music composer
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choosing a good keyboard a checklist of things to look out for
touch sensitive keyboards the different types of sensitivity available
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yamaha p95 review 88 note digital piano
casio px-330 review light weight keyboard
m-audio keystation pro-88 budget mother keyboard

Sustain Pedals
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yamaha fc4 sustain pedal a well-built yamaha pedal
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USB Microphones
best usb microphones things to look out for when buying a usb mic
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MIDI Equipment
what is MIDI? with a list of popular control numbers
usb to midi cables for recording your ideas into your computer etc. yamaha UX16 USB/MIDI a midi/USB cable adaptor guitar midi interfaces for transforming your guitar into any midi instrument!

Sound cards
usb sound cards a list of things to look our for when buying one.

sounds cards for the Mac

covering the different types of cards & uses.

maya 44 sound card a short review of this popular sound card.


Sound Cards


What is a sound card?

A computer sound card is a device that enables any type of computer (whether it be a PC, Mac, a laptop or notebook) to play and record sound. This is enabled via DAC technology (Digital to Analogue convertor) which converts a digital stream of information into analogue. This is then output via an amplifier and speakers. Originally, sound cards where mostly internal devices within the computer, such as PCI Soundcards.

PCI Sound cardsPCI Soundcard




soundblaster cards

A famous example of early PCI cards are the Soundblaster sound cards - becoming the first cards to add midi capabilities via an adapted joystick interface. Such cards also interfaced with the innovation of CD players in computers, enabliing the playback of audio CD's. Soundblaster cards became the design standard, so much so that other manufactures of sound cards had to follow this design if they were to be successful in the computer market.



Things to look for when buying a usb sound card

In recent years, external sound cards have become increasing popular, through firewire and USB transmission devices.

What follows is a checklist of important issues to consider in buying the best type of USB sound card:-

Check that the device offers drivers with low "latency". If you are using your soundcard to transmit midi type information from a keyboard, then a low latency driver will enable the sound on the computer to be heard almost instantly. Poor latency will result in an audable delay in striking a key and then hearing the sound on the computer.

The sound card should have audio in and out (preferably in stereo as standard 6.3 mm jack sockets) Some USB soundcards offer surround sound support (5.1 etc)

Many cards specialize in audio. If you are wanting to connect your keyboard to the computer and record your ideas this way, you will need a sound card that has midi in and out ports.

As well as standard audio imputs, many USB cards come with XLR audio imputs, for use with microphones. XLR imputs offer what is known as a "balanced" signal - they have an earth line as well as a left and right channel, and tend to offer a better signal to noise ratio. You may want to check what type of microphone you are using. There are two broad types - dynamic and condenser. If it is a condenser mic, the unit will also need "phatom power" in order for the mic to work.

Most soundcards offer 16 bit (CD quality) recording and playback capability, although you may want to look for 24 bit (DVD quality) sound reproduction. Check also that the unit has a headphone socket, so that you can monitor your recordings. Finally, try to assess the build quality of the unit. If you are manly using it in the home, then the casing may not be an issue. However, if you are using it "on the road", gigging or for live recording, then having something with a good build quality will be an important factor. Look for solid feeling dials, with precise actions, and casing that offers good protection for the delicate electronics inside.




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