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Any advice re an interface upgrade please?

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Any advice re an interface upgrade please?

Postby Fishnish » Tue Dec 17, 2019 5:21 pm

Hi all,
I'm planning an upgrade to my home studio setup.

Currently I have a pretty decent spec 6 year old PC running Cubase 10 on Win 7

Ins + outs are on Firewire, handled by 3 daisy chained Steinberg MR816 units (+ a Behringer ADA8000) giving me 24 ins and outs, plus some spare via the Behringer if needed. I've got used to having all my mic channels, DIs, synths, 2 sets of monitors, cue mixes and outboard units permanently hooked up each on it's own physical input and output channels with only a small patchbay (Neutrik 24 way) to allow me to configure the outboard (a couple of mic pres, eqs and compressors).

The system generally works pretty well (although the audio can sometimes get a bit glitchy if I ask too much of it!) certainly well enough for a home setup. However I'm aware that Win7 support is ending - I'm already beginning to run into a few faffy issues when faced with updating plugins, firmwares, etc but I'm loath to just upgrade this machine to Win 10 and risk running into problems with the firewire or similar. My plan is keep going with this system as it is whilst researching upgrading to a new computer and alongside that look at upgrading how I do the the ins+ outs.

I'm reasonably clear about what I want from a new computer, but curious to know what people might think is a good way of acheiving 24 + inputs and outputs, perhaps using my existing MR816 units as preamp units via ADAT rather than the pretty obsolete firewire? Can I get some sort interface/converter that would give a decent channel count via USB, for instance, but without too many other bells and whistles? I'm of an age where I learnt how to do things on analogue desks with cables and patchbays , so the digital routing side of things is a new world to me and there seems to be a bewildering range of options, not least in terms of the formats available!


Any advice gratefully recieved...
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Re: Any advice re an interface upgrade please?

Postby Arpangel » Tue Dec 17, 2019 6:44 pm

Check out the Motu 24Ai and 24Ao for a more streamlined set-up, I/O is on D-Sub.
The 16A has 16 I/O on TRS jacks.
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Re: Any advice re an interface upgrade please?

Postby merlyn » Tue Dec 17, 2019 7:07 pm

The RME HDSPe RayDat has four ADAT i/os.
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Re: Any advice re an interface upgrade please?

Postby The Elf » Tue Dec 17, 2019 9:30 pm

Not a 'budget' solution, but I also used to have a few boxes giving me 24+ inputs, and ADAT seemed the best choice back then. Then I decided to move to a MADI-based system (RME MADIFace and a couple of Ferrofish A32s) and finally found a system that I could not only live with, but could expand easily if I ever felt the need.

If was to do it again I'd seriously now consider Dante.

I offer these thoughts as possibilities only.
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Re: Any advice re an interface upgrade please?

Postby James Perrett » Tue Dec 17, 2019 9:34 pm

merlyn wrote:The RME HDSPe RayDat has four ADAT i/os.

Or, if you would prefer an external unit, the Digiface USB also has 4 ADAT inputs and outputs.
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Re: Any advice re an interface upgrade please?

Postby Fishnish » Tue Dec 17, 2019 10:37 pm

Thanks everyone. That's given me some homework to do.

I'd already stumbled across the MOTU units (I use an Express 128 for MIDI) and liked the look of them but wondered how much one was paying for DSP functionality when I'm not sure how much use it would get from me.

The Digiface looks interesting, and it had never even occured to me to go down an internal card route. The last internal card I had was a Creative Soundblaster jobby nearly 20 years ago!

As for upscaling and increasing flexibility with a MADI or Dante System, Interesting thought - I obviously need to do a bit of reading......
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Re: Any advice re an interface upgrade please?

Postby Martin Walker » Tue Dec 17, 2019 11:08 pm

I went through the 'upgrading the audio interface' experience a couple of weeks ago, and lots of people (including most of the above) recommended RME products for their longevity, incredible driver performance, and most excellent sound.

Having seen the hefty RME pricing, I debated long and hard, but personally ended up with a Fireface UC interface that I'm extremely pleased with. I wasn't sure that USB would give me low enough latency, but these RME drivers really are nothing short of amazing. With my small channel count I can successfully run with the smallest buffer size of 48 samples, which at 44.1kHz sample rate gives me an effective latency of around 1mS!

Fishnish wrote:I'm reasonably clear about what I want from a new computer, but curious to know what people might think is a good way of acheiving 24 + inputs and outputs, perhaps using my existing MR816 units as preamp units via ADAT rather than the pretty obsolete firewire? Can I get some sort interface/converter that would give a decent channel count via USB, for instance, but without too many other bells and whistles?

With your existing array of ADAT preamps I think James' suggestion of the RME Digiface USB with its four ADAT ins and outs is one to look at closely. It's a very cost effective entry into the RME world, with no bells and whistles, and you could well achieve similar low latency performance to mine. Personally I decided that USB connectivity was the way forward to avoid computer-related issues later on, whether related to Windows 10 or not.

https://www.rme-audio.de/digiface-usb.html

Good luck whatever you decide!


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Re: Any advice re an interface upgrade please?

Postby CS70 » Tue Dec 17, 2019 11:37 pm

+1 to the RME suggestion above, but, unless you're really keen to change pc, I wouldn't discard the idea of upgrading to W10 and see what happens. Unless you know for a fact that your interfaces won't work, you may be in for a surprise. W10 is a much better OS in many ways than W7 was, and quite a lot better for music.
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Re: Any advice re an interface upgrade please?

Postby Arpangel » Wed Dec 18, 2019 8:05 am

Like any other piece of audio equipment interfaces do have a sound, the differences are sometimes subtle, sometimes quite drastic. I wouldn't buy anything before listening at home, on a sale or return basis.
I just happen to like Motu stuff, I tried RME and didn't get along with it, this has nothing to do with being good, or bad, it's all down to what you like, just don't jump in without auditioning first.
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Re: Any advice re an interface upgrade please?

Postby Fishnish » Wed Dec 18, 2019 12:12 pm

Martin Walker wrote:I went through the 'upgrading the audio interface' experience a couple of weeks ago, and lots of people (including most of the above) recommended RME products for their longevity, incredible driver performance, and most excellent sound.

Having seen the hefty RME pricing, I debated long and hard, but personally ended up with a Fireface UC interface that I'm extremely pleased with. I wasn't sure that USB would give me low enough latency, but these RME drivers really are nothing short of amazing. With my small channel count I can successfully run with the smallest buffer size of 48 samples, which at 44.1kHz sample rate gives me an effective latency of around 1mS!

Fishnish wrote:I'm reasonably clear about what I want from a new computer, but curious to know what people might think is a good way of acheiving 24 + inputs and outputs, perhaps using my existing MR816 units as preamp units via ADAT rather than the pretty obsolete firewire? Can I get some sort interface/converter that would give a decent channel count via USB, for instance, but without too many other bells and whistles?

With your existing array of ADAT preamps I think James' suggestion of the RME Digiface USB with its four ADAT ins and outs is one to look at closely. It's a very cost effective entry into the RME world, with no bells and whistles, and you could well achieve similar low latency performance to mine. Personally I decided that USB connectivity was the way forward to avoid computer-related issues later on, whether related to Windows 10 or not.

https://www.rme-audio.de/digiface-usb.html

Good luck whatever you decide!


Martin

Thanks for the input Martin. I've started looking at the RME Stuff and the Digiface is certainly an interesting possibility (and attractive budget-wise), especially given your comments re RME drivers. I suspect he thing that trips up my Steinberg MR units is maybe be the drivers - I'm very happy with their sound, features and integration within Cubase. They can sometimes just be a bit flaky though, whatever the buffer settings are. The preamps are pretty nice. I also have a WA 273 EQ which I like a lot, and gives me another option.
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Re: Any advice re an interface upgrade please?

Postby The Elf » Wed Dec 18, 2019 12:17 pm

You won't go wrong with anything with the RME badge on it. Absolutely rock-solid drivers and pristine good audio quality. And yes, it's always worth having an option or two on hand for when you want to dirty up audio before it hits the interface.

As Martin is already discovering, TotalMix can be tricky until you get your head around it, but once you do... this is where the beauty of RME interfaces really shines IMO.
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Re: Any advice re an interface upgrade please?

Postby Fishnish » Wed Dec 18, 2019 12:19 pm

CS70 wrote:+1 to the RME suggestion above, but, unless you're really keen to change pc, I wouldn't discard the idea of upgrading to W10 and see what happens. Unless you know for a fact that your interfaces won't work, you may be in for a surprise. W10 is a much better OS in many ways than W7 was, and quite a lot better for music.

Thanks, yes the current PC is actually ok and of pretty decent spec. it's main down side is that it has old school hard disk drives and somewhat cooling. Both problems that are solvable, so I'm not necessarily thinking of binning it, freshening it up is also an option!
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Re: Any advice re an interface upgrade please?

Postby Fishnish » Wed Dec 18, 2019 12:30 pm

Arpangel wrote:Like any other piece of audio equipment interfaces do have a sound, the differences are sometimes subtle, sometimes quite drastic. I wouldn't buy anything before listening at home, on a sale or return basis.
I just happen to like Motu stuff, I tried RME and didn't get along with it, this has nothing to do with being good, or bad, it's all down to what you like, just don't jump in without auditioning first.

Good point. Living as I do hanging half way off the edge of the world, oppurtunities to audition or even see gear in the physical world are pretty limited, so I tend to try at home before commiting. So yes I'd want to use a supplier with a good trial/return policy.

My Motu Midi interface has been an absolute star. I put it in the rack, plugged some stuff in, and have barely had to think about it since except to plug other stuff in. Exactly what one wants from a MIDI interface. I'm very happy with it.
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Re: Any advice re an interface upgrade please?

Postby CS70 » Wed Dec 18, 2019 1:20 pm

Fishnish wrote:
Thanks, yes the current PC is actually ok and of pretty decent spec. it's main down side is that it has old school hard disk drives and somewhat cooling. Both problems that are solvable, so I'm not necessarily thinking of binning it, freshening it up is also an option!

A swap to SSD will likely make it feel new again :)

24+ channels are gonna be expensive to replace - just the cost of the loom...

As for interface sound, while the preamps might have a very slight coloration and better AD conversion can add a very subtle definition , I wouldn’t really worry that much. No modern interface circuitry is gonna stop you making smashing music, and I doubt anyone would be able to tell what’s what in a blind test when listening, or even mixing.. and certainly the pc has nothing to do with the sound. Other than a noisy fan picked up by mics, that is!
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Re: Any advice re an interface upgrade please?

Postby Fishnish » Wed Dec 18, 2019 1:33 pm

CS70 wrote:
.............. Other than a noisy fan picked up by mics, that is!

Haha yes "Somewhat noisy cooling fan" I meant to say :lol:
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Re: Any advice re an interface upgrade please?

Postby Arpangel » Thu Dec 19, 2019 10:52 am

Fishnish wrote:
Arpangel wrote:Like any other piece of audio equipment interfaces do have a sound, the differences are sometimes subtle, sometimes quite drastic. I wouldn't buy anything before listening at home, on a sale or return basis.
I just happen to like Motu stuff, I tried RME and didn't get along with it, this has nothing to do with being good, or bad, it's all down to what you like, just don't jump in without auditioning first.

Good point. Living as I do hanging half way off the edge of the world, oppurtunities to audition or even see gear in the physical world are pretty limited, so I tend to try at home before commiting. So yes I'd want to use a supplier with a good trial/return policy.

My Motu Midi interface has been an absolute star. I put it in the rack, plugged some stuff in, and have barely had to think about it since except to plug other stuff in. Exactly what one wants from a MIDI interface. I'm very happy with it.

I have no interests in, or connection with Motu, but I feel the same about mine, great sound, and just gets on with it, set and forget. So therefore as long as the I/O and facilities suit, I'd stick with them.
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Re: Any advice re an interface upgrade please?

Postby Ramirez » Thu Dec 19, 2019 11:33 am

+ to the RME Digiface USB. As long as you can use the MR816 via ADAT, it looks like everything you need and nothing you don’t.

Caveat- I’m a bit of an RME fanboy, regularly using MADIFace Pro, Babyface Pro and Fireface 802 as well as various standalone converters. I also can’t imagine life without Totalmix anymore.
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Re: Any advice re an interface upgrade please?

Postby Fishnish » Thu Dec 19, 2019 12:38 pm

Thanks Ramirez. The Digiface USB is deffo on the list of options to check out,
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Re: Any advice re an interface upgrade please?

Postby MOF » Thu Dec 19, 2019 1:24 pm

Uad Apollo is my suggestion, I bought mine (silver face core duo, Firewire and Thunderbolt) on Ebay, the only downside is you’ll get addicted to the plugins :D
The console software is very intuitive.
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Re: Any advice re an interface upgrade please?

Postby TheChorltonWheelie » Sun Dec 22, 2019 7:12 pm

Fishnish wrote:Any advice gratefully recieved...

+1 for RME, I've used it for years and it's comfortably the most reliable interface I've ever used; not a single crash.

Indeed, I bought a new Apollo X8 to "replace" my UFX, but 60 seconds with a listening test and I went back to the UFX.

But, if you buy secondhand, make sure you check ALL of the ADAT doors on the back. The rear-housing, hidden in the shell, goes slightly brittle and dislodges inside so that the door flap and rear-housing disappear into the back of the RME. It's a real game repairing it, which I've had to do on my FF800 and UFX.
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