USB vs PCIe Sound Card for audio analysis - diyAudio
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Old 7th July 2015, 03:03 PM   #1
TheGimp is offline TheGimp  United States
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Default USB vs PCIe Sound Card for audio analysis

My garage/Shop computer is an old 1.6Ghz AMD single core processor based system running Win-7. I recently got a Firefox update and found the performance went to hellinahandbasket.

I tried loading Chrome and got an error that my hardware was no longer supported.

So I'm looking at updating or building a new system.

This system is used for FFTs, and general audio analysis of amplifiers and circuits I build, often tube based (Using RMAA, AudioTester, etc).

I've got a donated TBGM01 cpu board I could install, but need RAM, a video card and sound card or USB sound interface.

Alternatively I could build a micro ATX system, which would almost certainly require a USB interface.

Some of the interfaces I've been looking at are the Creative Sound Blaster Z PCIe, Asus Zonar DX PCIe, and Asus Zonar U7. I also have an old E-MU-404 but was never happy using it in the past.

The PCIe cards seem to have better SN specifications.

comments?

recommendations?
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Old 7th July 2015, 04:29 PM   #2
1audio is offline 1audio  United States
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Even a uATX will have room for a PCI or PCIe card. The better "semipro" audio cards seem to be the best bet. I usually recommend the ESI Juli@ card because of its flexibility and simplicity. I'm getting exceptional results from an EMU 1212 w/ mods but its not for casual use and really tedious to set up.

USB brings more complexity to windows audio since 192 etc. is not natively supported and you can run into a lot of mysterious dropouts etc. that relate to bus problems. A PCI interface eliminates most of those.

I had a motherboard failure and just got an update package from Newegg w/ MB + processor+ram for a good price and made my problems go away. All told is was close to $300 but I now have close to SOTA performance on the test platform.
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Old 7th July 2015, 05:32 PM   #3
TheGimp is offline TheGimp  United States
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I guess the first thing is to see if I can get the MOBO working or not.

It came out of a gaming system and I'm sure it was overclocked. The CPU heat sink is 70% clogged with lint and tar/cigarette smoke residue.

I'm going to pull all heat sinks, degrease the board with isopropyl and blow dry it. Then apply fresh thermal grease and re-install all heat sinks.

I found a PCIe graphics card in my stash, and can pull compatible RAM out of my HTPC for testing. I figure I can run it with a dvd drive and run diagnostics to see how it runs.

I just need a power supply. On line PSU calculator says 288W with my expected configuration, so I guess I will order an Antec EarthWatts Green EA-380D power supply which should leave about a 25% margin.
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Old 7th July 2015, 05:43 PM   #4
1audio is offline 1audio  United States
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Power supplies are pretty cheap today. The measured power for my new system (4 GHz 8 core AMD) never exceeds 200W measured and normally is around 70W so don't get carried away. Good luck.
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Old 9th July 2015, 03:15 AM   #5
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Not to hijack the thread, how much is the sound card that is good enough to measure THD+N?
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Old 9th July 2015, 04:08 AM   #6
1audio is offline 1audio  United States
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It depends on how good the stuff you are testing is. There are some inexpensive sound cards that may work but for stable drivers etc. you should be looking at ESI Juli@ or EMU or similar home studio level cards as a starting point. Used is as good as new for the most part. You will need external hardware to interface to the amp and protect the card.
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Old 9th July 2015, 04:57 AM   #7
sangram is offline sangram  India
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The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is the cheapest external, portable box that will give you results to -105dB or so.

The cheapest internal card I can think of the Asus Sonar DX, but the drivers are quite poor. The Juli@ is nicer, but not sure if it is still in production. The e-Mu no longer is available new.
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Old 9th July 2015, 08:25 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alan0354 View Post
Not to hijack the thread, how much is the sound card that is good enough to measure THD+N?
Depends what your goals for residual distortion are.

The human ear's threshold for nonlinear distortion audibility using unbiased listening tests is about -60 dB so anything 10 dB or more better than that should be sufficient. This gives you quite a bit of latitude.

I caution all that the failings of THD+N as your "All in 1" test are well documented. Two letters: IM.
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Old 9th July 2015, 08:29 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sangram View Post
The Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 is the cheapest external, portable box that will give you results to -105dB or so.

The cheapest internal card I can think of the Asus Sonar DX, but the drivers are quite poor. The Juli@ is nicer, but not sure if it is still in production. The e-Mu no longer is available new.
Here is a relevant performance test for the 2i2:

http://html.midifan.com/review/2i2/[MME]%20Scarlett%202i2%20USB%202448.htm

It can run up to 24/96 which is IME sufficient, and its price is right.

Pair it with The Audio Rightmark Suite and you have a good starting point.
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Old 9th July 2015, 09:13 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by arnyk View Post
Depends what your goals for residual distortion are.

The human ear's threshold for nonlinear distortion audibility using unbiased listening tests is about -60 dB so anything 10 dB or more better than that should be sufficient. This gives you quite a bit of latitude.

I caution all that the failings of THD+N as your "All in 1" test are well documented. Two letters: IM.
What is "IM"?

I am also considering QuantAsylum Q400 also. I have been trying to read the thread, it's so long.
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