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Old 01-29-2022, 03:52 AM
Gtrfinger Gtrfinger is offline
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Default Should I buy a new audio interface?

I'm about to start taking my own recordings a lot more seriously and having used the same audio interface for the late ten years without any discernable problems, I was wondering if, not for the first time, some members could give me some advice.

I was talking to my boss yesterday about eyesight. He said he had gone without glasses for years thinking his eyesight was fine until he had had an eye test, in his sixties, and was prescribed some spectacles. All of a sudden he was looking at the world with wonder, thinking "why did I not notice this before? How could I have gone without these?!"

I'm curious, it may well be the same with audio interfaces. That is to say, I'm not noticing a big problem, I've sort of got used to the sound though it's not quite up to the standard I now want. I don't want to purchase a new audio interface if the sound quality improvement is not noticeable. On the other hand, it may well be that a new audio interface will produce the same response as it did in my boss with his new glasses, "Why on earth did I wait till now to buy a new one?"

I've been using an E-mu 0404 USB, for which the audio on my new windows 10 laptop had to be tinkered with quite a bit to get to work (as the word was that they were not compatible - well they are, but you have to look carefully at some advice on the net). You can hear the results on my YouTube channel.

I've heard it said that the converters now are a lot better than they were ten years ago, but how does that transform into specifications? In other words, is there a value that I can refer to on the specifications of different interfaces that will indicate which are better than others? As far as I can tell, they all allow recording at 24bit/192kHz.

So, my question is, what do I look out for in terms of specifications to compare between interfaces, or should I just stick with what I've already got? I'm recording solo classical guitar and steel string fingerstyle. I've been writing this project from scratch for some years. Cheers.
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Old 01-29-2022, 08:18 AM
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I don’t have any experience with your current interface, but it seems to be a design somewhere above entry level performance (it has a class A preamps). For my solo guitar recording setup my goal was for ‘realism’, as in the recording sounds like my guitar. I also tried to make sure my gear was each of similar quality so I didn’t have a weak link that affected the other gear. So, I was wondering if you’re evaluating all of your front end gear to see what, if anything, would benefit from being replaced. What are your goals? How’s your room, your mics? How many mics do you use and how do you set them up? What’s your budget? On the other end, what’s your monitoring gear (headphones, monitors, amp)?

With my needs and goals, I was fine with concentrating on 2 really good channels for mics, preamps, and converters. Over time I ended up with external 2 channel preamp, stereo ADC, stereo DAC, and headphone amp. Limiting the chain to two channels allowed me to focus my funds on what I really used all the time. At this point my interface is used only for digital purposes.
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Old 01-29-2022, 08:20 AM
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The main specs that really matter in an interface for most folks are mic gain and preamp noise. (Failings which are most exposed using dynamic microphones on quieter sources). Converters have been good for a long time, though there are probably a generation of newer chips out there which may operate a bit faster, or have even higher frequency support, but for home recording, eh, I get by at 48kHz. (I'd still be using my 10+ year old Focusrite if my new iMac had a FireWire port and stated OS support!)

Short answer is if you're recording and it sounds ok to good, it's probably not in need of an upgrade.

Now, features might make a difference, and if there's a software app that enables more features, like DSPs or the like and that app no longer works, well, maybe that's a reason to move along. Or, you want better metering on the front panel, another set of inputs/outputs, whatever - all valid reasons to update.

<My2>Of course, if you spend a couple thousand on an interface, I have no doubt *you* will hear a difference., but its unlikely that any consumer/pro-sumer interface is going to make an [blind-test] audible difference.</My2>
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Old 01-29-2022, 08:29 AM
jim1960 jim1960 is offline
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I'd think the biggest difference between that interface and the interfaces coming out now would be quality of conversion. AD/DA conversion for the home studio enthusiast has really come a long way in the last decade.
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Old 01-29-2022, 08:33 AM
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Hard to say. Your youtube recordings sound good. A little more detailed resolution to them could be nice but that can be related to other things.

Seems how you have been using a USB type interface you might update to a newer one that is USB 3.0 capable (hopefully your computer has
USB 3.0 inputs).Say for example a Steinberg UR24C 2x4 USB 3.0 Audio Interface.

I would record at 24/88, not higher. High quality AD/DA converters have been out there for more than ten years (my Mytek Stereo 96 AD is over
twelve years old however it was a higher end stand alone converter). It could be a different story with your ten year old E-mu 0404 USB.
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Old 01-29-2022, 08:49 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jim1960 View Post
I'd think the biggest difference between that interface and the interfaces coming out now would be quality of conversion. AD/DA conversion for the home studio enthusiast has really come a long way in the last decade.
I basically agree Jim (although I think mic pre amps have also gotten better at lower price points ) Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be a set standardized specs for converters that Mfg publish for their interfaces.
They usually just say something like "top quality" or "studio grade" etc.etc.
However ---- What better conversion brings to the table is more clarity and depth to the sound ( more 3D-ish in the room with the musician,,, and less flat 2 D-ish in the other room sounding) although it can be pretty subtle......

And even though electronics continue to get better and better at lower prices
The old adage--"You get what you pay for" has in fact not gone away

So my advice for looking at a new interface is FIRST decide on two things

#1 How many microphones are you going to want to record at the same time (i.e. how many mic pre's)
#2 What is your the budget range you are willing to spend
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Old 01-29-2022, 12:14 PM
jim1960 jim1960 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KevWind View Post
I basically agree Jim (although I think mic pre amps have also gotten better at lower price points ) Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be a set standardized specs for converters that Mfg publish for their interfaces.
They usually just say something like "top quality" or "studio grade" etc.etc.
That's true. Conversion is hard to sell on paper but when a big enough jump is certainly audible. I know I heard it moving from the UA Apollo to the AVID Carbon ...and the Apollo conversion wasn't bad. But if the OP wants to stay in the sub-$1k category, I think the offerings from MOTU, Apogee, Audient, and RME would big pretty big jumps in conversion compared to a 10-year old interface and, as you said, the preamps would likely be better as well.
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Old 01-29-2022, 12:16 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jim1960 View Post
That's true. Conversion is hard to sell on paper but when a big enough jump is certainly audible. I know I heard it moving from the UA Apollo to the AVID Carbon ...and the Apollo conversion wasn't bad. But if the OP wants to stay in the sub-$1k category, I think the offerings from MOTU, Apogee, Audient, and RME would big pretty big jumps in conversion compared to a 10-year old interface and, as you said, the preamps would likely be better as well.
I would think so also, and why I always suggest come up with a budget
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Old 01-29-2022, 12:20 PM
Sasquatchian Sasquatchian is offline
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I think the advice immediately above is very good, but take it a bit further. If you think you only need two mic pre inputs now, you might want to consider a minimum of four, because, as you progress, you will probably find yourself needing more rather than few inputs.

Secondly, I would consider something that uses Thunderbolt 3/4 as its connection protocol. The speed of Thunderbolt will, with properly designed hardware, go a long way to drastically reducing or effectively eliminating latency, which, when there's too much of it, can make it difficult or impossible to play along with yourself, or any pre-recorded track.

Finally, determine if you're likely to get further into more high or higher end recording and if so, does something with a more comprehensive system behind it make sense. That's what pushed me toward Universal Audio's Apollo series, which, even though more expensive than some of the others, ended up being a better value for me than anything else.

And it goes without saying, so I'lll say it anyway - you absolutely need a good, reliable monitoring system or a really great set of headphones to be able to hear what you've spent so much time recording. Not unlike needing to have a good calibrated monitor for editing your photos in Photoshop or Lightroom.
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Old 01-29-2022, 12:24 PM
Gtrfinger Gtrfinger is offline
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[QUOTE=keith.rogers;6919448]The main specs that really matter in an interface for most folks are mic gain and preamp noise. (Failings which are most exposed using dynamic microphones on quieter sources).
Thanks Keith, that's the sort of thing I was looking for.


[QUOTE=rick-slo;6919461]Hard to say. Your youtube recordings sound good. A little more detailed resolution to them could be nice but that can be related to other things.

I appreciate that Derek, the extra resolution is exactly what I'm looking for, but don't know whether that's an interface issue, a room issue or a mic issue.

Thanks very much for all that. I will be recording with two mics, but I'm thinking of swapping my AkgC1000b large diaphragm for another small diaphragm, maybe one of the SE ones. I record these days in the spare room which is effectively a library, my hope is that the books act a little like acoustic soundboard. My budget is around 200. Maybe 300 if the difference is proportionate.
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Old 01-29-2022, 12:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gtrfinger View Post
Thanks very much for all that. I will be recording with two mics, but I'm thinking of swapping my AkgC1000b large diaphragm for another small diaphragm, maybe one of the SE ones. I record these days in the spare room which is effectively a library, my hope is that the books act a little like acoustic soundboard. My budget is around 200. Maybe 300 if the difference is proportionate.
The books will act like a diffuser (which will help some)
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Old 01-29-2022, 12:50 PM
jim1960 jim1960 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gtrfinger View Post
My budget is around 200. Maybe 300 if the difference is proportionate.
In that price range, I'd probably be looking at the MOTU M2, the MOTU M4, or the Audient EVO 8.z

As far as mics go, there are a lot of options to explore. Check out the "AGF Members Gear Masterlist and Recommended Tutorial Videos" thread stickied at the top of this subforum. You'll find lists of microphones people here are using. It's a good place to start a search.
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2017 Circle Strings 00 bastogne walnut/sinker redwood
2015 Circle Strings Parlor shedua/western red cedar
2009 Bamburg JSB Signature Baritone macassar ebony/carpathian spruce
2004 Taylor XXX-RS indian rosewood/sitka spruce
1988 Martin D-16 mahogany/sitka spruce

along with some electrics, zouks, dulcimers, and banjos.

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  #13  
Old 02-06-2022, 07:05 PM
johnnydobbers johnnydobbers is offline
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I've slowly upgraded my "studio" this year...The biggest improvement of sound came when tried 2(of now 9) acoustic treatment panels shaped in a V pattern. I was using a 10 year old audio interface as well(however the new one has helped with latency when I'm doing virtual instrument stuff).

Good luck, lot's of good advice here.
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