RME Digi96/8 PAD computer soundcard Page 2

Other than my own stupidity, I found nothing to complain about in the RME's set of functions. Operation really is intuitive, and the unit worked in conjunction with all of my music-editing and -creation programs.

The A/D input worked marvelously. While I might have wished for more character in the recordings of my guitars, I have to admit that the threadbare tone recorded was, in fact, what I sound like. It's going to take a lot more than a digital soundcard to improve that.

Recently, I've been attempting to learn how to produce recorded music reviews à la National Public Radio, in which the reviewer describes and analyzes a recording, using musical examples under and around his or her commentary.

This is harder than it sounds. You've got to be prepared, but you can't write everything out in advance or it sounds as if you're reading. The goal is a conversational tone—just a guy talking about music he likes.

The technical part of the process, however, was easy as pie. I digitized my voice with the RME on one track while the software imported the two-channel musical data from my computer's drives on to other tracks, keeping it all synchronized correctly. How did they sound? Aside from the fact that no one can really judge how accurately his own voice has been recorded, it sounded great. The production values, at least, were pro quality.

As for creating music, the RME was about as glitch-free as it could possibly have been. I could play back WAV files from Acid Pro—or import my own performances to Acid or Sound Forge—without even having to think real hard. If the process were any more transparent to the user, it would be telekinetically operated. As it was, sometimes it seemed close to that.

And here, at least, I can positively state that the RME seemed to input (and output) sound that was a perfect clone of what I'd produced from the instrument. I'd certainly hate to do a blind test.

And yet, given all the processing power at our disposal in today's generation of digital home studios, operations that used to be extremely simple on analog tape remain vexingly out of reach. For instance, on my old open-reel, I could record a track at half speed to lay down a bass line on my guitar. It took a little practice and coordination, but if even I could do it, you know it was simple. To get bass on my current projects, it looks like I'll have to buy a cheap bass. And I used to be able to get some cool distortion effects by simply pressing my thumb against the tape reel while recording. Try that with a hard drive.

But such minor inconveniences seem a small price to pay for the immense flexibility and ease of use of the RME Digi96/8 PAD. For what really counts—accurate and easy recording and playback of your own music projects—it delivers the goods. It can even overcome user error—and without raising its voice. It's everything JA said it was, and now, with the addition of an A/D input, it's even more.

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