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PostPosted: Mon Oct 24, 2011 11:13 am 
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Location: menlo park
SoundInMotionDJ wrote:
There is nothing below that price point that I will actually recommend at this point.


That statement is utterly meaningless unless you tell us what other soundcards you've tried.

Sigh.

Mike, what do you mean by "upgrade my internal sound card"? You probably can't upgrade the card inside the laptop without swapping the entire logicboard--which will more or less amount to getting a new laptop. If you mean to upgrade the external card, then you can try taking SoundInMotionDJ's advice. Or try the Turtle Beach Micro--$25 or so. There's no other card at that price point I will actually recommend at this point! [*]

The best approach is to try your music on a friend's laptop (with the same amp and speakers). Still bad? Then it's your encoding. Good? O.K., then it's your laptop & soundcard. Does your friend have an external sound card? Try that on your laptop. Bad? Then it's your laptop (and that could mean hardware or software, of course).

[*] Because I never tried any others. Cause it works fine.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 25, 2011 4:54 am 
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Location: Belfast, Northern Ireland
Have any of you tried a hi-fi DAC rather than a conventional external soundcard?

There's a chap in Canada who makes some quite choice ones by hand at not too silly money. He's on Ebay as Hotaudio 40.

Been playing with one of his cheaper creations and..... "Sounds good man".


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 25, 2011 1:08 pm 
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Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
The big problem with computer audio (and laptops especially) is noise from the other components. Power supply is a big culprit, but other devices also inject noise. USB devices fix a lot of problems, but you can get a lot of noise off usb too. On a laptop, you an at least run off battery and get rid of a lot of potential noise that way.

I've been using a Hotaudio DacDestroyer for a while and really like it. Being a wannabe audiophile I've also gone through a decent variety of all the "hifi" portable brands like FiiO and iBasso and Nuforce.

I also have the Turtle Beach Micro II and it's fine for what it is, though it does have a bit of distortion at the very low end and something funny happens in the 10+kHz range. For a $25 solution though, it gives me a nice secondary output with higher line levels than my headphone jack, and also provides optical output if I want to plug into something else.


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PostPosted: Tue Oct 25, 2011 3:15 pm 
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It's the Destroyer I got a hold of, belongs to a friend who is an audiophile & considers it a bit of a toy, albeit a very nice one.

One will be winging it's way to me at the end of the month.


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 26, 2011 3:47 am 
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I recently bought a Xonar U3 USB. It retails for $40, which seems cheap enough. I noticed an immediate improvement over my Acer Aspire 1810TZ, which supposedly already had a decent chip. Review here: http://techreport.com/articles.x/21256


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 26, 2011 6:10 am 
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lipi wrote:
SoundInMotionDJ wrote:
There is nothing below that price point that I will actually recommend at this point.


That statement is utterly meaningless unless you tell us what other soundcards you've tried.

Sigh.


Ah yes...you want my resume before I can make a simple recommendation...well...OK.

In the last 10 years I have tested and looked at a LOT of sound cards in the $15 to $800 price point. I am well known as a total nerd about these things, and many local DJ's have loaned me their sound card to test over the years.

In the <$150 price point, the list of cards I have looked at and decided not to recommend includes, but is not limited to:

Turtle Beach Micro
Turtle Beach Micro II
Creative Sound Blaster Xsi
Plantronics DA 45 (or maybe it was the 60...I forget)
M Audio Fast Track Pro

My previous recommendations were:
Behringer UCA 202
Gigaport AG
Maya 44


And then there is my current recommendation:
Native Instruments Audio 2

There are a LOT of reasons I have for this recommendation...some objective, some subjective.

1) The Audio 2 is very well built...and will survive in a gig bag with minimal special handling for years
2) The Audio 2 has a detachable USB cable, so the death of the cable does not mean the death of the card.
3) The Audio 2 uses 1/4" outputs, and this encourages people to migrate away from the crappy 1/8" connections when DJing.
4) The Audio 2 uses the +4dBu reference level for both outputs.
5) The Audio 2 is one of the least noisy cards I have ever used (on par with the Gigaport / Maya 44 cards...but those are -10dBu reference outputs...so it's not really an apples to apples comparison).

There are many more reasons why I like the Audio 2...and pros and cons to all the other cards. Based on my experiences, the Audio 2 is the best value sound card in the <$200 price point and the only one I will actually recommend at this point.

Better?


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PostPosted: Wed Oct 26, 2011 12:04 pm 
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SoundInMotionDJ wrote:
Better?


Yes. Thank you.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 27, 2011 9:59 am 
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SoundInMotionDJ wrote:
And then there is my current recommendation:
Native Instruments Audio 2

Convincing recommendation! How would you compare it to the Echo Indigo DJx Expresscard? For the past few years I have been using the Echo Indigo PCMCIA DJ card (awesome sound by the way!) but would love to fully switch over from my aging Sony Vaio running WinXP to my Macbook Pro which does have an expresscard slot. I love the idea of taking advantage of the slot, but I am open to a USB solution if it really is superior, especially because I have been using, and will continue to use, Traktor which should work great with the card or, obviously, the NI Audio 2.

Jesse


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 27, 2011 12:02 pm 
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JesseMiner wrote:
How would you compare it to the Echo Indigo DJx Expresscard? For the past few years I have been using the Echo Indigo PCMCIA DJ card


I have not used or tested any express card form factor sound cards. None of the laptops I have used in the last 10-ish years have included that slot.

I am NOT a fan of 1/8" connectors. There is limited contact area, and in order to save a few pennies, most manufactures use really cheap connectors. This is a mechanical connection...and it will be exercised every time the connection is plugged in or out.

My preference for the mechanical connectors in descending order are:

XLR (if high quality like Neutrik or Soundcraft or similar)
RCA or 1/4" (beefier connections, more contact area)
1/8" (only if I must...I have converters to turn this into 1/4" stereo or RCA)

JesseMiner wrote:
For the past few years I have been using the Echo Indigo PCMCIA DJ card (awesome sound by the way!)


I try to avoid superlatives like "awesome" when describing sound.

To test a card, I start by listening to music. I pick pieces of music that I know well...and that include quiet and loud sections. I like using classical recordings for this purpose, because that are a LOT of different instruments that I can focus on to do comparisons between sound cards.

Next, I do a more "objective" set of tests by playing a series of "pure tones" and structured noise (e.g. white noise, pink noise, etc) through the card, and then record that back onto a computer. I then compare the resulting waveforms for differences.

Obviously the whole signal chain is involved, from the drivers to the card to the recording bus, etc. So, it is difficult to get an "objective" view of a single card...but it is very easy to get card to card comparisons. I start with the onboard card, and onboard line in. Then replace one part at a time until I get the test I am looking for.

JesseMiner wrote:
I am open to a USB solution if it really is superior, especially because I have been using, and will continue to use, Traktor which should work great with the card or, obviously, the NI Audio 2.


Traktor 2 (Duo or Pro, and the Scratch variants) automatically recognize all the NI sound cards. The drivers are installed with the software. When used together they are as good as "plug and play" can get.


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PostPosted: Thu Oct 27, 2011 2:25 pm 
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Thanks! I appreciate your knowledgeable and thoughtful opinion and will seriously consider the NI Audio 2 as I switch to using my Macbook Pro for DJing.

My PCMCIA card has been a pleasure to work with, providing strong output levels that sound great to me and have been complimented by several of the more audiophile venue owners I have worked with over the years, but I definitely had to do some serious fiddling with the card's settings to work smoothly with Traktor. As for audio connections, up until now I have been using an 1/8" to RCA cable when connecting to most sound systems, but I like your point about considering at least a 1/4" connection OUT from my laptop as a better physical connection.

Jesse


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PostPosted: Sat Oct 29, 2011 11:33 pm 
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Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
JesseMiner wrote:
SoundInMotionDJ wrote:
And then there is my current recommendation:
Native Instruments Audio 2

Convincing recommendation! How would you compare it to the Echo Indigo DJx Expresscard? For the past few years I have been using the Echo Indigo PCMCIA DJ card (awesome sound by the way!) but would love to fully switch over from my aging Sony Vaio running WinXP to my Macbook Pro which does have an expresscard slot. I love the idea of taking advantage of the slot, but I am open to a USB solution if it really is superior, especially because I have been using, and will continue to use, Traktor which should work great with the card or, obviously, the NI Audio 2.

Jesse


I used to have the Indigo DJ card as well and was strongly considering the DJx when I upgraded my laptop, but from the few reviews I dug up it seemed people generally felt the DJx was a step down.


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PostPosted: Sun Oct 30, 2011 5:18 pm 
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I use the Native Instruments Audio 2 with Traktor and I like it. I've used on both Macs and PCs so that's not an issue. I haven't done extensive research but it's the cheapest I've found with two outs, decent sound, and portable. I have some more expensive ones but they are harder to travel with since they are larger.


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PostPosted: Thu Nov 17, 2011 2:55 am 
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JesseMiner wrote:
Thanks! I appreciate your knowledgeable and thoughtful opinion and will seriously consider the NI Audio 2 as I switch to using my Macbook Pro for DJing.

...

Jesse

Update: Native Instruments is currently offering a a free upgrade to their Traktor Duo 2 software ($129 value) with a purchase of their Audio 2 USB soundcard ($99) during the months of November and December. Even though the Traktor LE 2 software that is included with the soundcard looks perfectly adequate for our swing DJ needs, I have already taken advantage of this offer (the soundcard is a great price without an added incentive!) and am looking forward to testing out my new set-up in the near future! I will report back once I do.

Jesse


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PostPosted: Fri Nov 18, 2011 2:20 am 
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http://macappsthatrock.tumblr.com/post/12919735292/djay-4 I don't even know what this is, but I'm pretty sure one of you blokes will enjoy investigating it.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 20, 2011 1:08 pm 
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Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
I managed to pick up a NI Traktor 2 used at a decent price (well, decent for Canadians anyways). I like it so far; smaller than I expected, large gain without distortion, clean pot. The ability to drive headphones could be better, but hifi really isn't a consideration when DJ'ing; I've got my audiophile stuff at home for that.

In use, I found using its ASIO drivers less stable than WASAPI (playing from JRiver). I'd get buffer underruns and freezups using ASIO when changing songs when using both outputs simultaneously.


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