Hey folks...first post here.
I am a classical violinist. I record my audio tracks (mostly acoustic violin & piano) to a Yamaha AW16G HDD recorder. I'm very happy with it (and yes...I know it's only 44.1khz 16 bit -- that's OK!).
I'm trying to set up a VSTi based system to lay down some backup tracks for some original compositions I'm writing. I use Yamaha's SQ01 sequencer, which supports VSTi software synths. I want to be able to sequence and play back up to maybe 16 MIDI tracks, all through VSTi soft-synths. Then I will either:
A) Record the audio output of each of these VSTi synths (through my sound card) separately to my AW16G
B) Mixdown (in SQ01) each track separately to a WAV file and then import the tracks into the AW16G via its built-in CD-RW drive.
My problem is that the soft-synths are rather latent & frequently pop, crackle or stutter when I'm playing live (via my MIDI keyboard/controller) and on playback of sequenced MIDI tracks. I know that a better sound card will fix the latency issue. But I need to know if that will also fix the pops, crackles and stutters.
If I understand the system correctly, the CPU, HDD, RAM, OS and other computer specs are more important to the clean sound production of a VSTi instrument than the sound card itself. I understand that the sound card is responsible for the sound OUTPUT, and that the better the sound card, the less the CPU has to work...thus, the more power is available to process the VSTi instruments. This seems to affect the compositional process (where I need to hear all the sequenced tracks at once) more than the final mixdown quality. Obviously, if I plan to record the sound output of my sound card onto the AW16G, then I need a better card for sure.
However, if I plan to mixdown each track independently to a WAV file for transfer to the AW16G via CD-R, then the processing power of my sound card is or is not as important? Keep in mind that I NEVER wish to record acoustic (i.e. from mics) AUDIO to my PC at this point. I only want to get a clean VSTi sound. I'm willing to mixdown each track separately; and I can live with some pops while I'm composing. I'm not sure to what degree the sound card is involved in a software VSTi mixdown to WAV. If the mixdowns in SQ01 are likely to crackle unless I do some major PC upgrades (in addition to the audio card), I would like to find out now.
If I need a card, I'm considering the Audiophile 2496 or one of the Delta series from M-Audio (due to my Windows OS requirements...see below). Note that the AW16G DOES have SPDIF optical inputs, so that provides a low-noise signal path if I end up recording from PC to AW16G.
CURRENT SYSTEM SPECS
AMD Athlon XP 2600
512MB DDR RAM
120GB Western Digital 7200RPM EIDE HDD
(Note: I CAN'T STAND XP, and don't want to deal with an OS upgrade to Win2000 right now.)
Sound Blaster USB (*NOT* Live!)
Yamaha SQ01 VSTi capable sequencer
Yamaha DGX-200 keyboard (my MIDI cntrlr)
M-Audio Uno (MIDI interface for kybd)