USB Soundcard vs Digital Recorder

I’m looking at getting some sort of recording device that will be compatible with my Linux box and Ardour. I’m currently using a laptop so I thought a USB audio interface might be the way to go. Given the limited number of affordable (I’m looking to spend around £400) pcie soundcards, I also thought a USB interface would be good in any future desktop I might buy.

However, looking around, I noticed that there are alos some 8/16/24 track digital recorders around - many of which claim to be compatible with using a DAW on a computer via USB. They also tend to have mixers built in and, in some cases, drum machines. Not that the latter matters too much since I really like hydrogen.

I’m now unsure of the best way forward - recorder or audio interface? Also, any recommendations would be appreciated.

Thanks in advance.

@phunnimonkey: first of all gather information about the compatibility of those digital recorders with Linux, i haven’t take a look at it recently but when i did, a year or so ago there was no compatibility from Boss or Zoom with ALSA, however there are a few USB 2.0 Interfaces that work with ALSA, and i say 2.0 since you are referring to 8-24 tracks, the only one i’ve worked with is the Scarlett 18i6, works pretty well however PCI is much more stable, i’ve been able to work with latency down to 11.6 ms in Jack with a few x-runs, only when using MIDI controller for Drum Composition, in any other case i go up to 46.4ms and relax since the interface has direct monitoring which is great, the down side is that there’s no mixer yet for it in Linux, i have to get into Windows to program the interface to mix whatever channels i want and set the pres to either Mic/Line or Instrument and then go back to Linux.

I’ve read of other people using other Scarlett series interfaces but this is the one i own, there are some other USB 2.0 interfaces that work in linux, check this out:

As for recorder or interface? i say it depends a lot on your work but i would strongly suggest checking out first the compatibility and then decide, theres no fun in getting a new hardware that makes your reconsider all your software.

Thanks for the reply. I don’t actually need more than 4 tracks, but most of the 4 track recorders seem to be budget end and lacking in features and quality. If anyone knows of one that doesn’t fit that then please let me know.

Also, presumably most audio interfaces would also require a seperate mixer - correct?

Well, having extensively googled, I haven’t been able to find a multi-track recorder that can be properly used as an audio interface in Linux anyway. A lot of them will allow you to mount their storage on Linux, which is something. But I was hoping for better integration.

A dedicated hardware digital recorder will always give you more reliable performance than a PC based DAW when recording. If you can mount the storage on linux (or use removable storage) then you have a convenient way to edit / mix the resulting session on linux (or any other OS / DAW) and any audio glitches will be less of an issue if they happen during playback / mixing than they would have been during recording. Even occasional glitches during mixing will not be an issue when it comes to export the mix because during the export all the processing is done offline.

…google for issues with your planned setup.
And check:
Recording on laptops is quite a minefield aparently.
I can only back that up, having a FW-soundcard that does not work with my laptop, i went for a rackmount PC…