Originally Posted by dxavier
I agree with you that the Saffire is cleaner sounding, but it is not a natural sound. When you listen to lower end interfaces or lower end monitors, such as Focusrite, Alesis, Presonus etc, they all sound very clean, sharp, but also flat/ 1 dimensional. That clinical sound is almost hyped. It isn't real. When I think of clean, I think of something coming out of a DACS Clarity pre, but it isn't the type of clean sound coming out of a Focusrite. It is more a natural, spacious delicate detailed sound. Very different to what the Focusrite presents. That isn't how the MR816 sounds. It has a neutral tone and sounds very 3D and spacious. People might take this as not being as detailed and therefore inferior, but it is quite the reverse. Sounds around you are not all presented upfront in sharp details as the Focusrite portrays. Sounds are presented in different spaces, with different characteristics and movement. This is what places the MR816 in a completely different league to the Focusrite.
I had this conversation with a friend, who too, when on about his Focusrite interface and I was attempting to explain what I did not like about it. I ran his interface off his laptop through a set PMC's and then a set of Quested monitors (which I know to sound extremely 3D) and the Focusrite was just as you described. Very very clean sounding but the sound was presented on one layer/level. Almost processed sounding. Then I hooked the monitors to the monitor control section of the N12. My friend was genuinely floored. The same song suddenly had different layers and was spread out. It was almost as though we were listing to two completely different mixes of the same song, one being mixed with plugins and the other with hardware.
In fact, the Focusrite reminds me of many older plugins, with an exception to some of the UAD offerings. You get lots of detail, but everything seems sharp, pinpoint, detailed and flat. No depth, warmth, space or dimensions. This is why I can never place the Focusrite anywhere near the MR816 or N12. Real sound, real natural tones are not presented with HF enhancement all on one layer. They are presented in different spaces, with different tones and shapes and this is something that the MR816 / N12 presents very well indeed and something the Prism Orpheus presents even better!!
Interesting - although I can't say I agree. I've run the Saffire 56 alongside the n12 for nearly two years now and, although the two do sound different, I don't hear any significant differences in terms of dimension or depth (or "naturalness"). The n12 is, indeed, a little warmer while the Saffire is slightly brighter and sharper but that's about it. OK, so that's just in my own music room which is unashamedly low end in terms of monitoring etc. but the differences that I do hear remain the same through two different sets of speakers and three different sets of headphones, so I'm not sure that there can be much there that would show up in any other environment.
Of course, the slight warmth from the n12 might well make it more forgiving when it comes to mixing, etc. Maybe the (very) slight extra accuracy and top-end from the Saffire just gives you more of a "warts and all" version of whatever you put through it and makes it sound more forward?
Originally Posted by foamboy
Personally, I completely disagree about the sharpness. I have used the Saffire line for about 2 yrs,and the biggest grief is that they sound a little cloudy. I find that I have to drive the high eq too much.
That's weird - I think you're the only person I've ever known say that. If there's one criticism that I've heard levelled at the Focusrite stuff it's quite the opposite - that it sounds too sharp/bright at the top end rather than not bright enough.
Originally Posted by dxavier
Actually, I just wanted to add, I don't hate the Focusrite. Especially for music, like Techno, where everything is upfront, you probably don't need anything more than what the Focusrite has to offer. Also, for what it costs, I would not expect it to match the D to A conversion of the MR816.
Don't know about the DA on the MR, since (as I understand it) it's the one area where the MR and the n-series part company. From what I've read here and elsewhere, the n12 uses separate two-channel DA chips to drive its various outputs while the MR816 uses a single multi-channel DAC part. In terms of specification, the multi-channel chip has a lower spec than the two-channel versions (worse dynamic range, etc.) but I suspect that any differences are way down in the weeds where it probably wouldn't be heard anyway.
Originally Posted by dxavier
I look at the Focusrite Scarlett 18i8 and it comes with 4 pres, an interface covered in brushed aluminium and it is bundled with Scarlett compression, reverb, gating and EQ plugs as well as "Xcite+ Software Bundle includes royalty-free loops and samples, Novation Bass-station soft-synth, Ableton Live Lite 8" and all of that for £299!!!! I don't expect it's focus to be coversion, when you are getting all of that for that price. It is a great bargain full stop and will fulfill most people's needs and I bet, it is a best seller. I just don't agree with it being compared with the MR816.
Don't know about the Scarlett or the lower end Saffires, since I haven't used them, but I guess that some of what's in there is the same stuff that lives in the higher end units like the Pro 40 and LS56. The thing is, I'm not sure that you can make any sound conclusions based purely on price when you're talking about things that are all below the £1000 mark. I'd class everything in that range (LS56, MR, ProFire 2626, etc.) as low end really. They're all likely to be using the same kind of surface mount technology on their circuit boards, they're all using broadly similar converter chips (mostly AKM and Cirrus probably) and they're all designed to offer similar audio performance as far as possible (similar gain ranges on pres, similar noise/THD specs, etc.) Not to mention that any difference in specs are likely to be so far down that they're almost inaudible. I suspect that a lot of the pricing is based on what the market will bear, rather than reflecting anything about the quality (or otherwise) of the internals. The non-compressor MR (the MR816X) has a street price around the same as a Saffire Pro40/LS56, which is around the same as a ProFire 2626, which is around the same as a FireStudio, etc. etc.
In any case, to return to the original question, I think that the differences between the MR816 and the Saffire 56 (which is what the OP was asking about) are slight enough that either unit will work well. If they're a Cubase user anyway, the MR might be a good choice purely from the integration point of view, but sound-wise we're certainly in the same ball-park with both.