I know this may sound crazy, but why not just get an audio interface that has built in mixing? The Focusrite Liquidmix I mentioned looks very interesting and if you buy one from Sweetwater they’re including an additional DSP card for no charge.
I knew someone would ask this. :)
Well, the truth is that until I get a mac, I am utterly frustrated and disgusted beyond freakin' belief with compatibility and performance issues that I'm experiencing with audio interfaces for my notebook pc. If I didn't work for a major company that sells PCs and didn't have to work on one 60 hours a week, I'd through them all out the window. I can't even begin to think of how many hundreds of hours I've spent in my lifetime trying to resolve issues with PCs, tweaking registries, changing bootup options, startup programs, settings burried within settings inside drivers, etc, etc...it now seems like complete madness and quite frankly a sickness. I demand a refund on my life from Bill Gates and IBM.
I started with the Indigo IO cardbus interface. No complaints except that it is line input only and has only a mini plug input/ouput). Still a great little unit with very little latency.
I tried an M-Audio firewire unit with cardbus to fireware adaptor. It was a total distaster and IRC conflict between the adaptor and anothe piece of hardware. Not resolvable.
I tried the EM-U cardbus interface. Another total disaster and problem with their driver and MAX/MSP.
Then I went to the Eidrio UA-25 USB interface. It works great, but more latency than I prefer, and again the driver sucks and doesn't give me enough buffer and vector size options to run some high powered patches in MAX/MSP.
Totally nuts. So, yesterday, I yanked everything out, installed the ASIO for All driver and I'm pluging my mandolin and headset mic (separately, hence the need of a small mixer) into my notebook's soundcard. Wonderfully simple.
The crazy thing is that using this ASIO for ALL driver and the Intel integrated High Definition Audio system inside my ThinkPad sounds better than any othe other prior solutions I've used with next to nothing for latency. Imagine that? I'm convinced most of these companies making audio interfaces couldn't build a decent audio driver without compatibility problems if their lives depended on it.
And I hear now that with mac, no one has these problems because they have their core audio and force everyone to comply to their standards so that users don't have to suffer as a result of so many diverse driving coding standards across the globe.