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Putting together a ‘modular’ audio interface with external AD/DA?
Old 9th August 2020
  #1
Gear Maniac
 
kijix84's Avatar
 

Putting together a ‘modular’ audio interface with external AD/DA?

Usually when budget is relatively low, people go for a pre-built audio interface like the MOTUs, Focusrites etc. They do most everything people need and they do it all relatively well. The downside is none of what it does is ever really all that ‘great’. I’m looking to ‘piecemeal’ my own setup as I only need a handful of inputs and outputs and only 2 Preamps.

I currently have a Lavry 2 channel converter for D/A that Ive always used via digital IO on an existing audio interface. Now I am now looking to get a 2 channel A/D converter which would give me two channels of both AD and DA. My confusion lies in how to set all this up if I want to do all of this without an audio interface as a ‘middleman’. Is doing this even possible?

Of course with just ADDA alone I am left without preamps so I’d have to buy something for that. As far as audio drivers go Which I know is a big part of an audio interface I have no idea where I stand if I want to use only external AD/DA

If I wanted the equivalent of a typical 2 input 2 output interface with a couple of preamps (with Hi-Z) to be able to record a track in stereo, how would I even hook this up?

A budget all in one interface like the Scarlett 2i2 when you read the description has these features:

High-performance 24-bit/192kHz converters
2 upgraded 3rd-generation Scarlett mic preamps
Switchable Air mode gives your recordings a brighter, more open sound
2 high-headroom instrument inputs for bass, guitar, or synths
2 balanced line inputs, suitable for connecting line-level sources
Unique, intuitive halo level indicators for optimized gain staging
Super-low latency lets you monitor with native plug-in effects in real time
Direct Monitor circuit for monitoring your input with guaranteed low-latency
Balanced TRS L/R monitor outputs with level control
Headphone output with independent level control

If I want the equivalent In separate gear, as far as I can tell I would need:

(1) 2 channel AD converter
(1) 2 channel DA converter
(2) Single channel preamp with Hi-Z inputs
?????????

What else am I missing? Does each AD and DA converter have their own separate drivers? What about latency? I feel like I am missing something very basic here.

If I HAVE to use an interface in the middle, the cheapest ive found is a Scarlett 6i6 which is $299 and has SPDIF I/O. Is this the best option?
Old 9th August 2020
  #2
Gear Maniac
 
snoskit's Avatar
 

When using external converters, you need still need an interface to connect them to your computer.
Generally when using external converters folks often choose an interface without any of its own onboard ADDA converters - a pure digital interface.
Some Examples: For multiple AES3/SPDIF channels - RME HDSPe AES. For Multiple ADAT channels - RME HDSPe RayDAT or say RME Digiface.
The external converters work through the driver of the interface card.
Old 9th August 2020
  #3
Gear Guru
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by kijix84 View Post
Usually when budget is relatively low, people go for a pre-built audio interface like the MOTUs, Focusrites etc. ...My confusion lies in how to set all this up if I want to do all of this without an audio interface as a ‘middleman’. Is doing this even possible?
You probably cannot plug your converters directly into a computer. The real question is: is it possible for less money than buying an off the shelf interface? What you describe sounds to me more 'a la carte' than 'modular'. IMO, this is how you put together a really high end system. Not how you 'save money'.

The "no-converter" card snoskit linked to costs about $900.

Quote:
Of course with just ADDA alone I am left without preamps so I’d have to buy something for that.
a cheapish pair of outboard preamps will cost you about the same as a simple interface.

The prices of mass produced interfaces are low because of the economy of scale. Therefore one 'without' converters and preamps won't be much cheaper than one with, because even though it has less "stuff" - they would have to "build it special", sell fewer of them, and thus lose that economy of scale.

If you want to do better than the "built ins", but don't want to break the bank, you probably should just get a simple interface that comes with preamps and converters but allows you to bypass the onboard stuff. You could start using it right away and upgrade preamps and conversion down the line.
Old 10th August 2020
  #4
Gear Maniac
 
kijix84's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by snoskit View Post
When using external converters, you need still need an interface to connect them to your computer.
Generally when using external converters folks often choose an interface without any of its own onboard ADDA converters - a pure digital interface.
Some Examples: For multiple AES3/SPDIF channels - RME HDSPe AES. For Multiple ADAT channels - RME HDSPe RayDAT or say RME Digiface.
The external converters work through the driver of the interface card.
Makes sense. Is there any reason to get something like the digiface USB ($499) which is basically barebones over a scarlett 6i6 ($299) that has SPDIF and its own preamps and I/O in case I need them?
Old 11th August 2020
  #5
Gear Maniac
 
snoskit's Avatar
 

In the use case you've outline, probably not. TBH.

Depends largely on how much you want to expand and build your setup and workflow.
imho the strengths of say the digiface and the HDSPe's is as a flexible and neutral base system to work from.
All the outboard gear can evolve and change over time, but the interface stays the same and it operates in the same reliable manner in your DAW.
If you are planning longer term to building a collection of equipment; wanting to connect to variety of equipment such as digital mixing desks, effects units, etc then the digiface very useful.
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