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Focusrite Liquid Saffire 56
Old 26th January 2015
  #1
Focusrite Liquid Saffire 56

I'm looking to get rid of my Presonus Firestudio Project and I've searched high and low and ended up at the Focusrite Liquid Saffire 56 as a replacement, within my budget.
My only concern is that I have read that you cannot bypass the pres even if the gain is down. [Which is probably congruent with most Interfaces on this low end.]
I've read that the pres on the Liquid Saffire are nice and I would love to use them; but in addition to two standalone pres that I love to use, the Focusrite ISA One (Analog) and the GAP Pre73 DLX.

What would be my best way of routing these pres into the Liquid Saffire so that minimal coloration occurs?
Or will it not even really effect the signal at all? I haven't a means to test the unit or I would probably know more.

Thank you!
Old 26th January 2015
  #2
Lives for gear
 

In the short term, just route them through a couple of the line inputs on the back of the LS56 and adjust the gain control to find unity (0dB). Unfortunately, 0dB isn't marked anywhere, but it's usually somewhere in the region of 5-7 on the gain control - you can work it out by watching the meters (if your external pre has an output level meter) or you can work it out in advance using a test signal and a simple loopback between one of the Saffire's outputs and its input. If you do this, I can't guarantee that there won't be some kind of minor change to the signal as it goes through the line input gain stage, but I don't think that it's going to make so much of a mess of your signal as to negate the sound and benefits of using the ISA or the GAP. I think there's a lot of folks on here who worry about that kind of thing far more than they need to.

In the future, you could add a higher end AD (either multi-channel via ADAT or two-channel via SPDIF) to the setup and run your external pres through that, while still having access to all 8 of the analog inputs on the Saffire. So you've got the possibility of higher-end expansion in the future without having to junk the Saffire to do it.
Old 27th January 2015
  #3
Quote:
Originally Posted by adrianww View Post
In the future, you could add a higher end AD (either multi-channel via ADAT or two-channel via SPDIF) to the setup and run your external pres through that, while still having access to all 8 of the analog inputs on the Saffire. So you've got the possibility of higher-end expansion in the future without having to junk the Saffire to do it.
That's a good idea! Thanks for the advice; do you have any suggestions for a good quality dedicated AD converter that I could add to this chain like you suggested?
My budget would be under 1k for this for sure, but this is just a inquiry into the future, as you mentioned.

I assume the conversion quality is already going to increase in the upgrade from my Firestudio to this LS56. I've never owned a standalone converter, all conversion I have owned has been in an interface with pres, so it hasn't been dedicated. Are there great benefits to having standalone conversion?

Sorry for all the questions, but I'm relatively new to this type of stuff.

Thanks again.
Old 27th January 2015
  #4
Gear Addict
Do you really need all those inputs? Honestly the sapphire is not much of an upgrade form the presonus as far as channel quality goes.

Edit: apologies, I thought this was just a firewire version of the scarlett. The digital emulation pres sound cool, but for 1k you could get much better base quality conversion/preamps in a unit, in my opinion. But if you like all the bells and whistles, maybe that is exactly what you are seeking
Old 27th January 2015
  #5
Quote:
Originally Posted by sroreilly View Post
Do you really need all those inputs? Honestly the sapphire is not much of an upgrade form the presonus as far as channel quality goes.

Edit: apologies, I thought this was just a firewire version of the scarlett. The digital emulation pres sound cool, but for 1k you could get much better base quality conversion/preamps in a unit, in my opinion. But if you like all the bells and whistles, maybe that is exactly what you are seeking
To be completely honest, I really don't need all the inputs. As with more of anything, it's just a luxury. But it isn't mandatory.
The biggest selling point for me on this unit was the emulation and what I thought to be far superior conversion than my Presonus.
I just want to make sure with whatever I get I have options to connect my two dedicated pres at the same time.
I actually considered conversion without pres like the Echo Audiofire 12, but I'm not sold on something that isn't in production anymore.
Any recommendations?
Old 27th January 2015
  #6
Gear Addict
Something from RME would be nice. They have a lot of units but they converters are very good and their drivers/stability is apparently the best.

If you only a couple channels you can get good pres/converters in the SPL Crimson, Audient ID22, Tascam UH 700. Universal Audio makes nice stuff too. If you have mac there's the apogee stuff.

I mean that unit from focusrite has a TON of features and nice connectivity, but the basics on all the units I've listed are most probably higher quality.

Also, if you like focusrite they have new units coming in teh spring with super low latency.
Old 27th January 2015
  #7
Lives for gear
 

OK, trying to cover a couple of points here...

First of all, sroreilly is right. The Saffire's conversion probably isn't going to be a massive step up from the Firestudio. When you're talking about 8+ channel interfaces in the sub-1000 range, you're not going to see immense differences between the various offerings. For example, lots of folks on here used to rate the Steinberg MR816 very highly and say it's much better than X, Y or Z. Well, I run a Saffire 56 alongside a Yamaha n12 (which the MR series was based upon - same pres, same AD, etc.) and the two do sound different, but it isn't one of those "night and day" things that people often go on about. Both units are good and eminently workable, they just have a slightly different sound and it's almost certainly as much a personal preference thing as a case of one being really better or worse than the other.

So, if you're looking for a big step-up in conversion quality, you probably need to think of reducing your channel count (if you want to stay within your budget) or stretching the budget (if you want to keep the higher channel count). I'd even go so far as to say that, if you really want to hear a significant upgrade in conversion quality, you're probably going to have to stretch the budget anyway - and quite possibly stretch it a lot. You'll always find folks saying how bad low-end conversion is and how such-and-such a piece of gear is far and away better than such another piece of gear for the same price, but it largely just isn't true. Yes, there are better and worse pieces, but the differences are most often pretty small unless you're talking about significant differences in price. Designing and building a high-end converter with a rock-solid power supply, top-notch clocking and excellent analog stages around the converter itself is still an expensive business and prices in the high-end converter market reflect that. On the flip side though, prices do come down all the time as technology develops and even lower-end interfaces/converters such as the bigger Saffires, the Steinberg MR/UR series, MOTU 828, 896, etc. are pretty solid nowadays. Unless you're working in a well-treated room with higher-end mics/pres and monitor chain, I'd even go so far as to say that those kind of interfaces/converters are unlikely to be the weakest link in your overall recording chain.

Anyway, moving on to the pre side of things. The Liquid pres on the LS56 seem to be a bit of a Marmite thing - some people love them, some hate them. One criticism that is often levelled at them is that they "don't sound like the units that they're supposed to be emulating". Well, that may or may not be true - I freely admit that I don't know as I don't have direct experience with the original pres in question - but I think that it's a bit of an unfair shot. As I understand it, the emulations were developed by modelling specific examples of the original pres. If that is the case, then what you're hearing is intended to sound like the particular unit that was used in developing the emulation in the first place. I don't know how much variability there was in the original hardware that is being modelled, so I don't know how different the emulation will sound when compared with some other random example of the same hardware. It may well be that the emulation is really, really close to the unit that Focusrite/Sintefex used to develop the model, but it does sound different to other units. In any case, I'd say that the Liquid pres can be quite nice to give you more tonal options/colours to choose from and they're perfectly workmanlike and usable, but they're not going to stand in the place of a good quality, high-end pre. And, like I said, some people really don't like them at all, so they can be a bit of a mixed bag depending on your personal taste!

So...where does that leave us? Well, on the one hand, I'd say that there's nothing wrong with the LS56 and for what you get for your money, it's a pretty hard act to beat. I'm still very happy with mine (had it for around three years now) and have no intention of changing it in the foreseeable future. It's been rock solid in operation, the Liquid pres can be useful, the standard pres are perfectly serviceable and the overall I/O count and potential for future expansion (via digital I/O) is great. However, I do have some minor gripes too - I wish the pres had a bit more gain (like a lot of interface pres in the sub-1000 range, they max out at around 60dB), I wish the gain controls were more linear and were scaled more accurately (so it was easy to find the 0dB point for line inputs for example) and I wish that it also had AES/EBU digital connections as well as ADAT and SPDIF. But in the grand scheme of things, I'd be nit-picking if I described any of those things as serious deal-breakers.

On the other hand though, if you really want to step up your conversion and overall signal chain, then it's probably worth examining other options instead. RME have already been mentioned, they're always worth a look - generally good quality hardware and with pretty much the best drivers in the business. Another brand that might be worth considering is MOTU - they've sometimes come in for some stick around here (often unfairly I think) but they released some new gear last year that looks quite promising. There's a (loooong) thread discussing it over in the Music Computers forum here on GS (see here). After that you're onto the usual suspects (the Apogees, UA Apollo and such like) but that will rapidly take you into the budget-stretching territory that was mentioned earlier!

Sorry - probably haven't made the decision any easier (quite the opposite), but at least it's useful to think about these things up front!

Last edited by adrianww; 27th January 2015 at 12:31 PM..
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