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How important a/d converters are for you
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Author How important a/d converters are for you
spruce999
I just want to ask how important is a quality of your audio interface and its a/d conversion for tracking synths? Please tell me your story and share some experience because I don't know if I should buy more modules or better audio interface help hmmm..... zombie oops
xonetacular
Differences are negligible in AD conversion in 2018. It's all mostly superstition and you're not going to be able to tell the difference.

Differences in audio interfaces come down to IO, drivers, and stability and that's what you should be shopping for and what might be worth paying more for but converters are the last thing you should care about.
Raven_Martin
I'm gonna have to go ahead and disagree with that assertion. For a few years I used a focusrite 18i8. No problems really, other than it crashing every few days. Swapped it out for a pair of MOTU 828iis and the difference was immediately audible. The MOTU's seem 'punchier' for lack of a better word. Almost 'older' in the way they sound, in a pleasing way.

Call me superstitious if you will, but me and my jam friends could tell the difference immediately.

I wouldn't go back to focusrite now.

May well be hocum and nonsense but it makes the difference in my mind and to my ears so what can I do? seriously, i just don't get it
xonetacular
I did say modern converters. The 828mk2 is 15 years old. I could also tell the difference between mine and a focusrite when I had them, the 828 mk2 sounded worse to me and slightly compressed/colored, while the newer focusrite sounded clear and like hearing exactly what was supposed to come out.

Compare an 828mk2 to a modern motu interface and you will hear the same difference.
spruce999
But there is another question if this difference in perceived quality is due to input or output section of interface zombie
donato
I went from a MOTU Ultralite mk3 hybrid to a MOTU 8a and I was surprised how much better everything sounded. A lot crisper for lack of a better description.

If the differences were negligible, nobody would be spending the money on better converters.

Edit: and even the new Ultralites have lower quality converters compared to the 8a, 16a, etc. It’s not just a “modern” thing, although it’s true as time progresses most all have gotten better (but this also goes for the better ones).
xonetacular
donato wrote:

If the differences were negligible, nobody would be spending the money on better converters.


Nonsense, the audio industry is full of woo and bullshit people drop loads of money on.

AB test the converters on the latest models of all the main brands and I doubt you could tell the difference.
Scot Solida
donato wrote:
I went from a MOTU Ultralite mk3 hybrid to a MOTU 8a and I was surprised how much better everything sounded. A lot crisper for lack of a better description.


I had a similar experience, replacing an 828mkII I'd used for over a decade with a 1248. The difference was not subtle, to say the least.
Shledge
Your ears can be easily fooled and always vary themselves. I would not trust them on comparing audio quality otherwise you'll fall into audiophile woo territory. Psychology from cheap/expensive objects can also play a part in affecting your senses.

For example, I thought my MS20 mini sounded muffled on one output but brighter on the other. Turns out the loudness difference was affecting how my ears percieved it, and a spectrograph showed they're... the same response.

As for audio interfaces, it is largely true that audio quality isn't a big deal anymore. The more expensive ones usually focus on less noise, more features, digital ins/outs, higher reliability etc.
donato
xonetacular wrote:
donato wrote:

If the differences were negligible, nobody would be spending the money on better converters.


Nonsense, the audio industry is full of woo and bullshit people drop loads of money on.


To some extent yeah. But in my experience that’s not the case here. Whether the difference is worth it is up to the individual.
xonetacular
You can also test your own interface. Loop an output to an input and record a sample file and analyze the difference.
xonetacular
this is also always a good watch

billyk419
Yeah I tend to disagree with converters being totally worthless. If that were true, companies like Lynx/Burl/Black Lion Audio/Antelope basically wouldn't exist anymore and major studios would have the same gear as the rest of us. However, a lot of other things go into whether or not you can actually hear the difference (i.e. monitors, acoustic treatment of the room, design of the room, etc.)

So to the average bedroom studio musician, it's very unlikely that you'd be able to perceive much of a difference. I'd spend money on diffusers, bass traps, and wall treatment before looking into high end converters
cycad73
Shledge wrote:
For example, I thought my MS20 mini sounded muffled on one output but brighter on the other. Turns out the loudness difference was affecting how my ears percieved it, and a spectrograph showed they're... the same response.


I'd call that a real effect: the ear's frequency response varies as a function of loudness [Fletcher-Munson curves, etc.]

Gaining up the softer signal seems to be a solution, but it may increase the noise floor. This noise could be enough to mask the highest frequencies of the source, which again leads to a muffled sound.

Also, a louder source can activate nonlinearities somewhere in the chain, perhaps even at the MS-20 output stage. What this adds is very subtle, and may not be immediately obvious from the spectrogram. That is, spectrograms should differ, but the eye wouldn't be able to make sense of the difference.

But the ear may be highly sensitive to even a slight distortion because we hear events, not sounds. The physical mechanism underlying distortion is evident in living systems undergoing distress (which often demands immediate response) and thus we are highly attuned to distortion as a whole, far beyond what would be predicted by the filterbank model of the ear where each channel is treated in isolation.

After all, the filterbank model is verified only in lab conditions where appearing of the sound object is given, as a prior condition for the experiment. But we know from our ability to pick up on speech a few tables away in a noisy restaurant that appearing itself is conditioned by the activities in which we are engaged and involves also one's beliefs and emotional states. There are literally different worlds that open up for us based on what we are doing, how we are feeling, what we believe. And if we don't fundamentally believe in the sounds we are producing, the listener won't either.

This isn't "woo" at all, it's just a much more careful examination of the entire picture of what we hear, how we make sense of what we hear and how this "sense" is both conditioned by and conditioning of our activities and emotional states.

We want so badly to stand outside the whole apparatus and achieve mastery over it, that we forget the extent to which we are implicated in it. "Science tells me X" -- but by "science" one is bringing in not actual science, not the scientific method applied to a proper question, but the false human/nature divide that is already assumed in the question that we do ask. This is the "woo" we need to leave behind.
xonetacular
One of the main reasons major studios buy high end outboard is just to impress clients.
Shledge
cycad73 wrote:
Shledge wrote:
For example, I thought my MS20 mini sounded muffled on one output but brighter on the other. Turns out the loudness difference was affecting how my ears percieved it, and a spectrograph showed they're... the same response.


I'd call that a real effect: the ear's frequency response varies as a function of loudness [Fletcher-Munson curves, etc.]

Gaining up the softer signal seems to be a solution, but it may increase the noise floor. This noise could be enough to mask the highest frequencies of the source, which again leads to a muffled sound.

Also, a louder source can activate nonlinearities somewhere in the chain, perhaps even at the MS-20 output stage. What this adds is very subtle, and may not be immediately obvious from the spectrogram. That is, spectrograms should differ, but the eye wouldn't be able to make sense of the difference.

But the ear may be highly sensitive to even a slight distortion because we hear events, not sounds. The physical mechanism underlying distortion is evident in living systems undergoing distress (which often demands immediate response) and thus we are highly attuned to distortion as a whole, far beyond what would be predicted by the filterbank model of the ear where each channel is treated in isolation.

After all, the filterbank model is verified only in lab conditions where appearing of the sound object is given, as a prior condition for the experiment. But we know from our ability to pick up on speech a few tables away in a noisy restaurant that appearing itself is conditioned by the activities in which we are engaged and involves also one's beliefs and emotional states. There are literally different worlds that open up for us based on what we are doing, how we are feeling, what we believe. And if we don't fundamentally believe in the sounds we are producing, the listener won't either.

This isn't "woo" at all, it's just a much more careful examination of the entire picture of what we hear, how we make sense of what we hear and how this "sense" is both conditioned by and conditioning of our activities and emotional states.

We want so badly to stand outside the whole apparatus and achieve mastery over it, that we forget the extent to which we are implicated in it. "Science tells me X" -- but by "science" one is bringing in not actual science, not the scientific method applied to a proper question, but the false human/nature divide that is already assumed in the question that we do ask. This is the "woo" we need to leave behind.


K thx
Shledge
cycad73 wrote:
Shledge wrote:
For example, I thought my MS20 mini sounded muffled on one output but brighter on the other. Turns out the loudness difference was affecting how my ears percieved it, and a spectrograph showed they're... the same response.


I'd call that a real effect: the ear's frequency response varies as a function of loudness [Fletcher-Munson curves, etc.]

Gaining up the softer signal seems to be a solution, but it may increase the noise floor. This noise could be enough to mask the highest frequencies of the source, which again leads to a muffled sound.

Also, a louder source can activate nonlinearities somewhere in the chain, perhaps even at the MS-20 output stage. What this adds is very subtle, and may not be immediately obvious from the spectrogram. That is, spectrograms should differ, but the eye wouldn't be able to make sense of the difference.

But the ear may be highly sensitive to even a slight distortion because we hear events, not sounds. The physical mechanism underlying distortion is evident in living systems undergoing distress (which often demands immediate response) and thus we are highly attuned to distortion as a whole, far beyond what would be predicted by the filterbank model of the ear where each channel is treated in isolation.

After all, the filterbank model is verified only in lab conditions where appearing of the sound object is given, as a prior condition for the experiment. But we know from our ability to pick up on speech a few tables away in a noisy restaurant that appearing itself is conditioned by the activities in which we are engaged and involves also one's beliefs and emotional states. There are literally different worlds that open up for us based on what we are doing, how we are feeling, what we believe. And if we don't fundamentally believe in the sounds we are producing, the listener won't either.

This isn't "woo" at all, it's just a much more careful examination of the entire picture of what we hear, how we make sense of what we hear and how this "sense" is both conditioned by and conditioning of our activities and emotional states.

We want so badly to stand outside the whole apparatus and achieve mastery over it, that we forget the extent to which we are implicated in it. "Science tells me X" -- but by "science" one is bringing in not actual science, not the scientific method applied to a proper question, but the false human/nature divide that is already assumed in the question that we do ask. This is the "woo" we need to leave behind.


K thx
CF3
There's a point of diminishing returns in my opinion. Even the cheapest audio interfaces are pretty high quality compared to stuff from 10-15 years ago. Much more important is knowing how to correctly record signals. A mean there ARE differences no doubt, but I think anything reasonably high quality will yield good results. When I start to hear ppl describe audio interfaces like they're describing a glass of wine at a tasting, I gotta roll my eyes a little bit (sorta of oaky with blueberry overtones).

It's like ppl spending thousands on high end monitors and not having a treated space.

2 cents. Guinness ftw!
CDavis
There definitely is a difference in the sound of converters. Of course it won’t make a difference if your room sucks. I tried a UA 2192 over my normal RME UFX and it was like night and day. I couldn’t get enough. Everything was so 3D and euphonic.
dogoftears
I own a Mytek 8x192, Antelope Orion, and Metric Halo 2882, and I plan on purchasing the new Cranesong HEDD in the near future. they all sound completely different to my ears, both the DACs and ADCs, and yes, this is in blind testing. ADC's are especially all quite different sounding, and tend to vary their tone based on the level being fed.

converters are very important in my universe. but good monitoring and room acoustics come first. if you have accurate speakers and treatments, the difference between converters is very obvious, especially in terms of transient response. no, it is not snake oil, they really all sound different. TRY them in YOUR room before making any judgements. use a retailer with a 30 day return policy.

oh and PS-- i would go for a good monitoring DAC before pimping out the ADC side of things. the monitor DAC is what helps you make critical listening decisions.
rod_zero
xonetacular wrote:
Differences are negligible in AD conversion in 2018. It's all mostly superstition and you're not going to be able to tell the difference.

Differences in audio interfaces come down to IO, drivers, and stability and that's what you should be shopping for and what might be worth paying more for but converters are the last thing you should care about.


This, 100% agree

xonetacular wrote:
donato wrote:

If the differences were negligible, nobody would be spending the money on better converters.


Nonsense, the audio industry is full of woo and bullshit people drop loads of money on.

AB test the converters on the latest models of all the main brands and I doubt you could tell the difference.


Totally, the AD conversion myth is very similar to the audiophool one, lots of woo.

Shledge wrote:
Your ears can be easily fooled and always vary themselves. I would not trust them on comparing audio quality otherwise you'll fall into audiophile woo territory. Psychology from cheap/expensive objects can also play a part in affecting your senses.



This is the explanation: human ears are not precision tools, we as humans have heavy perception bias build in, that's why we create precision measuring tools in the first place.


There are some arguments being made for it:

1.- If this is woo, why pros use the expensive stuff? this is an argument from authority, a logical fallacy that presents no hard evidence of the real differences.

2.- "I can hear the difference", again you are a human and subject to bias.

A/D conversion quality is one of the most overvalued and overstated things in the recording industry, the fact is conversion design goes for 1:1 reproduction, unlike preamps which in fact can impart some sonic qualities, converters should go for as 1:1 as possible and current technology allows to get great quality for a great price. There are some árts of the implementation that obviously make a dedicated audio interface with good headroom to distort less than others but it is not that hard to achieve.

Black lion audio is just pure snake oil, there is an example of their "improvements" somewhere in their pages, I made a null test and the difference is really insignificant, only seen in the null test and I was totally unable to hear anything.
smithknows
The difference can be huge. And it can be measured.
The idea that Converter quality is “audiophile woo” is just uninformed.

I used to have various cheaper interfaces, focusrite, Maudie etc. then I upgraded to RME. The difference is night and day!

Then the studios use upgraded the main I/O to Burl. Holy shit! So much depth and width and vibe.

It’s pretty simple. You get what you pay for. A $200 dollar interface sounds like that much money to my ears. Admittedly, better than $200 dollars sounded 10 years ago, for sure.

To me, building a $10,000 Modular Synth and then recording it through $200 converters is a crime. Skip a couple modules and get a half decent interface.
dubonaire
My understanding is it's not so much the ADC and DAC chip, but the associated circuit design that makes the difference. An important factor is jitter.There are some interesting files looking at jitter on the Crane Song website and I was definitely able to hear the difference.

I also agree with xonetacular that you read some rubbish on forums, especially when you read someone on gearslutz talking about more air.

But I honestly think you should carefully weigh up what your needs are. I'd be spending money on awesome monitors and room treatment well before spending it on top end converters. I also think analogue summing is worth investing in before a top end converter.
Shledge
smithknows wrote:
The difference can be huge. And it can be measured.


Would you have such measurements?

Quote:
The idea that Converter quality is “audiophile woo” is just uninformed.


Might have been true 10-20 years ago.

Quote:
I used to have various cheaper interfaces, focusrite, Maudie etc. then I upgraded to RME. The difference is night and day!


As the above poster mentioned, your ears are not precision instruments. Psychology plays a huge part in how we perceive things. Our ears don't have a linear response either, and can change depending on volume etc.

You buy something expensive, so of course you'll think it sounds better - your brain is rushing to justify why you paid shitloads! You can't really know unless it is measured, and even then it's likely to be minute at best.

Quote:

Then the studios use upgraded the main I/O to Burl. Holy shit! So much depth and width and vibe.

There's that wooey terminology again.

Quote:
It’s pretty simple. You get what you pay for. A $200 dollar interface sounds like that much money to my ears. Admittedly, better than $200 dollars sounded 10 years ago, for sure.

You buy more expensive ones for factors such as having less noise, more headroom etc, all the stuff that's really important for large studios - however, audio quality itself really isn't an issue anymore.

Quote:
To me, building a $10,000 Modular Synth and then recording it through $200 converters is a crime. Skip a couple modules and get a half decent interface.

Said modulars already use unbalanced cables, (usually) crap PSUs and most modules don't really use top grade components, so...
Happyanimal
CF3 wrote:
There's a point of diminishing returns in my opinion. Even the cheapest audio interfaces are pretty high quality compared to stuff from 10-15 years ago. Much more important is knowing how to correctly record signals. A mean there ARE differences no doubt, but I think anything reasonably high quality will yield good results. When I start to hear ppl describe audio interfaces like they're describing a glass of wine at a tasting, I gotta roll my eyes a little bit (sorta of oaky with blueberry overtones).

It's like ppl spending thousands on high end monitors and not having a treated space.

2 cents. Guinness ftw!


This ^^^^^^

Also, remember that when you buy one of those boxes it isn’t just the AD/DA chip(s) inside. The implementation, transformers (if part of design), etc in ADDITION to those converters can make a substantial difference. I do agree in this day and age it less of an issue than it was 10-15 years ago. Can anybody say delta 1010?
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