How Do I Choose A New Interface?

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folpon
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How Do I Choose A New Interface?

Post by folpon » Tue Feb 25, 2020 11:48 am

Hey, wigglers.

I'm really dumb about certain things, and currently experiencing decision paralysis about upgrading my AD/DA. If you have the patience and generosity of spirit to listen to some nonsense, here it is:

I mainly produce "pop" records, and some light film/TV stuff, in a small-ish project studio. Overhead view:

Screen Shot 2020-02-25 at 8.33.44 AM.png

Currently I have everything routed into an Allen & Heath QU-16 mixer, which I'm using as my main audio interface. I started doing things this way when music was just a dumb gibberish hobby I was wasting money and time on, alone. But now I'm getting some other artists in my studio making records with me, and I have some pieces of music featured in TV projects, and I guess it seems like people are starting to actually hear what I'm making. So maybe it's time for me to get some more "pro" ish conversion.

Right now I'm using about 12 inputs. I have some decent mics and preamps -- some 1073 clones I've upgraded the transformers on, and some Ampex tube pre's that I've hand-converted from old tape machines; I think they sound lovely. In the near future, I'd like to add four more inputs so I can track live drums once I move in late summer (I'll be building an acoustically isolated room with my brother in law). I've got a Hackintosh that has Thunderbolt 3 ports as my main computer. I don't really do mixing or mastering on my own (that seems confusing and I have no idea where to even start learning), just tracking and writing and producing songs.

I was pretty set on the Antelope Audio Synergy Core -- but then I saw that they're offering pretty crazy discounts on their previous gen products, including a Goliath for 2500.

https://en.antelopeaudio.com/classic-in ... ial-offer/

So I guess my questions are:

Would a Goliath be overkill for me? Would it be good to have room to expand into later? Would it be better to have their newer interface, with less I/O? Would this be a significant upgrade over a QU-16? Should I be worried about rumors of Antelope Audio having poor customer support? Should I just stick to UAD stuff and play it safe...?

Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thank you, all.
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Re: How Do I Choose A New Interface?

Post by andybizarre » Tue Feb 25, 2020 2:33 pm

As a first advice you should calculate the amount of inputs / outputs you`ll probably need. Then, do you plan to buy into a plug-in ecosystem and use build-in DSP effects or do you prefer a minimalistic interface? Do you like to send CVs to your synths/modular? What kind of mixing do you prefer - in the box or out-of-the box summing? Do you plan to incorporate your external processors and effects boxes? What are your requirements in terms of latency and realtime operation? Do you need preamps, input monitoring and DSP mixing or straight line input - output operation?

Without knowing all this, the only advice I can give you ATM is to separate the host interface (USB, Thunderbolt, AVB etc) from the actual converters (MADI, ADAT etc). This will cost a bit more in the beginning but will pay off if today`s host interfaces will become obsolete. Cheapish boxes with many channels are MOTU LP32 or RME Digiface USB. You could expand those with used pro converters like Apogees AD16X/DA16X or Expert Sleepers ES3s for example. The Presonus Quantum range are cheap, low latency Thunderbolt interfaces with many in/outs per buck.

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Re: How Do I Choose A New Interface?

Post by folpon » Tue Feb 25, 2020 3:19 pm

"Separate the host interface from the converters"? Wow, I didn't even know that was an option. Thank you. I'll look into this.

Some further information:

I think I'll need 16 inputs, more or less.

I'd love to have the ability to patch the inputs to an effects chain at will.

I already have a UAD pci-e card and enjoy some of their plugins.

I don't send CV out to my modular, really.

I'd like to do OTB summing, but typically I send the projects to a mix engineer for mix/master, so I just do ITB for now.

I don't really need preamps, as I have a good slate of pres already and will probably continue picking up more as time goes on.

Latency is pretty important to me, as I often am recording multiple live instruments to playback.

Anyway, thank you for the recommendation -- I'm going to look into these Apogee converters.
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Re: How Do I Choose A New Interface?

Post by andybizarre » Tue Feb 25, 2020 5:04 pm

Another important thing is the amount of cash you`re willing to drop on this and how long you plan to keep this recording solution. The Antelope Goliaths or Apollo X16 (which was the first thing in my mind after reading your second post) certainly look promising, but you`ll burn like 3k$ if Thunderbolt becomes obsolete some day.
The way you describe it, I think something like the Presonus Quantum 4848 with a patchbay and D-Sub multicores would suit you well. This has recent, state of the art DACs, high sample rates without sacrificing I/O and would allow you to patch all your hardware devices, expand later and keep your UAD card. With 1.5K$ for the interface alone it`s not too expensive either.

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Re: How Do I Choose A New Interface?

Post by folpon » Tue Feb 25, 2020 5:41 pm

Hm. Thank you. That does sound like a promising option. And I guess it's looking like, no matter which way I slice it, I'm going to have to learn to build and use a patch bay. :)
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Re: How Do I Choose A New Interface?

Post by pix » Tue Feb 25, 2020 11:30 pm

lynx aurora if you have the budget.

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Re: How Do I Choose A New Interface?

Post by folpon » Wed Feb 26, 2020 10:59 am

The lynx looks great, and the last gen models seem affordable, but I don't understand the dsub connections on the back. You need to get custom dsub cables made, and plug those into a patchbay for in/out, or something like that?
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Re: How Do I Choose A New Interface?

Post by Koryo » Wed Feb 26, 2020 12:48 pm

Sound Differences

Does anyone have experience to back up BT's claim that audio interfaces sound WILDLY different. I'm not buying it.


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Re: How Do I Choose A New Interface?

Post by Voltcontrol » Wed Feb 26, 2020 12:57 pm

folpon wrote:
Wed Feb 26, 2020 10:59 am
The lynx looks great, and the last gen models seem affordable, but I don't understand the dsub connections on the back. You need to get custom dsub cables made, and plug those into a patchbay for in/out, or something like that?
Lynx modules are ace. They produce accompanying cables too. https://www.lynxstudio.com/products/cables/

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Re: How Do I Choose A New Interface?

Post by behndy » Wed Feb 26, 2020 1:02 pm

yeah. and i got DSUB/DB25 to 1/4 snakes from Amazon to use with the DB25 outs on the WMD Performance Mixer, so they're out there.
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Re: How Do I Choose A New Interface?

Post by DubplateDerek » Wed Feb 26, 2020 2:05 pm

Motu 16A user here, and couldn't be happier.

It seems to tick all your boxes, and can be expanded via optical connection if you do every need more ins and outs.

And yes, definitely get a patch bay. I think you'll be amazed at how / why you did without it for so long.
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Re: How Do I Choose A New Interface?

Post by folpon » Wed Feb 26, 2020 4:05 pm

Hm. It seems like people are pretty fond of these lynx modules... And voltcontrol -- thank you: knowing that they made dsub cables you can order right there on the site is really helpful. Wow.

I provisionally put in an order for a used Antelope Orion -- it was for some reason insanely cheap at GC. I think I'll see if I can get a lynx and A/B them and keep the one I like more.

Update: Price. Oof. And that's with no pres or monitor control, either... Wow.
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Re: How Do I Choose A New Interface?

Post by flo » Thu Feb 27, 2020 10:27 am

FWIW, I'm very happy with my Orion 32+. No issues whatsoever and I really like the sound. The routing matrix is also pretty cool.
Koryo wrote:
Wed Feb 26, 2020 12:48 pm
Does anyone have experience to back up BT's claim that audio interfaces sound WILDLY different. I'm not buying it.
I made some comparison files when I upgraded from my old MOTU 828 MK3 to the Orion 32+. The difference is not subtle at all, the MOTU sounds "compressed" with smeared transients in comparison. And the cost of those two interfaces is similar if you count cost per AD / DA channel :hihi:

Cheers :guinness:

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Re: How Do I Choose A New Interface?

Post by folpon » Thu Feb 27, 2020 10:59 am

flo wrote:
Thu Feb 27, 2020 10:27 am
FWIW, I'm very happy with my Orion 32+. No issues whatsoever and I really like the sound. The routing matrix is also pretty cool.
Koryo wrote:
Wed Feb 26, 2020 12:48 pm
Does anyone have experience to back up BT's claim that audio interfaces sound WILDLY different. I'm not buying it.
I made some comparison files when I upgraded from my old MOTU 828 MK3 to the Orion 32+. The difference is not subtle at all, the MOTU sounds "compressed" with smeared transients in comparison. And the cost of those two interfaces is similar if you count cost per AD / DA channel :hihi:

Cheers :guinness:
Thank you, that's helpful to hear. :)
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Re: How Do I Choose A New Interface?

Post by Red Electric Rainbow » Thu Feb 27, 2020 11:35 am

DubplateDerek wrote:
Wed Feb 26, 2020 2:05 pm
Motu 16A user here, and couldn't be happier.
Same. It was a real step up for me and I’ve been getting a ton of mileage out of it.
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Re: How Do I Choose A New Interface?

Post by ohadnissim » Thu Feb 27, 2020 3:55 pm

I would go with UAD Apollo X16 especially when you are already a UAD user.
Really amazing interface, we use it in our mixing/mastering setup.

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Re: How Do I Choose A New Interface?

Post by Mr. Aloud » Mon Mar 09, 2020 8:57 pm

You may take an Audio-over-IP solution into account, which accidentally is what I did last year. At least take a look if and which AoIP protocol is supported (AVB / Dante). Super flexible, replaced my patchbays completely and saved tons of cables. Different routings can be saved and restored quickly. Average cable length is now around 1m from any box to a converter, which is nice in a noisy environment. And IP networking is a platform that will be around for quite some time.
It would seem that still, after all these years, perception is essentially thought to be a passive process.

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Re: How Do I Choose A New Interface?

Post by Analog Prophet » Tue Mar 10, 2020 2:35 am

There are about no bad sound cards today, its more a question of need and budget.

I have, in general, a similar setup and work to be done as you (except some masterings are done as well in the studio): I have a synth based production studio with a 32 in/out sound card (Antelope) connected to my mixing console (SSL) so that I can record individual channels or/and from the buses. But honestly:

- INPUTS: 98 times out of 100 I use 1 or 2 microphones/ 1 or 2 line in for external keyboards at time.

- OUTPUTS: 98 times out of 100 I record I use 2 out from the computer due to speed of work and tight deadlines. When it comes to non-work related production (mainly my own music) I frequently use multiple outputs for mixdown and treat with different outboards connected to the mixing console.

If I was you, or about to buy a new sound card, I would consider a 2 or 4 input sound card and connect it to the record bus (send the channel to be recorded to that bus) and something between 2-8 out for possibly summing. This is I would consider, if not going multiple in/out:

- SSL 2+
- UAD Apollo Twin (already have one for portable recordings plus a rack of 8 microphone preamps with ADAT out/in to expand the Apollo card when needed)
- Behringer X Air X18. I use it some times for TV recordings outside studios, think its powerful, easy and cost effective and therefore is about to buy one myself to replace my portable recording rig.

Many use smaller Focusrite cards that sounds great and are cost effective.

A patch bay can save channels/money of a sound card if a somehow similar daily setup.

Otherwise Im happy with and therefore can recommend Antelope’s sound cards if you consider to record multiple channels simultaneously and/or be flexible. If you have outboards they can easy be integrated to the sound card (but I have my outboards connected to the mixing console to be able to just play around with my synths without computer at late nights when the work is done).
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Re: How Do I Choose A New Interface?

Post by thermisonic » Tue Mar 10, 2020 2:44 am

no personal experience but the criticism levelled at Antelope by someone I respect working professionally is that their drivers are picky, slow to arrive and not so stable. if you need all those ins and outs it might be a good choice but do your homework is all I would say.

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Re: How Do I Choose A New Interface?

Post by acidbob » Tue Mar 10, 2020 5:20 am

I do think there could be a good point in getting a small interface and just get an ADAT AD with 16 inputs to go with that. But i am no expert and perfectly happy with my RME UFX + 2x Octamic and an analog mixer. I know the UFX is old but sounds good to me and it just works

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Re: How Do I Choose A New Interface?

Post by StillNotWorking » Tue Mar 10, 2020 6:11 am

Koryo wrote:
Wed Feb 26, 2020 12:48 pm
Sound Differences
Does anyone have experience to back up BT's claim that audio interfaces sound WILDLY different. I'm not buying it.
They can and they often do even when using identical ADAC and op-amps. Software needed to make serial data from the computer out to the interface can make a differense. But mostly software running internally to handle multiplexing and any up/down sampling makes heavy use of digital filters.

Here designers has a lot of influence on end result making decision on least influential filter design depending on hw resources available. They can also decide to go with planned coloration for hi-end mojo, — or let any audio misbehavior pass do to low hw spec to make it a proper design for targeted price point.

I never believed this until I spend a few evenings testing firmware revisions on my own hifi system. Firmware on my current hifi DAC can transform it to a warm and round sounding DAC to edgy and detailed. Even firmware on my old Logitech Touch only used as digital transport from streaming to external DAC can be altered to sound different.

This is why I'm advocating in the other interface thread from last week that one goes with the interface sounding the most transparent.
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Re: How Do I Choose A New Interface?

Post by StillNotWorking » Tue Mar 10, 2020 6:32 am

thermisonic wrote:
Tue Mar 10, 2020 2:44 am
no personal experience but the criticism levelled at Antelope by someone I respect working professionally is that their drivers are picky, slow to arrive and not so stable. if you need all those ins and outs it might be a good choice but do your homework is all I would say.
I read the same back when I had it down to Orion or RME UFX. Then 6 month later the Orion started coming up on local craig list made me think I might finaly made one right decision :mrgreen:
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Re: How Do I Choose A New Interface?

Post by trickness » Tue Mar 10, 2020 6:42 am

UAD Apollo guy here. Just upgraded my Silverface Quad, which has been bulletproof for 8 years. Bought the Thunderbolt 2 card with it and as a result it is still totally usable even with the upcoming Luna DAW. But I was itching to get an x6 and couldn’t be happier - Sound quality is much improved as is the ability to use more plugs with Hexa core processing. My modular sounds absolutely insane patched through the Apollo & UAD plugs… If you own any of their plug-ins that’s the real reason to get an Apollo obviously, but based on my personal experience I would highly recommend UAD.

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Re: How Do I Choose A New Interface?

Post by folpon » Tue Mar 10, 2020 11:08 am

Thanks for all the advice guys. A little update:

I went with the Antelope Orion Studio. 12 ins, 16 outs. Wired it to a little patchbay. Hooked everything up. Figured out the routing system. Installed all the drivers and firmware. Gain staged my stuff. And so on.

Everything is up and running now. It all seems to be basically, more or less, fine. I think the basic signal I'm getting is a lot "cleaner" than it was on my QU-16. I recorded a track that was just an MS-10 and a Buchla Easel, through a Manley dual tube DI, into the interface, and when I listen back I really hear "JUST" the signal of the synths -- it seems that the Antelope, to my ears, records a very "objective" and "clear" representation of what's put into it. Which I can deal with. That's cool.

Should I have maybe gone with the UAD instead? Yeah, probably. I have a hard time in life doing the thing I'm obviously supposed to. Something inside my head is very perverse; if something seems like the obvious choice, my unconscious mind fights really hard against choosing it. So I went with the Antelope. Even after reading the mixed reviews it gets.

This was sort of a quick, impulsive decision. I'm actively working on a record right now, and the downtime was driving me nuts. But I'm owed a lot of money from a startup I wrote code for last year, and once that comes in I'll probably be moving my studio and rethinking everything anyway -- so this really just needs to last me through the summer. The Antelope wasn't very expensive, so if I get burned for it I'm not excessively worried.

I think overall I'm fine with this decision. I thank all of you folks for sharing your thoughts and advice. I'm really grateful there's this cool community of people who can get deep in the weeds on stuff like this. It really means a lot to me -- three cheers to you all.
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Re: How Do I Choose A New Interface?

Post by Monofunk » Wed Mar 11, 2020 9:36 am

You might find this thread on audio interfaces worth reading.

If you are concerned about Universal Audio plugins you can buy one of their DSP cards.

Not having the plugins tied to the interface you choose is a long term benefit.

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