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Audio interface VS dedicated DAC?
Old 29th December 2016
  #1
Here for the gear
Audio interface VS dedicated DAC?

Hey guys, I have been in the market for a new interface for a while (using a cheap Presonus usb audio box at the moment) and upon further research, I am starting to wonder if I actually need a new audio interface at all?
RME Babyface Pro is the interface that I was originally interested in.

The thing is, I don't record any live instruments, I do all the production with virtual instruments, so the preamps of the interface don't seem that appealing but I do use a USB midi controller for piano emulation.

I mix/monitor through Yamaha HS8s so the question is... Should I get a new interface and pay the money for some of the features I won't use (the preamps) or just get a decent DAC to power my monitors for "superior" sound quality and reference?

I'm looking for truer sound quality coming from my reference monitors.

Thanks for any help given and I hope this question makes sense.
Old 29th December 2016
  #2
Gear Addict
You probably won't save any money going with a dedicated DAC unless you were focusing on high end interfaces. Dedicated DACs start around $5-600. If you don't plan on recording or using analog signal processing, definitely stick with a DAC.
Old 29th December 2016
  #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by inestima View Post
You probably won't save any money going with a dedicated DAC unless you were focusing on high end interfaces. Dedicated DACs start around $5-600. If you don't plan on recording or using analog signal processing, definitely stick with a DAC.
Thanks for the reply! Well it's not about saving money really, it's about getting the most bang for the bucks I will spend on what I actually need. So, if I don't use an audio interface, the DAC will work well enough (better) for producing and mixing on my monitors? I'm wondering, does an interface or DAC influence the quality of what audio gets exported from the DAW? (WAV, AIFF etc)?

Thanks again.
Old 29th December 2016
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jaturna View Post
Thanks for the reply! Well it's not about saving money really, it's about getting the most bang for the bucks I will spend on what I actually need. So, if I don't use an audio interface, the DAC will work well enough (better) for producing and mixing on my monitors? I'm wondering, does an interface or DAC influence the quality of what audio gets exported from the DAW? (WAV, AIFF etc)?

Thanks again.
Yes, a DAC will produce different analog sound than other DACs, though the measurable difference may be small. (The recorded audio, the 1s and 0s, however, do not change.) The better the DAC, the truer the representation of the audio, at least in theory. Generally, if you've got a reasonably quiet listening space and flat speakers, you'll hear a discernible difference between low end interfaces and a dedicated DAC. The difference might be clarity in a certain frequency range or better staging (the stereo image and placement of instruments within it) or something else. Hopefully, it will allow you to be more confident that mix decisions will translate well to other playback systems.
Old 29th December 2016
  #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by inestima View Post
Yes, a DAC will produce different analog sound than other DACs, though the measurable difference may be small. (The recorded audio, the 1s and 0s, however, do not change.) The better the DAC, the truer the representation of the audio, at least in theory. Generally, if you've got a reasonably quiet listening space and flat speakers, you'll hear a discernible difference between low end interfaces and a dedicated DAC. The difference might be clarity in a certain frequency range or better staging (the stereo image and placement of instruments within it) or something else. Hopefully, it will allow you to be more confident that mix decisions will translate well to other playback systems.
Right, thank makes sense. So, for around $800.00, I'm wondering if I should go with the RME babyface pro or a dedicated DAC instead. Around this price point, would the dedicated DAC be leaps and bounds over the DACs within the RME babyface pro? From what I understand, decent dedicated DACs start around 6 or $700.00 and the more pro-ish DACs are around 1.5k and up, like the D-box. (correct me if I'm wrong )

Thanks for the explanation, making much more sense now.
Old 29th December 2016
  #6
Gear Addict
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jaturna View Post
Right, thank makes sense. So, for around $800.00, I'm wondering if I should go with the RME babyface pro or a dedicated DAC instead. Around this price point, would the dedicated DAC be leaps and bounds over the DACs within the RME babyface pro? From what I understand, decent dedicated DACs start around 6 or $700.00 and the more pro-ish DACs are around 1.5k and up, like the D-box. (correct me if I'm wrong )

Thanks for the explanation, making much more sense now.
I've not used an RME product personally, but from what I've read from others, they are right up there with dedicated converters.

I recently was in the market for a dedicated DAC and I settled on the Dangerous Music Source for $899. I looked at Benchmark DACs (refurb $1000) and the Cambridge Audio DacMagic Plus ($599 new) as well as various interfaces. The folks at Dangerous Music were quick with emails and very helpful, providing technical info and not using audiophile bullsh*t adjectives. Customer service is worth its weight to me.

For $800 you have a lot options (which can be a bad thing). For me, I just mix- if I record anything it's in a studio or it's just a scratch track I can record with my old presonus firebox. I wanted to spend $1000 and needed separate speaker and headphone volume pots so I can leave the headphones plugged in all the time (this drives me nuts for some reason), a good quality DAC and USB. The Source fit the bill. You should be able to find something that has the features you need in your budget. Or if you're not yet sure of your needs, buy from a company like Sweetwater or VintageKing who have reasonable return policies.
Old 29th December 2016
  #7
Here for the gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by inestima View Post
I've not used an RME product personally, but from what I've read from others, they are right up there with dedicated converters.

I recently was in the market for a dedicated DAC and I settled on the Dangerous Music Source for $899. I looked at Benchmark DACs (refurb $1000) and the Cambridge Audio DacMagic Plus ($599 new) as well as various interfaces. The folks at Dangerous Music were quick with emails and very helpful, providing technical info and not using audiophile bullsh*t adjectives. Customer service is worth its weight to me.

For $800 you have a lot options (which can be a bad thing). For me, I just mix- if I record anything it's in a studio or it's just a scratch track I can record with my old presonus firebox. I wanted to spend $1000 and needed separate speaker and headphone volume pots so I can leave the headphones plugged in all the time (this drives me nuts for some reason), a good quality DAC and USB. The Source fit the bill. You should be able to find something that has the features you need in your budget. Or if you're not yet sure of your needs, buy from a company like Sweetwater or VintageKing who have reasonable return policies.
I heard great things about their D-Box and people seem to rave about them. Upon further research, the DMS looks quite promising!

Here is a newbie question... if I get the DMS, could I connect it to my rig (PC, monitors, etc) by itself or would I need an audio interface to hook up the DMS to the rest of my rig (PC, monitors etc)?

Also, I produce and mix in this room, the DMS sounds like it would be great for that. (Again, no live instrument recording, pretty much ITB at this point, virtual instruments etc)

Also, you've been a great help, I appreciate the wisdom!
Old 29th December 2016
  #8
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Owen L T's Avatar
In answer to your other question, though, (and with the understanding that you won't be recording any analogue instruments) the DAC will have zero effect on the actual quality of your bounced stereo wav, or aiff, as these are rendered internally by your DAW, which is working entirely in the digital domain. Yes, your mix itself may be different, if better DACs enable you to make better mixing choices. But in a typical project studio, it's doubtful whether that $500 DAC will make the slightest difference to your mix, as the sound of your monitors, and particularly the sound of your room, are both going to be the completely dominant factors in what you actually hear in the mix position. If you've not already treated first reflection points, ceiling above mix position, rear wall and corners with serious broadband/bass trapping, the your $500 DAC may buy you 5c worth of improvement, while $500 on good treatment would be worth every penny!
Old 30th December 2016
  #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Owen L T View Post
In answer to your other question, though, (and with the understanding that you won't be recording any analogue instruments) the DAC will have zero effect on the actual quality of your bounced stereo wav, or aiff, as these are rendered internally by your DAW, which is working entirely in the digital domain. Yes, your mix itself may be different, if better DACs enable you to make better mixing choices. But in a typical project studio, it's doubtful whether that $500 DAC will make the slightest difference to your mix, as the sound of your monitors, and particularly the sound of your room, are both going to be the completely dominant factors in what you actually hear in the mix position. If you've not already treated first reflection points, ceiling above mix position, rear wall and corners with serious broadband/bass trapping, the your $500 DAC may buy you 5c worth of improvement, while $500 on good treatment would be worth every penny!
This is very true, I'm in the process of treating this room now. It's not perfect by an means. Thanks for the reminder :D
Old 30th December 2016
  #10
Here for the gear
Alright boys and girls. Upon further research... It's a toss up between the RME Baby Face and the Dangerous Music SOURCE. Here is a newb question, does the DMS act like an audio interface? I have done some research and can't really tell if it's a pure monitor controller or interface or both.

Thanks for any input on this.
Old 30th December 2016
  #11
Gear Addict
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jaturna View Post
Alright boys and girls. Upon further research... It's a toss up between the RME Baby Face and the Dangerous Music SOURCE. Here is a newb question, does the DMS act like an audio interface? I have done some research and can't really tell if it's a pure monitor controller or interface or both.

Thanks for any input on this.
No experience with the baby face sorry.

When connected via USB (and driver installed), your computer will recognize the Source as 2 analog outputs. It has no analog inputs, though.

'Interface' is a colloquial term for an ADC, DAC or both with other functions like monitor control and headphone outputs, midi, etc.
Old 30th December 2016
  #12
Here for the gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by inestima View Post
No experience with the baby face sorry.

When connected via USB (and driver installed), your computer will recognize the Source as 2 analog outputs. It has no analog inputs, though.

'Interface' is a colloquial term for an ADC, DAC or both with other functions like monitor control and headphone outputs, midi, etc.
Ah yeah you're correct. So no mic in or instrument in for the DMS. Gotchya.
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