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RME FireFace 400

RME Fireface 400

4.3 4.3 out of 5, based on 9 Reviews

Solid Drivers and great mixer software: total mix. The firewire interface has been replacedby USB in the new model UFX. My main criticism would be the DAC but tis card's life could easily be extended by purchasing an external DAC.


31st January 2012

RME Fireface 400 by Spec

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 4 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.25
RME FireFace 400

Overall a solid card for its time. Most criticisms of the card are centred on the pres and the DAC. for an ITB box guy like me the pres not an issue and could easily add external DAC.

The strength of the card - and all the RME gear - are the drivers, driver support and the awesome total mixer software. Also the FF 400 is has ane xcellent build quality: built like a tank"

Had the card since 2008 and never had a problem

31st January 2012

RME Fireface 400 by mdf25

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.75
RME FireFace 400

This review is for the RME FireFace 400, which will be conducted in two parts; the first being the card itself and its features, and the second being its performance and driver stability.

Features

The first thing about the RME interface that I noticed was just how solidly built the thing was! The chassis is all-metal and is surprisingly heavy for its small size. The build is superb and if it was to be dropped from a reasonable height it would just shrug the impact off and keep performing as normal. The only thing that I did find an issue with this unit was the single knob on the front of the interface; it is able to be snapped internally (as I had the misfortune of doing accidentally in one session by knocking it with my elbow) and it had to be sent back to RME for a fix, since the knob design has a clipping mechanism inside the actual chassis itself rather than a small pot outside which then has the knob on top, like most knobs do. The feel of the actual knob is very solid though, and as long as you are careful, it won't break on you.

Moving onto the actual features of the unit itself, it is jam-packed with high quality I/O. On the front of the unit, there are two mic preamps with switchable phantom power (which can also be switched and used as a line input) and next to these there are two line inputs which are switchable between line and instrument level. There are three lights near each mic preamp; the first is a yellow LED which shows whether phantom power is active on each channel. The second is a green LED and tells you that signal is going to the unit and the one above this is a red clip indicator LED which will flash when you have overs. The line/instrument channels have the clip and signal LEDs only.

In the middle of the front panel, there is the one knob that can control virtually all parameters on the interface. This knob can be pushed in to select different sound sources to alter their gain, or to add/subtract volume from your headphones and monitors. There is a two-place number/letter display above the knob to tell you which parameter you are altering. By pressing and holding the knob, you can link each two output channels to alter speaker volume in pairs. To the right of this are a series of eight status LED's which will tell you whether the unit is working properly and what external audio sources you are using, and the headphone socket is on the far right.

Moving onto the back of the unit, there is a power socket to plug the FireFace directly to an outlet, and there are two firewire connectors, which allow you to daisy chain up to three of these units together. There is also a switch nearby to allow the unit to be powered from the mains or by your computer itself. Two ADAT ports allow you to expand your system with eight more inputs and outputs (which you could link to say a Berhringer ADA800) and there are 6 line outputs to connect up to three sets of stereo monitors, or even a 5.1 surround setup.

There are also 4 more line inputs on the back which you can use for extra outboard synths or microphone preamps, along with SPDIF I/O, switchable between optical and coaxial, adding another two channels. You could add a high quality DA converter here, although the DA converter in the unit itself is very good. A MIDI connector is provided with a breakout cable for two MIDI I/O, and finally, the thing which is not found on many interfaces in this price range is RME's WordClock, making this interface a true swiss army knife.

Performance and Stability

Now, about the actual sound of the interface. The words clear, crisp, detailed, and defined come into mind when describing the overall qualities. Some users think the preamps can be a little bit sterile sounding, but personally I don't find this bothersome because I know that what I am putting in will come out exactly the same. The AD converter is very transparent to my ears (perhaps leading to the sterility of the preamps for some users) but they sound a lot better than preamps in cheaper interfaces. Adding gain does not add much noise at all, so you can rest assured that you will get a clean recording. The line and instrument inputs on the front and back are also very clean.

Coming out of the box is where things start to see a few minor flaws. The DA converter in the FF400 is very good compared to cheaper interfaces, but it may make your high end sound a little bit brittle or harsh. If you have monitors with EQ on them you can take off half a dB or so to counteract this. It's only really become clear to me the more I have listened to it, at first it just sounded clear and detailed (which it is in bucket loads to this day) but I noticed the more I used it the less I wanted to boost my highs, making translating to other mediums somewhat of an issue. But if you are just looking to get a decent all round interface, this is definitely one to consider.

Under low latency, the interface performs extremely well, which makes tracking with it painless. The included TotalMix software is great for setting up your routing and it can all be done from the computer without having to use the knob on the unit, if this way works best for you. Installing this unit was a breeze as well, you can just download the latest driver, install the software, then turn off your computer and plug the interface in. As soon as your OS loads the whole thing is ready to go. I am currently using it on an early 2011 MacBook Pro with no problems whatsoever, and it works well on older machines too. The drivers are the most stable I have ever used, and even under tough conditions the unit performs spectacularly. One thing that I must mention here though is that for Windows OS systems, you will require a Texas Instruments firewire card to properly run the interface. On a Mac, it works with any firewire port on the system so you don't have to worry about this.

Conclusions

This unit is the best bang for buck in my small home studio. I plan on upgrading to the FireFace UCX as soon as I can get my funds together. RME is a company you can trust and rely on, and their products will not let you down. I am a very happy RME user and have never looked back. They will be my go-to for audio interfacing solutions in the future, and with each new product things just keep getting better and better.

26th February 2012

RME Fireface 400 by 21doors

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.75
RME FireFace 400

I agree with everything the previously user said... Excellent review! And interesting point about the DAC. I have to wonder if this is proven to be the DAC, or maybe Monitor related? Was there a thread on this I missed? Maybe that's why the method I describe below seems to work best for me?

Here's my review:

Ok, I give it a BIG 10 in quality because it is friggin transparent. It sounds as accurate as I have ever heard digital sound, which means it sound unpleasant lots of the time. And this is a Good Thing. The thing I don't want is to be hearing the DAC giving me this beautiful image, while the source actually sounds like something else.

If you can't stand the horrid sound of digital (like me), then run the 400 through some analog channels before it hits the power amp. It will sound like a wet dream! Do your mixing, and when its time to bounce, unplug the cables from the power amp and plug into the front jacks... hit record. Just like bouncing used to be. And it will sound beautiful. The big downside with this method is you will want to be lazy and render an ITB mix. DON'T DO IT(B)!

I know its a pain to unpatch your monitors just to bounce. But if you CAN mix it through some analog channels, record the bounce, you will do WAY better. Even without OTB analog, the AD is so good that bouncing this way you will feel good knowing the Stereo file is what you heard through your speakers.

Has digital advanced? Yes. Is it better than analog yet? Sadly, No. The truth is in guitar FX pedals. Plug a strat into the fanciest, most expensive digital guitar pedal, and the clean still sounds digital. The difference is subtle to the non-player, (metalheads probably can't tell, or care) but someone who connects to a vintage tube amp every day will know right away. The guitar loses a little bit of "3D" life. This is digital. I tried out a $3500 digital guitar setup... still sounds like digital to me! Or notice the live shows with their digital consoles... mucho bucks, Great mixes/features, but sound less warm and natural than a cheap Mackie. (Sterile is there by default, a good engineer has to engineer the sterileness out)

I know its not fun or hip, but gimme flat accurate AD, so when I do get the perfect OTB mix, I can record it as close to accurate as possible. And this one does it just as good as the others, without color.

Oh yeah RME SUPPORT ROCKS!!!!!!!!

8th March 2012

RME Fireface 400 by Wesma

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 4 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.25
RME FireFace 400

The RME Fireface 400 is the first really good audio interface that I have owned and it’s been working flawlessly for about 5 years now.

The box is built as a half rack unit and if you want you can buy rack ears so that you can mount it in a 19” rack. It is very solid and “built like a tank”. On the front you have a knob where you can control input and output levels. You also have the TotalMix software so that you can rout everything just as you want to. I don’t care so much for the design of the TotatMix, it is IMO not very user friendly, but once you get to know it better it is actually really great.
You have 2 microphone XLR inputs with preamps on the front and 2 line/instrument TRS inputs next to them. You also have a stereo TRS output mainly supposed to be used for headphones. On the back of the unit you have 4 more line inputs and 6 outputs. There are also options for ADAT, SPDIF, WordClock and MIDI. This box really has everything a small/medium studio needs.
I don’t like the sound of the preamps at all, very sterile and has a way of rounding off transients in an unpleasant way to my ears. The converters are on the other hand terrific and that is in my opinion the most important thing and the reason I bought the unit in the first place.
I can’t see why I would need anything else for a long time. Ok maybe a second one to have more input options.

17th March 2012

RME Fireface 400 by Alio 45

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 4 out of 5
  • Overall: 4
RME FireFace 400

Over the past few years I've moved to doing most of my home studio work more and more 'in the box'. As a result I found I was only using 2 channels on my Yamaha 01V/96 so I sold it.

I was using the converters in the 01V/96 and I thought I would use the converters in my Digidesign 002R, I was shocked, they sounded awful, I needed something else.

I spoke to my dealer (Studiocare) and they suggested I try a RME Fireface.

I bought the RME Fireface 400. For a half rack unit it squeezes in all the I/Os of a typical full rack unit. 8 analogue ins and outs, ADAT optical I/O, SPDIF I/O, MIDI (on a breakout cable) and word I/O. The unit can also be bus powered which is useful for location recording.

Some of the features are controlled by the software, these include mic/line, inst/line, pad, phantom, etc. this is no great hardship. The 400 is really straight forward to use and I didn't need the manual once.

The main thing for me was the sound quality, I was more then happy with this, the 400 punches well above it's weight and sounds excellent. I believe this is down to the rock solid clock.

I would highly recommend the FF 400 to anyone in the market for a firewire interface.

Al

20th March 2012

RME Fireface 400 by zion15

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.25
RME FireFace 400

Features

The RME Fireface 400 has plenty of features for a unit of this size and price range. A 8x8 analog I/O with two combo mic pres and two instrument preamps, ADAT + S/PDIF I/O, 2x MIDI I/O, a fully configurable routing matrix with the whole state flashable to the hardware... The build quality is very good, and the most important fact: the drivers are rock solid, enable low latency work, and have never caused me any problems when recording, mixing or performing live.

Sound Quality

Fireface 400 sounds unremarkable in the best possible way: extremely usable and definitely good enough, if not breathtaking. The AD/DA quality doesn't make you go "wow" - unless you're coming from the land of bad el cheapo interfaces - but there's nothing wrong with it either. The mic pres are very decent: clean, enough gain for most uses, low noise... nothing to write home about but something you can actually use. You aren't going to make your golden-eared engineer friends jealous when demoing the FF400 to them, but you can never blame the interface when you're making bad recordings or mixing decisions either.

Ease of use

The old RME TotalMix software is a bit confusing at first glance, since it packs a lot of power under very spartan user interface that feels less user-friendly than Metric Halo's console or the Totalmix FX found on newer RME units. However, once you get used to it it's fine. That's probably the only thing worth mentioning about "ease of use" - everything works like it should. To be honest, it would be kind of awful if an unit like this was actually difficult to use in a day to day work, other than when going deep into the matrix routing land.

Bang for buck

RME Fireface 400 is truly a working man's audio interface. A bit like a good German car: it isn't flashy, but it gets you where you want to in a comfortable way, and you can rely on it not falling apart in the middle of the road. Rock solid drivers, converters that don't get in your way nor make your mixes & recordings sound sucky - unless the source material is sucky to begin with.

I have tried quite a few external audio interfaces during the years, and RME & Metric Halo are the only ones so far that I know will not disappoint when you want both good drivers AND sound quality in the same unit. The only foolproof upgrade path from here is either to one of the newer RME units or a MH Labs interface, but this one is serving me well so far so I have no real need to upgrade.

1st May 2013

RME Fireface 400 by producerjay

  • Sound Quality 3 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 4 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 4 out of 5
  • Overall: 4
RME FireFace 400

I purchased the RME 400 roughly 6 years ago. It was really transparent, and the pre-amps were better than anything DBX I was using at the time.

I used to think the converters were really great until I purchased the BLA White Sparrow MKII. That says alot about the quality of RME products.

For the price of what is out there, if you like ease of use, and the honest representation of your music... then this interface is for you.

3 weeks ago

RME Fireface 400 by Torniojaws

  • Sound Quality 5 out of 5
  • Ease of use 4 out of 5
  • Features 3 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 3 out of 5
  • Overall: 3.75
RME FireFace 400

Well, it was a very good unit as long as it worked. Then something went bang, and it became really expensive paperweight. Not even the certified service could fix it and simply returned it to me as-is.

Anyway, while it worked, the sound quality was really good and especially the DI path was really really clean. My favourite DI guitars came from it, and I preferred it's own to anything "outboard". It was quite easy to use once you got the logic of it and I don't think I ever had crashes when using it. Very nice latency also.

To describe the breakdown (some 2,5 years after buying it new):

- There was no audio whatsoever when you used 44100 sample rate
- When you changed it to 32000, you got half of a sound out, but everything sounded like a heavily bitcrushed track and at a really low volume, even on max
- Nothing could be recorded. Everything was mute.

2 weeks ago

RME Fireface 400 by saschko

  • Sound Quality 4 out of 5
  • Ease of use 5 out of 5
  • Features 5 out of 5
  • Bang for buck 5 out of 5
  • Overall: 4.75
RME FireFace 400

I use my RME Fireface since 2007 on PC and Mac. It is rocksolid and super stable. I have connected Mytek converters over SPDIF and run it as a slave regarding Wordclock. If I am in my studio I often use other external preamps. But in a mobile situation, just MacBook two Mics and the Fireface I did wonderful recordings. I dont know a lot of gear that I use so often and so long. As a user here before mentioned: its build like a tank

 
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