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Future-proofing your interface...

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Future-proofing your interface...

Postby BigAl » Wed Jan 30, 2013 1:31 pm

What is the top consideration for buying a sound interface for a computer or multitrack recorder, so it'll still work in 10 years time?

Suggestions:-
1. USB. How long will it be around?
2. Firewire. Will it still be here? Some laptops don't have expansion slots.
3. Thunderbolt. Hardly anything on the market at the moment.
4. ADAT. An interface with adat could probably work in many environments in future, even if other interfaces become obsolete, providing you can still buy PCI cards with it.
5. PCI. All the UAD cards are on PCI (for example).
6. Standalone mode. Important if you want it to work away from a computer, although some have to be configured using the computer.

Any comments would be welcome (and not, I'm not an 18 year old student).

I now have a good laptop to try out so I have USB ports and an Expresscard/54 slot.
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Re: Future-proofing your interface...

Postby James Perrett » Wed Jan 30, 2013 3:23 pm

My personal choice is to use ADAT as my standard digital audio link and use whatever computer interface will handle it. That means an RME PCI card in the main studio computer and a firewire interface for my laptop. However, if I was buying a laptop ADAT interface now I would be looking at USB as Firewire sockets are becoming more difficult to find on computers and, with the exception of RME, audio interface firewire drivers have always been somewhat flakey.

If you are after large numbers of inputs you might want to look at MADI or one of the newer emerging network protocols like Dante instead of ADAT.

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Re: Future-proofing your interface...

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Wed Jan 30, 2013 3:31 pm

For high channel count systems I've just reviewed the new Focusrite Rednet interfaces, which use the well-proven and (hopefully) future-proof DANTE format which can handle a ludicrous number of channels over Ethernet. The smallest interfaces are eight-channel A-D/D-A line level and eight-channel mic/line preamps. the digital interface offers 32 channel I/O. The RedNet gear should be fully compatible with DANTE hardware from other manufacturers (eg, A&H, Yamaha, etc)

Focusrite sell a dedicated PCIe card to act as the bridge between an ASIO or Audio-core DAW and the Dante network, but you can use a 'Dante Virtual Soundcard' software app instead, if you want (with slightly greater latency), which accesses the computer's own Ethernet port. For Pro Tools HD, HDX and HD Native users, there's a dedicated hardware interface which hooks directly into the PT card.

Well worth looking at, especially if future expansion is likely, or if you need the ability to access network I/O hardware from multiple computer hosts simultaneously.

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Re: Future-proofing your interface...

Postby BigAl » Wed Jan 30, 2013 3:33 pm

James,
I've been reading about Dante. Not sure why everyone isn't using it, then again, maybe too much to a couple of channels.
I'm looking to get something which could be used on a PC and laptop, or in standalone mode, but maybe in reality, that might never happen.
My new laptop could take a f/w interface and there are a few very good f/w devices around just now.
I even thought about the Apollo, and ditch everything else, so I would have a laptop and one of them only. That would do me for everything, but it f/w or TB. Where will they be in a few years?
I can't remember but if Apollo had adat, you could use it in the future, but would you get access to the plug-ins?

I have too many questions just now and not enough answers.......

I could use the laptop as a stereo mastering machine and continue to record on my AW4416 with the MP20 and M-OneXL. I'll still get great results.......

Do you know I even considered a new multi-track machine for tracking and use the computer for mixing. I like being hands-on when recording. Capture the moment!
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Re: Future-proofing your interface...

Postby BigAl » Wed Jan 30, 2013 3:43 pm

Hugh,

I don't need to much sophistication. Just good quality, reliability and low latency.

My priorities over having loads of gadgets and plug-ins (high quality reverb and compressor a must).
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Re: Future-proofing your interface...

Postby tim_obrien » Wed Jan 30, 2013 7:27 pm

Hate to throw any water on you, but you really can't look at future-proofing.

The industry and technology move far faster than that.

Go back and look at some 10-15 year old computer magazines.
System go antique after just a third to half that time.

Get what you need to work NOW and worry about what you'll use over the next 3-5years maximum.
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Re: Future-proofing your interface...

Postby Madman_Greg » Thu Jan 31, 2013 9:48 am

All of what you mention is likely to be obsolete in 10 years.

My view (and I do work in IT Technology) is networking technology will be the main method of interfacing devices in the very near future.

The Dante stuff is the beginning.

If you look at network fabric switches, used for switching and routing platforms for service provider networks then we are looking at 100GbE now and faster in the future.

This of course will filter down to the home user at some point.
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Re: Future-proofing your interface...

Postby tacitus » Thu Jan 31, 2013 9:49 am

+1 on that. If it works now, it'll probably still work with the same computer any number of years down the line, just as a Morris Minor will happily trundle down the road even now. You won't have the latest features but it will still do what it always did. Question is, do you want to be a retro user or do you want the equivalent of a modern car?

Best plan, I think, is to buy what does the job best now with the most recent technology and see how it goes. Like car dealers, they want to sell you something to use now for today's problems. If we all knew what tomorrow's problems are going to be, we'd be laughing. It's a form of gambling, and as in all gambling, don't bet more than you can afford to lose ...
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Re: Future-proofing your interface...

Postby BigAl » Thu Jan 31, 2013 12:58 pm

Thanks guys.

I actually bought a top spec PC years ago and is still pretty good, with expansion. Not sure if it could work with recording.

My AW4416 is over 10 years old and served me well for that time. Finding a SCSI CR Writer is a pain.
My view is (and I work in IT also) is whatever I buy, and as long as it doesn't break, I could be using it in 10 years.

I am really surprised that ethernet is only coming to the fore, and as it's going to be around for many years to come, this would seem the obvious choice to me.
Still a bit expensive though, but that'll come down in time.

So it sounds like I should just get some USB interface if I start using the PC, and still use my half decent pre-amp and FX unit.
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Re: Future-proofing your interface...

Postby BigAl » Thu Jan 31, 2013 1:27 pm

Tim,
I'm sorry but I do not agree about a 3 - 5 year life for my recording equipment.
Buy carefully and you can far exceed that. It also depends what you want from your equipment.
I record mostly real instruments and require good quality sound, compressor and reverb with some copy/paste function.
As I stated, my AW4416 as a mixer / recorder still works perfectly well apart from one input. It was in magazines YEARS ago.
Don't get too caught up in the technology. It's only the tool. It's what you do with it that's important.
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Re: Future-proofing your interface...

Postby tim_obrien » Thu Jan 31, 2013 8:05 pm

BigAl wrote:Tim, I'm sorry but I do not agree about a 3 - 5 year life for my recording equipment....


Sorry too, but talk to me about compatible full-length IDE cards, SCSI devices, ADB interfaces and stuff that doesn't work on OS's past Win2k or MacOS9. Often its not just hardware but the drivers aren't updated and won't work on modern OS's. Mac users have just gone through the switch to Intel chips where old PowerPC programs wont work on the last two OSs and Windows has been threatening for years to rewrite an upcoming Windows that'll be completely incompatible with new hardware.

I'm not talking about audio gear that is simple line-in to line-out, but stuff that hooks up to the computer.
And that all goes antique.
Often as in "sorry, mate, but that won't run on your OS."

Now I'll admit I'm still running my Motu828mkII from 5 years ago, but even that's getting long in the tooth these days and I'm going to have to look to something new in the next few years.
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Re: Future-proofing your interface...

Postby R_A » Thu Jan 31, 2013 8:36 pm

tim_obrien wrote:Often its not just hardware but the drivers aren't updated and won't work on modern OS's. Mac users have just gone through the switch to Intel chips where old PowerPC programs wont work on the last two OSs and Windows has been threatening for years to rewrite an upcoming Windows that'll be completely incompatible with new hardware.


True, but given that a good modern computer exceeds the computing power needed by pretty much anybody apart from serious film composers; it wouldn't be the end of the world just to say 'this operating system and computer is good enough for me for the next eight to ten years'.

This is especially true if you bounce your software synths and Kontakt instruments down to audio.
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Re: Future-proofing your interface...

Postby BigAl » Fri Feb 01, 2013 12:45 pm

I appreciate the point on IDE, SCSI and other devices / interfaces.
It's ridiculous to say that if I buy an 8 channel preamp / sound interface, it's going to be obsolete in 3 years. What would be the point in buying it?
That was the point of the post.
Eg. I could buy a line only interface and use my half decent preamps, or buy an 8 channel adat mic pre-amp and use it for as long as adat is around on interfaces.
There are ways of future-proofing your recording equipment - it's picking the right road.
Recording starts with having a half-decent mic and pre-amp (if you don't just record line in sources).
Maybe a line only interface is the way to go.......
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Re: Future-proofing your interface...

Postby BigAl » Fri Feb 01, 2013 12:53 pm

I agree R_A.
Once you're PC is installed and everything working the way you want it, disable anything that'll try and update it and don't have anything running that you don't need.
It could run for years.
I think many people think you always need the latest gadgets etc.... but it depends on what you do with your gear.
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Re: Future-proofing your interface...

Postby fay spook » Fri Feb 01, 2013 2:19 pm

My last purchase of iMac and Focusrite Saffire was nearly 7 years ago. Still working fine #touch wood#. My next iMac is due sometime perhaps at the end of the year but I will need an interface of some sort and hopefully there will be something Thunderbolty or similar by them. 2 in 2 out and headphones should be enough......
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Re: Future-proofing your interface...

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Feb 01, 2013 2:54 pm

BigAl wrote:I don't need to much sophistication. Just good quality, reliability and low latency.

I'd go with USB interfaces for I/O channel counts below 16, and Dante for higher channel I/O or where you want to share the same I/O with multiple computers. Both should be future-proof interfaces for the next decade or so.

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Re: Future-proofing your interface...

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Feb 01, 2013 3:04 pm

BigAl wrote:It's ridiculous to say that if I buy an 8 channel preamp / sound interface, it's going to be obsolete in 3 years.

Assuming the unit interface and the computer don't fail, then there is no reason why it shouldn't work for ten years or more -- if you don't change the complete system in any way.

However, if you follow the popular bandwagon of 'upgrading' the computer or its OS there's a good chance that a new OS and/or the hardware involved will render the drivers incompatible and thus the interface becomes obsolete.

It's kinda in your own hands. I still run an XP machine to retain compatibility with some favoured decade-old hardware that would otherwise now be obsolete...

Maybe a line only interface is the way to go.......

But an interface to what? As others have said, it's not the digital audio interface that you need to worry about. AES3, S/PDIF, ADAT, and analogue will be with us for decades to come.

It's how you get that audio into and out of the computer that is the issue. Network-based systems like Dante would seem to have the best long term viability, but you're talking ~£2k for a computer card and analogue break-out box at the moment -- even for just eight channels of I/O.

So maybe it is actually more cost effective to buy a cheaper USB interface and budget to replace it in five years time when the computer needs upgrading...

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Re: Future-proofing your interface...

Postby BigAl » Fri Feb 01, 2013 4:59 pm

Hugh,

I too still have a 9 year old XP machine which runs just fine. It was high spec at the time and has had NO upgrades or additional software installed. Too many years in IT......
Maybe line only wasn't the best phrase, although what I mean is what you're saying - the problem is getting the signal IN. I have seen some line / SPDIF to USB2 devices.
I also don't want to waste money on an interface with preamps which I will not use and will not be as good as my standalone 2 channel one - and if the interface becomes obsolete, unless the preamp INs route to the OUTs without a computer, you're stuffed.
I don't mind spending decent money and ditching my external unit (RME UCX is a good example).
I have been reading quite a bit this afternoon and maybe firewire isn't quite dead yet, especially if the thunderbolt adapters work.
I am also dithering between laptop and desktop. I've recorded for too many years to mention, but have never used a computer for recording (I work with them and never fancied using them away from work) - so I have no idea how much resource gets used.
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Re: Future-proofing your interface...

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Fri Feb 01, 2013 6:32 pm

BigAl wrote:...and maybe firewire isn't quite dead yet, especially if the thunderbolt adapters work.

I know Prism Sound have tested the Orpheus (firewire) with the Thunderbolt adapter and reported that it works just fine.

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Re: Future-proofing your interface...

Postby R_A » Fri Feb 01, 2013 10:45 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:

It's kinda in your own hands. I still run an XP machine to retain compatibility with some favoured decade-old hardware that would otherwise now be obsolete...



Me too - Carillion Audio i5 4GB - plenty of power for my modest needs.
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Re: Future-proofing your interface...

Postby James Perrett » Fri Feb 01, 2013 10:57 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:I still run an XP machine to retain compatibility with some favoured decade-old hardware that would otherwise now be obsolete...

I still have a Windows 98 machine that gets switched on occasionally because it is the only one that can read DAT start ID's on SPDIF and translate them to CD start ID's.

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Re: Future-proofing your interface...

Postby BigAl » Mon Feb 04, 2013 1:59 pm

After some extensive research, I reckon something like the RME Fireface UCX & UFX would be fairly future-proof due to a variety of features.
1. Class compliance.
2. USB 3.0 support.
3. Stand-alone mode.
4. It may work with TB interface.

The down side is the cost.
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Re: Future-proofing your interface...

Postby BigAl » Mon Feb 04, 2013 2:35 pm

Hugh,

I'm starting to hear similar stories on some other f/w interfaces.
If TB takes off over the next few years, that has to be good news.
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Re: Future-proofing your interface...

Postby The Elf » Mon Feb 04, 2013 3:10 pm

BigAl wrote:2. USB 3.0 support.
USB3 hasn't exactly set the world alight. I wouldn't use that as a measure of future-proofing.
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Re: Future-proofing your interface...

Postby BigAl » Mon Feb 04, 2013 3:16 pm

That may be true, but it is something.
The throughput for USB 3.0 is far superior to USB 2.0 so we'll see what happens.

Th reality is that all new PCs have USB 3.0 and there is no sign of it disappearing for the foreseeable future.
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