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New Audio Interface - a couple contenders - your opinions Audio Interfaces
Old 23rd December 2010
  #1
Gear Maniac
 

New Audio Interface - a couple contenders - your opinions

Didn't get any response on the So much gear, so little time! forum, so I thought I ask over here:

I'm currently using a MOTU Traveler mk3 audio interface.

Always interested in improving the quality of my recordings, I recently checked out an Echo AudioFire 8, based on some forum recommendations that suggested it rivaled the Apogee Duet.

The tests I did were: I copied a song from my external ADAT / Allen & Heath mixer to stereo line ins on the interfaces, to a couple stereo tracks on my DAW, to compare the A / D conversion. I also recorded a couple DI bass tracks through each interface's mic preamps, to my DAW, and AB'd them. Additionally, I played back a song (recorded on my DAW with the Traveler) through each interface, to compare the D / A conversion. Everything was done at 44.1k.

After doing these comparisons, I don't hear a significant difference between the AudioFire and the Traveler. I've seen a number of posters put down the MOTU stuff - perhaps the mk3 converters and preamps are an improvement over previous MOTU audio interfaces?

In any case, I'm looking at the Metric Halo ULN-2 and the Steinberg MR816X. Or possibly Apogee (Duet too limited). Has anyone used these, and heard a big improvement over the MOTU mk3 gear? I mean compared them side by side?

As others have pointed out, the biggest difference in the signal chain is attained with mics, then mic preamps, and finally converters. It may be that when you get to a certain level of quality, you have to spend a lot more to hear a significant difference in audio interfaces?

Up until now, to improve my Traveler / DAW recordings, I've been using my higher end external mic preamps. Compared to my external mic pre's, the Traveler mic pre's are thinner in the lower mids, and with more high end, more prone to sibilance on vocals. But it would be nice to have an audio interface with mic pre's that are decent enough to give the externals a run for their money.

I forgot to add that I'm recording with Cubase 4. As I understand it, the Steinberg interface would do away with a separate application to tweak the interface software, which could be a plus.

On the other hand, I'm more interested in how they sound.
Old 23rd December 2010
  #2
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euphoria89's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom C View Post
As others have pointed out, the biggest difference in the signal chain is attained with mics, then mic preamps, and finally converters. It may be that when you get to a certain level of quality, you have to spend a lot more to hear a significant difference in audio interfaces?
I think this is quite true about a lot of interfaces today. When the RME Fireface 800 came about, it was absolutely great to have something with such good quality and features. However, the Echo, M-Audio, Steinberg, Sapphire stuff all competes with this today, and for often quite a bit less cash. I think you are looking at £1500+ in order to get into the realms of high end gear.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom C View Post
Up until now, to improve my Traveler / DAW recordings, I've been using my higher end external mic preamps. Compared to my external mic pre's, the Traveler mic pre's are thinner in the lower mids, and with more high end, more prone to sibilance on vocals. But it would be nice to have an audio interface with mic pre's that are decent enough to give the externals a run for their money.
Metric Halo ULN2 has the upgraded pre amp design found, also found in its bigger brother (costing over 3x as much!) Although it has the older converters, they are still absolutely fantastic and i really couldn't deem them in any way amature. You only get 2 mic/pres, but i've heard they do stand very highly amongst high end mic pre lovers (great river etc). For quality and price, i think it's a very hard interface to beat. However, if you into larger multitracking, then the 8228 might be the option option, although it doesn't have the newest generation of mic pre's.
Old 23rd December 2010
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by euphoria89 View Post
I think this is quite true about a lot of interfaces today. When the RME Fireface 800 came about, it was absolutely great to have something with such good quality and features.
I've got an RME FF 800 and have to say, I am somewhat amazed at its staying power. I use it with external preamps, but man that thing has one helluva half life!
Old 24th December 2010
  #4
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom C View Post

In any case, I'm looking at the Metric Halo ULN-2 and the Steinberg MR816X. Or possibly Apogee (Duet too limited).

I forgot to add that I'm recording with Cubase 4. As I understand it, the Steinberg interface would do away with a separate application to tweak the interface software, which could be a plus.
The MH units are among the best you can get sound wise.The MR816 is very good for its price range. However, the Cubase integration is mediocre at best and should not be considered a plus.
Old 24th December 2010
  #5
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AwwDeOhh's Avatar
 

Is everything else in your chain up to snuff?
IMO, converters are the last thing to upgrade.

What about the room you're recording in?
What are you monitoring on?
ect.


Not saying converters aren't important, but other things (especially before hitting the converters) can make a much bigger difference.
Old 24th December 2010
  #6
Gear Maniac
 

Thanks for the advice; this info really helps.

I think my other equipment is decent. Neumann vocal mic, Royer ribbons for acoustic guitar, external preamps Phoenix Audio & Great River, Mackie powered monitors, AKG240 headphones. The room may be a weak link: garage conversion, though the floor is carpeted and I have blankets hanging to diffuse the sound.

The Metric Halo ULN-2 character option on the mic preamps looks interesting. Has anyone given them a test drive?
Old 24th December 2010
  #7
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maks's Avatar
 

ive got a uln-2 and just installed the 2d upgrade (x-mas discount. The character plugs are awesome, really gives weight/color and magic on the mix-summing bus, talk about gelling tracks!!!, the whole upgrade is awesome, well worth it. I havent yet used them with the pre's only on individual tracks/mixes so far, but i can tell it wont disappoint.
Old 24th December 2010
  #8
Gear Maniac
 

That's good to hear.

I went back to the Metric Halo website, but I'm a little confused on how the plug-ins works. Are these available in the MN software, outside of the DAW? In other words, not inserted on tracks within the DAW?

I'm assuming you have a choice to track with them or use them on a mix?
Old 24th December 2010
  #9
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maks's Avatar
 

yep, in the daw or completely in the mio mixer , the choice is yours or combine both, the possibilities are....woooh
Old 24th December 2010
  #10
Gear Nut
 

Yeah, very happy MH customer here. I have a 2882, so no opinion on the pre's (but the ADC is superlative and sounds great with my synths), but you cannot really beat the platform. +dsp, and the mixer/graph stuff allows to solve so many problems, its incredible.
Old 24th December 2010
  #11
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Melgueil's Avatar
 

ULN-2 Mic Pres are top flight (though they do not sound like the Great River at all - entirely different pre). The quaiity is there, I can vouch for that. It is however two inputs, unless you get another device to feed the AES/SPDIF of ADAT inputs. I seldom use the plug ins as I mix within my DAW.
cdlt
Old 24th December 2010
  #12
Gear Maniac
 

In my experience, dedicated convectors is always better than those integrated sound interface.

In case you didn't hear the difference between the echo and motu, try lavry, benchmark, mytech or some higher end apogee.. They really sound like day and night different.

Just connect the AD/DA convertor with spdif or adat or aes.

It always better to have a good 2-channel than a crappy 8-ch ones.
Old 24th December 2010
  #13
Whoa....

I think someone misphrased something above, giving the impression that +DSP plugs are available as inserts in a DAW. Not so! They ONLY run within MIO Console, period. You can buy MH Channelstrip, which uses similar algos in the 64 bit world of AU/VSTs, and insert that wherever you want.

If your DAW supports inline hardware i/o inserts on channel strips, which Logic and Wavelab definitely do (not sure about other tools), you can use FW/DAW transport lines (I think you get 18 of each, maybe less with the ULN2 - my ULN8 has 18 for sure) to route your signal to MIO Console, and there insert your +DSP plugs or graphs. Then you can use an AU/VST called "ConsoleConnect" that stores all your console settings in your DAW session en masse... when you relaunch the session your ULN2 will be automagically reconfigured to however it was set when you last saved the project, including routes and +DSP settings. ConsoleConnect is similar to what the poster above was talking about, so I'll assume that was his point.

This is almost the same thing but: you're limited to 18 mono or 9 stereo channels of processing (not bad) with a single ULN2, and you have to tweak/adjust your +DSP modules/plugs in MIO Console, NOT in your DAW, so both have to be running. If you need more channels of +DSP you can buy more boxes. MIO Console sees all MIOs (2882s, LIO8s, ULN8s, Sonic 30Xs etc) connected, so you can mix/match based on needs. If you're just looking for lots of IO and DSP, and have great pres, a 2882 rocks. If you need 192K and IO the LIO8 and ULN8 are good upgrades. So it's more of a "platform" than a "box". Historically no MH hardware has ever been "obsoleted" or officially retired to date, but all have been upgraded with new features since launch, so it's a pretty safe investment (radically different from MOTU or DIGI who use features and upgrades to churn hardware sales from existing base).

-d-
Old 24th December 2010
  #14
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maks's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Davis View Post
Whoa....

I think someone misphrased something above, giving the impression that +DSP plugs are available as inserts in a DAW. Not so! They ONLY run within MIO Console, period. You can buy MH Channelstrip, which uses similar algos in the 64 bit world of AU/VSTs, and insert that wherever you want.

If your DAW supports inline hardware i/o inserts on channel strips, which Logic and Wavelab definitely do (not sure about other tools), you can use FW/DAW transport lines (I think you get 18 of each, maybe less with the ULN2 - my ULN8 has 18 for sure) to route your signal to MIO Console, and there insert your +DSP plugs or graphs. Then you can use an AU/VST called "ConsoleConnect" that stores all your console settings in your DAW session en masse... when you relaunch the session your ULN2 will be automagically reconfigured to however it was set when you last saved the project, including routes and +DSP settings. ConsoleConnect is similar to what the poster above was talking about, so I'll assume that was his point.

This is almost the same thing but: you're limited to 18 mono or 9 stereo channels of processing (not bad) with a single ULN2, and you have to tweak/adjust your +DSP modules/plugs in MIO Console, NOT in your DAW, so both have to be running. If you need more channels of +DSP you can buy more boxes. MIO Console sees all MIOs (2882s, LIO8s, ULN8s, Sonic 30Xs etc) connected, so you can mix/match based on needs. If you're just looking for lots of IO and DSP, and have great pres, a 2882 rocks. If you need 192K and IO the LIO8 and ULN8 are good upgrades. So it's more of a "platform" than a "box". Historically no MH hardware has ever been "obsoleted" or officially retired to date, but all have been upgraded with new features since launch, so it's a pretty safe investment (radically different from MOTU or DIGI who use features and upgrades to churn hardware sales from existing base).

-d-
thank you for clarifying what i meant , most any professional daw's do support "live external processing" (live, logic, cubase, pro-tools, etc, etc), so it can be combined or used individually as said, the choice is yours. What i personally do, is first mix in a daw(using native plugs, waves, blah, blah) while creating stems/busses that i later send into the mio for further processing/layering/parallel compression, etc and summing, which makes the whole process way more interesting and better sounding. And lets not forget mio plugs usefulness in tracking with practically zero latency with which one can choose to record or not, a one step process

PS to use mio plugs in a daw "as inserts" really adds one-step compared to a typical native daw plug. Its a very transparent/easy process that really doesnt have to be thought of any other way except for a marketing campaign
Old 24th December 2010
  #15
Gear Maniac
 

Thanks for the clarifications.

I use Cubase, which does allow for external effects to be inserted on tracks.

Simply going with a pair of higher end converters, as one poster suggested is an option I've considered. On the other hand, it would be nice to have an audio interface with mic pre's that sound decent too. And again, I'm assuming the Character options would add some variations to the "color" of the pre's.

Decision, decisions....
Old 24th December 2010
  #16
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Phaidon's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom C View Post
I use Cubase,
Decision, decisions....
Then the MR816 is a no-brainer for you,me thinx!

Cheers
P.
Old 24th December 2010
  #17
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom C View Post
Simply going with a pair of higher end converters, as one poster suggested is an option I've considered. On the other hand, it would be nice to have an audio interface with mic pre's that sound decent too.
Well, I'm a mastering engineer, with experience on both integrated and standalone converters. While the previous poster's generally correct, and it's not fair to compare a MOTU Traveller with a Lavry Black or Mytek interface, that's simply not true for the ULN2 (or to pick another example, Prism Orpheus). The ULN8 beats standalone converters in it's price category pretty easily. Frankly I can't think of a standalone external converter that would be an 'upgrade' over a ULN8, and damn few that beat a ULN2 (my standalone Mytek is relegated to the transfer room, for reference).

So this is truism at this point in time (it was "more" true in the past, and 10 years ago likely a truth).
Old 24th December 2010
  #18
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maks's Avatar
 

I think ive been subliminally programmed by MH/uln-2 somehow to defend and promote it any where it gets mentioned. I dont know what BJ and his crew are up to in their lab upstate NY, which is by the way not too far from alot of UFO sightings and woodstock and military operations , but its amazing how many soldiers they gathered, they dont even advertise much. Im telling you somethings going on. heh
Old 25th December 2010
  #19
Gear Maniac
 
scitscat's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by DAW PLUS View Post
The MH units are among the best you can get sound wise.The MR816 is very good for its price range.
MH2 & MH8 and love them.

Heard the MR816 several times and was blown away in comparison to anything Motu or less was doing. Definitely worth checking out.

Don't forget about RME, good stuff.
Old 25th December 2010
  #20
Gear Maniac
 
scitscat's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Davis View Post
Well, I'm a mastering engineer, with experience on both integrated and standalone converters. The ULN8 beats standalone converters in it's price category pretty easily. Frankly I can't think of a standalone external converter that would be an 'upgrade' over a ULN8, and damn few that beat a ULN2 (my standalone Mytek is relegated to the transfer room, for reference).


Metric Halo makes GREAT stuff, have had my ULN2d for years and sounds amazing, never disappoints.
Old 25th December 2010
  #21
nms
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nms's Avatar
New Audio Interface - a couple contenders - your opinions

Buy the steinberg for sure. Then put the money you saved towards other stuff.
Old 26th December 2010
  #22
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Don S's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by AwwDeOhh View Post
Is everything else in your chain up to snuff?
IMO, converters are the last thing to upgrade.
[/I]
Yes, put the money closest to source first when having to decide what to upgrade. Invest in Mics first, then pres, then AtoD.
Having owned a FF800 for many years, the mic pres have alot to be desired. But the routing (via totalmix) is excellent.
Old 26th December 2010
  #23
Gear Maniac
 
DSPaudio's Avatar
 

Dogpile!!!!

Metric Halo +1000

Seriously, this company gets *nearly* every angle right. The conversion quality, the drivers, the backwards compatibility, the DSP plugin quality, the size, the integration and customer service. This coming from someone who has owned plenty of other high-end interfaces over 10 years.

My only complaint is 2d *upgraded* the system away from the process busses and multi-channel DSP graph page. I understand the improvement and indent, however this page was/is my favorite way to work and MH voided my workflow in 2d. Now I don't have to upgrade, (and I haven't), but it'd be cool if 2d allowed us electronic musicians more control and focus on the graphs rather than firewire sends and the 2d mixer. Mixers and channel strips are so coldwar.

Reaktor, Max, Kyma and the analog modular renaissance in progress right now prove that people don't need codified signal flows to get work done. In fact you can be more creative with a graph / modular system than you can with a patch bay or limited set of busses that hide information.

Anyway, even marooned here with a +DSP 2882 I still have to recommend Metric Halo. The thought that goes into their products is above and beyond the competition. Their only marketing mistake is making them black. Humans are photovores and prefer shiny light reflecting surfaces like Behringer knows so well.
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