Sweetwater Interface comparison - Under $500

TalismanRich

Well-known member
Sweetwater has recently posted an interface test for a selection of different units under $500. They did a couple of voice tests, an acoustic guitar, electric guitar, and a grand piano. Interfaces ranged from Focusrite and Zoom to Apollo and SSL.

Sweetwater Interface test

Has anyone else pulled down the hi res 96k/24bit files and compared them? I found a couple of things interesting.

The vocals and acoustic guitars are individual performances for each test. This is clear because the timing of the performances varies from take to take. I hear so much variation in the playing, singing or talking that it made comparing the interfaces impossible.

The electric guitar and piano, though were done differently. For the guitar, they used a reamped recording, so the performance and setup were consistent. Only the interface changed. With the grand piano, they used a midi Diskclavier system on a Yamaha C7 miked with two AKG 414s, so again, the tempo, and subtle changes in touch were eliminated.

Using those two sets of samples into Reaper, I bounced back and forth, soloing each track. Listening on headphones (both Sony 7506s and AKG 240s) i struggle to hear a difference. They did do the Scarlett with and without the Air setting, and that showed a difference. If anything, the Apollo sounded a bit duller than the rest. For the most part, soundstage (some are stereo files) and timbre were extremely consistent.

I know with mics, its really easy to put 2 or 3 different mics in very close proximity and record them for a pretty valid comparison. I often hear some appreciable differences. With interfaces, not so much unless there is some difference in EQ or compression.

Opinions, thoughts, comments? Am I deaf. Are the "massive" differences that people speak about really there?
 

Gtoboy

Active member
IMHO the differences in these sub 500 USD units is a matter of ease of use, driver and build quality and support. They all sound pretty equal to my hearing.
 

keith.rogers

Bobby'); DROP TABLE USER
Well, my hearing components are ancient, so subtleties are lost, especially when picking between 1 specific short clip, especially solo'd stuff. Sometimes in a full mix I might hear something but it's always the kind of thing where if I'd been doing the mix, it almost certainly wouldn't have mattered.

So, yeah, what [MENTION=196554]Gtoboy[/MENTION] said. Buy what works best for you, or what you think will have the best support for your needs, etc.

I bought the Steinberg UR44C several months ago because I had to have a 4x input interface and wanted USB 3.0 capability at a reasonable price. It was literally the only one in stock. Based on reviews I've seen/read, it has maybe the worst noise spec of all comparable interfaces. Well, guess what, I cant hear it, and it's got all the ins/outs I need and slicker than snot on a glass doorknob when it comes to speed and getting stuff done. If it lasts a few years, I'm gonna be very happy.
 

mjbphotos

What?!?
Isn't that what we've been saying for years here - there is no appreciable difference in similarly-priced interfaces?
 

TalismanRich

Well-known member
For the most part, that's been my feeling.

I had been reading some posts on another forum, and one fellow's comment was that the Focusrite preamps were total garbage - thin and weak. He said the Motu was way superior. Having not really compared them myself, I wouldn't comment one way or another. After listening to these tests, its pretty clear that a lot of people's evaluation can be based on factors other than the interface itself.

In a lot of respects, it the same as the audiophile world, although some of those folk are completely delusional.

At least I can say I'm not completely deaf. Dumb maybe, but not deaf!
 

keith.rogers

Bobby'); DROP TABLE USER
Isn't that what we've been saying for years here - there is no appreciable difference in similarly-priced interfaces?
It's a fact that some people find differences in printed numbers, even small differences that may be inaudible, "appreciable."

I've discovered that even audible differences, when they are made appreciable by virtue of testing in ideal usages on specific sources or played back under ideal conditions, usually become negligible in my recordings - I guess I have a knack for that sort of thing ;)
 

ecc83

Well-known member
Waaaaay back when Pci Soundcards ruled but when Firewire and few USB interfaces were emerging, Sound on sound did tests in reveiws.
The interfaces were A/B'ed after setting relative levels to better than 0.5dB. The tester's comments were on the line of..."MAYBE the xx has a slightly more open tone than yy but then a change of musical genre flips that opinion." Generally there was naver any "night and day" revelatons.

SoS don't do such tests anymore. I suppose they have found the time taken is simply not worth the results?

Dave.
 

CoolCat

Well-known member
I went through some interface comparisons years ago and didnt notice anything worth jumping up and down about, sound wise, either.

But then as already said, it was the personal preferences that made the difference to me.

If a person is using outboard gear, all the "realtime virtual gear" isnt wanted or needed. This makes it even easier to buy about any of the interfaces if using a Line IN only.

I'd probably go with a wall-wart version or USB-C/Thunderbolt which is more juice to run all the circuits in the unit. But Ive never owned a USB-C yet. I like the 19" rack units and they come with wall power.

As for listening comparison tests using SONY 7506 is probably a general HR studio grade playback, most end users have earbuds or Beats type phones... HiEnd studios with $$$$$$$$$ could hear the subtle changes, I would assume, but who knows, maybe not. :confused:
 
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Manslick

Road
I wear NRR 33 earplugs and communicate via sign language.
I only expose my ear drum when in the vicinity of Mcintosh stereo equipment and only then if the cables are Mcintosh.
 

TAE

All you have is now
There is no doubt digitally there will be nuances....but audibly detectable good luck in the blindfold test.

On mic's sure on digital interfaces I would venture that with blindfolds on it would be hard to tell the difference between a $100 digital interface and $10,000 digital interface both recorded raw...and played back through the same system...unless of course it is a Mcintosh system... :laughings:
 

TalismanRich

Well-known member
A fellow on Youtube at Robot Dog Studios did a comparison of his $7000 Apogee rig vs a $300 Tascam 16x08. He posted the sample blind, and the results were 50/50 as to which was which. He purposely did the test blind, so that you weren't influenced by the price. Even when he did the test blind, he was right about 50% of the time. One fellow presented the video to a recording class, and THEY were 50/50.

I see the guys at SoundPure get slammed all the time because they do their comparisons blind. What's the point they say...

Can you imagine what might have come out of Motown or Sun Studios if they had even the low end gear that we have today!

As for a McIntosh system, it sounds OK, but all those tubes would make my listening room too warm!
 

LaceSensor

New member
I'd be curious to know why they left Tascam out of the shootout considering they sell all of there interfaces as well. I just bought a Tascam 208i and I was setup and running within 5 min. I liked the fact that all 4 mic inputs have selectable phantom. Most of the sub $500 interfaces only have a setting which controls all of the mic inputs with one switch. I don't love the fact it requires a dedicated power supply but I can live with that.
 

keith.rogers

Bobby'); DROP TABLE USER
I'd be curious to know why they left Tascam out of the shootout considering they sell all of there interfaces as well. I just bought a Tascam 208i and I was setup and running within 5 min. I liked the fact that all 4 mic inputs have selectable phantom. Most of the sub $500 interfaces only have a setting which controls all of the mic inputs with one switch. I don't love the fact it requires a dedicated power supply but I can live with that.
Pretty sure you’d have to have USB 3.1 to be able to support 4 mic pres and especially with phantom power. I had a M-Audio 4pre unit that would switch to just 2 channel if running on USB. My UR44C does run all 4 when connected to a Thunderbolt3 port with USB 3.1 compatibility. (Edit - I still run it off external power though.)
 

LaceSensor

New member
Pretty sure you’d have to have USB 3.1 to be able to support 4 mic pres and especially with phantom power. I had a M-Audio 4pre unit that would switch to just 2 channel if running on USB. My UR44C does run all 4 when connected to a Thunderbolt3 port with USB 3.1 compatibility. (Edit - I still run it off external power though.)

That is a great point. I did not even consider the technical limitations of the USB power compounding with each additional mic pre.
 

keith.rogers

Bobby'); DROP TABLE USER
Here's a review of a new Tascam - I like this guy's detailed reviews. The only nit he picks is the headphone impedance, but if you have the 250Ω DT770s, you'd be in good shape. He also shows a detailed chart in the video with many of the current consumer models so you can pause it and look through that.

 
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