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I just bought a cheap audio interface because I realized it doesn't matter

Discussion in 'GEAR Talk Forum' started by robgb, Jan 7, 2018.

  1. elpedro

    elpedro Senior Member

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    The biggest difference would be the pre amps quality, and things like headphone amplifier quality, and monitor controller quality.I would have drooled over the specs of a cheap steinberg or behringer interface back in 1997, when i started my first digital recording studio.did some great albums on 16 bit cards and adat's, not to mention my mt44 4-track cassette deck back in the 80-ies!There is also a noticeable difference in ADC and DAC performance,but only above certain price-points, and sometimes that line is blurred.Some cheap interfaces have kicked ass!
     
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  2. wst3

    wst3 my office these days

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    Interesting that you pick on Millennia Media. I finally, about a year ago, had the wherewithal to purchase an HV-37. I've used various MM preamplifiers for years - in other people's studios (I do love spending other people's money!!!) and they are, to me, about as good as it gets. There are others in this league, John Hardy comes immediately to mind, Great River, and of course Neve, API, MCI, etc. And they all sound different. And they all do things slightly differently. But what they share is remarkable, and distinguishable audio quality, and they'll last forever.

    That last part is purely financial - I prefer to buy once, although I've certainly made my fair share of foolish investments and ended up buying twice.

    The first part is what really matters to me. It wasn't like I did not know that the HV-37 would make a difference, it was more an issue with justifying the purchase. Once I had sufficient income to cover the cost it was an easy decision. I'm just glad I don't need more of them<G>!

    For me quality matters in all aspects of music production. Sometimes it is a matter of pride, sometimes it is more pragmatic. When the only library I owned was a $100 all-in library I was able to realize my ideas, but I was never really satisfied with the outcome, and to even get where I got took a tremendous amount of work.

    When I finally upgraded to better libraries I was able to work more efficiently, and the output sounded better. I don't think that is a coincidence.

    It is true that the song comes first, the performance a close second, and the gear in last place. But why would you purposely hinder your production efforts with gear that is not up to the task?

    If you can't hear the difference between the Behringer and the Millennia Media then yeah, you are wasting money, but I'd be really surprised to find someone who can't. They may not appreciate the difference, but they will hear it.
     
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  3. wst3

    wst3 my office these days

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    Well Said!
     
  4. Nick Batzdorf

    Nick Batzdorf Moderator

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    Actually, I think people might be surprised at how good some equipment sounded 20 or even 30 years ago if you put it next to modern toys! It was before the golden age of digital audio, no question, but even some early digital instruments from the mid-80s still sound really good, 16 or even 12 bits and all.

    ADATs, I'm not sure - haven't listened to one for years - and a 4-track cassette, probably not great. But I think you're right about the price making a difference.
     
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  5. Living Fossil

    Living Fossil Senior Member

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    There are a lot of factors to consider...
    You can have the best converters and the best speakers but an untreated studio room with some nasty resonances which will end in a messy result...
    Basically, you have (at least) three interfering aspects: converters, speakers, room acoustics.
    You can't skip any of them, unless you have a (really good and motivated) engineer who cleans the mess up for you.
     
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  6. wst3

    wst3 my office these days

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    There is a lot to Nick's statement. And it isn't only that "once upon a time" we used transformers or tubes. It has a great deal to do with the fact that no one teaches analog audio design any more, so young designers have to learn all the same mistakes their predecessors learned, if they care enough to learn.

    I think that's where things fell apart. A couple of generations of designers figured that analog was easy, and didn't bother to apprentice with a more senior designer. Also, some companies didn't want to shell out for more senior designers, and hired the kids figuring they could figure it out.

    Well they couldn't, or didn't, and it doesn't matter which.

    Stupid stuff, like headroom, is ignored. Proper power supply design is ignored. Don't even thing about proper board layout.

    Lately it seems like if it isn't in the reference design it isn't in the product. I've seen many products, especially converters, that are spot on the reference design. Used to be people made changes to the reference design so that other designers would not notice that they used it. Now no one seems to care.

    So yes, in spite of no access to the wonderful components we have now a lot of analog audio gear sounded better a couple generations back.

    That isn't meant to suggest that there aren't some really brilliant designers building really good analog audio gear. There are. But the gear isn't "cost effective" so few will even audition it.

    It's a real pity, an entire discipline will get lost, again!

    Again?

    Why yes - back in the early days of what we now call professional audio there were a lot of lessons to be learned. Among them the value of a balanced interface, and the proper use of shields. Somehow that knowledge disappeared. Well, it didn't disappear, it was there, plain as day, in practices published by Bell Labs, the BBC, the CBC and others.

    Then, in the mid 1990s a couple of very bright folks decided that it didn't have to be this way. So they did some digging, did some experiments, and published a landmark paper or two.

    We can be a silly lot!
     
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  7. Ed Wine

    Ed Wine Member

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    Is that why they've all been remastered?
     
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  8. Nick Batzdorf

    Nick Batzdorf Moderator

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    The style today is mastering for impact - partly because tastes have changed (for a variety of reasons), partly because of today's equipment - i.e. you don't have to worry about the needle jumping out of the groove. That's been a big subject of debate, as I'm sure you know.

    But it isn't because recording engineers had less skill and talent two generations ago!

    ***
    I wonder how much of that is because of surface-mounted components.

    And power supplies... no kidding. I'm in the middle of reviving the Kurzweil K250 I brought out of retirement from my garage. Its power supply needs new caps, but that thing is serious. Or those things - there are two of them, one for analog, one for digital.

    The K250 is from 1984, as far as I know the first instrument to use sampled sounds. Sampling has come a long way since then, but its sound is still really good.
     
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  9. Ryan

    Ryan Senior Member

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    To do some following up:
    I bought my first sound interface back in 2008. At first, I was thinking of buying a cheap interface. But after a lot of reading up I bought the RME FF400. I haven't seen the need to upgrade my interface. Even when I'm on my 10th year using it. In fact, I got my self an extra second hand FF400 and hooked them up together with a second hand RME ADI-8 mk2. All in all I have used 10000,- NOK on sound interface since 2008.

    For me to choose the more expensive interface was cost effective in the long term. And I don't think I'll be doing a more massive upgrade. If so, I just buy a RME Raydat and hook the interfaces up with that.
    And yes, I have done some massive jobs on that "cheap & old" system...

    Best
    Ryan
     
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  10. N.Caffrey

    N.Caffrey Senior Member

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    In the meanwhile, my Apollo Twin Mk II just arrived :dancedance:
     
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  11. sostenuto

    sostenuto Senior Member

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    Audient provided comparison chart which shows virtually identical DAC specs for id4 & id14, even though different suppliers. Xtra headphone capability of id14 is cool, but not a personal need.

    ** Just noted Focusrite introducing Clarett USB. 2Pre USB is pre-order @ Sweetwater for $ 400. :thumbsup:
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2018
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  12. agarner32

    agarner32 Senior Member

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    I upgraded from a MOTU UltraLite to a UAD Apollo 8 a year ago or so and it made a huge difference. I could never get a decent sound on my grand piano until the Apollo. I tried several different mics including the Earthworks piano mic system and nothing improved the sound that much. For me the Apollo made the difference and with AKG 414s I can now get a really good sound even with my limited engineering skills. Perhaps a skilled engineer could have gotten a great sound with the MOTU who knows.
     
  13. OP
    OP
    robgb

    robgb I Have Strong Opinions

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  14. agarner32

    agarner32 Senior Member

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    Well all joking aside, maybe I should look into it as a laptop interface. Heaven knows I'm not going to spend another $1900 on a 2nd UAD. Or, maybe I'll sell my UAD, get the Behringer and buy some more sample libraries with the extra case :)
     
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  15. agarner32

    agarner32 Senior Member

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    Well at least I learned a new word "exudate."
     
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  16. agarner32

    agarner32 Senior Member

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    "Exudate". Is that what happens to a person when they are forced to listen to a Behringer?
     
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  17. Kevin Fortin

    Kevin Fortin Senior Member

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  18. Ashermusic

    Ashermusic Senior Member

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    Bunk IMHO. The average engineer back then may not know today's tech but they were better taught, more experienced, and more fundamentally sound, which is why the average record sounded better than todays. Ask any engineer over 48 who works with older and younger fellow engineers and I bet that most would agree with me.
     
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  19. OP
    OP
    robgb

    robgb I Have Strong Opinions

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    So I started using the UMC202HD today (after ditching the Onyx and using the UM2 as a temporary substitute), and I have to say the MIDAS pre-amps sound great, and latency is nearly nonexistent, even if I set it at 512 milliseconds. Again, $59. I won't get into arguing about it again, but for the price it sounds VERY sweet. Just in case someone decides they might want to buy one.

    One complaint: the zero latency monitoring button only gives you sound on the left or the right, depending on which of the two inputs you use. The UMC2 doesn't do this and I find it annoying. The solution was to plug in another mic when recording vocals. The second mic doesn't record (unless you want it to), but balances out the monitoring. If anyone knows of another solution, I'd appreciate the heads up. I may just monitor through my DAW since latency is so low.
     
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  20. wst3

    wst3 my office these days

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    Bit of chicken and egg thing there. Surface Mount components present challenges, but they also solve problems we simply could not solve with respect to analog circuit board layout. The tricky part is taking advantage of the benefits without losing ground (poor choice of words?) on all that we already learned.

    A bigger challenge today is the desire for low power designs. You can build the best analog front end in the world, with tons of headroom, and when you have to convert it to digital you have to squeeze that carefully preserved signal (which starts out swinging over a 30V or 36V or even greater range) down to a 5 volt range, or worse, a 3.3 volt range. And we're headed for a 1V swing. For a microphone level signal this isn't a huge problem, but for line level it is. You are going to lose resolution, and you are going to decrease the signal to noise ratio.

    The K250 was an ear-opener. The original demo cassette was amazing, I had never heard a synthesizer do what that thing could do! The Mirage arrived shortly thereafter, for those of with Kurzweil tastes, but no Kurzweil budget<G>! Even the Mirage was just a whole new way of thinking about music production. Wish I could say I could see the future way back when, but alas even my warped imagination never imagined what we have today.
     
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