Suggestions for a new A/D Converter

Xdrummer

New member
I know this is an overly broad question - and I am trying to research options on the internet, etc. - but I welcome any input anyone is kind enough to offer.

I need to upgrade my recording system. I currently record to computer using Sonar 6 Pro (I also have Pro Tools - but I prefer Sonar for the MIDI capabilities). My current interface is two (2) M-Audio Delta 1010s which gives me 16 Technically 20 channels)channels of A/D in and out. Candidly, I rarely use more than 2 ins at the same time (all my drums/keys are MIDI) and I normally track vocals, guitar or bass one track at a time. I only record singer/songwriters and then I provide whatever other tracks are needed. I do however, often use 8 - 12 of the outs and I want 16 "just in case").

My current computer is getting close to 10 years old (as are the Delta interfaces - which still use serial connectors) - and it is simply a matter of when my system dies ........ so it is waaaaay past time for an upgrade.

I'm leaning toward Focusrite Saphire - (I have to educate myself on Firewire, etc.) but hoping I can get feedback on whatever systems work well for others on this site.

Thanks in advance for any input!
 

antichef

pornk rock
what is your budget? If you're about to upgrade your computer, you'd probably do well to skip firewire and go to something newer. Which presents a problem, I guess - it seems like there aren't really any USB3 interfaces (I could be wrong about that), but Thunderbolt itself is getting a little old and still doesn't seem like it's out of the gate.

I myself upgraded in the last couple of months - I went with Thunderbolt - I got two new interfaces and was able to convert an existing interface I had to Thunderbolt - I'm really happy with them. I use all three - the older one in my "tracking" room, one of the newer ones in my "mixing" room, and the other new one for remote stuff - mainly sending it home with singer songwriter types so they can track stuff on their own time.

The older one is a Lynx Aurora 16 - it was USB 2 earlier - now it's TB2. Actually the USB2 worked fine, but Lynx only provides its latest software with the Thunderbolt (and maybe others, but not the USB) and I guess I was excited about the extra throughput, even though it's kind of wasted on me (in USB mode, it was limited to 96Khz sample rate if you used all 16 channels, but really that's all or more than I would ever go for anyway...).

The new one for the mixing room is an Apollo 16 mk ii (TB2) - really happy with this one. The other new one is an Apollo Twin Dual TB - I can't say much about it - this one guy has it right now - hopefully he's recording a bunch of guitar stuff.

For longevity and upgradeability, I have to hand it to Lynx - that thing has been going strong for years, and thanks to the modularity of the computer interface, I was able to keep it current for a few hundred bucks. The sound quality is perfect as far as I'm concerned.

The Apollo 16 is awesome, and comes with some DSP if you're into that sort of thing (I am) - I'm a total UA fanboy and I use their plugins all the time. It's cheaper, I think, than the Lynx plus TB card would be (but I'm not sure - I haven't check prices for years), but it's going to be TB2 for the rest of its life, of course. Again, sound quality perfect in my book. Either the Lynx or the Apollo may have a slight edge, but I'll never know or care.

Now the whiny part: I've been really disappointed with the availability of thunderbolt drives and hubs and stuff - basically they don't exist or they're so high priced that I feel like an idiot when I think about buying them. My laptop has two TB ports - some have only one - the Apollo 16 has a pass through, but the Twin does not. Seem like a lot of TB peripherals don't have pass through, which defeats a lot of the benefit of TB, imo. Oh yes, and if you go TB, you're effectively limited to Macintosh computers - I wasn't worried about that.

Anyway, I needed a portable drive to run back and forth between the mixing and tracking rooms, and so I wound up buying a 2.5 inch solid state terabyte drive and a $18 USB3 external drive bay case. Works like a champ and I'm measuring 500MB/sec transfer rates, which is well in excess of what I need (might be less than an external TB drive, but I'll never know).

I got a Focusrite Sapphire 6 (this one: Saffire 6 USB | Focusrite ) a few years ago and this other guy ran off it with to record some stuff (this other guy happens to be my son) and I didn't get to do much with it before it disappeared, but it seemed fine to me - not enough outs for you.


That was a lot more answer than I intended to type, and probably a lot more than you want to read :)
 
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Xdrummer

New member
Hey antichef,

I appreciate the detailed reply (the more info I can the more informed my decision will be). I should have listed my budget - which I'd like to keep in the $1,000 range. I have mixed feeling on the Firewire vs. USB3 vs. Thunderbolt issue. While I do understand Firewire is an aging technology - I'm not finding much USB3 support on the interface side. If my limited understanding is correct, Thunderbolt is more of an Apple thing than PC (I will continue in a PC format).

I normally don't need more than 1 or 2 in at a time (90% of what I do lately is my own projects - with all the drums and keys being "virtual tracks" via MIDI - and I only use the A/D in for guitars, bass and vocals) ........... but I don't want to buy something that locks me into 1 or 2 and then book a project that needs more ins (I know the ADAT in option could give me more ins .... but I have to educate myself on how that works).

My main challenge is, I would like 16 outs and would need at least 12 outs (I often stack a few guitar parts and normally 3-4 vocal harmony parts).

The Focusrite Sapphire series gets some really good user reviews and I have a friend the uses Sapphire who could be a resource if I have trouble getting up and running - but Sapphire is either Firefire for the upper units or basic USB2 for the lower units. I'm of the impression that USB2 could create latency issues if I have 12-16 tracks passing through.

I'll do some reading on the Apollo gear!
 

Jake_JW

New member
There are some pretty capable USB 3 or thunderbolt interfaces out there at the moment, but not many. The big problem will be getting enough line outputs in one unit.

You could also have a look at the Presonus Studio 192, Motu 828x (USB2 AND Thunderbolt) or the Motu 16a (no preamps but 16 Line outputs, USB2 & Thunderbolt, more a 16x16 A/D converter than an all in one interface). In most cases you will need to get a second interface just to use for the extra line analog outputs above 10 as most interfaces have 2x monitor outs and 8x line outs. Are you using a hardware mixer?

I agree with antichef about skipping firewire, it's getting harder and harder to find computers with firewire connectors (even if you are building your own) and the format is likely to be completely dead in a couple of years.

As far as latency goes, I'm not convinced USB2 has significant issues, certainly USB3, firewire and thunderbolt can have lower latency and often do, but I didn't hear most people complaining about high latency and things being problematic until interface manufacturers had a new product to market as bigger/better/faster, that could just be me being cynical though.
 

Xdrummer

New member
Jake,

Thanks for the input. I'll take a look at the MOTU stuff. My current interface has no pres - so I've already accumulated several decent pres and actually don't need pres in the interface ('ve actually been questioning myself about buying something with a lot of pres when I don't really need them.

My current system has serial connections and I don't have a major problem with latency - so perhaps USB2 would be fine for me,

I do have a 32 channel hardware mixing board which I use to mix any or my audio tracks with numerous MIDI sound modules - so candidly, I could get by fine with a 16x16 A/D converter.
 

antichef

pornk rock
I'm of the impression that USB2 could create latency issues if I have 12-16 tracks passing through.
fwiw I did 16 in (all active) and 16 out (6 or 8 active) at 96khz when tracking in logic's 'low latency' mode with no issues for sometimes hours at a time (music festivals) with no issues at all using the Lynx with USB2
 

Chili

Site Moderator
My main challenge is, I would like 16 outs and would need at least 12 outs (I often stack a few guitar parts and normally 3-4 vocal harmony parts).

Can you explain this part a little more. I don't understand how the number of Outs has anything to do with how many harmony parts you have, unless you are running separate headphone mixes to each singer....

I'll do some reading on the Apollo gear!

I have the UAD Apollo Duo with firewire. Even when using their recommended fw card, I still have some driver issues. Blue screen after starting up. Works fine after an immediate reboot. My workaround is to never turn my computer off. :) Outside of that, it's a great interface. They have this technology where the plug controls the impedance and gain on the mic pre section. It can emulate a number of input channels. That's pretty cool.
 

Jake_JW

New member
I don't understand how the number of Outs has anything to do with how many harmony parts you have, unless you are running separate headphone mixes to each singer....

I do have a 32 channel hardware mixing board which I use to mix any or my audio tracks with numerous MIDI sound modules - so candidly, I could get by fine with a 16x16 A/D converter.

Using a hardware mixer for mixdown :-)
 

Xdrummer

New member
Jake, thanks for clarifying for me:o

Chili, thanks for the info on the Apollo

antichef, thanks for the info feedback on latency

I came up when 2" reel to reel was the norm and candidly, I still use the computer mostly as a glorified "tape deck" - the shuttle time is significantly reduced and I don't have to splice tape - but I have not embraced all that the technology has to offer.

The last time I upgraded my computer serial ports were the norm (USB was just starting to be a "thing") - and now with USB2, USB3, Firewire, Thunderbolt, etc. my head is spinning.
 

Jake_JW

New member
Jake, thanks for clarifying for me:o

Chili, thanks for the info on the Apollo

antichef, thanks for the info feedback on latency

I came up when 2" reel to reel was the norm and candidly, I still use the computer mostly as a glorified "tape deck" - the shuttle time is significantly reduced and I don't have to splice tape - but I have not embraced all that the technology has to offer.

The last time I upgraded my computer serial ports were the norm (USB was just starting to be a "thing") - and now with USB2, USB3, Firewire, Thunderbolt, etc. my head is spinning.

I only started after USB was a thing and it's still a bit hard to keep track of which is best - good luck with your search! If you go for any of the Motu stuff, let me know your thoughts as I've got my eye on the avb stuff for when my pc needs an upgrade and I swap out for a motherboard without firewire :-(
 

Obi-Wan zenabI

New member
My budget solution: new old stock Windows 7 machine & FireWire card from newegg.com. (Make sure you check whether machine has pci or pci/e card slots)

Used presonus fire studio (tube, 26x26, or project), and a Behringer ADA8000.

If you're someone who prefers not to be on the bleeding edge and is comfortable shopping used or buying older tech that is about to be phased out (Like Windows 7 in my case), FireWire is fast and stable.

That way, when the inevitable upgrades happen, you're doing it on the cheap, rather than getting the new stuff all the time.

The third way is to invest in the good new stuff, then hang on to it forever. But you'd have to be the kind of person who digs both expensive new gear AND "embarrassingly" ancient stuff.
 

Xdrummer

New member
Well I ended up purchasing 2 Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 (the Scarlett series is USB2 vs. the Saffire which is firewire). A fellow musician who has a company involving setting up/servicing business computer systems is letting me have a lightly used Dell with Windows 7 (and upgrade from the old Windows XP format I was using).

We just loaded the 2 Focusites and Sonar Platinum last night - I'll be testing the system during the next couple of days before actually integrating into my studio.

The Focusrites and Sonar loaded in with no problems - but I did encounter a different problem (which I've address on the MIDI forum - but I welcome any input here as well).

I loaded in an M-Audio MIDIsport 8x8 (I have a lot of MIDI gear) - which worked great on my Windows XP. The new computer recognizes the driver for the MIDIsport (I down loaded updated drivers) - however, when I actually try to use the MIDIsport the computer will not "open" the software application.

I have not found anything on the internet to help me - and I may have to accept that the MIDIsport (which is about 8 years old) may not be compatible with Windows 7.

I welcome any thoughts.
 

RFR

Well-known member
Jake,

Thanks for the input. I'll take a look at the MOTU stuff. My current interface has no pres - so I've already accumulated several decent pres and actually don't need pres in the interface ('ve actually been questioning myself about buying something with a lot of pres when I don't really need them.

My current system has serial connections and I don't have a major problem with latency - so perhaps USB2 would be fine for me,

I do have a 32 channel hardware mixing board which I use to mix any or my audio tracks with numerous MIDI sound modules - so candidly, I could get by fine with a 16x16 A/D converter.

I'm using an Allen and Heath Ice16 that I'm quite happy with. No preamps, just 16 analog ins and 16 analog outs.
The computer is a glorified tape deck with mixing occurring on a console. Super easy.
 
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