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Preamp vs Audio Interface? Audio Interfaces
Old 26th March 2011
  #1
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Preamp vs Audio Interface?

So I'm particularly new to equipment, but what's the difference between and pre-amp and an audio interface? Because at first, I thought all you needed was an audio interface. but the other day, this guy I knew, said he had both in his set up. Please clarify.
Old 26th March 2011
  #2
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basically in general

a preamp is a standalone unit with no direct computer connection

an audio interface is an "interface" to a computer that could have a preamp built in

you can connect a preamp to an interface also
Old 27th March 2011
  #3
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So in your opinion, in which direction should I go? An Interface with a built-in preamp, or do the chain?
Old 28th March 2011
  #4
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If I were starting from scratch, I'd get an interface with well-reviewed a/d conversion and at least a few built-in preamps. I'd also make sure there were uncoloured line inputs so I could add external preamps in the purest possible way.

I have a Presonus Firestudio but I don't believe I can do a line-in without going thru the actual preamp stage of the interface. This doesn't allow me to truly test out other preamps without going through the Presonus circuit. bummer.

Good luck,

Warren
Old 28th March 2011
  #5
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Depends on the budget. Usually, the best pre amps come separately and are $1,000+. If you can afford it, go for it. If you just want to get started and don't want to spend that much, get an interface and call it a day. Getting a low budget pre amp that isn't much better than the one in your interface is a waste.
Old 28th March 2011
  #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Apollo Ace View Post
So in your opinion, in which direction should I go? An Interface with a built-in preamp, or do the chain?
there you go:

M-AUDIO - Fast Track Ultra - High-speed 8 x 8 USB 2.0 Interface with MX Core DSP Technology

start with that ^ and learn

can be had for under $300
Old 29th March 2011
  #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ace_TX View Post
there you go:

M-AUDIO - Fast Track Ultra - High-speed 8 x 8 USB 2.0 Interface with MX Core DSP Technology

start with that ^ and learn

can be had for under $300
I thought I heard 'I'd get an interface with well-reviewed a/d conversion and at least a few built-in preamps' but then I read that

M-Audio preamp's sound like you're running the signal through a behringer, and the converters are also pretty bad. I had an M-Audio interface before, and I will never buy another M-Audio product again. Once I heard a real interface, I realized what a pile of garbage it was.

If you can afford it, id go for a TC Electronic Impact Twin - you can get them around $450 new, probably less used. Those are going to be the best preamps/converters you can possibly get for under $500.

If you're a mac person, consider an Apogee Duet too, though that may be a little over 500 new.

If you want even cheaper, try the Konnekt 6, Iv never heard it, and haven't heard reviews from anyone that has had one, but if its anything like the quality of the Konnekt 8/24 - it's probably going to be the best you can get in it's price range.
Old 29th March 2011
  #8
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You are going to want to buy an interface regardless. The mid range M-Audio interfaces don't suck, as stated, and have actually improved quite a bit over the years. The preamp, well, they are usable. Big room to upgrade.

My advice to you would start on a small budget. You can probably get away with about $500. Get an interface of your choice with a pre (you only need one for hip hop, if you do other things, that need more than 2, this advice doesn't apply). Get a mic like an AT2020 or a MXL V63. That about $100. Just use decent computer speakers. Spend some money on your interface you feel is best for your money, and all the other misc stuff, cables, mic stand, etc. You could even do a USB condenser.


What this won't get you is good results. It's also a waste of money, you will probably replace every single part of your chain. Sounds stupid, right? What you won't do is buy some crazy mic/mics, preamp, etc, and figure out, they don't really work for you. Secondly, much of the expensive stuff, especially interfaces, new mic models, and new preamp will improve quite a bit in the time you learn what you need to learn and are ready to upgrade.

When I bought my Rode NT1a, there were maybe 3 affordable condensers at the time. Now there are about 50. When I bought my Delta 1010LT, it was basically the only cheaper card that had more than a few ins and outs. Now there are much better options. So, now that I need to upgrade, I have much more affordable options that are true upgrades.
Old 31st March 2011
  #9
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I'm definitely not looking for USB.. lol
Old 31st March 2011
  #10
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thanks, I'll keep that in mind. but I've already been through that stage. Some crappy mxl 990 package from guitar center. Lol, I know. Anyways, I'm just looking for the next step because there is like only 1 studio I know of in my city, and I'm really not trying to record there. but I'm probably going to get the saffire pro 24. and I'm using a modded mxl2003a, upgrading to the nt1-a mod when I hustle some more. but yah.
Old 31st March 2011
  #11
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Focusrite pro 24 dsp is good to
Old 31st March 2011
  #12
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You're clowning usb but are about to get a firewire interface? mistake!

Firewire is the worst protocol out with the poorest performances, stability issues plus it's dated.

USB in the other hand is pretty good for small audio interfaces.

Also do yourself a favor and get something from RME, for examle this RME Babyface | Sweetwater.com

These dues know how to write a driver (and that is where rme outshine the competition), this means their products are more reliable, allow low latencies and very good overall performances... and yea their converters and built in pres are good.
Old 31st March 2011
  #13
EDF
Gear Addict
Quote:
Originally Posted by Nahuel View Post
You're clowning usb but are about to get a firewire interface? mistake!

Firewire is the worst protocol out with the poorest performances, stability issues plus it's dated.

USB in the other hand is pretty good for small audio interfaces.

Also do yourself a favor and get something from RME, for examle this RME Babyface | Sweetwater.com

These dues know how to write a driver (and that is where rme outshine the competition), this means their products are more reliable, allow low latencies and very good overall performances... and yea their converters and built in pres are good.
Sure...
Old 2nd April 2011
  #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Nahuel View Post
You're clowning usb but are about to get a firewire interface? mistake!

Firewire is the worst protocol out with the poorest performances, stability issues plus it's dated.

USB in the other hand is pretty good for small audio interfaces.

Also do yourself a favor and get something from RME, for examle this RME Babyface | Sweetwater.com

These dues know how to write a driver (and that is where rme outshine the competition), this means their products are more reliable, allow low latencies and very good overall performances... and yea their converters and built in pres are good.
yeah i definitely wouldnt agree with that either, FW > usb.2
and its faster. (well they are pretty much the same now, but im pretty sure its at least a little faster still.

you can start with a cheaper audio interface (which has pre-amps built into it), your friend just got a nicer pre-amp to make his interface sound nicer, becuase usually second hand preamps sound WAYYYY nicer than stock ones.

just think of it as customizing your audio interface.

i was looking at the focusrite saffire pro 24 as well, as it does sound alright.
the tc electronics thing looks cool, but is a little out of my price range so ill probalby go with the saffire pro aswell.

right now im using an m-audio fw410, and i love it, except the line ins went out but it has been a sturdy unit for 3 or 4 years.
keep in mind that i am using an external pre with it and a compressor as well though, i dont like the regular mic pres on that unit to record vocals, but it can be done. someone described the pres for that unit on gearslutz quite well one time. they said it sounded like black coffee, and he liked it for recording guitars, although for me and rap vocals, it was a little too black coffee for me.

the reason i wont get a m-audio profire 610 is becuse of the "random delay" issue with it. it may have been fixed for mac, but im not 100% sure as of right now.

when your in the market for a preamp i would recommend the FMR RNP, its a 2 channel really clear sounding mic pre, and at $475 its relatively cheap in the world of mic preamps aswell.
i noticed a night and day difference when i went from my stock 410 preamps to the rnp.
i went ahead and copped a grace audio m-101, and i think it sounds even nicer than the RNP, although it is only one channel. i paid 565 for mine and i got a free microphone with it when i ordered from olympic pro audio about a year ago. they might still have that deal up if your looking for preamps sometime soon.
Old 2nd April 2011
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by damien907 View Post
becuase usually second hand preamps sound WAYYYY nicer than stock ones.
.
ehh, what?
u cant be serious


@ace

go usb2 those perform (often) lower latency than firewire.
But from dealer with return policy cause u never know how one particular interface will work on ur system.

I've tested a LOT of firewire/usb interfaces for portable setup.

Fex TC twin impact (great inteface ,latency too high)
RME babyface ( disappointing latency, my emu0404 performs better, sounds amazing but one bottom handling sucks , u pay for adat etc sucks too imo)

I stayed with emu 0404 usb, can recommend it or something else EMU usb 2.0
Old 2nd April 2011
  #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dfg_MacGyver View Post
ehh, what?
u cant be serious
yeah i am lol, although not second hand, i meant to say external pre-amps.
most firewire/usb interfaces are improved when using a nice exteranal pre in my experience.

i would rather use an avalon 737sp than the digi protools hd pre's.

or my grace m101 than my fw 410 pres (thats why i bought it) or any m-audio pres for that matter.

do you disagree? and if so why?
Old 2nd April 2011
  #17
RTR
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Apollo Ace View Post
I'm definitely not looking for USB.. lol
Look, lot of m-audios stuff is not great BUT...I had a M-audio 610 and the preamps were very good, the ad/da was in a shoot out with a RME interface, and it is Firewire..I would never use USB if you plan on doing more than 6 tracks with VI's..I have a Focusrite LS 56 and I love it, if you do get a USB interface make sure you can return it after you start getting errors because it is running out of juice!
Old 2nd April 2011
  #18
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Nahuel's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by damien907 View Post
yeah i definitely wouldnt agree with that either, FW > usb.2
and its faster. (well they are pretty much the same now, but im pretty sure its at least a little faster still.

you can start with a cheaper audio interface (which has pre-amps built into it), your friend just got a nicer pre-amp to make his interface sound nicer, becuase usually second hand preamps sound WAYYYY nicer than stock ones.

just think of it as customizing your audio interface.

i was looking at the focusrite saffire pro 24 as well, as it does sound alright.
the tc electronics thing looks cool, but is a little out of my price range so ill probalby go with the saffire pro aswell.

right now im using an m-audio fw410, and i love it, except the line ins went out but it has been a sturdy unit for 3 or 4 years.
keep in mind that i am using an external pre with it and a compressor as well though, i dont like the regular mic pres on that unit to record vocals, but it can be done. someone described the pres for that unit on gearslutz quite well one time. they said it sounded like black coffee, and he liked it for recording guitars, although for me and rap vocals, it was a little too black coffee for me.

the reason i wont get a m-audio profire 610 is becuse of the "random delay" issue with it. it may have been fixed for mac, but im not 100% sure as of right now.

when your in the market for a preamp i would recommend the FMR RNP, its a 2 channel really clear sounding mic pre, and at $475 its relatively cheap in the world of mic preamps aswell.
i noticed a night and day difference when i went from my stock 410 preamps to the rnp.
i went ahead and copped a grace audio m-101, and i think it sounds even nicer than the RNP, although it is only one channel. i paid 565 for mine and i got a free microphone with it when i ordered from olympic pro audio about a year ago. they might still have that deal up if your looking for preamps sometime soon.
obviousely you didnt perform any testings. I did. Its not the m audio 610 that have unstable latency issues its the firewire protocol, just letting you know...also with firewire intercaces you ll experiment random cpu peaks and other crappy behaviours... This protocol is dated unstable and crappy. I experienced it. tested it. Other did...its not a conspiracy theory its a verified fact...usb in the other hand is stable and enough for small interfaces. No random latency issues with it either.

I m tied of this topic, everytime I try to help someone
by exposing the usual misconceptions about firewire and explaning the verified flaws in this protocol you got an uninformed fw product owner that chime in with the tired "fw is superior" legend
Old 2nd April 2011
  #19
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nahuel View Post
You're clowning usb but are about to get a firewire interface? mistake!

Firewire is the worst protocol out with the poorest performances, stability issues plus it's dated.

USB in the other hand is pretty good for small audio interfaces.

Also do yourself a favor and get something from RME, for examle this RME Babyface | Sweetwater.com

These dues know how to write a driver (and that is where rme outshine the competition), this means their products are more reliable, allow low latencies and very good overall performances... and yea their converters and built in pres are good.
With the right setup, FW is a better choice. It has less CPU overhead, faster (real life) transfer speeds and can be daisy chained with the same interface of it's type to get more ins/outs. Key words, WITH THE RIGHT SETUP.

Quote:
Originally Posted by damien907 View Post
yeah i definitely wouldnt agree with that either, FW > usb.2
and its faster. (well they are pretty much the same now, but im pretty sure its at least a little faster still.
I USED to think that until Jim from Studio Cat said that the M-Audio Fast Track Ultras performed as well as the RME Firefaces latency wise. Even RME's USB audio interfaces are performing better than their FW counterparts. The is a thread in the New Products hardware section on the Apogee Duet two which is USB 2.0 and they said it will be able to run faster than it's FW ancestor. I would like to think they are catching up.

For my own personal experiment, I decided to use that Latency Checker to compare my Echo Audiofire8 (Firewire) to my Mixvibes U46DJMKII (USB 1.0). I figured that the Audiofire would outperform the U46DJMKII but to my suprise the U46DJMKII had a lower latency than the Audiofire. I'll blame this one on the drivers.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nahuel View Post
Its not the m audio 610 that have unstable latency issues its the firewire protocol, just letting you know...also with firewire intercaces you ll experiment random cpu peaks and other crappy behaviours...
Random CPU peaks can be attributed to other things, wi-fi, USB ports, power management settings, etc. You are right in saying that firewire can perform poorly but I would think that often times it is due to chipset incompatablities. FW is VERY finiky if you don't have a good chipset. If the needs are simple than USB is probably a better choice.
Old 2nd April 2011
  #20
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Nahuel's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by J_O_P View Post
With the right setup, FW is a better choice. It has less CPU overhead, faster (real life) transfer speeds and can be daisy chained with the same interface of it's type to get more ins/outs. Key words, WITH THE RIGHT SETUP.


I USED to think that until Jim from Studio Cat said that the M-Audio Fast Track Ultras performed as well as the RME Firefaces latency wise. Even RME's USB audio interfaces are performing better than their FW counterparts. The is a thread in the New Products hardware section on the Apogee Duet two which is USB 2.0 and they said it will be able to run faster than it's FW ancestor. I would like to think they are catching up.

For my own personal experiment, I decided to use that Latency Checker to compare my Echo Audiofire8 (Firewire) to my Mixvibes U46DJMKII (USB 1.0). I figured that the Audiofire would outperform the U46DJMKII but to my suprise the U46DJMKII had a lower latency than the Audiofire. I'll blame this one on the drivers.

Random CPU peaks can be attributed to other things, wi-fi, USB ports, power management settings, etc. You are right in saying that firewire can perform poorly but I would think that often times it is due to chipset incompatablities. FW is VERY finiky if you don't have a good chipset. If the needs are simple than USB is probably a better choice.
Sorry but I m aware of chipset issues with firewire, all the testings I performed were done with a very good TI chip firewire card...Other ppl been peforming the same testings with other setups also using TI chips for fw controller...we tested daad loops for interfaces from m audio, rme, presonus: no firewire interface was able to provide a steady latency.point blank. The crappiest usb interface from m audio do provide a stable latency. So yea trust me or not but I did my homework, done serious testings.
Old 2nd April 2011
  #21
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i'm revisiting this thread and don't see why my recomendation is getting facepalmed

the original poster asked a question that would lead me to believe that they are a novice

i threw out a low cost recomendation and said "learn with that"

**** i still have a delta 1010 rack that i use (no mic pres but still...)

what... should i have told the OP to go out and buy high end **** and spend thousands of $$$, when they don't know what the difference between a preamp and and audio interface is???

Old 2nd April 2011
  #22
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Nahuel im surprised with your findings. My partner has been running his ff800 rock solid for 2.5 years now. I cant recall the exact numbers but we're operating at fairly low latencies ... It's true however that there was a bit of tweaking involved, we had to disable his dvd drive, it was causing all sorts of issues.
Old 2nd April 2011
  #23
Gear Addict
 

Ya'll forgetting the echo audiofire fw option. The converters aren't great but there Damn good for the price and the I/o. The 8 channel is 500 I believe and the 12 channel about 700. I myself have the ultralite and does me fine. Converters sound good enough to me and definitely usable. Anything lost on the signal I just eq it back and make the beat of it. My interface never stop me from making great music. And it definitely no slouch. Latency never bothered me for I can barely notice using flstudio or recording in audition or reaper. One day ill get a rme but room treatment and new monitors is my focus right now.
Old 2nd April 2011
  #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by riteup3 View Post
Nahuel im surprised with your findings. My partner has been running his ff800 rock solid for 2.5 years now. I cant recall the exact numbers but we're operating at fairly low latencies ... It's true however that there was a bit of tweaking involved, we had to disable his dvd drive, it was causing all sorts of issues.
How have you been R? OK did he perform a DAAD loop test? does he process a lot of stuff from the puter to outboard then back to the computer? ... In standard use a firewire interface can perform properly, especially when it's an RME, they probably have the best drivers on the market... but if you start using hardware inserts in your daw or recording Impulses responses you'll get all sort of issues, mostly phase/timing problems, this is due to firewire protocol being unable to provide a stable latency... it's very easy to make sure with NAT for acusticaudio (it comes with nebula3) while performing the DAAD loop latency test.
Old 2nd April 2011
  #25
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ok i see, "stable" being the keyword here. we did some otb processing, nothing big tho and didn't notice anything, which doesnt mean there was no issue. i understand with the work you've been doing you are being much more discerning. having said that, what if your daw auto compensates the latency? same issue?
Old 2nd April 2011
  #26
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Quote:
Originally Posted by riteup3 View Post
ok i see, "stable" being the keyword here. we did some otb processing, nothing big tho and didn't notice anything, which doesnt mean there was no issue. i understand with the work you've been doing you are being much more discerning. having said that, what if your daw auto compensates the latency? same issue?
I dont really know, is that a feature in cubase? I use ableton mostly and it reports asio latency but you have to set the compensation yourself...that said my findings (along with a few dudes from the nebula users comunity) could be proven wrong by someone, I dunno, unfortunately I'm not aware of any tool apart from NAT that let you test your DAAD loop (it's not that expensive to)... there might be a freeware somewhere that let you perform such test... but yea until now I didnt come across anyone reporting a stable tatency with a firewire interface and it's been my personal experience too...
Old 3rd April 2011
  #27
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yes cubase compensates the latency. now i dont know if it's a dynamic process where it constantly measures latency. i hope it is! i plan to get into nebula soon so i'll be pm'ing you
Old 3rd April 2011
  #28
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Anytime bro...btw if I remember well you're PCI RME plus apogee so you dont really have to worry about that firewire bs....

btw about nebula: been using it for two years almost, my conclusion is that it's good when you need an analog sounding eq (it's really awesome for that) ITB, it's still a CPU hog and adds lots of latency if you use too much instances (too much happends real quick)...apart from great eqs it have a few saturation programs that I like, more on the subtile side to... other stuff aint bad but it's not like much more cpu efficient plugins cant compete (IMO)... That said it's not too expensive, it's an OK deal overall but you (really) need a fast computer from latest generations.
Old 3rd April 2011
  #29
Gear Nut
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nahuel View Post
How have you been R? OK did he perform a DAAD loop test? does he process a lot of stuff from the puter to outboard then back to the computer? ... In standard use a firewire interface can perform properly, especially when it's an RME, they probably have the best drivers on the market... but if you start using hardware inserts in your daw or recording Impulses responses you'll get all sort of issues, mostly phase/timing problems, this is due to firewire protocol being unable to provide a stable latency... it's very easy to make sure with NAT for acusticaudio (it comes with nebula3) while performing the DAAD loop latency test.
Unfortunately I can't confirm your findings as I don't have any outboard gear to test, but I did check out a thread related to this on GS and I THINK I may understand where you are coming from.

I also own a Fireface400 so I tested that out as well using the CEntrance Latency Checker. With the Fireface400 everytime I did a feedback loop it was consistant. Same with the U46DJMKII. With the Audiofire8, I kept on getting different numbers with the same settings. Is this the instablity that you are talking about in regards to the FW protocal causing the phasing issues and such?
Old 3rd April 2011
  #30
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Quote:
Originally Posted by J_O_P View Post
Unfortunately I can't confirm your findings as I don't have any outboard gear to test, but I did check out a thread related to this on GS and I THINK I may understand where you are coming from.

I also own a Fireface400 so I tested that out as well using the CEntrance Latency Checker. With the Fireface400 everytime I did a feedback loop it was consistant. Same with the U46DJMKII. With the Audiofire8, I kept on getting different numbers with the same settings. Is this the instablity that you are talking about in regards to the FW protocal causing the phasing issues and such?
I didnt knew about this app, yes I beleive we are talking about the same thing here, what's interesting is that you're reporting a stable latency with the FF400 and that would be a proof that firewire is able to provide stable latency... first time I hear someone reporting this but it's an RME so yea I guess we have a winner here... I'm not suprised at all by the echo fw having unstable latency or by the usb interface being steady... interesting!
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