Audio Interface Recommendations

sostenuto

Big NKS Fan !
What improvements would I see over my Focusrite Saffire Pro 14 with either the RME Babyface Pro or the Universal Audio Apollo Twin Quad MkII ?
Great question and watching for valid, relevant replies !

I have used (2) Saffire Pro 14 for many years and they remain rock solid.
My interest is updating one, or more, of (3) desktop, Win10 Pro, Reaper DAW, PCs. It makes sense to replace these older Audio I/Fs but solid technical gains are only reasons to move me away from Focusrite.
Like OP, I do not need several I/O, and really not top-end PreAmps.

For new investment, Clarett probably still makes sense, so 2PreUSB or 4PreUSB are my choices.
Can RME truly excel over Clarett and how?
 

bjderganc

Active Member
re: latency and drivers -

"Back in the day, achieving good low-latency performance usually meant installing a PCI-based soundcard. When manufacturers began to develop Firewire and USB audio interfaces, they all too often relied on third-party controller chips that were not optimised for fast, reliable audio transfer, and generic driver code that has achieved only mediocre performance. As a result, users found themselves burdened by high CPU loads, compatibility issues and audible monitoring delays that simply couldn’t be got rid of. RME were one of the few exceptions: by developing their own controllers and code, they not only avoided most of the compatibility problems that plagued rival interfaces, but showed that Firewire and USB 2 can deliver audio performance very close to what’s possible with PCI cards."

https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/rme-fireface-ufx-plus
 
OP
dman007

dman007

Active Member
When people say "Stable", what do they mean? How do you know if your audio interface / driver isn't stable?

I don't have problems with the Focusrite Pro 14. But, if I was looking to upgrade, as per my last question, what would I be getting over the Pro 14 from the Clarett or RME or UAD, if only working in the box using virtual instruments ?
 

Michael Antrum

Only the good die young....
I have an Apollo Twin Duo (the older model) and I really, really, rate it.

However do beware. UAD plugins are as addictive as crack cocaine.
 

X-Bassist

Senior Member
When people say "Stable", what do they mean? How do you know if your audio interface / driver isn't stable?

I don't have problems with the Focusrite Pro 14. But, if I was looking to upgrade, as per my last question, what would I be getting over the Pro 14 from the Clarett or RME or UAD, if only working in the box using virtual instruments ?
Not sure about the Pro 14, but my Focusrite 6i6 was giving me latency issues when doing large VE Pro sessions, but I like it otherwise. I looked at RME, but the cost was a bit above want I wanted to pay for a playback interface (700+ on sale).

But I did find this Zoom UAC-2 USB 3 interface for about $250 that did help with latency.
https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/UAC2--zoom-uac-2
I have both interfaces hooked up and on sessions where the focusrite has to be placed on a 256 or 512 buffer (sometimes I can start a session on 128, but no lower) on the zoom I can often finish an entire song on 128, or even 64 (many times I start with drums and bass just to set it at 64 and go to town on my midi drum kit).

With bigger orchestral sessions I am often forced to go to the zoom to keep the CPU from having a fit and freezing during playback (or many voices drop out) even at a 1024 buffer. But the zoom is often fine at 256 or 512. I'm STILL thinking about trying an RME through thunderbolt to see if it's any better than the zoom, but for now I'm happy with how much this helps.

The software drivers play such an important role, I'm really surprised a company like Focusrite (know for top quality outboard gear in the 90's) could not spend serious time and resources on a custom driver that blows away the competition on latency. They would win over the marked if they can keep theoirinterface prices the same. RME targets the Post pro market (which is much smaller) so i understand why they have to get a higher price for their hardware.

I'm still waiting for that great, simple small, interface with an amazing driver streamlined for audio speed. But the Zoom UAC-2 is good for me atm.
 
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OP
dman007

dman007

Active Member
These are what I am looking to improve my setup, and I'm trying to nail which interface would help achieve this over the Focusrite Saffire Pro 14 I have now ...

1. Want to be able to use more VST sample instruments and VSTi's at once
2. (1) and with lower buffer sizes (working at 24/44.1 or 24/48)
3. (1) and (2) but in respect of VST effects
4. Improved sound quality
5. Lower latency (generally)

DAW is Cubase (v7.5 - 9.5), on PC (Windows 64-bit pro).
 

Dewdman42

Senior Member
If you don’t need hardware mixing and fx or many ins and outs but mainly want low latency performance, I would personally go with one of the rme cards, which by the way also has midi
 

will_m

Active Member
These are what I am looking to improve my setup, and I'm trying to nail which interface would help achieve this over the Focusrite Saffire Pro 14 I have now ...

1. Want to be able to use more VST sample instruments and VSTi's at once
2. (1) and with lower buffer sizes (working at 24/44.1 or 24/48)
3. (1) and (2) but in respect of VST effects
4. Improved sound quality
5. Lower latency (generally)

DAW is Cubase (v7.5 - 9.5), on PC (Windows 64-bit pro).
I think you'd be better off spending the money on more CPU power, a new interface can help with that list but only to a certain extent. I'd also look at tweaking Windows fully for LLP.

For interfaces the new Focusrites are meant to have good LLP, RME are very good in that regard too, also the Presonus Quantums. Here's a handy comparison table:

https://www.gearslutz.com/board/showpost.php?p=13368351&postcount=2186

About 6 months ago I was chasing the same thing and have concluded (after trying a bunch of interfaces) that there are improvements to be had but that they are probably not going to be the change you want. Specifically most of the improvements seem to happen at the lowest latencies for tracking. Higher up with lots of vsts etc the differences are less and here is where a beefier CPU helps more.
 
OP
dman007

dman007

Active Member
A PC upgrade is out of my budget right now. Current PC is Intel i7-6800K, 4.2ghz, 64GB RAM, all SSD drives.
Budget for the new audio interface (if I get one) is £1,000 GBP.
 

Jeremy Spencer

Senior Member
These are what I am looking to improve my setup, and I'm trying to nail which interface would help achieve this over the Focusrite Saffire Pro 14 I have now ...

1. Want to be able to use more VST sample instruments and VSTi's at once
2. (1) and with lower buffer sizes (working at 24/44.1 or 24/48)
3. (1) and (2) but in respect of VST effects
4. Improved sound quality
5. Lower latency (generally)

DAW is Cubase (v7.5 - 9.5), on PC (Windows 64-bit pro).
Grab yourself a Stenberg UR22, it's a surprisingly good interface and very inexpensive and has nice pre-amps. It will achieve all of your requirements. With regards to sound quality, and interface won't achieve this...unless you are referring to the pre-amps for recording live. You'll be able to hear your mixes "better", but the interface has nothing to do with your exported files. I used a UR22 for many years alongside Cubase (on PC), it is solid. I now use an Apogee Element (Mac), but the UR22 is no slouch.
 
OP
dman007

dman007

Active Member
Grab yourself a Stenberg UR22, it's a surprisingly good interface and very inexpensive and has nice pre-amps. It will achieve all of your requirements. With regards to sound quality, and interface won't achieve this...unless you are referring to the pre-amps for recording live. You'll be able to hear your mixes "better", but the interface has nothing to do with your exported files. I used a UR22 for many years alongside Cubase (on PC), it is solid. I now use an Apogee Element (Mac), but the UR22 is no slouch.
I mainly work with VSTi's but sometimes record vocals. So, yes was referring to quality for recording, but also for the sound that's coming out of the audio interface to the monitors.
 

Jeremy Spencer

Senior Member
The sound quality of the D/A converters in the UR22 is IMO very good. Not as good as a high end unit, but that's all down to each individual and is an eternal debate in that regard. And unless you have high end monitors, a pricey interface won't really have any additional benefit.
 
OP
dman007

dman007

Active Member
The sound quality of the D/A converters in the UR22 is IMO very good. Not as good as a high end unit, but that's all down to each individual and is an eternal debate in that regard. And unless you have high end monitors, a pricey interface won't really have any additional benefit.
I'm looking to get an upgrade the sound quality (and usage with a lot of VSTi's) over what I'm using currently. I had a mk1 UR22 at one point but found the Focusrite (Saffire Pro 14) to work better when using more VSTi's. I've had the Saffire for years now and it's only let me down once that I can remember. But, I have to mix with buffers at 768 or 1024 on mixes(@24/44.1)... it is quite old now and surely there must be improvements to be had on sound quality and latency over such a basic unit? I'm using Adam monitors as my main monitors.
 

Jeremy Spencer

Senior Member
24/41? Kind of an odd combo, but still shouldn't be an issue. The amount of VST's you use is irrelevant, that's more of a cpu/Ram concern. if you HAVE the cash, I would personally go with the Apollo. Of all the interfaces I tried, it was a toss up between that and the Apogee (which I chose because of the Logic Pro integration).
 
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OP
dman007

dman007

Active Member
24/41? Kind of an odd combo, but still shouldn't be an issue. The amount of VST's you use is irrelevant, that's more of a cpu/Ram concern. if you HAVE the cash, I would personally go with the Apollo. Of all the interfaces I tried, it was a toss up between that and the Apogee (which I chose because of the Logic Pro integration).
Just to clarify... 44.1kHz/24-bit or sometimes 48/24 - occasionally 96/24.

It would be good if there's an interface available that's not too expensive and that can work at 192/24-bit with lots of VST Instruments without sample drops, dropouts or making the system blow steam!

I'm still not sure if I'd be gaining anything from an upgrade, other than something newer. Not really sure that's worth spending any money if there's no benefit. :-\
 

Dewdman42

Senior Member
as pointed out by others, the sound card is not likely to make any direct impact on the number of plugins you can use. A sound card will impact the following things, as far as I can see:

  1. sound quality to the speakers
  2. sound quality coming from mics and other analog gear
  3. potentially lower latency for a given buffer size.
  4. Driver efficiency and efficiency of the hardware can allow for lower latency buffer settings without dropouts.
As you lower the buffer setting in your host, latency will be reduced, but CPU usage will go up. If you're using a large buffer setting in order to have more plugins, I don't think a new sound card will have much if any impact on your CPU performance or ability to run more plugins. If your main goal is to have more plugins running, then as others have said, get more ram or a bigger CPU. If your goal is lower latency...then a better sound card might help, but that is partly constrained by a slow CPU also.

Most modern sound cards are pretty darn good. Personally I think the main consideration should be more about the kinds of inputs and outputs it has or other features that are important to you, and sound quality.
 
OP
dman007

dman007

Active Member
as pointed out by others, the sound card is not likely to make any direct impact on the number of plugins you can use. A sound card will impact the following things, as far as I can see:

  1. sound quality to the speakers
  2. sound quality coming from mics and other analog gear
  3. potentially lower latency for a given buffer size.
  4. Driver efficiency and efficiency of the hardware can allow for lower latency buffer settings without dropouts.
As you lower the buffer setting in your host, latency will be reduced, but CPU usage will go up. If you're using a large buffer setting in order to have more plugins, I don't think a new sound card will have much if any impact on your CPU performance or ability to run more plugins. If your main goal is to have more plugins running, then as others have said, get more ram or a bigger CPU. If your goal is lower latency...then a better sound card might help, but that is partly constrained by a slow CPU also.

Most modern sound cards are pretty darn good. Personally I think the main consideration should be more about the kinds of inputs and outputs it has or other features that are important to you, and sound quality.
Not got the budget for a PC upgrade. I'm running a fairly beefy system as it is and I'm not really taxing the CPU or RAM. CPU usage isn't that high.