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New audio interface choice? RME Fireface 400 or MBox 3 Pro? Audio Interfaces
Old 31st August 2011
  #1
Lives for gear
New audio interface choice? RME Fireface 400 or MBox 3 Pro?

Hello folks, hope everyone is doing well.

I own, use and love my Echo Layla3G but want to move to a Z68 based Sandybridge i7 in the next month or so and am planning to move to either a PCIe or Firewire based interface. I use Cubase 6 in Windows 7x64.

My audio interface requirements are:

- Very good low latency performance (I am producing electronic music with heaps of VSTis and using a Remote SL controller to control everything)
- MIDI I/O (for the good old trusty Roland RD600)
- 2 quality universal inputs (for my Rode K2 and any guitars)
- 2 balanced outputs (for ADAM A7s) and 1 separate audio out for headphones (to use with DJ software and for alt mixes)
- S/PDIF I/O (for my Access Virus TI direct monitoring feature)

After looking into PCIe options, I can only think of going with the RME AIO (no breakout box, hard access to headphones, possibly noise due to internal card) or the Multiface II (older generation 96 kHZ interface without pres).

So I then thought I'd place my focus on 2 Firewire interfaces that rated really well in the recent Audio Performance Tests thread (Audio Interface - Low Latency Performance Data Base), the RME Fireface 400 and AVID MBox Pro 3.

Mbox 3 Pro

- Cheaper than the RME
- Great features (additional analog connectivity I can use)
- Better low latency performance than RME (according to the thread)
- Passive master volume knob (I can retire my aging Nano Patch, yay!)
- Really great front metering

RME Fireface 400

- Tried and tested, excellent track record
- Longer term driver & company support compared with AVID products

Would really love everyone's thoughts and feedback?

Really appreciate your help & time
soundpalace
Old 1st September 2011
  #2
Lives for gear
bumpies, sorry folks, just thought I'd give this a bump in case anyone could help
Old 1st September 2011
  #3
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zephonic's Avatar
I just got me an MBox3Pro last weekend. Not long enough to have a serious opinion but so far I really like it. Hassle-free setup, good sound and performance, solid construction and does what it says on the tin.

RME has a stellar rep, but I hate the way their products look. That would not stop me from getting one of their PCIe cards in the future, but the FW/USB units are real eyesores.
Old 2nd September 2011
  #4
Gear Head
I was considering the Babyface and the mbox 3 pro - I went with the mbox and think it is great. Not had it long so can't speak to the mic inputs but the usability and build quality is very good and it is very quiet.
I really didn't need all the additional stuff that comes with RME Totalmix, and breakout cables are annoying (though that's not a prob with the Fireface.)
Old 2nd September 2011
  #5
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by soundpalace View Post

My audio interface requirements are:

- Very good low latency performance (I am producing electronic music with heaps of VSTis and using a Remote SL controller to control everything)
- MIDI I/O (for the good old trusty Roland RD600)
- 2 quality universal inputs (for my Rode K2 and any guitars)
- 2 balanced outputs (for ADAM A7s) and 1 separate audio out for headphones (to use with DJ software and for alt mixes)
- S/PDIF I/O (for my Access Virus TI direct monitoring feature)
hi, i've got nearly identical setup and needs and own a ff 400 since one year.

and it's great, couldn't desire anything more for the price.

(the virus support told me there is absolute no difference between streaming audio through usb or spdif, if you want better quality you have to use the analog outs and good pres)

i think with rme you get a great quality product, i don't know anything
about mbox but i'm sure it's the same or < Rme
Old 3rd September 2011
  #6
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tvsky's Avatar
RME

but also consider the echo audiofire 8 seeing as you an old layla user
Old 3rd September 2011
  #7
Lives for gear
Thank you all so much for the replies, I really appreciate it! It seems every store I ring about these 2 devices suggest the RME by far, but they also seem to think that the MBox is made of plastic which the 3rd revision isn't anymore.

It's almost like these new MBox Pros haven't gotten any attention at all, people just associate them with the old 2nd and 1st generations which is a huge shame.

I too must agree that I think the RME designs are rather dull to look at, MBox is very pretty, but obviously, it's all about which is more reliable .etc.

At the moment, I must admit that I'm still completely on the fence. If only I could try these interfaces out for a day, then I could make a more informed decision who to give my money to.

I won't be going for Echo again due to the terrible latency response it got with the testing (came out the worst of the bunch). Although I love my Layla3G, the double buffering on output latency is something I want to avoid on my next interface.

Keep the opinions comin
Old 3rd September 2011
  #8
Gear Addict
 
gingataff's Avatar
 

Personally I think RME stuff looks professional and purposeful, like a piece of gear from a high tech science lab. I love my FF400.

One man's meat, as they say.

Sent from my xxx using Gearslutz.com App
Old 3rd September 2011
  #9
been using rme ff400 for last 2 years. so far hassle free. great package and drivers are stable as hell .
Old 3rd September 2011
  #10
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Timur Born's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by soundpalace View Post
My audio interface requirements are:

- Very good low latency performance (I am producing electronic music with heaps of VSTis and using a Remote SL controller to control everything)
- MIDI I/O (for the good old trusty Roland RD600)
- 2 quality universal inputs (for my Rode K2 and any guitars)
- 2 balanced outputs (for ADAM A7s) and 1 separate audio out for headphones (to use with DJ software and for alt mixes)
- S/PDIF I/O (for my Access Virus TI direct monitoring feature)
Since you only need a small number of analog I/Os I suggest you also take a look at the RME Babyface. It's cheaper than the FF400 and comes with exactly what you listed.

One user here decided on the MBox 3 Pro instead of a Babyface though, so maybe he can chime in on what exactly made his decision.
Old 4th September 2011
  #11
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tvsky's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by soundpalace View Post

I won't be going for Echo again due to the terrible latency response it got with the testing (came out the worst of the bunch).


I run 2.5ms on my audiofire 12 with no problems , half that if 96k. even with double buffering we are back to 2.5ms .

I "upgraded" to this from an rme card . the rme is great if you had the money but I couldnt justify the cost this time around . depending on what you get its 2-3 times dearer than audiofire 8 or 12 for maybe a 10% improvement in reliability , stability and driver quality . Audio quality is pretty much equal. In your list though and if your ok with the price get the rme card.

one thing , your doing this because of pci problems in your current setup , your not running a pci firewire card to connect these interfaces are you ? because the problems could follow you.
Old 4th September 2011
  #12
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by tvsky View Post
I run 2.5ms on my audiofire 12 with no problems , half that if 96k. even with double buffering we are back to 2.5ms .

I "upgraded" to this from an rme card . the rme is great if you had the money but I couldnt justify the cost this time around . depending on what you get its 2-3 times dearer than audiofire 8 or 12 for maybe a 10% improvement in reliability , stability and driver quality . Audio quality is pretty much equal. In your list though and if your ok with the price get the rme card.

one thing , your doing this because of pci problems in your current setup , your not running a pci firewire card to connect these interfaces are you ? because the problems could follow you.
Hey, thanks for the feedback.

On the new PC, I'll attempt to run the Firewire card off the motherboard FW VIA chipset and if that causes drama, I plan to buy a PCIe to Firewire card. Not planning to use any PCI slots in the new PC due to the bridging.

Cheers
soundpalace
Old 4th September 2011
  #13
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grooveminister's Avatar
I´d recommend RME too - the driversupport & quality is the most important thing.
There´s been so much good hardware that wasn´t useful because of bad software support!
Old 4th September 2011
  #14
Gear Maniac
 

+ RME FF400

Im Extremely happy with mine (logic 9.1.3+Pro tools 9.0.3) Mac Pro Quad 2010
Old 4th September 2011
  #15
Gear Addict
 
mmahan40's Avatar
 

I'd go RME for sure, I love my fireface UC!
Old 4th September 2011
  #16
Gear Maniac
 

Have you really ruled out the AIO card? I love mine. When I measured latancy it was only a few samples over the software buffer (68 sample at 44.1 with a 64 sample buffer I think). The breakout cable situation is a bit clumsy/ messy but I don't see you being dissapointed with performance!

Mine runs flawlessly with pt 9, never a problem, and the internal mixer/ patchbay is great for setting up sends or just patching things around internally. I don't know if the MBox 3 does any zero latency stuff.

Sent from my ADR6350 using Gearslutz.com App
Old 6th September 2011
  #17
Here for the gear
 

Is anyone else really frustrated by the dimensions of the mbox 3 pro?... it's right between 1U and 2U. it's the one thing that's making me uneasy about buying it. any tips for rack mounting this thing?
Old 6th September 2011
  #18
Lives for gear
 

Mbox 3 Pro is meant to be a tabletop unit. I've had mine for about 6 months now and it is still working great. I love the options it has (onboard DSP - great for recording, multi-monitor select, mono mode, MIDI, two independent headphone outs - also great for recording, etc.).
Old 7th September 2011
  #19
Lives for gear
Thanks a lot guys, I've definitely settled on RME, I can't seem to find any bad comments about them anywhere.

Quote:
Originally Posted by BJosephs View Post
Have you really ruled out the AIO card? I love mine. When I measured latancy it was only a few samples over the software buffer (68 sample at 44.1 with a 64 sample buffer I think). The breakout cable situation is a bit clumsy/ messy but I don't see you being dissapointed with performance!

Mine runs flawlessly with pt 9, never a problem, and the internal mixer/ patchbay is great for setting up sends or just patching things around internally. I don't know if the MBox 3 does any zero latency stuff.

Sent from my ADR6350 using Gearslutz.com App
To be totally honest, in an ideal world, I would have tha FF400/UC breakout box with a PCIe RME card, that would simply be perfect. But having gotten used to a breakout box on my desk all these years (with headphone jack and guitar inputs at easy reach), I don't think I will fare well with the AIO.

Is there any easy way for me to get the breakout box of the FF400 (or something with similar features) to work with one of the RME PCIe cards? The Multiface II doesn't have pres and uses the older converters and the AIO doesn't have pres or the breakout box. Seems like this is something that is indeed missing in the RME line at the moment and I would of already bought it in a heartbeat if it existed
Old 7th September 2011
  #20
Lives for gear
 
Timur Born's Avatar
 

With a modern computer you should just get the UC and be good with it, or use a 400/UC via ADAT connected to the PCIe card.
Old 12th September 2011
  #21
Lives for gear
Hey everyone, after all my research, these are the pros and cons I can find for both devices (from my angle):

Fireface 400 vs MBox 3 Pro

Pros (in RMEs favour)
  • Tried and tested, has been around for a while and has an excellent track record in terms of hardware, sound quality and drivers. MBox Pro 3 on the other hand is quite new to the scene and doesn't have quite as many users just yet.
  • RME support is around to help with issues while AVID uses a much more corporate style of support ... which is a shame ...
  • RME provides ADAT connectivity (not that I will personally need it, but still nice) while MBox Pro does not.
  • It seems that the MBox Pro is having some serious issues which 5 months later are still not resolved by AVID (http://duc.avid.com/showthread.php?t=298891). Wow!

Cons
  • D/A converters for both headphone and monitors on RME are "after" the volume control (i.e. volume control is in digital domain). This will mean that one would need a dedicated knob (e.g. Nano Patch) for the monitors and something similar for the headphones too ... not sure why RME did this. This is the not the case with MBox Pro and each of the outputs provides a dedicated knob which is also what I'm used to with my Layla3G. Having volume control in the digital domain is hugely dangerous in case of a software / hardware failure which leads to the volume being reverted to full or similar.
  • Aesthetically, the RME is much uglier looking than the MBox, similarly with the mixer software provided (TotalMix vs MBox Pro Control Panel). Although the drivers and unit are solid, little attempt has been made to make the unit look good aesthetically.
  • The RME Fireface 400 uses the "legacy" TotalMix application while the newer RME products use TotalMixFX. It seems that RME do not plan to improve or integrate the older RME products into the newer interface (please note that I understand the older RME products don't have DSP chips, but the newer interface appears to be significantly improved over the old).
  • The RME card is more expensive than the MBox
  • RME provides no hardware metering while the MBox provides 4 comprehensive segnemented meters
  • MBox 3 Pro provides a second headphone output which could indeed prove useful

Build quality and latency on both units are comparable as are the features and audio quality (according to MBox Pro test results posted on Harmony Central). Will let ya know which way I decide to go, I thought I had decided on RME until I read about the fact that output volume was all adjusted pre D/A which is a showstopper for me, especially for the headphone output.

Hope this helps someone out there, any comments welcome
Old 12th September 2011
  #22
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by soundpalace View Post
Cons
  • D/A converters for both headphone and monitors on RME are "after" the volume control (i.e. volume control is in digital domain). This will mean that one would need a dedicated knob (e.g. Nano Patch) for the monitors and something similar for the headphones too ... not sure why RME did this. This is the not the case with MBox Pro and each of the outputs provides a dedicated knob which is also what I'm used to with my Layla3G. Having volume control in the digital domain is hugely dangerous in case of a software / hardware failure which leads to the volume being reverted to full or similar.
  • Aesthetically, the RME is much uglier looking than the MBox, similarly with the mixer software provided (TotalMix vs MBox Pro Control Panel). Although the drivers and unit are solid, little attempt has been made to make the unit look good aesthetically.
  • The RME Fireface 400 uses the "legacy" TotalMix application while the newer RME products use TotalMixFX. It seems that RME do not plan to improve or integrate the older RME products into the newer interface (please note that I understand the older RME products don't have DSP chips, but the newer interface appears to be significantly improved over the old).
  • The RME card is more expensive than the MBox
  • RME provides no hardware metering while the MBox provides 4 comprehensive segnemented meters
  • MBox 3 Pro provides a second headphone output which could indeed prove useful

Build quality and latency on both units are comparable as are the features and audio quality (according to MBox Pro test results posted on Harmony Central). Will let ya know which way I decide to go, I thought I had decided on RME until I read about the fact that output volume was all adjusted pre D/A which is a showstopper for me, especially for the headphone output.

Hope this helps someone out there, any comments welcome

Are you serious with this aestethic stuff you mention!?

the mbox seems a kid toy, it's not even rack mountable, if you want to know my opinion it's a joke!

i'm sure it works just fine, but with alternatives available on the market why choose the Mbox! and it comes from Avid!! they screwed over all the pro tools users with the compatibility, all these tdm, hd, hd native, no need for the mbox to run ptools anymore, i really don't trust a company like that.

about the volume blasts, it never happened to me. i recorded voices and instruments on the road dozens of times with the rme and it was PERFECT a jewel for the price, who cares about the meters, you control everything on the totalmix on the screen and it's fine.

it's well known it's one of the best mixers available on the market.

i'm upgrading to a high end (3000 E) and i would pay 500 more only to carry with me the rme mixer.

and this rme ff400 or ff800 you would be really surprised to know how many valuable professional producers use it all over the world, in particular in EDM.
it's an industry standard!!

i think it's all about what you do, my point of view is that it has to be good for my job.

if you don't work with it i think you can something even cheaper then the mbox and it will be just fine
Old 12th September 2011
  #23
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by Resonance5 View Post
Are you serious with this aestethic stuff you mention!?

the mbox seems a kid toy, it's not even rack mountable, if you want to know my opinion it's a joke!

i'm sure it works just fine, but with alternatives available on the market why choose the Mbox! and it comes from Avid!! they screwed over all the pro tools users with the compatibility, all these tdm, hd, hd native, no need for the mbox to run ptools anymore, i really don't trust a company like that.

about the volume blasts, it never happened to me. i recorded voices and instruments on the road dozens of times with the rme and it was PERFECT a jewel for the price, who cares about the meters, you control everything on the totalmix on the screen and it's fine.

it's well known it's one of the best mixers available on the market.

i'm upgrading to a high end (3000 E) and i would pay 500 more only to carry with me the rme mixer.

and this rme ff400 or ff800 you would be really surprised to know how many valuable professional producers use it all over the world, in particular in EDM.
it's an industry standard!!

i think it's all about what you do, my point of view is that it has to be good for my job.

if you don't work with it i think you can something even cheaper then the mbox and it will be just fine
Thanks a lot for your reply mate. Please forgive me if I was offensive in my point about aesthetics, it honestly wasn't my intention. Re-reading my post, I noticed I was overly harsh on this point.

To be honest, I do value aesthetics myself but I do understand that many people don't mind. However, that certainly isn't what I'm basing my decision on.

I agree regarding AVID, they seem to really suck in the support department, seem to be LOTS of complaints about the MBox 3 Pro on the forums. Apparently, the MBox Pro 3 is really well built, I been told this and read about this from a few sources, some say it's even better built than the RME unit.

Anyway, you make a really good point about the RME being industry standard and overall, I was leaning in that direction anyway. My projects are pretty large (current track completed was 63 tracks with 136 VST effects and 29 VSTis), so performance is definitely key. It's no surprise this project bought my poor Q6600 to its knees

Either way, when I choose and buy my unit, I'll post back with a detailed review and comparison to my Echo Layla3G which I know very well.
Old 12th September 2011
  #24
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dxavier's Avatar
Seriously, for the price, I wouldn't consider the two interfaces you have put forward. You use Cubase so the obvious choice would be the MR816. It costs less than the RME 400 and the A/D D/A conversion is far better in my opinion to the RME FF400 and I won't even bring the Mbox into this as the RME is far better sound quality wise than the Mbox. Also, the pre amps on the MR816 are superb for interface pres.

Check around Gearslutz and see what people think of the sound quality of the MR816 or the Yamaha N8/N12 (The Yamaha N8/N12 have the same coverters and pre amps as the MR816). Do some more research. The MR816 is seriously up there with the Metric Halo, whilst being the price of a Focusrite interface.

Yes, you see alot of RME's in alot of home studios. They are stable and have very good sound quality, but I think they are the popular safe choice. If you were able to get to a store to do a comparison yourself or read the forums, you will the MR816 to be the dark horse, which has alot of respect.

It is a joke that they are offering that high level of quality at that price....

Ps . I totally disagree with the RME 400 being an "Industry standard"???? People can say that about Yamaha NS10m's or ProTools because most professional studios have them no matter what, but an RME 400 is not an industry standard in professional studios or home studios either. When it comes to home studios, the difference between what people use is endless. Alot of people on gearslutz may use the RME 400, but seriously, it is not an industry standard.
Old 12th September 2011
  #25
Gear Addict
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by dxavier View Post
Seriously, for the price, I wouldn't consider the two interfaces you have put forward. You use Cubase so the obvious choice would be the MR816. It costs less than the RME 400 and the A/D D/A conversion is far better in my opinion to the RME FF400 and I won't even bring the Mbox into this as the RME is far better sound quality wise than the Mbox. Also, the pre amps on the MR816 are superb for interface pres.

Check around Gearslutz and see what people think of the sound quality of the MR816 or the Yamaha N8/N12 (The Yamaha N8/N12 have the same coverters and pre amps as the MR816). Do some more research. The MR816 is seriously up there with the Metric Halo, whilst being the price of a Focusrite interface.

Yes, you see alot of RME's in alot of home studios. They are stable and have very good sound quality, but I think they are the popular safe choice. If you were able to get to a store to do a comparison yourself or read the forums, you will the MR816 to be the dark horse, which has alot of respect.

It is a joke that they are offering that high level of quality at that price....

Ps . I totally disagree with the RME 400 being an "Industry standard"???? People can say that about Yamaha NS10m's or ProTools because most professional studios have them no matter what, but an RME 400 is not an industry standard in professional studios or home studios either. When it comes to home studios, the difference between what people use is endless. Alot of people on gearslutz may use the RME 400, but seriously, it is not an industry standard.
Interesting that you should mention the MR816. I'm not far away from buying a FF400, but I had one eye on the MR816 for a while...I might have been put off by the fact that I won't be benefiting from the Full Monty the MR816 is capable of, as I'm a Ableton/Reaper user, but it would be interesting to hear a bit more from users who use the same setup...
Old 12th September 2011
  #26
Gear Maniac
 

I've been looking into this exact same thing, although I've been considering the focusrite pro also.
I have heard lots of good comments on the RME, and also how much the mbox3 has stepped up it's game.

I'm actually leaning towards the focusritepro 40 atm due to reknowned good pre's and a/d above it's price bracket.

I'm Still tied though cause the new mbox
Has improved pretty much everything apart from the logo.
It now has Cirrus Logic CS 4272 converters which are the same used in the motu 828mk3 & the duet. Can't say I've found exactly why pre's it has, but some reports have said they sound pretty good.

We are also talkin bout a few hundred difference here in price between the ff400 and mbox.
Old 12th September 2011
  #27
Lives for gear
 
dxavier's Avatar
I think the best thing (if possible) is for you guys to hear the interfaces. I think you will pleasantly surprised when hearing the MR816 vs RME FF400 vs Mbox. It is not night and day, no, but there is more dimension and better imaging with the MR816 for me. It really is impressive. Plus, even though I have high end pre amps, I have tried the pre amps on the N12 (same pres as the MR816) and the head room / clarity was amazing. Very impressed.

Ps, be careful not to compare the coverter chips alone between interfaces. There are so many other aspects involved within conversion, other than the chips themselves, such as the actual signal path, so literally, two interfaces can have the same converters, but the quality of the conversion itself can be quite different
Old 12th September 2011
  #28
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by serious View Post
I've been looking into this exact same thing, although I've been considering the focusrite pro also.
I have heard lots of good comments on the RME, and also how much the mbox3 has stepped up it's game.

I'm actually leaning towards the focusritepro 40 atm due to reknowned good pre's and a/d above it's price bracket.

I'm Still tied though cause the new mbox
Has improved pretty much everything apart from the logo.
It now has Cirrus Logic CS 4272 converters which are the same used in the motu 828mk3 & the duet. Can't say I've found exactly why pre's it has, but some reports have said they sound pretty good.

We are also talkin bout a few hundred difference here in price between the ff400 and mbox.
I would rule out the Focusrite's based on the fact they use the standard DICE firewire chipset without any mods. This essentially means low latency performance is quite bad.

See the comparison here:

https://www.gearslutz.com/board/6960162-post117.html
Old 13th September 2011
  #29
Gear Maniac
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by soundpalace View Post
I would rule out the Focusrite's based on the fact they use the standard DICE firewire chipset without any mods. This essentially means low latency performance is quite bad.

See the comparison here:

https://www.gearslutz.com/board/6960162-post117.html
Oh really, I've heard it can have a little latency , up to 3-4ms but I didn't know it was a serious issue.

Has anyone else with this unit got some feedback on the latency ??
Old 24th September 2011
  #30
Gear Head
 

Avid RME Apogee Prism Interface Shootout

Posted a video and link to the challenge for interface shootout on my page:

Avid MBox Pro
RME Fireface UFX
Apogee Ensemble
Prism Sound Orpheus


http://www.iAmGI.net
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