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Which Thunderbolt interface/preamp sidecar in the $2K range for Mac?
Old 2 weeks ago
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Which Thunderbolt interface/preamp sidecar in the $2K range for Mac?

I'm upgrading my Mac studio -- I'll be buying a new Mini or iMac and I'd like to upgrade my I/O at the same time.

I've been recording through an Allen & Heath QU-16, which sounds fine, but the restriction to 48kHz has become a deal-breaker.

My current plan is to put together a rackmounted rig that can be taken on location when needed, consisting of:

1) a Thunderbolt interface with 8 mic preamps, 8 analog outs, and 8 channels of 96k optical inputs;
2) an 8-channel preamp sidecar;
3) a 6-channel headphone distribution amp, probably the ART HeadAmp 6 Pro.

I need to keep the overall cost of this rig as close to $2K as possible, though I realize it'll probably go over somewhat. This rules out Apollo and Apogee stuff (except the Element 88, which I did not include because it doesn't appear to be rackmountable and the front-loading mic inputs are kind of a PITA).

Candidates for (1):
  • Focusrite Clarett 8preX ($1200)
  • MOTU 8M ($1500)
  • Presonus Quantum 26x32 ($1000)

Candidates for (2):
  • Audient ASP800 ($850)
  • Focusrite Clarett Octopre ($700)
  • Midas XL48 ($1000)
  • Presonus Digimax DP88 ($800)

I'd be grateful for thoughts on any of these choices, particularly with regard to sound quality and usability. I'd also be interested in people's opinions on whether there's a benefit, at this quality level, to mixing different designs vs. having an entire rig using the same preamps & converters.

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