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SD USBPre 2 vs RME Babyface?

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SD USBPre 2 vs RME Babyface?

Postby Sauve Premis » Mon May 14, 2012 12:46 am

Hey all.

I keep hearing that the two 'best' interfaces in the mid price range are the RME babyface and the SD USBPre2. My question is, how do they compare to each other? I know the babyface offers a LOT more channels, plus MIDI, whilst the USBPre2 only offers 2 channels and no midi. From a UK standpoint, the USBPre2 is also nearly £100 more expensive than the babyface. (USbPre2 is about £550, the Babyface about £450)

Seeing as the babyface seems to win in connectivity features, how do they compare for sheer quality? The SD unit looks a lot more well built, but how about it's A/D D/A converters and preamps? Do they blow the babyface's out of water, or is it so close that they might as well as be even? How about the latency?

Was just wondering as I'm going to drop the ball on either one shortly, but I have no idea which one I should go for (I'm basically looking for pure quality, doubt I'd need more than 2 channels anyway, although it IS nice to have them there).


The only main thing I have seen against the USBPre2 so far is:


I cannot recommend this interface for Windows users at the current time, due to the issues noted above and some intermittent cyclic sample rate issues. (You can hear what that sounds like here: usbp2_test01.zip download - 2shared I've tested this on multiple machines, and even my new box after a reformat.

No one from the SD forums has replied to my concerns since August, and I guess I'm going to go back to email support to see if I can get this figured out... If not I guess I will be selling this unit and getting an RME babyface.
All the threads I've found regarding these two devices (not much) do mention ASIO driver problems with the USBPre2, but it has been quite a while and I'm wondering if there's been any improvement in that regard yet?

Thanks, hopefully I didn't miss anything.
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Re: SD USBPre 2 vs RME Babyface?

Postby Nites » Mon May 14, 2012 6:34 am

You should also add the ULN-2, Apogee Duet 2 and MBOX 3 Pro to that list of the high end 2+ channel interfaces on the market. All of them should sound broadly similar in terms of Audio quality. I personally have the Babyface and highly recommend it. The most important thing about an audio interface are the drivers and low latency performance and RME's Totalmix just cannot be beaten on those fronts. It's really that good. The preamps and converters are also truly excellent, really transparent and clean. I would do research on the USBPre driver performance and any compatibility issues, that's going to be the main differentiator between the two.
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Re: SD USBPre 2 vs RME Babyface?

Postby Tombot » Mon May 14, 2012 8:28 am

As the SD USBpre isnt widely available over here, i can only go on a few key facts.

Its a usb audio 2.0 class compliant device.
I would bet my shirt that it's based on the same XMOS chip that quite a few other manufacturers use, with the asio drivers written by Centrance (by the look of it).

Performance for this chip in other interfaces has been getting dawbench ratings of about 4/10, whilst the Babyface scores over 7/10. The Babyface is definatly safer and better bet, its very nearly the best performace you can get on USB (with only it's siblings the UFX, UC and UCX doing any better)

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Re: SD USBPre 2 vs RME Babyface?

Postby James Perrett » Mon May 14, 2012 9:15 am

I'd separate the computer interface from the mic preamp and convertor. Get your self something like an Audient Mico for decent preamps and convertor and then buy whatever interface you like with an spdif input. The Mico will probably outlast any computer interface as interface standards and software change every few years.

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Re: SD USBPre 2 vs RME Babyface?

Postby johnny h » Mon May 14, 2012 10:58 am

Nites wrote:You should also add the ULN-2, Apogee Duet 2 .

Apogee are no good because they don't work with PCs. Good sound quality but it's a needless compromise in functionality. RME have drivers for everything - even the iPad!
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Re: SD USBPre 2 vs RME Babyface?

Postby LC155 » Mon May 14, 2012 11:04 am

I'm also quite interested in this comparison. So far, it seems the babyface wins out because of the sheer quality of it's latency and drivers. All I've heard is the sound from the USBPre2 and the babyface is 'similar'. Hardly justifies nearly a £100+ expense, right? (If you're not going to use the stand alone mode, that is)

James Perrett wrote:I'd separate the computer interface from the mic preamp and convertor. Get your self something like an Audient Mico for decent preamps and convertor and then buy whatever interface you like with an spdif input. The Mico will probably outlast any computer interface as interface standards and software change every few years.

James.

That's quite interesting. You're saying you could get that, pair it up with any interface with a spdif, and since nothing is happening to the signal once passed the Mico, even the cheapest interfaces will pass it perfectly into the computer? Considering the price of that preamp and ADC, I'm going to assume it rightly blows the babyface/usbpre2 out of the water. Sounds like a right bargain, and the way everyone looking for a babyface priced interface, if it's all it's cracked up to be.
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Re: SD USBPre 2 vs RME Babyface?

Postby James Perrett » Mon May 14, 2012 2:36 pm

LC155 wrote:

That's quite interesting. You're saying you could get that, pair it up with any interface with a spdif, and since nothing is happening to the signal once passed the Mico, even the cheapest interfaces will pass it perfectly into the computer? Considering the price of that preamp and ADC, I'm going to assume it rightly blows the babyface/usbpre2 out of the water. Sounds like a right bargain, and the way everyone looking for a babyface priced interface, if it's all it's cracked up to be.

Yes, that's exactly it.

The only thing about the Babyface is that it is made by RME so it will have better drivers than most of the other comparable interfaces. It also has the ADAT expansion so you can add another 8 inputs and outputs. If you just want 2 channels of spdif you can find something much cheaper.

If I wanted more mic channels, a Babyface partnered with Audient's ASP008 would make a good combination.

James.
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Re: SD USBPre 2 vs RME Babyface?

Postby twotoedsloth » Mon May 14, 2012 3:07 pm

For what it's worth, I have a USBPre2, and it's an excellent audio interface. I bought it because it's class compliant and will work in Linux.

I haven't used Babyface, but if it's anything like the Fireface UC, or even the Multiface (we have both of these at work) then you really can't go wrong either way.
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Re: SD USBPre 2 vs RME Babyface?

Postby LC155 » Tue May 15, 2012 1:18 am

James Perrett wrote:
LC155 wrote:

That's quite interesting. You're saying you could get that, pair it up with any interface with a spdif, and since nothing is happening to the signal once passed the Mico, even the cheapest interfaces will pass it perfectly into the computer? Considering the price of that preamp and ADC, I'm going to assume it rightly blows the babyface/usbpre2 out of the water. Sounds like a right bargain, and the way everyone looking for a babyface priced interface, if it's all it's cracked up to be.


Yes, that's exactly it.

The only thing about the Babyface is that it is made by RME so it will have better drivers than most of the other comparable interfaces. It also has the ADAT expansion so you can add another 8 inputs and outputs. If you just want 2 channels of spdif you can find something much cheaper.

If I wanted more mic channels, a Babyface partnered with Audient's ASP008 would make a good combination.

James.


Ah, I see. So, I'm right in thinking that the Mico completely destroys everything in it's price range? I can't find much reviews for it.

At this rate, I'm thinking the babyface would be a good option to start with, then if I find I need the distortion or just cleaner preamps, grab the mico on top of that later on. Does that sound solid? (albeit expensive). The only cons I can think to the babyface so far is the breakout cable. I really hate cable spaghetti mess. Blah.

Also, for the purposes on the original topic, does anyone have a direct comparison between the preamp and ADC on USBPre2 and the babyface?

I had a look at the UK/US prices and it's weird.

The babyface is about £100 cheaper in the UK compared to the USBPre2
The babyface is more expensive in the US compared to the USBPre2
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Re: SD USBPre 2 vs RME Babyface?

Postby whis4ey » Tue May 15, 2012 8:53 am

Have you thought about the Focusrite Liquid 56 ... a superb interface worth serious consideration, and around the same price range (give or take a ton)
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Re: SD USBPre 2 vs RME Babyface?

Postby Pete Kaine » Tue May 15, 2012 9:20 am

LC155 wrote:
I had a look at the UK/US prices and it's weird.

The babyface is about £100 cheaper in the UK compared to the USBPre2
The babyface is more expensive in the US compared to the USBPre2

RME is a German company working in Euros with a strong UK presence.
SD is a American company working in dollars and isn't widely known in the UK.

I would speculate that variable exchange rates play a large part here, along with supply and demand affecting the costs when shipping quantities... at a guess.
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Re: SD USBPre 2 vs RME Babyface?

Postby LC155 » Tue May 15, 2012 12:18 pm

whis4ey wrote:Have you thought about the Focusrite Liquid 56 ... a superb interface worth serious consideration, and around the same price range (give or take a ton)

I did check that one out, and for me, personally, won't need that many mic channels. I'm guessing most of the price comes from how versatile it is. Whilst good quality, I'd expect a two channel mic pre or interface as the same price range to blow it out of the water - but that's just my thoughts. Haven't heard too much about that one. (I also see it's rack mount size. Trying to keep it compact and on my desk)

Pete Kaine wrote:
LC155 wrote:
I had a look at the UK/US prices and it's weird.

The babyface is about £100 cheaper in the UK compared to the USBPre2
The babyface is more expensive in the US compared to the USBPre2

RME is a German company working in Euros with a strong UK presence.
SD is a American company working in dollars and isn't widely known in the UK.

I would speculate that variable exchange rates play a large part here, along with supply and demand affecting the costs when shipping quantities... at a guess.

Ah, that makes sense. Too bad I haven't see anywhere that has direct comparisons between the two. I seriously doubt the USBPre 2 is worth £100 more than the babyface, compared to what you get, haha. And of course, the Audient Mico looks very tempting.
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Re: SD USBPre 2 vs RME Babyface?

Postby Johnny Stecchino » Tue May 15, 2012 2:48 pm

What nobody mentioned till now is that the USB pre2 works also as a stand alone pre without being connected to a computer, as for example a pre for field recordings matching with lets say the Sony PCM-D50.

I thought to get the Mico few months ago and actually had a tratative with a vendor in UK but then I understood it's very big and have no possibility to be charged by a battery (I wanted to use it also "on the field") so this is why the USB pre2 seems to me like a good solution, but if you don't need the field recording option and not a portable solution the Audient Mico sounds like a good choice.

When I'll come back home in 10 days I'll send here some links I found.
Best,
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Re: SD USBPre 2 vs RME Babyface?

Postby Johnny Stecchino » Tue May 15, 2012 2:51 pm

Tombot wrote: the SD USBpre... I would bet my shirt that it's based on the same XMOS chip that quite a few other manufacturers use, with the asio drivers written by Centrance (by the look of it).

Performance for this chip in other interfaces has been getting dawbench ratings of about 4/10, whilst the Babyface scores over 7/10. The Babyface is definatly safer and better bet, its very nearly the best performace you can get on USB (with only it's siblings the UFX, UC and UCX doing any better)

Tom
(UK Dawbench Interface Tester)


You can actually contact SD (they reply very quick) and make sure of which chip they use.
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Re: SD USBPre 2 vs RME Babyface?

Postby LC155 » Tue May 15, 2012 3:44 pm

Johnny Stecchino wrote:What nobody mentioned till now is that the USB pre2 works also as a stand alone pre without being connected to a computer, as for example a pre for field recordings matching with lets say the Sony PCM-D50.

I thought to get the Mico few months ago and actually had a tratative with a vendor in UK but then I understood it's very big and have no possibility to be charged by a battery (I wanted to use it also "on the field") so this is why the USB pre2 seems to me like a good solution, but if you don't need the field recording option and not a portable solution the Audient Mico sounds like a good choice.

When I'll come back home in 10 days I'll send here some links I found.
Best,
J.

Yeah, I just need it on my desk - won't be using it in the field.
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Re: SD USBPre 2 vs RME Babyface?

Postby twotoedsloth » Tue May 15, 2012 8:29 pm

The Mico is really good, but probably not that much better than the USBPre. In my opinion, the DAV BG 1 is head and shoulders above those two.
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Re: SD USBPre 2 vs RME Babyface?

Postby LC155 » Tue May 15, 2012 9:24 pm

twotoedsloth wrote:The Mico is really good, but probably not that much better than the USBPre. In my opinion, the DAV BG 1 is head and shoulders above those two.

What makes it so much better? I took a quick look and it appears to lack the ADC of the mico, which is a shame. I also see it as around the £500 mark, where the Mico is £400. Worth the extra 100? A quick search seems to confirm it's the btter preamp, but "not by much"
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Re: SD USBPre 2 vs RME Babyface?

Postby twotoedsloth » Tue May 15, 2012 10:32 pm

I happen to have all three devices, the Mico, the USBPre2 and the DAV BG1.

The Mico and USBPre have loads of features, where the DAV is really austere. Unless you're listening very carefully and A/B(C?) testing, I would hazard a guess that the sound quality is not that much different between the three of them. The USBPre has the advantage of the USB connector to run to your PC/Mac. The Mico has the most features, SPDIF Toslink and AES out (as well as analog) plus the DI, tube emulation (HMX) and Vari-Phase, and the DAV sounds the most robust.
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Re: SD USBPre 2 vs RME Babyface?

Postby LC155 » Tue May 15, 2012 10:37 pm

twotoedsloth wrote:I happen to have all three devices, the Mico, the USBPre2 and the DAV BG1.

The Mico and USBPre have loads of features, where the DAV is really austere. Unless you're listening very carefully and A/B(C?) testing, I would hazard a guess that the sound quality is not that much different between the three of them. The USBPre has the advantage of the USB connector to run to your PC/Mac. The Mico has the most features, SPDIF Toslink and AES out (as well as analog) plus the DI, tube emulation (HMX) and Vari-Phase, and the DAV sounds the most robust.


Thanks for that.

If you were to choose one, which one would it be and why? (Although I'm thinking you'll probably pick the DAV?)

I'm thinking Mico + an interface currently, as the interfaces like to change every couple of years, whereas a good preamp appears timeless. Plus, there's no ASIO drivers issues like I hear about the USBPre2. Finally, what do you mean sounds more 'robust'?

Thanks again for all the info, btw. It's really handy.
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Re: SD USBPre 2 vs RME Babyface?

Postby twotoedsloth » Tue May 15, 2012 11:24 pm

Well,

If I had to choose just one, it would depend on what else I had. If I needed a computer interface, then obviously it's the USBPre... if I needed a full featured mic/instrument preamp feeding multiple devices digitally, then the Mico. If I already had a well equipped studio and I was looking for a great sounding preamp, then the DAV.
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Re: SD USBPre 2 vs RME Babyface?

Postby LC155 » Wed May 16, 2012 12:21 am

twotoedsloth wrote:Well,

If I had to choose just one, it would depend on what else I had. If I needed a computer interface, then obviously it's the USBPre... if I needed a full featured mic/instrument preamp feeding multiple devices digitally, then the Mico. If I already had a well equipped studio and I was looking for a great sounding preamp, then the DAV.

I see, thanks for that.

Ever used the babyface? Curious how that performs, just for the sake of knowledge.
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Re: SD USBPre 2 vs RME Babyface?

Postby LC155 » Wed May 16, 2012 10:50 pm

Oh, one more thing.

Looking at the Mico, it only goes up to 96kHz. When paired up with say, for example, the babyface, some have noted that as a disadvantage as the babyface goes up to 192.

I thought the 192 sample rate was a load of baloney, and there was no real 'use' for it?

Hmm,


Ultra-high performance 24 bit 44.1/48/96kHz low-jitter internal clock

44.1 to 192kHz using external word clock


So apparently you could pass it through the babyface's clock if you needed, but wouldn't that be likely to increase jitter over the optical connection?
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Re: SD USBPre 2 vs RME Babyface?

Postby James Perrett » Thu May 17, 2012 10:41 am

LC155 wrote:

I thought the 192 sample rate was a load of baloney, and there was no real 'use' for it?

For normal audio work you are absolutely right. In fact, as filter designs advance, there is possibly less of a case for anything higher than 48kHz nowadays but there is probably too much gear with poor filters kicking around for high sample rates to be no longer needed.

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Re: SD USBPre 2 vs RME Babyface?

Postby LC155 » Thu May 17, 2012 12:57 pm

James Perrett wrote:
LC155 wrote:

I thought the 192 sample rate was a load of baloney, and there was no real 'use' for it?

For normal audio work you are absolutely right. In fact, as filter designs advance, there is possibly less of a case for anything higher than 48kHz nowadays but there is probably too much gear with poor filters kicking around for high sample rates to be no longer needed.

James.

What constitutes 'non' normal audio work?

And any idea on the benefits of internal clock vs external (higher sampling) clock?

Cheers.
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Re: SD USBPre 2 vs RME Babyface?

Postby twotoedsloth » Thu May 17, 2012 7:09 pm

A higher sampling frequency gives you a smoother and more accurate wave form. It also allows you to reproduce high frequency sounds, though this is wasted on most of us who can't hear 22,050 (44.1khz) hz, much less 96,000 hz (192 khz).
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Re: SD USBPre 2 vs RME Babyface?

Postby LC155 » Thu May 17, 2012 8:59 pm

twotoedsloth wrote:A higher sampling frequency gives you a smoother and more accurate wave form. It also allows you to reproduce high frequency sounds, though this is wasted on most of us who can't hear 22,050 (44.1khz) hz, much less 96,000 hz (192 khz).


I do see the Mico allows for an external clock, that would put it up to 192 if using an external clock that supported it, correct? (For this example, let's use the babyface)

However, is there any known disadvantages/compatibility issues when using an external clock like that? Perhaps jitter?

(I was reading up on papers about this. Apparently musical instruments produce practically zero energy about 40kHz, and you only need double the sampling rate to *perfectly* recreate the waveform. So looking at that, even 96kHz is completely overkill)
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Re: SD USBPre 2 vs RME Babyface?

Postby Martin Walker » Fri May 18, 2012 1:20 am

LC155 wrote:[I do see the Mico allows for an external clock, that would put it up to 192 if using an external clock that supported it, correct? (For this example, let's use the babyface)

However, is there any known disadvantages/compatibility issues when using an external clock like that? Perhaps jitter?

Hi LC155!

You've hit the nail on the head there - switching to external clock increases jitter levels with most converters, which tends to clobber any possible improvements that the external clock might provide. Personally I've never used nor would use 192kHz, which is largely a marketing exercise rather than something to excite audio engineers

There IS a case for sound designers using it, since they may shift the pitch of captured sounds down by a considerable amount on occasion, in which case starting at 96kHz or even 192kHz may yield some benefits.

My two pennorth anyway


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Re: SD USBPre 2 vs RME Babyface?

Postby LC155 » Fri May 18, 2012 3:29 am

Martin Walker wrote:
LC155 wrote:[I do see the Mico allows for an external clock, that would put it up to 192 if using an external clock that supported it, correct? (For this example, let's use the babyface)

However, is there any known disadvantages/compatibility issues when using an external clock like that? Perhaps jitter?

Hi LC155!

You've hit the nail on the head there - switching to external clock increases jitter levels with most converters, which tends to clobber any possible improvements that the external clock might provide. Personally I've never used nor would use 192kHz, which is largely a marketing exercise rather than something to excite audio engineers

There IS a case for sound designers using it, since they may shift the pitch of captured sounds down by a considerable amount on occasion, in which case starting at 96kHz or even 192kHz may yield some benefits.

My two pennorth anyway


Martin

Hi!

Correct me if I'm wrong, but couldn't you just start at 96, then upsample in 192Khz in a DAW in order to get the headroom that some people seem to love advocating 192 for? Otherwise yeah, it does seem pretty redundant at that sample rate.
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Re: SD USBPre 2 vs RME Babyface?

Postby James Perrett » Fri May 18, 2012 10:56 am

LC155 wrote:
What constitutes 'non' normal audio work?

Wideband underwater sonar signals - or wildlife recording of things like bats and cetaceans (whales and dolphins). In my day job (oceanography) we've found high sample rate audio gear to be a very useful way of cheaply recording these things.

James.
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Re: SD USBPre 2 vs RME Babyface?

Postby James Perrett » Fri May 18, 2012 11:04 am

twotoedsloth wrote:A higher sampling frequency gives you a smoother and more accurate wave form. It also allows you to reproduce high frequency sounds, though this is wasted on most of us who can't hear 22,050 (44.1khz) hz, much less 96,000 hz (192 khz).

Sadly this is a common misconception. A higher sample rate allows you to record higher frequencies but it doesn't make the recording of lower frequencies (less than fs/2) more accurate. Any frequency of less than half the sample rate can be accurately recorded if the anti-aliasing and reconstruction filters are up to it. Hugh has written some good posts in the past that expose this myth but the important thing to remember is that everything is filtered on the way in and out and these filters are essential for digital audio to work.

James.
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