Daughter Cards

If the soundcard on your computer does not support digital recording, it may be worth your while to invest in a daughter card. There are many different daughter cards available, catering to different requirements, but since the requirements for digital recording onto a minidisc do not vary much from model to model, it is relatively straightforward to discuss the different types of daughter cards as they apply to minidisc recording. The types of daughter cards pictured below are as follows:

Digital coaxial 2 daughtercards in cascade formation
Digital optical The Live! Drive II daughterboard

Note that for any given type of daughter card there may be several different manufacturers and/or several different models. In addition, not all soundcards will necessarily support all types of daughter cards. This page is only intended to describe the different types of daughter cards available, and is not intended to endorse any particular card or setup. If you decide a daughter card is for you, you are advised to research your soundcard as much as possible to determine if the daughter card you want is indeed compatible with your soundcard. Best idea is to contact your card's manufacturer.

.Digital coaxial ...

Digital coaxial daughtercard

Digital coaxial daughtercard

Perhaps the easiest daughter card to find is a digital coaxial daughter card, such as the one pictured here. This was the standard daughter card packaged with many high-end "digital" soundcards. Coaxial digital inputs and outputs work very well and are generally preferred by many high-end audiophiles; however there are no portable minidisc recorders which are capable of connecting to digital coaxial ins/outs. Therefore the only way this daughter card would be of use to you is if you have a minidisc component deck with coaxial ins/outs to connect to this card. A format converter could also be purchased which would convert the digital coaxial to optical for the minidisc recorder.

The lower illustration shows the daughter card connected to a soundcard on a computer.

.Digital optical  
Digital optical daughtercard

Digital coaxial daughtercard

Digital optical daughter cards are the most useful add-on for owners of portable minidisc recorders. The one pictured to the left (top) shows a digital optical daughter card. You can see clearly the TOSLINK in/out connectors. This allows easy connection to a portable minidisc recorder.

The illustration at the bottom shows the daughter card connected to a soundcard. You can see the cable that links the two together. Analog inputs and outputs continue to be available, and the digital optical capability is added with this setup.

.2 daughter cards
Dual daughtercards

Dual daughtercards

Some daughter cards will allow themselves to be paired up with other daughter cards, allowing them to be connected in "cascade" formation. This allows, for example, for the user to connect both a coaxial and an optical daughter card to one sound card at the same time. The illustration shown here at the top shows the two daughter cards connected in cascade formation. In this case the coaxial daughter card is connected to the optical daughter card, which will in turn connect to the soundcard.

The advantage of doing this is that the optical and coaxial ins/outs can be utilized in a "bypass" configuration using 2 daughter cards. This will allow the daughter cards to act as a format converter, converting TOSLINK signals to coaxial and vice-versa as needed.

The illustration at the bottom shows what these cards look like when they have been installed in a computer. You can see the analog soundcard to the far left, the optical daughter card in the middle slot, and the coaxial daughter card on the right.

.The ultimate daughter card: The Live! Drive daughterboard
Live! Drive II


Live! Drive card

For the ultimate in daughter card installations, everyone should at least have a look at the Live Drive II daughter board. This is a full-featured board that installs in an empty 5 1/4-inch drive bay on the front of the computer. It adds a wide range of connectors, including digital coaxial in/out, digital optical in/out, analog RCA in/out, microphone input with variable level control, a separate headphone jack, and midi in/out jacks. All of these connectors are accessible from the computer's front panel! No need to reach to the back of the computer to connect anything! The package also includes a separate digital DIN plug to install on the back of the computer.

This package truly does have everything. It adds a level of convenience previously unheard of in computer audio. It also includes a "digital bypass" function, which allows the daughter board to function as a format converter between digital coaxial and digital optical ins/outs. I have heard that there also exists a "Live Drive I", which is essentially the same as the Live Drive II pictured here with the exception of the digital coaxial and optical ins/outs, which the Live Drive I lacks.