good laptop soundcard for home recording?
September 1, 2005 9:43 AM   Subscribe

Help me pick the right laptop sound card for home recording!

What I want: an auxiliary sound card/device for my laptop to give me, at bare minimum, one line of stereo line-in capability.

(The laptop currently has built-in stereo headphone and mono mic-in ports.)

I would not mind, however, spending a little more for a card/device that allows multiple simultaneous recording channels. That is, however, dark water into which I have not ventured.

I'm accustomed to working with a single mono input and tracking things with overdubs, but I recently got a mixer and a couple other toys and would like very much to be able to record at least a stereo mix out of the mixer.

So what are my options? Can I find a quality stereo-in on the cheap? Is anything more than a stock consumer soundcard with stereo-in going to be ridiculously expensive? Are there any shining beacons of recording goodness I should consider? Am I missing anything painfully obvious?
posted by cortex to Technology (11 answers total)
M-Audio makes a good range of USB-based soundcards/interfaces, if your laptop has USB. Of course, USB is limited in its bandwidth, so it maxes out at about 4 tracks in.

One note with recording: it used to be said in the olden days that you were best to record to an external/secondary hard drive, because of the speeds needed to write the data. Not sure if that may affect your laptop's performance or not.
posted by hamfisted at 10:20 AM on September 1, 2005

M-Audio makes good stuff at reasonable prices.
posted by mr.marx at 10:20 AM on September 1, 2005

posted by mr.marx at 10:20 AM on September 1, 2005

This one is ok.
posted by bigmusic at 10:26 AM on September 1, 2005

Response by poster: 4 tracks in is probably a reasonable upper bound for anything I'm doing at the moment, so USB solutions would be workable. Likewise, I'm IEEE1394-ready, so Firewire works too.

The other obvious idea is a PCMCIA card/adapter, then; going for something older on the cheap-o side, I imagined originally I might go this way.

I seem to have no problem with write-speed direct into the laptop; it's fast enough that I think recording internally is no issue.
posted by cortex at 10:52 AM on September 1, 2005

Response by poster: Oh! Should it be an issue re: drivers, this is Win/Athlon box.
posted by cortex at 11:07 AM on September 1, 2005

IIRC, there are PCMCIA solutions, but they're more expensive than USB-based solutions.

I've had good (though not stellar) experiences with M-Audio hardware.
posted by weston at 6:02 PM on September 1, 2005

Response by poster: I've been please by the little midi controller I bought from them. Perhaps I'll go with one of their low-end options.
posted by cortex at 12:15 PM on September 2, 2005

Response by poster: (pleased)
posted by cortex at 12:15 PM on September 2, 2005

Cheapest USB soundcard with 4 separate inputs is Lexicon's Omega. Drivers are OK. Most of M-Audio's drivers are better (except the Quattro - avoid it, in my experience) Digidesign's MBox is cheap now, due to the imminent MBox2, and it comes with Pro Tools LE software, which I personally like very much.

PCMCIA, you've got Echo's Indigo I/O, which is nice and small, but only gives you 2 gozintas on a 1/8" jack.
posted by DrAwkward at 5:52 PM on September 10, 2005

Response by poster: For the record, I ended up picking up the M-Audio FastTrack USB, and it's working beautifully.
posted by cortex at 3:55 PM on September 15, 2005

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