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PCI

By Kenny Bergle

PCI Recording is here!

Do you own or are you considering purchase of a PCI Bus computer? PCI bus architecture is bridging the gap and Macs and PCs are getting closer and closer to being the same computer platform. Are you wondering what your options are concerning hard-disk audio recording? You are not alone!

Already there is a product that supports both Mac and PC computers with PCI slots. Digidesign's AudioMedia III card is a single slot expansion card that records and plays back up to eight virtual tracks through the card's 2 analog inputs and outputs and 2 digital (S/PDIF) inputs and outputs, depending on the software used on Macs or PCs! The same card is sold for either computer! Am I dreaming? Unlike the old AudioMedia II card, the AudioMedia III card comes with no audio software. It does come with appropriate drivers software. Much of the popular audio recording software supports the AudioMedia III card, on both platforms.

AudioMedia III In the PC Corner

Cakewalk Proaudio, Cubase by Steinberg, Logic Audio by Emagic, and Session by Digidesign are a few of the PC software titles that supports AudioMedia III. As of this writing (10/15/96), Cakewalk ProAudio supported the card in half-duplex only - that is it will record or playback but not both at the same time (Cakewalk has announced a future upgrade to solve this). Cubase and Logic Audio are full-duplex and can record and playback at the same time. Cubase can record up to 8 virtual tracks on both the analog and digital inputs, making the AudioMedia III a 4-input card, while playing up to 8 virtual tracks on either the 2 analog or 2 digital outputs (but not 4 independent outputs at the same time). Logic Audio can record up to 8 virtual tracks using either the 2 analog or 2 digital inputs (not at the same time), and playback up to 8 virtual racks on either the 2 analog or 2 digital outputs, just like Cubase. Session by Digidesign also supports 8 virtual tracks at full-duplex.

AudioMediaIII In the Mac Corner

Cubase by Steinberg, Digital Performer by Mark of the Unicorn, Logic Audio by Emagic, ProTools by Digidesign, and StudioVision by Opcode all support the PCI-bus AudioMediaIII card. They all support the card in pretty much the same configuration- Full-duplex, 8 virtual tracks, 2 inputs and 2 outputs at a time (either analog or digital). Digital Performer also sends the same mix out both the analog and digital stereo pairs all the time.

These software titles all have their own claim to fame. Each does something unique the others do not do (or as easily!). Call your Sweetwater Sales Engineer to get the scoop on which is right for your needs.

ProTools PCI !!!

Are 2 ins and outs not quite enough for you? The Mac PCI platform offers several other more flexible options. The two that are now shipping in the PCI platform are Digidesign's ProTools Project and ProTools III.

ProTools Project PCI is an 8 input and 8 output package complete with hardware and software. ProTools Project ships with the ProTools software. It allows for a complete 8-track digital audio workstation, including recording, mixing, eq, and editing. The user can opt for either an 882io, which has balanced 1/4" connectors for analog ins and outs and a pair of S/PDIF digital ins and outs, or the 888io which has 8 balanced XLR connectors for analog ins and outs and 4 pairs of AES/EBU digital ins and outs. The 888io also has LED metering and calibration pots on the front panel. Ask your Sweetwater Sales Engineer for further differences and details in the two audio interfaces.

ProTools III PCI is an expandable system that can support up to 48 ins and outs and 64 virtual tracks. It also supports either the 882io or the 888io, or a combination of both. It includes ProTools software (a new Ver. 4 soon to be released), and the on-board DSP processing power of TDM. TDM allows for all kinds of real-time DSP, such as compression, EQ, 3-D spatialization, limiting, time-compression/expansion, pitch changing, reverb, multi-effects, and many more. Digidesign and a whole army of third party developers continue to put out world-class quality software that utilizes the TDM platform. Extra TDM power (in the form of additional DSP PCI cards) is highly recommended. Call your Sweetwater Sales Engineer to fully understand the power of TDM and ProTools III PCI and what it can do for your studio.

The Bottom Line

Always, there is a bottom line. In this case, it's pretty darn good! If you have been waiting to purchase a computer because the market seemed too confused and transitional, the wait is over. Sure, there will always be something faster and (arguably) better coming out. But if you continue to wait for the next best thing, then the "grass is always greener" syndrome will prevent you from getting your dreams, your music into a form other people can enjoy. If you run a commercial or semi-commercial facility, then waiting and watching your client's dollars go elsewhere is not an option.

An interesting thing has happened with the release of PCI hard-disk recording systems. Something that should happen with every new platform, but doesn't. The software and hardware are more stable!! Without exception, every PCI system we have put together (and that is quite a few already!!) has been much easier to debug and much more stable than older NuBus systems! As PCI architecture draws Macs and PCs closer together we can only hope that this trend for ease of use and stability continues. After all, I guess we've (all of us) been working on this for more than 10 years now, it's about time!!

Call Sweetwater and talk to your Sales Engineer about hard-disk recording. Every Sales Engineer at Sweetwater has extensive experience with hard-disk recording. We haven't even scratched the surface of advantages and options involving hard-disk recording. I just wanted to let you know that it is real and it works - right now!

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