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Should I change my Scarlett 18i20 3rd for better quality card

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Should I change my Scarlett 18i20 3rd for better quality card

Postby Dniss » Sun Jan 24, 2021 6:42 pm

Hi, me again. There seems to be knowledgeable peps here so I thought I'd ask:

I've purchased the 18i20 last year, pretty happy with it (thanks to you guys :D )
But I have already maxed out the inputs with synths (4) and I want to acquire more synths. I couldn't help noticing other sound cards like the Presonus Quantum and Audient (asp800), and before tying myself with the focusrites brand by getting a second one, I want to explore my options.

So my question really is: do these cards mentionned above worth (sound quality wise) the extra dough? I would mind loosing a few hundreds on selling the focusrite to invest right away into something better. By opposition to tying more cash in something I might want to replace anyway later.

What would you do if you were me? Any other interface suggestions? I use only synths.

Cheers!
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Re: Should I change my Scarlett 18i20 3rd for better quality card

Postby James Perrett » Sun Jan 24, 2021 7:36 pm

You will probably not hear much difference in quality between the Focusrite and a different convertor. You need the rest of your signal chain to be of extremely high quality to hear any difference and, even then, it is quite possible that the difference will be so small that you won't notice it.

However, as you are running out of channels and have an ADAT input on your interface it would make sense to add an 8 channel A/D to make use of that input. So, something like an Audient ASP800 would be a possible addition but the most noticeable change would probably be down to its usability rather than a difference in sound quality. However, for line level sources you may be equally happy with a Behringer ADA8200 for around a third of the price.

As far as future investment goes, you are much safer investing in a separate 8 channel A/D than you are in a new audio interface. The A/D will be usable with a range of different interfaces in the future.
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Re: Should I change my Scarlett 18i20 3rd for better quality card

Postby The Elf » Sun Jan 24, 2021 7:39 pm

I would look at adding a lot of inputs in one swoop. To that end I favour MADI and perhaps Dante. It's not a cheap option, either way, so what's the budget here?

I also have a synth-heavy studio, and my solution was an RME MADIFace XT and a pair of Ferrofish A32, providing 64 line ins and outs. It surprising how quickly I've filled it all up...
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Re: Should I change my Scarlett 18i20 3rd for better quality card

Postby Dniss » Sun Jan 24, 2021 8:37 pm

James Perrett wrote:As far as future investment goes, you are much safer investing in a separate 8 channel A/D than you are in a new audio interface. The A/D will be usable with a range of different interfaces in the future.

Thanks for so nicely clearing this up for me.
Can you give me an example of an 8 channel A/D? I'm not entirely sure of the point you're making and I'd like to understand. Adding a second 18i20 is not adding another 8 channel A/D?
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Re: Should I change my Scarlett 18i20 3rd for better quality card

Postby Dniss » Sun Jan 24, 2021 8:43 pm

The Elf wrote:I would look at adding a lot of inputs in one swoop. To that end I favour MADI and perhaps Dante. It's not a cheap option, either way, so what's the budget here?

I also have a synth-heavy studio, and my solution was an RME MADIFace XT and a pair of Ferrofish A32, providing 64 line ins and outs. It surprising how quickly I've filled it all up...

ahah very nice!! Not what I had in mind budget wise. ;)
My budget is roughly the price of 2 Quantum interface. With 16 mono input I will be fine for a long time.
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Re: Should I change my Scarlett 18i20 3rd for better quality card

Postby CS70 » Sun Jan 24, 2021 8:49 pm

Dniss wrote:
James Perrett wrote:As far as future investment goes, you are much safer investing in a separate 8 channel A/D than you are in a new audio interface. The A/D will be usable with a range of different interfaces in the future.

Thanks for so nicely clearing this up for me.
Can you give me an example of an 8 channel A/D? I'm not entirely sure of the point you're making and I'd like to understand. Adding a second 18i20 is not adding another 8 channel A/D?

An 8 channel AD is a box that can convert 8 line signals (usually presented as 8 XLR sockets or TS jacks) from analogue audio to equivalent digital audio, and pass this latter to the interface. There are several different digital audio transport formats, and ADAT is one of them. Since your interface has ADAT connectivity, you simply connect the AD converter to the interface with the right cable and your interface suddenly will have 8 more line channels - so that you can connect the synths to the AD converter and "see" them via the interface as normal.

Converters come in all costs and quality, the cheapest being - I gather - the Behringer ADA 8200 and the most expensive... well, sky's the limit. At home I use a RME ADI Pro and it works perfectly. At the studio I have Prims and Lucid.

If you need more than 8 additional channels, ADAT is no longer enough. Then you need a multi channel digital interface, such as the Elf's, which allows you to see up to 64 or 128 digital audio streams - each set of 8 produced by different converter boxes. It gets expensive pretty soon.

I understand the 8200 does already a more than decent job, but James knows more about the specifics than I.
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Re: Should I change my Scarlett 18i20 3rd for better quality card

Postby James Perrett » Sun Jan 24, 2021 10:57 pm

Dniss wrote:
James Perrett wrote:As far as future investment goes, you are much safer investing in a separate 8 channel A/D than you are in a new audio interface. The A/D will be usable with a range of different interfaces in the future.

Thanks for so nicely clearing this up for me.
Can you give me an example of an 8 channel A/D? I'm not entirely sure of the point you're making and I'd like to understand. Adding a second 18i20 is not adding another 8 channel A/D?

I think CS70 has explained it fairly well. The 18i20 is a complete audio interface but all you need is something that turns line level signals into digital to feed into the additional inputs on your existing 18i20. For some reason most of the affordable 8 channel units include mic preamps too - line level A/D convertors tend to be at the higher end of the market - as you've seen with Elf's recommendation.

My setups are mainly based around various 8 channel A/D's feeding mainly RME interfaces. I have a couple of old Alesis ADAT LX20 recorders, Behringer ADA8000, Focusrite Saffire Pro26io and Audent ASP008. All of these can be used to convert analogue line level signals to digital although I've listed them roughly in ascending order of quality. The LX20's and ADA8000 convertors are based on similar (possibly identical) 20 year old technology and can impart a very slight "graininess" to the sound but once you get up to the Focusrite level the sound quality differences are extremely small.

I would add that I haven't used the Behringer ADA8200 but Hugh's review in the magazine said that it was much improved over the ADA8000 so it would certainly be worth considering if you are on a tight budget.
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Re: Should I change my Scarlett 18i20 3rd for better quality card

Postby uselessoldman » Mon Jan 25, 2021 4:15 pm

If I were adding audio inputs in the numbers you are considering I think I would rethink my strategy and go down another route rather than a audio interface with ADAT type extensions.

I have the Liquid 56 and ADA8200 which is great for vocals guitars etc but you are adding/wanting a lot of inputs that may or may not be utilised all the time sat idle taking up input space/slots?? I have my gear in a small cabinet and I added the MS800 to my setup which goes into the back of my Liquid 56. AS its inputs are on the front of the cabinet I can swap out the input source/xlr without going to the back of the interface. But I also bought a snake box that goes from the MS800 and ADAT8200 to anywhere I want and from there xlr cables to the source. Add into that I added a Samson x-Patch plus that sits between the audio interface/ADAT and the MS800 and a Di-Pro I can also use that to break add in mix the channels in any way I want. SO I have potentially a lot of inputs available if only 16 in use/available at any one time.

If I were doing it all again from scratch I would probably get the Behringer X-Air 18 or X32, which I am seriously thinking about buying as a control surface and mobile recording desk.
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Re: Should I change my Scarlett 18i20 3rd for better quality card

Postby The Elf » Mon Jan 25, 2021 5:31 pm

Reducing the budget option a little, my second choice would be an RME Fireface and something like the Ferrofish A16. And if the Ferrofish doesn't suit, then down to the Behringer ADA8200. The good thing is that you can later add another ADA8200 for 8 more inputs to a Fireface.

You've already maxxed out your current input count. I can almost guarantee it won't be long before you max out 16 inputs!
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Re: Should I change my Scarlett 18i20 3rd for better quality card

Postby CS70 » Mon Jan 25, 2021 10:00 pm

The Elf wrote:You've already maxxed out your current input count. I can almost guarantee it won't be long before you max out 16 inputs!

You Synth Guys Are Crazy :lol:
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Re: Should I change my Scarlett 18i20 3rd for better quality card

Postby Moroccomoose » Mon Jan 25, 2021 10:15 pm

I have 2 Alesis AI3 ADAT interfaces hooked up to my interface, giving me 16 additional line level I/O. They pop up on ebay reasonably frequently for between £50 and £100.

Very happy with mine, they seem rock solid.

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Re: Should I change my Scarlett 18i20 3rd for better quality card

Postby blinddrew » Mon Jan 25, 2021 11:08 pm

I see the 18i20 has two ADAT inputs on the back but am I right in thinking it can still only take 8 additional inputs, even at base rates?
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Re: Should I change my Scarlett 18i20 3rd for better quality card

Postby James Perrett » Mon Jan 25, 2021 11:25 pm

blinddrew wrote:I see the 18i20 has two ADAT inputs on the back but am I right in thinking it can still only take 8 additional inputs, even at base rates?

That's what the panel label seems to imply. Looks like Focusrite want you to buy the Rednet range if you want high channel counts.
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Re: Should I change my Scarlett 18i20 3rd for better quality card

Postby Dniss » Tue Jan 26, 2021 5:04 am

James Perrett wrote:As far as future investment goes, you are much safer investing in a separate 8 channel A/D than you are in a new audio interface. The A/D will be usable with a range of different interfaces in the future.

Hi James, I think I get it now. Since the focusrite IS an audio interface (with AD inputs), I don't need a second one, so I should be able to connect an ASP800 and it should work. Makes sense? Will they sync ok?

Thank you very much!
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Re: Should I change my Scarlett 18i20 3rd for better quality card

Postby Dniss » Tue Jan 26, 2021 5:08 am

CS70 wrote:If you need more than 8 additional channels, ADAT is no longer enough. Then you need a multi channel digital interface, such as the Elf's, which allows you to see up to 64 or 128 digital audio streams - each set of 8 produced by different converter boxes. It gets expensive pretty soon.

Now that I understand the difference between audio interface and AD converter I understand your comment! Thanks I appreciate the input.
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