External Sound Cards for Laptop DJing

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Lawrence
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External Sound Cards for Laptop DJing

#1 Post by Lawrence » Mon Sep 04, 2006 12:32 pm

Another topic that deserves to be carved out of the "Laptop DJ" Thread.
George wrote:
Lawrence wrote: However, I slowly gave in when I realized that much of my disdain for MP3 DJs stemmed from poor playback equipment, not so much from poor recordings. Using an external sound card instead of the internal sound card often made up the difference I had perceived.
An external sound card is a must. By the way Lawrence, I heard that you're using some kind of USB thinga-ma-bob. Care to elaborate?
I use the Turtle Beach USB plug-in that is the size and shape of a USB flash drive. Someone actually mentioned it somewhere in the vast expanse of the Laotop DJ thread.

Most of the sound cards I researched were for computer gaming, and do not produce accurate sound: more "boomy" and synthesized for good explosions than for accurate music. This one not only produces good sound, it is cheaper than most external sound cards (about $30).

I tried the Soundblaster Exigy PCMCIA card, and it not only had that "boomy" sound, but also flaked out several times on me. The Turtle Beach one is simple and easy and has not screwed up yet.

It's available at Comp USA.
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Does anyone know of any high-quality sound cards that are made for music, not gaming? It seems odd that most of the more expensive sound cards out there are designed for gamers, not for playing music. (I understand the demand for gaming; I just don't understand why gaming completely controls the market).
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#2 Post by LindyChef » Mon Sep 04, 2006 12:52 pm

Gaming completely controls the market because:

1) Gamers upgrade frequently ... they are always willing to get the latest and greatest technology.
2) Gamers are willing to spend a lot of money for each upgrade (consider that some video cards cost more than barebones computers)
3) Gamers are willing to buy technology that drives the market (witness the upcoming physics technology cards).

Most people who enjoy high quality music don't get it from their computers in the first place, so with low demand and little chance to sell upgrades, why would anyone design a high quality sound card for music lovers that techonolgy would become obsolete with the next technology cycle? About the only company that's really bothered is echo (echoaudio.com) and their product lifecycle is considerably longer than most other tech companies.

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#3 Post by Campus Five » Mon Sep 04, 2006 1:22 pm

There is other sound equipment besides game-centric stuff. You're just looking the wrong place:

http://www.musiciansfriend.com/product/ ... sku=247019
http://www.musiciansfriend.com/rec/navi ... 001+309115

There's plenty of stuff in the recording and live-sound industry.
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My boys and I have four heavy beats to the bar and no cheating!
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#4 Post by Lawrence » Mon Sep 04, 2006 7:54 pm

LindyChef wrote: why would anyone design a high quality sound card for music lovers that techonolgy would become obsolete with the next technology cycle?
Because the market is completely empty right now and many people (not just DJs) are shifting their entire music collections to their computers via MP3s. Witness the IPod. The gamer market is completely saturated, whereas the music market is dry.

Moreover, it is not a mutually-exclusive decision, nor even a "decision" for the entire market. It's not as if there is one company making these products. There should be plenty of competitors to serve both markets. I understand why gamers have their products widely available. I don't understand why music people don't have theirs even a little bit available offline.
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#5 Post by Campus Five » Mon Sep 04, 2006 7:59 pm

If you want offline go to Guitar Center, not Comp USA.
"I don''t dig that two beat jive the New Orleans cats play.
My boys and I have four heavy beats to the bar and no cheating!
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#6 Post by LindyChef » Tue Sep 05, 2006 12:59 am

Lawrence wrote:Because the market is completely empty right now and many people (not just DJs) are shifting their entire music collections to their computers via MP3s. Witness the IPod. The gamer market is completely saturated, whereas the music market is dry.
The iPod isn't a valid comparison for a soundcard for a laptop. The iPod was a success because they provided a great portable system that is, quite frankly, idiot proof ... you're asking about sound cards for a semi-portable system for a sophisticated user. It's apples and oranges. Many of the people nowadays that use iPods and have their collections on computers do not care about the quality of their music, let alone know what a "bit rate" is.

The uses for high quality soundcards seem to be more for recording music rather than playback, ... outside our little group of DJs, I've yet to see someone in a club environment DJ off of a laptop (strip club DJs excepted, and they don't seem to care about sound quality either). If it's not live music oriented, the products out there are used to archive LPs.
Moreover, it is not a mutually-exclusive decision, nor even a "decision" for the entire market. It's not as if there is one company making these products. There should be plenty of competitors to serve both markets. I understand why gamers have their products widely available. I don't understand why music people don't have theirs even a little bit available offline.
What market? Just because you can engineer a product for high quality audio playback for computers doesn't mean that there is a market established that is large enough to sustain a number of producers. Like I said, besides Echo, I can't think of a playback only high quality device that isn't marketed towards gamers.

Besides, I think the real limiting factor is the encoding rate on CDs ... at 16 bit / 44.1 kHz, there's some audio information missing, especially when you compress ... have you tried playing the unencoded wav files through the soundcards instead of the compressed files? Perhaps the soundcards are just letting you better hear the difference in quality?

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Something else from Turtle Beach

#7 Post by Lars » Wed Sep 06, 2006 9:58 am

I was looking at Turtle Beach's web-site and found an external sound card with an optional remote control.
This would seem to be a usefull tool.

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http://www.turtlebeach.com/site/product ... cthome.asp
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#8 Post by wheresmygravy » Fri Sep 08, 2006 10:55 am

Oh, now that product might be just what I have been looking for. I have been wanting a remote solution for my laptop for a while so that I can teach and not have to run back and forth to the DJ booth or PA to control a song. hmmmmmm..... I wish it was an RF remote.

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#9 Post by sonofvu » Fri Sep 08, 2006 1:42 pm

LindyChef wrote: Besides, I think the real limiting factor is the encoding rate on CDs ... at 16 bit / 44.1 kHz, there's some audio information missing, especially when you compress ... have you tried playing the unencoded wav files through the soundcards instead of the compressed files? Perhaps the soundcards are just letting you better hear the difference in quality?
I was looking at the sound cards that Jonathan recomended. One of them had a 24-bit/96 kHz converter and is priced at $200. If what you say is true (all cds are at 16-bit/44.1kHz) then it makes little sense to purchase a high-end card to play cds. So that means that a card like the turtle should be adequate for this application. Since the limiting factor is the cd bit rate there is no incentive to develop better sound card technology.

By the way #1, I could not find any specs on that turtle card.
By the way #2, I use an iMic sound card. $40.
Yard work sucks. I would much rather dj.

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#10 Post by julius » Sat Sep 09, 2006 11:26 am

Wikipedia says:
Maximum sampling frequency: This is a measurement of the maximum speed at which the DACs circuitry can operate and still produce the correct output. As stated in the Shannon-Nyquist sampling theorem, a signal must be sampled at over twice the bandwidth of the desired signal. For instance, to reproduce signals in all the audible spectrum, which includes frequencies of up to 20 kHz, it is necessary to use DACs that operate at over 40 kHz. The CD standard samples audio at 44.1 kHz, thus DACs of this frequency are often used. A common frequency in cheap computer sound cards is 48 kHz - many work at only this frequency, offering the use of other sample rates only through (often poor) internal resampling.
So wouldn't that mean that a 96kHz sampling rate is just right to convert a 44.1kHz signal from digital to analog? Well, I'm confused.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/D/A_converter

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#11 Post by LindyChef » Sat Sep 09, 2006 4:13 pm

No. What they are referring to is the original sampling. In order to be able to produce a sound you must be able to sample at twice the sound's frequency ... that way you can catch both the crest and trough of the sound wave ... if you could only sample at that sound's frequency rate, then you could only catch the crests of the wave and, to the sampler, it would appear that there's no sound at all.

Image

For example, look at this sound wave. If you only could sample at the frequency (measured by the distance between the troughs) then you would only get data points at C1, C2, C3, etc. It would look like this:

Code: Select all

C1-----C2-----C3-----C4
In sound terms, the only way you get sound is through differences. Now if you were able to sample at twice the frequency, you would be able to capture both the crest and the trough, then interpolate the frequency between the two:

Code: Select all

C1    C2    C3    C4
  \  /  \  /  \  /  \
   T1    T2    T3    T4
This means that the maximum reproducible frequency of the standard CD is 22.05 kHz (which is beyond what most of us old timers can hear) since it samples at 44.1kHz. They do make a valid point about crappy DACs and resampling, an obvious point that I hadn't thought too much about ... quality DACs will do a good job if they are resampling a sound, so if you want to spend the cash to get a high quality recording setup, it will have the high quality DACs for output.

The 96kHz sampling rate means that the maximum reproducable frequency would be 48kHz ... some say that, even though you can't hear it, the frequency interactions in the inaudible sound color the other sounds and make them sound more alive, more rich. However, in order to get any benefit from that, first of all, your equipment (specifically your tweeters) would need to be able to reproduce those sounds (good luck finding a club that has that kind of sound equipment) AND you would need to have your music sampled at that frequency ... that would pretty much mean going to some sort of DVD-Audio or recording all of your stuff from LPs. Sound like a fun time?

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#12 Post by Surreal » Wed Sep 13, 2006 7:27 pm

Shopping around, came across this: http://www.canadacomputers.com/index.ph ... 543&cid=SC
Anyone have any thoughts on this one?

I hear M-Audio is supposed to be a good company for sound equipment, but a few online reviews I've read don't seem supportive.

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#13 Post by tornredcarpet » Tue Oct 03, 2006 9:26 pm

Yeah, I was wondering the same question, except B&H has a bit of stuff I need to spend a gift card on.
I don't even know if I'm looking in the right place. This stuff all have 30000 features I don't need.

PS has anyone heard of the new toshiba laptops that have a built in pre-amp?
That could negate the need for one of these dongle thingies.
Jesse (Los Angeles, CA/Hampton Roads, VA)

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#14 Post by Surreal » Wed Oct 04, 2006 10:39 am

I recently got an echo indigo dj off ebay. I can't hear too much of a difference (but I don't really know what to listen for), but the clarity is better as the sound carries much further. While playing music at university (for student club recruitment week), the first day I didn't have the card and we had to turn the music up fairly loud to be heard over all the other university ruckus. The second day when I tried it with the card, I had the volume settings down to 60% and it was still stronger than the previous day (even in a direction opposite from the way the speakers were pointing). The mid-bass ranges were especially clear and had to be tuned down separately.

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External Sound Cards

#15 Post by Lars » Wed Oct 04, 2006 1:02 pm

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This is what I use, an old Creative Soundblaster MP3. The sound has been perfect for every room that I've DJ'd in from large hall to small bar room setting even outdoors at the Calatrava.
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