I want to buy an external sound card, and I have two choices (because others are crazy expensive here)

1) Line6 POD Studio GX

2) M-Audio M-Track

I want to be able to connect my guitar and midi keyboard, record, and be able to play live, but I'm not sure what features I should compare.

Should I look at latency, operating system compatibility, etc?

Or which values should I look at in the specs?

  • Do you need to use a sound card for playing live? – Andy aka Sep 10 '13 at 11:39
  • Well, maybe not in a concert, but in studio, exercising with a band (if I'll ever join one again :) ). Is it a bad idea ? I already have a line 6 pod2.0, but it is broken. I cannot save tones, and sound goes on and off. Somebody ripped me off, so I want to have a single solution for live and recording. – Cengiz Frostclaw Sep 10 '13 at 11:43

If your looking for a peice of h/w that will operate efficiantly, go with one that has history in the driver department. In this case, M-Audio. Line 6 has been at the front of dsp for amps and pedals but m-audio has a pretty decent track record with A/D converters. Alway go to the products webpage and check to see how easy it is to get support and download drivers, as this may be what makes your experince easy with trouble shooting the product.

  • Thanks for your answer. You are so right. I am, too, in favor of M-Audio, but really don't know about the technical aspects, and being afraid of regretting my choice. But both of them should have un-noticeable latency, right? – Cengiz Frostclaw Sep 10 '13 at 13:47
  • Your probably gonna be better of with the m-audio drivers, but the latency is going to boil down to you overall setup. 12-15ms is reasonably to me. – blkhdy Sep 10 '13 at 20:49

Since your situation is guitar/MIDI keyboard and with a smaller budget, you can either:

  1. Go with the Line6 because it comes with guitar amp software and is very simple to use. Amp simulators and very basic input/controls. That's pretty much the only benefit I see. But if you have an amp for your guitar and pretty much want to stick with it (would invest in a mic at this point or use the amp's line-out to record the amp sound), then disregard this and,
  2. Buy the M-Track because it comes with two microphone and guitar/instrument inputs, MIDI In/Out, and has hardware inserts(so you can insert a hardware EQ, gate, or compressor if you happen to have/get one.

The M-Track also has a lot more control, like a separate headphone volume control, mono/stereo switch, input monitor control (for latency-free input monitoring), and another separate knob for the main output volume.

Simply put, you can record your guitar direct into the interface at the same time you record your amp output for 2 different sources, have a MIDI keyboard hooked up & ready, and be able to lower the speaker volume so that you can record quietly using headphones!

To answer your original question, make sure your interface at least has:

  • 24-bit recording for more headroom/volume resolution, and 44.1kHz sample rate for CD-quality clarity (higher for DVD, etc.)
  • Preferably a way for zero-latency monitoring so you don't record off-beat & distract yourself.
  • Combo XLR/TRS jacks preferably like these: [http://www.neutrik.com/en/xlr/combo-i-series/]Neutrik Combo Jack1 but if not, then balanced XLR & 1/4" input jacks and use balanced cables to reduce noise.
  • MIDI In/Out.
  • Headphone jack w/separate control
  • BALANCED outputs so that you don't get anymore hum going to your speakers.

Another good thing to do is look at reviews to see how long the interface usually lasts, what problems you might come across, and how tough the build of it is (if you do recording on-the-go so it doesn't break easily).

In fact, I use the Presonus AudioBox and it's great. No issues on my end.


You shouldn't have any significant problems with either as long as your expectations are in line with the price. Line6 and M-Audio both make good gear. M-Audio has more experience in the audio interface category, but Line6 has been doing digital pedals for a while now. The main difference is that M-Audio has more experience with drivers and the software side of things, which probably give them an advantage, but either should do fine.

Neither is a high end rig, but unless you are really looking to get in to the studio space, either of them should do fine for starting out and getting your hands dirty with basic to intermediate recording.

  • Thanks, AJ ! And what do you think about live performance? Can I use the trio of [guitar , sound card , pc] to play my guitar somewhere ? – Cengiz Frostclaw Sep 10 '13 at 16:33
  • @CengizFrostclaw - not sure what you mean by using it for live performance. Both devices are designed for use as a home studio kind of setup. Are you hoping to record a live performance or to have it actually inject sounds in to your performance? It should be able to handle recording from a live performance, though a purpose built multi-track recorder would be easier for that front. The Zoom H4n (I own one of these) for example is a fairly cheap and easy to use multi-track recorder that can record two inputs and you don't need to toe a computer around with you. – AJ Henderson Sep 10 '13 at 16:39
  • I meant like playing in a concert. Can I connect my guitar to the m-audio, and the m-audio to the output mixer/monitor? Or guitar -> m-audio -> pc -> output ? The reason is, I want to be able to use my tones outside my home :) So, can I connect the pc to the output and choose whatever tone I saved? or even better, can I save tones in the sound card ? – Cengiz Frostclaw Sep 10 '13 at 20:09
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    @CengizFrostclaw - you might be able to, but you may end up with latency issues depending on how many DSP effects you try to apply if you don't have realtime DSP hardware. You also then have to worry about production related reliability. Software crashes and such could cause you problems. What you really want is a DSP processor that can take your programing or on the cheaper side, want something like a Line6 multi-effects peddle. – AJ Henderson Sep 10 '13 at 20:22

Check the OS specifications and the connections.

If the device isn't specified for your OS, you may not be able to make it work - period.

If the device uses firewire or USB 3.0 and you don't have those connections, you may need to buy additional hardware or be out of luck. If you buy additional hardware, make sure that also matches your OS.

It helps to know what OS you're using, and what DAW you are using as well. Usually you want to make sure the interface and DAW both support the same technologies - like AISO... but most semi-pro and pro do now-a-days.

  • Well, my only constraint is Windows 7. But it will be good if it works under ubuntu too. Anyways, if the hardware is compatible with Windows7 , I can find a DAW that suits both windows 7 and m-audio right ? – Cengiz Frostclaw Sep 12 '13 at 14:46
  • Yeah, you're most likely good. Pre-Windows 7 I paid $500 for an interface, switched to Win 7, and the manufacturer refused to release a driver - so I had to buy another interface. Also, there are still interfaces around that are Mac only or PC only, but not many. The comment about which DAW you're using was specifically about using the interface with Linux. I haven't had much luck with that myself, so if you want to do that it might be worth the time to check into it before laying down the cash. – Don Nickel Sep 12 '13 at 14:52
  • Most interfaces you buy at music stores support Windows 7 and AISO, most DAWs for Windows support AISO, so you're most likely good to go there. – Don Nickel Sep 12 '13 at 14:53
  • Thanks for your help, Don ! I will probably not need Linux badly, but I want to learn, does AISO work in linux ? – Cengiz Frostclaw Sep 12 '13 at 15:16
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    In Windows it'll almost always give you lower latency than using the Windows driver. Remember you'll probably need to go into the settings of your DAW and drop the latency setting. If you push it too low you'll start getting a crackeling sound on playback... if that happens, just bump it up a little bit. – Don Nickel Sep 13 '13 at 11:51

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