PCI Audio Interface Comparison Chart
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PCI Audio Interfaces
Comparison Chart

23 PCI interfaces compared

also see the Firewire Chart and the USB 2.0 Chart
on a budget? See the "best of the cheap"

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Soundcards and Interfaces   1   2   3    4    5    6  

product

total analog i/o

s/pdif i/o

pre-amps

ADAT i/o

MIDI i/o

head
phon

Word
Clock

appr. retail price

forum link

M-Audio 2496

2/2 RCA

Yes

none

no

1/1

0

--

100

discuss

poll

Emu 0404

2/2

Yes

none

no

1/1

no

--

90

poll

Echo Mia

2/2 TRS

Yes

none

no

1/1

no

--

130

M-Audio Delta 44

4/4 TRS

No

None

no

none

no

--

150

Emu 1212m

2/2
TRS

Yes

None

Yes

1/1

no

--

140

discuss

M-Audio Audiophile 192

2/2 TRS

Yes

None

No

1/1

no

--

180

M-Audio Delta 66

4/4 TRS

Yes

None

No

None

no

--

180

M-Audio Delta 1010LT

8/8
RCA, 2 XLR

Yes

2 (no Phantom power)

No

1/1

no

Yes

200

Echo Gina 3G

2/6

Yes

2

Yes

1/1

Yes

--

280

product

total analog i/o

s/pdif i/o

pre-amps

ADAT i/o

MIDI i/o

head
phon

Word
Clock

appr. retail price

forum link

Emu 1616

PCI version

6/6 includes phono

Yes

2

Yes

2/2

Yes

--

350

Emu 1616M

PCI version

6/6 includes phono

Yes

2

Yes

2/2

Yes

--

450

poll

Echo Layla 3G

8/8 TRS

Yes

2

Yes

1/1

Yes

Yes

500

M-Audio Delta 1010

8/8 TRS

Yes

None

No

1/1

no

Yes

600

poll

Lynx L22 24/96/200

2/2

Yes

None

if optional LS-ADAT is installed

no

no

Yes

676

Main

RME HDSP 9652

0/0

Yes

none

x3

2/2

No

ADAT

700

MOTU 2408 Mk3

8/8 TRS

2/4

none

x3 ADAT or TDIF

no

Yes

Yes+Adat sync

950

poll

MOTU 24IO

24/24 TRS

none

none

no

no

no

Yes+ADAT Sync

1430

poll

How to Use this Chart

This handy chart can help you narrow down your choice of a PCI audio interface or soundcard.  It will save you hours of research and will cut through a lot of confusion caused by the inconsistent definitions manufacturers often use.  First of all, manufacturers may count inputs and outputs differently.  This chart is an attempt to fairly compare the above devices, but is based on interpretation of what constitutes a discrete audio channel.

Analog i/o refers to actual analog input and output channels, not necessarily how many input and output jacks are on the device.  The first number is the number of input channels and the second number is the number of output channels.  This number includes the mic preamps but does not include headphone outs.  If a Mic preamp and a line input share the same channel, that channel is only counted once.  This is to give you a true idea of how many analog input and output channels the box has.  Likewise if the main output pair has "main outs" and "monitor outs" these channels are only counted once, as they share the same channels. 

How many analog inputs you need depends on how many sources you want to record at the same time.  Also, if you have a synthesizer or drum machine you need inputs through which to record and monitor these. How many outputs you need depends on how much gear you have that you want to send audio to.  If you want to use an FX box, you need to use an output to send it audio and you need two inputs to get it back.  If you want to mix your song on an analog mixer you need a lot of outputs.  If you are mixerless and are mixing in your software you only need 2 outputs--those to which you connect your monitors.

S/pdif i/o is either yes or no.  This is a stereo digital pathway, and may be either coaxial or optical.  S/pdif is useful for connecting digital audio devices, like external a/d converters, effects processors, CDR recorders, even some preamps and keyboards that have digital outs.  Sometimes digital i/o comes in the AES/EBU standard, which uses XLR digital cables.  These do the same thing as s/pdif coaxial and optical.

Preamps refers to the number of microphone preamps the interface has.  Usually these can double as instrument inputs (guitar, bass, etc.)  But check on that before you buy.  Also some interfaces (but not all) will have insert jacks or send outputs for connecting compressors and other processors.  You might want to check on that too when evaluating an audio interface.  Note that many hi end PCI interfaces have no preamps.  The assumption is you will add your own, or use the device with a mixer.

 ADAT refers to an 8 channel digital input and output.  It is useful for connecting more mic preamps, a second audio interface or computer, a digital mixer, or can be used to add more analog i/o through an 8 channel ad/da converter.  When you see ADAT x2 in the chart that means the device has two ADAT ports in and out or 16 channels in and out.  (Sometimes two ADAT ports may be used for eight channels at a high sample rate like 96kHz).  Likewise ADAT x3 means 24 channels in and out

MIDI i/o refers to the number of 16 channel ports there are on the interface.  1/2 means it has one MIDI input and two MIDI outputs.  MIDI inputs and outputs are used to connect a MIDI synthesizer, keyboard controller, drum pad controller, and some control surfaces.  You need one port for every device you want to connect to the computer.  You can always add more via separate MIDI interfaces.

Headphones refers to the number of stereo headphone jacks on the unit.

Word Clock refers the presence of a BNC connector through which word sync signals can be sent to other digital devices. It is important that all digital devices connected through s/pdif or ADAT share the same word sync.   For simple setups that may have two digital devices, having a word clock connector is not usually necessary.  Sync can be sent along through the s/pdif or ADAT connection. It becomes important in rigs where there may be multiple digital devices where it is impossible to send word sync to all devices. 

Prices and specs may change from when this chart was made.  You can check the product descriptions at the manufacturers websites for up to date details.


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SoundCards and
Audio Interfaces

Audio Interfaces- Page 1
Audio Interfaces--Page 2
Firewire Audio Interface Chart-Page 3
PCI Audio Interface Chart-Page 4
USB 2.0 Audio Interface Chart--Page 5
Audio Interfaces- Page 6
Audio Interfaces: The Best of the Low Cost
Audio Interfaces for your Mac
MOTU 896Mk3 Review
MOTU 828mk2 Review
MOTU UltraLite
Emu1820M
Delta 1010
Audio Interfaces Prices

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