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PCRECORDING.COM - Review of the Echo Layla

Echo Layla: $799.00 retail

Revised "noise floor" results as of November 15, 1999.

I received the Layla via UPS from Echo. The first thing I noticed was the sheer weight of the unit. This is serious hardware.

The card comes with a rack-mountable breakout box that houses the features below and connects to a PCI soundcard interface via a provided cable. I read the included manual and installed the card. The install went flawlessly. I had previously gone to EchoAudio’s website and knew that a new driver had been released for the Layla. I downloaded it and followed their instructions.

The new driver installation process EchoAudio employs is a bit cumbersome but effective. The user must download the driver via the web in a .zip file to the desktop or a temporary directory, then unzip it to a floppy disk. Then, the user must open the utility program on the floppy, instruct it to remove the previous Layla drivers, remove the floppy, reboot the computer but then put the floppy back in when Windows asks for the best driver for the device. Windows then finds the appropriate driver on the floppy and installs it.

Hardware Specifications:

  • Frequency Response: 10Hz-22kHz, +0.5dB
  • Dynamic Range: >98dB
  • THD: <0.005%, 20Hz-22kHz, A-weighted
  • Host Interface: PCI bus card
  • Breakout box PCI bus master interface featuring
  • Eight ¼" TRS balanced analog inputs with precision 20-bit 128x oversampling analog-to-digital converters
  • Ten ¼" TRS balanced analog outputs with high-performance 20-bit 128x oversampling digital-to-analog converters
  • S/PDIF digital I/O with up to 24-bit resolution
  • On-board 24-bit Motorola 56301 DSP (80 MIPS)
  • 24-bit data resolution maintained throughout internal signal path
  • Word clock / Super clock I/O
  • MIDI in/out/thru
  • MIDI Time Code Sync
  • EasyTrim automatic input gain adjustment circuitry
  • Multiple sample rates from 8kHz to 50kHz with single-Hertz resolution
  • Software specifications:

    • Full duplex operation (simultaneously record ten channels while playing back 12 channels)
    • Software controllable input levels
    • Echo Controls, mixer application for audio inputs and outputs, monitor assignments, volume, and metering
    • Syntrillium Software’s Cool Edit Pro - Special Edition multitrack recording/editing software (Win 95/98)

    The Echo driver ver. 5.01 fixes some bugs that in version 5.00 and provides DirectSound compatibility for the Layla. Among the included items is the Echo Controller - - a user interface that installs on the systray of Windows desktop. With the Controller you can route signals, mute channels, set input/output sources of the Layla. The input levels can be set at –10db or boosted to +4dB. Another feature is the software adjustable input levels, which I found to be very useful. In addition, the input VU meters are fast and accurate, giving me important information about the input signal.

    The Layla also comes with a special version of Cool Edit Pro, a limited version of Syntrillium's flagship product Cool Edit Pro. For basic recording purposes it is quite sufficient to get you up and running with multi-track recording.

    The Layla employs 20-bit converters for analog to digital conversion. (Echo has informed me that they are coming out with a 24-bit/96kHz version of Layla soon). I did the "real world" noise floor test with all inputs set to zero. The analog noise floor at 16-bit was -85dB, at 32-bit (in Cool Edit Pro SE) it was -92dB (Windows recognizes the 20-bit converters as 24-bit). I then tested the digital S/PDIF noise floor that measured -92dB. This is a very quiet soundcard. Since the analog to digital converters are housed in the breakout box, away from the internal electronic noise inside the CPU, it is able to achieve very low signal to noise levels.

    I recorded some music (acoustic guitar, vocals and drum programs) with the Cool Edit Pro – Special Edition, the Digital Orchestrator, and n-Track Studio. The card worked flawlessly within each application. I then listened back to the recording. The sound quality was simply astonishing. I was able to hear very deep bass and very crisp highs. The card was able to capture transient harmonic tones off of my acoustic guitar that were beautiful. Simply, I love the way this card sounds. The robustness of the sound quality was many degrees better than the other cards I have used in my studio.

    For a professional application or the advanced home user, this card is one of the best available. The flexibility of the multiple inputs and outputs will accommodate all but the most demanding recording needs. You can record up to ten different tracks at once - - eight analog ins and two S/PDIF at a time. If you need more, you can install several Laylas in a PC and sync them together with the word clock. You can play back ten tracks (or more if two Laylas) at once. Echo has also provided MIDI input/thru/out connectors on the breakout box for your MIDI devices.

    The use of the ¼" connectors is standard in recording studios and with professional level equipment. The breakout box makes connectivity significantly easier than plugging into the soundcard itself. If you are very serious about recording on your PC, and can afford it, you cannot go wrong with the Layla.