Pros: Cheap,simple,neutral sound & low distortion,RCA
Cons: Vintage-old,no headphone output
Audiophile 2496 is the basic card of M-Audio's Delta soundcard series.M-Audio(part of AVID) is mainly pro-audio targeted company supplying musical instruments,software and studio equipment,as well as PC-based consumer-suitable audio interfaces.This way,the Audiophile 2496 is first meant to live in small/home recording studios,and second in Mr. Audiophile's PC.
The soundcard is equipped with 4 solid gold-plated RCAs - 2 for input and 2 for output.The DAC and ADC are combined into the AK4528 CODEC.There's 1 NE5532 opamp on the output and 3 NE5532 in instrumental configuration on the input.A 7805 regulator feeds the digital ICs.A VIA ENVY24 chip controls all that stuff.This basically describes the card,as it's board is simple and clean,not too much to look at.
2 channels for recording and 2 channels for playback-can't get any simpler.Audiophile 2496 also provides S/PDIF I/O and MIDI I/O.It is compatible with almost any music production software,including M-Audio's ProTools.There's no microphone input or headphone output.DirectX is supported,but there's no support for gaming sound features like EAX.Games sound fine though.
M-Audio never tried to play it sly,and the specs on the box are honest.The 1kHz spectrum is completely clean.Pro is pro.
The card sound,above all-neutral.There's nothing bassy,or trebly,or "warm",or "cold",nor anything that you can actually associate with a funny adjective.Bad tracks sound bad,good tracks sound great.Not surprising since it's made for the studio,where accurate monitoring is desired.Some may find it boring,or veiled though,but personally I'm fine in Neutraland.
Now,this card is old.Very old.10 years are an era in computer hardware.Soon it may be ready for the museum.It looks like a miracle,but it's still in production and the last driver was updated one month ago.I think it's time for M-audio to update the hardware.
Still,for 80$ you get a rock-stable interface with great performance and all-the-needs for you,home PC musician.Or beginner audiophile?The card is prepared for the both.