im debating on whether i should get saffire 40 or steinburg mr816. Right now i just have an mbox. But i want to have more i/o's. I want to be able to connect hardware fx processors and eq's or compressors. Ill be using mostly pro tools and logic. Can y'all help me out?
I don't use a Pro 40 or an MR816. However, I do run a Yamaha n12 (which Yamaha/Steinberg stripped down to produce the MR series) alongside a Focusrite Liquid Saffire 56 (the Pro 40's big brother). So, given the close family ties, I can probably offer a pretty reasonable assessment of the two.
And, to be honest, in the same room with the same sources, same mics and the same monitors/headphones, they're very, very close. Neither one is "night and day" better than the other. The pres are similar in terms of the available gain and clarity of tone and the AD and DA are of a similar standard. If I had to give the edge to one unit over the other, I'd hand the prize to the Focusrite but the difference really is minimal. In my experience, the Focusrite is a little more transparent, clearer and sharper and the Focusrite drivers (on Windows - don't know about Mac) are a tad more stable and better performing than the Steinberg ones. But if you were planning on using Cubase as your DAW of choice, I'd then say go with the Steinberg just for the convenience of the Cubase integration. They really are that close.
In either case, if you can't get good results out of one or the other of these, it isn't likely to be the interface that is at fault. You should be able to buy either one with reasonable confidence that - for the price - you're getting a good package that should serve you well.
No problem - you're welcome. I know it's probably not a lot of help in the "buy this one 'cos that one sucks" sort of way, but it should at least be reassuring from the point of view of knowing that neither one is a lemon and that both are capable of good results.
The one thing I forgot to mention is that, like most Firewire interfaces, they can sometimes be sensitive to which Firewire chipset you have in your host PC. Focusrite have a short article about this in their answerbase here. There used to be a longer article listing compatible cards/chipsets, but that seems to be offline at the moment while they update it. Similar information is probably to be found somewhere on the Steinberg site or forums. In general, I think that most things with Texas Instruments (TI) or VIA firewire chipsets tend to be OK, although there are almost certainly others that work too.
I had a Saffire Pro 40 (and liked it). It went belly up and it was going to cost too much to fix it (estimate I got from the Focusrite 3rd party service center was $400). I decided I didn't want another firewire device and tried several USB units and ultimately went with a Roland Octa-Capture (8 channels like the Saffire Pro 40). To put it simply, "I don't miss the Saffire Pro 40".
I have Sonar X1 and it was picked up by Sonar right away. I also had a 30 day trial version of Pro Tools 10 and it too picked up the Octa-Capture right away. I had tested the Saffire Pro 40 with PT 10 (before it died) and it was a fight (and with help from Sweetwater support) to get PT10 to recognize the Saffire Pro 40 (it was certified as PT10 compatible by Focusrite).
I have two MR-816s and have minimal experience with a friend's Saffire 40. As was mentioned above, the custom extensions Steinberg gives to integrate Cubase with the 816 are very nice. Excellent, in fact. If you are sticking with Pro Tools, the 816 will work fine. The pres are good but not great. If you go with the 816, be sure to leave plenty of headroom because as you go above -6dB, they sound really crappy. This is a typical problem with midrange digital gear, but I think it's the chief sonic weakness of the 816, n12, etc. And it's no big deal beacuse when you record with 24 bit, there's no need to push the inputs into the hot zone.
I can't speak for the Steinberg unit but I have the Saffire Pro 40 and am very happy with it: it's very clear and transparent, and doesn't seem to colour the sound much.
One word of warning, and not to hijack the thread: Firewire on PC ain't necessarily a great ride unless you have a PC specifically built for audio. You can suffer with (really bad) audio drop-outs or blue screens with third party add-on interfaces. If you have a TI Firewire chipset you might well be OK, but try before you buy if you can. I had a nightmare with this on a Dell laptop.
Anyway, the web is full of threads on this topic so I don't want to labour the point. Focusrite have some information about this on their website and are really helpful on the phone if you give them a ring as well, so +1 for customer service.
If in doubt, you might be better off with a USB interface, although this will put more load on your CPU because USB is a "dumb" protocol. If you have a lot of tracks and/or use a lot of effects you're going to want Firewire, unless you want to get into freezing tracks a lot.
I always liked the preamps in my Saffire Pro 40 and thought they were "transparent". I also have an MAudio Fastrack Ultra 8R and when I recorded my pedal steel guitar with that the steel tracks seemed a little too bright compared to the Saffire Pro 40 tracks and I assumed the Fastrack Ultra 8R pre-amps were not as good. When the Saffire Pro 40 bit the dust, I tried several different audio interface devices before settling on the Roland Octa-Capture. ALL of the devices I tried the steel guitar sounded just like the Fastrack Ultra 8R. Thus I have to conclude that my Saffire Pro 40 was NOT "transparent" and was slightly altering the sound.