this is a short review of an EMU 0404 USB sound card
It has usb 2.0 solid construction 2 preamps , 2 hiz for guitar jacks spdif and optical in/out , control knobs for headphone and monitoring volume midi in/out , direct monitoring level knob with some options there...
I like the sound on it but i will never use it for my first choice on my project studio setup because the direct monitoring "MONO ON" button when you press it if you will hook up you microphone on either input channel and the other channel will be not syncronized...stupid ha?
So i like the converters , i like what i mix on it , it`s great for home studio or home applications but for the real deal you cannot compare it with other soundcards like focusrite , edirol , mackie on it`s prize...it`s better than any other m-audio product on this value....
If you have it and you have a plan to use it i recommend that you`ll give it a try on converter usage a-d/d-a
Two Words. Just in case you never read the rest of this review
Caveats, that accompany the two words :
1. If you are patient.
2. Understand your operating system well,
3. Ready to do a lot of research on the web.
4. Have plenty of time on your hands to get it all sorted.
5. Willing to accept that a device that could be over 10 or more years old may stop functioning due to hardware failure, although I deduce that this is not a common occurrence with the 0404.
6. I cannot give an opinion on how well this works on MAC OSX, as I installed on Windows 8.1.
7. Willing to accept that the EMU the manufacturer is no longer in business....as we know it, and there is no official support available.
8. While many support sites exist, it takes a while to sift through the many comments to piece together the information you need. It ends up being like voting - consensus becomes fact!. You have to "count" the votes i.e opinions to arrive at the most likely truth..
After installing the 0404 my graphics drivers went AWOL, and took a few hours to be reinstalled. But my graphics drivers on my current laptop are not the most easy to install anyway, due to changes in Windows 8.1 over time....A bit of a dark art, drivers overwriting files of other drivers.....maybe - who knows!
Let's place this review in context. This is not an attempt to compare this with anything else. I believe that type of review will one day be obsolete as new and better equipment is released. This review attempts to capture what its like to own and use this audio/MiDi interface - E-MU - 0404 USB, and in what applications this could be of use.
Background. At the time of this writing, I'm a semi-professional keyboard player, musician, engineer, composer, singer - confident and competent at all of these in both studio and live environments.
Requirement - To record and compose simple music, 6 to 10 simultaneous inputs would have been great, and 4 outputs and at least 2 headphone outs and all manner of digital ins and outs as well as MIDI would have been perfect.
I had previously owned kit such as Creative Labs Audigy, M-Audio 24/96 PCI, all PCI cards, which were in storage due to a relocation. I had with me an Emu 1212M PCI, installed on a Windows XP PC. but the PC was a bit dated and I needed something a bit portable, having also heard that some newer desktops have issues with older PCI cards. At the time I acquired these, my interest was predominantly mixing, mastering and playback, but recording became one more requirement over time. None of these devices had headphones or a preamp. At the time these were purchased, for cost reasons the multifunction all in ones (interface/preamp/headphones) were not within my budget.
Ideally at the time of this writing - late 2015, an RME UFX would suit quite nicely, or worst case an RME Babyface Pro. But not with those price tags. I'm semi professional - predominantly an exploratory hobby/pastime activity.
Ultimately I had to become pragmatic - balance budget, form factor and pick the most important things I needed - 80/20 rule - what will I need 80% of the time, and accept any limitations.
What am I missing with the 0404 USB -
1. RME's legendary router/mixer,
2. Limited to 2 analog inputs and 2 digital inputs.
3. No ADAT
4. No multiclient drivers apparently - still testing this assertion at the time of this writing. I did find some limited multi-client - i.e 3 windows applications, a media player, DAW and browser streaming from the Internet with WDM drivers worked ok. But the moment you engage ASIO, this takes priority, and as we know most likely only one ASIO application can run at the same time - Mmmmm maybe multiple ASIO applications can coexist if they did not "lock on to/assign" the same input and output channels.
5. No official support beyond Windows Vista.
6. No proper support for MAC - limited to 96Khz max sample rates.
7. Multiple MIDI Ports. Only 1 in and 1 out.
8. Only one headphone out, which is paired with the analog 2 channel outs, i.e this device does not support a separate headphone mix from the mix sent to speakers. But in the scheme of things, one is not likely to use such a device as this in a control room, separate live instrument/vocal booth, environment. It's most likely that the microphone will be in the same place as the monitors, and fortunately the device has independent volume controls for both, although they carry the same audio signal.
9. No Mute button.
10. Is not bus powered, so can't walk all over the house with laptop, interface and headphone in hand!
11. Matched stereo levels which are easier to get more accurately via a digitally controlled gain on the preamps.
12. Inability to bypass the preamps for line - in recordings.
For the intended purpose - small home studio, nevertheless the audio quality and convenience and price advantage, and relative stability, outweigh the gaps, which are not of significance in the intended application, especially where you are likely to record no more than one or two instruments at any time. Definitely this is a tool when properly installed that will encourage the joy of audio, with minimal confusion, setup, and complexity. I obviously like it as you may deduce.
What do I gain with the 0404 USB.
1. A decent hardware monitor controller - I cannot tell you how fantastic it feels to have knobs to turn to adjust levels, far more intuitive than using dedicated function keys or mouse/pad. So absolutely intuitive, turn, with fantastic resolution of adjustment, as much or as little as you want.
2. Headphone out - daresay an excellent one. I had previously listened on my headphones - AKG 702's on the inbuilt sound cards of my laptops. I come to the conclusion that the assertion that all converter technologies have converged until they are now fairly equivalent is definitely not true- On one laptop I always knew that the bass was recessed, only for me to discover after listening to the 0404's for just a few minutes - going back and forth between the in-build headphone out and back, that the in-built headphone out of another laptop which I thought was "perfect" had both bass and high end slightly enhanced/boosted - i.e a slight smily curve eq. Which I had though was really flat, having no reference. the in-built also seemed, on reflection, to have a larger slightly exaggerated stereo separation, but on further review, I suspect this could be an effect on the device which I was not enabled to turn off - sounded good, but I now tend to believe the narrower stereo spread of the 0404, as true.
Listening to acoustic oriented music, that high end frequency tilt that I had attributed to my AKG 702's was gone. My in built headphone out had emphasized the high end either slightly or quite significantly.
Gregory Porters music - Album Liquid Spirit - took on a definite lift in clarity,not that tizz and hi-fi fizz - but more like a dark empty background, like the deep black on a good LED TV, to allow the music to be effortlessly painted. The previous need to adjust volumes between tracks - gone. I was simply able to hear, not so much in an ultra realistic way like I was at the performance - as my laptop had exaggerated - to probably simulate speakers, - The AKG 702's were simply more transparent - I dare not imagine what better headphones would sound like on the 0404. At no more than about 25% of the headphone volume knob range, I was able to listen to acoustic music with absolute clarity. The sharp edges of the music which I had interpreted as clarity were gone, leaving an effortless zero edge to all the audio and a much more believable lead vocal. Pianos sounded "analog" clear but that slightly piercing overhang which had previously required me to turn up the volume to have the bass compensate was gone.
on the 0404, the Fletcher Munchen curve I perceived as I adjusted the volume, did not vary so much, in comparison to my in-built headphone outs. I could discern the words so much better, without straining to hear, I had never paid much attention to the words in verses, Now I could hear these so easily. Spacial cues - so much easier to hear. The center image of the voice - was panned absolutely center, Previously I suspect that the volume balance on my other headphone outs were not as balanced left - to right. - Usually giving me the impression that the vocals were panned so slightly to one side. Not so - on the 0404 they were dead center. Previously I always felt I needed to adjust the front to back position of the headphones on my head to vary the positioning relative to my eardrums. All gone, the headphone sounded pretty much the same no matter how I oriented the earcups on my head - front to back! Wow.
3. Excellent converters clearly contributory to the observation above, on audio quality.
4. A solid desktop unit, and in many ways the minimal need to refer to software to configure things like routing and monitoring were fantastic. No multiple menus to think through, no mouse clicks, for almost everything that I would need in a monitor controller in a home studio.
5. Soft clip protection - apparently to prevent clipping, not sure if this is implemented in hard or software - but definitely enabled in software.
6. Very simple software panel. Slightly quirky - one bug - adjusting the frequency required me to switch to external sync and back again, to get the sample frequencies to appear in the drop down.
7. A few glitches audio wise, but these glitches were also experienced on my built - in audio card - especially when listening to streaming audio from the internet. May therefore not be the fault of the 0404.
8. Plug and play - as I unplug the USB cable of the 0404 and plug back, the audio seamlessly switches between the two devices, without drop outs - Awesome, what more can I ask for. This is via WDM. No such luck with ASIO. At least there's one thing Windows can take good credit for. I'm running Windows 8.1 on the laptop.
9. A proper power on/off switch.
I'll close here. Quite pleased with my acquisition as you may have deduced. I conclude that with a few exceptions, and a few limitations that are not material most of the time, I have my "RME" interface for what the typical starter home studio, singer song writer, hobbyist will need.
After a few hours of listening to my old interface, I can hear all the "faults", the 0404 just is a revelation. Transparent, So much clearer without adding coloration, I not so much hear the music, but feel it. I really should have done this a long time ago - the acquisition, Nothing added nothing taken away. - Truth (kinda reminds me of some speakers with that name..........) but with a different ethos. Volume changes in voices are felt more than heard, the twang of a upright bass, the urgency of a saxophone - its rasp, that brassy sound. Reminds me of listening to the Focal Alpha 80 studio monitors, effortless, very low distortion, a blank canvas to rest the music upon. All in all a very tight crisp sound - definitely not woolly.
10. Proper power supply - not USB powered - so the manufacturer had less of a challenge with trying to squeeze enough juice from the USB power supply, over the same cable that also sends audio/MIDI. Fewer design compromises/challenges.
11. Small but decent sturdy knobs. Nothing too inferior here, common - for the price!
Time to look forward to many years of blissful union with the 0404.
I feel like I have arrived at a place where I can camp here for good while, and just focus on the music, writing it, and enjoying it, and the device literally "disappears". - Plug and Play, no longer an issue. Like driving a good car, you forget about the car, and just enjoy the drive., and eat up the miles ahead, which was the real purpose of driving... to arrive at a destination, not to sit in and admire the car. In this case this "car" will allow me to get to my destination, relaxed, with zero/even less ear fatigue, and develop my hearing so much more.
After listening for a few more hours I'm reminded about a once popular acronym - WYSIWYG - What you see (in this case hear) is what you get. zero coloration by the device itself. A reliably accurate listen, nothing overemphasized, unless its in the recording. Listening to good music thoughtfully produced - e.g Graceland - seminal album by Paul Simon is more of an emotional experience than an auditory one. It's like you are almost in front of the monitors in the studio where this was mastered. - Life like. Very clear....
Listening to music is such a revelation, with the USB 0404 and the AKG 702, these two ear openers have really been such incremental "doorways" to hearing what's on the tracks. There is so much good music out there, but what's happening is that people are not "hearing" most of what's on the track. Together a good headphone, headphone amp and interface has brought me into a whole new world. Wow.
Last edited by kodebode; 15th October 2015 at 05:49 PM..