A cut-down Saffire without compromise on quality or features?
British manufacturers Focusrite have developed an enviable reputation for their recording hardware over the years, but more recently they've been busy reinventing the audio interface with their Saffire Pro range. The latest addition to this is the entry‑level Saffire Pro 24.
I say 'entry level', but although this is now the cheapest interface in Focusrite's range, the quality and feature set is pretty good: you get the same preamps and line‑level I/O as the more expensive units in the range — such as the Saffire Pro 40 (reviewed in the January 2009 issue of SOS) and the flagship Liquid Saffire 56 (May 2009 issue) — as well as the same Control software.
We've already considered the quality on offer in those units, so I won't dwell on it here: suffice to say that you get extremely good, transparent preamps for the money, plenty of headroom, a good, stable stereo image and depth from the outputs, and a headphone amp that gives you more than enough welly to drive high‑impedance headphones. As we were going to press, Focusrite also announced a new version of the Pro 24 that costs only $100 more, includes DSP effects processing, and promises 'virtual reference monitoring' to mimic real listening environments on your headphones — which sounds intriguing...
So how does this unit differ from its more expensive siblings? Really, it's a simple case of quantity: there are only two mic preamps, presented on the front panel as combi jack/XLR sockets, which double up to provide two of the four line inputs (the others are at the rear). You also get only six analogue outputs, again on balanced jacks on the rear panel. However, the option is there to expand this with an ADAT input (to connect up to eight channels via an ADAT expander such as Focusrite's Octopre LE) and stereo S/PDIF I/O on phono connectors.
I retain the minor gripes I had in my review of the Liquid Saffire 56 about the Control software. The only other observation that I would make is that, on my test system, I was unable to get input latency below 8ms, nor output latency below 13ms. But while this would be an issue if you triggered samples via V‑Drums, it should be low enough to get a reasonable performance from most soft synths — and indeed, I noticed no major problems in this respect.
At £287, you'd be hard pushed to find anything else as good as this for the same money, particularly when you consider that you have sufficient outputs for surround sound, and the possibility of augmenting the system to arm you with enough mic preamps to record a drum kit. In short, as long as there are sufficient ins and outs for you and the latency isn't an issue, you'll have no problems doing serious recording and mixing with the Saffire Pro 24.
There are plenty of entry‑level interfaces on the market, from the likes of ART and EMU, but you'd be genuinely hard‑pressed to find one of as good quality and the same feature set for the same money.
- Analogue I/O: four line inputs; six line outputs; two 'Saffire' mic preamps; stereo headphone out.
- A‑D/D‑A Converters: 16/24‑bit, up to 96kHz.
- Digital I/O: ADAT input (eight channels); S/PDIF stereo I/O; Loopback I/O (to route audio between applications); MIDI In and Out.
- Test Spec: Dual Xeon 3GHz PC, 4GB RAM, Windows XP Pro, Cubase 5 & Wavelab 6.
- Great value for money.
- Good, clean sound.
- Expandable via ADAT and S/PDIF.
- Low latency could be a bit lower.
- External PSU.
In terms of 'bang for buck', this is one of the best 'pro' entry-level audio interfaces, with an impressive feature set given its size.