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An audio interface that is foolproof

Discussion in 'Recording Gear and Equipment [BG]' started by greencow, Jan 26, 2012.

  1. greencow


    Feb 7, 2008

    What I want:
    2 inputs at the same time, has to accept line, mic and instrument.
    Preamps have to be good.
    Direct monitoring available and backtrack monitoring with low latency.
    Using it with a different soft/hardware setup shouldn't be a new and interesting puzzle to work out.
    Price: you tell me.
    What software will I be using: No idea yet. I hear good things about reaper.

    I would be using this for headphone practice with backtracks from my laptop(Dell XPS) and for recording demos, most likely using my laptop or PC

    So, what should I get?
  2. foq1978


    Aug 7, 2009
    Rio de Janeiro
  3. greencow


    Feb 7, 2008
    I seem to be reading a lot of good stuff about the Focusrite Scarlet 2I2.

    The POD I'm not so sure about, the modeling and the VU meters don't atrackt me and the MIDI is not important either. It costs about the same so I am expecting the Focusrite to be of better quality. Anyone care to tell me why I should opt for something else?
  4. shwashwa


    Aug 30, 2003
    although its been out awhile now this one is everything you asked for: Emu 0404
    mine came with cubase, sonar, ableton (light versions, but plenty powerful enough for what you want to do.) and a whole bunch of software synth sounds as well. couldnt beat that deal
  5. Tractorr


    Aug 23, 2011
    Unfortunately, USB was never intended for passing audio hence there will often be complications. True the newer protocols (2.0, 3.0) allow more data to pass thru but the fundamental architecture was never intended for audio so there will be problems. I am not a computer engineer so I can't really explain USB architecture, but I have had plenty of problems with USB audio interfaces. Check out discussion of USB interfaces on pro audio forums and you will see more of the same.

    If you can get a firewire interface and you will save yourself a lot of headache. The possibility of complications still exist but many of your problems will be solved. Even if you need to get a firewire card for your comp this is the way to go.
  6. Try :

    MOTU.com - Welcome to MOTU Audio

    They should have one USB interface that suits you.
    It's professional quality.
  7. greencow


    Feb 7, 2008
    The Emu is unavailable I'm afraid.

    I know how USB, FireWire and PCI work. It is not the data transfer speed itself that causes the issues(Studying electronics at the Uni involves a lot of computer science) Atleast not with USB 2.0. I don't think there are any USB 3.0 interfaces out there and frankly the ports on my laptop seem to have some glitches.

    I am certain that USB is what I'm looking for, I simply have no need for anything more. I have had good results using my BOSS GT-10B for recording sofar but I am looking for something smaller and neutral. If the need to record drums or big collectives live ever comes up I will definetly go for a dedicated computer with a PCI interface.

    I will consider the MOTU but the cost is making me think twice. Need to find out the differences between the 4pre, UlraLite and Audio Express
  8. I have had great success with Presonus gear. I am currently using the FireStudio Mobile, which f course is FireWire, but I've also heard great things of heir USB interfaces. They have a few to choose from with different levels of IO. I like the XMAX preamps and again have never had a problem with any of my Presonus gear.
  9. Have you check :

    MOTU.com - Feature summary

    It's not too expensive and has the features you requested. A v2 is in preparation (NAMM 2012).

    If you had a Mac, I would have recommended you the Apogee One. It has only one input (mic, instrument, or line) but has a built-in mic. That's what I'm using currently.
  10. silky smoove

    silky smoove Supporting Member

    May 19, 2004
    Seattle, WA
    What do you mean by "direct monitoring?" Are you referring to hardware monitoring (ie monitoring the input source, rather than through the software), or something else?

    If you are talking about hardware monitoring, check out the Mackie Onyx Blackjack. I use the Blackbird (the Blackjack's big brother) and really enjoy it. True hardware monitoring (ie works without even having a computer hooked up), and mic pres/converters that I've found comparable to my previous interface, an Apogee Duet, which has pres and converters that people rave about.
  11. USB doesn't Pass Audio!

    OP I have always like Presonus Products, the Audiobox is a good option. The New M-audio interfaces seem to be good. I have an old Fast track pro that gets the Job done, the pres could be better.

    But if you have the budget and want to get a really great small USB interface, take a look at RME'S Babyface.
  12. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    the mixers with USB do all this, and only 2 channels (stereo) to record in the computer.
  13. Yes, they might, But in order to offer more features and keep the same price tag, they usually have to cheap out at some point. I'd rather get a plain interface with less features, but with better AD/DA converters than a cheap Mixer with a stereo interface.
  14. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    I wouldn't assume that.
    Some interfaces are overpriced for what they are.
    AD/DA is not as flimsy as it was last century.
  15. I agree, and many musical instruments are too. But if you had a $200 for recording gear, would buy a plain interface or a cheap mixer with a cheap two channel interface?
  16. greencow


    Feb 7, 2008
    The interface should have physcal controls for input gains and monitor and headphone volumes so that removes some of the offered units from my options list.

    Direct monitoring=hardware monitoring: The signal from the 2 inputs is sent to the monitor and headphone outs withot passing it through the computer.
    The Mackie definetly gets a place in the list.

    The presonus I had a chance to use was quite nice, except I felt that the preamps had verry small dynamic capability for the price so strong signals(Micing a distorted valve amp or a hard hitting drummers bass drum for instance) often ended in input saturation. I am not the only person who has had this experience. This means placing the mic further away from the source but for some aplications it is better to have the mic close to the speaker.

    The mixers with USB all indeed can connect to the computer. However, Alesis and Behringer have not put the same time into making excelent drivers for their devices as dedicated audio interface manufacturers have. This means foolproof is nolonger guaranteed and latency is much more likely to be a problem. Also a mixer with decent preamps, quality controls and all the important features will likely have more than 2 channels, will cost more than a 2 channel interface, will be bigger and will have features not important to me.

    As to the Babyface: I have no doubt it is a great interface but I can't see how it is better from the same priced MOTU units. The extra small size adds to the price and the cable assembly that comes with it is added cost with no added functionality.

    Sofar in the list: The Mackie and the Focusrite. The MOTU has left the list for now, because for the price diference I can get a decent mic or some other useful equipment.
  17. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    If you don't need or want a mixer, don't get one, it's your money.

    But Latency? I thought you were doing direct monitoring?

    Mixers with USB are more foolproof because the use standard drivers. HD audio is a standard that all the standard drivers can do.

    ASIO4ALL solves a lot of driver problems. In fact check the Alesis USB interfaces. The new ones ship with ASIO4ALL
  18. greencow


    Feb 7, 2008
    Well, any audio interface has to use an audio stream I/O driver. ASIO4All is what it says, it is a one driver fits all. It can be used with any audio device that connects over USB. Alesis has not written any drivers for their interfaces.

    While the ASIO4All is a very good choise for most things and I use it with my Boss, it is not foolproof. We recorded a demo using the Alesis 8 channel Multimix with USB. I played the bass inwhile listening to the drum track from the computer. It is normal that the bass track would be a bit behind the drums when recorded but it can be just lifted to the right place. Instead my bass track somehow ended up in the wrong tempo and ended about 10 seconds to late. Played at a near perfect tempo of 103,3 With the said unit we noticed the latency changng a lot. While usin Presonus and M-Audio interfaces the latency stayed constant.

    We never figured out what exactly happened.

    Not saying that a dedicated driver would have been a better result but it is good to have some driver choices, simply because thre are a million combinations of hardware and software and drivers are usually tested on only a handfull of systems.

    Why anyone anywhere would want anything in HD audio is far beyond me. The Nyquist Theorem actually does work.
  19. seamonkey


    Aug 6, 2004
    Sounds more like DAW software problems.
    I can't think of any multitrack DAW software that doesn't automatically compensate for playing along with already recorded tracks.
    I don't know what happened in your case, but I'd hesitate to start blame with the hardware or drivers.
  20. spigmu


    Mar 25, 2009
    Brooklyn, NY
    True, but Tractorr's statement is correct. USB wasn't developed with passing audio data in mind while FW was, and there are several fundamental differences which may or may not matter depending on the circumstance. The two main ones are that USB2 only allows asynchronous, or one way, transmission. FW is a synchronous, or two way, protocol. But the biggest difference is that USB is host reliant, or makes frequent calls to the CPU while it is working, and is dependent on what else the computer is/is not doing to get the data to the destination on time. FW never makes calls to the CPU, only relying on the bridge chip, hence it doesn't care what else the CPU is doing. USB specs are hypothetical best case scenarios because of this. This is less of a problem with current computers and small interfaces, where horsepower is good enough to deal with everything without a pause. But that's the main reason USB has been fine for small interfaces run modestly on decent CPUs.

    But the spec was simply not designed for larger track counts. Not because it isn't theoretically fast enough, but because of those two reasons. FW was engineered to address those factors. They're both great protocols, but approach data transfer from opposite angles.

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