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What audio interface for synths (NOT for mics)? Audio Interfaces
Old 4th March 2015
  #1
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aligak's Avatar
What audio interface for synths (NOT for mics)?

I need an audio interface. I have 5 hardware synths. I rarely ever use mics. I want to be able to record multiple outboard synths into my DAW (Bitwig) in real time in their own respective tracks. My current mixer, a Soundcraft MFXi 20, doesn't have individual outputs so I end up sending all outputs from the synths all at once into an old 2-in/2-out audio interface. But I sold that interface last week. I'm thinking of selling the mixer too and instead get an interface that:

- has only 2 or NO mic pre's at all
- has at least 8 inputs for instruments (the more the better)
- must be compatible with Mac OSX 10.9.5 (Mavericks)
- class compliant or good driver support (this rules out M-Audio)
- it would be cool, but not necessary if each input had a volume and/or pan dial
- internal mixer / routing capability and software is a plus
- MIDI interface is a plus, but not essential
- built in effects is a plus, but not essential

At this point, some of you might suggest a digital mixer, but they're generally way more expensive than I can afford. I need to keep this in the $300-500 USD used price range.

Most interfaces that go beyond 4-6 inputs have too many features I don't need - too many mic pre's, too many outputs (I only have 2 pairs of monitors), digital I/O which I never use. Thee are a lot of people that record instruments into their DAW and don't need mic pre's. The Focusrites and Presonus units all have way too many mic pre's and outputs for my needs.

The only interface I know of that comes close to my wish list is the Echo Audiofire 12, but it's not easy to come across those and Echo are no longer in this business. According to their website: "Echo Digital Audio recently decided to focus all new product development plans on the emerging Ethernet AVB (audio video bridging) market and audio test and measurement. All FireWire products have been discontinued. Echo will still provide customer support on the company’s website, and repair service will continue to be available in the future."

Any other suggestions or is the Audiofire my best bet? Thanks.

Last edited by aligak; 4th March 2015 at 09:51 AM..
Old 4th March 2015
  #2
Registered User
Don't worry about extra features you don't need if the price and quality is right ...

2 outputs is very limiting if you ever want to externally process anything ... you need to be able to monitor what you are processing. I would aim to have at least 4 outputs, but more is better.

Most interfaces that have mic preamps also use the same preamp for line levels - they just change the gain. So if the preamp is good for mic levels, it should be really good for instrument levels.

You also should probably consider using DI boxes for your synths, in which case you will need those mic inputs. I have a bunch of Radial JDI boxes, which means I can have them close to the synth with very short unbalanced patch cables, and run a balanced line to the mic input of my API or Neve preamps. I don't trust unbalanced cables over any significant distance, and I like the sound of transformers and the way they break up hum.

At that low budget end, I think asking for effects is likely to compromise the quality of everything else.

Apogee is what I would be looking at, but probably out of your budget.
Old 4th March 2015
  #3
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aligak's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kiwi View Post
2 outputs is very limiting if you ever want to externally process anything ... you need to be able to monitor what you are processing. I would aim to have at least 4 outputs, but more is better.
I agree 4-6 outputs would be good - 4 of them for monitoring and remaining 2 for an external effects unit.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kiwi View Post
Most interfaces that have mic preamps also use the same preamp for line levels - they just change the gain. So if the preamp is good for mic levels, it should be really good for instrument levels.
Good to hear that!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kiwi View Post
You also should probably consider using DI boxes for your synths, in which case you will need those mic inputs. I have a bunch of Radial JDI boxes, which means I can have them close to the synth with very short unbalanced patch cables, and run a balanced line to the mic input of my API or Neve preamps. I don't trust unbalanced cables over any significant distance, and I like the sound of transformers and the way they break up hum.
The DI box you mention is $200. I paid $200-400 for the synths so can't pay rhT much for a DI box. Should I just get balanced cables for my synths instead? None of my synth cables are more than 6-8 feet (~2 meters). It's a bedroom studio with everything close to each other. At what length do you think unbalanced becomes a problem?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kiwi View Post
At that low budget end, I think asking for effects is likely to compromise the quality of everything else.
In that case, it wouldn't be necessary. Most effects will be done ITB.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kiwi View Post
Apogee is what I would be looking at, but probably out of your budget.
It most definitely is out of my range. Thanks for your input.
Old 4th March 2015
  #4
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Helge's Avatar
 

How about a used RME FF400 ?
Old 4th March 2015
  #5
Lives for gear
My recommendation is to grab any interface w/ ADAT connection, and grab something like a Behringer ADA8000 or the new ADA8200. I had a ADA8000, was nice to track 4 stereo synths, sounded fine, low cost. With the AF12 off the market, it's difficult finding a low cost solution with no preamps.

My real recommendation was going to be RME RayDat + Ferrofish AE16. But it's waaaaay over budget.

I felt the Behringer sounded fine, but if you weren't happen with it for whatever reason you could always have it modded.
Old 4th March 2015
  #6
Deleted User
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CPhoenix View Post
My recommendation is to grab any interface w/ ADAT connection, and grab something like a Behringer ADA8000 or the new ADA8200. I had a ADA8000, was nice to track 4 stereo synths, sounded fine, low cost. With the AF12 off the market, it's difficult finding a low cost solution with no preamps.
+1 - I use a MOTU 828mkII with an ADA8200 and have also used a MOTU 828mk3 with an ADA8000. I have a rack of Emu/Roland/Yamaha sound modules along with few synths/keyboards. I use an audio patch bay also, but I don't think I've moved a cable in better than a year - just leave it all patched in. The only limitation is 44.1/48k. You can pick up both the MOTU and Behringer units used well within your budget. If you consider the MOTU, I'd go with a mk3 unit - they've dropped hardware repair/exchange on the mkII.
Old 4th March 2015
  #7
Registered User
Quote:
Originally Posted by aligak View Post
The DI box you mention is $200. I paid $200-400 for the synths so can't pay rhT much for a DI box. Should I just get balanced cables for my synths instead? None of my synth cables are more than 6-8 feet (~2 meters). It's a bedroom studio with everything close to each other. At what length do you think unbalanced becomes a problem?
At short range like that you should be fine. If you are careful with your AC power breakout you shouldn't have too much ground loop hum so you can probably get away with good 2m cables directly into a line level interface.

I must admit, i've hated B for a long time but these days the quality of A/D converters has leveled out quite a bit and I would consider them as a low cost solution. Better to have new converters than old unsupported ones.

Cost is irrelevant if you are getting the musical results you want. I don't have any problem putting a $100 mic on a $1000 guitar amp IF it sounds good, or a $1000 DI on a $100 guitar IF it sounds good.

I'm not suggesting you buy a JDI DI, but i'm just saying that price is irrelevant to musical decisions.
Old 4th March 2015
  #8
Lives for gear
The main reason I went this route. Lots of Line ins/outs for incorporating outboard Pre's or Effects.

You need LINE inputs for synths/keys, not instrument inputs. Cue mix software has digital trim controls for varying Line levels. Line ins accept balance or unbalanced.

You would need to use a DI on inputs 1/2 to get 8 line ins.

MOTU.com - UltraLite-mk3 Hybrid Overview

I would prefer RME or Apogee over Motu, however bang for the buck, and feature set was more important when I purchased Motu over 6 years ago. I've had no problems with it yet on Mac platforms. Some say driver issues have given windows users problems.
Old 4th March 2015
  #9
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kiwi View Post
i'm just saying that price is irrelevant to musical decisions.
And you can always fix whatever minor issues arise in your mix.

If something wasn't recorded w/ enough meat & potatoes you can always correct with EQ or some saturation.
Old 4th March 2015
  #10
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AudioGaff's Avatar
Apollo or Apollo 16. Being able to record as well as record or monitor in real time with UA plugs and and then mix with UA plugs is quite a game changer.
Old 4th March 2015
  #11
Gear Head
 

I would start with a used Motu 828 as it has all the inputs you need (and supports unbalanced lines). If you eventually want better quality sound, it's very easy to upgrade with DI boxes.
Old 4th March 2015
  #12
Deleted User
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" I have 5 hardware synths" Thats 10 inputs you need IF your wanting to record them all at the same time.

Since I dont need to record them all at the same time I chose to get an Ashly Ashly LX-308B | Sweetwater.com It give you 8 STEREO input channels with panning and volume and mute on each input pair. I simply run my synths into it and go stereo out into my interface Steinberg MR 816x using balanced TRS cables, easy peasy and the unit sounds great. I can also turn the thing on and listen to ANY of my synths without having to turn on the computer, turn on the interface, turn on the monitors etc.

Other option is to ge an 8 channel interface with ADAT on it so you could have another 8 channel unit hooked up to the interface. Any unit with ADAT will work with the primary interface if it has ADAT on it
Old 4th March 2015
  #13
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ImNotDedyet's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by shanabit View Post
" I have 5 hardware synths" Thats 10 inputs you need IF your wanting to record them all at the same time.

Since I dont need to record them all at the same time I chose to get an Ashly Ashly LX-308B | Sweetwater.com It give you 8 STEREO input channels with panning and volume and mute on each input pair. I simply run my synths into it and go stereo out into my interface Steinberg MR 816x using balanced TRS cables, easy peasy and the unit sounds great. I can also turn the thing on and listen to ANY of my synths without having to turn on the computer, turn on the interface, turn on the monitors etc.

Other option is to ge an 8 channel interface with ADAT on it so you could have another 8 channel unit hooked up to the interface. Any unit with ADAT will work with the primary interface if it has ADAT on it
He doesn't necessarily need 10 inputs for all synths at once. Not all synths output in stereo - or he may actually want to record in mono. Of course, he may have something (or buy something in the future) external to his synths that make stereo, so it certainly wouldn't hurt to have all 10 inputs.
Old 4th March 2015
  #14
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loopy's Avatar
 

MOTU, Steinberg and RME ($$$ so buy used) are all good values for the money. Do NOT buy something that is orphaned, like the Echo products. It will come back to bite you when new drivers are not released and you have no support.

IMHO the Steinberg interfaces are sleepers at their price point especially if you use Cubase/Nuendo because they interface very well with those programs as well as working as normal interfaces with just about any DAW.

I would stay away from anything M-Audio or whatever they are calling themselves these days. They used to make fine products but these days? Awful IMHO.

If you want rock solid drivers, top notch long term support, RME is the way to go IMHO. Look used or save your pennies.
Old 4th March 2015
  #15
Deleted User
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ImNotDedyet View Post
He doesn't necessarily need 10 inputs for all synths at once. Not all synths output in stereo - or he may actually want to record in mono. Of course, he may have something (or buy something in the future) external to his synths that make stereo, so it certainly wouldn't hurt to have all 10 inputs.
Then at LEAST 5 MONO. All modern synths output in stereo if needed. Older analog mono or stereo. Either way he needs minimum of 5 inputs if he's wanting to record them all at the same time. Whether he records in mono is his choice I would guess.

Now you tell me what he has to do IF he decides to record in stereo at any time?? Thats right , he's plugging and unplugging cables, thats NOT a great solution IMO

Last edited by Deleted User; 4th March 2015 at 11:45 PM..
Old 5th March 2015
  #16
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ImNotDedyet's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by shanabit View Post
Then at LEAST 5 MONO. All modern synths output in stereo if needed. Older analog mono or stereo. Either way he needs minimum of 5 inputs if he's wanting to record them all at the same time. Whether he records in mono is his choice I would guess.

Now you tell me what he has to do IF he decides to record in stereo at any time?? Thats right , he's plugging and unplugging cables, thats NOT a great solution IMO
My Sub37 has mono output and it's pretty modern.

Ironically, my two oldest synths (Alpha Juno 2 and TG77) have stereo outs whereas my two newest have mono - one understandably. (MS-20 Mini and Sub37)

But you're correct. Having double the inputs of the number of synths, and I'd add with a few more for room to grow is the way to go. I'm currently unplugging and re-plugging a lot while I put off going ADAT.
Old 5th March 2015
  #17
Its hard to find that many I/O at that price. I'm pretty happy with this:



Added a MOTU Microlite which gives me 6 MIDI I/O total. Its really nice having 7 synths hooked up at once and having to do little, if any cable crap. It just works on my iMac/Maverick/Logic X
Old 5th March 2015
  #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ImNotDedyet View Post
My Sub37 has mono output and it's pretty modern.

Ironically, my two oldest synths (Alpha Juno 2 and TG77) have stereo outs whereas my two newest have mono - one understandably. (MS-20 Mini and Sub37)

But you're correct. Having double the inputs of the number of synths, and I'd add with a few more for room to grow is the way to go. I'm currently unplugging and re-plugging a lot while I put off going ADAT.
Hmm an Analog MONO synth throwback, Id guess a MONO output as well there. Your stretching it there my man . Sub 37 look very sweet though
Im amazed how you want to split hairs about the amount of outputs on a synth Typical GS BS. Im here to help when I can not argue about mono verses stereo on a modern synth. Im out. Your Alpha and TG are NOT analog in design if you will, makes sense to me
Old 5th March 2015
  #19
All analog hardware synths have mono output unless they have fx, like your Alpha Juno and my JX-3P which have a good ol' Roland chorus. Stereo signal paths are actually kinda rare, especially in analog. DSI Evolver, which I suppose is hybrid.....true stereo, and Waldorf Pulse 2 I think has some panning but I'm not quite sure. Then there are some like my OB which has a split output, but I don't use that either and record in mono.

Most outboard, also mono. EQs, compressors, pre-amps, guitar pedals etc....

I don't use panning or synth fx much.....the chorus sounds great played solo but never seems to fit in a mix. Besides, buying 2 of anything like a distressor or a pultec makes me wanna feel sick. Stereo buss compressor? Sure.
Old 5th March 2015
  #20
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tehlord's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Helge View Post
How about a used RME FF400 ?

+1

I recently bought one for very little money (£350 so probably less than $500) and it's an incredible bit of kit. And still supported well by RME with excellent drivers.
Old 4th May 2015
  #21
Gear Maniac
Antelope Orion 32 analog i/o. Protects you from future synths
Old 18th May 2015
  #22
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Soothing Sound's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by vexkon View Post
Antelope Orion 32 analog i/o. Protects you from future synths
What's the best way to connect them to the Orion? Synths -> TS -> Patchbay -> TRS/DB25 -> Orion DB25?

This requires a patchbay at some point so you can connect the synths TS output (or TRS in some cases).
Old 20th May 2015
  #23
Gear Maniac
I use my orion without a patchbay for about 10 synths and the rest of the i/o is for effects, patchbays take time, this way everything is already preconfigured in ableton as external instrument of effect.
Old 20th May 2015
  #24
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Soothing Sound's Avatar
Quote:
Originally Posted by vexkon View Post
I use my orion without a patchbay for about 10 synths and the rest of the i/o is for effects, patchbays take time, this way everything is already preconfigured in ableton as external instrument of effect.
So you use the DB25/TRS directly to your synths?

Old 20th May 2015
  #25
Gear Maniac
Quote:
Originally Posted by Soothing Sound View Post
So you use the DB25/TRS directly to your synths?



yes exactly right, just get the right lengths and good to go
Old 11th February 2019
  #26
Gear Maniac
 

So you're saying Antelope has worked fine for you? I'm a but hesitant to buy something with a thread start like the one linked above, I've had bug issues with a couple of companie's support lately, in some cases they've just had low quality / try these 3 solutions if none works, **** you and in other cases they've just been unwilling to help out in the first place and have needed some "encouragements" with bad publicity until they've acted, one year ago I hadn't had more than 1 or two incidents in my whole life but now I seem to have a lot of bad luck...

Anyway I feel the lynx might be too focused on greet DA-converters and I don't want to pay for something I'll not even be able to experience (not the optimal room for mixing or such, plus I'm satisfied with what I've got for monitoring except some mud I can probably solve without upgrading my DA-converters) but I might be wrong about this I please feel free to correct me.

I wasn't planning on buying anything older than 2-3 years old technology-wise but if it's what I would get most out of sure I can consider that but I'm hesitant, I don't want to be locked down on an MacOS version just because I purchased a cheaper interface, hell I'm even considering an Apollo X8 (X16 just feels to expensive and I could work around having 16 inputs) due to the future proof with USB-C for a computer I probably won't buy until 2020 or such.

And remember I'm upgrading dye to lazyness that I'm tired of plugging in and out stuff off my patchbay which is now full and or course because I want better sounding recordings (though I know that it won't be necessary to get great sounding recordings or what matters if I get a hit or not)
Old 11th February 2019
  #27
Gear Nut
Mavericks? Even a used M-Audio Fast Track Ultra would do the trick, as it has official drivers up to Yosemite.
Old 11th February 2019
  #28
Gear Maniac
 

I'm actually using Mojave, so I guess it's out of question unless I'd get a reason to downgrade but since I don't feel I've got a reason to go under $1000 for the interface, I guess it's not necessary.
Old 4 weeks ago
  #29
Here for the gear
 

Just for keys? Radial key largo three synths and also runs the computer and Radial KL-8 Rackmount Keyboard Mixer are worth looking out. I use the Key Kargo on my pedal board to combine VST synths and real keys live and it has worked really well for me. I saw KL-8 at NAMM it looks killer as you can use to set up seperate cue system for in ears. It has nolatency and the killer radials all built in. I also have a Behringer 8200 and used it in my studio but the sonic difference between that and the Radial or my RME is huge. the 8200 does get the job done and is stable at a low price and it is low cost.
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