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New Audio Interface - a couple contenders - your opinions Audio Interfaces
Old 23rd December 2010
Gear Maniac

New Audio Interface - a couple contenders - your opinions

I'm currently using a MOTU Traveler mk3 audio interface.

Always interested in improving the quality of my recordings, I recently checked out an Echo AudioFire 8, based on some forum recommendations that suggested it rivaled the Apogee Duet.

The tests I did were: I copied a song from my external ADAT / Allen & Heath mixer to stereo line ins on the interfaces, to a couple stereo tracks on my DAW, to compare the A / D conversion. I also recorded a couple DI bass tracks through each interface's mic preamps, to my DAW, and AB'd them. Additionally, I played back a song (recorded on my DAW with the Traveler) through each interface, to compare the D / A conversion. Everything was done at 44.1k.

After doing these comparisons, I don't hear a significant difference between the AudioFire and the Traveler. I've seen a number of posters put down the MOTU stuff - perhaps the mk3 converters and preamps are an improvement over previous MOTU audio interfaces?

In any case, I'm looking at the Metric Halo ULN-2 and the Steinberg MR816X. Or possibly Apogee. Has anyone used these, and heard a big improvement over the MOTU mk3 gear? I mean compared them side by side?

As others have pointed out, the biggest difference in the signal chain is attained with mics, then mic preamps, and finally converters. It may be that when you get to a certain level of quality, you have to spend a lot more to hear a significant difference in audio interfaces?

Up until now, to improve my Traveler / DAW recordings, I've been using my higher end external mic preamps. Compared to my external mic pre's, the Traveler mic pre's are thinner in the lower mids, and with more high end, more prone to sibilance on vocals. But it would be nice to have an audio interface with mic pre's that are decent enough to give the externals a run for their money.
Old 23rd December 2010
Gear Maniac

I forgot to add that I recording with Cubase 4. As I understand it, the Steinberg interface would do away with a separate application to tweak the interface software, which could be a plus.

On the other hand, I'm more interested in how they sound.

Old 23rd December 2010
ULN2 is a great piece, and gives you many actually useful extras for the $$. While it's just a 2 channel interface, you can direct at least 16 DAW channels (I have a ULN8, so I'm not sure!) to it's built-in 80 bit mixer for summing... this sounds gorgeous, with automation and plugs provided by your DAWs ahead of the sum. The mixer has it's own +DSP plugs, which are like AU or VSTs, but only work in the MIO environment and are much higher precision. Those sound great, but include "character" models as well, for coloration.

MIO Console provides near-zero latency monitoring, similar to MOTU's monitoring console, but with less latency. In that area MH has always been a leader. But MH stuff gets better with time. My nearly 10 year old 2882 is still working down at the studio, and it sounds better than it did new thanks to reworked clock on 2D upgrade cards. Oh yeah, that came with more plugs and reverb.

The pres on the ULN2 blow away the 2882, no contest. They're clean, with tons of gain and headroom. You can add more channels from an outboard pre/converter via ADAT optical ins added to the latest shipping units 2D (I think it's standard now). They're probably best compared to Millenia's solid state designs, or maybe Grace... They're not far off the ULN8 which I'm in love with. Certainly few competitors in this price range compare in quality, as far as pres go. Different league from MOTU, and likely Steiny.

Speaking of Steinberg, their approach to support may be the best reason to buy from Metric Halo. It's terrible, squared. As a new Wavelab 7 user I was shocked to discover it's impossible to contact them without a web browser, and even more dismayed when their website stopped working properly with Safari for 2-3 days. I figured out that Firefox could get to a contact page to request support (which was never responded to); there aren't even any corporate email addresses on their site, and certainly no phone numbers. Steinberg makes Digidesign look customer-centric. Neither company compares to MH - their support guy Jon is great, and when things get too deep BJ is quick to help. You can call and leave a message, send an email or whatever floats your boat (I've even seen Allen and BJ support users on public fora like this).

If there's such thing as a "classic" piece in digital, the ULN2 would be it. If your choice is Steiny vs MH, it's a no-brainer.

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