Computer-based audio workstation opinions, please

Tom B.

Member Sponsor
Jul 10, 2011
153
0
0
#1
I want to set up a small PC/Laptop audio server as part of an experiment and could use some help getting started. A general overview if the project is taking audio files, test tones etc (generally CD-quality or better files....FLAC files) and bouncing them to an analog tape deck via XLR inputs. The majority of the files are stored on my Vista PC workstation or Lenovo SL510 laptop.

The Lenovo has a RealTek HD audio card built in and claims to be capable of up to 24/192k. The only outputs on the laptop are standard 1/8" mic/speaker jacks and USB. Initial thoughts were to use something like a Benchmark DAC1 USB (which has balanced outputs) to send the files to tape. I was planning on using Media Monkey for playback.

This would be my optimum setup, but the DAC1 is expensive.

An alternative would be to set up the Vista machine with an internal card like the M-Audio 2496, again using Media Monkey or such as the front-end controller. The M-Audio card did not get stellar reviews for gaming due to lack of multichannel capability, but it does to stereo (via RCA) and has good S/N specs. The M-Audio card is cheap....often just under $100.

The PC is not my prime choice for the workstation as it is a family computer, and one can just imagine what kind of problems arise with two children and the wife surfing to who-knows-where....

I'd be willing to set up a new machine as a dedicated server/workstation, but want to 'give it a try' just for fun, at first.

Are either of my two options do-able at this point or will it take more hardware to get it done?

Thanks-
Tom B.
 

Bruce B

WBF Founding Member, Pro Audio Production Member
Apr 26, 2010
6,569
5
38
Seattle, WA
www.pugetsoundstudios.com
#2
It's all "doable".

There are several USB DAC's that are less expensive than the Benchmark. The one thing you have to take in consideration is using the correct protocol. Play a 1k sine wave out of your Laptop. Make sure this has an output of 1.25v if you are using the Professional +4dBu protocol and not the -10dBV Consumer protocol.
The 0dBV reference level is 1 volt and the 0dBu reference level is 0.775 volts.

Also, you need to set the correct Bias for the tape formulation you are recording to. The standard reference is 250nWb/m, unless you are using something like SM900 which is 320nWb/m
 

Tom B.

Member Sponsor
Jul 10, 2011
153
0
0
#3
Bruce,

Can you offer up a suggestion for comparable DACs? I only stumbled across the Benchmark by accident.

Thanks,
Tom
 

Bruce B

WBF Founding Member, Pro Audio Production Member
Apr 26, 2010
6,569
5
38
Seattle, WA
www.pugetsoundstudios.com
#4
There is a Benchmark on A-gon now for $695

RME Babyface

Stello

Eximus

Apogee Duet

M-Audio Fast Track

Lavry DA10/11 - one on GearSlutz for $775

CEntrance DAC Mini

M2Tech

Wavelength Audio Proton

Musical Fidelity M1

HRT
 
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