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In-depth Feature:  RME Hammerfall DIGI9652 Sound Card
Mark Tinley writes:
  • Test System Used
  • Specifications .

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    ...continued

    In use
    After installation Hammerfall is operated from a control panel which can be reached from within both LOGIC and VST, or from an Icon on the taskbar. The card is designed to work well with an external digital clock and can automatically switch between its own master clock and an external clock when a signal is present. ADAT provides a perfect source for this, and you can choose which set of connections you would prefer to sync to, useful for settings where you are using a singe ADAT and a digital desk. Wordclock I/O is also available and I chose to run Hammerfall as a slave to my Pulsar card, which worked without any problems. One area where I did have problems however was with the SPDIF input. The card insisted on misinterpreting the signal from my Sony TCD-D7, the recorded result being twice as fast as it should be and very thin and distorted. The problem isn't isolated to this card however, as I have had problems using this particular DAT machine with other hardware. What is nice about the card though is that you can source your digital input from either optical or coaxial digital inputs, or from an internal connector which can be connected to a CDROM or DVD drive in your machine.

    Other than sync choices there are settings on the control panel for latency which can be as low as 1.5ms. Both VST and LOGIC found the driver without problems. After following the set-up recommended in the manual, VST worked on my machine with latency down to 6ms until I started using a lot of audio plug-ins. With LOGIC 4.1 however 23ms was the best I could get without clicking on playback. E-Magic are revising their buffer design, and the current Beta version improves this a lot.

    The advantages of low-latency are that your audio mixer responds to changes you make almost immediately. There is nothing worse than waiting half a second or so to hear the results of an EQ sweep or fade out. It's simply confusing. Another advantage is that VST 2.0 instruments can now be played in real-time. A 6ms delay between hitting a MIDI key and hearing a note is quite bearable on everything but drums, and I have been having a lot of fun constructing tunes entirely in MIDI in my virtual studio.

    Another advantage of the card is that it offers zero-latency monitoring, or direct throughput of the input signal to the output while recording. The latency value you set doesn't effect this, the card is simply passing the input signal directly to the output, so even if you set large latency values, it is possible to work without a mixing desk with buses. I plugged my guitar directly into my computer to try this out, but found balancing the signal I was recording with the one already recorded frustrating to say the least. It's a great idea, but as yet not implemented in a way that would make me give up my mixer. In the end I decided that monitoring through the low latency drivers was a better solution, and the 6ms delay didn't really cause too many problems. In fact, I benefited from hearing DirectX channel effects on my guitar while I was playing.

    So what are the disadvantages of low-latency drivers ? Well, in order to feed audio to the card at 6ms intervals, the computer needs to talk to the card more often, so low-latency results in more PCI bus activity. Put simply, with low latency values the computer does more work.

    More Resources              Articles - full listing
  • DIGI9652 pages@RME site
  • windows settings panel screenshot
  • More soundcards
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