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Audio Interface Recommendations?

Discussion in 'Studio Techniques' started by iggs, Feb 3, 2010.

  1. iggs

    iggs New Member

    Hey all,

    first post here ... :waveywavey:

    Recently got Logic Studio Pro on my 13-inch MacBook Pro 2.53GHz + 4GB RAM.

    I'm looking into getting an audio interface, I have M-Audio MobilePre and have used it in the past but looking to "upgrade".

    I don't need more then 2 mic inputs and don't care if it's firewire or USB. I'm also running a Lacie drive on the fw800 bus but I can move that to one of the USB ports if I need to hook up a FW interface at the same time.

    I was looking at Apogee Duet, TC Impact Twin and similar ones around and up to $500.

    Any recommendations and suggestions would be great, I will mostly record vocals and guitars with this setup. Any performance considerations I need to think about while running this alongside Lacie drive?

    Thanks to all in advance!
  3. ballantine

    ballantine New Member

    I had a lot of problems with an M-Audio 1814 and a Western Digital FW800 external HD. I tried almost every solution then, after suggestions, I bought a MOTU Traveler mk3 and everything works perfect! I have in the same bus a videocamera, an external drive and the audio card ... everything can work simultaneously without any issue.
    If you want driver stability I think nothing is better than MOTU.
    Hope this can help you.
  4. Eddie Sullivan

    Eddie Sullivan Senior member

  5. iggs

    iggs New Member

    Thanks guys ... MOTU sounds great ... MIDI too!
  6. Peter Ostry

    Peter Ostry Administrator Staff Member

    Presonus Firebox sounds great too.
    And the Focusrite Saffire series.
  7. iggs

    iggs New Member

    Thanks, those look good too ... half the price as well.

    What would be the main difference between those and ones costing twice as much?
  8. Eddie Sullivan

    Eddie Sullivan Senior member

    Driver Support

    There are some really nice things about MOTU Interfaces, like on board DSP, MIDI, plenty of connections, excellent converters, etc...

    but MOTU has been a Mac-centric software company from the beginning and their driver support and response to changes in Apple Hardware is top notch. Their interfaces work, and keep getting better.
  9. Peter Ostry

    Peter Ostry Administrator Staff Member

    Congratulations, you instantly picked one of the main questions of this audio decade :)

    All this gear became incredible good during the last years. Many companies do no longer aim for the best product but rather try to precisely hit a particular market segment where they expect to sell a lot of units. Just look at the device descriptions. The hotter the market segment is, the longer are the descriptions. Today you cannot seriously ask "What is the best product for this price?" – You have to ask "What are my requirements and what is the budget?"

    The main differences are the sound quality, number and type of inputs and outputs, quality of A/D converters, internal functions like mixers and monitoring, overall handling, solid drivers and last but not least the physical design.

    If you travel with an audio rack, you will prefer a 19" rackmount unit. If you work in a home studio you may love the preamps and the knob of the Duet but probably need more connections and learn to hate its unbalanced outputs. You may prefer the sturdy case of a Firebox over the elegant but slightly unstable design of a small Saffire but on the other hand prefer the Focusrite preamps.

    It is not easy to recommend anything. Leaving all other products alone, ignoring other good devices, I tend to say if you have a small studio and can place some of the equipment right on the desk, think about the Duet (few ins and outs), a Firebox (good overall quality), a small Saffire (good preamps, discussable design) or big Saffire (good price/quality/size relation). And finally, if you aim for more in the future and the $500 are not your absolute limit, the MOTU Ultralite is an option that brings you into a slightly higher region.

    For a plan to expand in the direction of a professional studio, the more expensive interface with sophisticated internal electronics would enter the discussion. Probably with ADAT, word clock, better controlled jitter and so on. The RME interfaces are such boxes for example, and the Metric Halo interfaces. But their smallest devices are beyond the budget you allow.

    Don't let you fool by features like built-in effects. Adding funny effects in the recording chain is good for feature lists and demonstrations but typically a bad idea. And there is not one high-end preamp or interface available that has a built-in reverb, ok?

    When you work in a small setup and record yourself, you need direct monitoring and want that via the interface. A crucial point these days, watch out for monitoring features! If your setup gets bigger, you may want true direct monitoring without the interface but this is another story.

    Above the price range in question, the higher the price is, the smaller are the differences in overall quality and the more it depends on the application. This is true for audio interfaces and microphones. Not necessarily for monitor boxes, where the price says virtually nothing (especially in the higher price ranges).

    Choosing the right components is a chicken-egg-cat-tail problem. Recording path, interface, monitors and room acoustics must match to achieve a certain sound quality. You can use less good parts in the chain as long as you know the weak points and plan to improve them later on. However, good microphones and monitors but a crappy interface make no sense. The audio interface is your "nerve center" for incoming and outgoing audio.
  10. CSeye

    CSeye Senior member

    Many excellent points already made regarding intended use, budget, and devices aimed for market segments.

    I would review features of recommended devices on line, keeping some sort of simple, written score card to go over when your done. If possible look at devices in your local music store.

    I've used a MOTU 828 mkll for years and can attest to MOTU bang for the buck$$$ in terms of features, durability of hardware and timely driver updates.

    A friend has a Presonus Fire Studio. Sounds great, and has been a flawless performer over the past year and a half.

    But the Duet will kick rump when it comes to sonic quality!!! Check out the link to audio clips on this thread.

    My bet is on the Duet. But any device you go with that meets your requirements is going to serve you well.;)
  11. iggs

    iggs New Member

    Thanks Peter for the detailed reply and thanks CSeye for more info as well.

    I think for me, sound quality would always be more important then extra features like built-in effects ... etc. I would like to get MIDI as well but it's not a must and as far as monitoring is concerned, I only need stereo outs as I go straight into my M-Audio BX5a. I have no need for surround or multiple in/outs as I will never use any outboard equipment.

    Interoperability with Logic and OSX in general is also something of a concern and MOTU and Apogee seem to be Logic/OSX-centric which is a plus.

    So far Duet seems like it would fit me the best ... but please keep the suggestions coming, I really appreciate all the input!

  12. Peter Ostry

    Peter Ostry Administrator Staff Member

    You may be right, or not, I don't know. Normally it is a good idea to buy a thing which is a little bigger than today's requirements. I bought my Fireface 800 a couple of years ago. I thought it is far to big but my old interface was broken and this Fireface was the quality I wanted and immediately available, just too big. 10 ins, 8 outs! And ADAT (what the heck is that?) ... Now I have only 2 free inputs and miss 2 outputs, 8 of the 16 available ADAT channels are in use. This may not be typical but can happen.

    Of course, if you really know what you do and will do in two years, you can settle on the perfect size of interface. But do you really know?

    Say yes and I keep my mouth :)

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