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I bought a novation Impulse 61 midi keyboard, which I use with Ableton Live 9 to play and record. I am very much just a novice at this and I decided to have this setup, because a friend told me, that with a tool called ASIO4ALL I can have a short enough latency even without a sound card.

However, ASIO4ALL is very restrictive, see Switching between ASIO4ALL ON/OFF without having to shut down browser

  • I have to turn off any piece of software that is currently producing sounds on my pc
    • which normally means to close the whole chrome browser and any tutorials I might be watching or sounds I want to be playing outside DAW, for example from the video I am following.
    • optionally turn the asio4all drivers off or on, if needed
    • go into preferences in Ableton Live if necessary and play with the sound input options to make it work.

Only then I can play with my controller. If I want to watch a video, I have to do it on another device or close the whole ableton, open up the video, watch it, than close all chrome processes and do it again.

For some time I thought I am just lazy to play, but it is more the burden of what I have to go through, if I want to play some notes, so I guess I need hardware, to avoid the whole ASIO4ALL thing.

I understand there are internal sound cards I can buy? Then maybe some external devices that would do the same? Or also some other devices, that would do the same and ALSO be able to create some sounds even without the PC or DAW, so that I could play sometimes without opening any piece of software or even turning on PC?

What types of hardware am I looking for? How are they called? Could you provide some resource on how to learn about this and from which I could also decide on the price range, based on what I would learn about it?

  • Don't you just plug the Impulse into a USB port and then use it to control virtual instruments in Live? The Impulse produces no sound, so a sound card would not help with using a MIDI controller. If you want to record audio from a microphone or musical instrument, you should get an audio interface. – Todd Wilcox Jan 17 '16 at 16:50
  • @ToddWilcox I am plugging it in the port, yes. And I use it in live. I know it does not produce sounds. I know how to use it to record midi data and to use the virtual instrument. Thing is, if I want to hear it also as I play I have to go for ASIO4ALL otherwise I have an intolerable latency between keypress and sound produced by virtual instrument. This is resolved having a dedicated hardware like (that is my question) – Ev0oD Jan 17 '16 at 17:18
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If you wish to use virtual instruments through a "soundcard" of any sort, including the one on your computer's motherboard, you will need one with an ASIO driver, and all ASIO drivers behave like ASIO for all.

However, if you have TWO soundcards - the built-in one and an additional internal or USB one - you can assign your DAW software to the ASIO one, system sounds to the other, using its standard driver. You'll need two sets of speakers, or a method of mixing both outputs to one set.

  • Yup, this is how I do it: I pipe them through a cheap mixer to a single amp/speaker system. – Yorik Feb 17 '16 at 16:00
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You are looking for a hardware Midi expander. Works independently of any computer, has a set of sound samples matched in style and quality, has the latency issue under control as good as may be expected for a core feature of a product.

  • Does it also work like a sound card for the computer? So that when I connect it to pc, it will be able to process sound from the DAW, VSTs, without latency? Or does that cover only the ability to produce sounds for the midi inputs? Because I still need to produce music in the Ableton, with the sounds inside the tool and be able to hear it realtime as I play without the latency - not sure if this midi expander also covers this requirement. – Ev0oD Jan 17 '16 at 12:38

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