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RME FireFace UFX... or should I go with Steinberg MR816 or A&H Zed R16? Audio Interfaces
Old 28th December 2010
  #1
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yeloop's Avatar
 

RME FireFace UFX... or should I go with Steinberg MR816 or A&H Zed R16?

Hi Guys,

About a month ago I took delivery of an RME UFX interface. Very happy with the latency and drivers so far (no surprise there!) but finding the sound is a bit harsh, almost too crisp and perfect without any warmth.

Apparently this is a common symptom of RME interfaces, and a subjective issue (presumably some people like this sound).

So now I'm wondering whether I should look at the Steinberg MR816CSX or the Allen and Heath Zed R16 firewire board. (I have looked at others like the Apogee Ensemble, poor latency, and other interfaces that didn't suit my purposes)...

Obviously these two are very different.

Pros for the Zed R16 seem to be:
- Can use real faders to control monitor levels when recording lots of musicians
- You get a whole analogue mixer for the money, not just a rack unit
- Amazing build quality
- Very good pres and converters (I have heard)
- Possibly higher resale value in a few years as it's a whole mixer, not just an interface? (Would love to hear people's thoughts on this!)

Cons for Zed R16:
- I have heard the drivers aren't great. Certainly not RME great!
- Possibility that there will be no/slower support with driver upgrades in the future given that A&H are quite new at firewire-connected devices.


On the other hand there's the Steinberg MR816CSX.
Pros seem to be:
- Reputed to have pres and converters as good as Apogee's Ensemble
- Great support and backing from Yamaha/Steinberg
- Very low latency and great drivers
- Cubase integration (I use Logic at the moment but hope to move to Cubase next year if they introduce things like "flex" and "take comping" in version 6. Would love to ditch Logic!!)

Cons seem to be:
- Not a 'professional' piece of gear like the RME is (All subjective!!)
- Possibly a lower resale value
- Would need two of them to get the number of inputs I need (but they are so much cheaper this is probably not an issue)

I'd love to hear people's thoughts on this. Ultimately, the main issues for me are:
- Which will sound the best? Are either of my alternatives going to sound warmer and less "clinical" than the RME does?
- What experience can I expect with latency and drivers on the A&H and Steinberg?
- What do people think about re-sale? Ultimately this is important as I update things every 4 or 5 years. Will a full mixer such as the A&H have a broader appeal and be easier to sell than the RME rack-style UFX?

Thanks guys, looking forward to some feedback and discussion!

Cheers,
Mike
Old 28th December 2010
  #2
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TurboJets's Avatar
my 2 cents:

Qualifier: I track and mix 24 bit through BLA ADAC just so you know my point of reference.

I have a friend that produced 2 rock albums on Steinberg converters and I thought the tracking came out fantastic. I hooked up with him in the studio to sit in and help a bit with mixdown on the first record in a very nice studio through an Otari 36 channel console. To my ears the tracks were super nice. The pre's he used were mostly octopre's and an avalon box. The only thing keeping me from moving to Steinberg gear has strictly been an aversion to make a jump over to Cubase. I don't want to deal with the learning curve of taking on a new application. I know, a little lazy maybe.

I have a ZED board and find the pre's to have satisfied my quest for fast, clean, neutral pre's that still sound natural (as opposed to sterile). Although the ZED board is a USB model (the 14), test tracks I've recorded using the USB option are impressive for 16 bit. The sound is reminiscent of 90's Alesis ADAT machines.

Being a big fan of the ZED series boards, giving big prop's to the pre's and EQ section and excellent build quality IMO, and having tested (1st hand) the quality of their 16 bit conversion via USB, I feel really comfortable suggesting the ZED firewire series which is of course 24 bit.
Old 30th December 2010
  #3
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hey, yeloop, are you referring to the sound of the UFX preamps being too crisp, or the sound of the conversion? or both?
Old 2nd January 2011
  #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gehauser View Post
hey, yeloop, are you referring to the sound of the UFX preamps being too crisp, or the sound of the conversion? or both?
Hey,

I think I'm referring to both - the overall sound is very clean and crisp and slightly harsh.

I'm either looking at changing to a different interface, or to find some plugins that might help add warmth to the sound...

Would love your advice.

Cheers
Mike
Old 2nd January 2011
  #5
Lives for gear
Quote:
Originally Posted by yeloop View Post
Hey,

I think I'm referring to both - the overall sound is very clean and crisp and slightly harsh.

I'm either looking at changing to a different interface, or to find some plugins that might help add warmth to the sound...

Would love your advice.

Cheers
Mike
Well, my UFX is on the way so I cannot offer advice. The notion of over-crispness has me concerned about my purchase.
Old 2nd January 2011
  #6
Quote:
Originally Posted by TurboJets View Post
The only thing keeping me from moving to Steinberg gear has strictly been an aversion to make a jump over to Cubase. I don't want to deal with the learning curve of taking on a new application. I know, a little lazy maybe.
Although the MR816 series certainly has additional benefits when used with Cubase/Nuendo, strictly speaking you can use any DAW you want and it will just be treated as a 'standard' FW interface.
Old 2nd January 2011
  #7
Here for the gear
 

I don't know about the ufx, but I used a ff400 for a couple of years and was delighted at the improvement over a Presonus Firebox. Got an MR816x about a year ago and it made the Fireface sound brittle. I miss total mix, but I love the sound of the MR.
Old 11th January 2011
  #8
116589
Guest
I've been reviewing the UFX for the last week and I don't find the sound to be brittle or harsh at all. Different monitors, different rooms, different ears...
But so far I think the UFX sounds fantastic. You've got me curious about the Steinberg interfaces though. I'll have to grab one and compare it. Maybe I'll grab an Ensemble too and do a little shootout.
Cheers,
Jace
Old 11th January 2011
  #9
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You keep mentioning the word warm.
The R16 is a really nice warm interface, the pre's have a ton of dept, a little colored some would say.
The e.q's are very responsive, very smooth, a hair goes a long way.
The conversion sounds analog to me(i know that's not possible.lol) but it gives me that impression in a crystal clear way, just not annoyingly clear.
Its also extremely versatile routing wise, not to mention,a great rehearsal board.Just patch in an outboard reverb on the sends and you got a band going that you can record live pre or post e.q..
No driver issues yet(on 3 different computer with onboard firewire), i just finished building a new one so there were different stages with different motherboards.
Its just warm, and works well..but im bias, i own one.
Old 11th January 2011
  #10
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yeloop's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by audiomidijace View Post
I've been reviewing the UFX for the last week and I don't find the sound to be brittle or harsh at all. Different monitors, different rooms, different ears...
But so far I think the UFX sounds fantastic. You've got me curious about the Steinberg interfaces though. I'll have to grab one and compare it. Maybe I'll grab an Ensemble too and do a little shootout.
Cheers,
Jace
Shootout with the UFX/MR816/Ensemble would be great....!

:-)
Old 15th January 2011
  #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yeloop View Post
Hey,

I think I'm referring to both - the overall sound is very clean and crisp and slightly harsh.

I'm either looking at changing to a different interface, or to find some plugins that might help add warmth to the sound...

Would love your advice.

Cheers
Mike
OK, Mike I have taken delivery on my UFX now and have been testing it for a couple days. On my first test (sm58 > Sytek > UFX line in) it sounded too crispy and harsh, and I thought uh-oh. Upon closer inspection, I realized the default hardware input setting was -10db. When I changed it to +4db, the harshness was gone. Much better sound. Just a thought, if you have not checked that.

I am very happy with the sound of my Sytek and Pacifica pres thru the UFX line ins, and the UFX pres sound quite good to me too, almost as clean and detailed as the Sytek.

With my settings, I don't hear any harsh crispness - it seems just right to me. BTW I don't like harsh crispiness at all, so I am quite attuned to this issue, and your post was freakin me out a bit, because I had read a couple other comments along the same lines. I can say that I am quite happy (and relieved) with the UFX sound in my testing here.

FYI, I did this testing with my HD28 guitar and some vocals into my cemc6 mic pair in a treated room. Am going to do some testing now with a brighter guitar and then maybe an LDC, just to make sure all is good.
Old 16th January 2011
  #12
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If it's just the D/A conversion that is bothering you, one can always get a used Benchmark DAC1, Lavry DA10, Mytek DA96 for that job.
Old 16th January 2011
  #13
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yeloop's Avatar
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by gehauser View Post
OK, Mike I have taken delivery on my UFX now and have been testing it for a couple days. On my first test (sm58 > Sytek > UFX line in) it sounded too crispy and harsh, and I thought uh-oh. Upon closer inspection, I realized the default hardware input setting was -10db (on mic input ch 9 in TotalMix FX). When I changed it to +4db, the harshness was gone. Much better sound. Just a thought, if you have not checked that.

I am very happy with the sound of my Sytek and Pacifica pres thru the UFX line ins, and the UFX pres sound quite good to me too, almost as clean and detailed as the Sytek.

With my settings, I don't hear any harsh crispness - it seems just right to me. BTW I don't like harsh crispiness at all, so I am quite attuned to this issue, and your post was freakin me out a bit, because I had read a couple other comments along the same lines. I can say that I am quite happy (and relieved) with the UFX sound in my testing here.

FYI, I did this testing with my HD28 guitar and some vocals into my cemc6 mic pair in a treated room. Am going to do some testing now with a brighter guitar and then maybe an LDC, just to make sure all is good.
Great feedback, thanks heaps!

I'll check on my settings in TotalMix and see what they are currently on for inputs 9-12.

Glad you're enjoying your UFX - an awesome interface, isn't it? Especially as far as latency goes... incredible!

Cheers,
Mike
Old 16th January 2011
  #14
Lives for gear
It was the line ins 1-8 that had the -10 vs +4 option. I corrected my post. Sorry for the confusion.
Old 16th January 2011
  #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by yeloop View Post
Shootout with the UFX/MR816/Ensemble would be great....!

:-)
it would be awesome !
Old 22nd January 2011
  #16
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Bump for motivation!!

I love these... SHOOT-OUT !!
Old 1st March 2011
  #17
Gear Nut
 

Do you have any more impressions on this issue now. I am trying an RME Fireface 400 right now ....and was thinking about the UFX. The RME 400 definitely solved my latency issues ..but it too sounds harsh to me. I would be curious if you had any more opinions at this point in time. Thx RH
Old 1st March 2011
  #18
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tamasdragon's Avatar
 

I don't hear any rme added harshness through the ufx. It is pretty clear and revealing.
One note, the harsness may be the truth. I mean maybe the rme tell you the truth, and the others can lie.
UFX has brand new conversion, which is imho is up to par with some more expensive brands.
Old 1st March 2011
  #19
Gear Nut
 

Well I use an outboard mic pre/eq etc. ...so when compared to an apogee mini me the RME sounds harsh to my ears ....and this is with the same exact input source of stereo mic'd acoustic guitar going through a Joe Meek Twin Q directly into the RME or the Apogee mini me. For my needs though the Mini me has turned out not to be enough I/O and the latency is a problem ....so that is why I am searching for a different I/O. Everything else I really like about the RME ...but again it is harsh sounding to my ears.
Old 26th April 2011
  #20
JGM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by venderkatz View Post
I don't know about the ufx, but I used a ff400 for a couple of years and was delighted at the improvement over a Presonus Firebox. Got an MR816x about a year ago and it made the Fireface sound brittle. I miss total mix, but I love the sound of the MR.
Hello I have a quick question about the MR816 X, I'm in the market for a new economical interface. I keep reading about this unit and how great it sounds for the $. PT9 is my DAW of choice. I am not so much interested in the pres, as much as conversion. I would like to use this unit as a means to get 16 channels of audio into my DAW. So my question is, can I record signals from the 8 line inputs as well as the 8 ADAT input channels simultaneously? And does the volume controls on the unit for the 8 pres also control signals going into the 8 line inputs? Individually?

Thanks to anyone who can answer these questions as I have been trying to get a straight answer to these questions for months. Even tried to read the manual, but can't say there were any clear answers.
Old 26th April 2011
  #21
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I'm recording 16 channels through the MR816 + focusrite octopre mkII without a hintch.

But I control the levels directly form the Focusrite unit, or in the case, outboards before it.

So I´m not 100% sure know if the MR editor will let you control levels at driver level, but I'm pretty sure it can! thumbsup
Old 26th April 2011
  #22
JGM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Big_Bang View Post
I'm recording 16 channels through the MR816 + focusrite octopre mkII without a hintch.

But I control the levels directly form the Focusrite unit, or in the case, outboards before it.

So I´m not 100% sure know if the MR editor will let you control levels at driver level, but I'm pretty sure it can! thumbsup
Hey Big Bang thanks for the response. Your combo is exactly what I've been thinking about. I'm just undecided between the MR and Mbox 3 Pro. Being a PT guy and all. What DAW are you running? And curious about your hook up. Do you have 8 channels of audio coming out of the mkII and going into the MR via ADAT? Looks like the only way, but I just wanted to be sure.
Old 26th April 2011
  #23
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I confirm you can level ADAT through the driver editor

I am using the bundled Cubase AI 5 for now for my new tracking room, until I decide if it is really worth going PT9... I am sincerely pondering moving up from PT8LE/C4 to PT8LE/Nuendo 5 as I'm gradually getting more ADR and Post. I use PT8 mainly to be able to open sessions, export, finish in Cubendo, re-mount a session and ship it off. For music, Cubendo all the way! Years ahead of PT.

For protools, if budget permits, don't let that affect your interface choice. I have not heard the mbox 3, but I absolutely hated the 2! Now with PT9 you can choose any interface.

Coming from a FF800, this move to the MR816 was a considerably noticeable upgrade, not only in pre's (which is HUGE) but also in DA (better, wider, deeper)

Sonically, I would gladly pay twice the price of the fireface, for twice the number of pre's, 5x for the analog stage quality, and double the conversion !! That's how strongly I feel about this unit.

This little miracle machine is giving Apogee's, Lavry's, Alphalinks etc a run for their money! (search, loads of shootouts, samples and testimonials)

With all that being said, back to OP, I sincerely wish I could try out one of these Zed's to compare. Converter quality these days is limited to the analog stage. I have a Zed 10 for a cute-little-rehearsal-mixer... and that little thing is a MONSTER.

A&H is rocking really hard!
Old 27th April 2011
  #24
JGM
Lives for gear
 

Quote:
Originally Posted by Big_Bang View Post
I confirm you can level ADAT through the driver editor

I am using the bundled Cubase AI 5 for now for my new tracking room, until I decide if it is really worth going PT9... I am sincerely pondering moving up from PT8LE/C4 to PT8LE/Nuendo 5 as I'm gradually getting more ADR and Post. I use PT8 mainly to be able to open sessions, export, finish in Cubendo, re-mount a session and ship it off. For music, Cubendo all the way! Years ahead of PT.

For protools, if budget permits, don't let that affect your interface choice. I have not heard the mbox 3, but I absolutely hated the 2! Now with PT9 you can choose any interface.

Coming from a FF800, this move to the MR816 was a considerably noticeable upgrade, not only in pre's (which is HUGE) but also in DA (better, wider, deeper)

Sonically, I would gladly pay twice the price of the fireface, for twice the number of pre's, 5x for the analog stage quality, and double the conversion !! That's how strongly I feel about this unit.

This little miracle machine is giving Apogee's, Lavry's, Alphalinks etc a run for their money! (search, loads of shootouts, samples and testimonials)

With all that being said, back to OP, I sincerely wish I could try out one of these Zed's to compare. Converter quality these days is limited to the analog stage. I have a Zed 10 for a cute-little-rehearsal-mixer... and that little thing is a MONSTER.

A&H is rocking really hard!
Pretty ringing endorsement for the MR. I will have to find a way to demo the two
Old 27th April 2011
  #25
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takman's Avatar
 

for a year now, i have been researching a new interface....

nothing i have seen has received as much praise as the steinberg MR816x....

everyone seems to have nothing but good comments on it...and i have only seen a couple negatives, but they werent about something i would consider significant...

if you want to have a mixer w/firewire......then the yamaha N12 could be an option over the ZED......from what i hear, the N12 is basically the MR816x, in mixer board form.....same pre amps and converters.
Old 30th April 2011
  #26
AjD
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I too was considering the Steinberg unit, until I read this:

www.steinberg.net • View topic - Feature Request Direct monitoring multiple MR816's

The problem only occurs if you are using more than one unit (not an uncommon occurrence - they're designed to work in multiples).

The link explains in more detail, but essentially you cannot monitor the inputs of the second unit (or third...) through the first unit's outputs directly. This is a big deal for me - I use many output pairs to send individual headphone/monitor mixes to artists (and to myself) in real time. Deal breaker (for me).
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