Question on best soundcards for MIDI work

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Question on best soundcards for MIDI work

Darcy Kahle
I have been using Rosegarden on a Pentium II 350 for quite some time,
and it looks like it is time to upgrade my hardware.  I do not think
that my current system would be fast enough to run the new Rosegarden,
and I look forward to using the latest version.
I am interested in hearing from the community on what would be the best
sound card for MIDI work.  I currently have a SoundBlaster Live! that
has the embedded hardware MIDI Synth, and that has been a god-send with
my current hardware.  I would like to get another soundcard with an
embedded hardware MIDI Synth for the new system.  I have found that
Creative Labs has created the SB X-FI Titanium Fatal1ty, which appears
to me to meet the requirements.  Anyone hear anything about this, or
know of any other soundcard that meets my requirements?  I realize that
I could use software synths, but I would prefer hardware synths, for
obvious reasons.

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Re: Question on best soundcards for MIDI work

Al Thompson
Darcy Kahle wrote:

> I have been using Rosegarden on a Pentium II 350 for quite some time,
> and it looks like it is time to upgrade my hardware.  I do not think
> that my current system would be fast enough to run the new Rosegarden,
> and I look forward to using the latest version.
> I am interested in hearing from the community on what would be the best
> sound card for MIDI work.  I currently have a SoundBlaster Live! that
> has the embedded hardware MIDI Synth, and that has been a god-send with
> my current hardware.  I would like to get another soundcard with an
> embedded hardware MIDI Synth for the new system.  I have found that
> Creative Labs has created the SB X-FI Titanium Fatal1ty, which appears
> to me to meet the requirements.  Anyone hear anything about this, or
> know of any other soundcard that meets my requirements?  I realize that
> I could use software synths, but I would prefer hardware synths, for
> obvious reasons.
>  

If you upgrade your hardware, the reasons won't be nearly so obvious.
I'd strongly suggest using something like Fluidsynth or QSynth.  They
use .SF2 files, so the soundfonts from your soundblaster will still work
if you have compositions which depend on those sounds, but you can use
ANY .SF2 file, and there are many, which gives you a huge choice of
drumkits, pianos, organs, etc.

You'll quickly get over your fondness of soundblaster-type engines once
you play around with some of the DSSI and other soft-synths,



--


Check out the website I've been cobbling together.  It will never be done, but it's a start:
http://lateralforce.no-ip.org


My blog, with commentary on a variety of things, including audio, mixing, equipment, etc, is at:
http://audioandmore.wordpress.com

 
Staat heißt das kälteste aller kalten Ungeheuer.  Kalt lügt es auch;
und diese Lüge kriecht aus seinem Munde: 'Ich, der Staat, bin das Volk.'
                                                - [Friedrich Nietzsche]


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Re: Question on best soundcards for MIDI work

D. Michael McIntyre
In reply to this post by Darcy Kahle
On Monday, February 28, 2011, Darcy Kahle wrote:

> I currently have a SoundBlaster Live! that has the embedded hardware MIDI
> Synth...  I would like to get another soundcard with an embedded hardware
> MIDI Synth for the new system.  I have found that Creative Labs has created
> the SB X-FI Titanium Fatal1ty, which appears to me to meet the requirements.

I don't know anything about that hardware, and haven't researched it, but I
would be really surprised if it has a working hardware MIDI synth.  Creative
phased those out in new models several years ago, and I don't look for them to
come back.

Even if the hardware supports that capability, which is doubtful, it's even
less likely that it would actually work in the Linux driver.

No, I'm afraid it's likely that the only way to go for MIDI reproduction in
hardware is an external sound module.  Even those are far less common than
they used to be.  I'm not sure what's current today, but I went shopping for a
replacement for my ancient Roland Sound Canvas as recently as two years ago,
and only found perhaps five models to choose from in existence.  If anything,
there are probably fewer new models in existence today.

Software synths are just the way to go these days.  Me, I'm keeping my Sound
Canvas for the foreseeable future.  When it finally dies, the used vintage
market seems like the only way to go for securing a suitable replacement.  
They just aren't making this stuff like they used to.  The Sound Canvas line
itself transitioned from Roland to Edirol, and was last incarnated as a piece
of software for Windows before dying out completely.

OK, now get off my lawn you darn kids.  <shakes fist>
--
D. Michael McIntyre

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Re: Question on best soundcards for MIDI work

Darcy Kahle
In reply to this post by Al Thompson
I do recognize that the increased speed will allow me to play with the software synths, and all the effects that come with them, but I would still like the option of having a hardware synth available to me.

Darcy

Al Thompson wrote:
Darcy Kahle wrote:
  
I have been using Rosegarden on a Pentium II 350 for quite some time, 
and it looks like it is time to upgrade my hardware.  I do not think 
that my current system would be fast enough to run the new Rosegarden, 
and I look forward to using the latest version.
I am interested in hearing from the community on what would be the best 
sound card for MIDI work.  I currently have a SoundBlaster Live! that 
has the embedded hardware MIDI Synth, and that has been a god-send with 
my current hardware.  I would like to get another soundcard with an 
embedded hardware MIDI Synth for the new system.  I have found that 
Creative Labs has created the SB X-FI Titanium Fatal1ty, which appears 
to me to meet the requirements.  Anyone hear anything about this, or 
know of any other soundcard that meets my requirements?  I realize that 
I could use software synths, but I would prefer hardware synths, for 
obvious reasons.
  
    

If you upgrade your hardware, the reasons won't be nearly so obvious. 
I'd strongly suggest using something like Fluidsynth or QSynth.  They
use .SF2 files, so the soundfonts from your soundblaster will still work
if you have compositions which depend on those sounds, but you can use
ANY .SF2 file, and there are many, which gives you a huge choice of
drumkits, pianos, organs, etc.

You'll quickly get over your fondness of soundblaster-type engines once
you play around with some of the DSSI and other soft-synths,



  

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Re: Question on best soundcards for MIDI work

Al Thompson
In reply to this post by D. Michael McIntyre
D. Michael McIntyre wrote:
> No, I'm afraid it's likely that the only way to go for MIDI reproduction in
> hardware is an external sound module.  Even those are far less common than
> they used to be.  I'm not sure what's current today, but I went shopping for a
> replacement for my ancient Roland Sound Canvas as recently as two years ago,
> and only found perhaps five models to choose from in existence.  If anything,
> there are probably fewer new models in existence today.
>  

Unless you count pro-level gear.  I suspect that in the used gear market
you could pick up used JV880/1000/1080 units at a pretty good price.


--


Check out the website I've been cobbling together.  It will never be done, but it's a start:
http://lateralforce.no-ip.org


My blog, with commentary on a variety of things, including audio, mixing, equipment, etc, is at:
http://audioandmore.wordpress.com

 
Staat heißt das kälteste aller kalten Ungeheuer.  Kalt lügt es auch;
und diese Lüge kriecht aus seinem Munde: 'Ich, der Staat, bin das Volk.'
                                                - [Friedrich Nietzsche]


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Re: Question on best soundcards for MIDI work

David Jones
In reply to this post by D. Michael McIntyre
D. Michael McIntyre wrote:

> On Monday, February 28, 2011, Darcy Kahle wrote:
>
>> I currently have a SoundBlaster Live! that has the embedded hardware MIDI
>> Synth...  I would like to get another soundcard with an embedded hardware
>> MIDI Synth for the new system.  I have found that Creative Labs has created
>> the SB X-FI Titanium Fatal1ty, which appears to me to meet the requirements.
>
> I don't know anything about that hardware, and haven't researched it, but I
> would be really surprised if it has a working hardware MIDI synth.  Creative
> phased those out in new models several years ago, and I don't look for them to
> come back.

I glanced at what NewEgg has to say about it. They don't say anything
about it having a hardware MIDI synth. But maybe it does. It sounds like
it's mostly aimed at gaming, not audio work.

The thread here is from someone looking for a Linux-compatible sound
card with hardware synth:

http://www.groupsrv.com/linux/about162836.html

Some of the folk there mention some other sound cards with hardware MIDI
synth options (via daughterboards):

* Diamond MX 300 with midi daughter card
* Santa Cruz SC 4630 with midi daughter card
* Santa Cruz SC 8830 with midi daughter card

I used to have a Turtle Beach sound card (ISA), had better sound quality
than Creative's products of the time.

> Even if the hardware supports that capability, which is doubtful, it's even
> less likely that it would actually work in the Linux driver.

At least these are nominally supported (as of the date of the thread above):

The snd-emu10k1 driver supports the following cards:
SB Live!
SB Live! 5.1
SB Live! Value
SB Live! Platinum
SB Audigy 1
SB Audigy 1 ES
SB Audigy 2
SB Audigy 2 Value
SB Audigy 2 Platinum
SB Audigy 2 Platinum EX
SB Audigy 2 ZS
SB Audigy 4
SB Audigy 4 PRO

Here's a link someone posted on the linux-audio-users list a while back
- Canonical's (Ubuntu) list of officially-supported audio hardware:

http://www.ubuntu.com/certification/catalog/category/AUDIO

They say the SB X-Fi is supported.

> No, I'm afraid it's likely that the only way to go for MIDI reproduction in
> hardware is an external sound module.  Even those are far less common than
> they used to be.  I'm not sure what's current today, but I went shopping for a
> replacement for my ancient Roland Sound Canvas as recently as two years ago,
> and only found perhaps five models to choose from in existence.  If anything,
> there are probably fewer new models in existence today.

Another option would be some of the $$$ arranger type keyboards.

> Software synths are just the way to go these days.  Me, I'm keeping my Sound
> Canvas for the foreseeable future.  When it finally dies, the used vintage
> market seems like the only way to go for securing a suitable replacement.  
> They just aren't making this stuff like they used to.  The Sound Canvas line
> itself transitioned from Roland to Edirol, and was last incarnated as a piece
> of software for Windows before dying out completely.

eBay can be your friend!

> OK, now get off my lawn you darn kids.  <shakes fist>

Nah, Michael, use your pro audio setup to output those annoying
high-pitched frequencies that only the kids can here! ;-)

--
David
[hidden email]
authenticity, honesty, community

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Re: Question on best soundcards for MIDI work

Chris Cannam
In reply to this post by D. Michael McIntyre
On 1 March 2011 20:49, D. Michael McIntyre
<[hidden email]> wrote:
> On Monday, February 28, 2011, Darcy Kahle wrote:
>
>> I currently have a SoundBlaster Live! that has the embedded hardware MIDI
>> Synth...  I would like to get another soundcard with an embedded hardware
>> MIDI Synth for the new system.  I have found that Creative Labs has created
>> the SB X-FI Titanium Fatal1ty, which appears to me to meet the requirements.
>
> I don't know anything about that hardware, and haven't researched it, but I
> would be really surprised if it has a working hardware MIDI synth.

Indeed -- this was true even five years ago.  Many soundcards are
promoted in a way that implies they have hardware MIDI synths, when in
fact the sound generator is in the Windows driver.  I don't recall
hearing of any card with a real hardware synth more recently than the
SBLive -- those things are a valuable resource!


Chris

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Re: Question on best soundcards for MIDI work

D. Michael McIntyre
In reply to this post by David Jones
On Wednesday, March 02, 2011, david wrote:

> I used to have a Turtle Beach sound card (ISA), had better sound quality
> than Creative's products of the time.

I spent some time trying to help a guy figure out why the real hardware MIDI
on his Turtle Beach something or other wasn't working under Linux.  The result
of the investigation was that he really did have the hardware, and it just
didn't work under Linux, because there was no proper driver support for the
MIDI reproduction hardware on the card.

That was years ago, and might have changed, but I would do a lot of research
before buying anything.
--
D. Michael McIntyre

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Re: Question on best soundcards for MIDI work

Larry Battraw-2
In reply to this post by Darcy Kahle

On Tue, Mar 1, 2011 at 6:19 PM, Darcy Kahle <[hidden email]> wrote
I do recognize that the increased speed will allow me to play with the software synths, and all the effects that come with them, but I would still like the option of having a hardware synth available to me.

Darcy


If you're looking for HW MIDI synthesizers try http://www.zzounds.com/cat--Sound-Modules--2697 or http://www.sweetwater.com/shop/keyboards/sound-module-samplers/ for a start.  Be prepared to pay a minimum of $600 and up at a minimum for a quality polyphonic synth (Unless you go for used equipment).  It also depends on what kind of HW synth you want.  A lot of the newer generation modules are all about "virtual analog" synthesis and may not even do wavetable synthesis for conventional MIDI instruments, much like my Waldorf Blofeld (unless you spring for the $125 "software upgrade" to enable 60MB of flash for wavetable storage, which I have).  Roland has completely discontinued all rack-mount-type synthesizers and Yamaha seems to be heading the same direction.  They typically covered the mainstream, traditional+extras MIDI instrument module.  There's not  a lot of competition out there for hardware synth modules and they typically are extremely expensive: $1300+ for say an Access Virus TI Snow, and that's the "lower end" model (With no guarantee of support for Linux).  The only redeeming feature of zzounds and a couple other places is that they will break the cost of the equipment into 3-4 payments without interest and ship you the equipment immediately.

I bought my Blofeld because it was completely supported under Linux since it appears as a normal MIDI interface over USB, or I use the USB input it has.  The sample-loading software is Windows-only which I rarely use, especially since samples are sent at MIDI speeds (Even over USB) which take a long time.  They don't even produce software to control it, the interface on the box itself is good enough to create/modify all parameters for VA sounds and it's built like a tank as well as being fairly small.  There's a keyboard version for about twice the price that includes the sample-flash feature enabled, but I purchased a MIDI keyboard controller (M-Audio Axiom 25 - $250) because it was small, offered after-touch, and had drum pads on it as well as a ton of features.  It also functions over USB or MIDI and optionally acts as an extra MIDI ouput device (Instead of sending the keyboard data, which is relayed over USB back to the PC), which is nice.

Unless you buy a keyboard+midi synth (Which are even more expensive) better go for used equipment, at least for external modules.  From the sounds of the things you wanted an internal HW midi synth but as a breed those no longer are in existence because anything internal to a PC can be (and has been) replaced by software + generic sound cards (Although I would avoid integrated motherboard sound, which always seems to be noisy/poor quality), which means Windows, Windows, and more Windows software (or maybe Mac OS X) unless you count Timidity or Fluidsynth.  I usually recommend SoundBlaster cards because they are at least well-supported under Linux and tend to be higher-quality in terms of sound although don't bother with the high-end ones unless you are buying them for a specific feature like more inputs/MIDI interface/etc.  I paid around $35 for a white-box (Refurbished from Fry's Electronics) SBLive 24-bit PCI card and it is both quiet and performs as well as the SB Extigy card given to me with the external box interface with FireWire, MIDI in/out, volume, IR, and more inputs.  Getting support for the extra features on the external buttons/controls is somewhat more problematic as well.  Most external MIDI modules now have USB interfaces so getting an internal card with a MIDI interface isn't a big deal anymore, and you of course can always buy a USB midi interface in a pinch, just make sure you buy locally or get a reputable one.  I bought several from China off of eBay and they are terrible; they drop notes, particularly note-off events, and are pretty much a waste.

Regards,
Larry

 

Al Thompson wrote:
Darcy Kahle wrote:
  
I have been using Rosegarden on a Pentium II 350 for quite some time, 
and it looks like it is time to upgrade my hardware.  I do not think 
that my current system would be fast enough to run the new Rosegarden, 
and I look forward to using the latest version.
I am interested in hearing from the community on what would be the best 
sound card for MIDI work.  I currently have a SoundBlaster Live! that 
has the embedded hardware MIDI Synth, and that has been a god-send with 
my current hardware.  I would like to get another soundcard with an 
embedded hardware MIDI Synth for the new system.  I have found that 
Creative Labs has created the SB X-FI Titanium Fatal1ty, which appears 
to me to meet the requirements.  Anyone hear anything about this, or 
know of any other soundcard that meets my requirements?  I realize that 
I could use software synths, but I would prefer hardware synths, for 
obvious reasons.
  
    
If you upgrade your hardware, the reasons won't be nearly so obvious. 
I'd strongly suggest using something like Fluidsynth or QSynth.  They
use .SF2 files, so the soundfonts from your soundblaster will still work
if you have compositions which depend on those sounds, but you can use
ANY .SF2 file, and there are many, which gives you a huge choice of
drumkits, pianos, organs, etc.

You'll quickly get over your fondness of soundblaster-type engines once
you play around with some of the DSSI and other soft-synths,



  


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Re: Question on best soundcards for MIDI work

Al Thompson
In reply to this post by Chris Cannam
Chris Cannam wrote:
> Indeed -- this was true even five years ago.  Many soundcards are
> promoted in a way that implies they have hardware MIDI synths, when in
> fact the sound generator is in the Windows driver.  I don't recall
> hearing of any card with a real hardware synth more recently than the
> SBLive -- those things are a valuable resource!
>  

Yep, pretty much like modems.  Every internal modem I looked at about 6
years ago was actually a "winmodem" which used Windows routines to do
the work.  If you wanted an actual modem, you HAD to get an external
unit.  That's why internal modems were dirt cheap - they had no hardware
to speak of.


--


Check out the website I've been cobbling together.  It will never be done, but it's a start:
http://lateralforce.no-ip.org


My blog, with commentary on a variety of things, including audio, mixing, equipment, etc, is at:
http://audioandmore.wordpress.com

 
Staat heißt das kälteste aller kalten Ungeheuer.  Kalt lügt es auch;
und diese Lüge kriecht aus seinem Munde: 'Ich, der Staat, bin das Volk.'
                                                - [Friedrich Nietzsche]


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Re: Question on best soundcards for MIDI work

Don Garb-2
In reply to this post by Darcy Kahle
I just bought an old Korg N5, and with an Emu midi to usb connector and
tax the whole thing came to $300 even. The N5 is even prepared to be
used as a rack mount synth as it has an internal switch that turns off
the keyboard so that it only responds to midi. It was an unadvertised
special so check out your local keyboard store and maybe you'll get lucky.

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Re: Question on best soundcards for MIDI work

David Jones
In reply to this post by D. Michael McIntyre
D. Michael McIntyre wrote:

> On Wednesday, March 02, 2011, david wrote:
>
>> I used to have a Turtle Beach sound card (ISA), had better sound quality
>> than Creative's products of the time.
>
> I spent some time trying to help a guy figure out why the real hardware MIDI
> on his Turtle Beach something or other wasn't working under Linux.  The result
> of the investigation was that he really did have the hardware, and it just
> didn't work under Linux, because there was no proper driver support for the
> MIDI reproduction hardware on the card.

I wouldn't buy any Turtle Beach cards since that one - they went the way
of everyone else, sacrificing quality for cheaper manufacturing.

> That was years ago, and might have changed, but I would do a lot of research
> before buying anything.

Generally very good advice! Or buy only from places that offer good
return policies.

--
David
[hidden email]
authenticity, honesty, community

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Re: Question on best soundcards for MIDI work

Charles Elwood
Both the Roland JV Series (particularly the 1080 and 2080) and the
Korg N5 are easy to find on ebay and show up from time to time in
musical second hand stores. They both have General Midi support as
well as a decent selection of other sounds, and offer a good degree of
programmability. Despite their age they are still relevant. There are
definition files (.rgd) for the 1080 and similar supplied with
rosegarden, and we have one for the N-5. I don't know if it's
distributed with rosegarden or something one of us made. The EMU
Proteus 2000 and similar are also worth considering.

We have a JV-1080, an N5 Keyboard and we're looking for an N5-R (rack version).

As far as capable sound cards go, consider the M-Audio Audiophile
24/96. It has minimal features, but is a dependable low latency device
with robost RCA connectors for audio and one midi bus. The same
chipset is used in studio oriented cards like the Delta 1010. No midi
synth on any of them, but there's a single midi bus for hardware like
the above.

We've had good experiences with ESI midi adaptors, I rely on an M8U
for live work, but that's probably a bit excessive.

--
Charles Elwood

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