Audio Interface

CClub wrote on 4/20/2008, 6:54 PM
I was looking at upgrading my sound card, as I just purchased the Sony[/link] and I figured the audio it will record will surpass what my desktop's soundcard could handle (in fact, I just found out through researching online that the "Sigma Tel" in my desktop isn't even a sound card!).

I want to buy an external audio interface that will replace my "sound card" so I wouldn't have to buy an internal one. I won't be using the interface to record anything directly into my computer... I will only be using it for better audio playback. What do you all think of the Transit[/link]? If need be, I could purchase something like the[/link] or Firewire 410[/link], but they just seem like such overkill for what I need it for.


JohnnyRoy wrote on 4/20/2008, 7:58 PM
I would stay away from USB for audio and go with firewire. I have an M-Audio Firewire 410 and for $260 I feel it's a better deal than the AudioFire2 at $200. The AudioFire2 is only 2x2 while for $60 more the M-Audio FW-410 is 2x8 which gives you up to 7.1 surround sound should you need it in the future. (not counting S/PDIF) It also has two headphone outputs, level indicators on the front, and more routing options.

You will also need a set of audio reference monitors (not computer speakers) if you really want to accurately hear what is being recorded by the D-50. Getting a new sound card without good monitors is not going to give you the clarity you expect. Even something as basic as the M-Audio DX4's will make a big difference. I have the LX4's and they are quantum leap from the Cambridge Soundworks computer speakers I was using before I got them.

Mount the reference monitors at ear level equidistant from each other and your head. So if you are 3 feet from the speakers, the speakers should also be 3 feet from each other at ear level. You will be amazed at the clarity.

Hulk wrote on 4/20/2008, 8:41 PM
I've been using the Firepod by Presonus (now called the FP10) for a few years now with great results. It has been trouble free for me. I did a review of it a few years ago.
Dave Jones wrote on 4/21/2008, 12:45 AM
I've got a FW410, Sound Devices USB pre and a Presonus Firebox.

The FW 410 very occasionally get's confused and needs re-powering. More irritating is that the internal clock doesn't track between 44.1khz (CD work) and 48 Khz (DVD work). This will often throw up an error in both Vegas and Sound Forge.

The Sound Devices USB Pre is an awesome input device however being on the USB buss, it does occasionally suffer from jitter in playback. Other than that, it totally reliable.

The Presonus Firebox works consistently and reliably without the above problems so it would be my recommendation.

farss wrote on 4/21/2008, 12:55 AM
Firewire 410 here as well. No real problems with it and it's been used in many different ways in the field and back at home.

CClub wrote on 4/21/2008, 4:10 AM
Thanks for all the input. If the recommendations are that I upgrade to one of the larger interfaces, what about going with the Multimix 8[/link], as then I also get a mixer on top of everything, no? Also, I know that everyone is recommending firewire, but what about the same mixer if it was 2.0[/link]? Isn't USB 2.0 comparable to firewire?
Laurence wrote on 4/21/2008, 5:10 AM
I use USB2 audio all the time with no problems.
JohnnyRoy wrote on 4/21/2008, 5:20 AM
> what about going with the Alesis Multimix 8

I would run far, far away from the Alesis. I have a friend who bought one and he has never gotten it to run reliably. He spent several months searching forums with other disgruntled Alesis users, updating drivers, installing and re-installing, finger pointing, and I'm not sure he ever got it sorted out. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn't. I could not recommend Alesis after living through this with him. It was a nightmare.

> Isn't USB 2.0 comparable to firewire?

No. USB is a dumb interface. Every byte that gets moved through it is moved via your CPU. Firewire is an intelligent interface. It does not need the CPU to move data. Regardless of USB 1 or 2 it is better to use firewire so that your CPU is freed up to do more important things. USB also shares reserved bandwidth. So if you have 4 USB ports, bandwidth is not only shared across them, but each port is allocated 1/4 the bandwidth regardless if anything is plugged into the other ports. Obviously USB works for low numbers of inputs but Firewire is just a better protocol overall.

ibliss wrote on 4/21/2008, 7:16 AM
"So if you have 4 USB ports, bandwidth is not only shared across them, but each port is allocated 1/4 the bandwidth regardless if anything is plugged into the other ports."

Not entirely sure that's true. My understanding is that USB ports are usually paired - perhaps I'm just thinking of motherboards with two sets of douldble USB ports. In this instance the two pairs (of 4 ports) are independant from each other, so you could plug a mouse into the first pair and and USB audio device into the other pair and suffer no performance issues.

Also, I don't believe the bandwidth is split into blocks, it is more a case of a device using the bandwidth as required - so if Audio and Printer shared a pair of ports, you would only (possibly) see problems on the audio device if you tried to print something while playing audio.

The biggest mistake is to share a pair of ports with both a USB1 and USB2 device. The USB1 device will limit the speed of both ports to the USB1 spec, resulting in poor performance of the USB device.
Tinle wrote on 4/21/2008, 11:27 AM
The potential advantage of Firewire vs USB due to USB's CPU use are well described above.

Firewire audio can be much fussier to get it to work at all.

Given the recent, vast improvements in CPU capabilities, and the "poster's" stated goal of using the device only for playback, I wonder if the USB CPU consumption might be less of a concern with a modern CPU. When USB is compared on a "plays well with others basis" I would not expect Firewire to have the advantage.
Laurence wrote on 4/21/2008, 11:51 AM
Not to mention the quality of the particular driver involved. For example, my USB2 Edirol interface works leaps and bounds better than my Firewire MOTU audio interface.
CClub wrote on 4/21/2008, 12:22 PM
I hear the points that JR makes above which makes me a little nervous, but I also read some problems here and there with the M-Audio... I'm going to flip the coin and see if I can get the Alesis to work on my system. If not, I'll send it back. I'm still not sure about the USB 2.0 vs Firewire... the Alesis comes with either one. I read many reviews about the Alesis Multimix 8 that were positive. I figure that if I can get it to work, I also have a mixer that I can use as a stand-alone.

Laurence, what Edirol are you using? The UA-101?
R0cky wrote on 4/21/2008, 4:19 PM
I would avoid both Alesis and Presonus. Bought one of each recently and returned them when I couldn't get them to work reliably.

Go with anything by Echo. I got an Audiofire 8 to replace the stuff above and it works great. I have several other pieces of Echo gear that have all worked great and their noise/distortion performance is among the best available.

TorS wrote on 4/21/2008, 9:57 PM
You get a lot of sound advise, he he. But no one ask what you are going to use the unit for. I mean if you think Audiofire2 or Firewire 410 is overkill for your needs, something like the Presonus Firepod most certainly is. To me the Audiofire seems a good choice. It may not have phantom power for the mics but you probably don't need that. (Still, if you do you can get battery-driven mics.) And it can be powered over USB/Firewire if you occasionally need it for field operation. External power is more reliable though, and it has that option, too. Firewire 410 has been been recommended by many people here and it has been aound for a long time. So stick to one of your initial "overkill" candidates. Can't go wrong, there.
Tinle wrote on 4/22/2008, 5:42 AM
He said is is using it as follows:

"I will only be using it for better audio playback."

Doesn't seem to be an application requiring overkill in the form of features not designed principally for purposes of playback.
plasmavideo wrote on 4/22/2008, 7:49 AM
I've been quite pleased with this Edirol USB interface.

If you are looking for a simple, unbalanced 2 channel audio i/o device, as it sounds like you are, this should do the trick. I use it on my laptop in the field. It really does sound quite good both for playback and recording. You will need some kind of amp or powered monitor speakers to go with it, as was suggested earlier. It also has a headphone jack which I use quite often in the field.

At work we use some of the M-Audio balanced USB interfaces and are happy with those as well.

Laurence wrote on 4/22/2008, 8:19 AM
Also, be aware that if you use Vista 64, very few devices have drivers yet. M-Audio for instance has no 64bit drivers. Edirol has 64bit drivers even for their older devices and they seem to be more CPU friendly than most.

Also, Edirol audio interfaces often have two modes: one their own specific driver, the second one that works with the generic Windows audio driver. The generic Windows driver has some limitations like only being 16bit and having no ASIO low latency support, but it is very CPU friendly and it is already installed on all Windows machines, so it is easy to use in a pinch or with a borrowed or handy PC.
arenel wrote on 4/22/2008, 3:21 PM
I have an Alesis Multimix 8 and like it (so far.) I use it for narration recording straight to Vegas. Loading the drivers is tricky, and you must disable any on board sound. I use the Audigy
whizbang something or other sometimes, and have set up separate profiles in the Bios for that, the Alesis, and for occasional internet use. It is a good mixer and small enough to take on location. With a laptop and Vegas, you have 4 track mic recorder plus 2 line in stereo tracks. Alesis has two new items that interest me, a Master Control FW interface with 8 tracks (4 mic preamps) and an I-O Control (FW) with 2 mic preamps. Both of these look like they can control your audio tracks with assignable buttons. I don,t know anything about how compatable or Mackie like it is, but the prices are reasonable.