Originally Posted by jamwerks
Which is another reason why the Apogee Symphony is so strong: converters + interface (add to that quality of the conversion and low price). The only downside imo is the mac only thing. Lots of video folks have jumped on the pc bandwagon, and the same may happen in audio...
This all-in-one approach is exactly the reason I would avoid such a product. As I mentioned earlier, trying to capture too many functions inside the one device is problematic. If at any later stage you want to change/upgrade any one element or component (your computer platform/OS, your DAW, your mic pre-amps, your way of working with a DSP mixer for headphone mixes etc... then you are unfortunately at a dead end with this type of all-in-one product. This also doesn't take into account the problems that would arise if this box went down and required repair or replacement. Enforced down-time in a professional working environment is not fun. The Symphony unit also has a fan, which has caused noise issues for some users, especially as as you load up the chassis with more cards. This would be a deal-breaker for some. Not sure about the existence of the fans on other boxes, but it would be worth checking.
As mentioned, many people are moving away from Mac's to PC's, partly due to the greater value-for-money on the PC side, and others because PC's simply offer better performance for most native DAW software packages. (See the DawBench and ADK ProAudio websites for detailed and thorough empirical data).
I would recommend that anyone wanting to lay down any cash on a interface/converter set-up, to choose the best individual and discrete components based on their obvious and well recognized strengths.
Interface/sound-card requirements: On my list would be solid drivers, good support, low-latency, cross-platform ability, and some extra bells-and-whistles if possible. RME interface cards are renowned for their solid drivers, cross-platform compatibility, lowest native latencies, and come with the best DSP mixer going around (TotalMix) as well as an awesome free measurement/analysis tool (DigiCheck) built into the cards FPGA onboard chip.
Conversion with easy future expandability: You want an easily expandable digital audio format that is robust and can scale with you as your needs grow. Madi would be my format of choice. Lots of options have been suggested, (Lynx Aurora, Antelope Orion, DirectOut, RME, SSL MX series etc...). I think any of these would be great paired up with an RME Madi FX interface card.
Such a combination is very hard to beat for a much smaller financial outlay than others have mentioned and gives you greater options going forward. If you want to work on a PC or a Mac, no problem. If you want to work with ProTools, the SSL Delta-Link or Avid Madi interface boxes can be used to interface with your HD-TDM or the newer HD-Native or HDX cards. If you want a solid DSP mixer (including basic effects) precise measurement tools (level-meters, spectral-analysers, vector-scopes, ITU/EBU metering etc...) then the RME cards are a no-brainer.
Good luck in your quest, but think carefully about your priorities. The latest greatest all in-one super box may not be the answer. I always prefer buying discrete items with specialized functionality, which I select based on their proven strengths. This way, you will build a flexible and expandable system that will grow with you.