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Old 08-18-2018, 11:26 AM   #1
cpaf
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Default Why even consider an expensive interface? Gear acquiring philosophy

Hello reapers

What is the most awesome interface for me to use with Reaper? Do you even need to use much money on an interface anymore, cause the standard is so good now?

I'm a bedroom producer. I dribble in Max 7 and reaktor.

I mainly use vst and my System-8 synth, some vocal and guitar loops through a bunch of pedals. My maschine MK3 is for ideas, and I got NI plugs.

My budget is 400-500 pounds right now, but of course I could just wait and get an even more expensive unit.

The Presonus studio 192 mobile is dead cheap at thomann but the Audient id44 isnt that expensive. The spl Crimson? Does it even make sense to consider an rme fireface ucx when it is double the price? I don't like the form factor of the baby-face pro.

Just go with the Apollo twin maybe which seems to be the go to pro-bedroom-interface.

What do you do, what's your opinion?

I have a hard time understanding, if the standard is so good now, why some by eg the Apollo rack interfaces, when the money could have been spent on gear to help you make great music and sound, like an outboard eq, compressor or a controller like the fadeeport or a softube console 1.
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Old 08-18-2018, 11:39 AM   #2
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If your onboard audio has a line input, you might not need an audio interface at all. No, the audio quality won't be quite up to par with a good quality interface, but it might be good enough. But if you need mic preamps, more than 2 ins/outs, etc., that is another consideration.

So it depends on: 1) audio quality and 2) feature set.

And then when you get into comparing audio interfaces, another factor is reliability of drivers. But this is kind of iffy ground. No matter which audio interface you choose, there are system configuration issues which will greatly affect reliability and low latency performance. If those issues aren't addressed first, you may very well throw down more money than you need to. Those system settings which affect audio reliability at low latencies include cpu power saving and scaling settings, which network devices are enabled, which usb devices are connected to which ports, which video devices are enabled, etc. And since there are no real standards for achieving best audio performance (only vague and often conflicting guidelines (and roughly common anecdotal accounts)), you are pretty much left on your own in figuring out how to configure your system for best audio performance. In other words, there are no direct audio performance benchmarking tests which will tell you that changing system parameter X affects low latency reliability/performance by Y amount, or that changing system parameters X and Y will collectively have Z effect.

And once those issues are [somehow] squared away, you could then do performance comaprisons of interfaces A and B yourself, requiring that you have at least 2 interfaces to compare in the first place (because there are no real meaningful low latency performance specs provided by manufacturers). And there is no sort of standards group for defining which system parameters are most important for low latency audio.

Yet, every couple of years the latest and 'greatest' audio interfaces are released on the market to address, what issues?
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Old 08-18-2018, 11:40 AM   #3
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I've owned two interfaces; StudioLive 16.0.2 and Focusrite Clarett 8Pre USB. Both of these are great, although the StudioLive is defective now, after about four years.

At this point, I can recommend the Focusrite Clarett. I'm no preamp connoisseur, but it works great for my needs. I record everything from acoustic guitars, bass guitars, vocals and sound effects.
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Old 08-18-2018, 12:49 PM   #4
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RME 4 life!
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Old 08-18-2018, 01:18 PM   #5
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↑↑↑ This !
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Old 08-18-2018, 02:38 PM   #6
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It all depends what you want to do.

I got the expensive Antelope Zen Studio+ because I wanted 12 quality preamps, more analogue inputs to add more preamps in the future, zero-latency guitar amp sims on direct monitoring, multiple headphone outputs, the ability to route anything to anything so that I can set up monitor feeds for live band recording, etc. etc...

It was totally worth the money for me. For someone with different needs it might be a pointless purchase.
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Old 08-18-2018, 03:08 PM   #7
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RME 4 life!
A lot of people seem to love it.

What is it that's so much better about RME?

What would be different for me if I replaced my Focusrite with an RME interface?
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Old 08-18-2018, 03:17 PM   #8
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- the soundquality of AD and DA conversion.
- the really great written audio drivers for their hardware (stable and low latency).
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Old 08-18-2018, 04:40 PM   #9
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- the soundquality of AD and DA conversion.
- the really great written audio drivers for their hardware (stable and low latency).
Regarding the first point - aren't we talking about an incredibly minute difference?

Can people differentiate between the two in blind tests?

I was going to post this with just that question but decided to have a quick search and found a thread with a link to another forum where a blind test was posted between a Lynx Aurora (quite a bit higher end than an RME) and a Behringer and most people got it wrong. Hilariously, once the answers were revealed, all the excuses came out with people saying "oh now that I've listened through better speakers I can hear the Lynx is better" lol

And re: the second point - say, for example, a PC running a Focusrite interface is running with a 2ms buffer and the session gets plugin-heavy enough that audio dropouts occur. Would that same PC, but with the Focusrite replaced with an RME, be able to handle the session with no dropouts?
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Old 08-18-2018, 05:21 PM   #10
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Stews, got a link to that thread?

Strictly speaking audio, I think that converter quality is about the last thing to worry about after (in order) instruments, microphones, room, monitors, frontend (preamps and line amps) and output (line amps and power amps). If we haven't given great attention to the above, I think it is pointless worrying about tiny differences in converters.

Good performance of the system/interface is pretty critical, though. If you are getting clicks/dropouts/stuttering, the system/interface is pretty much unusable for audio. But here I think that if we haven't given good attention to optimizing the system for reliable sample throughput and low latency, worrying about which interface has the best performing drivers is much less important. That is, outside of issues such as a driver crashing the system.
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Old 08-18-2018, 05:43 PM   #11
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what the others say about the RME... +100

besides sound quality about as good as it can be, another and more important factor to me [after years of various interfaces] is the hassle free reliability of their stuff....

yeah it costs more... but what is your time and stress worth?

I like their 802 usb... you 'can' find them on ebay for good prices now and then.

some companies make "ok" hardware but then fall down with crappy drivers

RME makes good on both fronts... they just work.

PS: I don't love the baby face either... just too strange for me... but the 802 pro is very clean and simple
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Old 08-18-2018, 06:11 PM   #12
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And re: the second point - say, for example, a PC running a Focusrite interface is running with a 2ms buffer and the session gets plugin-heavy enough that audio dropouts occur. Would that same PC, but with the Focusrite replaced with an RME, be able to handle the session with no dropouts?
If the system is otherwise appropriate and the current interface is a bottleneck, then absolutely. The interface and its drivers make a greater difference in this manner than is often realised.

A couple of interesting demonstrative threads elsewhere:

https://www.kvraudio.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=7020620
https://www.kvraudio.com/forum/viewt...95919&start=30 (the last page, after the person by the alias "ataraxia" gets the RME interface)

It's surprisingly common to get the latest and greatest in specs only and then have it bottleneck in some manner, be it system configuration, part compatibility (and low quality drivers), or the audio interface, or a combination of some of these. Effectively, if the specs are high yet the system bottlenecks, that's just throwing money away.

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Old 08-18-2018, 06:41 PM   #13
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Stews, got a link to that thread?

Strictly speaking audio, I think that converter quality is about the last thing to worry about after (in order) instruments, microphones, room, monitors, frontend (preamps and line amps) and output (line amps and power amps). If we haven't given great attention to the above, I think it is pointless worrying about tiny differences in converters.

Good performance of the system/interface is pretty critical, though. If you are getting clicks/dropouts/stuttering, the system/interface is pretty much unusable for audio. But here I think that if we haven't given good attention to optimizing the system for reliable sample throughput and low latency, worrying about which interface has the best performing drivers is much less important. That is, outside of issues such as a driver crashing the system.
https://www.gearslutz.com/board/gear...r-ada8000.html

To give people the benefit of the doubt, it may not be that they're embarrassed about getting it wrong so consciously lie with the excuses. It could be more that they're unaware of just how unreliable our perceptions are (as many people are) and are so sure they're hearing a massive difference when it's not a blind test that they think the only explanation is that something else is at play.

I would imagine you're right that the converter is definitely at least one of the last things to worry about. Technology has just got to the point that even the affordable "prosumer" products are very good.

When it comes to mic preamps I've read a lot of great engineers swear they're one of the most important things. I've heard others say pretty much the opposite and that they don't make much difference. I'd tend to believe that they impart more on the sound than the converter but any time I've had spare cash and fancied a nice preamp I've never convinced myself it'd really make a difference.

I have vague memories many years ago of listening to some comparisons and not hearing a huge difference but I could easily be mis-remembering that.
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Old 08-18-2018, 06:43 PM   #14
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what the others say about the RME... +100

besides sound quality about as good as it can be, another and more important factor to me [after years of various interfaces] is the hassle free reliability of their stuff....

yeah it costs more... but what is your time and stress worth?

I like their 802 usb... you 'can' find them on ebay for good prices now and then.

some companies make "ok" hardware but then fall down with crappy drivers

RME makes good on both fronts... they just work.

PS: I don't love the baby face either... just too strange for me... but the 802 pro is very clean and simple
See, touch wood, I've never had any hassle or stress from Focusrite or the M-Audio I had before that (until it broke after about 10 years of daily use).
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Old 08-18-2018, 06:46 PM   #15
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If the system is otherwise appropriate and the current interface is a bottleneck, then absolutely. The interface and its drivers make a greater difference in this manner than is often realised.

A couple of interesting demonstrative threads elsewhere:

https://www.kvraudio.com/forum/viewtopic.php?p=7020620
https://www.kvraudio.com/forum/viewt...95919&start=30 (the last page, after the person by the alias "ataraxia" gets the RME interface)

It's surprisingly common to get the latest and greatest in specs only and then have it bottleneck in some manner, be it system configuration, part compatibility (and low quality drivers), or the audio interface, or a combination of some of these. Effectively, if the specs are high yet the system bottlenecks, that's just throwing money away.
Sorry I can't really see anything in those links that shows the same system performing better with a different interface. Am I missing something?
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Old 08-18-2018, 07:01 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Stews View Post
https://www.gearslutz.com/board/gear...r-ada8000.html

To give people the benefit of the doubt, it may not be that they're embarrassed about getting it wrong so consciously lie with the excuses. It could be more that they're unaware of just how unreliable our perceptions are (as many people are) and are so sure they're hearing a massive difference when it's not a blind test that they think the only explanation is that something else is at play.

I would imagine you're right that the converter is definitely at least one of the last things to worry about. Technology has just got to the point that even the affordable "prosumer" products are very good.

When it comes to mic preamps I've read a lot of great engineers swear they're one of the most important things. I've heard others say pretty much the opposite and that they don't make much difference. I'd tend to believe that they impart more on the sound than the converter but any time I've had spare cash and fancied a nice preamp I've never convinced myself it'd really make a difference.

I have vague memories many years ago of listening to some comparisons and not hearing a huge difference but I could easily be mis-remembering that.
Then again, it's gearslutz. (somehow, I already knew)

On mic preamps, I definitely do hear very noticable differences, but I think it doesn't matter that much considering first the instruments, microphones, mic positions, room. All of these have much more influence on the sound than mic preamps. I also think that microphone position can have more influence than the mic itself; not as a hard rule, but it makes a big difference in sound in contrast to say large condenser A to large condenser B in the exact same position, where different mic positions can make one mic sound much more like another, especially when combined with eq.
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Old 08-18-2018, 07:02 PM   #17
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Sorry I can't really see anything in those links that shows the same system performing better with a different interface. Am I missing something?
Ah, maybe the links aren't working correctly. I'll just quote the relevant part from the latter one here:

---

"I realise this is an old thread, but thought I'd bring a conclusion to it. I saved up the pennies and bought an RME HDSPe AIO card (PCIe).

Holy s***.

With my biggest project (34 tracks, 16 of which are East West Symphonic Orchestra with multiple plugins) - with my old interface (M-Audio Profire 610) I used to have to set the sample buffer at 2048 samples, when playing the Cubase ASIO meter averaged around 95% load but more often than not would cut out and the playback would stutter and fail. Same project with the RME - I'm currently set at 256 sample buffer and I haven't even seen a reading at all on the ASIO meter (can normally see from about 5% upwards), playback is smooth with no hint of dropouts. Cubase is giving a ~14ms latency (combined input + output)."

"That's exactly the kind of experience I had with RME back in the day, haha!"
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Old 08-18-2018, 08:03 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by Lunar Ladder View Post
Ah, maybe the links aren't working correctly. I'll just quote the relevant part from the latter one here:

---

"I realise this is an old thread, but thought I'd bring a conclusion to it. I saved up the pennies and bought an RME HDSPe AIO card (PCIe).

Holy s***.

With my biggest project (34 tracks, 16 of which are East West Symphonic Orchestra with multiple plugins) - with my old interface (M-Audio Profire 610) I used to have to set the sample buffer at 2048 samples, when playing the Cubase ASIO meter averaged around 95% load but more often than not would cut out and the playback would stutter and fail. Same project with the RME - I'm currently set at 256 sample buffer and I haven't even seen a reading at all on the ASIO meter (can normally see from about 5% upwards), playback is smooth with no hint of dropouts. Cubase is giving a ~14ms latency (combined input + output)."

"That's exactly the kind of experience I had with RME back in the day, haha!"
Ahh, thanks very much I really appreciate you going through and copying that for me.
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Old 08-18-2018, 08:35 PM   #19
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I would be curious to see a direct performance comparison of an RME interface to one of the better regarded prosumer interfaces on both an unoptimized system (such as a typical consumer laptop, out of the box) and an optimized system (such as a desktop built and configured for audio work). It is often said that RME does *something* different for their interface drivers, almost seeming to negate the need for a system to be optimized for audio. See the above quote for an example where that person pretty much says, I swapped the interface out for an RME and *magic* happened. The required buffer size went down by 800%, cpu use went from nearly 100% to pretty much nothing, the system suddenly transformed from a sloth to sprouting a horn and becoming a unicorn.

Given so many nods toward RME, I don't doubt that they make good performing interfaces (or drivers), but it seems that there is likely more at play in the equation. For example, in the above example, was the other interface being bottlenecked by a notoriously crappy firewire card in comaprison to a direct pcie connection for the RME?
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Old 08-18-2018, 08:55 PM   #20
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See the above quote for an example where that person pretty much says, I swapped the interface out for an RME and *magic* happened. The required buffer size went down by 800%, cpu use went from nearly 100% to pretty much nothing, the system suddenly transformed from a sloth to sprouting a horn and becoming a unicorn.


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Given so many nods toward RME, I don't doubt that they make good performing interfaces (or drivers), but it seems that there is likely more at play in the equation. For example, in the above example, was the other interface being bottlenecked by a notoriously crappy firewire card in comaprison to a direct pcie connection for the RME?
In cases as dramatic as the quoted one, I would guess the system wasn't playing nice with the preceding interface, and the PCIe RME was a better fit, yep.

The most relevant "actual magic" about the RMEs is that they do everything in-house. They design the whole literal interfacing side of the interface themselves, both on the hardware and software side, instead of using 3rd party chip manufacturer drivers as a basis for their interfaces. There might be other interface brands that do the same? In any case, RME definitely has the reliability/efficiency sweet spot in check and have generated a reputation to match.

I don't know what the situation is these days, but the RME HDSPe AIO has been used as the reference interface by Sound On Sound, to compare all other interfaces with, because it performs so well. In comparison, some interfaces drop out instantly if you even try to run them at a buffer of 32 or 64 samples, and the AIO just chugs along.
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Old 08-18-2018, 09:06 PM   #21
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They been in it for quite a while, use FGPAs and have always written all of their drivers from the ground up while bypassing any OS built in drivers (= less latency). Here's some historic info FWIW...

https://www.soundonsound.com/people/rme-designs

It's also "the thing they do" and is their specialty vs a company that adds sound cards to their existing line up which I think makes a big difference. Now if I could just get them to use better PSUs in the FF/UFX line I'd be 101% happy and wouldn't have to repair them myself.

On a side note, the sound card mixer/software blows away most other sound card mixers in features and functionality. When I tracked my band last summer, everyone had discrete, zero-latency stereo mixes of their choice (with full FX) while the raw unaltered audio was sent upstream to reaper. My UFX also has a USB slot on the front in order to record directly to it, minus the DAW if needed.

Hope this helps.
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Old 08-18-2018, 09:12 PM   #22
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The most relevant "actual magic" about the RMEs is that they do everything in-house. They design the whole literal interfacing side of the interface themselves, both on the hardware and software side, instead of using 3rd party chip manufacturer drivers as a basis for their interfaces.
I might be wrong, but it seems that there shouldn't be any major difference between audio interfaces in terms of streaming samples from the hardware outputs and inputs. In other words, I seriously doubt that anyone is going to have any issues with the throughput of any audio interface as a standalone device when not connected to a computer. Assuming that is correct, it seems that the difference then is making those samples available to the os, and getting samples from the os, in an efficient manner, which would be down to the driver software. So it seems that this is not a hardware issue, directly. But maybe RME's job in achieving solid performance is made easier (or possible at all) by knowing the topology and workings of the data interface section of the audio interface hardware (assuming that they design it themselves). But it also seems that the driver performance for less expensive interfaces could be much improved (moving samples in and out) by querying manufacturers of the data interface hardware. And maybe it is the case that manufacturers of the data interfaces being used in these other audio interfaces don't provide enough information about the workings of the hardware for audio interface manufacturers to achieve better performance. If that is the case, then why are manufacturers using this hardware at all? Or maybe it is that the audio interface manufacturers don't really care to achieve best possible performance, only being concerned with pushing 'good enough' shiny boxes that turn a profit, regardless of poor performance in reality.
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Old 08-18-2018, 09:22 PM   #23
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@Karbo, yep

Although I'm partial to the PCIe AIO card myself, the thing that most impresses me about RME interfaces is the low latency they can coax out of a USB connection by having the whole chain custom made in-house. Those Babyfaces are rock solid at 64 sample buffers, the feel is like that of a good internal interface.

(As a sidenote, yes, the mixer software - I'm glad I don't have Creative's Patchmix on any system anymore )

@brainwreck, the design of the hardware also effects the outcome a great deal, but the main thing is how it all ties together with the software component, yes. Karbomusic mentioned RME's use of FPGAs already, see for example https://reviewzorro.com/review-test-rme-babyface-pro/ [edit: or... the better article he linked himself : D ]

I agree, many of the interfaces available today are "good enough", both in good and bad. As in, for many uses, they really are good enough , no matter whether some other interface might do things more efficiently. For use cases that benefit from the best low latency performance under high load, RME would be at the top of my list to check out.

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Old 08-18-2018, 11:04 PM   #24
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Okay, so...take this with a grain of salt. The only real recording I've done was in the context of PT HD in a pro studio. My own recording has been insanely simple (maybe 4 channels at once); before I got into mastering, I mostly did little voice over projects, ITB electronic music, and recording DJ sets, with either focusrite or NI interfaces, and they've never been the bottleneck.

If you're worried about sound quality, don't. Yeah, there are differences, but they're pretty much all flavors of awesome. And literally all of the differences are smaller than moving a mic around or turning basically any knob in your signal path.

If you're still worried, audioscience reviews exists to back that up. Every now and then something has a flaw, but it isn't that common anymore.

If your computer is lagging, there are a lot of potential bottlenecks. One of them is how the audio interface talks to the CPU, RAM, etc.. PCIe and Thunderbolt are faster and more reliable than firewire, which is faster and more reliable than USB. Something like Dante is about in the middle of that. It's worth investigating if you have issues.

If you just want a recommendation, the focusrite scarlett and claret stuff is great for the money, in my experience.

Needing lower latency, more channels, or features they don't provide are the reasons you should upgrade, unless you need to be absolutely sure of quality that you probably can't hear anyway...at which point, you should probably go with RME or Avid PCIe interfaces and choose the converters you need separate from that. At least based on my research, experience, and prejudices.
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Old 08-19-2018, 01:58 AM   #25
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Just to really ram the RME point home.

My first audio MIDI interface was an Emu 1212m which performed great up to the point where I needed to expand my I/O.
I bought a used RME HDSP9652 with three ADAT I/O connectors and at one time was running 3 ADAT preamps for a total of 24 in and 24 out.
At the time I bought my (used) 9652 I paid around £180 for it, even though it was really old at the time. Fast forward to this year and I just got the most recent firm and hardware updates for the interface.
I have never ever had an issue with it in all these years and the performance has always been first class. I can run 32 ASIO buffer most of the time but highest I have ever needed to go on recording was 64. No I lie. A whole band recording with a ton of mics and a couple of thirsty VSTi had to go to 128 - but nobody complained of latency issues.

When I started using a focusrite saffire 6 on my little Core 2 laptop, it worked fine - right up to the day I decided to buy an i5 with a bigger screen instead.
It took both Focusrite and me several months of trying to figure out why the Saffire 6 would not work reliably with the new computer & even after exchanging my saffire 6 for a series of 2i2 and 2i4 interfaces before we both gave up. I got a refund and bought the Babyface Pro that I now have for portable recording.
The nice part is that if I ever need to I can hook up an ADAT preamp interface off my main computer and have an extra 8 I/O any time.

And again ULTRA reliable. I record one track at a time on the laptop when I am away from home, so I actually use a 48 buffer most of the time, again with no issues.
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Old 08-19-2018, 02:18 AM   #26
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Do you even need to use much money on an interface anymore, cause the standard is so good now?
The standard has not gotten better, the consumer has gotten worse,
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Old 08-19-2018, 05:35 AM   #27
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Hello reapers

What is the most awesome interface for me to use with Reaper? Do you even need to use much money on an interface anymore, cause the standard is so good now?

I'm a bedroom producer. I dribble in Max 7 and reaktor.

I mainly use vst and my System-8 synth, some vocal and guitar loops through a bunch of pedals. My maschine MK3 is for ideas, and I got NI plugs.

My budget is 400-500 pounds right now, but of course I could just wait and get an even more expensive unit.

The Presonus studio 192 mobile is dead cheap at thomann but the Audient id44 isnt that expensive. The spl Crimson? Does it even make sense to consider an rme fireface ucx when it is double the price? I don't like the form factor of the baby-face pro.

Just go with the Apollo twin maybe which seems to be the go to pro-bedroom-interface.

What do you do, what's your opinion?

I have a hard time understanding, if the standard is so good now, why some by eg the Apollo rack interfaces, when the money could have been spent on gear to help you make great music and sound, like an outboard eq, compressor or a controller like the fadeeport or a softube console 1.
I've had excellent results with Roland for many many years.
Highly recommended. Plug it in and it works every time.
Great quality and features.

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Old 08-19-2018, 05:57 AM   #28
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I used to hate RME. Why FOUR (driver, Totalmix, setup, Digicheck) software packages for one interface? Ridiculous, in my mind.

That was when I had to use one on occasion. I always got lost in Totalmix.

Now that I own one, I was forced to study Totalmix. It's incredibly flexible and tops all other interface's software. And, as already stated, drivers are rock solid. But they're also the same setup for the latest and greatest as well as for the oldest interfaces.

Sound quality is not as important to me. I can't hear any difference between a Behringer ADA8000 and an RME. I'm old, and have tinnitus. So maybe that's just me.

When I do measurements with it, the difference is very big. I wouldn't even dream about doing measurements on the Behringer. Differences between channels are obvious from the start. On the FF400, all 8 analog channels behave identical. And when there is noise on an input, I know it's coming from the environment. That's one of the things I use the interface for, to find interference. I don't think any other interface in the price range can do that, also because they lack Digicheck.

I still don't like the fact that there are no schematics available, but I can understand why RME is reluctant to release those.
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Old 08-19-2018, 07:19 AM   #29
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The standard has not gotten better, the consumer has gotten worse,
When are you claiming the standard hasn't gotten better since?
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Old 08-19-2018, 12:56 PM   #30
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I used to hate RME. Why FOUR (driver, Totalmix, setup, Digicheck) software packages for one interface? Ridiculous, in my mind.
Does RME's software run on linux? Also, I assume that RME devices will use a generic ALSA driver on linux not developed by RME, and in that case, I wonder if there is any real performance benefit to using an RME device vs. another device on linux.
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Old 08-19-2018, 01:27 PM   #31
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I'm considering the Audient id44 over the rme fireface because of two things - half the price and better hands on control. The fireface doesn't have a master meter on the unit which is just nice, you know. The id44 has three flexible function buttons and the scroll control and a nice big volume button. All the mic inputs are on the rear which is what I prefer in my setting and the software is really nice to work in. There are two adat in/out so super future proof, while also having the sends/return is perfect for incorporating my guitar effects pedals.

The rme might be a tad w milliseconds faster in latency, but really, is that something I will notice as long as it is all in all around 6 milliseconds? NO, that isn't even humanly possible. The converters are all good this day and age, the same with the pres when you have a well known brand like focusrite, Yamaha and Audient so on.

So yeah the features are much more important to me, than a tiny lower latency. I AM wondering about how good the driver support will be 5-8-10 years down the line. We will see... I give Audient the benefit of doubt for now.
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Old 08-19-2018, 01:31 PM   #32
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So yeah the features are much more important to me, than a tiny lower latency.
It's not just how low latency is possible, it's about how high of a load can it take, at that low setting, before dropping out. The general idea of "if it can do 64 samples, it's just as good as anything else capable of 64 samples" isn't quite how it works. There are quite substantial differences between interfaces when pushed hard.

Whether that makes a difference in a particular use case or not, that of course varies
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Old 08-19-2018, 01:54 PM   #33
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Does RME's software run on linux? Also, I assume that RME devices will use a generic ALSA driver on linux not developed by RME, and in that case, I wonder if there is any real performance benefit to using an RME device vs. another device on linux.
No, the software doesn't run on Linux. There have again been a number of feature requests for it, but I don't think RME will oblige.

The PCI card's drivers are all included in the kernel, though, and alsa mixer controls the hardware. The FF400 and 800 have drivers in ffado. The USB interfaces only work in Audio class compliant mode.

None of this is made by RME, of course, it's made by Linux devs.

The RME interfaces still have an advantage over most others. You can store a mix config inside the hardware and operate the hardware without a computer, having just one knob to control levels on all channels.
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Old 08-19-2018, 02:49 PM   #34
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It's not just how low latency is possible, it's about how high of a load can it take, at that low setting, before dropping out. The general idea of "if it can do 64 samples, it's just as good as anything else capable of 64 samples" isn't quite how it works. There are quite substantial differences between interfaces when pushed hard.

Whether that makes a difference in a particular use case or not, that of course varies
Just guessing here, but it seems to be about how much the driver interrupts the system (that is quickly switching between doing lots of other things) for shuffling samples in/out.
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Old 08-20-2018, 02:06 AM   #35
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My Fireface UC came out in 2009. I was part of the beta test for the unit(luck of the draw I suppose). I used an RME Digi96 PCI card before that to interface with my DAT field recorder and an external AD/DA.


The last driver update was in June 2018, the last firmware update November 2017.


The newer interfaces mostly have onboard FX as well. It has internal loopback (output x/y gets piped to inputs x/y) and flexible routing en masse. Digicheck is a software bonus, being an excellent multi-meter. It even has LUFS metering.


Rock solid performance, availability of spare parts (a power supply for my unit costs 52 Euros) and many years of support. You can always grab drivers for old operating systems too. I could still get the drivers for my 17 year old Digi-96 if I wanted to(WinXP iirc). This all for Windows and OSX. Linux, I hope so. I'm not a fan of Windows and OSX any longer, but I stick with Windows for various reasons.
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Old 08-20-2018, 07:57 AM   #36
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Mic preamps:
It's true that the average quality level of even entry level preamps has risen to a much higher level than it was back in the day. Here's what I hear between the mic pres built into my MOTU 828mk3 interfaces vs my True Audio preamps:
If I dial in the perfect level on the MOTUs and the source isn't over the top dynamic, you might be none the wiser between the two. But as soon as the level gets a little low in the MOTUs - maybe because you needed more headroom for transients (eg drums, vox, percussion) - they get the blanket over the speakers sound. The class A True Audio preamps deliver the same sound from top to bottom. You could have a signal 40db too low and be none the wiser. Not an excuse to be sloppy! An illustration of how well the lower end of your dynamic range will come through with even extreme dynamic sources.

If you are just recording synths and really careful with your levels for recording vocals, you might be none the wiser with the MOTUs. If just one thing gets away from you just a little, the class A mic pre will have your back.

Latency:
Running live sound or doing live performance?
If so, you sure don't want to have to push your system to the bleeding edge of its performance just to even get started! You want an interface that has a base latency of under 11ms at a minimum block size of 128 samples. If you need to set the block size to 64 or lower just to hit under 11ms, you're not going to have any reasonable performance left for plugins. Trying to make up for that with a faster CPU is the harder path. Get a lower latency interface to begin with and half the battle is won right at the start. This ONLY applies to running live sound or doing live performance.

Those are the big ones you need to pay a little more for. The quality of your mix work will still likely be much more a factor at the end of the day. But the above will raise a great mix higher. For higher dynamic program (jazz, classical, artsy) it might be arguable that the above is required.
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Old 08-20-2018, 08:33 AM   #37
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I think it is interesting that after all these years, pci(e) is still the best performing interface, yet most audio interface manufacturers have moved away from it, sacrificing solid performance for other considerations.

I also think it is interesting that ethernet has not been widely utilized instead of the miserable usb (etc.) crap as an alternative to pci(e), striking a good balance between solid performance and connectivity. I mean, wouldn't it be great to not need a digital interface at all because it is already builtin? Say you have N number of ethernet ports builtin to your machine, and you can just literally plug and play any box of converters, converters/preamps, converters/preamps/other bells and whistles, without any hardware/software compatibility issues, where the standard ethernet interface is adjusting all incoming/outgoing samples to whichever connected converter's clock is preferred. So instead of picking from slews of badly performing interfaces and a few expensive unicorns, we have solid performance as a given, and we are only concerned with audio quality of our chosen connected boxes, the same as for analog audio concerns, and any bells and whistles on the converter box side of the digital interface.
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Old 08-20-2018, 08:46 AM   #38
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Look at some of the newer MOTU products. Their analog inputs aside, they fully embrace ethernet connected systems, have word clock connections, and the digital inputs and routing are full featured. Pretty full featured DAW like cuemix mixers built in too. Just add the analog stages separately and you're golden.
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Old 08-20-2018, 08:54 AM   #39
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Look at some of the newer MOTU products. Their analog inputs aside, they fully embrace ethernet connected systems, have word clock connections, and the digital inputs and routing are full featured. Pretty full featured DAW like cuemix mixers built in too. Just add the analog stages separately and you're golden.
But does it all work (and solidly) over a standard ethernet connection? That is what I'm getting at. The data interface (moving already converted samples between a hardware connection to the os and the reverse) should be a solidly performing standard as a given. Looking at other standard intefaces, who would put up with a display interface that may perform poorly (dropping frames, glitching), a keyboard interface that may perform poorly (dropping keystrokes, doubling keystrokes), etc.? But in the realm of digital audio, millions of dollars of audio interfaces are sold that do perform poorly.
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Old 08-20-2018, 09:01 AM   #40
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But does it all work (and solidly) over a standard ethernet connection?
I don't know!
I'm still happy in firewire land and have no need to reinvent the wheel right now. I can only speak to the quality of all the MOTU interfaces I've used so far. And project that to the new stuff. Audio over network seems like the way forward though and their new products sure embrace that.
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