Audio Interface Recommendations

Nick Batzdorf

Moderator
Moderator
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.
Sage advice. ^

Asking about latency specs is like asking whether a razor has three or four blades.
 

sostenuto

Big NKS Fan !
Sage advice. ^
Asking about latency specs is like asking whether a razor has three or four blades.
Maybe get your point, but reading lots of relevant posts and they are starting to become unusable mush.

My scenario is not mainstream, but also not so fringy. Since I do not need more than 2-4 quality inputs /Preamps, and minimum in/out, I thought latency then became the next concern.
Current (2) Saffire Pro14(s) are doing fine, but imminent Win10 Pro Desktop PC Upgrade, will not be Firewire.
Focusrite has been rock solid, so was considering Clarett 2Pre USB or 4Pre USB.
Maybe I misunderstand, but seems that RME has been held up as top choice, and Latency has been mentioned frequently.
Are you stating that Latency is not the issue here ? The why would RME offer more than Clarett 2Pre USB?

PLZ NOTE!!! I am asking seriously, not disputing or critiquing.
 
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jonnybutter

Senior Member
I love my Antelope Audio Zentour. The software can be fiddly, but it sounds absolutely great and has excellent plugins. Latency is imperceptible when you play through its plugins, and I am super picky about latency. It has lots of I/O, and even has 2 reamp outputs. A new one is just about £1000 ($1300 usd).

BTW, the 'fiddly' part is mixing-I/O app, not the drivers or plugins, and the hardware is rock solid and very easy to use. I can't imagine why they let such a half-assed piece of software out into the wild, considering how stellar everything else about the Zentour is - it sounds at least as good as anything else I've heard (UA, RME).
 

MrCambiata

Active Member
Does it make sense to buy an RME Digiface USB only for working with virtual instrunents while traveling? It's very compact, and cheeper than a Babyface...
 

Michael Antrum

Only the good die young....
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.

If you record vocals, the Unison technology in the UAD Apollo is very, very nice indeed.


 
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phil_wc

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.
I'm using the same cpu, ram, using ssd as yours. I just bought Clarett 4Pre to replace my Steinberg UR22mkii. To me if you mostly work on vsti. UR22mkii is better to my system. It produce less click pop sound than Clarett when using low buffer (about 256). Clarett is not that bad tho. I need 4 input so I bought Clarett.
 

Jeremy Spencer

Senior Member
The why would RME offer more than Clarett 2Pre USB?
I think it really comes down to driver stability and personal preference, both Fucusrite and RME have good drivers, and RME has a good reputation for this. One really needs to hear them in their studio setup to determine if there's any audible benefit. Also, it depends what type of I/O's you need. For example, the Clarett 2Pre USB has physical MIDI ports.
 

ironbut

Active Member
I bought a used Metric Halo ULN-2+DSP back in 2008 and I've never been so satisfied with a piece of audio gear.
Great sounding and rugged. The software has kept up with OSX and the preamps are fantastic.
The software mixer includes some dsp but the +dsp option includes about 150 different effects which can also be combined in graphs and macros to form your own combinations.
Of course their eq and dynamics and channel strips are popular as plugins for mixing.

I think it was about 5 years ago when their interfaces upgraded to 2D which made a significant impact on the sound and connectivity.
The upgrade included a new circuit board and back panel with the new connectors.
The upgrade could be a field installation (diy) or factory installed. IIRC it was about $400.

I got an insane deal on one of their latest interfaces, LIO-8 and the difference in sound wasn't subtle. It is an 8 channel line in only and I added 4 channels of mic preamps (for another $350 I could add another 4).
I think the LIO-8 and the ULN-8 have been out for 4 years or so and a month ago there was an upgrade to the 3D which really like a whole new unit.
Instead of firewire which has be the primary computer interface, their is a USB-C connector and also what they call Metric Halo Link which is an eithernet connection.
High channel counts and ulta low latency.
There is also a new clock which improves the sound a bit (not huge but perceivable).
This upgrade was $450 (early bird discounted) and an easy install.
There is also a new panel you can add edge cards to increase I/O types (adat, spidf, aes, midi, or madi).

Needless to say, I'm a fan boy!
If you have the cash, these should be on your short list.
Almost forgot, the 3D will be cross platform once the software is finalized (still in public beta).
 

sostenuto

Big NKS Fan !
I think it really comes down to driver stability and personal preference, both Fucusrite and RME have good drivers, and RME has a good reputation for this. One really needs to hear them in their studio setup to determine if there's any audible benefit. Also, it depends what type of I/O's you need. For example, the Clarett 2Pre USB has physical MIDI ports.
Duuuhhhhh … THX for wake-up call! :barefoot:
It's been so long since addition of both Saffire Pro14(s) and totally spaced out original need for physical MIDI port for Roland KR577 Digi Piano. Maybe need to keep (1) Pro14 just for that and use existing Firewire PCIe card to connect.

RME recommends are so consistent, it seems stubborn to ignore …. unless /until Clarett implements major new software /firmware with comparisons with RME ?

Regards
 
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Nick Batzdorf

Moderator
Moderator
Maybe get your point, but reading lost of relevant posts and they are starting to become unusable mush.

Are you stating that Latency is not the issue here ? The why would RME offer more than Clarett 2Pre USB?
I haven't A/B-ed the two, but all things being equal, higher-end interfaces simply sound better. They have better electronics surrounding the digital converter chips, and if they're not designed better, they cut fewer corners.

Or at least you'd expect that to be the case.

RME makes high-quality interfaces. The guy who does their engineering, I believe the head of the company, is really good. They've been able to boast excellent latency specs, and their drivers are solid. That was especially important in the early days of software sampling - their cards were the ones most people preferred for Gigastudio machines.

Now, I don't mean to say that latency isn't important, but as people have said, the big fish is how powerful your computer system is, and especially whether you have SSDs. A more powerful computer will let you work at a lower buffer setting; each setting usually increments up or down by 100% (128 vs. 256 samples for example), and that's pretty drastic compared to the driver (because all the drivers are fine these days).

Plus you're going from the keyboard over MIDI to the software instrument though your DAW to the output. And latency with a slow-attack sound is all but irrelevant; it only matters with sharp-attack sounds. Also, some people are more sensitive to latency than others.

The main thing is that the first thing a lot of musicians ask about is the latency spec. That's what marketing will do to people's brains. :) What real men and women ask about is how good the interface sounds and what its features are - like how many ins and outs it has, how it connects (Firewire/USB/internal), what its monitor control features are, whether its mic preamps are good, what kinds of inputs and outputs it has...

Speaking of my favorite subject (myself), about 12 years ago I had several interfaces here for a big article. The RME Fireface was the third most expensive and it sounded the third best. But the differences at (then) the $1500 - $2000 level were extremely subtle.

I ended up choosing the Metric Halo 2882, which still kicks serious arse day in and out - and they just came out with a major hardware update for it that lets it connect by Ethernet, among other things. But its mic preamps don't have a lot of gain - I use a stand-alone one made by Millennia Media.

The other choice was the Apogee Ensemble, which sounded fly poop better (and was more expensive) but has since been abandoned. So I made the right choice.
 

sostenuto

Big NKS Fan !
*******
RME makes high-quality interfaces. The guy who does their engineering, I believe the head of the company, is really good. They've been able to boast excellent latency specs, and their drivers are solid. That was especially important in the early days of software sampling - their cards were the ones most people preferred for Gigastudio machines.

Now, I don't mean to say that latency isn't important, but as people have said, the big fish is how powerful your computer system is, and especially whether you have SSDs. A more powerful computer will let you work at a lower buffer setting; each setting usually increments up or down by 100% (128 vs. 256 samples for example), and that's pretty drastic compared to the driver (because all the drivers are fine these days). **********

Speaking of my favorite subject (myself), about 12 years ago I had several interfaces here for a big article. The RME Fireface was the third most expensive and it sounded the third best. But the differences at (then) the $1500 - $2000 level were extremely subtle. *******
Thank-you for follow-up ! I'm getting clearer on careful attention to critical links in the chain.
New Desktop Win10 Pro PC will get even more focus, and then Audio I/F (s).
Sonic Halo ULN2 and RME will get very careful look shortly, when time to Update.

Regards
 
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ironbut

Active Member
I ended up choosing the Metric Halo 2882, which still kicks serious arse day in and out - and they just came out with a major hardware update for it that lets it connect by Ethernet, among other things. But its mic preamps don't have a lot of gain - I use a stand-alone one made by Millennia Media.
The 2882 was the first Metric Halo I ever tried and it sold me on the company.
It has the 1st gen mic preamps with 42db gain.
My ULN-2 has the 2nd gen with 72 db gain and my LIO-8, 3rd gen with 91.5 db gain (which is a lot).
I still use my ULN-2 for recording sound design elements and digital transfers from tapes and vinyl.

I was hanging around with some mastering engineers when I was introduced to Metric Halo (Michael Romanowski and Paul Stubblebine) and they were using Sonic Studio's SoundBlade for mastering. At the time, SoundBlade was integrated into Metric Halo hardware (I never have been exactly sure how) but my LIO-8 is actually branded Amarra and includes all the dsp plus a SoundBlade mastering eq.
I also got a chance to have a beer or 2 with Joe and BJ Buchalter (the guys behind Metric Halo) at Stubblebines mastering studio and they are very cool (which is a real plus in my book).
 

danbo

Active Member
I have the Apogee Element 46 and Focusrite RED4Pre. The RED is the best, there’s no setup I can reasonably come up with it can’t handle. I’m using Dante and love it. The Elements is the opposite; weirdly crippled. Both have low latency and are completely stable
 
OP
dman007

dman007

Active Member
How much should the type of interface be a consideration?

I'm always a bit concerned about USB with it sharing with other USB devices.

The Saffire Pro 14 has been very reliable for years, with problems I could count on one hand. It was not so when I had a Scarlett 2i4 for a while, which resulted in a lot more pops and crackles - and blue screens. I liked that the saffire was the only firewire device on the system, with that i/o method just dedicated to that.

I'm a bit put off the Clarett because of this and some other issues people have experienced that I read about when using Cubase.

That's one thing that puts me off the babyface pro a bit, that's it's USB2. The interface will always be in one place in my studio, don't need the mobile form factor, so I'm a bit put off by the mobile footprint of the babyface pro, the wires on different sides taking up space I need, and the MIDI breakout cable.

The UAD Apollo Twin Mk2 Quad has some attraction. But I only need to record vocals occasionally, so I won't be taking much advantage of those related features. So aside from the UAD plug-ins, what can it offer me for £1000 GBP over the Saffire Pro 14? I'm amazed there's no MIDI In on this interface.

I've noticed with Cubase that when you use plug-ins with quite a bit of latency (on playback), the asio load can jump up quite a lot with some of them. So if roundtrip latency is reduced by an interface with better, lower latency in general, surely that's going to help with the Asio Load (not cpu load) in Cubase?
 
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Dewdman42

Senior Member
I've noticed with Cubase that when you use plug-ins with quite a bit of latency (on playback), the asio load can jump up quite a lot with some of them. So if roundtrip latency is reduced by an interface with better, lower latency in general, surely that's going to help with the asio load in Cubase?
No not much really. When you run at lower latency the cpu has to work harder to keep up. A low latency audio interface can run at a lower latency setting but you probably won’t use it at a low setting because of your cpu.
 
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dman007

dman007

Active Member
No not much really. When you run at lower latency the cpu has to work harder to keep up. A low latency audio interface can run at a lower latency setting but you probably won’t use it at a low setting because of your cpu.
Some plug-ins carry a fair bit of latency with them, though... So surely, on playback (mixing etc), if you've got 30/40 tracks+ with VST plug-ins (tracks being VST instruments, audio, FX, busses/groups, mix bus) you wouldn't want a low buffer setting? Wouldn't there simply be too much processing to do with the lower settings (and thus dropouts/crackles etc)?

CPU is i7-6800k @ 4.3Ghz (12 core)
 

Dewdman42

Senior Member
Latency from the soundcard and latency from plugins are two different things.

Soundcard latency is mainly caused by the size of the audio buffer you choose to use. The smaller the buffer, the lower latency but higher crunch on cpu. If you use a larger buffer you get more breathing room for the cpu to do what it needs to do, so a larger buffer size will be lower cpu usage, but with higher latency.

The audio card itself can also have some built in hardware latency which you have no control over it. But the difference between one soundcard and another is often maybe 1ms difference in terms of that. A soundcard might have a more efficient driver then another which could lower the latency per the buffer, but again this difference between most soundcards is very slight. However what is important for you to realize is that your buffer setting has a much bigger impact on cpu usage. With a low buffer setting the cpu will be cranking more. With a high setting it will be easier in the cpu. An rme pci card is notorious for low latency which means take whatever buffer setting you need to use for all the plugins running on your cpu and maybe take a couple ms of latency off that due to soundcard efficiency. But if you have a large buffer for lots of plugins then you might be talking about the difference between say 15ms or 13ms in an rme, something like that.

But none of the above has anything at all to do with latency caused by plugins. Plugins with large latency add that latency REGARDLESS of what soundcard you use and in addition to the soundcard latency.
 
OP
dman007

dman007

Active Member
Latency from the soundcard and latency from plugins are two different things.

Soundcard latency is mainly caused by the size of the audio buffer you choose to use. The smaller the buffer, the lower latency but higher crunch on cpu. If you use a larger buffer you get more breathing room for the cpu to do what it needs to do, so a larger buffer size will be lower cpu usage, but with higher latency.

The audio card itself can also have some built in hardware latency which you have no control over it. But the difference between one soundcard and another is often maybe 1ms difference in terms of that. A soundcard might have a more efficient driver then another which could lower the latency per the buffer, but again this difference between most soundcards is very slight. However what is important for you to realize is that your buffer setting has a much bigger impact on cpu usage. With a low buffer setting the cpu will be cranking more. With a high setting it will be easier in the cpu. An rme pci card is notorious for low latency which means take whatever buffer setting you need to use for all the plugins running on your cpu and maybe take a couple ms of latency off that due to soundcard efficiency. But if you have a large buffer for lots of plugins then you might be talking about the difference between say 15ms or 13ms in an rme, something like that.

But none of the above has anything at all to do with latency caused by plugins. Plugins with large latency add that latency REGARDLESS of what soundcard you use and in addition to the soundcard latency.
Hi, thanks for the reply.

I'm just trying to find an article on the comparisons on latency between the RME babyface pro & some others (I'll try to find it).. but this vid shows there can be a reasonable difference in latency between these interfaces
I was actually referring to the asio load in Cubase, not cpu load. These are not the same thing. In fact, on my system when the asio load is very high in Cubase, the cpu isn't being taxed that much, barely closing 24% (all cores are set to min. 100%). In Sonar (old X3 64-bit version), the asio load is much lower with VSTi's in general than Cubase 8.5/9.x. And that's really what I'm trying to find, an interface upgrade for use with Cubase where I can get more plug-in usage/power out of Cubase. I didn't get any better from the old Steinberg UR22, not tried the mark 2. Working at 96, I got much better performance and results with the Saffire.

So would I get any benefit from the Apollo Twin mk2 Quad (aside from uad plugins) or the RME Babyface Pro?

Would there be an improvement in the round-trip time with thunderbolt that might help?

These are the stats in Cubase 9.5 - 24 bit 44.1 - buffer 128 :

https://ibb.co/gLtDZz
 

Dewdman42

Senior Member
Asio load, what is that? Driver load? Asio has to do with getting audio in and out of the software. Your cpu is involved. More plugins means more cpu and asio doesn’t touch your plugins but if both plugins and asio are using cpu then....

I suspect you need to run a larger buffer for all you’re plugins