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What's the "best" audio interfaces below $3500 for 16+ (line) inputs? Audio Interfaces
Old 1 week ago
  #1
Gear Maniac
 

What's the "best" audio interfaces below $2500 for 16+ (line) inputs?

Okay, so I'm getting tired of using the patchbay as much as I currently do so I'm wondering, what are the best audio interfaces out there that you recommend, below $3500?

It all started when I asked my sales rep if he had any good deals on outgoing Apollo 16's, he answered "why get an Apollo when you can get a great deal on the Antelope Orion 32+ " right now?!

And I realised just because I use an Apollo Twin (duo) MKII I don't need to get an Apollo rack and I do not have to stay on the ~$2500 price range but I could sell the Twin and something else and get up to the $3500 if necessary, but I would probably look for a used unit before I pay $3500...


I'm on a MacBook Pro (2015), so preferably a Thunderbolt 2 or a backwards compatible TB3 interface since I might will upgrade my computer in 1-2 year when Apple releases something that actually beats this computer.

Mic Preamp's
I need at least 2 Mic-preamps but more than 4 is kind of overkill but I'm also thinking about getting a separate mid end preamp when money allows it and when I feel the need (currently use the Apollo Twin Preamp with a UAD-preamp emulation).

Line inputs
I wish the interface to allow me to input a minimum of 16 inputs + 8 ADAT's but I guess a total of 20 line inputs is fine if there's an interface with a bit of odd amount of inputs.


Line Outputs
I just need a few line outputs because I use the outputs so rarely that I can live with patching them stuff in the patchbay.


Headphone Outs
At least one headphone out but two is better.

ADAT Connectors
If I could get 2 ADAT pair's for both In's and Out's I'd be very happy but one pair is enough.


So as I said I was thinking about the blackface Apollo 16 (Thunderbolt 2) but the sales rep seemed surprised and he has been helpful before with both prices and advices so now I'm a bit confused. I'm not too heavily bought into the UAD-system but I have just recently "gotten it" and realised it's greatness so I wouldn't want to get a less good interface this time just to expand my I/O's. So I turn to you which maybe have kept a better look at the marked and what's coming and what's not etc.

All "The best Audio Interfaces..."-guides out there are only talking about the best cheap interfaces, I don't see any "mid-range" interfaces or "high end"-lists ut there and feel GS is the best type of review, at least when almost everyone is agreeing..

Thanks, hope you can help me out!

Edit: let's set the bar at $/€ 2500 +/- 1000 and say what is the best interface you can get for that amount of money?
Old 1 week ago
  #2
Gear Maniac
 

To clarify my question.

I was thinking about getting the Apollo 16 (Blackface, last gen not Apollo X) but since the store sale person said Antelope Orion 32+ I've helt a bit confused, are one of them better than the other? Or is it just whatever you prefer?
Are there any better interfaces out there?

I mostly record synthesizers & drum machines, but also some guitar/amp and vocals (the mics I'm mostly using are Neumann TLM 193 and SM57), I do some bass DI but I can buy a separate DI-box for that and same goes for mic-preamps but I've not been entirely unsatisfied with my previous interfaces.

I'm planning on either keeping the Apollo Twin for expanding with another Apollo but I'm guessing it would make more sense to sell it and use the cash more wisely since the rack interface will be within hand reach on table anyway.

Oh and I'm using Logic Pro X if that could for example affect the decision with very good DAW integration or such.
Old 1 week ago
  #3
Lives for gear
 

I’m a big fan of the AVB series of MOTU interfaces...nothing low end about those, and can easily find a variation that fits your preferred feature set.

IMHO the only reason to buy Apollo is for UAD. No opinion about the Antelope.
Old 1 week ago
  #4
Gear Maniac
MOTU 624 + 16A = $1600. You can link the two via AVB.
Old 1 week ago
  #5
Gear Maniac
 

I've heard more and more people recommend MOTU AVB these days, will be something to consider. Will see if I can find what particular interface or interfaces that would suit me in case I would choose a MOTU interface.

Oh and the two things I can think of that I forgot to mention in my original post seems to be how A/B monitoring which I haven't used in the past but might want to use in the future and that low latency is something I value highly.
Old 1 week ago
  #6
Gear Head
Why is this thead in the "Low End Theory" category?
Old 1 week ago
  #7
Gear Addict
 

Antelope's long-term support and build quality are questionable. Given the history of the company and their current blowout sales I would personally stay far away. See this thread.

RME are always worth a consideration ... you can buy fifteen year old units that still have ongoing driver support (Fireface 800.) Not that I'm recommending an old old unit, UFX and newer have much better sounding convertors. I'm just saying their support, build quality and drivers are top notch! For your use case you could get the ARC USB remote for their current top of the line UFX+ that allows for monitor switching / dim / mono etc right on your desktop.
Old 1 week ago
  #8
Gear Maniac
 

Thanks for the warning, that thread really put me off their interfaces. Sad because they seemed like a great upcoming manufacturer.
I hope they come out with an apology and let's now they've taken the criticism seriously and made the changes that their company need and that there's users confirming during a year or two. I'll not buy their products for a while though...

I'll they out MOTU some more at least RME are great as well but it's something about both their interfaces esthetically that I'm not very drawn to but I'll have to nvm that if it's good drivers and sound quality but still open to more answers.

Always hoping for someone coming with a suggestion I've not heard about or considered before and just be blown away at its price hehe. But for this I feel that price might not be that important as long as it's ~$2000 and quality is not worse than the Apollo I do feel a bit anxious about leaving the UAD world with all its plug-ins, problem is they cost way too much for us that don't make a lot of money off of music or audio engineering work and that the demos expire after two weeks instead of something like 20 hours of use. I barely get more than 3-8 hours of use due to day job an other life stuff. If I new a plug-in really was the right choice for me after trying it out and getting used to it, I'd buy it in a second and then I'd probably be more sure about getting an Apollo there

But I guess my question is, is there something better out there than an Apollo 16 or 8?
The plugins aside and at that price point.

I'm rather convinced I wouldn't buy an apollo X16 but the precious generation if I can find one in Sweden, unless you feel I'm crazy not to get the X? I don't care as much about DA/monitoring as I care about AD/recording.

I'm very open to other interfaces I just want to rule out the Apollo path a but more and be sure that I won't lose anything except DSP.
Old 1 week ago
  #9
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Munitone View Post
Why is this thead in the "Low End Theory" category?


Sorry I figured some people would say it was placed in the wrong forum due to my budget restraint even though it was rather high.
Maybe it should be moved, any mods available can feel free to do so.
Old 1 week ago
  #10
JAT
Lives for gear
Lynx is worth a look.$3200 gets you 8 in out +expansion, aes expansion, and connection via usb etc.
Old 1 week ago
  #11
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paratriplel View Post
I've heard more and more people recommend MOTU AVB these days, will be something to consider. Will see if I can find what particular interface or interfaces that would suit me in case I would choose a MOTU interface.

Oh and the two things I can think of that I forgot to mention in my original post seems to be how A/B monitoring which I haven't used in the past but might want to use in the future and that low latency is something I value highly.
MOTU is solid for historical driver support and for low latency. A lot of interfaces in this price range are using pretty similar converters (there are threads about this) so I would expect sound quality differences to be minimal at best...all are going to be pretty good sounding. Apollo makes sense if you want to use their plugins, but no sense in paying for the dsp if you aren’t inclined to take advantage of it.
Old 1 week ago
  #12
No headphones or preamps in the black apollo 16. May want to re-think the rme or maybe the apollo 8 if those are needed. The 16 would go with your current inteface nicely though as it has the pres and headphones you need. Only 2 ch of digital on the 16 but your current interface has some as well. The rme ufx+ mentioned covers pretty much all your needs nicely and your can record without even having a computer - staight to sd card. I have both units and for what you are doing the rme fits the bill better imho. Just look at the specs on these and pick what fits your i/o needs. They both sound fine so that is no concern nor is support.
Old 1 week ago
  #13
Lives for gear
You could find a used SSL Alpha link, word clock, and MADI card for that.

Solid State Logic Alpha Link AX w/MADI ADAT interface SSL | eBay

The internal clock in the Alpha link sucks. But with an external clock they sound great.

The hidden cost is cabling. its 24 in and out, all DB25. So if your other stuff is already DB25, would work well. if not, the cables break the budget.

Once over $3000 for converters. You should take the time to really decide on the protocol first. MADI, Daunte, ADAT optical, firesire, USB, Thunderbolt, etc.

MADI is a great protocol for low lag, but you pay for it and is one source one destination.

Whatever protocol to go with, RME drivers are solid. RME converters are just ok until you get into the ones with MADI on them. RME puts there best converters on MADI units. RME FX cards are goo rout if you use touchscreen or Ipad.

I'm in process of getting a new computer and getting UAD plugs for the first time. I went Octo cards, that prevents me from using the plugs in real time on the way in, to much lag, UAD becomes mixing tools only. The apollo units are designed to use the UAD plugs on the way in.

I have some MX4 cards w/nuclues because I like faders. Already old hat and out of date. no longer supported.

Another detail with the alpha link AX. It sounds better if you turn the ADAT IO off. Allowing ADAT IO to work degraded the quality of the word clock system. They are also a pain to set right....difficult interface to set up.

Great bang/buck, but some "gotcha" stuff too. This is why they sell for cheap...relative.

Black lion has many converters rated, both before and after a black lion mod....worth a look.
Our Mod Ratings | Black Lion Audio

They no longer offer the black lion mod the the alpha link. I think I was the last one. It took them so long I think they fried some inputs and had to replace the board and discontinued the mod after me.

Last edited by elegentdrum; 1 week ago at 07:07 AM..
Old 1 week ago
  #14
Gear Maniac
 

Yeah the Apollo 16 means I'll either keep the Twin, which might be unnecessary due to that I'll have my rack sinked down in the table from now on. But sure the Twin in has severed me good and I might have a place for it by but the other alternative is to sell the Twin and use the money from it, partly, $2-$300 for the Apollo 16 and the rest of it for a low end / mid range preamp.

And the other alternative is the Apollo 8, it's expandable, right? So I can always decide if I want to expand later.

I would either get 16 inputs from apollo 8 & my AD/DA or 18 inputs with the Twin.
Or I would get 24 inputs with the Apollo 16 + AD/DA.

And since I rarely record more than 2 channels with synths or 6 channels with drum machines i feel that should be enough. The rest will have to be patched in through patchbays.

I would like to consider other interfaces but I do like the plugins I just don't own that many plugins. But I do feel it's worth a couple of extra houndred bucks and hurt hold out a couple of more sales.

But choosing Apollo doesn't in any way give me something that's not as good as the other players in this range?

I'll however check out the specs on RME and MOTU (maybe even the SSL Alpha Link and some more).
I believe I'll manage well without plugins but I have just realized what I like about them.
Old 1 week ago
  #15
Gear Maniac
 

I would have a lot easier choosing an interface if I knew what exact model I should be looking at and what you recommend it, I'd also apprichiate to know what you feel is the maximum I should pay for it, I know some of you have provided a suggestion and I've just had the chance to take a quick look and to be honest, specs only show so much, okay of course they show a lot but an honest recommendation would help me sort out what it's strong properties are in actual use.

I also wonder, let's say I decide on the Apollo 8, is $2200 a fair amount for it? I'm asking because before I got all undecided it was the price I was offered a brand new unit for and if all converters in this range sound the same / are the same I'm thinking maybe that would be an easy route to choose unless something else convinces me.

I of course would like to pay $500 for an interface just as good as the Apollo, I'd even be okay losing the plugins for it but I do not want to take any chances or buy old digital gear that might be outdated in 3 years. Sure if I pay $500 for it, it might be worth it but I'm sure you see my point here. I sure do not want to save $500 without knowing the interface is very similar or better in quality and someone has done the switch and does not regret it.

Just see it like this. I'm happy where I am. With the Apollo Twin but I need more inputs and now I'm looking around for alternatives that can offer me something more than a rack Apollo can or the same for a cheaper buck (doesn't have to be the same plugins or such but they can't be taken out the equation entirely, I almost always commit to a channel strip / preamp and it sounds better than the raw recorded track but they do have to offer something similar or something more in order to win unless they're really cheap).
Old 1 week ago
  #16
Lives for gear
 

It's too bad that some people have had some not so great experiences with Antelope because the Zen Studio+ would pretty much give you what you are looking for. I've had one for I think about two years and I really like it. I'm not a professional engineer and it took me a while to get my head around their software, but now that I have I find it to be really powerful and flexible. My only complaint with Antelope so far is that the Zen Studio+ seems to be a less popular model and they haven't been quick to update it to add their latest plugins.
Old 1 week ago
  #17
Gear Maniac
 

Yeah it's a shame and I understand that a new company has a couple of struggles to overcome but the most important thing is to treat it customers, that has actually left something stable and that's probably working fine, for you, so don't go about messing with them, make sure to make them happy and solve their issues, even though it costs white some bit to take a unit back offer the user some sort of deal so they don't feel it's too big of a risk to come back to you, but don't **** them over because it will spread out to others.

I also checked out the Antelope and it seems to be "locking you down" without expandity? Or did I miss something? Just one Thunderbolt port and no ADAT ins and outs?

I'm actually leaning more and more towards the Apollo 8 mkii. 16 might be a bit overkill for now even if the inputs would be enough but since I can always expand I'm guessing I'm kind of safe with an Apollo.

But one thing I have not understand is if I can buy an interface a couple of years from now and have Thunderbolt 3/USB C connector connect to the Thunderbolt 2 on a mkii unit.
Anyone here knows this?

MOTU names their stuff so confusing I feel it's so much to look through to find what's the most suitable one. Would like to compare it there's something I'm missing out on any.
Old 1 week ago
  #18
Gear Maniac
 

Anyone have gut shots of the Motu 16A???

The world needs a simple 16 I/O -TRS-TRS (no bells and junk) robust signal path pure converter - let the money go to the conversion - not protocol desk people don't need.

SPL is running 36 volt rails but thin-hair gauge DB25 - if they would just update the Madison and offer TRS-TRS.

16A gut shots anyone??? Please????
Old 1 week ago
  #19
Gear Nut
Very happy owner of a 16A here. Great conversion, cool web interface to flexible internal routing and mixing. Even talks to linux, with enough playing around. Probably more than I need, but it's nice.
Old 1 week ago
  #20
Gear Head
 
ElectricViolin's Avatar
 

In trying to replace my aged HD4 Accel w/ HD192’s system I purchased an Orion 32+. Long story short, I could never get it stable and their support was abysmal. I could never figure out if it was defective or if there were other issues. My host PC was totally optimized for audio and brand new.

I tried out a Presonus Quantum 4848 and it installed instantly, it is totally solid, sounds great and has super low latency. I didn’t need any monitoring or pre’s and have a lot of outboard so the 4848 was right for me. They have other models with pre’s and monitoring, same drivers and converters. It came with Studio One and some other software free.

I really like not having an extra control panel to run on top of the DAW, Reaper in my case.
Old 1 week ago
  #21
Gear Maniac
 

I've used presonus before and I know they make great interfaces, I switched from them to get a a couple of more outputs (were doing live shows and needed a couple of them) so I'll check the 4848 and the other interfaces similar to it.

I must say I was kind of decided on the Apollo and could probably have bought one the previous couple of days but now I'm doubting again, their plugins are nice but not necessarily something I need. I believe their design is something that has appealed to me and made me drawn to it but I'm not sure anymore. I feel a MOTU 16A could probably be something I buy and never look back from. I just wish there was second hand units which I've not found and the new unit costs about the same I've been offered an Apollo 8 for.
It would be a lot easier to decide if I found a used one and could feel I'm not paying a lot of money just to have it new from the box which I've discovered that a lot of stores tells you it is but really it's a defect unit or a B-stock...

I've not been able to find how old the MOTU 16A is though? Would be nice to know if there was anything newer coming the next couple of months.
Old 1 week ago
  #22
Lives for gear
 

interface is about drivers... - get the new rme which has madi and dante and then add converters of choice; i'm mostly on madi and aes and use studer, euphonix, ssl, rme and yamaha adda converters and format converters so i can integrate pretty much any signal i want (madi, aes, adat, ethersound, cobranet, riedel, dante etc.)
Old 1 week ago
  #23
Gear Nut
 
SF_Green's Avatar
RME?

Did you look at RME Fireface UFX+ ? 12 analog (4 mic pre's), 2 ADAT, MADI, 2 MIDI, Thunderbolt and USB 3. Rock solid drivers, super low latecy. Get a breakout box or cable for the extra ins if you need them.

The MOTU would be a good choice also.
Old 1 week ago
  #24
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by deedeeyeah View Post
interface is about drivers... - get the new rme which has madi and dante and then add converters of choice; i'm mostly on madi and aes and use studer, euphonix, ssl, rme and yamaha adda converters and format converters so i can integrate pretty much any signal i want (madi, aes, adat, ethersound, cobranet, riedel, dante etc.)
That's one way to go but somehow I'm a bit anxious about it. Like it's a bit too complicated for me, though complicated is the wrong word, more like I want instant gratification, like; buy something and imediantly have something new and better I do like the idea to be able to build on something and eventually get my setup better but in this case I think I should buy a good interface with converters but great drivers and maybe buy an interface within a few years just because of the drivers, after I've gotten a at least one over the top converter that I've integrate through ADDA and if I've got a reason I might upgrade in the future.

I do would like to be abl, if in satisfied with it, to have this interface for at least 5 years of I want and I would like if the interface at least have 1/3 or maybe 1/4 when I sell it.

But are the RME-drivers really that superior today?

What manufacturer have the 2nd best? 3rd best?

I've not found any info it the MOTU 16A has had any issues yet but I'll have to continue reading about it, and I know my midi interface from MOTU works fantastic so I've got faith in them for that.

I bought my Apollo twin two years ago for these reasons:
- Lower latency
- Step up the converter and preamp game

The bonus was real time effects for recording (which I didn't use for almost half a year or even more) and I believed I could stop micing amps and instead use a amp sim which completely failed because I needed the amp in the room to get the right feeling.


But right now I believe I can drop everything for good conversion and lots of inputs so I guess I should keep an open view, if I could just decide I'm ready to buy!
Old 1 week ago
  #25
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Paratriplel View Post
...I do would like to be abl, if in satisfied with it, to have this interface for at least 5 years of I want and I would like if the interface at least have 1/3 or maybe 1/4 when I sell it.

But are the RME-drivers really that superior today?

What manufacturer have the 2nd best? 3rd best?...
i cannot tell if rme's drivers 'by design' are better than other manufacturer's but it's a pretty impressive fact that almost all of rme's interfaces can still get used after more than 20 years (!) as they are still getting supported/updated, all drivers (including those for 'vintage' interfaces) are available for download anytime, for both platforms, no registration etc. needed...

if not going 'modular' (interface, outboard pres/converters etc), check out rme's ufx+ (the 'plus' makes a difference): should satisfy many of your needs...

(i'm using madiface usb and madiface xt and sometimes/rarely a multiface, hooked up on a pcmcia card in a hp laptop running win98 :-)
Old 1 week ago
  #26
Lives for gear
 
MIKEHARRIS's Avatar
As you don't upgrade often and you can share UA plugins across platforms the Apollo is a smart choice.
Don't buy the previous version...get the 16X you will be happier longer
Old 1 week ago
  #27
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by MIKEHARRIS View Post
As you don't upgrade often and you can share UA plugins across platforms the Apollo is a smart choice.
Don't buy the previous version...get the 16X you will be happier longer
I've actually taken a step back from buying an apollo interface but regarding buying new generation. I like the idea of getting the newest if I buy new but if buying used is om the table we're talking about a price difference of €1500 between used Apollo 8 mkii and Apollo x8 and I'm not sure that would make me that happy that it would match the extra money going away, but I'm open for discussion.

I'm happy with my RME AD/DA but it's something about their interfaces looking very industrial or something, at least on pictures, that makes me go past them but I realize that's plain stupid. I would like to see a customer satisfaction statistics and maybe use that material, partly of course, for my decision.

Seems people say so many different suggestions, but I got to admit the most common suggestions have been MOTU (especially the 16a) and RME.
So I guess it would be wise to go for one of them. Will definable give the UFX+ another look.
Old 1 week ago
  #28
Lives for gear
 
MIKEHARRIS's Avatar
The 16X is their best converter...but I like the RME as well. One of your countryman Johan came up from Havana and purchased a UFX+. Excellent converters & feature set.
Old 1 week ago
  #29
Gear Maniac
 

Wow I'm not sure the choice gets easier, I mean the UFX+ is a lot more expensive but have a lot more than say the 16A, I'm sure both would make me happy. But there's the Presonus and still the Apollo etc..

I was really excited about the RME earlier today but I found some people have had issues with the drivers. Which scares me a bit, these people seem to have been on Windows, but with Apple slacking after and higher ing their prices maybe RME will have to focus on making the drivers run better on Windows and therefore let the drivers for Mac fall behind.. Okay maybe I'm just paranoid but still not entirely impossible.
Old 1 week ago
  #30
Gear Head
 
Thunderbird's Avatar
 

Quote:
As you don't upgrade often and you can share UA plugins across platforms the Apollo is a smart choice.
Don't buy the previous version...get the 16X you will be happier longer
That is what sold me on it. I always go for a product that will have stability and a long term return.
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