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Thread: Interface Comparison

  1. #1
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    Interface Comparison

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    Hi fellas, been reading the posts on here for a long time, had a bash at the tweakheadz stuff, and bought a couple of books on home recording.

    Thought i'd made my mind up and opted for the EMU 0404, on the strength of the reviews of the pre amp quality, however, a drum kit turned up out of the blue, and so my inputs will be 6 or more.

    I've now narrowed it down to these:

    M-Audio Fast Track Ultra USB 2.0

    Tascam US-1641 USB 2.0 Audio Interface,

    and the newer one

    Tascam US -800


    Can anyone give me their honest opinions? Each of these fit my specifications, but want the best pre-amps and the least latency. Not many reviews on the Tascam US-800 yet

    I'm running off an acer which is powerful enough in terms of processing. I'm using Vista (i'm assuming the 'Basic' Vista runs at 32 bit too - the 'basic' part just relates to the amount of features)

    Thanks for any help. Great forum you've got here, learnt a lot just from readin it!

    E

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    Quote Originally Posted by Zonzie View Post
    Hi fellas, been reading the posts on here for a long time, had a bash at the tweakheadz stuff, and bought a couple of books on home recording.

    Thought i'd made my mind up and opted for the EMU 0404, on the strength of the reviews of the pre amp quality, however, a drum kit turned up out of the blue, and so my inputs will be 6 or more.

    I've now narrowed it down to these:

    M-Audio Fast Track Ultra USB 2.0

    Tascam US-1641 USB 2.0 Audio Interface,

    and the newer one

    Tascam US -800


    Can anyone give me their honest opinions? Each of these fit my specifications, but want the best pre-amps and the least latency. Not many reviews on the Tascam US-800 yet

    I'm running off an acer which is powerful enough in terms of processing. I'm using Vista (i'm assuming the 'Basic' Vista runs at 32 bit too - the 'basic' part just relates to the amount of features)

    Thanks for any help. Great forum you've got here, learnt a lot just from readin it!

    E
    Hi Zonzie - Welcome to HR.

    The more information you put in, the more information you're going to get out. We can't really make a well-considered recommendation for you without some facts.


    1) What are your expectations for the recordings you want to make?

    2) What's your budget? The "best" preamps are going to cost upwards of a thousand dollars per channel. Do you really need the "best", or do you just want the "best" in a budget category?

    3) What is the rest of your recording environment like?

    4) What are the quality and condition of the instruments you plan to record?

    5) What are the actual specs of your PC, including processor type/speed, i/o, HDD space and speed, speed and volume of memory?

    It's unlikely that anyone has both of the products you mention specifically. But if you give us lots more info, we can perhaps point you in the right direction generally. Also, Vista drivers for many interfaces are notoriously problematic, especially 64bit Vista drivers.

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    Hi Supercreep, thanks for the welcome, and for the reply.

    I purposefully didnt post too much info, for 2 reasons:

    1) Like i said i done a bit of homework and narrowed a lot of things down in terms of my needs/prefs/expectations, and the three i listed meet most of my criteria and my budget, i was just interested to hear a few reviews of my final choices
    2) (and probably the main reason) i was a bit self conscious of creating a monster post that may get ignored!

    But seen as you've asked, then i'll go to town!

    Laptop specs:

    Processor: Intel(R)Core(TM) 2 Duo CPU T5800 @ 2.00Ghz 2.00GHz
    Memory: plenty of. Just bought a 1TB external for all my old files, will prob use the 160 on board for the music
    RAM is 4G (not sure if this is the space that is left on my hard drive presently, or if its a separate detail of the laptop)

    Its a 32 bit Vista Basic package, which despite some apparent problems with other users, i asked some sellers of the said products and they told me Vista was ok, the drivers are attainable. However i may upgrade to XP or Windows 7,

    Expectations: I realise proper studio quality is miles away with home stuff, even with the best gear, but i'm confident that with enough practice i can make good demo's, good enough to advertside myself. I've been recording on and off for about 8 years with a digital 8 tracks and stuff, and bits and bobs of equipment. Songs will contain drums, guitar, vox, and maybe keys, none of the equipment is in the astronomical price range, but decent enough that they've served me well in bands that gigged frequently. Got amps, cabs, for guitar and bass, effects boards etc

    My myspace is www.myspace.com/zonzie10 and if you should happen to hear the music, you'll see it suffers from shitty levels on some things and lack of clarity, so this whole mission is an upgrade to the whole of my music.

    I'll be purchasing a few more mics, 2 sm57's, and two condensers, one for vox/other, the other for guitar or maybe overheads. Also purchasing monitors soon, either the Alesis Mk II or Alesis M1 Actives, or Rokit RP 5/6's.

    The music is all mine, and all home recorded, no band to think about, maybe a few restrictions with room shapes etc, hence why i wont be getting any proper top range gear - it would still be restricted

    So, phantom power (for the condensers), and 6 or more inputs (for drums) needed. Although i would consider just bass and snare mik'd, plus two overheads, if anyone wants to blow my mind with a belter interface with 4 ins for 200 or thereabouts. With the extra 2 ins i'd be prepared to push the boat out to maximum 300.

    Pre amps: was just hoping for something that would match the Emu 0404's quality, on a bigger interface, as they seem to get many good reviews.

    Hopefully thats enough (and not too much!) information

    All help is fabulous and so thankyou!

  4. #4
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    $300 is not a lot to spend on an interface, and I think that a difference in quality of the pres isn't going to be stark in that price range. Go with the unit that has the features you like best.

    Your HDDs are 7200 rpm, right?

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    Its 300 as opposed to $300 mate, not sure what the conversion rate is but like i said, all i've checked the price on all of my choices and i'm ok with them (the tascam us 800 is only 200 for example)

    And sorry to be a bit of a tool but not sure what my HDD's are exactly. Got my system properties up on screen not sure what i'm lookin for. Somewhere in the control panel i can find it?

    Thanks

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    Some things to consider with interface quality are:

    1. The pre-amp (how much gain it has) and the quality (how quiet it is)
    -cheaper units are usually in the 50db gain range or less
    better ones are in the 60-80db range
    (A shure SM7B mic has an output of -59db) using this mic is best to have a pre in the 70db range !

    Many have posted in forums that they cannot get enough gain to get proper recording levels with some of the cheaper units. If you have to run the pre-amp full volume you get more noise too!
    (M audio profire 610= Adjustable Gain >53dB without pad)
    (Presonus firestudio mobile=Gain Control Range ( 1 dB) ?10 dB to 70 dB)

    2. Pre amp Signal to noise ratio around 100db or higher is good too.
    3. Phantom power needed for condenser mics
    4. The other factor is the quality of the digital converter.
    one of the specs to look for is Jitter. listed in Picoseconds
    the higher the jitter number the lower the accuracy of
    consistent sampling intervals (translates to loss of clarity.

    Not all publish these specs in their documentation.
    (Jet PLL Jitter Elimination Technology)

    4. Check manufacturer website for compatible driver for the operating system you are using on your puter.

    Pre-amp specs most Interfaces under $600

    Presonus Audio Box (USB)
    Gain Control Range ( 1dB) 0 dB to 35 dB (weak)
    S/N Ratio (Unity Gain, Ref. = +4 dBu, 20Hz to 22 kHz) > 95 dB
    24 bit 44.1 or 48khz

    Lexicon Alpha (USB)
    +44db gain no phantom power
    S/N ratio not listed
    24 bit 44.1 or 48khz

    Lexicon Lambda (USB)
    +44db gain
    S/N ratio not listed
    24 bit 44.1 or 48khz

    Lexicon Omega (USB)
    +50db gain
    S/N ratio not listed
    24 bit 44.1 or 48khz

    Presonus FireStudio Project (firewire in-out)
    Gain Control Range ( 1dB) -4 dB to 50dB
    S/N Ratio (Unity Gain, unwtd, Ref. = +4dBu, 20Hz to 22KHz) >101dB
    24 bit 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96

    M Audio Profire 610 /2626 (firewire)
    Gain 53 db
    S/N ratio -108 db (610) -109 db (2626)
    24 bit 44.1-192khz

    Mbox / Mbox Mini Gen3 (usb)
    Gain range 54 db
    S/N ratio -110 db(Mbox) -106 db (Mini)
    24 bit up to 96k (Mbox) up to 48 kHz sample rates (mini)

    Presonus FireStudio (firewire in-out)
    Gain Control Range (+/-1dB) -6dB to 55dB
    S/N Ratio (Unity Gain, unwtd, Ref. = +4dBu, 20Hz to 22KHz) >101dB
    24 bit 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96

    Lexicon I Onix U42S (USB)
    +55 db gain
    24 bit 44.1, 48, 88.2, or 96 kHz

    Lexicon I Onix U82S (USB)
    +55 db gain
    24 bit 44.1, 48, 88.2, or 96 kHz

    Lexicon I-Onix U22 (USB)
    +58db gain
    24 bit 44.1, 48, 88.2, or 96 kHz

    Motu Ultralite MK3 (firewire bus pwr/ usb2 w/external pwr)
    60 dB of adjustment for the mic input and 32 dB for the TRS input
    24 bit up to 192Khz

    Presonus FireStudio mobile (firewire in-out)
    Gain Control Range ( 1 dB) ?10 dB to 70 dB
    S/N Ratio >101 dB
    24 bit 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96 kHz

    Apogee Duet (firewire bus power) Mac only
    Mic pre gain 10-75 db
    24-bit/96kHz audio input and output

    Line 6 UX series specs not listed

    Tascam US122/us144 specs not listed

    Most of the older M Audio Mobile pre and Fast Track models are in the 50 db gain range

    Other specs / info about digital recording

    16 bit = 6 db per bit dynamic range = 96db
    24 bit = 6 db per bit dynamic range= 144 db

    Even though burning to CD at 16 bits the increased dynamic range of 24 bit vice 16 bit increases headroom when recording.

    Technology right now limits A/D converters and most can only produce a dynamic range of 100-120 db so you are limited by the converter when recording at 24 bit (dynamic range of 144 db) but its still better than 16 bit.

    You end up realistically getting the equivalent of about 20 bit resolution in a few of the better units at this price point.

    Having a unit that boasts 24 bit is not that meaningful if the dynamic range specs of the unit are down below 100db (barely above 16 bit spec of 96 db)

    So bit rate determines dynamic range / headroom
    Sample rate (44.1, 48, 88.2, 96 khz) determines Freq response and clarity.
    The higher the sample rate the bigger the file size and CPU that is needed. (7200 rpm HD recommended)
    27" Imac I7 2.93 Ghz, 4 GB ram,
    MacBook Pro 2.4 duo, 4 GB ram,
    Logic Pro 9, Motu Ultralite Mk III,
    Mackie Onyx 1640I, LA 610 Solo,
    Event ASP8 Monitors, Motif XS6

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    Greetings Uhdinator, thanks for that ultra informative response there mate, really helpful

    Its only really the USB 2.0 i'm lookin at but at least i now know what to look for so nice one.

    Anyway, did a bit of digging, looked at the M Audio Fast Track specs (this may be helpful to others too)

    On the specs it says that it has the M Audio Octane pre amps, which upon further inspection (it doesnt list the db on the specs of the product itself, had to google M Audio Octane) seem to be at 50db. Elsewhere, in a review, someone reported 60db So, this seems not to match what you consider to be good enough, but also, it has a 20 db pad. I'm assuming you can raise it to 70 - 80db with this?

    SNR is -103db

    Has Phantom power

    24 bit/96KHZ

    Relating to this comment "Having a unit that boasts 24 bit is not that meaningful if the dynamic range specs of the unit are down below 100db (barely above 16 bit spec of 96 db)" - does this refer to the SNR (103db) or the pre-amp db? (50db, 20db pad)?

    also, i cant for the life of me find the rpm of my computer, all the specs i posted above in reply to Supercreep is whats in my system properties in my control panel, doesnt have the RPM. Looked on the net but so many versions of my Acer 7730 i'm unsure, dont think they're too shoddy but i'd like to know.

    The Tascam 1641 on the other hand:

    Pre-amps - from -2dBu to -58dBu for the eight XLRs and from +4dBu to -42dBu for the jacks

    Has Phantom power

    SNR not listed

    24bit/96khz

    So, i'm nearly there. From the reviews, the Tascam seems a bit better due to amount of inputs and ease of access, but people have had probs with Vista, and the Cubase it comes with. The people on the reaper forum have reported probs using it with reaper too.

    The M Audio comes with shitter software (Ableton) and so some more will have to be bought or *ahem* acquired. Not sure of its compatibility with reaper. But seems more compatible with drivers hmmmm

    Anyone want to throw their tuppence worth in? Make my mind up for me before i journey into the unknown?

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    The operating system isn't likely to reveal what the RPM of your disk drive is. You'll have to find the manufacturer and model number of the disk drive and look it up on their website. If it's a newish computer, it's a pretty safe bet it's 7200 RPM though.
    Quote Originally Posted by Steenamaroo View Post
    One day I'll make it into somebody's signature line.

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    Cheers Diggy thats helpful, its about a year and a half old. I'll do a search with that criteria as well, hopefully find it that way.

    Thanks

  10. #10
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    I've found me RPM rate - 5400

    Does anyone know how much this will inhibit my use of either of the devices?

    Thanks again

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