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Old December 2nd, 2012, 07:27 AM   #1 (permalink)
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New USB interface - looking for suggestions!

As the title suggests, I'm looking for a new audio interface.

I'm not a complete newbie to this, I used to work with a Motu 828MkII but that broke down about two years ago. For a number of reasons, I haven't really done anything in terms of home recording / producing for those past two years but I'm planning on changing that. As you might guess, I'm not really up to speed when it comes to the current market for audio interfaces.

I have a PC and a laptop, both are new, run Windows 7, are pretty powerful and almost identical in terms of hardware (with the exception of a different graphics card), both of them have USB 3.0, neither has a Firewire connection. I'm looking for a USB interface to allow me to work with both systems.

I used to work with Fruity Loops and a number of plugins but I want to change that. A good friend of mine who runs a recording studio is using Sonar and he took his time to show me around that software. In the future, I would like to have the option to take my projects to his studio.

The two most important applications for a new interface would be:
- Recording guitar (and bass), mainly to save my ideas for new songs
- working with software synths etc. - I like to dabble in electronic music, trip hop, etc.

I'm looking for an interface which offers
- good quality converters
- low latency esp. when recording guitar (high latency really gets to me when I have to play guitar)
- decent sound quality (24 bit / 96 kHz or more preferably)
- decent build quality
- compatibility with Windows 7
- compatibility with Sonar
- 1 or 2 mic / instrument inputs, I have never needed more than two
- outputs for a pair of studio monitors and a seperate headphones output
- Midi In / Out (not needed right now but this could be nice to have in the future)

I don't really care about an interface needing / not needing an external power supply since I'm confident I will always have an electrical outlet around. The size and design of the interface don't really matter and I can live without any standalone mixer capabilities or numerous external control kobs.

Low latency and decent sound quality is what matters most to me.

Regarding the price, I'm open to suggestions, but I'd like to stay in a price range of about 500 - 600 (~550 - 800$ USD) and if possible, a lower price would be nice as well . If that seems unreasonably low, feel free to tell me - I can wait and save up a little more if I see a need to.

I want to be able to work comfortably and well but I don't want to build a professional recording studio.
If I come up with some musical ideas / projects that I find good enough to record professionally, I will contact my friend and use his studio instead.

Thanks in advance,
Stephan

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Old December 2nd, 2012, 07:48 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I've never found anything wrong with my interface.
Presonus Audiobox USB, separate level for both headphone and main, midi i/o, 2 preamps for xlr/jack. Works great for my needs.

Did cost me about 200 or something like that.
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Old December 2nd, 2012, 08:21 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Thank you for your suggestion, but I'm not sure about that one... I'm familiar with it because the other guitarist in my band uses it, albeit with a Macbook.
For one thing, it's only 48kHz and when I recorded a few guitar lines over at my buddy's house a few weeks ago, I found the latency to be really bad.

Not going to brag about some imaginary mad guitar skills, I'm not exactly a super hot lead guitarist but I'm a pretty precise player, at least rhythmically. That recording, when talking about being in time / sync with anything, is the worst recording I've ever managed to botch.

A few weeks before that, I did a few (more rhythmically challenging) parts in my other buddy's recording studio and I didn't have any such problems. Additionally, I can't remember running into any such problems when my old Motu was still in working condition.

The Presonus also did give us some headaches when we tried to record some Midi with our drummer's electronic drum kit, again with the Macbook.

I don't know if that unit is faulty but my buddy advised me not to buy it.
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Old December 2nd, 2012, 03:36 PM   #4 (permalink)
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Focusrite stuff seems to have a good reputation. I have the Scarlett 8i6 but in your price range you could go for one of the bigger units. Converters and pre's are good and latency is not and issue due to the monitoring setup. Comes with "Mix Control' for different monitoring setups and bigger units than mine have DSP (monitoring effects). When I bought mine it came with a free Focusrite plug in package of compressor, reverb and and eq.
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Old December 2nd, 2012, 03:46 PM   #5 (permalink)
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I use an iRig into my macbook on garage band and the sound quality is really good. This probably doesn't help you but oh well.
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Old December 3rd, 2012, 06:08 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Thanks for the replies!
I'm afraid iRig and Garageband won't do in a Windows context, but for the price difference between my laptop and your Macbook, I could probably shell out a lot more than intended for an interface and still come out on top financially...

I've heard and read a lot of good things about Focusrite as well...

I did a bit of research and also got some recommendations elsewhere and came up with a few candidates that might fit the bill for what I'm looking for:

- RME Babyface
- MOTU Ultralite Mk.III Hybrid
- Focusrite Forte

Some slightly lower priced options:

- Focusrite Scarlett 8i6 (or one of the other Scarletts)
- MOTU Microbook II

Does anybody have an idea about how these interfaces really compare to each other? I'm not asking about the specs, but about their sound quality / latency / etc.

Regards,
Stephan
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Old December 3rd, 2012, 10:10 AM   #7 (permalink)
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I can vouch for the quality of the Focusrite preamps/converters, although mine is Firewire. Quite good for that price range.
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Old December 5th, 2012, 07:23 AM   #8 (permalink)
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Thanks for your reply, I'll keep that in mind!
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Old December 5th, 2012, 07:48 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tsetse View Post
For one thing, it's only 48kHz
Are you sure this number is really that important to you? Most of the time we want higher numbers because ... they're higher numbers, and higher is better, right? But in reality it's not always like that.

My own "research" in this field has led me to the conclusion that 48 kHz/24 bits is more than adequate for most musical uses, unless one is recording and downpitching bat calls or something exotic like that.

And by the way, few "audiophiles" seem to agree with this, but most audio engineers seem to agree. So ... whom to trust ...
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Old December 5th, 2012, 11:52 AM   #10 (permalink)
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He wants what he wants guys. I have experience with a few and I rate them in terms of quality/sound in the following order. For me, latency is a PC setting, not really the interface:

RME
Focusrite - M-Audio
Presonus

I guess the babyface would be fine but I don't like breakouts very much. You could find a used usb comparable model to the fireface 400 very close to your price range I bet. Maybe it's a UX or something?

The focusrite is a solid choice. I have a couple of those. My partner has an M-Audio. I did have a presonus. All of my experience is with fw units so usb may be either terrible by comparison or exactly the same. I don't know. From what I saw when I was looking a month ago there aren't any I found using usb3.
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Old December 5th, 2012, 12:51 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Originally Posted by Old Cane View Post
For me, latency is a PC setting, not really the interface
That was also what I thought when I saw the OP. But it got me wondering, is there a noticeable difference in latency between different interfaces? I'd think that switching to a SSD for recording would be one way to keep latency low.
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Old December 5th, 2012, 01:12 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Ok, I know that there's an ongoing quasi-religious debate when it comes to recording / mixing with higher sampling rates.

I don't want to start a new incarnation of that debate in this thread, but let me shoot back with the following:

There is positively NO interface anymore in the price (and probably quality) range that is limited to only 48 kHz, I've just checked that fact with some major online dealers. So that discussion basically is a moot point nowadays.

I can live VERY well with less inputs or outputs than my old Motu 828 Mk.II had and I'd be very happy to save some money THAT way but I'm not going to save money by sacrificing build quality, sound quality or performance.

Quote:
For me, latency is a PC setting, not really the interface
In most cases, I agree. In the current case, I beg to differ. The latency fiasco that I spoke of when recording guitar over at my friend's place was with the Presonus Audiobox and a recent Macbook Pro. We double-checked everything and it was definitely the interface...

I paid ~800 for my old interface when I got it 6 or 7 years ago, so facing the prospect of loosing a few ports or connections, staying at about the same quality level and saving ~200 in the process seems like a good deal to me, that's why I'm shooting for the 500 - 600 range.

@Old Cane:
Thanks for the "ranking", this basically confirms what I had heard before.
Regarding the Babyface, I'm not so happy with the breakout cables as well but I'm ready to live with that if everything else works like it's supposed to. Sadly, this is RME's only USB interface.

Quote:
Maybe it's a UX or something?
What is a UX?

Thanks for your replies,
Stephan
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Old December 5th, 2012, 02:06 PM   #13 (permalink)
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If money isn`t an issue, RME babyface is the way to go. ( well, if it`s REALLY no issue, maybe you should look into Burl . . .)

I just bought a Roland Quad Capture, and I`ve been really happy with it. It`ll do 24/192, which is more than my daw - lol

there`s a shootout with the roland and native instruments, allegedly the first apogee level interfaces for the pc`s.

http://audiostateofmind.com/2012/roland-quad-capture

I haven`t read any reviews of the presonus or focusrite that put them in the same class.
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Old December 5th, 2012, 02:55 PM   #14 (permalink)
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If money REALLY wasn't an issue, you'd know my music from all kinds of media and you'd probably all would have this discussion with my recording engineer working at my recording studio and words like "Neve" would be dropped more frequently, while I would be sitting in the sun aboard my yacht, plinking away on either my pre-war Martin or my genuine '52 Tele .

Delusions of grandeur aside, I'm not exactly rich and basically, money is (sadly) always an issue, but it's not that I need an interface at once. I'd rather wait a few additional weeks or months but end up with something that I can actually work with. I believe in "buy cheap, buy twice", it somehow always ends up like this for me.

To sum this all up, I want to record a few guitar parts, I want to delve deeper into experimenting with electronic music and I also want to continue to learn the ropes of recording and mixing, because I'm interested in that and because it's fun.
I feel like I can only do the latter if I have some proper gear to work with and I'm willing to save up for that.
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Old December 5th, 2012, 04:35 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Ok, its a UC. Now I know this is way more than you mentioned but I do see the fw version around here used for $8-850. Maybe you can find one of these for that.

http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/FirefaceUC/
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Old December 5th, 2012, 09:59 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Might want to also look at the Focusrite Forte, right in your price range...

http://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/ForteUSB/

24 bit/192k sampling... breakout box again, though...

I'm looking at getting a new interface next year as well, probably the Scarlett 8i6... hits my sweet spot in price/performance quite nicely (my budget is smaller than yours)

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Old December 6th, 2012, 11:49 AM   #17 (permalink)
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I would definately go with the 8i6 if I was looking for what you are looking for. The fw units offer 2 headphone sends. For some reason usb only has one but most units of all brands seem to have one for the most part. You'd have 2 premaps and if you ever want to get one or two more there are two more lines in for that. Focusrite seems to use the same preamps on everything and I'd guess they use the same converters too. So if you like the $1000 unit you'll like the $200 unit just as well.

My next upgrade if I ever do one will either be the RME UFX or the UA Apollo. Probably never happen.
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Old December 6th, 2012, 12:38 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Sadly, the UC (like all the other RME interfaces with the exception of the Babyface) uses Firewire, both of my current systems don't have Firewire.

And yes, the Focusrite Forte is on my short list as well... seems to be a competitor model to the Babyface, same price range, similar features, similar design.

Thanks for your suggestions, much appreciated!
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Old December 6th, 2012, 01:04 PM   #19 (permalink)
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Not sure where you're getting your info. Did you see the pictures? You can see the usb port and then it reads (first sentence) RME's Fireface UC continues the Fireface legacy, but this time trades in FireWire for USB.
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Old December 6th, 2012, 03:51 PM   #20 (permalink)
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Oh...

Thanks for correcting me... I got my info from looking at their site, finding one or two Firefaces with Firewire connections and just went from there and assumed they were all just Firewire compatible... I'll better take a good hard look there again!
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