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Audio Interface for Large orchestral templates?

MoeWalsaad

Member
Hello,
My target is simply to get a newer Audio interface that has a high capacity/Features to handles large Orchestral midi templates and lots of Insert effects, with the least amount of Crackles/Glitches/Latency.

The number of audio input slots is not a priority since I rarely record multiple live stuff.

Brand doesn't matter, but I'm a Cubase user, and I'm aware that Steinberg has some Audio Interfaces that (could) push Cubase's performance, yet I don't know if it worth it, or how it's better than other brands.

Thanks in Advance.
 
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MrCambiata

Active Member
I've just bought RME Digiface usb. It's the cheapest RME audio interface and so small it would fit in your pocket. The drivers are rock solid. However, there are no outputs besides headphones and no microphone inputs. Just wanted to be extremely mobile.
The other interface that I have is Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 which is also very good and budget friendly. Never had any problems with it either when working on orchestral staff.
 
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ThomasL

Senior Member
If you're not aiming to record anything then use the built-in audio, no audio card will help you with what you want help with. You seem to want a fast computer though.
 

gsilbers

Part of Pulsesetter-Sounds.com
virtual instruments and audio tracks would still be going out the main mix so just a stereo out would suffice and the number of outputs or inputs wouldnt matter in performance.. just price.
Id say go with something better than usb2. maybe usbc/thunderbolt pice. thats where the issue would lie for big project playbacks. usb2 deal with "packets" of info and those get stuck sometimes.. or slow.. to me at least.
the apollo twin mk2 or arrow might be usefu.. id say the apollo twin mk2 since it also offers optical in which might help in the future if you want to add an 8 channel preamp like the focusrite or whatever. also it has the quad core processing for uad plugins so you can add mixing effects outside the processing of your daw. this gives you less issues when handling large projects. latency might be an issue... but look into it as some posts of newer models say its not an issue.
but motu, audient or UAD interfaces with usbC/thunderbolt and similar amount of ins/outs will be about the same really when dealing with performance, sound quality and price.
 

steveo42

Active Member
If you are using VSTi the RTL (round trip latency) is extremely important and in particular how well the interface performs under load. So more tracks, lower buffer settings is more load. The most important factor by far is the stability of the unit's driver software. That is what is going to give you crackle free recording at very low latency so you don't feel/hear the delay between pressing the key and hearing the sound. Having a fast disk for samples, SSD, WD Black if a spinner etc and a decently powered system of course contributes as well but the driver is really the make or break point for stability. You also want an interface that has a specific ASIO driver written for it. Some manufacturers, like RME for example, develop their drivers in house and that is why they are probably the most stable and highest performing interfaces. Many others farm out the driver development to firms like THESYCON and you will see varying results depending on the interface manufacturer. Also for someone who is recording real instruments, they can use the "direct monitoring feature" of their interface and achieve near zero latency that way. You can't, unfortunately do that with VSTi or using amp simulators etc.

With that in mind, my recommendation is :

1. RME
2. MOTU AVB units
3. Presonus Quantum, and ONLY the Quantum models. Avoid the Studio series.

Here is a mega thread with benchmarks:

https://www.gearslutz.com/board/music-computers/618474-audio-interface-low-latency-performance-data-base.html

Best wishes.
 
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jmauz

Active Member
I used to use a Focusrite Scarlett with my 600+ track template. Heck I've even used the built-in audio as has been suggested.

If you aren't recording audio then it really doesn't matter...the audio interface won't make much difference in terms of performance. What you want is lots of RAM, fast disc I/O (read: solid state drives) and if you're running lots of plugins, as many cores in your CPU as you can afford.
 

Nick Batzdorf

Moderator
Moderator
As other people have implied, the size of your template is irrelevant.

You just want a good audio interface. All things being equal (such as the number of ins and outs), the more you pay the better the sound quality.

People here will generally recommend the interface they bought - interspersed with silly stuff about drivers - but that basic guideline is unlikely to steer you wrong. :)

Do you have a concept of the features you'll need? That's a good starting point.
 

Wunderhorn

Active Member
If you are using VSTi the RTL (round trip latency) is extremely important and in particular how well the interface performs under load.
Can you (or someone) explain this in more detail as it looks like there are contradicting opinions in this thread.

From my own experience I can add that for a while I thought I did not need an audio interface at all (using optical out for stereo). Then I wanted to add the ability to have 5.1 surround and that is not possible with optical (only compressed audio signals). I switched to HDMI out and the trouble started (Latency, crackles, everything bad imaginable...). For a while I did not think it had something to do with HDMI but obviously it did, because when I finally pulled out my old MOTU Ultralite (Firewire over Thunderbolt adapter) things were going WAY better immediately! (BTW my computer is an Apple trashcan with plenty of RAM/power/SSDs).

Now I would really love to know what is really going on. If I only use virtual instruments (Kontakt etc) isn't it all done in the computer (DAW) BEFORE the final audio stream is being sent to the audio interface or audio out of the computer? What is this "roundtrip latency"? Why does it seem to be better with an audio interface and why does HDMI seem so utterly useless?
 

steveo42

Active Member
Can you (or someone) explain this in more detail as it looks like there are contradicting opinions in this thread.

From my own experience I can add that for a while I thought I did not need an audio interface at all (using optical out for stereo). Then I wanted to add the ability to have 5.1 surround and that is not possible with optical (only compressed audio signals). I switched to HDMI out and the trouble started (Latency, crackles, everything bad imaginable...). For a while I did not think it had something to do with HDMI but obviously it did, because when I finally pulled out my old MOTU Ultralite (Firewire over Thunderbolt adapter) things were going WAY better immediately! (BTW my computer is an Apple trashcan with plenty of RAM/power/SSDs).

Now I would really love to know what is really going on. If I only use virtual instruments (Kontakt etc) isn't it all done in the computer (DAW) BEFORE the final audio stream is being sent to the audio interface or audio out of the computer? What is this "roundtrip latency"? Why does it seem to be better with an audio interface and why does HDMI seem so utterly useless?

View this:

 

CQrity

Member
If you are using VSTi the RTL (round trip latency) is extremely important and in particular how well the interface performs under load. So more tracks, lower buffer settings is more load. The most important factor by far is the stability of the unit's driver software. That is what is going to give you crackle free recording at very low latency so you don't feel/hear the delay between pressing the key and hearing the sound. Having a fast disk for samples, SSD, WD Black if a spinner etc and a decently powered system of course contributes as well but the driver is really the make or break point for stability. You also want an interface that has a specific ASIO driver written for it. Some manufacturers, like RME for example, develop their drivers in house and that is why they are probably the most stable and highest performing interfaces. Many others farm out the driver development to firms like THESYCON and you will see varying results depending on the interface manufacturer. Also for someone who is recording real instruments, they can use the "direct monitoring feature" of their interface and achieve near zero latency that way. You can't, unfortunately do that with VSTi or using amp simulators etc.

With that in mind, my recommendation is :

1. RME
2. MOTU AVB units
3. Presonus Quantum, and ONLY the Quantum models. Avoid the Studio series.

Here is a mega thread with benchmarks:

https://www.gearslutz.com/board/music-computers/618474-audio-interface-low-latency-performance-data-base.html

Best wishes.
This is the way to go. Click the link and read. The author has a website linked which goes into some details.
The recommendations are spot on. Maybe add an Apollo Twin Thunderbolt. With USB only RME is an option as far as my research goes.
 

Wunderhorn

Active Member
View this:
This is a very good video explaining CPU performance vs realtime. However, it does not explain how you benefit from an audio interface or why it would affect the real time performance in a onboard (e.g. optical, HDMI) vs. audio interface scenario.
 

CQrity

Member
This is a very good video explaining CPU performance vs realtime. However, it does not explain how you benefit from an audio interface or why it would affect the real time performance in a onboard (e.g. optical, HDMI) vs. audio interface scenario.
Well, it does. It states that bad written drivers block the cpu for a longer time, hence the real time performance suffers. If the connection via HDMI (= onboard driver) blocks the cpu for too long, then performance is bad. If you have an interface with good drivers then real time performance will be good (as long as there are no other devices, that block the cpu).
It's not as indepth as one might like on that specific part. But if that is what it comes down to...

So what you can do: download the software mentioned in the video and analyze you performance. Try to improve by deactivating things (be careful!!!). If it actually is the onboard audio, then you know, that you will need to improve. Then go to the linked website and study the listed interfaces and choose a good one.

Thats all taken from the video. Doesn't that help? :)
 

Wunderhorn

Active Member
Thats all taken from the video. Doesn't that help? :)
The information on the video is only geared towards Windows users. On the Mac I already have done whatever equivalents are possible.

In addition, I found an interesting tool that is made to measure this roundtrip latency of an interface. I did a quick and dirty test with my MOTU and the onboard digital out. The program reported too many inconsistencies as alerts, so I am not sure if the measured results are anywhere correct or even if the program is functioning properly. In any case the results were very close in numbers which would suggest not much advantage using the audio interface over using digital out.
When I have time I will try this again after restarting the computer, resetting all gear and running no other apps.

You can find this tool here:
https://www.oblique-audio.com/tmp/beta.html
 

Nick Batzdorf

Moderator
Moderator
It states that bad written drivers block the cpu for a longer time, hence the real time performance suffers
Richard is right, but which interfaces have badly written drivers nowadays? This is what we in the art world call a *mature technology.*

I suggest focusing on the sound quality and features, not stuff about drivers.
 

Nick Batzdorf

Moderator
Moderator
On the Mac I already have done whatever equivalents are possible
The way to measure latency is to record audio from one track onto another track using a cable from an interface's output to an input. You'll see the distance between the waveforms in the DAW.

But really, I wouldn't worry about the latency spec of your interface. The buffer setting in your DAW dwarfs the 3ms most interfaces have (at 44.1/48kHz). If you can work at a 256 sample or lower, you're probably fine.

I haven't read what Mac you're using, but that's what makes the biggest difference, and that's when the size of your template makes a difference.

And yeah, of course you're going to get different opinions on the Internet. The trick is to figure out which people to listen to - which rules me out right away. :)
 

CQrity

Member
Richard is right, but which interfaces have badly written drivers nowadays? This is what we in the art world call a *mature technology.*

I suggest focusing on the sound quality and features, not stuff about drivers.
Well, did you take a look over to the gearslutz link? There is some good reasoning going on which made sense to me. So the answer would be: a whole lot if not most of them are poorly written. But if you are fine with some Steinberg interface, then fine, go with it :)
Whatever works is the way to go.
 

Nick Batzdorf

Moderator
Moderator
I didn't look at the Gearslutz link. But iConnectivity was a writing client of mine for about three years, and their interfaces work well just using the standard macOS CoreAudio driver.
 

gsilbers

Part of Pulsesetter-Sounds.com
yeah, i woudnt look too much into it in general. interfaces like motu, rme, apollo and even scarlett and behringer have been around for a while and know how to compete in the marketplace. its the audiophiles looking way too hard to find something. there might be something here or there but its also dependent on the user, its system and os.
souund quality in and out is also good on these. performance is good for most users and so on.
It's creating a mountain out of a molehill sort of thing.
id say the only time encountering an issue is when im trying to use a device that also is trying to be an audio interface. like using my virus TI as an audio interface. or using rack eleven and so on. quality and perfoance in general suffer imo.

for example. HDMI is normally a thing not used in real time when composing. its out of the interface onto a set of speakers on a proper calibrated system. and then do a bounce and on a new session or player do a qc using hdmi if a 5.1 is being asked for.
hdmi has a video lag latency as well btw.
 
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