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HELP!! Steinberg or Focusrite???
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OxfordEmbers
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24th August 2013
Old 24th August 2013
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HELP!! Steinberg or Focusrite???

Hi all,

So I am a singer songwriter and will be recording with just acoustic guitars and possibly a bass. One lead vocal and some backing. I guess a max 3 mics into the interface at any one time. I have nice guitars and am just trying to decide which interface is going to help me capture the 'real sounds' i create.

Macbook Pro (16GB/ 512SSD)
Cubase 7

Should I go for Steinberg MR816 CSX Audio Interface or another Steinberg OR

Focusrite - liquid Saffire 56?

They are going to be about the top of my budget so I want the best sound and performance possible and enough inputs/outputs so I can develop with the equipment overtime.

Any help would be much appreciated. I know at the end of the day all this gear is going to produce good results in the right hand but just want to give myself the best chance of achieving something decent.

Chris
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24th August 2013
Old 24th August 2013
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To be honest, there's not a lot to choose between them. Having run both the Saffire 56 and a Yamaha n12 (from which the MR gets most of its internals - pres, AD, etc.) I'd say the Saffire has the edge - slightly cleaner, slightly better latency/performance and more I/O - but the differences really are slight and both are good.
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24th August 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OxfordEmbers View Post
Hi all,

So I am a singer songwriter and will be recording with just acoustic guitars and possibly a bass. One lead vocal and some backing. I guess a max 3 mics into the interface at any one time. I have nice guitars and am just trying to decide which interface is going to help me capture the 'real sounds' i create.

Macbook Pro (16GB/ 512SSD)
Cubase 7

Should I go for Steinberg MR816 CSX Audio Interface or another Steinberg OR

Focusrite - liquid Saffire 56?
If you have a FireWire port I recommend the TC Twin Impact sound card. Very nice sounding and good internal FXs. I've recommended it to some musician friends, and their recordings have improved immensely.
Only two micpres though.

I was asked to do a so simple recording in a rehearsal room a year ago when working on a documentary - drums, guitars and vocals. So I borrowed a Steinberg MR816. Hooked it up to a laptop, positioned the mics, listened for a couple of minutes and then recorded a couple of live takes. A hit and run recording so to speak.

The result turned out way better than I thought it would, mixing the song back at the studio. Really liked the micpre amps and AD converters.

It's a good interface.


Cheers
Fred
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24th August 2013
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I would say go for a Steinberg unit with Cubase 7 because of mixer integration and simplicity. I switched to the UR824 recently and the USB connection is much more user friendly on my PC laptop than FireWire. Much easier to work on the fly. Just turn on the interface and then start Cubase 7. No need to power cycle everything in a certain order.

On a software note... I have been working with Cubase over 10 years and recently checked out a tutorial from Ask Video called "Cubase 7 102: Songwriters / Musicians Toolbox" on a long flight.

I have read tons of the Cubase books in the past, but decided to try a more artist friendly approach to learning about the new version. It has already saved me a ton of time arranging and recording my own music in Cubase 7. The only shortcoming is that they tell you to record close to 0db without clipping... I would ignore that and record around -18db to -12db.
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26th August 2013
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It might be worth noting that the Saffire interfaces (maybe the Steinberg too, I haven't looked into those) don't necessarily get better with the increase in price.

The LS56 may cost a lot more, but it has the same pres (except for the liquid emulations) and conversion that are used across the whole range. With the more expensive units, you're just paying for more I/O and extra features like pads and HPFs on the channels.

Maybe you could look at a smaller interface from the same brands and put the extra money towards a mic or room treatment.

Just an idea!
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26th August 2013
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Another fan of the impact twin here. It has only two mic pres yes...but also has enough inputs to run external pres and adat. I have had one for about six months now and really like it. Pres and conversion are very good.

Sent from my MB612
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26th August 2013
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Thanks for all taking the time to reply - much appreciated. Hmmnnn

So the whole Steinberg/Cubase intergration is definately something I am interested in - anything that keeps it a fraction smoother and simpler is good so I can concentrate on writing music and recording it!

I like the reviews and offerings here related to the Impact Twin but really would like at least 3 or 4 mic pre amps in the unit initially for the style of recording I am going to be doing otherwise I am going to have to buy extra pre amps i guess. I also want to be able to have 2 headphone inputs also. I think thats why I have been looking at the slightly more expensive units and the fact that down the line I can still grow with them and learn.

I have a pair of stereo Oktava MK-012's and AT 4050's so I am happy with the mic choices I have made.

Going to have a look into the Steinberg stuff and also the others in the range of the Impact Twin. Thanks again and feel free to chime in some more on this topic! All helpful stuff
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28th August 2013
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If you're on Cubase get the mr 816 and then later get a cc121 controller.

For song creation it is super fast and easy with this combo.

If someone can setup and get ready to record a track faster I'd like to see it !
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28th August 2013
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I vote for the Focusrite every time.
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28th August 2013
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I have heard several Focusrite Interfaces (not every single one of course) and have not heard anything in the category of the MR816. Unlike the Focusrite interfaces which were built to price, the MR816 is made up of cast off parts of the higher end Yamaha N12, which was built to be a top of the line Yamaha interface. The conversion and pre amps on the MR816 are beyond their price point.

I have a Focusrite ISA 220 that sits permanently on the subs bench (and will be sitting in the classifieds very soon), because IMHO, when I run out of pres to use, I prefer to reach for the pres on the Yamaha N12 / MR816, before reaching for the ISA and yet I believe the ISA's to be better than anything on the Scarlett 18i20, Scarlett 18i6 or Forte that I previously heard.

Focusrite do good marketing though, hence this debate being possible.
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28th August 2013
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Have you check out Roland octa or somethin' like that...
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28th August 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dxavier View Post
I have heard several Focusrite Interfaces (not every single one of course) and have not heard anything in the category of the MR816. Unlike the Focusrite interfaces which were built to price, the MR816 is made up of cast off parts of the higher end Yamaha N12, which was built to be a top of the line Yamaha interface. The conversion and pre amps on the MR816 are beyond their price point.

I have a Focusrite ISA 220 that sits permanently on the subs bench (and will be sitting in the classifieds very soon), because IMHO, when I run out of pres to use, I prefer to reach for the pres on the Yamaha N12 / MR816, before reaching for the ISA and yet I believe the ISA's to be better than anything on the Scarlett 18i20, Scarlett 18i6 or Forte that I previously heard.

Focusrite do good marketing though, hence this debate being possible.
Like I said earlier, I actually run an LS56 alongside a Yamaha n12 (which I think is, overall, a better package than the MR - although I wish it had some digital I/O like the MR does) and I'd still give the edge to the Focusrite. I find it slightly cleaner/clearer (more transparent), it performs slightly better (lower latency) and has even more I/O options than the MR does, never mind the n12. Even without the Liquid Pres (which are a "some like 'em, some don't" sort of proposition) I'd have another LS56 before an MR.

Although, as I've also said elsewhere, I still run the n12 as well. I originally planned to get rid of it once I got the Saffire (so I could reclaim some desk space!) but I ended up keeping it because I still like it too much to let it go. It may sound slightly different to the Saffire and not quite as clean, but it does have a lovely sound in its own right. I can understand your liking the pres. And the Cubase integration is a big plus if you're a Cubase-head.

In fact, for the OP, something like an n8 or n12 might be an interesting option to consider - so long as you don't mind buying an older piece of gear that is probably close to being retired (if it hasn't been already). My n12 is still working more than happily on my current PC (Win7 Pro 64-bit) though and I suspect I'll get a few more years of use out of it before anything forces me to retire it. So it might still be an option to think about - so long as you've got a big enough desk/table to put it on!
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28th August 2013
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I have the Focusrite pro40, and is an excellent option, but, the steinberg has more support with cubase.

My choise is focusrite
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28th August 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by adrianww View Post
Like I said earlier, I actually run an LS56 alongside a Yamaha n12 (which I think is, overall, a better package than the MR - although I wish it had some digital I/O like the MR does) and I'd still give the edge to the Focusrite. I find it slightly cleaner/clearer (more transparent), it performs slightly better (lower latency) and has even more I/O options than the MR does, never mind the n12. Even without the Liquid Pres (which are a "some like 'em, some don't" sort of proposition) I'd have another LS56 before an MR.

Although, as I've also said elsewhere, I still run the n12 as well. I originally planned to get rid of it once I got the Saffire (so I could reclaim some desk space!) but I ended up keeping it because I still like it too much to let it go. It may sound slightly different to the Saffire and not quite as clean, but it does have a lovely sound in its own right. I can understand your liking the pres. And the Cubase integration is a big plus if you're a Cubase-head.

In fact, for the OP, something like an n8 or n12 might be an interesting option to consider - so long as you don't mind buying an older piece of gear that is probably close to being retired (if it hasn't been already). My n12 is still working more than happily on my current PC (Win7 Pro 64-bit) though and I suspect I'll get a few more years of use out of it before anything forces me to retire it. So it might still be an option to think about - so long as you've got a big enough desk/table to put it on!
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!!
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28th August 2013
Old 28th August 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dxavier View Post
In fact, the Focusrite reminds me of many 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.
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.

Now, I do agree that they are lacking in dimension and space.

To the OP, IF I had to do it again and my budget permitted,I would go Steiny.
Actually,I'll make you a good deal on 2 Saffire Pro 40's,

fb
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28th August 2013
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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.

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.
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29th August 2013
Old 29th August 2013
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Hmmnn ok lots of food for thought here! Thanks for all your replies. I feel I am leaning toward the Steinberg MR816 now as I want quality but also like the sound of the intergration with Cubase.
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29th August 2013
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I would say too, that I have seen the MR816 used with Reaper and it worked perfectly. Whatever integration pluses you get using it with Cubase, I don't know, but with Reaper, it provided ins and outs and provided great conversion in and out. I wouldn't think of it as a Cubase interface in anyway.
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29th August 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dxavier View Post
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?

Quote:
Originally Posted by foamboy View Post
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.

fb
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.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dxavier View Post
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.

Quote:
Originally Posted by dxavier View Post
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.
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29th August 2013
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Hi all thanks for the replies and all the info. After much um ing and ah ing I decided on the Steinberg UR824 USB Audio Interface. Seems to get alot of positives so I shall let you know how i get on with it when i get it.

Hopefully good!
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29th August 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by adrianww View Post


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.


Oh well,that's how I hear it.

fb
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Originally Posted by OxfordEmbers View Post
Hi all thanks for the replies and all the info. After much um ing and ah ing I decided on the Steinberg UR824 USB Audio Interface. Seems to get alot of positives so I shall let you know how i get on with it when i get it.

Hopefully good!
Don't know much about the UR, but I'd hazard a bet that the audio internals (pres, converters, etc.) will be largely the same as the MR/n-series but with a USB host interface rather than FireWire. Should be good - hope you have a good run with it.
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29th August 2013
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Originally Posted by foamboy View Post
Oh well,that's how I hear it.

fb
I don't doubt it. For me, that just highlights how subjective our judgements are even when we're talking about relatively low-end gear. On the one hand, I'm sure that there are high-end converters and interfaces out there that completely blow the Focusrites and Steinbergs and other such gear completely out of the water. However, I suspect you'd have to pony up a lot more money to reach those heady heights. In the meantime, there are lots of low-end and mid-range interfaces that are more than good enough to produce decent recordings and, by and large, most of them are on a par with one another. Or, at least, close enough that the differences are subtle enough to fall towards the borderline of objective/subjective judgement. I think we're living in a pretty fortunate time in that respect.
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29th August 2013
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OxfordEmbers View Post
Hi all thanks for the replies and all the info. After much um ing and ah ing I decided on the Steinberg UR824 USB Audio Interface. Seems to get alot of positives so I shall let you know how i get on with it when i get it.

Hopefully good!
I wound up going the same way, and am pretty pleased with the results. Just in case you do didn't know about it there is a rebate going.

http://www.steinberg.net/fileadmin/f...ummer_2013.pdf

It will save you a couple hundred bucks if you buy it before the end of the month.
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29th August 2013
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Ah thanks for that - shame though because its only valid for the USA and live in the UK
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29th August 2013
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That sucks... Still a good interface though.
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30th August 2013
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Originally Posted by adrianww View Post
I don't doubt it. For me, that just highlights how subjective our judgements are even when we're talking about relatively low-end gear. On the one hand, I'm sure that there are high-end converters and interfaces out there that completely blow the Focusrites and Steinbergs and other such gear completely out of the water. However, I suspect you'd have to pony up a lot more money to reach those heady heights. In the meantime, there are lots of low-end and mid-range interfaces that are more than good enough to produce decent recordings and, by and large, most of them are on a par with one another. Or, at least, close enough that the differences are subtle enough to fall towards the borderline of objective/subjective judgement. I think we're living in a pretty fortunate time in that respect.
Ah,so true,so true,so true.


fb
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30th August 2013
Old 30th August 2013
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You don't know me, but I hope you will trust me.

I've gone from M-Audio Delta 44, M-Audio Firewire 410, Presonus Firestudio, Presonus Firestudio Project, Presonus Firestudio Project (first one blew up), Presonus Firestudio Project (2nd one blew up), M-Audio Profire 2626, Focusrite Saffire Pro 40, Steinberg MR816X.

(this of course was over my entire interface career)

The Steinberg is BEEEEETTTTEERRRRRR than all of those. If you pay attention to the petty features (Cubase, drivers, included software or effects, etc...), you will miss out on the thing that an interface is MADE for; converters and input stages.

The Steinberg absolutely kills.

When I bought the MR816, I still had my Saffire Pro 40. Compared to the MR816, the Saffire had that typical bad converter sound. Not "warm" but just "dark" and less detailed. No air at all. The midrange that was there was very off putting, it didn't let you "into" the sound. Like there was a shield in front of the sound. And some details of the sound were straight up just not there.

Way more I could say.

The MR816x was a WOW moment for me.
#29
30th August 2013
Old 30th August 2013
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ReckNC00 View Post
the Saffire had that typical bad converter sound. Not "warm" but just "dark" and less detailed. No air at all. The midrange that was there was very off putting, it didn't let you "into" the sound. Like there was a shield in front of the sound. And some details of the sound were straight up just not there.

Way more I could say.
Yep. That describes what I hear. I am seriously thinking of trying to replace them with the Steiny or something better. Maybe RME. I dunno.

fb
#30
30th August 2013
Old 30th August 2013
  #30
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I have to be frank and say that for the many many threads there are about the sound quality of the MR816 and Yamaha N12 on GS, with good praise I might add, I have never heard anyone compare them equally to a Focusrite Interface. In fact, there are several threads favorably comparing the sound of the MR816 to Mytek and Benchmark interfaces. Now, I am not saying it is better or worse than those interfaces, but this is the level it is being considered at.

None of the current crop of Focusrite interfaces is considered close. Everyone has their opinions, but if you use the GS search, rather than listening to our direct opinions here, you will find enough comments to endorse one or the other and I am pretty sure that the Focusrite range is going to come up very light.

For me and I have compared the three of them, I take the MR816 over the RME FF400 and 800. OK, RME Drivers are legendary for their stability and support, but the MR816 edges when it comes to depth of sound for me. Where the MR816 loses a tiny bit of ground, is against the RME UFX but only just. I have to admit being very very impressed with the UFX for it's price.

In fact, I would go as far to say, that the only sub £1,000 interfaces I would consider are :-

Steinberg MR816
Metric Halo ULN2 Expanded (Is £999 at the moment on sale!!! Mac Only though)
Echo Audiofire 12

One other sub £1,000 interface that I have yet to hear, but would like to is the Audient iD22 USB Audio Interface.
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