One man's opinion but based on experience with several brands of PCI cards.
It _IS_ possible to make an internal card that is professional grade and
runs dead silent. See CardDeluxe by Digital Audio Labs. I believe Lynx cards
can also claim this. I'd guess the M-Audio internal cards also because I'd
think parent company Avid would not want to sell anything junky. Consumer
cards are another matter. I've seen grounding issues with several flavors of
SoundBlaster, but all solvable by going into a balanced input and not
connecting shield to shield. I can't comment on other popular consumer cards
because I haven't used them. I can say that I have not seen this problem
with old (pre-Soundblaster) Ensoniq cards, which had really good DACs also.
Now, that said, a designer can be less careful about grounding, shielding
and other issues if they do the DAC work outside the hostile environment
within a PC chasis and stream digital back and forth via USB or Firewire.
So, the chances of getting it right and running silent are much greater with
an external box. Furthermore, as you said, a USB or Firewire box can be made
to work with either PC or Mac. And, from an ergonomic standpoint, an
external box can hold as many full-sized connectors as needed, vs breakout
cables on many PCI cards. Finally, an externally powered external box can
provide enough voltage swing to do a good mic preamp and perhaps a very
robust output stage after the DAC. I've definitely noticed all internal
cards have a different idea about what pro-grade peak output level capacity
is vs. pro-grade analog equipment.
I'd say it all comes down to your specific needs and budget and I don't
think there is a hard-set rule because, as I've said, it's not impossible to
build a silent-running/pro-grade internal soundcard.
-- Tom Fine
----- Original Message -----
From: "Rod Stephens" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Thursday, September 22, 2005 5:19 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Reducing soundcard/circuit noise
> Hello All,
> I thought you all might like to know the resolution of the Terratec
> DMX6Fire soundcard problem (see below).
> As a result of the research we all did, what is the general opinion of
> the newer approach to handling audio with an outboard USB I/O box?
> Also, one of the additional pluses is that the USBs (Terratec and
> Tascam, and others, I would guess) work with both Macs and PCs.
> Rod Stephens
> > Dear Rod
> > I decided to sell the Terratec and bought a Tascam US-122 audio
> > interface. Everything seems to be working fine now.
> > Kind regards, and once again, thank you very much for your input!
> > Diederick
> > ----- Original Message -----
> > From: Rod Stephens <mailto:[log in to unmask]>
> > To: D Basson <mailto:[log in to unmask]>
> > Sent: Sunday, September 18, 2005 5:54 PM
> > Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Reducing soundcard/circuit noise
> > Hello Diederick,
> > I think it makes sense to see if a replacement card will make a
> > difference. If not, it would seem you have some sort of hidden
> > incapacity, but I would bet that you'll see some sort of difference
> > with a new card. It's an interesting case.
> > Rod
> > D Basson wrote:
> > Dear Rod
> > Thanks for the info. Yes, I did forward the frequencies to Mike.
> > Herewith his reaction:
> > Assuming that those frequencies are near the centers of three peaks, no
> > cause seems immediately likely. If your problems exist only on one
> > input, the source may be in that input - for example, artifacts of the
> > phono preamp. The frequencies are too low to come from radiation but
> > they do not correlate with harmonics from the power supply or grounding.
> > Neither do they fit with sync signals from the monitor.
> > I would now check whether the noise level varies with signal strength
> > and with other inputs, including whether it is present with null input
> > and with the input you're using but with the power to that source turned
> > off. Finally, I would see whether I could borrow or buy inexpensively an
> > external digitizer. Once you locate the noise source, eliminating it is
> > straightforward.
> > Today's Sunday, so I won't find anyone at work. I will see if I could
> > maybe get a replacement for the sound card tomorrow.
> > Kind regards,
> > Diederick
> D Basson wrote:
> >Dear Group members
> >I recently bought a Dell Optiplex GX620 computer with Windows XP. I use
a Terratec DMX6Fire soundcard. When I make recordings using Adobe Audition
or Wavelab, I get a buzzing noise - a problem I have never had with my
previous computer. Can anyone perhaps help me solve the problem?
> >Kind regards,
> >Diederick Basson