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PC Recording.com - M-Audio (Midiman) Audiophile 2496 Review

Manufacturer: M-Audio
Product: Audio Card, 4in/4out
Price: $229.95
System Requirements:

PC

  • Windows 95, 98, ME, 2000 or NT4
  • Pentium II 266MHz - (96kHz operation)
  • >
  • Pentium 200 MMX - (48kHz or less)
  • 128 MB of PC100 RAM - (96kHz operation)
  • 64 MB of SDRAM - (48kHz or less)
  • UDMA EIDE or SCSI HDD
MAC
  • G4, G3 or G3 accelerator
  • System 8.5.1 or above
  • 128 MB RAM for 96kHz operation
  • 96 MB RAM for 48kHz operation

I received the AudioPhile 2496 anticipating that I would receive a capable soundcard with good driver support. I was not disappointed. This card is designed to target the burgeoning market of computer based theater and home recording applications. These include:

  • 24-bit 96 kHz multitrack recording
  • MIDI recording and playback
  • Digital transfers; Digital mastering
  • LP/cassette-to-CD transfers
  • Computer-based Home Theater systems
  • Computer-based Hi-Fi systems

Tech Specifications

  • Dynamic Range: D/A 104.0dB (a-weighted), A/D 100.4dB (a-weighted)
  • THD: less than 0.002%
  • Freq. Response: 22Hz - 22kHz, -0.4,-0.4dB
Manual:

M Audio provides a small but thorough manual with the card. The manual is well-written and explains necessary aspects of digital recording, installation and troubleshooting. It could be a valuable resource for answering questions regarding the soundcard and its use.

Installation:

The Audiophile comes with a soundcard, connector cables with two In/two Out RCA audio connectors, 2/2 S/PDIF connectors and Midi In/Out connectors, a driver and floppy driver set, and the manual. This cable set plugs into the soundcard on the back of the computer. (Please see the graphic above). Installation is straightforward, plugging the soundcard into a PCI slot, hooking up the cable adapter and booting the computer. Before the install I downloaded the latest drivers from the M Audio site and put them on a floppy as directed. Windows 98SE found the soundcard and I loaded the drivers. Unfortunately, the new drivers did not work well in my system, freezing on reboot. I uninstalled the drivers and installed the drivers that came on the floppy directly to my C: drive. I then rebooted and instructed Windows to search the C: drive for drivers. It found them and warned me that they were older than the ones currently on the system. I instructed Windows to replace the newer drivers and was successful in getting the card installed. Since then, I have had no troubles whatsoever with the driver installation. The system is stable and capable.

The soundcard was recognized in every multi-track software system I tested with it, including, Cubase VST 32, Samplitude 2496, SAWPro 32, and Quartz Audio Pro. The driver support is superior.

Software Interface

One consistent feature of M Audio/Midiman products is that they all have robust software support of their hardware products. Similar to the Delta 66 interface I previously reviewed, this one provides great flexibility in routing and monitoring of the audio signals. There is a bit of a learning curve initially that proves well worth it once you understand it.

 

 

 

 

The mixer panel features slider controls for each audio I/O, S/PDIF I/O and a master mixer level.

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

The patchbay/router controls the routing of the audio signals and allows for use of more than one device, for instance, a software synthesizer simultaneously with your recorded tracks.


 

 

 

 

 

Hardware settings, sample rates, and ASIO/EASI buffer settings are controlled in the hardware settings window.
 

S/PDIF settings are controlled in its own window to round out the software package. All in all, the software makes for great flexibility in using the system, providing a high level of control over the system to the user.

Sound quality

While I did not expect this soundcard to rival the sound quality of more expensive systems I have reviewed, I was still quite surprised and pleased with its sound quality. The system uses the same converters as the Delta 66 I have reviewed previously and sounds nearly as good. The card is quiet, sounds uniformly good throughout the audio range from very highs to very lows. I used the card to record some vocals and acoustic guitar on a project I am working on and was quite pleased with its ease of use and quality. Using the software, I was able to route my signals as desired and exercise control over them from there.

The only true audio diffence between this card and the Delta 66 rests in the use of unbalanced RCA cables. In part because of its intended application as a Hi-Fi/Home Theater setup, and as a cost concession I am sure, M Audio chose to use unbalanced RCA cabling for connectivity. Typically, balanced cables will provide greater sound insulation and resistance to RFI interference than unbalanced cables. Would this be noticeable in the typical home setup? Definitely not. However, it remains true that a balanced connector will ultimately provide better sound quality, though the differences may not be easily discernible. I would strongly suggest to the user that they use high-quality RCA cabling to minimize any potential interference - - this will definitely ensure getting the high-fidelity this card is capable of.

Useability

I used all the connectors, (Midi, S/PDIF, and audio), in my project successfully. My only complaint is that the connections are all at the back of the computer and can be rather difficult to access if you need to change the cabling for any reason. However, the option of having MIDI connectivity makes this a well-rounded soundcard. Even the Delta 66 did not have MIDI connections. Synchronization of the clock can be set to either the soundcard or to another S/PDIF source. The card is multi-client capable, meaning the user can allow more than one application to access the soundcard simultaneously. All in all, the card is capable of answering most recording needs in a small home studio. The user could use a sequencer to play a MIDI track, play a software synthesizer and record audio simulataneously, while monitoring all the tracks through some monitor speakers. This is truly a useable and capable card.

Conclusions

M Audio has typically provided strong and timely driver support and I did not need to contact them regarding any technical issues about this card. It worked well, with the included drivers, out of the gate.

This is a good sounding card that will work well for the home/enthusiast studio. It is ideal for making high-quality demo recordings, and when combined with other high-quality gear will provide professional results on more ambitious projects. At its price point, the card is rather remarkable in what it provides to the user and what it is capable of.