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Advice please? USB, Firewire, Thunderbolt Audio Interfaces
Old 9th September 2016
  #1
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changeng's Avatar
Advice please? USB, Firewire, Thunderbolt

Hi all;

So I have a new puter being built for me by ADK. It will be fast n snappy, 32 Gb of ram, The motherboard is: Intel LGA1151: Z170 3x 16X PCIe, 4x PCIe 1x, dual channel DDR4 2133+, M.2, USB3.1 The processor: Intel Core i7 6700 Skylake 4GHz Quad 8 meg cache with HT. It will run on Windows 10.

I have been using a focusrite 18i20 first generation for several years. It's okay, but got clogs very easily if the track has a ton of tracks and/or VSTs running. My current PC is puny by modern day standards.

I know part of the problem is usb 2. So I'm looking to upgrade interfaces before the new computer gets here (3 weeks or so). I've been wanting to get the Focusrite Thunderbolt unit, BUT of course it isn't Windows-friendly yet. Firewire seems to be dying out and I'll have to get whatever adapter or card needed for firewire OR thunderbolt.

Wanting to keep the price down to $1000 or less. I'd prefer thunderbolt and focusrite has worked well for me, I understand the on-outs well ( I have different compressors and processors jammed in the back of the 18i20, almost like a patch bay).

SO... do I just wait this out until Focusrite get the drivers in place to properly run their thunderbolt unit on a PC, or is there a 8-input/8-output thunderbolt unit that runs on Windows now that I don't know about that costs near or barely over $1000? Any MOTU users happy with theirs? Any jimmyrigging that works to get a Thunderbolt to work properly on Windows?

Thanks !
Old 9th September 2016
  #2
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Notron Fan's Avatar
Why not PCIe?
Old 9th September 2016
  #3
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changeng's Avatar
any PCIe units in particular that you can suggest that have 8 ins and 8 outs that goes for around $1000 (ideally less?) I like the focusrite's layout, so anything similar is a plus - thanks !
Old 9th September 2016
  #4
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For PCIe interfaces, you can get RME HDSPe RayDAT or RME HDSPe AIO, which has ADAT I/O port and use your 18i20 in standalone mode as a converter. Both will give you the reference performance at Windows platform.

Also I don't think USB 2.0 itself as a computer interface is the culprit in worse performance. Although it's generally possible to say, PCIe or TB can be better by nature of computer bus with DMA and high bandwidth, but implementation is always very important. For example RME USB interfaces (UFX, UCX, or ) or MOTU AVB lineup seems to be very good performers, despite use of USB 2.0 connection.
Other thing with regards to 18i20 is, recently introduced gen. 2 version looks much better in terms of latency performance under load. There are people, who managed to install newer beta driver release also to lower (non-DSP) models of first gen. Scarletts and reported improvements in that area.
I think Focusrite guys mentioned somewhere (don't know exact thread), that final version might be also available to older interfaces.
With regards to their TB interface at PC, I'm not really sure, how far they are with Windows platform support, currently only TB interfaces, which works at Windows are Lynx (official) and MOTU AVB (beta driver and firmware).. something like Motu 8M or 1248 will be fine for you, but it's 1500USD.

Michal

Last edited by msmucr; 9th September 2016 at 09:08 PM.. Reason: Added product names again..
Old 9th September 2016
  #5
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changeng's Avatar
Thanks Michal ! That was very helpful.
Old 9th September 2016
  #6
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For some weird reason, product names from first sentence at my reply somewhat vansihed.. Maybe it's just invisible for me Need to post that as a forum bug.
First product was RME HDSPe RayDAT and the second one was RME HDSPe AIO.
Btw. check eBay and the classifieds, sometimes you can find it for interesting price.

Michal
Old 10th September 2016
  #7
Here for the gear
What I have tried to do to do what you are trying to do is use the optical ports to connect my new Focusrite 18i/20 to my Focusrite Clarett2pre which connects via Thunderbolt.

I am having some problems that I can't understand yet.
Old 10th September 2016
  #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by UnclePen View Post
I am having some problems that I can't understand yet.
Can you be more specific?

Michal
Old 11th September 2016
  #9
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changeng's Avatar
So Michal - I can run the 18i20 into an RME card to bypass USB? I would still be using the focusrite preamps though, is that correct? Would the 18i20 lose Amy functionality?
Old 11th September 2016
  #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by changeng View Post
So Michal - I can run the 18i20 into an RME card to bypass USB? I would still be using the focusrite preamps though, is that correct? Would the 18i20 lose Amy functionality?
Yes that's exactly what I've mentioned in my previous post.
You'll route Scarlett analogue I/Os to its ADAT ports. So it will be used basically as a analogue to ADAT converter.
With this setup you can also assign volume knob at Scarlett to main analog out, so it can be still used for volume control. All these routing and device settings are preserved in Scarlett memory, so you don't necessarily need its USB connection to computer anymore.
All audio interface tasks will be then handled by RME card. And you can use its TotalMix for doing your monitoring mixes.
So I don't think, you'll loose any important functionality.

Michal
Old 11th September 2016
  #11
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Thanks Michal. So I have a very ignorant question for you. I have an old Echo 24/96 that has a PCI card and optical I/O. Could I get the same result using the echo card instead of spending the money for the RME?
Old 11th September 2016
  #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by changeng View Post
Thanks Michal. So I have a very ignorant question for you. I have an old Echo 24/96 that has a PCI card and optical I/O. Could I get the same result using the echo card instead of spending the money for the RME?
Hi Changeng, I'm sorry, I don't have any experience with Echo Audio PCI cards.. with regards to connections, it would work the same. However I'm not sure, how it will be working with some old drivers (eg. new operating system support) and if the total latency performance would justify that move, as not all PCI/PCIe are equally good performers.
Another thing is, you've mentioned in fist post, your Z170 board doesn't have any PCI slots.. there are some adapters, but its another uncertain thing with particular configuration and drivers.

Michal
Old 11th September 2016
  #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by changeng View Post
Wanting to keep the price down to $1000 or less. I'd prefer thunderbolt and focusrite has worked well for me, I understand the on-outs well ( I have different compressors and processors jammed in the back of the 18i20, almost like a patch bay).

SO... do I just wait this out until Focusrite get the drivers in place to properly run their thunderbolt unit on a PC, or is there a 8-input/8-output thunderbolt unit that runs on Windows now that I don't know about that costs near or barely over $1000? Any MOTU users happy with theirs? Any jimmyrigging that works to get a Thunderbolt to work properly on Windows?
You might want to standardize on Thunderbolt3, which can encapsulate USB and Firewire (and pretty much everything else) over the same interface. Apple has a Thunderbolt->Firewire adaptor, and several vendors have released dock stations that include USB3/video/Firewire ports. Given the issues with Firewire on Windows platforms based on FW chipsets, it would be interesting to see if those drivers actually work. USB passthrough seems to be quite reliable. It will all depend on the drivers.

That said, a dedicated FW interface with TI chipset is pretty cheap if you have a lot of FW to support.

My next DAW specs include Thunderbolt 3.
Old 12th September 2016
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by changeng View Post
I have been using a focusrite 18i20 first generation for several years. It's okay, but got clogs very easily if the track has a ton of tracks and/or VSTs running. My current PC is puny by modern day standards.
Your interface isn't clogging. Your PC is. Your new PC will be fine, stop worrying about USB/Thunderbolt.

No audio interface supports more channels than its data bus can support. Tracks aren't mixed on your interface, they're mixed in your DAW and output through the limited number of audio channels that your interface supports. If you have 800 tracks and an interface with 8 outputs, those tracks will be split into 8 channels according to how you assign them in the DAW.

USB 2 can support around 80 channels of 24 bit 44.1 k, or around 40 channels at 96 k.
Old 12th September 2016
  #15
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norbury brook's Avatar
 

Exactly!! I've been running my studio from a USB-2 Steinberg UR824 fed by two MR816's (24 IO) for the past 8 years with zero problems.

I've taken the units out on location to do live recordings with my HP elitbook laptop as well. Never a problem. I've used this with about 4 different computers over the last few years, never an issue, that's the beauty of USB 2.


MC
Old 12th September 2016
  #16
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Thanks for all the feedback guys - I guess I'll wait until the new puter is here and see how much data I can shove down it's throat.

On that note, because I AM a gearslut, has anyone used the new Clarett who has experience with the Scarlett series? If so, is there a dramatic difference in the quality of the preamps?
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