Hardware suggestions

I’m looking to re-purpose my existing desktop and switch to a laptop. The only thing that’s holding me up is recording music. I currently use a crappy Sound Blaster Audigy 2 (the one w/ an input panel) and it’s works really well for what I need. The Intel HDA sound on my laptop is incredibly weak and won’t suffice.

Is there something I can purchase for $100-200 that will get the job done. I only need to record single tracks at a time, mostly quarter inch & SPDIF. (guitar & bass). I’ve been using Fedora as my distro w/ Hydrogen for drums w/ jack as the server. Is what I’m wanting to accomplish even possible? I have some recording that go up to 30/40 tracks during playback.

Thanks in advance for any and all feedback.


I use a Lexicon Alpha on my laptop, and it works very well indeed. I was suspicious of it because of its extremely low price tag, but it has never disappointed me yet.


(This is just one vendor – it is widely available. I think I got mine from Zzounds.com or maybe MusiciansFriend.com.)

There may be better equipment in your price range, but this is the only interface in that range that I have actual experience with.


Thanks DonF.

What I don’t understand about these interfaces is do they “process” the audio playback? If so, do they have the horsepower to playback that many tracks. Frankly the internal sound card on my laptop can’t even handle playing a beat w/ Hydrogen.

I hope this makes sense.


If your laptop can’t playback a Hydrogen track you must have something wrong with your setup.

That said, a sound card doesn’t “process” the sound, and it doesn’t playback all your 30+ tracks either - it just plays the stereo track from Ardour’s master out.
It’s the CPU that does all the work, combining all the tracks and running the plugins (reverbs and such). So what you might have to do with a weak CPU is to put the plugins on a bus and run the tracks through that.

The only practical limitation if you’re using an USB1 soundcard is that it won’t be able to record very many tracks at once, since the protocol it limited in bandwidth.

A FireWire soundcard on the other hand (assuming it’s supported by FFADO) should be able to record as many tracks as you like.


Thank you for the clarification on how this stuff works; it’s a big help.

I’ll see if I can get rid of pulseaudio, and try jack/hydrogen tonight.


Removing Pulseaudio is a good idea. It does a great job of getting sound from a web browser to your sound card, and the like, but I don’t think it was ever intended for production programs like Hydrogen and Ardour.