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Emu 1820m impressions

post #1 of 67
Thread Starter 
Ok first off this is a computer soundcard + external box combo and it costs like $500. Maybe that'll save some people the bother of reading on.

The PCI card is used in 3 combos/packages.

1212M - PCI card + PCI bracket analog I/O
1820 - PCI card + external box for I/O has slightly not as good DAC/ADC convertors
1820M - Same setup as 1280 but with the same good convertors as in 1212M.

I chose 1820M because it has some good modding potential. The external box puts the convertors outside the computer which has less noise. There are different kinds of external boxes. Sometimes it's just an analog or digital extension and PCI card/bus powered. This is a separately powered unit. It hooks up via RJ45 which provides data and power which hooks up to the PCI card. There's a molex connector which gets power from the power supply instead of the PCI bus just for the external box. I plan on using a linear regulated power supply here.

I will just update this main post instead of adding piece by piece in later posts. It's still burning in so just some quick impressions for now.

Analog output
Not harsh. Not offensive. Pretty smooth. Better than my RME PST. Bass seems a little weak compared to my modded DI/O. The bass isn't weak at all using the headphone jack. There's something I feel "missing" compared to my DI/O. Could be a bad power thing for the emu. I'm a big believer in power conditioning so until that issue is resolved I won't make a real judgement on this. Oh yeah I'm use 1/4" TS -> RCA convertor as there are no output RCA jacks on this external box.

100 hours in, the sound has opened up a bit.

Headphone output
Pretty powerful. Controls my Sony V6's well. The bass is not overwhelming but layered nicely. I think it is better than the Audiophile USB I tried before and my Panasonic XR25 receiver. As with many cheap potentiometers, balance matching near 0 or low volume is difficult. It's probably better to reduce the volume in the control panel and turn up the potentiometer up.

100 hours in, it sounds less congested especially in the bass. The bass is nice and tight.

Digital output
I prefer the optical output on the back of the emu PCI card (there's one on the external box also) to my RME PST. I found that externally clocking my RME gave it a better sound. With the emu, doing the same is not clear yet if it's better or worst. I'm swaying toward the clock is better on the emu card as the sound is clearer in the high frequencies when trying both cards on my DI/O. I will retest the external box's optical output once I upgrade the power. Syncing was via SPDIF. I will try ADAT later.

It's a steep learning curve because this card is pretty manual as the PatchMix DSP program is a big signal router. It took me like 15 minutes just to figure out how to get sound.

One cool feature is the DSP effects. Although you're supposed to use them with music, you can use the EQ for your music, games, or movies with no CPU hit. They don't work with >48Khz sound though. That's not a major issue for most people.

Can I game with it?
We shall see!

Ok I just tried playing Unreal Tournament 2004 and Grand Theft Auto 3. No stuttering. I am using P4 2.6C @ 3.2ghz, Radeon 9800 Pro so stuttering isn't usually problem. I'll try more games later.


Hi res of internals (3MB+ each):
ADC board
DAC section
Headphone and another ADC section
Another view of headphone and ADC section

The easiest thing to do is change the power supply feed. The computer power supply is a bit noisy and when testing it from a meter, mine fluctuated a little bit. Normally you're suppose to use a floppy molex that plugs into the card which feeds power to the RJ45 which goes to the AudioDock. All you have to do is use some +12VDC power source and terminate it's end with a molex connector. Plug it in and you're done. Of course the final result depends on your computer power supply, what external power source you used, and your power conditioning. I just tried it using a wallwart into my power conditioner and the quality easily improved.

I'm running without the ADC board. Don't know if that makes a difference or not. I'll check it out later.

I'm going to replace some capacitors soon.

May 07 Update

My capacitors have been burning in well. I used Panasonic FC on power supply, Blackgate N near DAC, and Blackgate FX on other parts of PCI of card.

I put my computer and the DIY AC/DC adaptor for the dock on some power conditioning and it had good effects.

The stock RJ45 cable is Cat5e, 9ft, shielded, and has some ferrites. I'm not a fan of extra shielding and ferrites in any cord. I changed it to unshielded Cat6 7ft cable and got some good improvements.

Next up, a better AC/DC adaptor, using 1 DAC per channel, and analog bypass.
post #2 of 67
Great review!
post #3 of 67
Is your RME PST stock?

Also, I'm kinda curious how the sound quality of the 1212M and 1820M compare. Hrm.

As mentioned in similar threads, I should have preliminary 1212M impressions tonight, and within the week, Iron_Dreamer is going to do a modded RME PAD vs. modded e-mu 1212M review. shweet.
post #4 of 67
Thread Starter 
Yes my RME PST is stock.

I'm looking forward to hear your 1212M impressions. Good luck with the router for the sound. It's insane for most people.

I think I may have been using it wrong and took a little sound quality hit. I'll have to read the manual

After I do ADAT syncing, I'll add the better power supply, and I'll try to open the box and take some pics.
post #5 of 67
Oh darn... I HATE reading manuals!

<rant> Geez, the lengths I have to go to for good sound quality... </rant>

post #6 of 67


Well ~5 minutes and no sound so far.


I really wish this stupid PatchMix thing was more intuitive... the RME PAD wins the software end of things hands-down.

I installed their newest driver, restarted.. set a couple things in the systray, and BAM it worked, with DirectSound or ASIO.

PatchMix on the other hand.....
post #7 of 67
Thread Starter 
Like I said, it's manual labor with these emu cards. If you've never used any of the pro audio apps, this must be mind boggling.

I would delete all the stips and add only what I needed.

Add a strip using host source. ASIO OUT 1/2

Then there are two ways I got sound. Enable monitoring for a specific output or add an insert to route to that particular output. I havn't read the manual yet. Just at dinner hehe.
post #8 of 67
I agree - the PatchMix can be confusing at first. My setup has been running flawlessly for the last two weeks.

I've never heard the RME Pad, but I'm extremely happy with my 1212m.
post #9 of 67

I'm retarded

Actually, the problem was that I hadn't connected the cards internally.

Once I did that and booted up, the sound worked with no fiddling whatsoever. hehe.

Details will be posted once I have a solid preliminary (isn't that mutually exclusive? heh) analysis.

This is fun!
post #10 of 67
oh, damned! we're not gonna hear from Sduibek another week or so until he finaly put off his 3Ks to end his 'first brief audition'
post #11 of 67

It should read 1820m and not 1280m.

Anyway, thanks for the review.

BTW, for those having difficulty to setup their EMU cards, here is a dedicated forum for EMU new series of cards from musicians.


[Edited] Adding 3rd paragraph and the link.
post #12 of 67
Thread Starter 
Well at least I got it correct in the title. I edited the post. Thanks. 1280 is etched in my brain since it's a monitor resolution. HA!

Finally I found my hex screwdrivers to open this thing up. pics in a bit.
post #13 of 67

*derails threads*

I think it's funny that most people think of 1280x1024 as a normal resolution. SO much so that it's included as a default in many games, drivers, and apps.

I'm here to tell these people: LEARN COMPUTER!

The ratio is 4:3

Therefore the resolution is 1280x960. Period, nuff said. If you check it out on your desktop yourself, this res does look better (provided you aren't using a funky ratio with an LCD)

*goes back to his audio*
post #14 of 67
Thread Starter 
Pics added. Alright time to put this thing back together.

1280 x 1024 is cool Nothing wrong with being "special". I use 1600x1024, 1280x768, 960x540 myself. Widescreen baby!
post #15 of 67
Thanks for the pictures. The board layout looks really, really nice. Notice how they've put a lot of effort into the power supply across the board. There are even separate +/- power regulators for each ADC. Very nice. How much does this cost?
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