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iD22 - 2i4 - ADA8200 Blind Test - Full song mix, feat. SM7b on vocals! Audio Interfaces
View Poll Results: Which version do you prefer^
A
8 Votes - 36.36%
B
2 Votes - 9.09%
C
12 Votes - 54.55%
Voters: 22. You may not vote on this poll

Old 5th October 2015
  #1
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iD22 - 2i4 - ADA8200 Blind Test - Full song mix, feat. SM7b on vocals! (UPDATED)

EDIT: You can find the solution to which is which in post #27 .
If you haven't taken the test, I suggest you listen and pick your favorite before scrolling down, you might be surprised!

Quick song I threw together to see how close the Focusrite Scarlett 2i4 was to the Audient iD22, and since I had the Behringer ADA8200 on hand I figured I'd throw that in the mix (using the iD22's ADAT input)

Full song because I believe what matters is how it sounds in the context of a mix, be indulgent though because I'm only good at one instrument but I did my best to record a full song. Judge the quality of the capture, not the performance

Since the iD22 and 2i4 only have 2 inputs, everything is recorded with 2 mics max, that is: AT2035 as OH and HM2d as kick, SM57 on guitar amp and SM7b on vocals. Bass is DI'd (used a Digiflex passive DI box for the Behringer track only since it does not have a built-in instrument input)

Exhibit A:
http://snicksound.com/AudioSamples/S...ounddotcom.wav

Exhibit B:
http://snicksound.com/AudioSamples/S...ounddotcom.wav

Exhibit C:
http://snicksound.com/AudioSamples/S...ounddotcom.wav

Please vote for which one you think sounds the best (the differences are pretty small), ignoring which you think is which.

PS: I know some will argue the test is irrelevant since the performances are different for each take (mics were not moved though), but if the performance is a big enough factor to overshadow the difference in preamps and converters, then why are we even discussing gear over here
It's just a fun test that is in no way scientific.

EDIT:
Adding dryer versions of the mix for reference (no master bus processing, no time based effects, minimal compression, some hi-pass EQing and that's it)
http://snicksound.com/AudioSamples/S...ounddotcom.wav
http://snicksound.com/AudioSamples/S...ounddotcom.wav
http://snicksound.com/AudioSamples/S...ounddotcom.wav
Old 5th October 2015
  #2
Gear Nut
 

It's very hard to tell between C & A so I'm going to pick C.

Can you at least private message me the answer? Which one is the Focusrite?

Edit:

436 people are viewing this section, 58 have viewed this thread and only one person has responded?
Old 6th October 2015
  #3
I'm not listening in my studio, just some consumer PC speakers and I agree with the poster above... A and C are close, B sounds more boxy to me.
Old 6th October 2015
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by T E C H N I C A View Post
It's very hard to tell between C & A so I'm going to pick C.

Can you at least private message me the answer? Which one is the Focusrite?

Edit:

436 people are viewing this section, 58 have viewed this thread and only one person has responded?
In their defense, they might be browsing while not in a good situation to listen to it critically

I've uploaded less processed versions of the mixes in the initial post. Curious to see if your opinion remains the same?
I'll PM you the answer after that, promised
Old 6th October 2015
  #5
I'm going with A Focusrite, B Behringer, C Audient. My preference is C.
Old 6th October 2015
  #6
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I think that B is the focusrite. Not sure about the other two.
Old 7th October 2015
  #7
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C sounds best to me. I believe that is the Audient. A is Behringer, B is Focusrite
Old 7th October 2015
  #8
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I liked A the most. Didn´t use neither of those units so I can´t tell which one is which...
Old 7th October 2015
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JulianFernandez View Post
I liked A the most. Didn´t use neither of those units so I can´t tell which one is which...
That's all good, just vote for whichever you think sounds best.

Thanks
Old 7th October 2015
  #10
I would like to see Audient's vote
Old 7th October 2015
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Metrik View Post
I would like to see Audient's vote
Lol
There's a guy from Behringer who hangs around sometimes too

I'll admit one thing though: as the guy who recorded those... I can't hear a difference! Maybe cause I'm too close to it and I know exactly how the instruments sounded in the room.
I mean, if I listen to them carefully I might pick up on a specific quality of the Behringer and the Focusrite, but I'm 100% sure I'd fail to identify them in a blind test.

I've also noticed that transient handling was the biggest difference, but when the drums are not close mic'ed (such is the case here, just an OH and a kick mic that was positioned 1ft from the reso head because the Focusrite would clip even with the pad engaged), it seems to lose the impact that the "better" interface had.
I was expecting much more difference in the vocal tracks though
Old 7th October 2015
  #12
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Wow this is pretty close! :D I only have crappy ipod headphones here, but I voted. Thought it wouldn't make any difference as the kids will listen to your music on them anyway, not on 5k studio monitors But I will definitely check it in the studio as well!

It's also really interesting for me personally, I switched from a Focusrite 18i20 to an id22 two months ago, and I believed there was a huge difference :D maybe it's only the monitor outputs :D
Old 7th October 2015
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GitcheeGoo View Post
It's also really interesting for me personally, I switched from a Focusrite 18i20 to an id22 two months ago, and I believed there was a huge difference :D maybe it's only the monitor outputs :D
Well this is testing only the preamp and ADC part of the interface. There's a good chance that you could hear a different in the DAC output as well.

I actually didn't get to connect the 2i4 to my monitors, but over headphones there was a noticeable difference. The 2i4 might have had a bit more volume, but the iD22 was clearer, more detailed. The ADA8200 of course does not have a headphone output and I was monitoring over the iD22 for those takes.
Now that part you have to experience for yourself of course.
Old 7th October 2015
  #14
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Okay, so how about the big reveal?
Old 7th October 2015
  #15
Gear Addict
C, then A, then B. Although they all sound useable.
Old 7th October 2015
  #16
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A sounds a bit dull and hazy but warm, which is to me the trademark of the Saffire and Scarlett ranges.
B sounds simultaneously a bit bright and spitty but blurry, which is what I would associate with Behringer's new range of converters.
C sounds a bit bright but the texture in the sibilants seems more accurate and detailed; I would say this is the Audient.

This is listening on Fisher Audio headphones on a Focusrite Forte here at work.
If I go back to this when I get home I'll listen on A7Xs.
Old 7th October 2015
  #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by guitarboy94 View Post
Okay, so how about the big reveal?
There are still many newcomers to the thread so I will wait a bit more, probably tomorrow.

In the meantime, a bit more information about the "methodology" of the test:

Each instrument was recorded separately
After completing a satisfactory take of one instrument with one preamp/converter set, I would move the XLR cables to the next one and tried to match input levels as much as possible (gain control tapering varies from one to the other, and the Focusrite has less range, so you can't just match the knob position). Mics would not be moved, amp settings not touched, etc.
Once I had recorded all 3 takes for one instrument, I would move to the next.
The ADA8200 was run into the iD22's ADAT input (and I now realize that I probably left the ADA8200 as the master clock while doing the iD22 guitar and vocal takes, this could affect the outcome, will have to do another test for that)

Drumset: Tama Superstar Hyperdrive all-birch with Zildjian A New Beat 14" hi-hat and a collection of Sabian crashes
Mics used: one AT2035 above the kit facing the snare (-10dB engaged) and one Kel HM-2d centered in front of the bass drum reso head about 12" away from it (any closer and the 2i4 would peak even with the pad engaged)
As you can tell by the uneven performance, this is not my main instrument!

Bass guitar: Musicman Stingray 5 tuned down a half-step
DI used: used the instrument input on both the iD22 and the 2i4 (pad engage on the latter or it would clip), and a Digiflex passive DI box into the ADA8200

Rhythm guitar: Frankentele (Squier CVC body, MIM neck, SD 59/Custom bridge pickup, Tonerider P90 neck pickup), neck pickup in parallel with one of the bridge pickup coils. Tuned down half a step.
Amp used: home-made Plexi-style 50W amp (modified for higher warmer gain) into a Mesa Rectifier series 2X12 cab (Celestion V30)
Mic used: Shure SM57, placed roughly 1" from the grille, where the cap meets the cone (placed by ear not by eye)

Lead guitar: Warmoth Strat with SD 59/Custom Hybrid bridge pickup, tuned standard
Amp used: same amp + MXR Custom Badass O.D. boosting it
Mic used: same mic

Vocal: myself trying my best to sing silly lyrics for the cause
Mic used: Shure SM7b, singing about 3" from the mic (trying to be consistent in tone, projection, etc), both switches set to flat.

Since every interface handles transient differently, normalizing based on peak made things uneven so I used an analyzer plugin to match based on average RMS levels. Still not perfectly matched but compression rounded it out a bit.
Every track was processed exactly the same way for every interface (mostly EQ and compression + one room-type verb bus and one delay bus, the latter used mostly for the lead guitar). Sonar's Boost11 limiter plug in used lightly to bring volume up (only catches the occasional peak)
Old 7th October 2015
  #18
@SnickSound, very good effort by you and I like your fresh approach. Did anything remarkable or noticeable pop up when you used the SM7b for vocals on the three interfaces? Any significant difference in how they reacted to the mic or... how much you had to crank the input gain, etc. Something that set one interface apart from the others? Only you have had the chance to hear and analyse the vocal takes in solo. Did you? Anything to report?
Old 7th October 2015
  #19
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DistortingJack's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by SnickSound View Post
(and I now realize that I probably left the ADA8200 as the master clock while doing the iD22 guitar and vocal takes, this could affect the outcome, will have to do another test for that)
That would definitely affect the outcome. That's a problem.
Old 7th October 2015
  #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Metrik View Post
@SnickSound, very good effort by you and I like your fresh approach. Did anything remarkable or noticeable pop up when you used the SM7b for vocals on the three interfaces? Any significant difference in how they reacted to the mic or... how much you had to crank the input gain, etc. Something that set one interface apart from the others? Only you have had the chance to hear and analyse the vocal takes in solo. Did you? Anything to report?
I actually posted a thread here a few days ago after doing a quieter "voice-over" test with the SM7b using the same 3 interfaces. For that test, gain had to be maxed and then more gain added in the digital domain to get them to normal levels, which of course brings up the background noise. The Behringer had the lowest measured noise but it was the most noticeabl as it was sort of like a mid-pitched hum. The Scarlett was the least noticeable even though it required the most digital gain (since it only had 55dB of analog gain compared to 60dB for the other two). That said, the iD22 seemed to pick up more detail so it might have picked up more background noise (computer running, furnace in the next room, etc) so it's hardly a scientific test.
Since the test was a bit flawed I didn't post the recordings. I don't have the 2i4 anymore to redo the test unfortunately.

Either way, my conclusion was that they all sounded good, the iD22 picking up a bit more details (sounding almost like a condenser in comparison), but they all could benefit from a CloudLifter or FetHead for voiceover work (so in this case, an iD14 + CloudLifter would probably be a better buy than an iD22 by itself, unless you want to add a hardware compressor)

For singing however, and I wasn't even screaming or anything, only the Focusrite had the gain maxed and noise was not an issue (there's a bit of makeup gain in the compressor but not a lot).

I'll share more thoughts on using one interface vs the other after I've shared the solution to the test.

I deliberately used the SM7b for the test because I know it's reputed to require a lot of gain and a really good preamp to shine.
Old 7th October 2015
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DistortingJack View Post
That would definitely affect the outcome. That's a problem.
Unfortunately it's impossible to recreate the exact same conditions so hopefully I have time to do a different test of just "iD22 master clock" vs "iD22 slave clock".

There's a pretty good chance nobody will be able to hear a difference too (it all depends on how well the iD22 handles external clock signals)
Old 7th October 2015
  #22
Old 7th October 2015
  #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DistortingJack View Post
That would definitely affect the outcome. That's a problem.
Here is the same song recorded twice on the iD22, clocked either internally or via ADAT

Exhibit A: http://snicksound.com/AudioSamples/C...oundDotCom.wav

Exhibit B: http://snicksound.com/AudioSamples/C...oundDotCom.wav

Curious as if you can figure out which one is which. Personally I can't hear a difference, but I want to believe it makes one lol

More info:
Drums mic'ed with Glyn Johns technique using two AT2035 (pad engaged), augmented with SM7b on bass drum and SM57 on snare (ATs in the iD22, SMs in the ADA8200)
Bass still DI'd (iD22) Musicman Stingray 5
Guitars still Warmoth Strat into homemade Plexi type amp, Mesa 2X12 Recto cab and SM57 into iD22

By using 2 ADAT cables between the ADA8200 and the iD22, either can be the master or the slave.
I can actually leave both as the master and it actually works, but I'm guessing there can be some drift over a certain length of time.
Old 8th October 2015
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SnickSound View Post
Here is the same song recorded twice on the iD22, clocked either internally or via ADAT

Exhibit A: http://snicksound.com/AudioSamples/C...oundDotCom.wav

Exhibit B: http://snicksound.com/AudioSamples/C...oundDotCom.wav

Curious as if you can figure out which one is which. Personally I can't hear a difference, but I want to believe it makes one lol

More info:
Drums mic'ed with Glyn Johns technique using two AT2035 (pad engaged), augmented with SM7b on bass drum and SM57 on snare (ATs in the iD22, SMs in the ADA8200)
Bass still DI'd (iD22) Musicman Stingray 5
Guitars still Warmoth Strat into homemade Plexi type amp, Mesa 2X12 Recto cab and SM57 into iD22

By using 2 ADAT cables between the ADA8200 and the iD22, either can be the master or the slave.
I can actually leave both as the master and it actually works, but I'm guessing there can be some drift over a certain length of time.
At work again so back to my closed-ear headphones, but A sounds less focussed and a bit smoothed out and smeary. I would wager that one has higher jitter due to an external clock.
It's interesting to note that very often the smearing caused by jitter is actually pleasant in sustained notes like electric guitars.

Actually the difference here is big enough to make me ask myself in the original test whether the one I thought was a Behringer (B) is actually the Audient with the Behringer clock.

Last edited by DistortingJack; 8th October 2015 at 11:20 AM.. Reason: Made wording clear on last sentence: by B I mean the original test and not the second one
Old 8th October 2015
  #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DistortingJack View Post
At work again so back to my closed-ear headphones, but A sounds less focussed and a bit smoothed out and smeary. I would wager that one has higher jitter due to an external clock.
It's interesting to note that very often the smearing caused by jitter is actually pleasant in sustained notes like electric guitars.

Actually the difference here is big enough to make me ask myself in the original test whether the one I thought was a Behringer (B) is actually the Audient with the Behringer clock.
Well the plot thickens then because A was clocked internally while B is clocked by the ADA8200 via ADAT...

And in the initial test, I know for a fact that the Audient drum tracks were clocked internally, it's the guitar and vocal tracks I'm having doubts, hence this test.

Audient did confirm that jitter specs were improved on the newer iD14 and also the ASP800.
Old 8th October 2015
  #26
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We'll paint me violet and call me purple-hazed because I genuinely do prefer B in that second test.
Old 8th October 2015
  #27
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Time for the big reveal.
Now, as I pointed out earlier, the Audient test might be partially flawed as it's easy to forget to switch the clock master settings when going from the Behringer to the Audient and back. I know for a fact that the Audient drum takes where clocked internally, but I'm having doubts about the guitar and vocal tracks. That said, you will find in post #23 a comparison of when using the internal clock of the iD22 vs having the Behringer as the master clock. You can draw your own conclusions from there.

So without further ado:

A = Audient iD22
B = Focusrite 2i4
C = Behringer ADA8200

As most people I expected the Behringer to be dead last and the Audient to stand out, as it turns out the Audient and Behringer were very close and most people favored the 40$/channel Behringer!!!

My thoughts:
AUDIENT: the most neutral and faithful to how the instruments sounded in the room, though I expected the vocal track to pop out more. Does this test makes me regret shelling out so much money for it? Not at all, it's a superb monitor controller, I like the hardware switches on the preamps, it's got a comprehensive mixer software (though I can't figure out why its size is fixed, get on that Audient!), it's been very reliable and stable so far, and as I said: it's the most faithful in this test (having been the only one to hear the instruments in the room). An iD14 would probably be just as good, perhaps even better (ADC chips are a slightly lesser model, but jitter is improved), but the iD22 is still the best option once you add outboard preamps and compressors thanks to the analog inserts. Also, having 6 outputs and three near-zero latency mixes (Main mix + Cue 1 and Cue 2) makes things easier when tracking with musicians.

FOCUSRITE: high-end a bit forced compared to the others, and something missing from the low-end, but still amazingly close to the much pricier Audient. I still think it's a bit overpriced though. For one thing, the 2i2 would have been basically useless because I couldn't do much without the pads engaged (the 2i2 doesn't have pads). Even with the pad engaged ON THE MIC, I still needed to pad the input for the overhead mic. And once you get into the 2i4, an extra 100$ gets you the Audient iD14 which can be expected to sound better but mostly adds ADAT input for expandability. Also the headphone amp on the 2i4 was functional but that's it, sounded rough and lacked clarity IMHO. For some reason the Scarlett series became the de facto standards in affordable interfaces and that allows them to keep the prices up a bit, so if I bought to keep and wanted to stay under 200$, I'd look at the Steinberg UR series. Of course there's the Behringer UMC series which has the same MIDAS designed preamps as the ADA8200, but I'm still weary of stability and long term driver support. Presonus has some offerings, but I never liked their preamps.

BEHRINGER: Bought this because it allowed me to expand to 10 inputs for just 199$, having been using it for drum spot mics while the OHs where going through the Audient. As per previous tests I've done, it can be said to sound a bit "warmer" which can be pleasing. That it put up a fight is not that surprising, but that it beat the Audient for many people is the true surprise. Behringer has a winner here, it's kind of a no-brainer for cheap expansion. I have yet to really test the DAC part of it, mostly using it for inputs at the time.
The real test would be mic'ing quieter sources (acoustic guitar for example), as it's got significantly less dynamic range than the Audient (13dB less IIRC). I still believe the Audient captures transients better, but I could be biased.

Quote:
Originally Posted by T E C H N I C A View Post
It's very hard to tell between C & A so I'm going to pick C.
Quote:
Originally Posted by drumstick View Post
I'm not listening in my studio, just some consumer PC speakers and I agree with the poster above... A and C are close, B sounds more boxy to me.
A lot of people thought so too!

Quote:
Originally Posted by guitarboy94 View Post
I think that B is the focusrite. Not sure about the other two.
You got that one right!

Quote:
Originally Posted by JulianFernandez View Post
I liked A the most. Didn´t use neither of those units so I can´t tell which one is which...
One of the few to prefer the Audient!

Quote:
Originally Posted by sanjari View Post
C, then A, then B. Although they all sound useable.
Quote:
Originally Posted by GitcheeGoo View Post
It's also really interesting for me personally, I switched from a Focusrite 18i20 to an id22 two months ago, and I believed there was a huge difference :D maybe it's only the monitor outputs :D
I expected more difference too! As discussed in an earlier post, DAC and headphone amps are not compared here and they are part of the experience obviously.

Quote:
Originally Posted by DistortingJack View Post
A sounds a bit dull and hazy but warm, which is to me the trademark of the Saffire and Scarlett ranges.
B sounds simultaneously a bit bright and spitty but blurry, which is what I would associate with Behringer's new range of converters.
C sounds a bit bright but the texture in the sibilants seems more accurate and detailed; I would say this is the Audient.
Very detailed review, any thoughts now that you know the answer?
Old 8th October 2015
  #28
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DistortingJack View Post
We'll paint me violet and call me purple-hazed because I genuinely do prefer B in that second test.
You know what, I think I do too, something about it just pleases the ears better.
I thought I was crazy, but then I guess we're both crazy.

At least now I won't panic when I forget to make the iD22 clock master!
And as I mentionned, Audient did say they've improved jitter specs on the iD14.
Old 8th October 2015
  #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SnickSound View Post
You know what, I think I do too, something about it just pleases the ears better.
I thought I was crazy, but then I guess we're both crazy.

At least now I won't panic when I forget to make the iD22 clock master!
And as I mentionned, Audient did say they've improved jitter specs on the iD14.
I've got the iD14 at home, replaced the 1st generation Duet. Maybe I recognised something there, but it still doesn't make sense.

It must be said however, I have formed my assumptions on several interfaces more on their D/A and sometimes headphone output than on their A/D since that's the only thing I've tested on them. I believe the D/A of the Focusrite range is quite dark (even my Forte here at work is quite dark) but I've never heard their preamps and A/D – it seems they're a lot brighter on that side.

In any case, I'd pick both the Audient and the Behringer over the Focusrite on the first test.

Could you however post just the soloed vocal takes of the first test? I'd like to hear the noise floor on the SM7.
Old 8th October 2015
  #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DistortingJack View Post
It must be said however, I have formed my assumptions on several interfaces more on their D/A and sometimes headphone output than on their A/D since that's the only thing I've tested on them. I believe the D/A of the Focusrite range is quite dark (even my Forte here at work is quite dark) but I've never heard their preamps and A/D – it seems they're a lot brighter on that side.

...

Could you however post just the soloed vocal takes of the first test? I'd like to hear the noise floor on the SM7.
I've only compared the headphone outputs, but the Focusrite was definitely darker than the Audient (and it's not that the Audient is bright per se, it just seems to render high frequency details better). Mixing with headphones on the Focusrite would be risky IMHO. For reference, I'm using the ubiquitous Sony MDR7506.

I should be able post the solo'd tracks when I get home later. I'm a bit shy about those because I'm not really a singer and the lyrics were silly, but in the interest of science I'll do it!
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