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Audio interface advice

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Audio interface advice

Postby The Paul meister » Mon Nov 09, 2020 7:54 pm

Hi Everyone

I’m looking to buy an audio interface for PC. The most important thing I need is a nice low latency driver for triggering soft synths. For inputs I would like a jack for guitar, one for bass, two or more mic inputs and a stereo auxiliary input for connecting my mixer and synths. For outputs I would ideally like six or more for surround sound purposes and a headphone jack. I have USB 3 on my laptop but USB 2 would be fine – I noticed that the USB 3 interfaces are a lot more expensive.

Any advice on this would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks a lot, Paul
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Audio interface advice

Postby The Paul meister » Mon Nov 09, 2020 8:35 pm

HI again,

Sorry - forgot to mention in my last post that I'm using Cubase SE 3, and Cakewalk by Bandlab as my sequencers. I don't know if this makes any difference with regards to getting an audio interface.

Thanks, Paul
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Re: Audio interface advice

Postby CS70 » Mon Nov 09, 2020 9:53 pm

The Presonus Quantum is one of the fastest, isn't it? They're probably using fast RAM, fast DMA controllers etc to achieve the maximum receiving rate over USB. But any half-decent interface with recent drivers will do (recent drivers are important as the driver need to make assumptions on the average capabilities of the hardware when they fix the USB buffer sizes).

But with relatively modern hardware and updated drivers it will generally depend much more on the overall realtime characteristics of your computer than the interface.
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Re: Audio interface advice

Postby Rockrooms » Tue Nov 10, 2020 8:42 am

The Paul meister wrote:Hi Everyone

I’m looking to buy an audio interface for PC. The most important thing I need is a nice low latency driver for triggering soft synths. For inputs I would like a jack for guitar, one for bass, two or more mic inputs and a stereo auxiliary input for connecting my mixer and synths. For outputs I would ideally like six or more for surround sound purposes and a headphone jack. I have USB 3 on my laptop but USB 2 would be fine – I noticed that the USB 3 interfaces are a lot more expensive.

Any advice on this would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks a lot, Paul
If you haven't already done so, I would highly recommend using a tool like latency monitor
https://www.resplendence.com/downloads

If your system has poorly behaving drivers - network / wifi are among the usual bad actors - then the interface choice is going to be a bit moot.

The interface drivers are the next factor, all that marshaling data across the USB bus is non trivial, I'm assuming you are on Windows not Mac as you've said "PC". Low latency usually means higher sample rates and lower buffer sizes, which leads to an increased risk of dropouts or glitches.

Some interfaces claim low latency but if you try and stream at the buffer size / sample rate to get that latency then the reliability of the audio drops dramatically. One interface I tried basically turned into an oscillator at quad band and it wasn't a super cheap one either.

Thunderbolt is still the best option for lowest latency, but comes at a cost and limited number of motherboard choices, but USB 2 can, with a good system can get down to a few ms reliably, but is more of a lottery and you're always one Windows update away from things going south.

For the number of outputs you need, that is going to mean going for a larger box.
A Scarlett 18i20 Gen 3 would do the job, but working for Focusrite, I would say that :)

RME have an excellent reputation for driver reliability and performance and the Fireface UC USB has the 6 outs you're after, albeit at a higher price point.


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Re: Audio interface advice

Postby The Paul meister » Tue Nov 10, 2020 9:23 am

Hi Rockrooms,

Thanks for your reply.

The Scarlett 18i20 Gen 3 looks interesting. I searched it on Andertons - it says 2 instrument inputs. Does this mean I can plug in a guitar and a bass ?

Cheers, Paul
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Re: Audio interface advice

Postby Rockrooms » Tue Nov 10, 2020 9:40 am

The Paul meister wrote:Hi Rockrooms,

Thanks for your reply.

The Scarlett 18i20 Gen 3 looks interesting. I searched it on Andertons - it says 2 instrument inputs. Does this mean I can plug in a guitar and a bass ?

Cheers, Paul

Yes, the front two inputs are independently switchable from line inputs to instrument, they also have pad if the instruments are particularly "hot". You can also add the "air" boost to the instrument inputs if that takes your fancy.

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Re: Audio interface advice

Postby ef37a » Tue Nov 10, 2020 9:46 am

Hi Paul,

That Focusrite will do everything you say you want to do but, do look very hard at the RME, reviews, reports in forums etc.
If you can possibly afford it go for it. You might not understand this at the moment but the ADAT optical ports mean the interface can be added to and expanded to an extra 8 inputs.
To be fair, so can be the F'rite but it still ain't an RME.

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Re: Audio interface advice

Postby The Elf » Tue Nov 10, 2020 9:58 am

As long as your chosen interface has loopback monitoring then low latency is not such a big deal. Only if you want to monitor through your DAW (which many people seem intent to do, even when it really isn't a requirement, or the best way) does latency become an issue.

It's one of the reasons that I choose RME - TotalMix is a must for me.
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Re: Audio interface advice

Postby CS70 » Tue Nov 10, 2020 10:32 am

The Elf wrote:As long as your chosen interface has loopback monitoring then low latency is not such a big deal. Only if you want to monitor through your DAW (which many people seem intent to do, even when it really isn't a requirement, or the best way) does latency become an issue.

It's one of the reasons that I choose RME - TotalMix is a must for me.

Think the OP was mentioning soft synths..

The main issue with that there is that the interface is only half of the story. If you but a 300Hp engine on a car with crappy suspensions, you will still go slow.

If you want absolute performance with soft synths you need to test the computer, the interface - and possibly the soft synth - at the same time..
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Re: Audio interface advice

Postby ef37a » Tue Nov 10, 2020 10:42 am

CS70 wrote:
The Elf wrote:As long as your chosen interface has loopback monitoring then low latency is not such a big deal. Only if you want to monitor through your DAW (which many people seem intent to do, even when it really isn't a requirement, or the best way) does latency become an issue.

It's one of the reasons that I choose RME - TotalMix is a must for me.

Think the OP was mentioning soft synths..

The main issue with that there is that the interface is only half of the story. If you but a 300Hp engine on a car with crappy suspensions, you will still go slow.

If you want absolute performance with soft synths you need to test the computer, the interface - and possibly the soft synth - at the same time..

Yes, ^ a bit but, from all I have read of RME not only do they achieve super low latencies but their drivers are so good that they put less strain on the PC?

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Re: Audio interface advice

Postby The Elf » Tue Nov 10, 2020 12:56 pm

CS70 wrote:
The Elf wrote:As long as your chosen interface has loopback monitoring then low latency is not such a big deal. Only if you want to monitor through your DAW (which many people seem intent to do, even when it really isn't a requirement, or the best way) does latency become an issue.

It's one of the reasons that I choose RME - TotalMix is a must for me.
Think the OP was mentioning soft synths..
Fair enough.
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Re: Audio interface advice

Postby CS70 » Tue Nov 10, 2020 1:53 pm

ef37a wrote:Yes, ^ a bit but, from all I have read of RME not only do they achieve super low latencies but their drivers are so good that they put less strain on the PC?

Could well be, but the challenge is that the driver itself depends on the USB driver and where it sets is own (usually fixed) USB buffer size. Plus the USB capabilities of the computer motherboard and chipset (typically in the southbridge if it's there, or integrated in the CPU etc.. there's various ways).

Now... nowadays it mostly works, but if one wants _guarantees_ :) then it's best to test/look at the system as a whole. I understand Scan and similar do exactly that.

And of course you can always exceed the capabilities of any given system by simply adding enough soft synths... :D
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Re: Audio interface advice

Postby OneWorld » Tue Nov 10, 2020 3:56 pm

Rockrooms wrote:.............but is more of a lottery and you're always one Windows update away from things going south............
Joe

A good point well put!
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Re: Audio interface advice

Postby ef37a » Tue Nov 10, 2020 5:30 pm

OneWorld wrote:
Rockrooms wrote:.............but is more of a lottery and you're always one Windows update away from things going south............
Joe

A good point well put!

Well! There must be some unlucky Bs out there. I have been running a W10 laptop for two years and my DAWs and variuos interfaces that get connected from tme to time have never been jinxed by updates. In fact I don't even recall any day to day operation being in the least affected?

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Re: Audio interface advice

Postby The Elf » Tue Nov 10, 2020 5:57 pm

I must be equally lucky.

I get a call every couple of months from a friend who, when he hits a problem, *always* blames it on a Microsoft update. Needless to say that's never been the case, and we always manage to get him back up and running once I figure out what he's done...
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