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USB Audio Interface ~ $300 with inserts
Old 1 week ago
  #1
Here for the gear
 

USB Audio Interface ~ $300 with inserts

Hi y'all, have a budget of around $300 and am looking to upgrade my USB audio interface. I need something with inserts, and also something that ideally lets me bypass the internal preamps when using my external pres. Any hot leads? Don't need lots of channels, but I do need these higher-quality I/O options. Thanks.
Old 1 week ago
  #2
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zohomoho's Avatar
 

Check out the Steinberg ur242, it has 2 line in's on the back. Sounds really good too. I had an Antelope zen tour and didn't hear any major differences, nothing that would ruin a mix that's for sure.
Old 1 week ago
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by zohomoho View Post
Check out the Steinberg ur242, it has 2 line in's on the back. Sounds really good too. I had an Antelope zen tour and didn't hear any major differences, nothing that would ruin a mix that's for sure.
Thanks for the rec -- I'd love that interface, but it doesn't have inserts unfortunately :/
Old 1 week ago
  #4
Gear Head
Behringer U-phoria 404HD. Four inserts, four combo inputs, clean pres, solid drivers. Very good functional interface, since upgrading to something bigger in the studio I use it as part of my mobile rig and can't see myself selling it. If only the SSL 2+ had inserts, looks like a great interface for the price otherwise.
Old 1 week ago
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FoodProduct View Post
Behringer U-phoria 404HD. Four inserts, four combo inputs, clean pres, solid drivers. Very good functional interface, since upgrading to something bigger in the studio I use it as part of my mobile rig and can't see myself selling it. If only the SSL 2+ had inserts, looks like a great interface for the price otherwise.
Yeah, I'll probably just end up getting one of those. I was hoping there was something similar with a step up in quality, but my initial research hasn't returned anything. Thanks for the suggestion.
Old 1 week ago
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thetarun View Post
Yeah, I'll probably just end up getting one of those. I was hoping there was something similar with a step up in quality, but my initial research hasn't returned anything. Thanks for the suggestion.
Beat me to it - not many interfaces with inserts in this price range. If you want to spend three times as much (your entire budget) on half the number of channels the Audent iD22 is the other option I can think of.
Old 1 week ago
  #7
Gear Head
Quote:
Originally Posted by thetarun View Post
Yeah, I'll probably just end up getting one of those. I was hoping there was something similar with a step up in quality, but my initial research hasn't returned anything. Thanks for the suggestion.
If something with better (at least higher gain) pres came out with the same feature set in a similar price bracket it would be the best budget interface of all time. Really the only issue I had with the 404HD is that the input gain and the output gain are both pretty weak. The pres are good and clean, but have zero character. Might be worth to get one since you have better pres available, because the converters in it are solid imo enough. At the point where they're not, you're looking at some pricier interfaces above the $400 price category.
Old 1 week ago
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FoodProduct View Post
If something with better (at least higher gain) pres came out with the same feature set in a similar price bracket it would be the best budget interface of all time. Really the only issue I had with the 404HD is that the input gain and the output gain are both pretty weak. The pres are good and clean, but have zero character. Might be worth to get one since you have better pres available, because the converters in it are solid imo enough. At the point where they're not, you're looking at some pricier interfaces above the $400 price category.
Exactly -- I'd spend $300 or even $350 to get something like the 404HD, but just with nicer build quality, nicer pres, maybe USB 3.0 support, etc. etc. I'm not quite ready to jump up to $500 for an id22 since I just don't need the swank, and TBH I prefer stackability. Looks like this is what we get in the price range, though. Funny - I'm always the guy who wants the item between consumer and prosumer. Much of the time it doesn't exist.
Old 1 week ago
  #9
Gear Addict
 

I don't get why so many people are obsessed with needing so much preamp gain??

Is everybody recording whisper level sources and on top of that thinking they need to hit like -1dbfs ??

50-60db of gain really should get the job done in most situations.

Ok if you absolutely love the sound of your Beyer M201 on your nylon strung acoustic you will need a high gain preamp but for most stuff you just shouldn't need that kind of preamp to hit like -15dbfs which is about what you should be shooting for anyway.
Old 1 week ago
  #10
Gear Head
Quote:
Originally Posted by JLast View Post
I don't get why so many people are obsessed with needing so much preamp gain??

Is everybody recording whisper level sources and on top of that thinking they need to hit like -1dbfs ??

50-60db of gain really should get the job done in most situations.

Ok if you absolutely love the sound of your Beyer M201 on your nylon strung acoustic you will need a high gain preamp but for most stuff you just shouldn't need that kind of preamp to hit like -15dbfs which is about what you should be shooting for anyway.
Yeah, definitely true. 404HD was always fine for me, low noise and sounded good and clean with all my mics. I think it's good to mention in case someone has dynamics that they want to use on more delicate sources, as you were saying.

This might just be the low end theorist in me talking, but in general the quality differences are fairly small between interfaces (external preamps aside) and it comes down to things like driver stability, feature set, and build quality more often than not. The actual quality is secondary to all the fun stuff you can do ITB these days as long as the preamps are at the very least not very noisy and pretty clean/accurate.

Performance, technique, and room are the real big players at work. If you can dial those things in, almost everything becomes workable signal-chain wise and it becomes a game of preferences.
Old 1 week ago
  #11
Gear Head
Quote:
Originally Posted by thetarun View Post
Exactly -- I'd spend $300 or even $350 to get something like the 404HD, but just with nicer build quality, nicer pres, maybe USB 3.0 support, etc. etc. I'm not quite ready to jump up to $500 for an id22 since I just don't need the swank, and TBH I prefer stackability. Looks like this is what we get in the price range, though. Funny - I'm always the guy who wants the item between consumer and prosumer. Much of the time it doesn't exist.
If only. I ended up biting the bullet and getting a Midas MR18 and couldn't be more happy with the decision. I just wanted the IO and figured if I ever get other gear for the studio I can use it exclusively for live recording, but it is absolutely -ballin- as a studio interface. No dedicated inserts though

I tend to try to find the peak of budget to flirt with the pro market without breaking the bank. One day our prosumer interface savior will come, with technology developing how it is it's only a matter of time. We're pretty close already.
Old 1 week ago
  #12
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mutetourettes's Avatar
 

You might get a second hand motu 828 mk iii hybrid for $300... that should kick everything else’s ass.
Old 1 week ago
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FoodProduct View Post
I think it's good to mention in case someone has dynamics that they want to use on more delicate sources, as you were saying.
I think you are hitting on the root of the problem here.

Many people I think often don't understand the basic concept of using a low output mic (generally dynamic mics) on loud sources and a high output mic (most large condensers) on quiet ones.

Add to this every newbie immediately buying into the idea of the Shure SM7b as being THE MIC to fix all their problems of having a crappy sounding room even if they don't have the voice for it and a ton of people are thinking that they are coming up short on the gain when really they are just going about it wrong.





Quote:
Originally Posted by FoodProduct View Post
in general the quality differences are fairly small between interfaces (external preamps aside) and it comes down to things like driver stability, feature set, and build quality more often than not. The actual quality is secondary to all the fun stuff you can do ITB these days as long as the preamps are at the very least not very noisy and pretty clean/accurate.
You're spot on here.

Many people don't seem to understand that even a budget interface which does have some limitations is capable of quite a bit if quality if used correctly.

An external micpreamp that costs hundreds or even a couple thousand dollars is going to be a bit nicer but it's an exponential curve and the differences are real but way more subtle than people expect.

Quote:
Originally Posted by FoodProduct View Post
Performance, technique, and room are the real big players at work. If you can dial those things in, almost everything becomes workable signal-chain wise and it becomes a game of preferences.
Again spot on but hard for someone to understand who either has a weak voice and has purchased an SM7b or somebody who is recording a guitar amp that's putting out less volume than a normal speaking voice because they are trying to not annoy their neighbors or wife and kids and then they wonder why they are only hitting at -30dbfs and think that their interface's preamps are at fault.
Old 1 week ago
  #14
Lives for gear
Yep practically all interface mic pres are more than capable of delivering professional quality results - same for the converters - go back 40 years and budget stuff was dire.

Even recording quieter stuff - as long as you don't need to monitor it loudly (which 9 out of 10 times is why you want lots of gain) then just turn it up digitally once you're in the DAW adding no (new) noise whatsoever - obviously bringing the noisefloor up with the content which is another incentive to not lean on the gain too much, keeping the pre amp within its cleaner range.
Old 1 week ago
  #15
Gear Maniac
 

Motu M4 all the way
Old 1 week ago
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by To Mega Therion View Post
Motu M4 all the way
Looks great. No inserts :(
Old 6 days ago
  #17
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mutetourettes's Avatar
 

still reckon a second hand motu 828 mk iii hybrid will set you up best. it has inserts (well, it has analogue preamp outs, and obviously lots of line ins)..
Old 6 days ago
  #18
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by thetarun View Post
Looks great. No inserts :(
Do you already have an external micpreamp?

The Behringer is cheap and decent enough that with your budget I'd say going with it you aren't all that far away from getting a decent external micpreamp as well if you are willing to consider used gear.

The micpreamps built into the interfaces you are looking at aren't all that different which makes the 404HD quite the bargain.

A used ART MPA, ART Voice Channel or a Golden Age Pre73 (also the Golden Age Pre73jr is pretty cheap even new) is going to offer something that's actually a bit different than the mic inputs on any of the low or even mid level interfaces.

Another route would be to get the 404HD and throw a Klark KT76 or Kt2a into the insert. Then you will have something more interesting going in than your basic sterile clean micpreamp even if you are using the 404's micpre and you can grab some more gain from the limiter if you need that as well.
Old 6 days ago
  #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JLast View Post
Another route would be to get the 404HD and throw a Klark KT76 or Kt2a into the insert. Then you will have something more interesting going in than your basic sterile clean micpreamp even if you are using the 404's micpre and you can grab some more gain from the limiter if you need that as well.
Yep, I often use my KT2A for extra coloured gain on the way in if using an interface mic-pre.
Old 5 days ago
  #20
Gear Addict
Everyone in here is talking about the gain of the mic pre and questioning why you would need a higher gain pre. The answer is simple. RIBBON MICS.
Old 5 days ago
  #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HeadlessDinosaur View Post
Everyone in here is talking about the gain of the mic pre and questioning why you would need a higher gain pre. The answer is simple. RIBBON MICS.
Not really...

Most ribbons are pretty similar in output to dynamic mics like the SM57.

The Shure Sm7b is actually lower in output than a Royer R121.

The problem is a combination of:

Low level sources

Too much distance from the mic

People feeling "uncomfortable" with the look of their gain knob sitting at 4 o'clock

Not choosing a hotter output mic (a condenser) when recording a source that is either particularly quiet or distant from the mic

People thinking that they need to hit close to 0dbfs.
Old 5 days ago
  #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HeadlessDinosaur View Post
Everyone in here is talking about the gain of the mic pre and questioning why you would need a higher gain pre. The answer is simple. RIBBON MICS.
Then buy an active ribbon or a booster - what do you want your ribbons for? I have several - all of them are usable on my audio interface's pre's. Okay if I want to record quiet sources with a ribbon then'd I'd use other options - unless I don't need to monitor - then I can add gain in the box.

Last edited by Scragend; 5 days ago at 03:59 PM.. Reason: usual typos
Old 5 days ago
  #23
Gear Addict
Quote:
Originally Posted by JLast View Post
Not really...

Most ribbons are pretty similar in output to dynamic mics like the SM57.

The Shure Sm7b is actually lower in output than a Royer R121.

The problem is a combination of:

Low level sources

Too much distance from the mic

People feeling "uncomfortable" with the look of their gain knob sitting at 4 o'clock

Not choosing a hotter output mic (a condenser) when recording a source that is either particularly quiet or distant from the mic

People thinking that they need to hit close to 0dbfs.
Well you are partly right. You def dont want to be hitting close 0dbfs. But that is another story called gain staging while mixing. Your gain on a preamp doesnt have to be set low. It is all about the sound you are going for. I personally love the way my board sounds when I drive the pres really hot while recording drums. But i dont send it that hot into the converters. I drive the gain for the tone and then turn it down at the fader to hit my converters at a good level. We all know they didnt do the digital scale right when it was created. 0dbfs in analog is not the same as it is in the digital domain.

However 99% of ribbons are pretty gain hungry and no where near the same response as a 57. Not sure where you are getting that info but you are just plain wrong.
Old 5 days ago
  #24
Gear Addict
 

Dynamic mics for reference

Shure Sm57 -54.5 db

Beyer M201 -58 db

Shure SM7b -59 db



Ribbons
Royer R121 -54 db

Royer R101 -48 db

Royer R10 -52.5 db

RCA 77dx -50 to -56 (pattern dependent)

RCA 44bx -55 db

Cascade Fathead -56 db

MXL 860 -56 db

Getting a bit low...

Beyer M160 -60 db


Now. This is mic you may need some extra gain for...

Coles 4048 -65
Old 4 days ago
  #25
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by JLast View Post

Now. This is mic you may need some extra gain for...

Coles 4048 -65
Okay here’s a worse-case-example for the mic you just pointed out as a particularly troublesome gain wise. Ripped a cheap Yamaha acoustic off the wall – hasn’t had new strings for over 15 years (I hate acoustics!) and they’re used strings off an electric (never bought acoustic strings in my life (did I mention I hate acoustics!)) so no high end at all. 4038 mounted on my noisy spring-loaded talkback arm in a room with the window open (the source of most of the noise and the PC next to me!) The pre amp is the “worst” one in my arsenal - a “MIDAS” pre from a Behringer ADA8200 – the same pre fitted to all their budget interfaces. No point commenting on the terrible sound of the badly tuned guitar (let alone the dodgy playing). But what’s the signal to noise ratio like? Acceptable? More than. I left plenty of silence in the clip so you can hear me breathing and even swallowing two feet away. The point I’m making is there’s certainly no problem with gain. I don’t do fingerpicking or acoustics but you get the drift! There also a strum with a pick then left to fade. If I had a noise floor like that when I was tape-based I’d have been doing backflips in delight! Nobody needs expensive pre-amps these days – I have some because I want them – but I don’t confuse that with need! (PS no processing whatsoever, just dithered to 16bit and normalised to about -4db))
Attached Files

WorseCase4038.wav (6.59 MB, 86 views)

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