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Computer Hardware Audio interfaces, MIDI interfaces, control surfaces, MIDI controllers & USB MIDI keyboards (not motherboards or system components)

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Old 8th October 2008 , 07:47 AM
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Default The "Which Audio Interface To Go For?" for between 100-200 thread

So, I'm wondering which audio interface provides all-round best performance in this price bracket.

Whilst not essential, Multiple discrete outputs (4, 6 or 8) like the M-Audio Firewire 410 would be a nice bonus, as it provides the scope to drive each monitor directly and add more speakers for a surround system at a later date, but as they are not balanced TRS (on the 410) then this poses a separate problem.

Also, the 410, although Firewire, isn't hot swappable (and can be irreparably damaged if you hot swap it). I've heard the mic pres are 'hissy' too... and that's about the current sum total of my knowledge in this area of AIs.

Pro Tools M-Powered / LE compatibility is preferable too, although not absolutely essential it would be a distinctly advantageous selling point. The oldskool Mboxes I suppose would work, but 1) I hate the Mboxes and 2) I hate the Mboxes! (arguably irrationally, but that's another discussion entirely)

Can anybody offer a few suggestions for someone looking to buy a good audio interface, which can satisfy most of these criteria without breaking the bank? I suspect, like myself, this device is something sought after by many students who are looking for a decent 'at-home' audio interface to help them work on their mixes without having to be stuck in the studio at university/college all the time. However, it's a bit of a minefield - so current user recommendations are much appreciated.
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Old 8th October 2008 , 07:50 AM
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im sort of in the same dilema, i was going to go for the mbox2 micro but now Jeremy has stated the deal on the Fireone im caught between the 2, the Fireone is excellent vfm although both are limited to the number of outs
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Old 8th October 2008 , 07:51 AM
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Word has it this one is worth a look:

M-Audio Audiophile 2496 Hi-Quality 24-96 PCI Audio at DV247.COM
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Old 8th October 2008 , 09:08 AM
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That 2496 could be a nice investment for my other PC, shame there's only four outputs - but MIDI's nice. Unfortunately that won't do much with my laptop (which I suspect is also half the problem students like me have - they have a laptop, which is great for carting in and out of uni to the studios and back, so they need a portable interface to go with). It works with PT M-Powered though, which is a bonus. (full list of compatible M-Audio devices here: http://www.digidesign.com/index.cfm?...5&itemid=24380)

(as an aside, I wonder if we'll have to wait until PTv10 before they start supporting any ASIO-compatible device? )

Quote:
Originally Posted by sureno View Post
im sort of in the same dilema, i was going to go for the mbox2 micro but now Jeremy has stated the deal on the Fireone im caught between the 2, the Fireone is excellent vfm although both are limited to the number of outs
It looks a bit like a gaming controller!

Shame there's no SP/DIF on it, you'd think with the resolution it can handle they would've put a digital in/output stage on it. I guess it's one of the ways they're keeping the price low (wonder if they'll do a 'Pro' model with extra I/O on it?)
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Old 8th October 2008 , 09:11 AM
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lol its the gaming control look thats attracting me, shuttle and transport for my MBP would be cool, but for 200 your choice is slightly limited
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Old 8th October 2008 , 09:13 AM
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if you decide that you DON'T need pro tools, I'd go for this:

Focusrite Saffire LE Firewire Audio Interface at DV247.COM

but if you do need Pro Tools, and you're not an Mbox fan, Trev's advice is probably best. remember though that PT will be an additional expense with an M-Audio interface though whereas with an Mbox LE is included.
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Old 8th October 2008 , 09:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by terminal3 View Post
if you decide that you DON'T need pro tools, I'd go for this:

Focusrite Saffire LE Firewire Audio Interface at DV247.COM

but if you do need Pro Tools, and you're not an Mbox fan, Trev's advice is probably best. remember though that PT will be an additional expense with an M-Audio interface though whereas with an Mbox LE is included.
Indeed, but let's ignore the cost of buying Pro Tools (a coursemate has already offered to give his copy to me as he's upgraded to an HD system), so I guess we're talking raw hardware cost here.

I'd love a Saffire... I only think I'd be able to justify that though if I had a Mac (or Hackintosh, which I may well have in a couple of months) so I could pair it up with Logic 8. (my uni is really slanted towards EITHER Pro Tools OR Logic, you often have to spend time converting things like Cubase over for final submission, which is a real pain).

That said, how nicely does it play with Cubase? I hear almost nothing but good things about the Focusrite stuff, and the feature list for the Saffire LE is remarkably impressive. (I was going "Ooooooo yeahhhh!" when I was reading through it - I may have to buy one *anyway* as well as a Pro Tools compatible device!)

I suppose 200 was a little conservative, but I'm trying to consider the average budget of a student. I suppose if it was a really worthwhile investment, an upper bound of 300 would be reasonable?
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Old 8th October 2008 , 09:41 AM
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As stated before there's a wide choice.

I'd aim for ones about 250+ but no real need to go more than 350.

The software mixer programmes they include are really handy as it allows real flexibility, so you just need to work out your I/Os but all signals can be converted by the interface, which is really great nowadays.

It's personal as to whats the deal-breaker - top notch mic inputs, s/pdif coaxial or optical or both, 26 I/Os or less, rack, desktop, upright, horizontal, monitoring......................

With healthy competition, they've all upped their game so you should get a decent product.

As always - download the pdf manual and search for known issues.

The descriptions of what they can do are always accurate - you want to know what it can't do and if there are known issues.
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Old 9th October 2008 , 09:44 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by I_Am_Bic_Pentameter View Post

As always - download the pdf manual and search for known issues.
Yes. That is excellent advice. Something I try to do when possible.
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Old 11th October 2008 , 08:48 AM
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I wanted to replace my M-Audio Delta 4/10 for something a bit better and ended up with an Emu 1212M.

Unfortunately this is not compatible with my computer and I am looking for something else.

I suppose should have gone with my instincts and bought an RME,but is it worth buying a 96/32 PCI,or should I wait for the PCI-E version which is taking forever to be released.

Alan
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Old 11th October 2008 , 08:57 AM
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Quote:
(a coursemate has already offered to give his copy to me as he's upgraded to an HD system)
why don't you buy his hardware off him too?
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Old 12th October 2008 , 08:27 AM
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Trevs' input of the 2496 is one I can vouch for for, sound, solid drivers (you can fill holes in the road with them) and reliability.

Firewire is a bit of a lottery especially for laptops ( but I thought the hot swopping debacle was sorted?). Thus I am going to go fo what I know...*Fast track pro! Cheap, reliable, 24 bit, MIDI, S/PDIF and I have one running on a Compaq E500 850mHz 512 ram and so long as I don't ask too much of the pc, realiable as a wood burning stove.

Re surround sound? Get out of here! No ok, well the 2496 supports 5.1 AFAIK so you can feed S/PDIF to an AV amp. Not going to hook a laptop into Home Theatre are you? Really?

*I don't know this but I suspect the converters and drivers are the same as the 2496. The pro also has, uncommonly on a dinky AI, inserts and yes, the mic pre's are not brilliant gainwise.

Dave.
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Old 12th October 2008 , 03:25 PM
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Oh. Let me harp in here.

I own 2 M-Audiophile 24/96 cards. They live in my old pc system.

At first, I was really happy with them. It wasn't until I got my fousrite sapphire that I became dissapointed.

M-Audio state in their speil/ brochure that it's the same convertor they use in their more expensive 'pro' interfaces, but the cost savings have been made by basically cutting the i/o down to minimum.

I swear they must have missed some other bits of the circuit, because it's just not true. If they honestly are the same design, then why did the sapphire sound so much cleaner and alive.

I'm not imagining it either. I did a blind test with some of my coursemates and techie pals, and they all picked the sapphire. Same tracks being played, same monitors, both interfaces hooked up the same way over spdif, same cables even.... and we all agreed that there was something missing from the m-audio's sound.

I'm not saying its unusable. They are still good, but if you can look elsewhere, then you should. I'll only ever use them to get access to Protools at home, which I don't plan on doing for awhile.

My other gripe with it is that if you lose the adapter cable for the midi and spdif connections, which costs pennys to make...the replacement charge is 15. That's just under a 1/3 of the cost of buying the whole package new. It's a huge rip-off..

The sapphire le is a nice piece of kit. Should be fine with Cubase.
I'm having issues with my normal sapphire, but i'm beginning to see that it's not entirely focusrite's fault. My fw drive needs a powerstation to run it and apple don't seem to know how to build a firewire connection. Or stopping Logic changing samplerate for fun.
The only problem I have with the sapphire itself is noise in the headphone outs when the power supply is connected, and they actually rang me to find out when I was sending it back to them for repair..
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Old 12th October 2008 , 06:15 PM
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That's fine Ed,

Things improve and that is how it should be. It could be tho' that the analogue side of the Saphire is also better?

As a service tech' I can't let the crack about the breakout cable go un answered. If you are mug enough to loose it, you pay. As to cost, well if you gave me all the bits I would still want at least a tenner to solder it all up and buzz it out for you! Sure stuff is cheap from other countries but service and distribution has to live in THIS country.

Dave.
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Old 12th October 2008 , 06:29 PM
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Quote:
-Audio state in their speil/ brochure that it's the same convertor they use in their more expensive 'pro' interfaces
I think if you look closely they say they use the same chip. Not the same entire signal path.
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