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Should I Upgrade Interface/Converters?
Old 3 weeks ago
  #1
Here for the gear
 

Should I Upgrade Interface/Converters?

Hi I'm looking for advice on whether or not I should upgrade my audio interface/converters.

-Gear -
I use a 2014 imac with a Motu828mkii interface. I use mainly Logic. Have a treated production room (early reflections, cloud, etc.). Monitors are Focal Twin 6 BEs. I do ITB production (mainly for podcasts and film/tv but also for bands etc.) Also record guitars/bass/vocals etc. Preamps are UA Solo 610 as well as Seventh Circle Audio preamps (N72s) that I built. Nothing fancy for mics.

-Problem-
I've done quite a bit of work with this set up and recently have been purchasing outboard gear. Recently while working on a mix I sent my vocal out to a distressor. Was monitoring the compressor output using Cue Mix Software (so let's me monitor the distressor before it goes into my computer). Vocal sounded fantastic and really felt alive. Printed it into Logic and on playback noticed it lacked dimension. Felt like I was missing low end. Sounded 2D, thin, tinny. The vocal wasn't really sitting the same as it was when I monitored the distressor coming off of the cue mix. Wondering if this is the converters in my Motu and if upgrading will give me a noticeable difference? If so any recommendations?

Should I just grab a new interface (I don't really need the pre's but probably need the monitoring) or spring for stand alone converter(s)? Would something like Mytek 8x192 be a solid upgrade? Or does this sound more like an issue stemming from ITB summing (maybe Logic?) or something else? Just trying to get a handle on this. Thanks so much for your help!

Michael

Last edited by FullStopArt; 3 weeks ago at 03:12 AM.. Reason: Adding something
Old 3 weeks ago
  #2
Quote:
Originally Posted by FullStopArt View Post
Hi I'm looking for advice on whether or not I should upgrade my audio interface/converters.

-Gear -
I use a 2014 imac with a Motu828mkii interface. I use mainly Logic. Have a treated production room (early reflections, cloud, etc.). Monitors are Focal Twin 6 BEs. I do ITB production (mainly for podcasts and film/tv but also for bands etc.) Also record guitars/bass/vocals etc. Preamps are UA Solo 610 as well as Seventh Circle Audio preamps (N72s) that I built. Nothing fancy for mics.

-Problem-
I've done quite a bit of work with this set up and recently have been purchasing outboard gear. Recently while working on a mix I sent my vocal out to a distressor. Was monitoring the compressor output using Cue Mix Software (so let's me monitor the distressor before it goes into my computer). Vocal sounded fantastic and really felt alive. Printed it into Logic and on playback noticed it lacked dimension. Felt like I was missing low end. Sounded 2D, thin, tinny. The vocal wasn't really sitting the same as it was when I monitored the distressor coming off of the cue mix. Wondering if this is the converters in my Motu and if upgrading will give me a noticeable difference? If so any recommendations?

Should I just grab a new interface (I don't really need the pre's but probably need the monitoring) or spring for stand alone converter(s)? Would something like Mytek 8x192 be a solid upgrade? Or does this sound more like an issue stemming from ITB summing (maybe Logic?) or something else? Just trying to get a handle on this. Thanks so much for your help!

Michael
The Cue Mix software shouldn't alter the audio you hear, and the interface uses the same converters throughout, so I doubt what you're hearing is from the interface. You might want to look at the signal path a bit more closely, to see if anything else is in there that shouldn't be, like a compressor or limiter.

Steve
Old 3 weeks ago
  #3
Here for the gear
 

Hey Steve thanks for response! There's no limiter/compressor in the path that I know of. The Cue Mix software lets me monitor directly off of the MOTU before any ADC takes place (maybe I'm wrong about this though!). When I hear the output of the distressor in this context it sounds great. When I print it into DAW (it has to go through a round of ADC) and then play it back (another conversion - DAC), this is where I notice it doesn't sound good. Which is why I think it's my converters on the older MOTU. This is how I'm understanding the signal chain although definitely possible I'm misunderstanding something here.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #4
The Cue Mix should actually let you hear what you've recorded while bypassing some of Logic's (virtual) outputs, but it does convert the audio from digital to analog, or you wouldn't be able to hear it. Software like Cue Mix also allows you to record (or play back) audio and use the interface's on-board signal processing for reverb, delay, EQ, compression or whatever--without taxing your computer's CPU. This allows you to monitor what you're recording (or playing back) with less latency, since you're not pushing your Mac's CPU.

In either case, the audio is coming from Logic, being converted to analog so that 1) you can hear it, and 2) you can process it through the Distressor. The audio then comes out of the Distressor and back into the MOTU, where it's converted back to digital and sent back to Logic.

Barring a connection or impedance-matching issue, unless there's something in the Cue Mix signal path that's adding some depth and high-end to what's coming from Logic (or coming back in from the Distressor), you should hear the same, exact audio you'd hear from the "main" outputs. And since the MOTU uses the same converters in all the physical (hardware) inputs and outputs, nothing should change if you re-route a "cue" mix to the "main" outputs.

Do you have other available inputs and outputs on the MOTU to try with the Distressor in this configuration--without having to re-wire all your hardware, that is? While all the converters on the MOTU are the same, there might be something in one of the connections that's causing an impedance problem, which it sounds like you're having.

Steve
Old 3 weeks ago
  #5
Here for the gear
 

Quote:
In either case, the audio is coming from Logic, being converted to analog so that 1) you can hear it, and 2) you can process it through the Distressor. The audio then comes out of the Distressor and back into the MOTU, where it's converted back to digital and sent back to Logic.
Correct. But I am monitoring the output of the distressor before it ever converts back to digital. The motu lets me monitor the distressor before it returns to the computer (goes straight to main out, no ADC). This sounds great to me. I print this signal to logic in real time (goes through ADC). When I play this printed distressor track back it doesn't sound quite the same as it did straight off the motu.

Yes there are different outputs available, using all balanced cables and Samson S-patch plus patch bay. Can try different ins/outs and see if it changes anything.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #6
Quote:
Originally Posted by FullStopArt View Post
Correct. But I am monitoring the output of the distressor before it ever converts back to digital. The motu lets me monitor the distressor before it returns to the computer (goes straight to main out, no ADC). This sounds great to me. I print this signal to logic in real time (goes through ADC). When I play this printed distressor track back it doesn't sound quite the same as it did straight off the motu.

Yes there are different outputs available, using all balanced cables and Samson S-patch plus patch bay. Can try different ins/outs and see if it changes anything.
Oh, I think I see what you're saying here...I think. This would mean the MOTU is time-aligning the analog audio it's passing through the system so that you can hear it mixed with the digital audio (unless you can't hear the digital audio at the same time in Cue Mix, but that would kind of defeat the "Mix" part ). That would be the only way the audio doesn't get converted again.

I still don't believe what you're hearing is the result of "too many" A-to-D-to-A conversions. If you had a very low-spec audio interface, maybe, but you'd also hear some issues just recording or playing back the first-generation audio. But MOTU makes some highly respected interfaces, and unless you did multiple generations of A-to-D-to-A conversions, I seriously doubt you'd hear anything. (In fact, I'd bet you'd have to use gear to see any change in the signal.)

That said, if the MOTU is leaving an analog path through the interface for "Cue Mix", there could be something going on with that signal, and that it's being "treated" somehow. But it seems other MOTU users would have heard the same discrepancy and demanded that MOTU make everything sound the same as it passes through the interface. No one would be able to mix like this if the "Cue Mix" sound was drastically different from the end result. Have you checked MOTU's forums? Maybe there's something about this there, if it's a known issue.

Just to be clear, the audio coming out of the Distressor isn't going back through one of your pre-amps (or any other analog gear), is it?

Steve
Old 3 weeks ago
  #7
Here for the gear
 

Yeah I think we are on same page, exactly. My track goes through my main outs and raw vocal goes through a separate out and into distressor, and then the vocal goes to both the main outs (where I can hear it with rest of track) and goes to an input where I can print it in logic.

99% sure there isn't anything else in the signal path after (or before) the Distressor but I'll have to double check next time I'm at studio. Always a possibility.

The 828mkii is from like 2001, considered legacy by Motu, which is reason I'm thinking it might be culprit. Have searched, people have said when they upgraded to something like Mytek 8x192 they perceived differences.
Old 3 weeks ago
  #8
Quote:
Originally Posted by FullStopArt View Post
Yeah I think we are on same page, exactly. My track goes through my main outs and raw vocal goes through a separate out and into distressor, and then the vocal goes to both the main outs (where I can hear it with rest of track) and goes to an input where I can print it in logic.

99% sure there isn't anything else in the signal path after (or before) the Distressor but I'll have to double check next time I'm at studio. Always a possibility.

The 828mkii is from like 2001, considered legacy by Motu, which is reason I'm thinking it might be culprit. Have searched, people have said when they upgraded to something like Mytek 8x192 they perceived differences.
It may be an older device, but again, it had very good specs. And if there had been some discrepancy between the "Cue Mix" and the digital audio path, it seems there would have been quite an uproar about it among those who spent a pretty penny on it.

I did a quick search for this issue, but found nothing. But I did read Sound On Sound's review of the interface, where they mention CueMix. It looks like it's along the line of what I was imagining, once I finally got what you were saying:

"Cuemix can be used to send the signals being recorded directly to the outputs rather than monitoring them via the computer, so that they can be heard without any delay, albeit with no added plug-in effects. Having said that, MOTU have made it easy to connect a hardware reverb unit for monitoring by adding an effects loop controlled by an aux send. Cuemix is also useful for monitoring MIDI hardware instruments directly rather than via aux channels set up in your sequencer, though of course you don't get zero latency with software instruments as their sound is generated inside the computer." (https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/motu-828-mkii)

So if there's nothing in the analog CueMix audio path (inside or outside of the 828 Mk II), then there must be something in the digital audio path in Logic or in the 828 Mk II which is altering the sound. Still, I think you would have heard it just from recording an analog source through your pre-amp and then playing it back through Logic.

It might be worth asking a moderator to move this to the "Music Computers" forum, since there are many more experienced MOTU users there who might have heard of this issue. This isn't really a "newbie" issue, because it sounds like you've done everything right, but there's still something wrong with the sound.

Steve
Old 2 weeks ago
  #9
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So update, some people in my building had a mytek 8x192 and let me borrow for a few hours. Tried using as external clock for motu. Made a small difference in monitoring. Was hard to tell really. Seemed like things were a little more defined and easy to hear in the stereo field, low mids maybe a little more defined. So small though that it could have been placebo. Then switched to using mytek as interface and monitoring directly off of that unit. Difference was substantial. Clearer more open mids. Cleaner bass. Highs more in focus. Wider and more stable stereo image. Didn't have cable to connect outboard gear and track through the mytek but just based on monitoring (DA out of my computer) alone, it sounded like a substantial upgrade to me.
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