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Sound quality disapointment - advice Audio Interfaces
Old 1 week ago
  #1
Here for the gear
 

Sound quality disapointment - advice

I am returning a new audio interface because some compatibility issues in my PC and thunderbolt. So the sound quality discussion has nothing to do with it. I am telling this because the unit is not available for testing anymore.

My current and old audio interface is a Focusrite Saffire 6 USB, it really fits my needs in terms of connectivity and functionality, the only thing I would like to improve is the latency. I use the interface configured like this: 48 samples at 48000hz, this is the minimum buffer supported by the unit and maximum sample rate, my RTL is 7.8ms more or less and it is as low as can get.

My main use for the interface is playing guitar, bass and some MIDI instruments, some times I also record through a mic. When playing, VSTs also add their own latency so I would say that I am a little bit in the limit in terms of latency.

Some time ago I started to look into purchasing a new interface in order to improve my latency, my conditions were: have a great RTL performance and do not lose audio quality from my current interface. I ended pulling the trigger on a Presonus Quantum 2.

I have read that the Quantums have a great sound quality, and I really wasn't expecting that after 9 years or so I could end buying something worse than the Saffire 6 usb (in terms of sound quality). So after seeing the RTL figures on the Quantum 2 + the I/O specs + the price (566€, it was 800€ a couple of months ago) I though that's it, this is my new interface.

I couldn't make it work in my PC, my motherboard doesn't support natively Thunderbolt, but I bought a Titan Ridge expansion card that almost worked (these cards are known to work even in AMD computers). So I tried in my macbook pro and everything worked perfectly.

So.........time to play guitar. I connected one of my guitars to the instrument input 1, I configured the input level and I had to increase the gain more than I would expected around 36db to get some decent input level, I always try to get -18db. Then the headphones output felt weak, I use a pair of AKG-K701, so I connected my headphones amp to the audio interface. The result wasn't bad, but I could hear some hiss/noise (it was there too without the headphones amp), not much but it was there and I couldn't get rid of it. This is something I don't hear in my old Saffire and I was really disappointed about it. Maybe I did some wrong.

THD+N is 0.0025% in the Saffire, both instrument input and output. And 0.005% in the Quantum. Is this something we can really appreciate in this scenario? I find it hard to believe....

Since my quest is far from being completed, I am asking for some advice here. Did I do something wrong? Does the Saffire really sound better than a several times expensive unit released 8 years later? What should I look in the specs to get something appropriate for my use case?

Sorry for the super long post, and thanks in advance for any help.
Old 1 week ago
  #2
Gear Head
Quote:
Originally Posted by vns View Post
I am returning a new audio interface because some compatibility issues in my PC and thunderbolt. So the sound quality discussion has nothing to do with it. I am telling this because the unit is not available for testing anymore.

My current and old audio interface is a Focusrite Saffire 6 USB, it really fits my needs in terms of connectivity and functionality, the only thing I would like to improve is the latency. I use the interface configured like this: 48 samples at 48000hz, this is the minimum buffer supported by the unit and maximum sample rate, my RTL is 7.8ms more or less and it is as low as can get.

My main use for the interface is playing guitar, bass and some MIDI instruments, some times I also record through a mic. When playing, VSTs also add their own latency so I would say that I am a little bit in the limit in terms of latency.

Some time ago I started to look into purchasing a new interface in order to improve my latency, my conditions were: have a great RTL performance and do not lose audio quality from my current interface. I ended pulling the trigger on a Presonus Quantum 2.

I have read that the Quantums have a great sound quality, and I really wasn't expecting that after 9 years or so I could end buying something worse than the Saffire 6 usb (in terms of sound quality). So after seeing the RTL figures on the Quantum 2 + the I/O specs + the price (566€, it was 800€ a couple of months ago) I though that's it, this is my new interface.

I couldn't make it work in my PC, my motherboard doesn't support natively Thunderbolt, but I bought a Titan Ridge expansion card that almost worked (these cards are known to work even in AMD computers). So I tried in my macbook pro and everything worked perfectly.

So.........time to play guitar. I connected one of my guitars to the instrument input 1, I configured the input level and I had to increase the gain more than I would expected around 36db to get some decent input level, I always try to get -18db. Then the headphones output felt weak, I use a pair of AKG-K701, so I connected my headphones amp to the audio interface. The result wasn't bad, but I could hear some hiss/noise (it was there too without the headphones amp), not much but it was there and I couldn't get rid of it. This is something I don't hear in my old Saffire and I was really disappointed about it. Maybe I did some wrong.

THD+N is 0.0025% in the Saffire, both instrument input and output. And 0.005% in the Quantum. Is this something we can really appreciate in this scenario? I find it hard to believe....

Since my quest is far from being completed, I am asking for some advice here. Did I do something wrong? Does the Saffire really sound better than a several times expensive unit released 8 years later? What should I look in the specs to get something appropriate for my use case?

Sorry for the super long post, and thanks in advance for any help.
I don't know much about Windows environment, but did you spend some time tweaking ASIO stuff? I have a Mac and an Apogee Element Thunderbolt, and I get really low RT latency as ~3 miliseconds at 32 samples/48KHz. At 96Khz it's expected to be even lower, but didn't try too much to give a well-informed opinion. I think you should try testing your interface in a Mac with native Thunderbolt support, so you could get a better picture of your interface's performance. Then, if results are better, try tweaking your Windows system.
Old 1 week ago
  #3
Here for the gear
 

The Quantum latency was fine. And yes, my Saffire usb has a consisten latency in macos/windows and there is not much I can tweak to change it.

My intention was to open a discussion about the audio quality differences I found between my old interface and the Quantum which was supposed to be better...
Old 1 week ago
  #4
Lives for gear
 

This sounds overwhelmingly like user error or faulty device. Start from the bottom and eliminate every part of the chain as a source of the problem, then familiarize yourself more with the mix software for the quantum. There's no chance it inherently sounds worse than the Scarlett. The quantum is a an extremely good and modern interface, once you work out the issues you are having you will be very happy with it. Personally I would never upgrade my whole rig to support a thunderbolt interface when there are things like the Babyface pro, and when windows is such a temperamental environment for thunderbolt (at the moment). If the macbook is your main recording computer then this wont matter.
Old 1 week ago
  #5
Here for the gear
 

@thevisi0nary Yeah, I though about changing the motherboard for one with a native thunderbolt port (e.g. GB designare z390), but they are pricey and expending too much money on having thunderbolt is overkil for my needs.

The mixer in the Quantum is really simple, in fact they can't work in standalone mode and the routing is done through the DAW, the control panel just lets you configure a few things and that's all, nice an simple. I want to believe that the problem is actual an user error, but is hard to mess things up when the settings are so simple.

The babyface pro is a nice interface, great specs, latency, but I would need a couple of additional outputs, and adding an external module goes beyond my budget.
Old 1 week ago
  #6
Quote:
Originally Posted by vns View Post
The babyface pro is a nice interface, great specs, latency, but I would need a couple of additional outputs, and adding an external module goes beyond my budget.
Even if that said module is a Behringer ADA8200?
Old 1 week ago
  #7
Maybe the unit doesn't sound all that much better. It's hard for people to gauge these things without actually having both units.

I had the same reaction when I bought the Apogee One. I figured given all the insane amount of praise for Apogee and its converters etc. that it would sound better than my Saffire 56, which has the same preamps and conversion as your unit. It didn't - the Apogee sounded slightly worse and was much noisier - it had more gain in the preamp, but the noise made the upper ranges unusable. Playback sounded good but no better. I ended up selling the Apogee.

Now, when I bought my UAD Twin USB I immediately noticed a jump in quality, especially the DI - it was world's better than the Saffire. Not sure if you have the budget for that though, and the latency for midi etc. may be dicey.

If I were you I would probably look at the RME Babyface.
Old 1 week ago
  #8
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by vns View Post
@thevisi0nary Yeah, I though about changing the motherboard for one with a native thunderbolt port (e.g. GB designare z390), but they are pricey and expending too much money on having thunderbolt is overkil for my needs.

The mixer in the Quantum is really simple, in fact they can't work in standalone mode and the routing is done through the DAW, the control panel just lets you configure a few things and that's all, nice an simple. I want to believe that the problem is actual an user error, but is hard to mess things up when the settings are so simple.

The babyface pro is a nice interface, great specs, latency, but I would need a couple of additional outputs, and adding an external module goes beyond my budget.
Definitely (at least IMO) would not want to have something like an audio interface be relying on something as temperamental as thunderbolt is on windows at the moment. How many additional outputs do you need?
Old 1 week ago
  #9
Here for the gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Reverb View Post
I had the same reaction when I bought the Apogee One. I figured given all the insane amount of praise for Apogee and its converters etc. that it would sound better than my Saffire 56, which has the same preamps and conversion as your unit. It didn't - the Apogee sounded slightly worse and was much noisier - it had more gain in the preamp, but the noise made the upper ranges unusable. Playback sounded good but no better. I ended up selling the Apogee.
That was exactly my feeling, and I was expecting quite the oposite.


Quote:
Originally Posted by thevisi0nary View Post
Definitely (at least IMO) would not want to have something like an audio interface be relying on something as temperamental as thunderbolt is on windows at the moment. How many additional outputs do you need?
4 outputs would be ok, 6 would be ideal. And yes, I would prefer USB over thunderbolt, the RME UFX+ latency performance over USB is amaizing, hopefully we will see other RME interfaces in the future with that performance and a smaller form factor and cheaper too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Diogo C View Post
Even if that said module is a Behringer ADA8200?
Considering the price of the babyface pro, it is a little bit on the limit, the price of the ADA82000 is great but it is overkill for me, I just need more than 2 outputs (4 or 6 will do it).
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