Hands-On Review:Stunning audio, right from your desktop!
by E.A. Tennaway
Modern PCs are complex but very generalized devices. They're dandy for surfing the Web, doing some word processing, sending email, running a spreadsheet, or editing and storing pictures from Junior's last birthday. Try doing some serious sound work with the average consumer-configured computer and you'll quickly discover its limitations. But with the right enhancements, your PC can become the core of a home or project studio capable of producing pro-quality recordings.
That's where Terratec comes in. The company manufactures a wide range of tools, all based on its renowned EWS technology that takes the pressure off your CPU and gives you the connectivity you need.
EWX24/96: a do-all card
Once, the 16-bit/44.1kHz CD standard was revolutionary, especially since you could harness that resolution with computer-based hardware and applications. Now that seems old hat. The 24-bit/96kHz standard has become the de facto standard in today's PC-based recording, mixing, and editing. If you've been lusting after the musicality and flexibility this standard offers, the EWX24/96 with its pristine audio and low-latency will quench that desire.
TerraTec employs the same sterling 24-bit/96kHz A/D and D/A converters used in their top-end gear for the heavy sonic lifting. These babies give you a dynamic range of 100dB input and a whopping 110dB output. 32-bit processing keeps the signal path pristine. With four analog I/Os plus optical I/O and the ability to simultaneously record and playback all four channels, a few minutes spent installing the card results in a quantum leap in your DAW capabilities.
TerraTec supports any software that uses ASIO 2.0, GigaSampler, or DirectSound drivers. They toss in a formidable bundle of software: GigaSampler LE; Arturia Storm with its host of synths, drum machines, and effects; and WaveLab MP3 editor/converter.
The card is a half-sized PCI board with a gold back plate and all the connections you'll need. That includes stereo RCA and S/PDIF I/O connectors which you hook up with the supplied cables. A second vacant slot is needed for a small adapter plate that plugs into the card and provides connectivity for your MIDI keyboards and devices.
Speaking of which, I was knocked out by the EWX24/96's nearly imperceptible latency. With a bit of audio panel tweaking, I had the latency down to 2ms'about as good as that spec gets. By the way, the manual, written in a clear, informal style, proved invaluable in making those tweaks. I was able to grasp some of the more complex aspects of card set-up the and mixer/control panel use without any problem.
If your computer's got the processing horsepower (see sidebar), you won't find a better hard disk-based solution at th EWX24/96's modest price point.
What's that? You say you need more channels? But you don't have a lot of bucks to spend? The EWS88D is your answer. It offers ten digital audio channels plus eight channels of ADAT for those still figuring out how to get their tape-based stuff into their PC, as well as S/PDIF, two independent MIDI ports, and a S/PIDF interface with coaxial connections. Routing or mixing from your ADAT is a cinch and the card can double as a converter or down-mixer. There's also a separate stereo monitor out, a very handy feature in a digital card.
As with the EWX, installation of the card and drivers was straightforward. TerraTec doesn't lard their installer with a bunch of stuff you don't want to install. Given enough available slots you can readily cascade the EWS88D with its sibling EWS88MT card for a veritable wall of I/O on the back of your PC.
TerraTec includes all the drivers required for almost every audio application that runs under Windows 95/96 and Windows NT. And what drivers they are! Transmitting 24-bit audio data in a 32-bit stream, the EWS88D's wide bus takes the pressure off your CPU. The highly configurable control panel software lets you easily route different signal sources with synchronization. You also get some great bundled software such as Emagic's Logic 4.1 plus the popular Samplitude Project editor software in a specially-adapted version optimized for the TerraTec card.
EWS88 MT: multitracking bliss
If you're not already impressed by TerraTec's complement of cards, get ready to be wowed by this full-blown professional hard-disk recording solution. It's housed in a tidy 5-1/4" breakout box that you can install in a vacant drive bay or externally. At a price south of four hundred bucks, you get a lot of connectivity and refinement. Eight high-quality analog input and output converters handle 24-bit/96kHz signals. The card itself features S/PDIF connections plus an independent SystemSound monitor output for reproduction of system sounds or software synths that leave your recording application free to do its primary job. You can readily cascade it with up to three other EWS cards.
An internal connection ensures sample-exact syncing of all the cards. That's in addition to word clock synchronization using Terratec's EWS WordClock module. And like the EWS cards, the MT comes with a hefty bundle of applications and drivers that run under various flavors of Windows. You get drivers that support Steinberg's ASIO 2.0 technology, Microsoft's DirectSound, MME, and Nemesys GigaSampler.
Features & Specs
|EWS88 MT||Recommended Systems|