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Posted: Sun Jan 27, 2008 12:14 pm
In the first of a series of hardware reports, i'm going to be adding short impressions and discoveries related to the success, failure, and performance with various bits of hardware used with linux. I hope to add to this (with authors permission) other information that may help enhance the user experience with Linuxsampler, and linux in a wider hardware related context. Please feel free to add your own experiences, but i ask that you stay objective in your appraisal, and not simply post 'It's crap.' That doesn't offer much to work with. As we all pretty well know, computers can be fickle beasts, and one user's experience is not always shared by another, even with the same equipment.
Posted: Sun Jan 27, 2008 12:33 pm
ESIJuli@ (alsa 1724 module)
My first report is not exactly a good one, but there may be light at the end of the tunnel.
ESIJuli@ is an reasonably priced soundcard from, understandably enough, ESI. The distinguishing feature of this card is the ability to take the card apart once you've removed it from the box, and reverse it, swapping balanced output for unbalanced, but it also has another great feature, that of great converters.
Unfortunately, there's a problem with drivers, not only for linux, but Win Vista too, and some of these issues remain unresolved, particularly in relation to midi, both in wine, and in oss capacity. Hard freezes are the order of the day it seems, and after extensive research, fairly common. The related linux alsa module is ice1724, and i discovered several unresolved questions from many users, who seem to remain in a state of limbo. Some fixes work for some users, dependent of their configuration. Unfortunately, i wasn't one of them, and i ended up taking the card back, and exchanging it for another.
I was eager to test this card with some hefty orchestral samples, but alas it wasn't to be, and so far, ESI haven't responded to help or explain why this is so. Somewhat of a shame, as the sound i got testing, even in a limited capacity was outstanding, and, to use a common description, as clear as a bell.
The light at the end of the tunnel may be in the shape of 'Drumfix' from the talented JAD team, who's recently had a look at the ice1724 module and discovered some problems which may be fixable, so this card, in linux, if not Vista, may be useable after all. I will post any updates on this if they appear. It won't help the Vista user out there, but Linux might just be ok after all. Stay tuned..
MAudio DELTA 44
Posted: Sun Jan 27, 2008 12:52 pm
M-Audio Delta 44
After taking the ESIJuli@ back to the store, i swapped it for an Maudio Delta 44. And contrary to the above experience, the Maudio Delta 44 worked 'out of the box', with the usual tweak or two in alsamixer. After installing this card, the system recognised it immediately. The alsa module for this card is ice1712, which has been around for a while, and it has stabilised nicely in it's maturity. In fact, nearly all the Maudio cards use this alsa module, with the exception of the Audiophile 192, which uses, as you have may have guessed, the ice1724 module. Worth noting if you are thinking of purchasing this card, but if this changes with an improvement of the ice1724 module, i will update this as soon as possible.
The Delta44 has a breakout box,with 4 ins and 4 outs. This was sufficient for my needs, as i don't do much live recording at all. For those that want more ins and outs for more live recording capability, you might consider the Delta66, which has 6 in and outs.
The Delta44 has no headphone jack, but with a bit of creative wiring, i was able to route the out signal to HP's and listen to the sound. The Delta44 was competent, and performed reliably across differing sample rates, with low latency, and few pops or Jack xruns, before tweaking. It took a few moments to understand the routing setup in Envy24, a linux hardware controller written specifically for Maudio cards in linux, but it went well, once i'd got everything routing correctly.
A note here, and i pass this on from making the mistake. In Qjackctl, an interface for Jack, there is a checkbox on the left hand side of the main setup screen entitled 'H/W monitor'. Make sure its checked, as i went round the setup cycle a few times, before discovering this. Doh.
The Delta44, in my tests with a Full Orchestral template in Linuxsampler, performed well, didn't pop or crack at 10ms latency, and sounded even across the range from Bass to Treble. I am sure with further tweaking, and refining, particularly with a dedicated EQ, either in a DAW, or as part of the signal chain, (JackEQ for instance) this card will shine, and prove to be a solid asset. It's early days yet, but the signs are good.