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Roland UA100 7/10

This Roland sound card is the music company's first entrance into the USB audio market. It plugs into a USB port and requires external power, through a power adapter. The setup is relatively easy and it has drivers on Win2000, Mac and also Win98. However, there might be a problem with certain computers, whose USB interface simply refuses to work with the Roland UA100. This happened when I tried to install it on a Sony X9 notebook. One call to Turnkey, who sold me the card, solved the problem!

There is no doubt that this a high quality sound card, thanks to extremely high quality A/D and D/A converters. Also being an external sound card it is not affected by the fan in your computer. Ideal if you want to record electric guitars or any other instruments through a microphone. You can connect electric guitars directly without an amp, since the UA100 has an inbuilt preamp. It also has an RCA input/output and an optical output so you can record your mixdowns digitally onto DAT or Minidisc. There are several MIDI inputs/outputs at the rear of the UA100, to connect external equipment like drum machines or synths. In addition it has several realtime effects which can be applied without burdening your processor. These can be controlled through the software or through the switches at the front of the machine. The volume can be controlled to a certain extent from the switches too. It is nice to see the Roland realises most musicians prefer hands-on control, not just software control. Creative Labs also offers a lesser extent of hands-on control of their SB Live through the Live Drive unit. The Roland UA100 has no internal soundbank of MIDI sounds, but Roland have bundled Virtual Sound Canvas. VSC is a good quality software synth, which has also been recently bundled with Cakewalk's Sonar XL software package.

Unfortunately if you rarely record "real" musicians you won't benefit from the sound card. If you are a computer musician and are looking for a primarily sound card you are probably better off with a SB Live. However, if you need to record "real" musicians sometimes or need a secondary sound card look no further than the Roland UA100. I managed to use it at the same time as an SB Live 5.1 Plat and I had no problems whatsoever. Often it is difficult to use two sound cards at once. It is worth mentioning that there is also now the UA100G in gold finish and also with Cool Edit Pro as part of its software bundle.