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When To Upgrade Interfaces
Old 6 days ago
  #1
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telecode's Avatar
When To Upgrade Interfaces

Hi, a noob question. What do you look out for and at what point do you decide you may been to upgrade your interface?

In my case, my project are mostly < 20 tracks. I haven't been seeing much utilization above 30 or 40% of the DAW. I usually work in 44.1 or 48 24bit.

Does it make sense to assume that a company that makes only hardware, such as Tascam or RME, *might* make better interfaces than a company that is spread across both software and hardware, such as Arturia or Steinberg?
Old 6 days ago
  #2
JAT
Lives for gear
First, a hardware only company doesn’t mean it does better hardware than a software/hardware co. See stein berg and Yamaha gear. In fact, the TAscam uh 7000 is one of the finest hardware converters out there, including the preamp, but is crippled by strange software choices since it was build for audiophiles. The latency is really hiThe and it can’t digitally sync and without shutting down the input so audiophiles won’t feedback their system - i wanted to turn 2 into a 4x4 system.

The other reasons to upgrade are more inputs, higher quality con/pres, or better latency. Better sound has usually been my reason for changing. But a better Sound can be had by getting outboard.
Old 6 days ago
  #3
Gear Addict
 

I would say in many or even most cases if you are upgrading your interface in hopes of better sound quality you are probably going to be disappointed that the newer "better" interface sounds pretty similar to what you had already and your wallet is just a bit lighter.

Get a new interface when the one you have is failing you in some way or if you don't have enough inputs and outputs.

You will get far more bang for your buck buying a new mic or a preamp or compressor. Hell spend the money on something that actually makes sound like a guitar or keyboard or maybe a tuba... now that will change the sound of your recordings!!!
Old 5 days ago
  #4
Im with JLast, I tried a few interfaces didn't hear any difference.
You mention youre recording in 24/44 or 48....most all can do that.
The main difference was do you like the I/O and the software doesn't crash n freeze.
Theres enough Apples and Orange shootouts for the converters etc.
If you aren't recording bands or drums, just your self, probably 2 channels will work.
I'll go as far and say the ones Ive tested don't sound much different going 10yrs + back.

I'd spend the cash somewhere else.
open back headphones to check mixes, Mics, try a little color preamp/comp outboard, buy some plugins...
Old 5 days ago
  #5
Gear Addict
Imo as long as your converters can do 96k 24 bit with enough i/o then you are good. 44.1 and 48 are just fine if you dont have the system resources for 88.2 or 96k but most plug ins seem to sound better at those rates and you have more detail in your high end info making the high end smoother and making critical decisions in that area easier.

As long as you have enough i/o and you are happy with the sounds you are getting then the only reason to upgrade is if your interface craps out on you.
Old 5 days ago
  #6
Lives for gear
Almost any interface today has a vastly lower noise floor and better thd figures than any professional equipment 40+ years ago. The mic pres are invariably good sounding and the converters near as dammit transparent (the difference from converter to converter is vastly smaller than the difference between brands of tape 40 years ago – and even batches of tape from the SAME manufacturer in some circumstances!) If your interface has all the features you need then there's no real compelling reason to upgrade unless driver support becomes iffy. There were plenty of rubbish interfaces around 15+ years ago – even something as basic as a Behringer 404HD is capable of tracking and mixing wonderful sounding records easily passing muster as "professional recordings" - it's all about the talent not the hardware. I've yet to hear a compelling argument to track above 24bit 48kHz. Sure there may be fewer artefacts from plugins etc - has any of them actually ruined a would-be hit record? Only gear heads care about these things.

I really wouldn’t worry about upgrading unless you need more features. Obviously nothing wrong with being bored and fancying a change - but that's a different story - that's "want" not "need".

Last edited by Scragend; 5 days ago at 03:16 PM.. Reason: .
Old 5 days ago
  #7
Gear Addict
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scragend View Post
I've yet to hear a compelling argument to track above 24bit 48kHz. Sure there may be fewer artefacts from plugins etc
If a smoother and more detailed high end along with plugins performing better isn't compelling enough then what is.
Old 5 days ago
  #8
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by HeadlessDinosaur View Post
If a smoother and more detailed high end along with plugins performing better isn't compelling enough then what is.
What for? People listening to mp3s on earbuds or cell phones?
Old 5 days ago
  #9
Gear Addict
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scragend View Post
What for? People listening to mp3s on earbuds or cell phones?
It isnt for the end listener. Everything at best gets converted to 44.1 16 bit which is cd standard. It is for the engineer. With a smoother more detailed high end it makes critical decisions in those areas easier to make.
Old 5 days ago
  #10
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by HeadlessDinosaur View Post
It isnt for the end listener. Everything at best gets converted to 44.1 16 bit which is cd standard. It is for the engineer. With a smoother high more detailed high end it makes critical decisions in those areas easier to make.
Yes, I get all that - but the differences (in reality - not through the gearhead perception filter) is tiny. I doubt if most of the experienced "high end" posters on here with the billion pound converters can hear past 15kHz - more like 13kHz if you've spent your life in the studio. I like nice sound as much as the next person but I just happen to think the sample rate the song was recorded or mixed at (or even the gear it was recorded on) matters very little in the big scheme of things.

As I've said before, put Geoff Emerick, George Martin and The Beatles in a nice room with nothing but budget Behringer gear - including microphones - they will produce wonderful sounding "classic" albums. Unless you NEED the features of a different interface (okay I'll include increased gain as a useful feature if you need it) then whatever you've got is good enough to make great music - we've never had it so good.

Last edited by Scragend; 5 days ago at 04:44 PM.. Reason: Martin for Harrison (brain fade)
Old 5 days ago
  #11
Gear Addict
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scragend View Post
Yes, I get all that - but the differences (in reality - not through the gearhead perception filter) is tiny. I doubt if most of the experienced "high end" posters on here with the billion pound converters can hear past 15kHz - more like 13kHz if you've spent your life in the studio. I like nice sound as much as the next person but I just happen to think the sample rate the song was recorded or mixed at (or even the gear it was recorded on) matters very little in the big scheme of things.

As I've said before, put Geoff Emerick, George Martin and The Beatles in a nice room with nothing but budget Behringer gear - including microphones - they will produce wonderful sounding "classic" albums. Unless you NEED the features of a different interface (okay I'll include increased gain as a useful feature if you need it) then whatever you've got is good enough to make great music - we've never had it so good.
When plugins are designed to perform better at higher sample rates then why not take advantage of it.

Also are you familiar with the Nyquist theorem? 44.1 is barely getting you past hitting 20k like a brick wall. The higher the sample rate the smoother it is. True high end gets harder to hear with age but it still matters cause there are millions of younger ears that still can hear that area very well. One of the largest groups of music consumers is young people. You cant just mix for your ears that cant tell whats going on over 13k to 15k. Unless you are trying to rock at amateur hour.
Old 5 days ago
  #12
JAT
Lives for gear
Yea, but put Emerick in a typical bedroom studio And it won’t sound like abbey road, either.

A new interface, your conversion and mic pre, won’t typically booSt those two basics until you spend big bucks. One $5 a channel pre is going to sound like everyone else’s and most expensive “interfaces” are usually simply converters that you add outboard pres and such to. The difference in sound between a basic TAscam interface and another company’s in the same price range isn’t going to make a big difference. For the last 10-15 years, anyway. I could hear the diff switching from presonus to a tc konnekt way back when. But today, almost every interface is capable of solid, clean capture.

A better sound is usually found in outboard units, not switching interfaces.
Old 5 days ago
  #13
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scragend View Post
What for? People listening to mp3s on earbuds or cell phones?
I'd say you should shoot for making stuff as high quality in every way you can and especially so for people who are going to compromise it with their listening format or gear.

If the music is gonna get crapped up you don't want crap to start with that's gonna get even more crapped up, you want the best you can get to begin with so there is still something left after having it's quality reduced.



Sh
Old 5 days ago
  #14
Gear Addict
Quote:
Originally Posted by JLast View Post
I'd say you should shoot for making stuff as high quality in every way you can and especially so for people who are going to compromise it with their listening format or gear.

If the music is gonna get crapped up you don't want crap to start with that's gonna get even more crapped up, you want the best you can get to begin with so there is still something left after having it's quality reduced.



Sh
Exactly what he said.
Old 4 days ago
  #15
Lives for gear
 
JayTee4303's Avatar
Buy the PC, patch the OS to date, bring the audio and MIDI interface up, patch drivers to date, lay in the major software builds, authorize, add plugs, authorize, then lock it down forever.

Next workstation comes up around halfway thru the duty cycle of the first, side by side with the first, for easy file transfer, in test, then side by side production, then full cut-over to the new system, then a bit longer until confidence is full.

Then old box migrates to new location, expanding the system.

That's how E4 ended up with core i7s for video and audio in the CR, plus core i7s for synths and sims in the tracking room, plus a core i7 and two core i5 laptops for mobile live streaming, mobile recording, RTA, FOH, DJ, lights etc, plus a SMPTE synced, distributed processing LAN which gives me essentially unlimited CPU and processing horsepower for any project.

"Upgrades"... involve risking a known useful production workhorse, for unspecified, uncertain gains. Keep what works, expand without risk, maintaining full productivity at all times.
Old 4 days ago
  #16
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by telecode View Post
Hi, a noob question. What do you look out for and at what point do you decide you may been to upgrade your interface?
Does my interface still work?
Can I still get done what I want to get done?
Would a new interface 'significantly' improve something?

If the answers are 'yes', 'yes' and 'no', then I'm not upgrading.

At home I have a Lynx TWO-B that is so old I can't even remember when I bought it. It's still on PCI, not PCI-e! But it works. Low latency when needed (rarely) and very good sound quality. Has the i/o I need.

Do I want something better with more i/o? Yes. Do I need it? No. Is it the best use of my money? No.

Not long ago I bought a 3440x1440 ultrawide monitor and it has made working in my home studio WAY more enjoyable, and I doubt an interface upgrade would have made the same difference.

Quote:
Originally Posted by telecode View Post
Does it make sense to assume that a company that makes only hardware, such as Tascam or RME, *might* make better interfaces than a company that is spread across both software and hardware, such as Arturia or Steinberg?
Literally "might", yes. But regardless it depends on what you by "better", right?

Could be that a company that does both actually makes a product that's generally better in use than buying from a company that specializes. Say you're buying either a converter that also has preamps or buying the two separately. The former might actually make you more productive for whatever reason, say ease-of-use, than the latter. Or it could be the opposite. I'm thinking that only you know the answer to that.

There's also the matter of company structures and branding. For example, for a while Avid owned MAudio if I remember correctly, but that didn't mean that the quality of MAudio products went up. On the other hand Yamaha owns Steinberg, and the converters branded and marketed toward the Nuendo crowd (possibly) using Nuage are probably top-notch and above the Steinberg branded ones which still are likely made by Yamaha.
Old 4 days ago
  #17
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by HeadlessDinosaur View Post
Also are you familiar with the Nyquist theorem? 44.1 is barely getting you past hitting 20k like a brick wall. The higher the sample rate the smoother it is. True high end gets harder to hear with age but it still matters cause there are millions of younger ears that still can hear that area very well. One of the largest groups of music consumers is young people. You cant just mix for your ears that cant tell whats going on over 13k to 15k. Unless you are trying to rock at amateur hour.

Yes I am familiar with Nyquist, I track at 48kHz. To be truthful beyond that I cannot hear any worthwhile improvement - tiny difference perhaps but that might be expectation bias - certainly not worth the thousands I'd have to spend to keep my channel count up. (I have 16 channels going through ADAT to support my hybrid setup.) higher sample rates are useful to reduce latency - that's the only reason I would decouple from the outboard for a particular tasks - that happens very, very rarely!

As for the young and their super high-end hearing - well, most of today's pop drills straight through my head with excessive top-end - god knows what it would sound like to my ears when they were 18 years old! I do work with aspiring artists who I have produced and/or mixed for, none of them have complained about the top-end of my mixes - on the contrary they are usually pleased - so I must be doing something right whether I can hear it or not!
Old 4 days ago
  #18
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by HeadlessDinosaur View Post
Also are you familiar with the Nyquist theorem? 44.1 is barely getting you past hitting 20k like a brick wall. The higher the sample rate the smoother it is. True high end gets harder to hear with age but it still matters cause there are millions of younger ears that still can hear that area very well. One of the largest groups of music consumers is young people. You cant just mix for your ears that cant tell whats going on over 13k to 15k. Unless you are trying to rock at amateur hour.
I agree that we should do the best we can within reason, but I don't think the young people argument holds water. They're also arguably the group that plays back the most content on the worst systems. They'll do it because they have less disposable income and no place of their own to set up high-end listening environments, and they do it because socially they've gotten used to lossy compressed formats streamed over Bluetooth to subpar earbuds in noisy environments.

Having the ability to hear 18+kHz seems to be not much of an advantage considering that.

But I agree that we should do the best we can for many reasons.
Old 4 days ago
  #19
Gear Addict
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scragend View Post
Yes I am familiar with Nyquist, I track at 48kHz. To be truthful beyond that I cannot hear any worthwhile improvement - tiny difference perhaps but that might be expectation bias - certainly not worth the thousands I'd have to spend to keep my channel count up. (I have 16 channels going through ADAT to support my hybrid setup.) higher sample rates are useful to reduce latency - that's the only reason I would decouple from the outboard for a particular tasks - that happens very, very rarely!

As for the young and their super high-end hearing - well, most of today's pop drills straight through my head with excessive top-end - god knows what it would sound like to my ears when they were 18 years old! I do work with aspiring artists who I have produced and/or mixed for, none of them have complained about the top-end of my mixes - on the contrary they are usually pleased - so I must be doing something right whether I can hear it or not!
Last summer I put together my current rig and spent 1500 bucks (included a new to me mac and a MOTU 828es) and can do 8 channels at 96k if I need more i/o I can add in one or both of my old MOTU 2408 mk2's for up to 24 channels but I drop to 48k. However for another 300 bucks I could pick up an 2408 mk3 and run both ADAT ports for a total of 16 i/o at 96k. That would keep me under 2k. Not too bad. Could easily get cheaper with a PC instead of a Mac.

My point is I doubt you would have to spend thousands to do it.
Old 3 days ago
  #20
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by HeadlessDinosaur View Post
Last summer I put together my current rig and spent 1500 bucks (included a new to me mac and a MOTU 828es) and can do 8 channels at 96k if I need more i/o I can add in one or both of my old MOTU 2408 mk2's for up to 24 channels but I drop to 48k. However for another 300 bucks I could pick up an 2408 mk3 and run both ADAT ports for a total of 16 i/o at 96k. That would keep me under 2k. Not too bad. Could easily get cheaper with a PC instead of a Mac.

My point is I doubt you would have to spend thousands to do it.
My interface has 8 line level channels + 4 mic/line + 2x8 external channels over ADAT (the limit of ADAT) which restricts me to 48kHz. I could drop the ADA8200 which I use to keep guitar pedals hooked up as external FX and have 4 or 2 external channel at higher sample rates. But if I want to retain the 16 EXTRA channels over my interface then I'd have to change the setup substatially - ie move away from ADAT. I don't beleive you can stack 802s and it's not a MADI interface. So replacing the functionality of my 802 and OctoPre and 8200 (adat only) just to increase the sample rate for all channels would run into thousands. Not to mention the fact I'm perfectly happy with the current setup and how it sounds.
Old 2 days ago
  #21
Gear Addict
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scragend View Post
My interface has 8 line level channels + 4 mic/line + 2x8 external channels over ADAT (the limit of ADAT) which restricts me to 48kHz. I could drop the ADA8200 which I use to keep guitar pedals hooked up as external FX and have 4 or 2 external channel at higher sample rates. But if I want to retain the 16 EXTRA channels over my interface then I'd have to change the setup substatially - ie move away from ADAT. I don't beleive you can stack 802s and it's not a MADI interface. So replacing the functionality of my 802 and OctoPre and 8200 (adat only) just to increase the sample rate for all channels would run into thousands. Not to mention the fact I'm perfectly happy with the current setup and how it sounds.
If it works and you are happy then stay put. I got to a situation last summer where I had literally maxed out my old rig (I couldnt even bounce tracks with out overloading). A new computer was a must. My old rig was PCIe based and my new computer doesnt have PCIe slots so I had to upgrade the whole thing. The MOTU 828es has 2 banks of ADAT so I can go smux for 8 channels @ 96k or I can expand via AVB. I mainly use my outs for summing through a console.
Old 2 days ago
  #22
Here for the gear
 

It's not about the brand (usually), it's about the build (usually). You only upgrade your interface if you can hear that you need to go up. For example; if you have a lower build interface and you work on a project and then you get to hear that same project that you are intimately familiar with through a higher quality interface and you notice an improvement: then it's time to go up. This is what happened to me years ago - I had a first gen Focusrite Scarlett and one day circumstances happened where I got to use a much higher build MOTU interface. It was night and day difference. I've since migrated to Apogee but I still really love the sound of MOTU interfaces. The same brand can have multiple grades of build. Focusrite is a great example - you can keep going up in the Focusrite lineup and it just gets better and better. If you think your interface is "hiding" things from you when you mix then try going up - just remember that it's not (always) about brand, it's (usually) about build quality. And of course make sure you have the IO you need.
Old 2 days ago
  #23
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by HeadlessDinosaur View Post
If it works and you are happy then stay put. I got to a situation last summer where I had literally maxed out my old rig (I couldnt even bounce tracks with out overloading). A new computer was a must. My old rig was PCIe based and my new computer doesnt have PCIe slots so I had to upgrade the whole thing. The MOTU 828es has 2 banks of ADAT so I can go smux for 8 channels @ 96k or I can expand via AVB. I mainly use my outs for summing through a console.
I do really like the look of MOTU gear and nearly made the jump when I dropped my Apollo - but I went with (what is regarded as) the one with the best driver support (RME) the whole MOTU "ecosystem" with the affordable networking options looks very good - I'll admit it - the head ruled the heart on that one!

I was hovering over "buy" for the RME 802 and the MUTU 1248 which I had wittled my shortlist down to. I wasn't bothered about price that much. I bought the 802 because I wanted to carry on with my old reliable firewire setup and RME drivers are "unbeatable" - the newer RMEs have web-browser based total mix which I didn't want (potential browser compatability headaches). The irony is FW didn't work too well for me with RME and I ended up using USB! Had I known, I would have bought the MOTU. My PC is plenty fast enough and my setup is how I like it, so it'll be this until something breaks whether that be 1 month or 10 years.

Last edited by Scragend; 2 days ago at 01:12 PM.. Reason: split text.
Old 2 days ago
  #24
Gear Addict
Quote:
Originally Posted by Scragend View Post
I do really like the look of MOTU gear and nearly made the jump when I dropped my Apollo - but I went with (what is regarded as) the one with the best driver support (RME) the whole MOTU "ecosystem" with the affordable networking options looks very good - I'll admit it - the head ruled the heart on that one!

I was hovering over "buy" for the RME 802 and the MUTU 1248 which I had wittled my shortlist down to. I wasn't bothered about price that much. I bought the 802 because I wanted to carry on with my old reliable firewire setup and RME drivers are "unbeatable" - the newer RMEs have web-browser based total mix which I didn't want (potential browser compatability headaches). The irony is FW didn't work too well for me with RME and I ended up using USB! Had I known, I would have bought the MOTU. My PC is plenty fast enough and my setup is how I like it, so it'll be this until something breaks whether that be 1 month or 10 years.
The reason I stuck with MOTU was there customer service. I already knew I liked the sound of there stuff. When I called 2 years ago needing tech support for discontinued products not only were they able to help me but a real person answered the phone not a digital answering service. And to top it off the first person that answered was able to help me. I didn't get transferred around.
Old 1 day ago
  #25
Gear Maniac
 
Absolutely_Josh's Avatar
Been on the fence the past few months on whether or not to upgrade my interface (Roland Octa-Capture) or start getting into preamps.

I have no problem with the interface but it is a bit older at this point so I’ve wondered if an upgrade was needed/would make any difference at all.
Since I like having the 8 inputs on the interface the cheaper solution was to try preamps first before upgrading the interface.
I found a good deal on a Warm Audio Tone Beast preamp so I went for it.

I’ve only used it on acoustic and electric guitars as of this post but, at this point, it appears to have made me put off doing the interface upgrade.
There’s enough options on it that you can “color” the sound if you choose or just boost the headroom for something “cleaner”.

I know you didn’t ask about preamps but it might be just what you’re looking for/save you a little dough for the time being.

TL;DR:
Went for a new preamp instead of interface upgrade and it made me happy with my current interface.
Old 21 hours ago
  #26
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by JLast View Post
Get a new interface when the one you have is failing you in some way or if you don't have enough inputs and outputs.
There really seems to be a rash of "upgrade my interface" threads these days. Where does the idea that a new interface will meaningfully affect your sonic bottom line come from - advertising?

Quote:
You will get far more bang for your buck buying a new mic or a preamp or compressor.


and if you get preamps, your interface matters even less than before.
Old 4 hours ago
  #27
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by joeq View Post
There really seems to be a rash of "upgrade my interface" threads these days. Where does the idea that a new interface will meaningfully affect your sonic bottom line come from - advertising?
Totally agree - all modern audio interfaces are well beyond the quality required to make commercially viable music (as are the built in pre-amps) - the only thing that concerns me when buying interfaces is features - not sound quality - I take it as read they are good enough in that respect - and they are. People fussing over the sonic merits of interface A vs interface B are not in the real world IMHO - yes there are differences and there are a tiny number of people that can REALLY hear the difference like a dagger in their throat. It's like the tiny number of people who have fast enough metabolisms to see florescent lights flicker – I feel sorry for them the same way I feel sorry for people who fuss over interfaces and converters - most people just need light and having sufficient light will get the job done.
Old 32 minutes ago
  #28
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scragend View Post
the only thing that concerns me when buying interfaces is features - not sound quality - .

I ordered an interface for one of our labs at school and chose it because unlike the other choices, it had two headphone jacks instead of one. I sure as hell did not spend any time listening to 'shootouts' on YouTube to determine the 'best sounding' model.

Sadly those looking towards interfaces as candidates for "upgrade" are not usually thinking in terms of features. I guess they think they are supposed to be getting a new one - even if they haven't really pinpointed what is "wrong" with their old one.
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