The Ion and I

Some months back I parted with my Teac GF-350, a respectable middle-fi shelf system with a turntable and a real live CD recorder. It did a decent, if not show quality, job, and when I mentioned I wasn’t getting a whole lot of use out of it, a friend offered to take it off my hands.

Of course, I still had my trusty Onkyo turntable, and if I had to rip vinyl, I could always connect it through a preamp to the PC’s sound card. Or so I thought:

[I]f I could find the line input of this box’s integrated audio, I would. (Actually, I know where it is, but I’m lacking in AC outlets on that side of the room, and I am loath to go buy a 20-socket power strip.)

And the integrated audio in question, Realtek’s High Definition chipset, while it didn’t sound too bad, had a severe deficiency for anyone wishing to do this sort of thing: you can’t record something while it’s actually playing. I’m an old hand at Audacity, but there wasn’t any way I could persuade this damnable audio section to talk to it.

To complicate matters further, one of Ion’s USB turntables showed up on my doorstep this week (thank you, O generous one), and while Windows duly swapped the sound drivers upon detecting the device, the motherboard — I remember saying something similar to that — refused to feed the recording software.

So after a few moments of unfiltered Anglo-Saxon, I pried open my old Win98SE box, demounted the Sound Blaster Live! card, a pretty decent card for its day but now just this side of antique, and moved it to my current desktop. Horrid squeals emerged from the speakers; Creative, to their credit, had some actual XP drivers for this old card, and there was no further noise. I plugged the Ion back in and procured a test 45: “Dynomite” by Tony Camillo’s Bazuka, one of those proto-disco numbers I am no longer denying I enjoyed. No actual sound from the speakers, but I wasn’t wanting any: I wanted to record the track on Audacity. Success. And the Ion did distinctly better than the Teac; I needed to run only one simple noise-reduction pass, followed by a slight tweak of the bass around 60 Hz, before pronouncing myself pleased with the results.

Moral, if moral there be: Don’t buy integrated audio if you have any interest in playing with sounds. And while the old Live! card is sufficient for now, I’m contemplating buying one of the newer X-Fi cards.


  1. Rob O'Hara »

    26 December 2008 · 2:51 pm

    I got a great deal on a Darla Echo soundcard a few years back and it’s awesome. Best part about it are the RCA inputs — they sound great compared to the 1/8″ jacks on most soundcards. I have a small switchbox inline running to it with 3 different inputs plugged into that; a cassette player, an ION turntable (I agree; the thing’s great), and a small mixing board (which itself has microphones plugged in — great for podcasting).

  2. Captioned »

    28 December 2008 · 10:46 am

    Make certain that your new soundcard is ASIO-compliant..

    –Leaking from experience..

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