# re: A few tips on how to make your songs sound better

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"3) you NEED a proper sound card. Seriously - if you're going to approach things with a solid idea of creating something worth while, a SoundBlaster Live! will not suffice. Don't ask around which ones are the best - just look at the price and you'll be able to identify quality. Differently from politics, in sound/music hardware industry, price and quality mostly run in tight correlation" I'm just curious... but how does a $500 sound card going to improve the quality of a Cubase project than the next$50 sound card. How might the $500 sound card improve the midi signal from your$5,000 keyboard when the same data signal can come from a $100 keyboard on a$50 sound card? I'm really lost with this... if your sample libraries are on the hard drive, the DSP occurs from your DAW/Sequencer, and the raw power comes from your CPU and computer - - how does having $10,000 worth of sound cards and keyboards honestly improve the sound QUALITY that your Intel CPU can spit out onto a wave file? I have a hard time reading the rest of the article when this idea of 5-digit hardware that doesn't directly effect a sample library is somehow a NEED to write better music. By that logic, I would be required to have a MIDI keyboard, when in fact I do not use one - so how would a$30 Casio keyboard with MIDI out be any different for me than a $5,000 Korg keyboard? It wouldn't - because I don't even use MIDI. #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites It's more a matter of how much content can your sound card handle. Cheaper sound cards are usually only made to stream a few things at once and not usually used to render out multiple audio tracks (or sources) into one master track. You can start to get audio pops, clicks and drop outs with less powerful audio cards. The better the sound card, the more... "buffer" you have when bouncing four audio tracks and three VST tracks down into one master. The really high end cards have chips on the sound cards and plugins that can utilize those chips to do all DSP instead of your CPU which helps keep everything running nice and smooth. Also higher end sound cards usually have higher sampling rates to offer. #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites To be fair I think almost all mixing during playback is done on the CPU these days and the sound card just gets the 2 stereo channels at the end of the process. One thing to watch out for on cheaper cards however is that they may only run at one bit depth and sample rate and the resampling that takes place can introduce audible artefacts - this is only a problem for you as the listener however and won't damage the music as such. The main benefit from the more expensive cards comes from the audio recording facilities, eg. better drivers (usually with ASIO support), better signal to noise ratio on the inputs, more inputs and in different varieties, higher range of sample rates and bit depths supported, reduced latency between input and output, etc. #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites If you spend$400-or-so on a firewire interface, you can have decent AD / DA converters, XLR or line outs for proper monitor speakers, an acceptable master clock, a set of mic preamps, phantom power, line level inputs and a proper digital routing matrix, and probably a headphone amp, all in one. If you're serious about music, you do need those things, and for the money you can get it for today, I wouldn't complain.

Yes, a SBLive card will handle a basic cubase project, but if you want to mix on proper speakers (essential), if you want to record real instruments (way more fun) and assuming you want to hear what's really going on with your sounds and mixes without jitter, aliasing and eventual dropouts (rhetorical), then you need a better sound-card.

Plus, if you think that $500 is a lot to spend, go to your nearest music studio and ask how much the console in their main control room cost. Or the main monitors. Or their best microphone. Or their Pro Tools rig... :-) #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites I actually wrote to the original thread author regarding that comment. My opinion is that very(!) little is down to what sound card you have providing that you are using software-only approach. I have a Creamware Pulsar II DSP card that I once paid over £1200 for and that is collecting dust in my drawer now, partially because it is outdated but mainly because I don't need it anymore. I'm using the onboard motherboard soundcard now in Windows 7 (the pulsar II has no drivers) and I use the ASIO4ALL drivers with it in Cubase 5 x64. It works really well and my computer is doing all the mixing totally (lossless of course) internally so the sound card has no effect at all here. If you use external hardware still you'll need a sound card with multiple inputs - but it feels like an ancient approach nowadays :) #### Share this post ##### Link to post ##### Share on other sites Quote:  Original post by facher83I'm just curious... but how does a$500 sound card going to improve the quality of a Cubase project than the next $50 sound card. in no way Quote:  Original post by facher83How might the$500 sound card improve the midi signal from your $5,000 keyboard when the same data signal can come from a$100 keyboard on a $50 sound card? in no way, but try to record MIDI from$100 keyboard on a $50 sound card and then from$5000 keyboard on a $500 sound card and you will see... or hear :) Cheaper keyboards feel bad to play and in combination with cheap soundcard you will usually get quite big latency from your keyboard to your speakers caused by keyboard and soundcard. Quote:  Original post by facher83I'm really lost with this... if your sample libraries are on the hard drive, the DSP occurs from your DAW/Sequencer, and the raw power comes from your CPU and computer - - how does having$10,000 worth of sound cards and keyboards honestly improve the sound QUALITY that your Intel CPU can spit out onto a wave file?

How? simply ask what does sample libraries (which you can compare with $10,000 keyboards) cost... good sample libraries aren't usually for free. There is another point you should think about. Many samplers, synthesizers or romplers or anyhow you name keyboard instruments use much smaller sample libraries with better results than a software instruments used with computer. It is because of very efficient memory usage, patented and somehow original DSP and because everything in these instruments is optimalized for making sound and music. Instruments can do nothing but a music. Computers are universal machines, that can "do anything". Try to think about "$5,000 Korg" as a sword and computer as a Swiss-knife.

Quote:
 Original post by facher83I have a hard time reading the rest of the article when this idea of 5-digit hardware that doesn't directly effect a sample library is somehow a NEED to write better music.

I agree with you here, of course you can write good music with any instrument, sample library, sequencer or whatever.

Quote:
 Original post by facher83By that logic, I would be required to have a MIDI keyboard, when in fact I do not use one - so how would a $30 Casio keyboard with MIDI out be any different for me than a$5,000 Korg keyboard? It wouldn't - because I don't even use MIDI.

Actually, you do use MIDI, although you don't realize it. If you really write music, you have to use notation or piano-roll or any other sequencer window to insert notes. :) If you didn't ever play the keyboard and you don't need it to write music, than you are right - there's no difference between any keyboards for you. But many musicians like to make music by recording their ideas when they play "real" instruments. If anybody plays keyboard, he knows what are differences between $30 Casio keyboard and$5,000 Korg keyboard.

Quote:
 Original post by ImphenziaIf you use external hardware still you'll need a sound card with multiple inputs - but it feels like an ancient approach nowadays :)

Well, are singers, guitarists, trumpetists, piano players, harpers and others an "ancient approach" too? Possibly not... :D

At last, sorry for my poor english, I do what I am able to.

[Edited by - lesny_troll on March 30, 2010 4:39:07 PM]

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I have been using my built in to motherboard soundcard ever since I seriously started to get into music production, no problems at all. I've been told a few times that a good soundcard is needed but what, how come I get crystal clear sound, acceptable output latency and no scratchups.

If you're only gonna connect one midi interface to the PC, I don't think a high end sound card is required. My Axiom 49 passes flawlessly, really. But no, I don't have a studio neither live in a home studio. Tis all I need.

I dunno about making things sound better. Instruments with diverse frequency, matching rythm, get the pitch correct on percussion, finalizing with some good mastering. Take your time. That's about it what I manage to do.

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oh,thank you for your method.

i will try it later.

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Having a good A to D is really not important if you are just dealing with MIDI triggered samples. Having a good Digital to Analog converter is. It will increase your chances of hearing what needs to happen in mixdown and mastering. Its hard to make EQ decisions based on a stock sound card's converters, not to mention the output driving your speakers is far inferior to even a \$150 USB Audio Interface. This is not to say you cannot make excellent recordings on a stock soundcard, you can, it will just take more time to make the right decisions.

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Imho the sound card is not that important. OK, you need one with low latency if you want to record something, but thanks to ASIO4all this is often not a problem. It's way more important to gain knowledge and experience. If i took a good music producer and gave my notebook (with onboard sound and some sequencer on) to him I am quite sure that what he could produce using this equipment would sound *way* better than anything I could produce, even on a big ProTools system.

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Quote:
 Imho the sound card is not that important.

In my experience it really depends on how you're using the sound card and your plug-ins (how many instances at one time/what type(s) of plugins used, etc).

In my experience the higher end sound cards usually have better sounding bundled plug-ins (although I don't always use them) and most often I use an external sound device that has nice preamps which you don't get with strictly an internal sound card.

If sound cards didn't matter, then why would so many companies offer so many tiers of both hardware and software? Can you get great audio out of a cheapo sound card? Maybe but it might take more work (or work-a-rounds) than if you had a more capable card.

That's my take anyway. :)

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