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PCI perfection

January 3, 2007

The E-mu Proteus X (£95.99) is – and we’ll be saying this with a lot of cards – so much more than a simple interface. On top of the stereo analogue and digital ins and outs you also get some great software and sounds and you can easily operate the whole lot as a standalone or VST instrument sound module. E-mu also offer an extensive range of other PCI cards including the 0404 (£69) and 1212 (£129). The M-Audio Delta 1010 (£134.99) is a bit of a classic card for signal routing offering eight analogue ins and outs (so supports surround) plus digital i/o and mic and line pre inputs. Creamware’s SCOPE range (up to £2850) is perhaps the ultimate in PCI interfacing. Not only do you get a whole array of breakout inputs and outputs but you also get power on the cards to run an entire virtual studio. More on this when we look at external power boxes later in the series. M-Audio’s Audiophile (around £300) series of cards are great interfaces but also throw in Pro Tools M-Powered software into the mix so offer the cheapest routes to joining that exclusive club of pro users! Terratec’s range of cards is also extensive, including the Phase 28 (£104.99). With two inputs and eight outs it’s designed to be as flexible with the guts of your music system as you could ask for, although surround sound is the obvious choice. Finally the Apogee Symphony (£699) is a very high quality PCI Express based card which means it can be used on the newer high-speed, high-bandwidth PCI standard.

PCI Breakout Systems are ideal for tidier (read professional!) set-ups where you don’t want to be kneeling behind your computer fiddling with wires, as they offer breakout boxes that sit in your rack or on your desktop offering easy access to controls, connections and displays. The Terratec Phase 88 (£199) is a prime example with all the PCI business neatly sitting away from a neat desktop box with the eight ins and outs. M-Audio also feature a good range of such boxes like the Delta 66 (£105.99) with four analogue ins and outs (plus a couple of digitals making up to six). As usual, pay more and get more connections. MOTU’s 24 i/o Core System (£1,069) has no less than 24 analogue inputs and outputs and you can chain them together for up to 96 ins and outs – orchestra recording here we come! Echo have been making soundcards longer than most and their Layla (£279) and Gina (£164.99) are both in their third generations and all the better for it. The former has eight analogue ins and outs plus plenty of digital connectivity while the latter has two ins and six outs in a more compact desktop box.

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