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struggling to guage what sounds better than the focusrite scarlett at the same price point.

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struggling to guage what sounds better than the focusrite scarlett at the same price point.

Postby dfira » Tue Nov 17, 2020 1:55 pm

So i like that they sound rather forward, but don't like that they seem to lack a little clarity/detail in the highend.

I don't really have the possibility to listen before i buy and i have in the past been impressed with Tascam gear. Tascam make a series of 'US-' interfaces to compete with the Scarlett, and are upgrading it in December.

I'm inclined to believe the Tascam outperforms the Scarlett, but I don't know it.

I am going to be buying a mic that i know is inferior to others, but because it has a polar pattern that will block out some of the room ambience. - that, at the end of the day, combined with some subtle EQ to fill in the gaps will give me a better sound, than the 'better' mic.

So it seems I'm indeed not after the 'best'/purest sound quality... And the focusrite has an 'air' button (that i believe is just an exciter) so that could help me fake that good quality sound even more too. (Although maybe any exciter plugin would achieve exactly the same result?).

So where do i go from here? Do i get the Tascam US-1x2HR or the Scarlett Solo?

Thanks!
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Re: struggling to guage what sounds better than the focusrite scarlett at the same price point.

Postby The Elf » Tue Nov 17, 2020 2:10 pm

I think that most of us here would broadly concur that you're dancing on the head of a pin when you're comparing sound quality at this end of the market. In other words I don't think it matters which you choose on that basis.

But...

Given my past experience of Tascam audio interfaces I wouldn't choose it for the efficacy of its drivers - an aspect for which I think Focusrite enjoy a good reputation. In fact I wouldn't choose either of these interfaces, given that my own list of priorities includes a powerful mixer app.

So all I would say is to put the 'audio quality' idea side for a moment and see what other requirements you have. You may find that that helps you choose wisely.
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Re: struggling to guage what sounds better than the focusrite scarlett at the same price point.

Postby Sam Spoons » Tue Nov 17, 2020 3:23 pm

I agree with The Elf and would add that the quality of either of these interfaces will exceed the quality of the mic you are planning to buy by a considerable margin, any system can only be as good as it's weakest link.

I'd also add that for podcasting/youtube any differences will disappear in the data compression algorithms employed....
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Re: struggling to guage what sounds better than the focusrite scarlett at the same price point.

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Nov 17, 2020 3:43 pm

dfira wrote:So i like that they sound rather forward, but don't like that they seem to lack a little clarity/detail in the highend.

I can't honestly say I'd have ascribed either of those characteristics to any of the Scarlett interfaces. I've heard both mics and speakers that could easily fall under that description, but the Scarlett interfaces have always struck me as pretty neutral and flat. So I'm intrigued at how you've arrived at your impression?
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Re: struggling to guage what sounds better than the focusrite scarlett at the same price point.

Postby CS70 » Tue Nov 17, 2020 3:56 pm

Hei dfira!

dfira wrote:I'm inclined to believe the Tascam outperforms the Scarlett, but I don't know it.

"believe" seems to be the keyword. Who gave you these ideas? :)

I am going to be buying a mic that i know is inferior to others, but because it has a polar pattern that will block out some of the room ambience. - that, at the end of the day, combined with some subtle EQ to fill in the gaps will give me a better sound, than the 'better' mic.

No polar pattern's gonna block out some of the room ambience. Some microphones (say a SM7B) have a frequency response that rolls out and smooths some of the top end so that a little bit less ambience is captured if used very close (that is, with a huge signal/noise ratio).. like you can do for example with a vocal recording. Otherwise no mic will block ambience.

To get an ambience-free recording - when u need it - you need an ambience-free space. Now depending on what you want to record, that may or may not be necessary, and it may be possible to create such an space quite simply and inexpensively. Vocals, for example.

So it seems I'm indeed not after the 'best'/purest sound quality... And the focusrite has an 'air' button (that i believe is just an exciter) so that could help me fake that good quality sound even more too. (Although maybe any exciter plugin would achieve exactly the same result?).

So where do i go from here? Do i get the Tascam US-1x2HR or the Scarlett Solo?

It's very good to think about quality - but you've gotta understand what "quality" is. And by and large, it has zilch to do with the interface you're using (at least for modern kit).

Have a read at my post about what makes a good recording, it's basically what I would wrote here.
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Re: struggling to guage what sounds better than the focusrite scarlett at the same price point.

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Nov 17, 2020 4:15 pm

CS70 wrote:No polar pattern's gonna block out some of the room ambience.....

Erm...think a brain fart escaped there.... :D

It is a fundamental principle that the various directional polar patterns capture less room ambience than an omni-directional mic in the same place.

It is a property known scientifically as the Directivity Index, and it is measured as the difference in output level from the microphone between a plane wave arriving directly on axis and a diffuse sound field having the same SPL.

Ambient sound is inherently a diffuse sound field, whereas a person's speech into the mic is an on-axis plane wave (assuming normal mouth-mic spacing).

An omni-directional mic has a directivity index of 0dB -- because it provides the same output level regardless of where the sound is coming from.

In contrast, both the cardioid and fig-8 pattern mics have a directivity index of 4.8dB -- you get more level from an on axis plane wave than you do a diffuse sound field of the same SPL.

A super-cardioid is 5.7dB, a hyper-cardioid is 6dB and, just for completeness a hypo-cardioid is 2.5dB.

What this means in practice is that for a given sound level on axis, a cardioid picks up 4.8dB less room ambience than an omni mic in the same position, while a hyper-cardioid picks up 6dB less.

Or, looking at it from the other direction, a hypercardioid can be placed twice as far from the source as an omni mic for the same level of ambient sound (and a cardioid 1.7 times as far away).

Whether we do it knowingly or not, we use and rely on this fundamental principle every day in our mic selection and placement decisions.

So choice of mic polar pattern can certainly help to reduce ambient sound pickup.... but it will only be a relatively mild reduction (4-6dB, typically) and the real answer is, as you say, to work in an environment which has intrinsically low ambient noise levels. That's why recording and broadcast studios are built the way they are...
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Re: struggling to guage what sounds better than the focusrite scarlett at the same price point.

Postby CS70 » Tue Nov 17, 2020 4:28 pm

Hugh Robjohns wrote:
CS70 wrote:No polar pattern's gonna block out some of the room ambience.....

Erm...think a brain fart escaped there.... :D

It is a fundamental principle that the various directional polar patterns capture less room ambience than an omni-directional mic in the same place.

Yes of course :)

But the reason I replied that way is that I suspect that the OP isn't thinking in these terms, but has the idea that certain microphones would - by being cardioid or hypercardiod or by their frequency response - produce a recording that doesn't contain ambience to a degree that it makes the difference he/she talks about.

The kind of wording he/she used made me think that - hence my reply.

I meet that kind of ideas very often in less enlightened places than this. I've kinda learnt that a good course of action is to get rid of the idea very, very clearly - no details - and only then, once the basics are in place, provide the details for which the idea might have had a core of truth. A lot of that is in rap and hip hop circles where people pass on beliefs that say a SM7B can be used anywhere and will always give a good recording..

But no harm in the precisation, which is welcome of course.

So choice of mic polar pattern can certainly help to reduce ambient sound pickup.... but it will only be a relatively mild reduction and the real answer is, as you say, to work in an environment which has intrinsically low ambient noise levels.

Yeah :) The bold part is the point. I suspect that the OP expects a massive difference - one that actually would make a difference in quality in a reflective room.

Good to have your precisation, so if I were wrong he'll know even more!
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Re: struggling to guage what sounds better than the focusrite scarlett at the same price point.

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Nov 17, 2020 4:34 pm

CS70 wrote:I've kinda learnt that a good course of action is to get rid of the idea very, very clearly - no details - and only then, once the basics are in place, provide the details for which the idea might have had a core of truth.

;) Each to their own... I learned long ago that over-simplifications tend to result in more confusion and misunderstandings later on, not less. So my watchword is accuracy (but not necessarily detail) from the get-go...
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Re: struggling to guage what sounds better than the focusrite scarlett at the same price point.

Postby CS70 » Tue Nov 17, 2020 4:47 pm

Fair 'nuf. We try all strategies, the more people (and we) understand, the better it is.
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Re: struggling to guage what sounds better than the focusrite scarlett at the same price point.

Postby blinddrew » Tue Nov 17, 2020 6:44 pm

I have a focusrite Scarlett and a Tascam US- series interface and I can confidently say that no-one (me included) has ever been able to tell the difference between what was recorded on one or the other. :)
Source, room, mic positioning and microphone (in that order) will all make far more difference to the captured sound than the interface.
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Re: struggling to guage what sounds better than the focusrite scarlett at the same price point.

Postby dfira » Tue Nov 17, 2020 8:37 pm

Okay, first off thank you everyone for being so generous with your time. It's really a treat for me :)

But CS70, man, I know you mean well, but you have to be careful with the outright lies, Hiding the truth from anyone doesn't actually protect them from it.

The Elf wrote:So all I would say is to put the 'audio quality' idea side for a moment and see what other requirements you have. You may find that that helps you choose wisely.
Right! but, all I need is one mic input, I even already have a reasonably good DAC. And as long as the device is class-compliant (which both are), at least on Linux, the driver is mostly a non-issue)

Hugh RobJohns wrote: I'm intrigued at how you've arrived at your impression?
Hi Hugh! (I actually have been a long time subscriber, and forum user for many years (under a different account, and many moons ago)). So to respond, I got at this impression really just from youtube shootouts, under less than ideal listening circumstances admittedly, but after comparing various videos, I seemed to notice a trend that among the various interfaces in the shootouts, usually the Scarlett was the one that had the most forwardness/presence while it lacked a little of breathy upper end detail/clarity that you typically enjoy in more higher-end units. I wish I could link you to exactly which samples.

In any case, I know I will be absolutely fine with a Scarlett and it's truly a beautiful box, but I just wonder if I'd be missing out if I waited and got the new Tascam instead.

CS70 wrote:"believe" seems to be the keyword. Who gave you these ideas?
Yeah, totally irrational and religious thinking... just a guess really, But... at this point, Focusrite could sell a really crappy mass produced chinese designed and built unit and they'd still sell truckloads, just going off their name recognition, And I owned a Tascam DM24 which had 16 preamps and bought their firewire ADC expansion and couldn't believe how good it sounded, Shout out to the built-in EQ, Compressor and (TC Works) Reverb which was just icing on the cake, but all fantastic sounding too. - So I just gained a love for Tascam at that point, and what seems to be a high bar that they seem to have set for their brand.

blinddrew wrote:I have a focusrite Scarlett and a Tascam US- series interface and I can confidently say that no-one (me included) has ever been able to tell the difference between what was recorded on one or the other.
Okay, looks like I'm going to have put my love for Tascam to one side and go for the Scarlett then, just because of the 'air' button... (Unless you can convince me it's just a gimmick)

... Although, the HR generation of the Tascam units, do advertise better quality, at least on paper.....
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Re: struggling to guage what sounds better than the focusrite scarlett at the same price point.

Postby Sam Spoons » Tue Nov 17, 2020 10:36 pm

Given that the actual differences in 'sound quality' re likely to be minimal and may be undetectable behind that of the room and mic I'd say that choosing the one that you 'believe' is the better sounding is as good a way of choosing as any other. We all suffer from confirmation bias and having that on your side is perfectly valid* so go with your gut feeling. Nobody on here is saying the Tascam is inferior to the F'rite just that the inverse is unlikely to be the case either.

* If we are honest I'll bet the number of people in here who have never chosen one bit of kit over another because it 'looked' right** can be counted on the thumbs of one hand...

** This is not as silly as it sounds given that it is rarely the actual gear but the way you use it that makes 'the sound'. I have been complimented on the accuracy of my 'Knopfler Sound' when playing a Les Paul with a pick and my Santana when playing a Strat... The difference between a Strat and a LP is an order of magnitude greater than the difference between two budget audio interfaces.
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Re: struggling to guage what sounds better than the focusrite scarlett at the same price point.

Postby The Elf » Tue Nov 17, 2020 10:51 pm

dfira wrote:
The Elf wrote:So all I would say is to put the 'audio quality' idea side for a moment and see what other requirements you have. You may find that that helps you choose wisely.
Right! but, all I need is one mic input, I even already have a reasonably good DAC. And as long as the device is class-compliant (which both are), at least on Linux, the driver is mostly a non-issue)
Drivers are only one aspect. What about MIDI? What about a mixer for zero-latency monitoring? Any or none of these aspects (and many more) may be important - or become important in the future. I definitely wouldn't advise going for a bare minimum spec. One input is fine for now, for example, but the first time you want to do anything in stereo...

What I'm saying is that there are many aspects to choosing an audio interface and sound quality is not really top of the list.
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Re: struggling to guage what sounds better than the focusrite scarlett at the same price point.

Postby dfira » Tue Nov 17, 2020 11:37 pm

Ahh. :) Okay, so the real question is do i give in to the beauty of the Scarlett, or my loyalty to Tascam? Because that little red box sure would sit pretty on my desk! :beamup:

Thanks for helping me get to the real crux of the problem! :D
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Re: struggling to guage what sounds better than the focusrite scarlett at the same price point.

Postby desmond » Tue Nov 17, 2020 11:44 pm

If you go Scarlet, I'd recommend you skip the Solo and get at least the 2i2 - one mic input is incredibly limiting, and you might have no plans to record more than one mono source right now, but if that changes in the future, you've got to buy a whole new interface if you want to record something in stereo without jumping through hoops.

Two proper inputs will give a lot more flexibility, and will make your investment last you longer.

(I have a 6i6 here and it's a nice little box, that sounds fine. The drivers are solid, and you good a good range of software and continuing free software offers you can take advantage of - I'll check back in occasionally and grab whatever the latest freebie is, and there's been some good ones.)
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