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high end laptop interface
Old 1st July 2005
  #1
Gear Head
 

high end laptop interface

Hi all - just wondering what's out there as far as firewire/usb interfaces with great converters. Will be using it to do overdubs on a project that will be tracked to 2" and then transfered to digital. I'm currently using an mbox on a 15" powerbook g4, but would like to have something that can match the sonic quality of the basics. Have also got logic express installed, so I can use a non-digi interface.

Since I'll be overdubbing, something with hardware monitoring is necessary. From what I can tell, the apogee mini-me seems to be the only thing out there. would prefer firewire to usb, but i don't really need more than 2 channels so usb would work. the metric halo stuff seems to be well thought of too. any other options? pres are not really necessary as i'll be using external ones.

any suggestions will be truly appreciated....
Old 1st July 2005
  #2
Gear Addict
 
TyRip's Avatar
 

I just got a Metric Halo ULN2, and though I have yet to do a complete project with it, I am impressed with what I see and hear so far. It is a two channel interface (only for Mac) with extremely clean preamps with 72db of gain.

I was also considering the Mini Me until I found the ULN-2. At this point I am extremely happy I went with the Metric Halo.

I am using it with the spdif connections to a Presonus Firepod and has worked great so far as a standalone preamp/converter. If I do something that only requires 2 channels I will definitely be using it with my powerbook as the sole interface. It is nice to be able to use it with my PC in standalone mode though too.
Old 1st July 2005
  #3
Gear Head
 

I have a ULN2 also and can't say enough good things about it. Incredible bang for the buck.
Old 1st July 2005
  #4
Gear Maniac
 

the ULN2 is good. particularly if U need a unit w/ decent built in mic pres.
if U want something better, all i gotta say is - rosetta 200/big ben.
the FW implementation is good and the FireMix low latency software is adequate.
stellar sonics.
Old 1st July 2005
  #5
Gear Head
 

thanks for the replies. the uln-2 does seem to be quite flexible... has anyone used it for the purpose i'm describing? from reading the manual, it seems like you would use the mixing software to route the analog ins and the outputs of the daw to the monitors without latency? the manual indicates some issues with logic and asio - just wondering if anyone has any actual experience with this.

as i said, the internal pres are not that important, although if they're good i'm sure they would come in handy. any opinions about the converters - how do they compare to the apogees?

as far as the rosetta goes, i would consider it, but i'd prefer something more portable. i've used the ad-16x/da-16x with firewire, and although they sound great we had quite a few issues with setting them up... apogee tech support was very helpful though...
Old 1st July 2005
  #6
Gear Head
 

not sure why this topic was moved... i count seven threads about converters on the first page of the high end forum.

but again, thanks for any input!
Old 2nd July 2005
  #7
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kudzu's Avatar
 

RME FIREFACE 800 thumbsup
Old 3rd July 2005
  #8
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cletus's Avatar
 

The mini me gets my vote. S/PDIF in to the mbox. Decent transparent pre's, 3 compressor settings, good conversion and can also be used as master clock. Only thing that sucks is there's no inserts on it but if you're not concerned about the pre's on it, you could use the line ins to add more to the signal chain.
PEACE!!!!!!!!!!!!
Old 4th July 2005
  #9
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by cletus
The mini me gets my vote. S/PDIF in to the mbox. Decent transparent pre's, 3 compressor settings, good conversion and can also be used as master clock. Only thing that sucks is there's no inserts on it but if you're not concerned about the pre's on it, you could use the line ins to add more to the signal chain.
PEACE!!!!!!!!!!!!
how are you dealing with latency issues, though? if i'm not mistaken, when using s/pdif into the mbox, you can't use the hardware monitoring. since i'll be overdubbing, i don't know how this would work. although, i can always work in logic (even though i hate it!) and just use the mini me with usb.

kudzu, can you tell me any more about the rme? i've heard that their converters are not in the same league as apogee...

thanks again for the responses!
Old 4th July 2005
  #10
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cletus's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by patchmonkey
how are you dealing with latency issues, though? if i'm not mistaken, when using s/pdif into the mbox, you can't use the hardware monitoring. since i'll be overdubbing, i don't know how this would work. although, i can always work in logic (even though i hate it!) and just use the mini me with usb.

kudzu, can you tell me any more about the rme? i've heard that their converters are not in the same league as apogee...

thanks again for the responses!

You deal with the latency issues the same way. Muting the track you are recording on, setting the hw buffer higher, and tweaking the mix nob on the mbox. You can still use the mbox for monitoring. You would only have the headphone jack on the mini me for monitoring if you were using it as your interface for cubase etc. Like I said it can also be used as a much more stable clock source than the mbox. It has sample rates up to 96k and has a 3 setting comp/limiter. The pre's are decent and way better than the mbox pre's. For the money it just can't be beat. I got mine used off ebay for 850 bucks with the usb option even though I don't use it for an interface.
Old 4th July 2005
  #11
Lives for gear
 
kudzu's Avatar
 

patchmonkey...The RME fireface is a great peice of kit....I was put onto RME by classical recordists (Linn HiFi, Finespice Mastering) they swore by the converters for location [email protected]/24bit I can run 13 tracks (or more) in record, with the same amount playing back @ 128 buffer settings on a dual G5 with no annomolies....I recently clocked it to a Big Ben, 'cause I was using an ISA 428 (with AD card) via ADAT into Fireface....ROCK SOLID for hours....great sound....honestly you'd have to spend a lot more money on converters to get better...
Old 5th July 2005
  #12
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Mike O's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by patchmonkey
not sure why this topic was moved... i count seven threads about converters on the first page of the high end forum.

but again, thanks for any input!
It would be nice to see reasons threads were moved or deleted posted on line, wouldn't it? Jules does post his moderating activity often, if not always.
Old 12th July 2005
  #13
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by patchmonkey
thanks for the replies. the uln-2 does seem to be quite flexible... has anyone used it for the purpose i'm describing? from reading the manual, it seems like you would use the mixing software to route the analog ins and the outputs of the daw to the monitors without latency?
yes, this works quite well, as advertised. the routing is a great strength, actually, as you can create a few different mixes. give the singer plenty of click, while leaving the control room mix as you like it, etc.

i use it with DP, but i know many use logic. check the users group, linked from mhlabs.com.
Old 12th July 2005
  #14
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by kudzu
RME FIREFACE 800 thumbsup

yes, definitely the Fireface. Can't go wrong with one of those.
Old 12th July 2005
  #15
Gear Head
 

thanks everyone for the replies. i'm leaning towards the metric halo right now, but would still love to hear any more input on other options. converter quality is the top priority, as i mentioned. would seem like the apogee would be best for this, but it's not quite flexible enough in terms of monitoring, and i'm not crazy about the usb part. i know they've been talking about adding firewire for some time, but it looks like it may be a while...

cletus, everything i've read says you can't use the mix knob on an mbox when you're going s/pdif in. if you have experience to contradict this, please let me know. this is the main reason i'm looking to get another interface, rather than just getting a 2-channel converter (such as the 2192) and using it with pt, which i vastly prefer to logic.
Old 12th July 2005
  #16
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cletus's Avatar
 

I'll check it out again tonite and get back to you about that. I had'nt been using my home rig when I posted and had just gotten the mini me. Could be wrong although I swore when I was tracking the mix knob on the mbox was working. I'll let you know.
PEACE
Old 13th July 2005
  #17
Gear Addict
 
cletus's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by cletus
I'll check it out again tonite and get back to you about that. I had'nt been using my home rig when I posted and had just gotten the mini me. Could be wrong although I swore when I was tracking the mix knob on the mbox was working. I'll let you know.
PEACE
OK so the mix knob on the mbox controls the volume of the output when you are connected via spdif. It doesn't allow you to control the latency issue though. Lowering the HW buffer size is the only option but is sufficient. My bad. It's still a good unit though and I'm still stoked I got it best a/d converter for a grand that I can think of.
PEACE
Old 15th July 2005
  #18
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Don S's Avatar
 

I own the fireface. While it is a very flexible unit and bang for the buck. I'm not impressed with the mic pres or ever read about anyone else who is too pleased. I suspect the Metric Halo's pre amps are better heh
Old 15th July 2005
  #19
Gear Head
 

thanks guys...
Old 16th July 2005
  #20
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Don S
I own the fireface. While it is a very flexible unit and bang for the buck. I'm not impressed with the mic pres or ever read about anyone else who is too pleased. I suspect the Metric Halo's pre amps are better heh
That may be possible, but I've never A/B'd the two. I have heard good things about Metric Halo, and while I'll they might in fact be better on that score, the overall huge featureset on the Fireface was what sold me. Depends on your application- definitely try any that you are considering, if possible.
Old 20th July 2005
  #21
Gear Addict
 

you mentioned that you would not need mic pres, as you'll use externals. in that case, you may as well go for the metric halo 2882, similar to the ULN-2 but with 8 analog channels, more digital options, and (sadly) not-as-good mic pres. i have both heh
Old 20th July 2005
  #22
Gear Head
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by jajjguy
you mentioned that you would not need mic pres, as you'll use externals. in that case, you may as well go for the metric halo 2882, similar to the ULN-2 but with 8 analog channels, more digital options, and (sadly) not-as-good mic pres. i have both heh
hmm, interesting - i hadn't thought of that option, but will definitely consider it. i probably won't be doing more than 2 tracks at a time, but i guess it would be good to have the option. i assume the converters on the 2882 and the ULN-2 are the same quality? just out of curiosity, what's the difference between the pres on the 2 units?
Old 20th July 2005
  #23
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by patchmonkey
just out of curiosity, what's the difference between the pres on the 2 units?
the ULN has lower noise/higher gain mic pres.
they are quite a bit more transparent sounding.
i know that some peeps think that the 2882 mic pres aren't bad, but they really don't have much reach. U can gat satisfactory results if U close mic everything tho'.
Old 20th July 2005
  #24
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does it have to be macintosh?
Old 20th July 2005
  #25
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TyRip's Avatar
 

To use as an interface with your computer, yes.

However, I use a ULN-2 with my PC as a standalone mic preamp/ converter patched into a Presonus Firepod with S/PDIF.
Old 21st July 2005
  #26
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James Lehmann's Avatar
 

I'm a ULN-2 user, having been in your shopping situation 9 months ago.

The main difference with the Mini-Me is that the ULN-2 gives you full D-A conversion as well as A-D - in fact the ULN-2 is more of a 4 in 6 out unit than simple stereo in; you'd need to add the Mini-DAC to even approach the I/O of the ULN-2, and you've nearly tripled the price too. Plus the MIO software is light years ahead of the basic functionality you get with the Apogee; regards routing flexibility, there's practically no monitoring or recording situation you can't handle with the MIO software - once you play around with it for 5 seconds you will realise this.

I've not A/B'd the converters but to my ears the ULN-2 sounds incredibly clean and spacious both A-D and D-A - I suspect I would have to spend a lot more to achieve a justifiable improvement.

I'm a committed Logic user and have had absolutely no issues at all with MIO software and any version of Logic - it's incredibly stable, and this seems to be borne out by other's experiences too. You can buy a Metric Halo product in the almost certain knowledge that you can plug it in to virtually any Mac (right back to OS9) and it will work flawlessly right out of the box.

The Fireface does indeed look like a nice box if you need loads of I/O, but I'm thoroughly happy with the ULN-2 and Metric Halo and I'll probably be adding a 2882 in the future as well, not least because I also like the bus-powering the MH units give you.
Old 21st July 2005
  #27
Gear Head
 

Thanks James - I've yet to hear anyone say anything bad about the Metric Halo boxes, except for the fact that they don't work on PCs, and that whole 1 sample issue which seems to be resolved now. On the other hand, I've yet to have anyone who's directly compared the MH converters to "higher-end" ones like apogee. And I know some people feel you can't get great quality from a bus-powered converter.

But I'm sure it will be a big step up from the mbox, and I try not to focus too much on the geeky gear stuff (I know, this is Gearslutz!) and more on the music....

Getting back to the reason I started this thread, it seems like no one out there has yet made a really high-end recording interface for laptops - the apogee firewire stuff, (other than mini-me/mini-dac, which has its own shortcomings, as has been discussed) still requires additional equipment for monitoring, and other than that you'd have to mix and match converters, a mixer, etc... I'm sure this hole in the marketplace will be filled at some point, and as usual with digital gear it's probably wise to go with the most functional option and save your money for good instruments, mics and pres.... imo, of course.

Thanks again to everyone for your suggestions!
Old 21st July 2005
  #28
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by patchmonkey
Getting back to the reason I started this thread, it seems like no one out there has yet made a really high-end recording interface for laptops - the apogee firewire stuff, (other than mini-me/mini-dac, which has its own shortcomings, as has been discussed) still requires additional equipment for monitoring, and other than that you'd have to mix and match converters, a mixer, etc... I'm sure this hole in the marketplace will be filled at some point, and as usual with digital gear it's probably wise to go with the most functional option and save your money for good instruments, mics and pres.... imo, of course.

Thanks again to everyone for your suggestions!
i replaced my MH 2882+DSP with a rosetta 800.
prior to taking delivery of the apogee i had a fireface 800 as a loaner.
the apogee interfaces w/ my laptop (virtually all of my 'real' intruments are recorded remotely in good sounding rooms) via the FW cards and i can do complex monitor mixes with low latency via the Firemix software without any use of external mixer. the only difference that i have encountered between the MH and the apogee is that the apogee must be plugged into AC. in every other way that i use the apogee for remote recording it's functionality is the same as the MH.
in comparison i would say that the MH sounds very good but maybe hides some of it's digital nasties by sounding a bit dark. it DOES sound fairly natural tho', meaning that it's colourations err on the side of euphonic in that it flatters the musical source. the fireface 800 sounds more extended but a bit more electronic sounding and not as quite as big. the apogee is in a whole 'nuther category. extremely neutral and transparent, nice recovery of transients w/o sounding hyped and a very nice translation of the soundstage.
i don't think that either the MH or RME are dogs. i was fairly happy w/ the metric halo (problem being that i'm not really a huge fan of digital) and it was really only hearing the apogee in comparison that made me realise that i could achieve a much more digital nasty free recording with the rosetta.
Old 21st July 2005
  #29
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James Lehmann's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by µ¿ z3®ø™
i replaced my MH 2882+DSP with a rosetta 800.
Fair enough for straight A-D sound-quality comparison - but you must have already had or purchased some other pre-amps to fully replace the 2882 as the Rosetta doesn't have any?

I did consider the Rosetta 200 + FW Card + DAV-1 pre-amp combo which I'm sure would have been an awesome rig (albeit at 3x the price of the MH!), but finally the cost, convenience and excellent user-reports on the ULN-2 (plus the 'beta' state of the Apogee Firemix software at the time) tipped the balance towards Metric Halo and I put the money I saved into some new microphones (Gefell & Avenson if anyone's interested!).
Old 22nd July 2005
  #30
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by James Lehmann
Fair enough for straight A-D sound-quality comparison - but you must have already had or purchased some other pre-amps to fully replace the 2882 as the Rosetta doesn't have any?.
yup.
for me, one of the weak points of the MH is the mic pre's. they are not terrible by any stretch of the imagination, it's just that there is a pretty huge difference between the MH pres and vipre, dw fearn, drawmer, manley, avalon, great river, chandler, etc..
i actually had most of the mic pres prior to buying the MH. i just thought there wasn't a convertor under $5K that could beat it.
like all other metric halo owners i have ever talked to, U should find Urself a happy camper.
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