External sound card for laptop. Recommendations wanted!
June 15, 2008 10:55 PM   Subscribe

External sound card for laptop. Recommendations wanted!

Application: Ripping vinyl records to .WAV and MP3. I have a good (old) turntable. A good (new) RIAA equalized preamp and plugs to go into a sound card. Works great on my desktop, but I want to use it with my Dell/XP laptop. I tried it in the audio in (laptop sound card) but it clipped or...? otherwise sounded like crap. No knobs to tune it either. I'm looking for a moderately priced audio in (from the preamp) to USB that and associated drivers. Two channels are all that are necessary. A mic would be nice, but not req'd.

The main thing that I want to know is how to capture the best signal. These are rare records (1950s jazz) and I'm going to sell them after I rip them. The PolderbiTs software that I use has good pop and crackle filters, but I need to rip at a DVD quality sampling rate for those features to work well. I'll compress later.

Does a USB bus provide the bandwidth to achieve such a throughput? I'd consider a USB turntable, but the one I have is probably better than what I could get for the $40-$80 that I expect to pay for the audio/USB converter (unless convinced otherwise :)
posted by watson415 to Computers & Internet (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Almost any external USB sound box will do what you need. m-audio makes several, something like this.
posted by doctor_negative at 11:15 PM on June 15, 2008

I've had a great number of headaches with my USB soundcard. Bandwidth is limited (as in four 48k channels is pushing it), there's a lot of jitter, and drop outs happen far more than is acceptable. If I could do it over again, I'd go with firewire.
posted by bunnytricks at 2:44 AM on June 16, 2008

Something like this ART unit should do a great job.
posted by caddis at 7:00 AM on June 16, 2008

I've been happy with a Tascam US-122 which is a USB card and has been solid as a rock. USB can be tricky in terms of bandwidth as bunnytricks mentions but as with so many other things much depends on your laptop specs and what you have plugged into it. I have a dell 8600 laptop running XP with 1.7 Ghz processor and 2 GB of memory which is fine and you should be fine with way less memory than that too. The trick is to unplug other USB devices and to kill anything like stupid printer applets that are constantly querying the printer to see if it's OK. I'm looking at you Epson! Once that's done you shouldn't have to think about jitter and drop outs especially since you're only looking to record two stereo channels at a time.
posted by merocet at 7:45 AM on June 16, 2008

Response by poster: Is there a better way than using Windows Task Mngr to kill processes (XP)? How about controlling which are started during boot up? I've never figured that out in Windows.

Purpose: make sure that my CPU (Dell d620 w/ Intel Duo Core2) doesn't get interupted while is is processing incoming USP sound card data stream (2 Ch. audio at DVD quality).
posted by watson415 at 1:47 PM on June 16, 2008

I use a program called startupcpl.exe, google it, it's free. It gives you a good list of what is being run at startup and the easy option of switching them off. Honestly though just unplug your other USB doodads and you should be golden if you're just doing 2 channels at cd quality. Your set up sounds like it should be able to deal easily with this. (Spoken as someone who used to record multitrack music on a pentium 3 450 ghz machine!). If you need any specific advice feel free to memail me.
posted by merocet at 2:17 PM on June 16, 2008

OMG! If you are crazy, or crazy rich, or both, then this dCS A/D converter should make great recordings from your albums.
posted by caddis at 2:28 PM on June 18, 2008

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