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Author Topic: Terratec EWX24/96 (2001)  (Read 1516 times)

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Offline chrisNova777

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Terratec EWX24/96 (2001)
« on: January 19, 2015, 01:07:48 PM »

http://www.soundonsound.com/sos/apr01/articles/soundcard.asp

Quote
Terratec Audiosystem EWX24/96

At first sight, the Terratec card looks almost identical to the Audiophile, being exactly the same size, and having the same arrangement of four gold-flashed phono sockets on the backplate for its two unbalanced analogue inputs and outputs. Where the Audiophile has the connector for its breakout cable, however, the EWX 24/96 has a pair of Toslink optical connectors for S/PDIF in and out instead. On the circuit board itself is a 16-pin header socket, which connects to a supplied cable terminating in a dummy backplate and 15-way D-type connector. Into this you can either plug a standard MIDI soundcard adaptor cable, or a proprietary Terratec phono preamp to help transfer vinyl to CD, both of which are optional extras.

Also on the circuit board is a 2-pin digital input connector for CD-ROM audio at TTL level, and a similar connector providing an S/PDIF electrical digital output. In true Terratec fashion there are also several jumpers that can only be configured before the card is installed, but which aren't discussed properly in the printed manual until page 39. Jumper 1 sets the Digital Input Source from a choice of either the External optical input, or the Internal input (in TTL or S/PDIF electrical format). J2 sets the internal Digital Source Format, the options being CD–ROM audio at TTL level, or S/PDIF electrical.

So, while Terratec do provide great versatility in their digital input options, you can only have one of the three, and you must decide which before the card is inserted in its slot. Those using DAT or Minidisc recorders with optical outputs will probably opt for the External optical option, while owners of CD-ROM drives with a suitable digital audio output will go for the TTL Internal input. Anyone with a co–axial S/PDIF device would need the Internal S/PDIF option, although no adaptor lead is supplied with a suitable connector to reach the outside world. However, you do get a pair of stereo phono leads, and also a very welcome 2-metre long optical cable.

EWX Software

Like the Delta range, the EWX 24/96 uses the same drivers as a stablemate, in this case the EWS88MT/D. These drivers are currently available for Windows 95, 98, NT 4.0, ME, and 2000, although the Windows 2000 support is currently based on the NT4 driver model. The drivers support ASIO 2.0 and Nemesys' GSIF protocol, as well as MME and DirectSound. The supplied software bundle includes Gigasampler LE, Wavelab Lite, Arturia's Storm, Fruity Loops Express, and Emagic's MicroLogic Fun. There is currently no driver or software bundle option for Mac users.

The EWX 24/96 also has a Control Panel utility with a similar range of features to the Audiophile. The Master Clock has Internal and External options depending on whether or not you are using one of the digital inputs, along with a choice of sample rates from 8kHz to 96kHz for stand-alone use when applications aren't forcing the issue.

Terratec's software Mixer is permanently connected to the hardware analogue output, and lets you combine signals from the WavePlay driver output, Digital In, and Analog In for monitoring purposes. Each of the stereo pairs for the three mixer input signals has its own faders with 45dB range, while the fader 'slot' doubles as a pre-fader peak-reading meter with 48dB range. However, although the faders display their current gain setting in a text readout box, the meters have no calibration at all, only displaying their current value if you move the mouse over them. Those trying to minimise CPU overhead can right-click on any of the meters to disable them and replace them with a standard fader slot. Beneath are the Mute buttons, and if you drag any fader to its lowest -45dB position it activates a hardware 'gate' much like the Mute function. Each pair of signals also has a Stereo Link button.

The Analog Out section provides identical faders, Mute and Stereo Link buttons, but this time the meters are post-fader, while a pair of multi-coloured 'LEDs' above them warn of pre-fader output levels between -3dB and -1dB (yellow) and greater than -1dB (red). Beneath the faders are a pair of buttons that let you switch between -10dBV and +4dBu output levels.

One useful set of controls here, not found in the Audiophile, is a pair of faders to adjust Analog In Gain from the default 0dB setting in 0.5dB increments right up to +18dB. This can help match sensitivity to lower-level input signals, although if possible you should leave both faders at the lowest 0dB setting, since this will give lowest background noise. As on the Analog Out, there is a pair of warning LEDs, but sadly no meter, which would have been useful when recording. This time there is no Mute button, but there is a Stereo Link, along with a pair of buttons to switch between -10dBV and +4dBu input sensitivity. Once again, using the less sensitive +4dBu setting will give you slightly lower background noise levels.

The Digital Out has its own section in the Control Panel, with options to listen to either the mixer output already hardwired to the Analog Out, or the signal at the Digital Input socket, or the playback track routed to the WavePlay Digital driver. There are also three flag options for this output: you can set the Copy Protection bit, mark the digital stream as Original so that only one further digital transfer can be made, or set it to Non-Audio if you are trying to transfer other raw data formats such as Dolby AC3 or DVD Audio.

The ASIO button also launches a separate window where you can specify the buffer size, to determine your latency. The default setting is 1056 samples per buffer, giving a latency value of 24mS at 44.1kHz, but you can alter this between 240 and 2688 samples per buffer, depending on the speed of your computer. For some strange reason I got an error message saying "Hardware not enabled properly. Please quit this application" every time I launched this ASIO window. This behaviour was confirmed by the UK distributors, but the card itself carried on working perfectly as if nothing had happened

EWX In Use

Like the Audiophile, Terratec's EWX24/96 provides two driver playback and three recording options. Those for playback are EWX 24/96 WavePlay Analog and EWX 24/96 WavePlay Digital, while for recording you can choose EWX 24/96 WaveRec Analog, EWX 24/96 WaveRec Digital, and EWX 24/96 WaveRec Mixer. This time there are only three signals combined in the mixer — you don't get the option to add in the WavePlay Digital signal as you do with the Audiophile. You can record and play back simultaneously on both digital and analogue I/O for four-in/four-out capability.

Carrying out the same Wavelab test for RMS background noise gave more or less identical results to the Audiophile — figures of -93dB with 16-bit/44.1kHz recordings and -99dB for both 24-bit/44.1kHz and 24-bit/96kHz — demonstrating that there is really no practical difference between the two as far as A-D dynamic range is concerned. When using the ASIO drivers I managed to get as low as 336 samples per buffer before glitches appeared (again, exactly the same setting as for the Audiophile), giving me an excellent 8mS latency at 44.1kHz. When I connected the EWX 24/96 to my DAT recorder using Toslink optical cables, I once again managed to transfer a WAV file successfully there and back to confirm that bit-for-bit digital copying was available.

Overall, Terratec's EWX 24/96 is a very capable soundcard with very similar high audio quality to the Audiophile (see box), and a bargain price tag in the UK. However, I'm not happy with Terratec's packaging and web site information, which misleadingly suggests that both CD-ROM and Toslink inputs can be used together. Bundling Gigasampler LE has also misled some musicians into thinking that they can run this alongside a MIDI + Audio sequencer, which isn't the case — the current drivers can only run one or the other. Even in the FAQ on the installation CD–ROM it maintains that both applications can be run at the same time, but then states "the EWX 24/96 physical I/O can only be used by one software application at the same time, in this case Gigasampler." Strangely, GigaStudio 160 didn't recognise the EWX drivers as GSIF-compatible, although I got perfectly satisfactory performance when running it. Finally, I must mention that despite further misleading comments about 24-bit/96kHz ASIO support in the EWX manual, this isn't available from the bundled MicroLogic Fun package.

Final Thoughts

By now, those of you who have been requesting that we do head–to-head reviews must be wondering which of these two soundcards I'm going to recommend. Well, as usual, there is no outright winner, because each of these cards will suit a particular buyer best. Both offer excellent recorded sound quality that is largely indistinguishable, although the Audiophile does sound slightly noisier during playback (see box below for more details). Some musicians may find the EWX 24/96's variable input gain of up to +18dB invaluable for recording quiet sources, while others will prefer the more straightforward input signal path of the Audiophile, especially if they are using an external hardware mixer.

Those with optical digital sockets on their outboard gear will find the EWX more suitable, while the Audiophile seems a more obvious choice to those with phono digital I/O. It ought to be fairly easy to solder up a suitable cable and phono socket to the 2-pin connector on the EWX as well, but even with this addition you still have to choose between optical, co-axial, or CD-ROM using hardware jumpers before installing the card. This is a shame, since the EWX would win hands down if the digital input format were software-switched.

For musicians on a budget, price is obviously crucial, and in the UK the EWX is £30 cheaper at £149 (though you'll need an optional adaptor cable if you want to connect MIDI devices). However, many users will find this lower price counterbalanced by the differences in the bundled software. It's easy for established musicians with plenty of gear to be flippant about software bundles, but for someone starting out they can make a huge difference. For anyone without a suitable MIDI + Audio sequencer, M Audio's Delta Logic package with 24/96 support is a perfect starting point, whereas the MicroLogic Fun package of the EWX bundle doesn't offer either 24/96 support or audio plug-in effects. On the other hand, other musicians may be swayed by fact that the EWX bundle includes Gigasampler LE, though subject to the restrictions mentioned earlier.

« Last Edit: January 19, 2015, 03:14:04 PM by chrisNova777 »