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Interface for the Focusrite ISA One

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Interface for the Focusrite ISA One

Postby Normonster » Thu Feb 14, 2019 6:46 pm

Hello Gents,

I've searched and searched but cannot find much info on this.

I'm looking at picking up a Focusrite ISA One but since my current interface has no inputs that bypass the built-in preamps I am wondering what the recommended interface might be. Is there one available without built-in preamps? One that is not super expensive... :headbang:

What would you do if you needed to get your signal from an ISA into your DAW, knowing that you'd be working one track at a time on solo material?

I've also considered skipping the ISA and picking up a Steinberg UR-RT2 or a Focusrite 2Pre, if you care to comment on that option.

Thank you very much for any insight you can provide.
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Re: Interface for the Focusrite ISA One

Postby Sam Inglis » Thu Feb 14, 2019 6:56 pm

Well, it's not the end of the world if your signal goes through another preamp stage. If you want to get any 'colour' out of the ISA you'll need something with an input pad, otherwise it'll sound very clean.

The ESI Maya 44 has line-level inputs only and is affordable.
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Re: Interface for the Focusrite ISA One

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Thu Feb 14, 2019 7:36 pm

Fit the ISA digital output card and use an S/PDIF input on your interface... if present?
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Re: Interface for the Focusrite ISA One

Postby CS70 » Thu Feb 14, 2019 10:35 pm

Well I feel with the OP, the Isa One digital card costs an arm and a leg! :D

I concur, so long your interface is half decent, I wouldn't worry about using a signal path with another preamp - especially if you want color.. which is usually distortion anyways.
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Re: Interface for the Focusrite ISA One

Postby Normonster » Fri Feb 15, 2019 4:28 am

Thank you Sam. That is an affordable interface.

Hugh, no, unfortunately I bought a A&H Zedi 10FX which has no digital input.

CS70 I fear my interface is perhaps less than half decent. I can get a good sound live, through studio monitors or my PA speakers, but I'm not so sure of the converters and what have you. Distortion in my signal chain is actually not what I am after...I'm doing a kind of singer songwriter type style with just vocals and acoustic guitar...and hoping maybe the ISA can help me be better than I am. :)
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Re: Interface for the Focusrite ISA One

Postby Humble Bee » Fri Feb 15, 2019 8:07 am

Audient id22 and id44 have direct to ADC Inputs and are good interfaces in general... :thumbup:
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Re: Interface for the Focusrite ISA One

Postby ef37a » Fri Feb 15, 2019 8:39 am

Normonster wrote:Thank you Sam. That is an affordable interface.

Hugh, no, unfortunately I bought a A&H Zedi 10FX which has no digital input.

CS70 I fear my interface is perhaps less than half decent. I can get a good sound live, through studio monitors or my PA speakers, but I'm not so sure of the converters and what have you. Distortion in my signal chain is actually not what I am after...I'm doing a kind of singer songwriter type style with just vocals and acoustic guitar...and hoping maybe the ISA can help me be better than I am. :)

I have a 10fx and find the pre amps very good. The ISA is of course a superb pre amp but I doubt you will notice any difference. The 24 bit converters should also be AS good as most AIs in a similar price bracket.

Pete Kane (Scan) has said the 2in 2 out Zoom AI is about the best he has tried in the sub £200 range but the Native Instruments KA6 comes close, about the same money and has more connectivity.

But yes, running a line stage through an attenuated mic pre amp has virtually no issues unless the mic amp is pretty grotty to start with!

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Re: Interface for the Focusrite ISA One

Postby CS70 » Fri Feb 15, 2019 9:15 am

Normonster wrote:Thank you Sam. That is an affordable interface.

Hugh, no, unfortunately I bought a A&H Zedi 10FX which has no digital input.

CS70 I fear my interface is perhaps less than half decent. I can get a good sound live, through studio monitors or my PA speakers, but I'm not so sure of the converters and what have you. Distortion in my signal chain is actually not what I am after...I'm doing a kind of singer songwriter type style with just vocals and acoustic guitar...and hoping maybe the ISA can help me be better than I am. :)

The ISA is a good clean preamp - I have one and like how the variable Z can change the sound of the mic. However, when clean, practically all preamps sound pretty much the same-ish. It's only when you overdrive the circuit that then good ones distort, but in a pleasant way (which is called "color") which adds something nice to the track. The ISA is hard to overdrive but when you do it sounds cool (especially on electric bass, for me)..

What a high end preamp will not do, however, is to help you being better than you are :) The better the preamp, the more it will record you exactly as you are :D (or rather, as the mic thinks you are)

If you're looking for changing the timbre, and assuming your recording room is up to scratch acopustically and you know how to record guitar and vocals, much better value is to spend money on a nicer mic (or one that suits your better) rather than a different preamp; and/or reach for the EQ knobs- they're there for a reason. Now a good hardware EQ is way expensive but we're blessed with uncountable EQ plugins that get excellent tone-shaping results for very little money, so don't be shy with the (virtual) knobs.
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Re: Interface for the Focusrite ISA One

Postby Wonks » Fri Feb 15, 2019 10:47 am

I've never even seen a Steinberg UR-RT2 in the flesh, but a look at the block diagram for it a few weeks ago showed that there was no attenuation control between the transformer and the pre-amp, so any attempt to drive it hard for saturation was likely to end up with clipping at the A/D. Otherwise expect to hear only a very mild sound difference (just found this review which confirms it https://www.musictech.net/reviews/steinberg-ur-rt2-review/ ) . Remember that the unit contains two transformers specified by Rupert Neve, not a Rupert Neve designed interface on the cheap. They could have been better utilised IMO. It is a very good interface, but then so is the UR 242 at just over half the price, only missing those transformers.
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Re: Interface for the Focusrite ISA One

Postby Normonster » Fri Feb 15, 2019 7:23 pm

Well call me stumped I guess.

@Humble Bee - That is a highly rated piece of equipment from what I read. It also has to built in pres, the digital ins and the line ins. A flexible piece no doubt. Thank you for pointing it out.

@Wonks - Yes, I think I found the thread where you describe having reviewed the diagram. I see your point, unfortunate as the indication may be.

@CS70 - Damn it man. The truth hurts. haha. I am actually planning to pick up, in addition to my NT1A, a SM7B. Or I was at least. Also planning to upgrade my Cubase from Elements to Artist which has many more plug-ins (and that cool vocal comping tool).

@ef37z - I supposed the truth could be that I just don't really know what a good preamp set should sound like. I do know that it takes about 3/4 of the gain to get a good solid signal even from my SM58 though, so I was assuming they're at the least, underpowered and probably not appropriate for the 7B which I read needs a lot of power.

The plan was to get a SM7B (along with my NT1A and SM58) and pair it with a ISA One and have a high quality single channel studio, but now I'm not so sure what I should do. I recorded once in a nice homestudio and the equipment there did indeed bring out the very best in what I had to offer.

:(
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Re: Interface for the Focusrite ISA One

Postby CS70 » Fri Feb 15, 2019 7:38 pm

NT1A?

That explains everything!

:-D
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Re: Interface for the Focusrite ISA One

Postby Wonks » Fri Feb 15, 2019 7:46 pm

The SM7b's output is about 3dB down on an SM58, so it does work best with good clean pres with a lot of gain available, ideally 70dB but at least 60dB, so you don't have to push the preamp too hard and into its noisy zone.
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Re: Interface for the Focusrite ISA One

Postby Sam Spoons » Fri Feb 15, 2019 7:57 pm

It has been mentioned but how is you recording/mixing space? If the 'nice home studio' you recorded in is a nicely treated good sounding room and your's is an untreated bedroom (forgive me if you room is also well treated but you have yet to say) that is more likely to account for the difference you hear than equipment.

If OTOH your room is equally well treated you might benefit from a high quality preamp but even there you would probably benefit more from better mics, the NT1A, for all it is good for the price is still, relatively speaking, a budget mic. The SM7B would be good, (add a Cloudlifter or FetHead and you don't need to worry about lack of preamp gain) and the money you save not buying the ISA would get you a better LDC.

You don't say what your interface is either, but if you haven't read these articles you should before spending on an exotic preamp or interface :-

https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/pick-preamp

https://www.soundonsound.com/reviews/preamp-post-mortem
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Re: Interface for the Focusrite ISA One

Postby Humble Bee » Fri Feb 15, 2019 8:00 pm

Aston mics are coming out with a model called "Stealth" pretty much now and it looks to be a direct assault on the SM7B. I would hold any SM7B purchases and see what that mic is in the real. It looks to have a few different filter options as well as a built in cloud lifter type circuit which makes it quite a bit cheaper than a SM7B/Cloudlifter combo...

And i like my Aston Spirit quite a bit so I'm all ears on any new stuff they bring...
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Re: Interface for the Focusrite ISA One

Postby Humble Bee » Fri Feb 15, 2019 8:13 pm

...And i would probably go for a solid quality audio interface and a few good quality mics before dwelling on buying any fancy preamps. Not saying the Focusrite is bad. It's a very fine preamp indeed. Better mics will undoubtedly give you more sound quality bang for your buck and a well designed AI is going to make your work much more trouble free and efficient. Preamps have less impact on the recorded sound than microphone choice and technique most of the time.
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Re: Interface for the Focusrite ISA One

Postby James Perrett » Fri Feb 15, 2019 9:08 pm

Normonster wrote:I recorded once in a nice homestudio and the equipment there did indeed bring out the very best in what I had to offer.

That studio probably had decent acoustics, a decent mic and someone who knew what they were doing and how to put the performer at ease. These are all far more important than the choice of preamp and interface.

Allen and Heath know how to make good preamps - I use the ones built into my Sabre mixing desk for most of the things that I do and I have no complaints and I'd be surprised if the ones in your mixer are very different.

I'd be looking at improving your studio acoustics and investing in one or two decent microphones rather than going for an expensive preamp which won't make very much difference.
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Re: Interface for the Focusrite ISA One

Postby ef37a » Fri Feb 15, 2019 9:41 pm

Normonster wrote:Well call me stumped I guess.

@Humble Bee - That is a highly rated piece of equipment from what I read. It also has to built in pres, the digital ins and the line ins. A flexible piece no doubt. Thank you for pointing it out.

@Wonks - Yes, I think I found the thread where you describe having reviewed the diagram. I see your point, unfortunate as the indication may be.

@CS70 - Damn it man. The truth hurts. haha. I am actually planning to pick up, in addition to my NT1A, a SM7B. Or I was at least. Also planning to upgrade my Cubase from Elements to Artist which has many more plug-ins (and that cool vocal comping tool).

@ef37z - I supposed the truth could be that I just don't really know what a good preamp set should sound like. I do know that it takes about 3/4 of the gain to get a good solid signal even from my SM58 though, so I was assuming they're at the least, underpowered and probably not appropriate for the 7B which I read needs a lot of power.

The plan was to get a SM7B (along with my NT1A and SM58) and pair it with a ISA One and have a high quality single channel studio, but now I'm not so sure what I should do. I recorded once in a nice homestudio and the equipment there did indeed bring out the very best in what I had to offer.

If you are referring to the pre amps in the Z10 then I would say they would be fine. How far you have to advance a gain pot to achieve a desired level is no indication of the "power" or any other quality of a pre amp other than the law of the potentiometer (just because they paint an "11" on a guitar amp's VC does NOT make it any louder!) .

My NI KA6 AI needs the gain advanced to maximum for acoustic guitar with a '57 (yes, I know but son preferred it to a capacitor!) but even then the noise floor was around -70dB and much of that was the room.

Try it. Do not forget, on a mixer the mic pre might only have 60dB of gain but there is usually another 10dB or so on hand further through the circuits.

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Re: Interface for the Focusrite ISA One

Postby Normonster » Fri Feb 15, 2019 10:01 pm

CS70 wrote:NT1A?

That explains everything!

:-D

Oah no, really? I thought they were supposed to be decent mics. Not the same class as the SM7B then, I suppose.
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Re: Interface for the Focusrite ISA One

Postby Normonster » Fri Feb 15, 2019 10:03 pm

Wonks wrote:The SM7b's output is about 3dB down on an SM58, so it does work best with good clean pres with a lot of gain available, ideally 70dB but at least 60dB, so you don't have to push the preamp too hard and into its noisy zone.

The 10FX datasheet says is supplies up to 60dB, so I guess it'd work.
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Re: Interface for the Focusrite ISA One

Postby Normonster » Fri Feb 15, 2019 10:06 pm


Thank you Sir, I will review those articles. The honest truth is no, I don't have good room treatment. I do need to work on that. On the other hand, no, that other guy's studio wasn't treated (at least where I recorded vocals) but his equipment was top notch.
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