I currently own an M-Audio Firewire Solo interface (which I think came out in 2008 or perhaps earlier?) that I've barely used, but I don't currently have a Firewire port on any computer. I could buy a Firewire card for about $15-$30 and get it working again for Windows 7.
But is it worth it to use given I could buy a newer, better interface?
And, if I do buy a new one, will I really notice a difference in recording quality between a $50 Behringer U-PHORIA UM2 and a $170 MOTU M2? (I can't justify spending more than that at this point). I will be using a Shure SM-57 and a Blue Spark condenser mic for now.
Terms like noise floor, gain, distortion, preamp quality, latency, headphone preamp quality, etc. are bandied around but, though I get the general idea, I don't know how much this will matter in practice for me. I've watched many Julian Krause videos on YouTube, which seem quantitatively excellent. But I don't know how much any of this is going to matter in my recordings.
My goal is to have good-sounding music that explores many textures and dynamics and musical traditions (folk, jazz, progressive rock, etc.) It won't be punk or something loud and sloppy in which noise or a bit of distortion won't matter. At times, I may multitrack up to 10 or so tracks. I would really not like there to be audible hiss during quiet passages, muddy tones, etc.
I also want to ultimately get this music in front of others, so I want it to be more than just at-home hobbyist quality.
This could really be a can of worms and I am not an expert on the best and quietest interface you can buy so continue to read at your own peril.
I do not know what is the best but as I mentioned before but I do not believe the noise floor will be and issue. A far as latency, this one is reviewed to be as low as about 3ms. I checked for a friend who was interested in on-line jamming and it was considered to be good in the latency department. www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/Studio24C--presonus-studio-24c-usb-c-audio-interface you will see it comes in at about $160 USD.
I think Macs are the easiest to get the best audio the most easily with their "Core Audio" en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Core_Audio. But that's just my experience and I'm not trying to sell you a computer.
I suggest you "stress" test your current equipment by recording very low level signals and see what the noise level is in playback. Normalize the low level up the FS and see if you can hear (or measure) any more noise than if you recorded just under FS. BTW, with digital, you probably know that about -18dB FS is a typical level to record at so you leave enough head room...way different than when we were using magnetic tape by recalibrating the meters and hitting the tape as hard as we could to improve the S/N ratio.
chelonian, this might be of your interest: ethanwiner.com/aes/ Check the section SoundBlaster vs Apogee. This should be the David vs Goliath comparison, right? To me the differences are so small that they are not really relevant. I'd select my audiointerface on features (DC coupled outputs for modular stuff, metering tools, enough I/O, good ASIO drivers etc) and support.
I have a MOTU Ultralite MK3 and an RME Babyface Pro FS. Though I haven't done any substantive A/B between them, informally I can't tell their sonics apart.
Where the BFPFS does shine is the line out dip switch (+4, -10) which allows your active monitors to have their volume knobs in a better spot. The headphone output is much louder as well. Further, and the real reason I got it, was that I much prefer the Total Mix FX software. Loopback and adjusting levels to the various outputs is a breeze. What's more is that it's USB-C as opposed to FireWire and has ADAT and S/PDIF over optical whereas the MOTU just has the latter on coax.
There are certainly a handful of reasons to pick one over the other but, as Ethan has shown, audio quality isn't one of them.
chelonian, this might be of your interest: ethanwiner.com/aes/ Check the section SoundBlaster vs Apogee. This should be the David vs Goliath comparison, right? To me the differences are so small that they are not really relevant.
That's a great demonstration, but I am not sure what Ethan actually did. It was an acoustic guitar recorded with the same mic and the signal was split, with one going directly into the Apogee and then the other one going...where? Directly into the Soundblaster's 1/8th inch jack? Was there a preamp in there somewhere?
I ask that specifically because I hear a lot about "the quality of the preamps" in audio interfaces and how "they have gotten a lot better in the last 10 years." There is also a comment on Ethan's video (linked in that page, but here you go) saying that of course they sound the same because it's not the A/D function that matters as much as the preamp used.
I'd select my audiointerface on features (DC coupled outputs for modular stuff, metering tools, enough I/O, good ASIO drivers etc) and support.
I am new and do not understand any of those terms other than "support". If you don't mind, can you give a quick explanation?
Post by Michael Lawrence on Nov 21, 2020 17:39:09 GMT
The preamp is one of the most linear components in the signal chain. Unless you're driving it to the point of overload, it by definition doesn't have a characteristic "sound." These things have a flat response within a 10th of a dB in the audible band and distortion figures 80 to 100 dB down in most cases. Noise floor can be a big differentiator between the cheap ones and the better ones, so that is something to pay attention to.
FWIW, the Babyface and MOTU both have 5V DC coupled outputs or whatever the full range for modular is. Some interfaces have less or none. This feature allows you to run control voltages from your interface into a synth, such as a modular, that accepts such a signal.
Noise floor can be a big differentiator between the cheap ones and the better ones, so that is something to pay attention to.
OK, but then what sort of noise floor should one be aiming for?
For examples, Julian Krause has this video that shows a preamp "shootout" that shows six audio interfaces that vary in their noise from from -130 dB to -120 dB as recorded with two different microphones. I can clearly hear a difference between those two in this video--the -120 db (and even -123 dB) definitely have more hiss.
But, the question is, for music recordings, how much of this is really going to matter? I can't get a sense of this at all. The type of music I want to record may very well have silent sections, very quiet acoustic guitar played one note at a time, acapella sections, etc. All of those should allow for any hiss to be more audible, but what is an acceptable noise floor to aim for?
I would like to get as close to a professional sound as I can without spending more than about $200.
And then what about things like dynamic range and latency?
Basically, I'm wondering if I should buy a Behringer UM2 for about $40 vs. a MOTU M2 for about $170 and if the differences will matter to my recording quality.
That's a great demonstration, but I am not sure what Ethan actually did....Was there a preamp in there somewhere?
I went and read Ethan's notes and there was a preamp: "I used a splitter to send the output of my Mackie 1202 mixer's preamp to the SoundBlaster's line input and also to the Apogee's line input."
So both sound sources used the same decent quality mic and decent quality preamp. But for most people who buy an audio interface, it's the audio interface that supplies the preamp. Really, the only thing the Apogee and Soundblaster were doing in this test is serving as A/D converters.
I might be wrong but EIN isn't tested with a microphone connected and the gain turned down. It's tested with a 150ohm resistor dummy load and the gain turned all the way up.
Though my specialty isn't audio specs, I can tell you that chasing down 3dB of interface noise is not the way to professional recordings. The way you get that is by being great at everything else. Informally, I can tell you not to expect more than 70dB of headroom from 0dBFS to your mic's noise floor in a silent room. Many people consider -60dB to be practical zero.
Beyond that, on output, you have your speaker's noise floor and then the noise floor of the audience's listening environment.
Noise is real and you will bump into it eventually. However, for music and with reasonable gain staging, you should be looking at functional features like I/O, OS compatibility, etc. when it comes to interfaces.
Personally, I feel like this level of spec-sniffing is a waste of time.