I work in a sensory research lab and we wanted to set up 5 or more speakers and control them with one computer, probably running Matlab. Is there a ready hardware solution for controlling 5 or more channels with a single computer. The project requires to synchronize audio and visual stimuli in different locations at different times. The Audio doesn't need to be complex, but the speakers need to play the sounds separately, not necessarily concurrently. Thank you for reading!
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An easy solution would be to use a recording interface that has more than 5 outputs.
I own a M-Audio ProFire 2626 which has 8 analog inputs and 8 analog outputs that you can individually control and route any input to any output with the included software. There are also several other brands/models of interfaces with the same number of outputs that are a bit cheaper. You will need to shop around to find what fits your needs/budget.
To send pre-recorded material to the outputs you will need software like Audacity. You will simply need to import each audio file that needs to go to a separate speaker to a separate track. Then route each track to a different output channel.
The M-Audio Delta 1010LT PCI card has 8 unbalanced ("RCA jack") outputs and is confirmed to interface correctly with Matlab using Psychtoolbox. It's a lot cheaper than the ProFire 2626 (currently about $200 US).
Obviously, you'll need an amplifier that can deal with 5+ channels as well if you go this route.