Behringer FIREPOWER FCA610 by conleec
I work in audio post production, and I needed an interface that would allow me to mix in surround, while using Pro Tools HD. Additionally, I needed an interface that would allow me to control all of the discreet analog outputs at the same time, using the volume knob on the front of the device. It turns out there are very few interfaces (and virtually zero, in this price range) that will allow you to do that.
The Steinberg UR28M does this, for a bit more than double the price, but it only has 6 discreet outputs, and I needed 8 for a separate ADR headphone mix. Then the next unit I found that would do it was the RME for well over $1000. While I'm absolutely certain the RME is a fantastic unit, I didn't need the quality inputs for the added cost.
Back to the Behringer: on the Mac, there are no drivers required. Once I correctly got the device connected via USB (mine came with a manual addendum explaining how to do this, as apparently lots of folks get confused), I was able to use it straight away in Pro Tools HD, and was surprised by the quality of the playback, and the efficiency of the unit.
I was able to reduce my playback buffer to 128 samples, in a pretty resource heavy project, and it played back perfectly, without a single issue. I felt I could have probably lowered the buffer more, but I didn't, as I was perfectly happy with the setting as it was.
Playback was crisp and clear and full. No serious measurements here to report, but I was VERY happy with the sound. It made my ears happy, is all I can say.
One thing: in Pro Tools, the unit defaults to 5 stereo output pairs. At first, I couldn't get surround output to work. But once I figured out that you need to right-click in the "Output" tab of the I/O Settings, and choose 5.1, it all instantly made sense, and worked like a dream! I was able to very quickly migrate the project from a prior interface to this one, with virtually zero hassles.
To gang the channels, so they're all controllable via the hardware knob on the front of the device, you simply need to push the little button next to the volume knob (from memory, it says something like "group outputs" or words to that effect). At that point, the knob perfectly and simply controlled ALL of the analog outputs. Very handy for surround monitoring, and a huge feature, lacking in many higher priced interfaces.
One issue I am having, and haven't yet found a solution to, is that the interface seems to only pass audio when it is actively "connected" to the computer. When not playing audio, thru PT, or a web browser, or any other software, the USB/FW connection light turns off and the unit goes to sleep. When you play audio, it re-connects (with a slight pop in the speakers) and begins working nearly instantly. The problem is: with my old interface, I passed the outputs of my Blackmagic video card thru the interface to use it as a monitor controller for Avid Media Composer. Now, I can't seem to do that, as the device goes to sleep and doesn't pass the audio. It's definitely an issue, and I will report back if I come up with a solution. I'm contemplating maybe launching Audacity in the background and leaving it in record mode to keep the interface turned on? I'll update when I find out if this works.
The FCA610 also looks very nice, and appears quite well built. Overall, I'm SUPER impressed with this unit.