How did I put an ESI Wamirack PCI card in a PCIe slot

Tuesday, 15 September 2009 16:18 by salim

As I said in my previous post, one of the major stumbling blocks in getting the Dell Studio XPS was the lack of PCI slots in it. So, until recently I am pretty much convinced that the best way to get an i7 machine was to build one. However, whenever I priced an equivalent machine in new egg, it always was close to double the sale price of XPS. This was a major dilemma. Should I pay almost double the amount and go through all the hassles of building and then maintaining a machine or just get Dell with support but lose the Wamirack card. Though I don’t use Wamirack a lot for recording and play back, it is my primary MIDI interface. (May be at the end of the series on my DAW I will give a rundown of my setup)

After searching during the last several months, this time I actually got a verifiable product info about a PCIe to PCI converter card. This is the card from Startech.com. To my surprise the lowest price was found at Dell. I ordered the card even before I bought the machine.

I got the card the day after I got the computer. The first disappointment was that the card had an old 4 pin power connector and XPS does not have a single one of those to spare. I did not have an adapter cable to connect it to a SATA power supply. (I wanted a cable with a white female on one end and a black male on the other.) Even without the power supply, I proceeded to see how I can fit my PCI card to the base. To my horror, I realized that the back plate (riser) of my PCI card is soldered to the card and was not easy to remove. So I got a hacksaw, bent the riser as far as I can bend and sawed it off. Perfect.

My first trial without the power supply of course did not work. It actually made the video card from working. This and the whole hacksaw event did not instill a lot of confidence in me. May be I should just get a USB-MIDI interface. I found a few, but the only one with Vista 64 drivers was the Cakewalk one with four (2 in, 2 out). So the next day, I dragged Shobha out and went to look for the MIDI thingie. I did not find any either in Sam Ash or in Guitarcenter. On my way back, I picked up the power connector. Got home, pushed the card in again, connected the power, turned the computer on. Sweet. The sound of the external box of Wamirack turning on was the best sound i heard that day!

The new unified driver from ESI for the card is much better behaved. It installed without a problem. Except one thing. It thinks two of the 8 outs are digital. hmm, i need to investigate that.

So, if you have an old PCI card lying around which you want to use in a PCIe slot, go ahead, get the Startech one.

(Next, my struggles with Drivers and Plug-ins)

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