Audio Interface - How to choose?

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naturligfunktion
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Audio Interface - How to choose?

Post by naturligfunktion » Tue Mar 03, 2020 8:42 am

Hello wigglers,

I've been browsing for a few days now looking for a new audio interface. Searching through this forum I am way more confused then when I started..

Anyway, I need the following:

6 - 8 inputs and outputs
1 additional master out and 2 headphones out
2 of the inputs should have preamps
A nice volume knob
Midi in and out
The sound must be great - this is most important
It must be fast and work with Windows and Ableton

If it cost maximum 1500 € we have a winner.

Im gonna write a lot now, so feel free to ignore this if you already know a good candidate.

So I have a soundcraft signature mkt 12 working as my audio interface right now. It works OK. It sounds good (to my ears) and it works great to multitrack when I jam with the modular, some synths and my drum machine. As a soundcard, it is fine. I have issues with latency and I don't like the headphone out. Another issue is that it does not have any inserts, no midi and no outputs.

I want to get a few preamps and maybe a compressor or two. I thought it was just a matter of getting these and hooking them up, but apparently it is pointless because my soundcard doesn't have inserts? Is that a thing? If I send something to a preamp and then to the soundcards preamp, it sounds bad? Why?

After looking around here on muff it seems that the popular choices are Motu, RME and Universal Audio. The UA is basically everything I want, but honestly it's 2000 €+. That is a lot of money... Motu seems affordable, but some have experienced issues with the drivers and software. The bigger one doesn't have any preamps, so then I need to get 8 external preamps. That would also break the budget. RME then. A contester to UA. Im a bit skeptical to their interface to be honest, but otherwise they seems to be alrite. They cost more or less like UA however.

Just for fun I had a look at Focusrite. The Scarlett 18i20 cost a fraction of the other ones. But every input has a preamp. If I got it right, a preamp on a preamp is BAD (don't know why) so that rules out the Scarlett? Why is Focusrite so cheap in comparison to say RME?

Im very confused and would greatly take some advice on this.

:hmm:

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Re: Audio Interface - How to choose?

Post by JankySwitch » Tue Mar 03, 2020 11:31 am

I've been thinking about this recently and my (probably future) choice is the MOTU 828es.

It has 2 pre-amp / guitar inputs on the front. 8 Line at the back. 8 Line outs on TRS. 2 outs on XLR, 2 headphone outs.

It also has AVB so you/I can connect 24AI/24AO/16A at some point in the future.

It supports class compliant USB and thunderbolt.

I'm less interested in the mixer / effects, but it's nice that they are there.

From what I understand, the sound quality is a lot better than earlier 828 versions - it uses the ESS Sabre32 DAC now.
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Re: Audio Interface - How to choose?

Post by kay_k » Tue Mar 03, 2020 11:39 am

I've had a bunch of different devices in my life .. MOTU gave me stability (never had issues on a Mac), long-life driver support (!!) and great sound.
I am actually back to use a 828mk2 FW now and I am more than happy.
I also have a Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 gen3 now (for 2 weeks, bought for the road) that I like so far, no latency issues on my old macbook air, sound seems clear and I had no crashes/bugs so far.

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Re: Audio Interface - How to choose?

Post by Benj » Tue Mar 03, 2020 12:11 pm

maybe take a look at the new presonus quantum 2626
it does most of what you want . you will need a thunderbolt 3 capable motherboard .

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Re: Audio Interface - How to choose?

Post by seta666 » Tue Mar 03, 2020 5:30 pm

Presonus 1810

8 inputs plus aditional pair via spdif
8 extra inputs via adat

6 outputs ( master plus 4 ots), dc coupled
Extra pair via spdif ( maybe use this one as master?)

Midi in/out

2 headphone outs

Paid 280€ for mine ( no the new typeC one)

Fast enough for my needs, 5ms latency at 64 samples.

The main problem for me is no adat out, I would get a ES3/ES6 if it had it

Funy thing is I am thinking of replacing mine with the soundcraft mtk12

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Re: Audio Interface - How to choose?

Post by Tajnost » Wed Mar 04, 2020 12:08 am

RME UCX

and forget about any probs forever...

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Re: Audio Interface - How to choose?

Post by orangehexagon » Wed Mar 04, 2020 1:49 am

Check out the new Presonus Quantum 2626

Edit: oops just saw this was already mentioned.

I recently picked up the UA Arrow and while it doesn't tick many of your boxes really, I just want to point out that after having used a lot of different audio interfaces over the years... I can definitely notice a large improvement in quality with the UA

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Re: Audio Interface - How to choose?

Post by nectarios » Wed Mar 04, 2020 3:21 am

Bought Apollo FireWire + UAD2 Satellite FireWire was included as part of UADs offer.
1370€ from Synthesizer.gr which was a special since I've been buying a lot from them and loyalty is rewarded.

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Re: Audio Interface - How to choose?

Post by naturligfunktion » Wed Mar 04, 2020 4:05 am

Wow! Thanks for all replies :)
JankySwitch wrote:
Tue Mar 03, 2020 11:31 am
I've been thinking about this recently and my (probably future) choice is the MOTU 828es.
From what I understand, the sound quality is a lot better than earlier 828 versions - it uses the ESS Sabre32 DAC now.
Yeah on paper this is the one for sure! But when I browsed through muff I found some threads with members concerned about the software and ableton. That scared me a bit. That makes me curious about kay_k response. You liked the drivers? What kind of DAW are u using? And also, how does the Scarlett compare to the Motu?
seta666 wrote:
Tue Mar 03, 2020 5:30 pm
Presonus 1810
.
.
Funy thing is I am thinking of replacing mine with the soundcraft mtk12
I don't know why, but there is something unsetteling about the Presonus. Regarding the Soundcraft - I think it works as a charm, but I am interested to use it only as a mixer, and something else as an audio interface. This is why I really need at least 6 outs that I send to the Soundcraft for summing :)
Tajnost wrote:
Wed Mar 04, 2020 12:08 am
RME UCX

and forget about any probs forever...
Yeah this is a really good candidate actually. I would love to have another two outputs, but that is maybe possible to expand in the future?
Any RME users out there: how is their software working with ableton?
orangehexagon wrote:
Wed Mar 04, 2020 1:49 am
I recently picked up the UA Arrow and while it doesn't tick many of your boxes really, I just want to point out that after having used a lot of different audio interfaces over the years... I can definitely notice a large improvement in quality with the UA
Yeah that's the thing, many say that the UA sounds great and feels good. I remember upgrading to my soundcraft from my old interface and it was like a new world. Now Im thinking it might be a good idea to get a really solid one (being that they are all quite costly) so I can use it for a looooong time.
nectarios wrote:
Wed Mar 04, 2020 3:21 am
Bought Apollo FireWire + UAD2 Satellite FireWire was included as part of UADs offer.
1370€ from Synthesizer.gr which was a special since I've been buying a lot from them and loyalty is rewarded.
That's a nice deal! Do you like the Apollo? I really like the looks of the Apollo, and the plugins are great that comes with it.

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Re: Audio Interface - How to choose?

Post by äggmedskägg » Wed Mar 04, 2020 4:35 am

I've been eyeing the Tascam US-16x08, it has good reviews, I like Tascam stuff, and my current 20 year old internal I/O picks up noise from the computer which is driving me nuts. If anyone has any experience with those, that would be great to know.



I just wish there was a 16 out interface that didn't cost insane moneys.

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Re: Audio Interface - How to choose?

Post by fragster » Wed Mar 04, 2020 4:50 am

Could Behringer X32 Rack fit the requirements? Anyone using one in home studio env?
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Re: Audio Interface - How to choose?

Post by kay_k » Wed Mar 04, 2020 4:57 am

naturligfunktion wrote:
Wed Mar 04, 2020 4:05 am
Wow! Thanks for all replies :)
...

Yeah on paper this is the one for sure! But when I browsed through muff I found some threads with members concerned about the software and ableton. That scared me a bit. That makes me curious about kay_k response. You liked the drivers? What kind of DAW are u using? And also, how does the Scarlett compare to the Motu?
Used to use it with Logic many years ago but I am Ableton (9) only now. I own an iMac i7 2011 and for some other reasons (bullshit Adobe subscription model) I am stuck on an older OS X.

I usually jam out on my mixwizard 14:4:2 and all the mono direct outs, subgroups and main go into the 828/2408 combo. I run Ableton actually more like a multitrack hard disc recorder. So I simultaneously record 14 channels of audio at 24bit/48kHz for over 10 minutes. Never had dropouts as far as I can remember.

I can't judge on the audio quality difference between the Focusrite and the MOTU but both are very good to my ear.
I actually prefer the configuration tool of the Focusrite but the MOTU software is really nice too (the software was my reason to switch from RME to MOTU back in the day, never liked the matrix mixer).
With newer MOTU interfaces you get EQing in the box and excellent measurements, which can be cool if you need that sort of stuff (I didn't really).

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Re: Audio Interface - How to choose?

Post by nectarios » Wed Mar 04, 2020 6:09 am

I really like the Apollo, I went from MOTU Ultralight mk3 to it and although I had a Mytek ADC96, I never got the chance to compare them side by side properly (meaning that I had the MOTU as a DA...so I would always get its sound when listening).

The Apollo sounds very nice to my ears, very close to monitoring the unconverted signal straight from the mixer.
UAD plugs are great and having 8 processors to use along with my computer's 3rd party plug ins, helps a lot.

Its not all rosy though, I get some occasional connection problems and from what I've read, other people have too (Firewire). Changed cables to more expensive ones, but no joy. I've sent support a message a few days ago, so I am waiting to see how they can help me.

But it works 85% of the time, problem free and having large buffer sizes in the DAW and 0 latency when recording and monitoring via the Apollo, is a game changer!

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Re: Audio Interface - How to choose?

Post by naturligfunktion » Wed Mar 04, 2020 8:22 am

äggmedskägg wrote:
Wed Mar 04, 2020 4:35 am
I've been eyeing the Tascam US-16x08, it has good reviews, I like Tascam stuff, and my current 20 year old internal I/O picks up noise from the computer which is driving me nuts. If anyone has any experience with those, that would be great to know.

I just wish there was a 16 out interface that didn't cost insane moneys.
That looks nice, and I do like Tascam, but every input has a preamp. I want the possibility to choose between different preamps, but otherwise, this would be a great option.

Btw their mixing desks look amazing!
kay_k wrote:
Wed Mar 04, 2020 4:57 am
I usually jam out on my mixwizard 14:4:2 and all the mono direct outs, subgroups and main go into the 828/2408 combo. I run Ableton actually more like a multitrack hard disc recorder. So I simultaneously record 14 channels of audio at 24bit/48kHz for over 10 minutes. Never had dropouts as far as I can remember.
.
.
I actually prefer the configuration tool of the Focusrite but the MOTU software is really nice too (the software was my reason to switch from RME to MOTU back in the day, never liked the matrix mixer).
With newer MOTU interfaces you get EQing in the box and excellent measurements, which can be cool if you need that sort of stuff (I didn't really).
That sounds good, my plan is to use ableton in the same way. Then I will obviously arrange, add effects, overdub and what not, so it is in this stage I really don't want any other software bugging around creating latency issues or anything like that. It sounds promising tho :)
nectarios wrote:
Wed Mar 04, 2020 6:09 am
The Apollo sounds very nice to my ears, very close to monitoring the unconverted signal straight from the mixer.
UAD plugs are great and having 8 processors to use along with my computer's 3rd party plug ins, helps a lot.

Its not all rosy though, I get some occasional connection problems and from what I've read, other people have too (Firewire). Changed cables to more expensive ones, but no joy. I've sent support a message a few days ago, so I am waiting to see how they can help me.
That also sounds good. Do you feel like you are a bit stuck to UA after getting it?

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Re: Audio Interface - How to choose?

Post by nectarios » Wed Mar 04, 2020 9:21 am

Stuck? If I am understanding you well, I like the system and I like UAD plugs, but technology advances and whilst you do need a supercomputer to run Acustica Audio plugs, I don't see my self switching anytime soon.

Might get another set of 8 analog AD input box, just to have everything plugged in and not use the mixer at all.

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Re: Audio Interface - How to choose?

Post by naturligfunktion » Wed Mar 04, 2020 9:51 am

That do sound pretty nice... I better start saving :)

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Re: Audio Interface - How to choose?

Post by StillNotWorking » Wed Mar 04, 2020 10:22 am

naturligfunktion wrote:
Tue Mar 03, 2020 8:42 am
Why is Focusrite so cheap in comparison to say RME?
Most vendors use off the shelf USB interface chips with their inherited limitations for both silicon and drivers.
RME build their own USB interfacing and therefore has full control of all aspect of their product. They also aim for the professional radio and television marked where a few seconds down time are equal to them never being able to sell anything to this marked ever again. What that mean is you are not company test pilot as so many vendors use their customer as today.

Some big and VERY popular sound card/plug vendors support Microsoft Windows as a second thought. Make sure your sound card are properly supported by the platform you intend to use it with.

Many sound cards are limited to only support class compliant standard. Which limit whats possible to do with the sound card but usually mean they're supported by most modern computers and pads without use of proprietary system drivers.
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Re: Audio Interface - How to choose?

Post by The Goob » Wed Mar 04, 2020 5:10 pm

naturligfunktion wrote:
Wed Mar 04, 2020 4:05 am
Tajnost wrote:
Wed Mar 04, 2020 12:08 am
RME UCX

and forget about any probs forever...
Yeah this is a really good candidate actually. I would love to have another two outputs, but that is maybe possible to expand in the future?
Any RME users out there: how is their software working with ableton?
The UCX has an ADAT port so you could add I/O in the future via that. The RME gear works great for me with Ableton and Windows 10. The Total Mix software is a pretty good sub for a hardware mixer/patchbay - the routing is very flexible.

You could also look at a used UFX. I have the old one (not the UFXII or UFX+) which I have no complaints at all with - it sounds great and has everything I would ever need. I used to have the UCX but switched over to the UFX for the extra I/O. The UCX was great too though. The only complaint I had with the UCX was the MIDI I/O is on a dongle attachment - not a huge deal but it was always a bit awkward.

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Re: Audio Interface - How to choose?

Post by Monofunk » Wed Mar 04, 2020 10:44 pm

Go with RME. The build quality of RME products is excellent. Their driver support for both Mac and Windows is excellent. They support their hardware for many years after release. Their customer support is helpful. The interface will play nice with any DAW. An RME interface you buy now will likely be working with your next hardware system a decade from now.

If you are on a tight budget your money is better spent elsewhere than on UA plugins even if you wait for their sales. You won't be able to use the UA plugins if you stop using UA interfaces. There are many great plugins out there beyond the UA ecosystem.

The quality difference in AD/DA conversion in this price range isn't worth obsessing over. The concern is having a fine sounding and stable product that will last and work without issues when you need it on any system you use it with.

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Re: Audio Interface - How to choose?

Post by naturligfunktion » Thu Mar 05, 2020 8:57 am

This is why I love this forum, such a wealth of knowledge!
StillNotWorking wrote:
Wed Mar 04, 2020 10:22 am
Most vendors use off the shelf USB interface chips with their inherited limitations for both silicon and drivers.
RME build their own USB interfacing and therefore has full control of all aspect of their product. They also aim for the professional radio and television marked where a few seconds down time are equal to them never being able to sell anything to this marked ever again. What that mean is you are not company test pilot as so many vendors use their customer as today.
I had no idea of this, thanks for sharing! Im sort of reading between the lines that RME is a serious company worth checking out yes?
The Goob wrote:
Wed Mar 04, 2020 5:10 pm
The UCX has an ADAT port so you could add I/O in the future via that. The RME gear works great for me with Ableton and Windows 10. The Total Mix software is a pretty good sub for a hardware mixer/patchbay - the routing is very flexible.

You could also look at a used UFX. I have the old one (not the UFXII or UFX+) which I have no complaints at all with - it sounds great and has everything I would ever need. I used to have the UCX but switched over to the UFX for the extra I/O. The UCX was great too though. The only complaint I had with the UCX was the MIDI I/O is on a dongle attachment - not a huge deal but it was always a bit awkward.
Yeah after reading through all nice replies RME is for sure looking nice. I think I will start looking for used models as I am saving money. Might be that I get a find :) One question regarding the UCX though: does it have a master volume knob? Or is that controlled in the software?
Monofunk wrote:
Wed Mar 04, 2020 10:44 pm
Go with RME.
.
.
The quality difference in AD/DA conversion in this price range isn't worth obsessing over. The concern is having a fine sounding and stable product that will last and work without issues when you need it on any system you use it with.
Nice post thanks, especially the last paragraph. I have never thought about AD/DA until I started to look for a new audio interface and it is easy to obsess hehe.

After these nice replies I am now on the lookout for a RME. Thanks everyone

:sb:

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Re: Audio Interface - How to choose?

Post by StillNotWorking » Thu Mar 05, 2020 9:30 am

naturligfunktion wrote:
Thu Mar 05, 2020 8:57 am
Yeah after reading through all nice replies RME is for sure looking nice. I think I will start looking for used models as I am saving money. Might be that I get a find :) One question regarding the UCX though: does it have a master volume knob? Or is that controlled in the software?
UCX and UFX has an optinal remote with a large knob and some buttons. With it's 5m cable you can move it around to where best needed. Newer UFX II and + series has an even better ADC, remote and much faster computer interface (more inputs through remote ADC devices).

For original UFX there where an update where early product run did not have the remote port.

UCX has 1 generation newer ADC compared to original UFX. But I've never A/B/C tested my UCX/UFX so can'te tell if there is a difference in sound.

Recomend reading manual and visit RME forum before buying.
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Re: Audio Interface - How to choose?

Post by The Goob » Thu Mar 05, 2020 9:56 am

naturligfunktion wrote:
Thu Mar 05, 2020 8:57 am
Yeah after reading through all nice replies RME is for sure looking nice. I think I will start looking for used models as I am saving money. Might be that I get a find :) One question regarding the UCX though: does it have a master volume knob? Or is that controlled in the software?
The main knob on the UFX can be used as a master volume knob and has a bunch of other functions too. You can control the volume from it or the software. Very flexible. You don't need the remote. I'm pretty sure the UCX worked the same way but it's been a couple years.

Second the manual suggestion above. Worth a glance through to confirm it's going to do what you need.

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Re: Audio Interface - How to choose?

Post by StillNotWorking » Thu Mar 05, 2020 10:15 am

The Goob wrote:
Thu Mar 05, 2020 9:56 am
I'm pretty sure the UCX worked the same way but it's been a couple years.
Sorry for not clearifying better. Yes, default mode for the front panel knob is main volume.
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Re: Audio Interface - How to choose?

Post by RedLab » Thu Mar 05, 2020 10:47 am

naturligfunktion wrote:
Tue Mar 03, 2020 8:42 am
The sound must be great - this is most important
If great sound is your priority then I wouldn't go for RME.
I tested an RME fireface ucx against the much cheaper Focusrite Scarlett and couldn't hear any difference. I also tested it against a Metric Halo uln-2 which was roughly the same price as the RME and the quality was much greater in MH's favor. So much more depth and detail in the D/A and the micpres in a whole other league (sterile, lifeless clean vs huge, larger-than-life clean sound).

That's not to say RME are bad audio interfaces, I'd be more than happy to use one in a live situation, but in the studio I expect much better sound for the money. Not that they sound bad but you might just as well buy something like a Focusrite Scarlett and save a lot of money if that's your main priority.

RME's main strengths seem to be low-latency, stability and functionality. Personally I've never had any instabilities with any interface I've used and my MH uln-2 has ever so slightly lower latency (than the ucx - the newer RME's might be better), and yet if those factors were crucial to me and/or I needed an interface for live performance, I'd definately look to RME as a top option.

Not sure what I'd go for in your situation. But I'd take a look at the JoeCo Cello, if you can live with the analogue in/out count being a tad lower than what you ask for (unless expanded via its digital connections). It sounds really, really good - likely the best within your budget, although the latency perfomance isn't too good. Otherwise look at (used) UAD's if you think you'll use the plugins or simply go for something cheaper like the Scarlett

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Re: Audio Interface - How to choose?

Post by rod_zero » Thu Mar 05, 2020 11:05 am

Rme has better support than UA, their products are supported longer.

As for sound quality, today's DAC's are of excellent quality all across the board, from the 200 range up to 2000, the technology is cheap and there is no mystery on how to turn signals in to 1's and 0's. If people was making excellent records 30 years ago with DAC's that are now obsolete what we have now is more than enough. It is the kind of technology that has reached the specifications required to be as good as it could ever be given Human hearing range.

What does change is the preamps, each company has their thing going and at the end of the day it is about personal preference, RME is super transparent: what goes in goes out.

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