic -- if their web site is this confusing the
manuals must be really scary.
A new version (5) is scheduled to ship in Sept. and it will support higher
sampling rates. But their web site is still sketchy about features, etc., so I'll
expect the date to slip.
"...Logic Audio's MicroLogic sequencer, and for the most part it works
properly... it displays a cascading series of 22 "Out of memory" error message
boxes, which he has to close one by one ... sent an email query to Logic Audio
tech support ... After five months he hasn't received anything—not even an
automated acknowledgement—and he continues to deal with this obnoxious
For some reason I didn't really consider n-tracks by FASoft, but the eval version of Sonar has been
unavailable for the last few days, so I gave it a try. It set up instantly with zero
problems on W2k. It might not have all midi features I'm interested in, but it's a lot
cheaper than Sonar. I'll have to evaluate the latency issue when my sound card finally
Vegas Audio by Sonic Foundry has a demo download. It does run on
$320 packaged, $280 download
Some quotes: "I too am done with Sound Forge, mostly because of the protection
"A powerful program with a clean, simple interface that used the Windows menus
"I'm back to SAW and since I have always paid for SAW and I get the others for
free, it is because I prefer it. But the Vegas look and feel are a lot more to my
taste than the look of SAWStudio which, to me, seems busy."
"Sonic Foundry is a perfect example of a company that was great when it was
small, and is slowly getting worse as it grows. When it was small it cared about
its customers; now Sonic Foundry uses copy protection and its technical support
is only mediocre. I've had an ongoing problem (described below) with CD Architect
that, after five months, is still not resolved."
5 users are upset - recommended to see their forum before buying. And they use a
copy protection key dongle.
I got a recommendation for Nuendo which does support W2k
(and 98SE and ME are the only other supported OS other than Mac). Uses a dongle on the
parallel port (implied because they list a parallel port as a requirement). Requires
ASIO support for some features. A lot of companies have not implemented this on W2k.
They have an extensive list of hardware and what
it supports. Software listed on eBay for $750. Found it new for $1299. Steinberg also
has a complete package including hardware that is rumored to be from RME -- oops, found
the price: $4499.
Cakewalk's current products all support W2k. Sonar is
looking like the most likely selection. Review Sonar's hardware compatability list. Sonar
supports 24/96 (but not 192), supports W2k, WDM and MME drivers. Trial version
SAWStudio from Innovative
Quality Software (Innovative Quality
Systems is a related hardware company) sounds very interesting but expensive. It
also does not have any midi support. There are a number of products that comprise the
SAW line. The $500 package supports 24/96 and there is a demo version available. Also,
everything goes in its own folder, they don't mess with the registry or system
"SAWStudio and all the SAW products use the MultiMedia driver model. WDM has not yet
"Some of the best support I've ever encountered is from Innovative Quality Software,
which makes the SAW line of PC-based multi-track recording software."
hitsquad.com is a good source for demos.
Lots of people are using multiple programs. fruity loops is popular for drum
N Tracks has ASIO problems, which Cubase fixed. But Cubase crashed so he went to
Logic Audio Platinum.
This ("the mixdown never sounds as good on Cubase as the realtime mix") has also
been an issue on the Nuendo forum (as both Cubase and Nuendo use the same audio
engine), and the general opinion is that Logic does have an overall 'brighter'
sound than VST. According to tests done by said forum members, VST starts to
sound a little 'squashed' when mixing over 12 tracks on mixdown, the more tracks,
the more 'squashed' the sound.
Echo isn't ready for W2k. Forget it.
Ego-Sys may be good, 2k ready 24/96k with midi, but support from Korea scares me.
Frontier is betaing WDM W2k drivers, 24/48k, includes midi.
M Audio is W2k & 24/96k. The 1010 includes midi.
MOTU is W2k & 24/48k.
Soundscape is W2k & 20/48k with a 24-bit mixer.
At this point, Midiman/M Audio is the winner in hardware.
The M Audio Delta 1010 was the final hardware
selection. I might have been able to get by with the Omni Studio, but the room is
already too cluttered, so I wanted a rack mountable product.
Part of the selection was motivated by the great price that Musician's Friend has
been advertising. But after I ordered it, the availability date has slipped by
one month (according to their web site). They haven't informed me that it will be
late -- I know because I was wondering how the order was doing and noticed that
it wouldn't be available for a month if you order it now (8/30/01).
Of course this meant that I also need a preamp since the 1010 doesn't have one.
As luck would have it the Aphex System's 107 Dual-Channel Tube Mic Pre-amp was on
sale for only $199, which is close to what they are going for used. They seem to
be very highly rated, although I didn't spend as much time doing preamp research.
(see Other Hardware, below)
Lots of people are recommending Aardvark's
Direct Pro Q10. The Q10 is a 24/ 48, and it doesn't sound
like they are ready with W2k drivers:
"Update: 8/22/01 - We are currently working on Windows 2000,
XP, NT and Mac drivers. The first to be released will be Windows 2000/XP for MME and
ASIO, which will be released in approximately 2-3 weeks in beta form."
The going price is about $750, and it comes with Cakewalk ProAudio 9. All 8 inputs on
this rack mount unit are on the front panel, outputs are on the rear.
Echo Audio has a line that includes Layla. Looking at the readme for the WDM drivers, these
products are not ready for W2k.
"We've had a number of reports of Sound Blasters and our cards with WDM drivers not
living happily together in the same machine. We're still working on this one." - from
WDM beta driver readme 0.63.
"Please be aware that for older applications there is a limit of 10 wave input devices
and 10 wave output devices on Windows 2000; this is not a driver problem, but an
operating system limitation." - from WDM beta driver readme 0.63.
Ego Sys has the Wa Mi Rack,
(WaveMidi?) a 4-in, 8-out with 4-in/4-out midi (64 channels). It is 24/96 and has E-WDM
E-WDM drivers. What
is that? This may be good or bad -- when drivers start doing too much, they can
break windows. On the other hand they seem to pay attention to getting it to work
They are based in Korea. I dread the tech support issues, even of trying to
describe a problem.
They are advertising as Sonar-ready. (Electronic Musician, July '01). It also
gives contact info for distributors.
Frontier Designs looks good. They have good
comparison sheets and were recommended on the Home Recording Forum. Dakota supports 44.1 and 48 kHz sample rates, two optical ports for
digital audio input (16 channels, ADAT optical format), two more for output, 2 MIDI
inputs and 2 MIDI outputs, SPDIF digital audio (2-channel input and 2-channel output on
RCA connectors). Tango24™ is a high-resolution,
multichannel A/D and D/A converter (8 analog inputs and 8 analog outputs with 24-bit
resolution) that includes ADAT™ optical digital interface (in/thru/out) and
balanced TRS connectors which can be individually set to +4dBu or -10dBV levels.
M Audio includes midiman and the Delta line of digital audio cards. Most products include W2k drivers.
4x4, 6x6 and 10x10 configurations available, all supporting 24-bit/96kHz.
"the omni studio is $379 at Musicians Friend" - go
The Delta 1010 is on eBay for $559, Musician's Friend for $569.
MOTU - 24i
review and overview of other MOTU products.
Their products now support W2k, but only go to 48kHz and the prices are steep. The
2408mkII looks like their most likely product at $995
list (core system). The 1U rack-mountable 2408mkII actually provides 7 banks of 8
channel I/O: 1 bank of 24-bit analog on balanced TRS connectors, 3 banks of ADAT
optical, 3 banks of Tascam TDIF, plus stereo S/PDIF. You can choose any three banks (24
channels) to be active at one time.
"My only complaint about the MOTU unit is it's lack of GSIF (Gigasampler) drivers. If
you use Gigasampler, you'll need a different interface for it."
Soundscape offers a variety of
interesting products that may be good if on sale. They are only 20-bit but the world is
going to 24-bit/96kHz. Their download area requires registration. They also may go away
since their parent company, Sydec, was aquired by Mackie. Marketing and distribution
will be handled by Mackie, so expect a consolidation.
They have ibox 8x8 ($450, aka SS8IO-3) and a 2x2 analog
to TDIF 1/2 rack box. Also this can be connected the their mixtreme 16-channel PCI mixer board ($549). There are two 8-channel
TDIF connectors for the 16 i/o's. So the unit would require two iboxes to support 16
i/o's. Why make a point of this? For overdubbing at least two of the channels will be
used for output, leaving only 6 ins. But the unit does external signal processing to
lower latency. A concern is that any effects supplied by the mixer can only be used by
the mixer since it is running its own DSP. If the hardware breaks, or is upgraded,
those effects will no longer be available.
A few quotes:
"I am using the RME Hammerfall 9652 with a Frontier Tango 24 and SawStudioLite. I'm
running Win2K pro on an Abit BE6-II w/ PIII/866. This combination has been absolutely
"Overall, we have been very pleased with SAW Pro and Studio on W2K."
The PC ABX Web Site Training Room
lists a some sound cards for various quality levels.
Minimum: Sound Blaster Live!
Adequate or Better Analog: Midiman "Audiophile 24/96" or Turtle Beach "Santa
Adequate Or Better Digital: Midiman DIO 2448, "Audiophile 24/96" or Turtle Beach
Professional: Midiman Delta Series, DAL CardD Deluxe or LynxONE
M-Audio DMP2 2 Channel Mic
Preamp/Direct Box, $199
Audio SM PR8 Eight-Channel Mic Pre-Amp - $249 at MF. Rack mount, xlr in front, 1/4" in
Audio Buddy Dual Mic Preamp with Phantom
Power and Direct Box, $100
at MP, $79.95 at Zounds
Aphex 2-channel Tubessence Thermionic
Tube Microphone Preamp $239.
And a couple of cheap adapters:
Up Low Z (XLR F) - Hi Z (QTR M) Transformer - $12.99
(F) - QTR (M) Cable 5 Meters - $8.99
This is just a list of some of the more unusual ones.
Digital interfaces currently come in two types: stereo and multichannel. Each has two
major formats. The 2-channel formats, AES/EBU and S/PDIF, use different cables and
connectors, although both use the same method to encode data. In addition to using
traditional coaxial audio cables, S/PDIF can also transmit over fiber-optic cable. The
two multichannel formats, ADAT Optical (Lightpipe) and TDIF, can each transfer eight
channels at once. All four formats can pass 24 bits, but not all manufacturers
implement the formats that way.
TDIF - The 24 bit TDIF digital interface is now an 'industry standard'
and was originally designed for the popular digital multi-track tape machine - the
Tascam DA-88. This interface now appears on a variety of different digital mixing
consoles, sound cards and converter units.
ASIO - Steinberg controls the ASIO spec, and could change the driver
model without notice.