Monday, September 9, 2013

REVIEW: Echo Indigo I/O PCMCIA card

NOTE: This review falls into the “ancient history” category of audio products. PCMCIA is absolutely history today. Echo Audio is all-but a non-entity. But at one time, both this company and their PCMCIA products were indispensible to a working audio professional. It’s a rough and competitive world out there and a whole collection of long-dead companies attest to that.

echo_i1The Echo Indigo I/O PCMCIA card is an absolute necessity for anyone using a laptop for audio editing.  The Indigo is compatible with Mac OSX and Windows XP-b ased machines.  The Indigo has a stereo in-output with eight "virtual outputs" available for use through the Indigo Console.  This allows a mixer to group signals and route them through effects as if the I/O were a real mixer with external busses.  Or, using Rewire, it allows several audio devices to be routed to the virtual mixer where the combined outputs will arrive in sync and in good condition at the stereo output buss.

The I/O has a pair of 1/8" stereo jacks, unbalanced input and output, that are located on the sides of the module, along with a rotary volume control for the output.  The I/O is capable of 24-bit, 96kHz recording and playback.  The unit has a slightly higher than many laptop soundcards' output and is considerably lower distortion than the majority of such equipment.  The max output is -10dBV (.308V), so the output power is limited to a few milliwatts, but that is usually enough to provide a workable output with most high efficiency headphones and in-monitors. 

It is expensive, however.  About $380 list and $250 street for the I/O version of the Indigo.  There are, though, several versions of this unit which either don't include an input or provide other functions. 

The average laptop, including Apple devices, are noisy due to their proximity to and lack of immunity from the high emissions computer power supplies. Many laptops have notoriously flawed and unreliable internal audio devices (Toshiba and Sony Vaio laptops come immediately to mind).  The Indigo provides the laptop user with an opportunity to escape the low-fi world of laptop computer audio and makes a portable audio workstation considerably more powerful.   

Hardware Features

Software Features

  • 1 stereo 1/8" analog input
  • 1 stereo 1/8" analog output
  • Supports full duplex 2 channel in, 2 channel out operation
  • High quality headphone amp
  • Analog volume control knob for output
  • Supports true 24 bit, 96 kHz audio
  • 100 MHz 24 bit Motorola DSP
  • Powered by your notebook computer
  • Includes 6 foot adapter cable for RCA and 1/4" connections
  • Type II Cardbus slot required
  • Software console for monitoring, metering, and setting levels
  • Built-in digital mixer provides near-zero latency monitoring
  • Supports Windows Me/2000/XP and Macintosh OS X (Jaguar & Panther)
  • Supports pro audio software (WDM Kernel Streaming, ASIO, GSIF, and CoreAudio)
  • 8 "Virtual Outputs" - run multiple applications at the same time
  • Low-latency drivers

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Wirebender Audio Rants

Over the dozen years I taught audio engineering at Musictech College and McNally Smith College of Music, I accumulated a lot of material that might be useful to all sorts of budding audio techs and musicians. This site will include comments and questions about professional audio standards, practices, and equipment. I will add occasional product reviews with as many objective and irrational opinions as possible.