MOTU conversion/audio quality vs APOGEE & RME

Discussion in 'Pro Audio Gear' started by ChrisH, Jan 14, 2012.

  1. ChrisH

    ChrisH

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    I would like to know if anyone can tell me for sure if it's worth paying
    the extra price difference between a Motu and something like an Apogee Ensemble or a RME UFX?
    This is mainly a question of sound quality difference
  2. Paul999

    Paul999

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    At certain point I've found conversion to be far less important then a lot of engineers seem to dress it up to being. I've used M-audio, Alesis low end and high end convertors, m-audio, PreSonus, motu, echo, RME, Apogee, API and more. The line that conversion doesn't matter to me is at the RME line. M-audio, PreSonus, Alesis masterlink, echo, motu are all under that line. Alesis adat hd's are fine, RME, Apogee and the like are fantastic. I'm not saying that the analog part of a BURL isn't all this and then some but my previous statement is were I draw the line. In the lower end I like PreSonus stuff and I could be fine with motu. The cheaper the conversion the better you need to be at tracking and the better front end you'll need to have. So overall the cheapest is RME and a good clean pre. I tend to not like clean pre's as much with PreSonus and motu convertors so I end up using API or something else. On the other hand an audient 8 channel pre into an RME will get you a pretty solid chain. That will be 3k for 8 channel of pre's and conversion which is pretty unbeatable.

    I am quite happy using my ensemble and RME convertors.
  3. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD

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    I'm another one that really doesn't give much of a lick regarding converters. It's your microphone selection and the front end preamp that really gives you your sound, flavor & color. I'm fine with lowerend converters and higherend preamps. I utilize Edirol/Roland-UA1EX, M-Audio-Transit, Alesis HD 24XR, MOTU 2408mkII and am perfectly happy with with those for conversion purposes.

    Sloppy engineer
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  4. bigtree

    bigtree musician, mixer, music producer Has Studio Services

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    Totally disagree. Many of you are fooling yourselves if you believe this. This is as ridiculous as believing 1/4 tape sounds as good as 1 in. If you don't have excellent converters, you aren't doing anyone justice. Converters are top on my list and I hope they only improve.

    I'll agree there are three basic groups. Low end is low end, mid level is mid level and high end is absolutely more true and more open than all the rest. Are we really trying to find out what something sounds like going through converters that are resticting and have a sound to them. Until you use high end, how can you even make this assumption? Better yet, until you use Lavry, you cannot know why I love Lavry converters.

    Everything makes a difference and everything we record goes through our converters. The question is, there is a point where it becomes that last 2% and is it worth it to you. If I'm spending 50 grand and comps, pres, mic etc, absolutley. I want them to sound like they were designed to sound like. I want pristine space to mix in and I want a good start from the get go.

    I definitely hear a difference. Low end converters are more metallic and less open. The bass is more flabby, the mids are more honky and the highend is more metallic and zzz. Its harder to mix and its hard to know if thats a mic or what.
    If you put all the finest gear through a low end converter, do you really think you would be able to make a true assessment of any (mic, preamp, comp, eq)?
    So much is being judged through modest converters. We buy them and spend way more trying to correct good after bad.

    Nothing wrong with our choices from a financial perspective but the truth is, there is definitely a difference.
  5. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD

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    I guess I was speaking from the standpoint of having worked in analog tape? 30 IPS always sounded better than 15 IPS at 15 IPS was more financially practical and/or necessary due to reel size limitations. I actually loved Scotch 250 but had to use 226 on Scully's due to the depth of erasure issue. The quality of the sound still came through. But I guess I'm comparing apples to oranges? Maybe it's because I haven't eaten yet today? I mean this evening. This morning? Yesterday. My blood sugar must be low?

    Hey! How about a nice Hawaiian Punch? Shure!
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  6. bigtree

    bigtree musician, mixer, music producer Has Studio Services

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    Okay, this is as ridiculous as saying 15 IPS sounds as good as 30 IPS but I would also compare sample rate to IPS. Either way I look at it, converters are an extremely important part of sound, especially pristine sound and especially when we are discussing and trusting opinions on flavours and transparency of gear.

    Not pointing fingers here, just making a general statement that I couldn't have known this until I had access to the gear I'm using now. Its why I'm so apposed to buying into Pro Tools Hardware. It has a sound. I don't want a sound, I want an open transparency.
  7. Paul999

    Paul999

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    If I was going after transparency I would have the same/similar view that you have. For me music has never been about "hi-fi" or being true. It is about grit and everything being an instrument. If I can't hear my eq's color or pre amp's color I am not happy. With convertors I am mostly looking for something that won't get in the way.
  8. bigtree

    bigtree musician, mixer, music producer Has Studio Services

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    You are missing the point, I'm going for real grit too but I don't want it to be part of my converters. I don't want my converters to paint everything pink. What I want with converters is a big open highway that allow my grit to be grit without pink in it.
  9. bigtree

    bigtree musician, mixer, music producer Has Studio Services

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    We're confusing transparency with clinical, boring and dynamic headroom.

    I guarantee an API 550b will sound better in a mix that went through Lavry converters or comparably equivalent than it will through a mid level brand, hands down. I guarantee if we were to do the exact mix and only switching converters, the mix that used higher end, "transparent" converters would sound more open with better lows, mids and highs and have a more forward sound ( grit, or classical) . That's what I'm talking about.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 14, 2012
  10. Paul999

    Paul999

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    I'm not totally sure I am missing the point although I get accused of being "thick":)

    BURL convertors are currently considered creme de la creme as far as convertors go BECAUSE of the color they impart. Apogees have long been selected because of the "rock and roll" sound they give. When I compared my API convertors to RME, Apogee, and ADAT HD I couldn't pick it out in a blind test. The API's are supposedly ruler flat. Have you done blind tests? I am convinced that the ART of self deception can be at play with this.

    I am not saying there is zero difference but at the point in time that I get a hernia while squinting to hear the difference I am bored. In fact if I need to flip back and forth more then 2 times without obviously liking something I am bored.

    With sample rate I much prefer 48k for rock type stuff. For classical/acoustic stuff I prefer 96k.
  11. bigtree

    bigtree musician, mixer, music producer Has Studio Services

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    I've not had the privilege to use BURL but I've read pro's and cons on them including Apogee, Lavry, Lynx, RME etc. Burls don't sound like my path but I've chosen the analog summing path. I'm sure they are stellar and I would still love to have BURL. Maybe I would love them for helping warm up cold sounding Pro Tools tracks. Great for mastering ITB music. Don't know.

    My point is, there is a definite difference between converters and how they effect sound. I don't have to try them all to know this. I just had to try one good one to know this.

    44., 48, 88 or 96 all sounds great to me. This is where I'm starting to wonder. But then again, I'm using pretty sweet converters, balanced power, silver cable, very short cable and very high quality, high headroom summing amp to connect everything so maybe I hear the path better because of this, what do you think?

    Its all very subjective.
  12. Paul999

    Paul999

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    What are you using for monitors out of curiosity? I am using pretty low end monitors. I am using KRK and Yamaha Hs-50's. I use ARC and love that I get laughed at for it. I've tried Focal, Genelec, Dynaudio, adam etc. I have determined that I hate "studio monitors" and am using an old hi-fi stereo system to monitor most of the time now. Let the laughing commence! I've never found monitors that showed me all these differences between convertors, cable, power etc. I secretly have the belief that there maybe some near field studio monitors out there that are amazing but I haven't heard them. ( starting to look at mid fields) I'd love to drop 10k and solve the monitor issue but this is a problem money hasn't solved for me although I am coming to peace with it more and more lately.

    I totally respect your philosophy and never like to deter anyone who is on a right path(which it looks like you are). It is pretty safe to say that there are a thousand right ways to do this insane thing we call recording. If I was looking at this from an outside observer standpoint I would think you are doing the smart thing, investing in the basic's before going over the top with fun toys like eq's and pre's etc. I am not sure if this is what you've done but from what I've come to know of you that is what it looks like. I rarely get accused of doing the smart thing:) so I've done totally the opposite and screwed up a million things along the way feeling like recoding is the hardest fought battle I've ever encountered. I've never been able to pick out expensive cables, balanced power or super high end compared to midrange convertors with any sense of accuracy. I can easily hear the difference between an API pre and an RNP(never that impressed with it) or hi quality summing. Although I don't think that summing is the reason summing sounds better I think it is the impact of the hardware from the tests I've done.

    The bottom line is I've come from the standpoint of investing in gear with what I believe has the greatest sonic imprint first moving on to minutia last. Is this the best way? If it is the way I've done it I doubt it;-)

    Now time for the fun Remy sign off.

    You say tomato I say tom-ah-toe. The smart kids say "bite me" and make great music.
    Paul
  13. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD

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    I think everybody is making good points here. Most of this is so subjective. For folks who don't have the background or experience level of others and they are not getting the mix sound they envision, the first culprit to blame for this is their equipment. And that's understandable. But you don't become Itzhak Perlman overnight without plenty of practice. You can however become Johnny Rotten, overnight. Everybody expects drive through. So the easiest way to get what you want is to go to a different hamburger place. When you're sick of McDonald's you know you can Have It Your Away at Booger King. Especially if you don't want those square cornered hamburgers from the place with the freckle faced & pigtail hairdo at Wendy's. Regardless of which one you choose, it's still a highly chopped up cow & not prime rib. Though people think that one chopped up cow is better than the other chopped up cow. To quote one of my heroes " Succotash ". So while we're talking about boxers & jockeys, I can safely say I'm not wearing any underwear. And many of us know you can go anywhere in your Maidenform bra. But since some of us don't need that kind of technical support, it's a boob point I mean moot point.

    Most people can tell when I'm cold with a shirt on.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  14. thatjeffguy

    thatjeffguy

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    I'm not exactly sure what the BURL advantage is, and chose not to take the time to read through the very wordy paragraphs on their website. But I do know that AD/DA conversion is the process of converting voltage to numbers and then back again. It seems measuring a given voltage and giving it a number would be the straight forward part of the challenge. The hard part would seem to be converting those numbers back into the sound Waves they represent. This gets into the Nyquist theory (every engineer needs to be at least aware of the fact that Nyquist shows that any complete cycle of a sine wave can be exactly reproduced given only two datapoints anywhere along the wave) (hence the "Nyquist" frequency = 1/2 the sample rate). So it would seem to me that the biggest difference in converters would be the algorithm used to convert all those numbers back into sound.
    But I'm no Electrical Engineer, so I could be missing something (maybe missing a lot!). I've always used RME products and found no problems, but in fact most of the conversion in my studio is handled by the converters in my Tascam DM-24 mixer.
    I would love a chance to A/B different converters, or to read the results of anyone doing the same.
    Interesting discussion, thanks Chris. I will read the BURL website eventually, just don't have time right now!

    Jeff
  15. bigtree

    bigtree musician, mixer, music producer Has Studio Services

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    I've done some comparisons. I own RME ADI-8 QS (RME's top converters) love them and highly recommend them. I think RME is the best in its class but that's just a guess from years of reading forums. FF800 are a real workhorse and I hated to sell mine. Plug and play, how can you go wrong.

    Comparing FF800 to the ADI-8 QS's, there was enough difference to sell them and buy two ADI-8 QS's. Comparing ADI-8 QS to Lavry, Lavry wins. The difference between RME's top converters and Lavry are subtle but enough to know I don't want FF800 in my chain "no more" and can live with the QS's no problemo. They do ROCK and to get better 16 ADDA's than these, I would have spent close to 20 grand. So, I have the Lavry Blacks 2 channel package for classical and my future modest mastering rig. The Blacks are very cool.

    The better the converter the more girth, width, richer silkier highs, bigger and more defined lows and a mid range that sounds less honky. Just plain better.

    After years of studying the word transparency, Lavry falls under my understanding of what I'm looking for in the converter world. Transparent micpre's on the other hand, has a completely different meaning to me. When someone says they don't like the sound of an industry leader pre because it is too transparent in a metallic way, I expect to find a less than high end converter in their chain at least. The better the converters, the less irritating everything becomes and the easier it is to hear the copper and tubes vibing and so on (like an intune powerchord with heavy distortion) what a feeling when it all hits you in the gut !

    Paul, your profile of me was a real compliment, Thanks! I admit I'm not the most experienced engineer but I do think I have a keen set of ears and say things they way I hear it.

    What monitors do I use?
    I can hear this difference using headphones or monitors. I'm using Neumann K&H 120 and Dynaudio BM6A through a Dangerous Monitor ST. My room is treated with RealTraps and ProSoundFoam. But thats not the main reason I can hear this. Aside from my strong conviction about investing in top end converters, I also have this same conviction with a monitor control system. Once you use a high end controller like the SPL MTC 2381 or the Dangerous Monitor ST, Wow! I cannot stress enough how important this is too.

    After owning a crap Pro Tools 24 Mix system, I realized it starts and ends with converters.
  16. ChrisH

    ChrisH

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    Thank you Bigtree, you've been very helpfull.
    I'll be going with an RME UFX which has the same converters as the ADI-8 QS, which will be a nice step up from my PreSonus Firepod converters.
  17. bigtree

    bigtree musician, mixer, music producer Has Studio Services

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    Definitely a step up, and your welcome, its been a pleasure.

    Correction though, The converters are similar, though not identical.

    RME User Forum / UFX vs ADI-8 QS

    Cheers!
  18. BobRogers

    BobRogers

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    Well, if you've looked at past posts you've seen that I got an RME UFX this year and I like it a lot. I think you'll be pleased. During my transition I had a number of songs where some tracks were recorded on a Digi 002R and some with the UFX, but using the same mic/preamp combination. Unfortunately none of them used the same vocalist. Still I could discern a clear pattern of differences that have to be due primarily to the converters. However, while the difference is there it is not nearly as big as the difference between different preamps or the even larger differences between different mics. (And this is between converters widely criticised and converters that are widely praised.) Because of this, I think that if you are planning to use the preamps in an interface that should be a much bigger consideration than the converters. Fortunately, the preamps in the UFX are excellent. I've never played with the Apogee or the Motu, but the UFX pres are really high quality.
  19. sdelsolray

    sdelsolray

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    I've used many different converters. A smaller group are converters that I have actually owned and used extensively. They are:

    Digi001
    Digi003
    RME ADI Pro
    Lucid AD2496 and DA2496
    Lucid 88192
    Lavry Blue

    I only record solo finger style acoustic and classical guitar, recording and mixing only 2 to 4 channels, so perhaps the converters are not as critical in my application. In any event, I do not hear much of a difference with different converters. Indeed, with ABX and null tests I did, there usually wasn't much of a difference at all.

    For example, when choosing between the Lavry Blue and Lucid 88192, I thought I could hear a difference, but I'm never sure about such things, particularly when they sound virtually the same to begin with. Confirmation bias can easily come into play. The ABX and null testing I did confirmed that the difference was minuscule, sometimes not there at all. More importantly, as far as my listening went, one did not sound better than the other, just two (very slightly) different flavors of very nice. I sold the Lavrys and kept the Lucid. I am happy camper with the Lucid 88192. They function very well indeed, are built like a tank and are very reasonably priced.
  20. bigtree

    bigtree musician, mixer, music producer Has Studio Services

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    sdelsolray, thanks for chiming in.

    Fun topic.

    How can a null test tell you they all sound close though? I don't get that at all.
    I do believe you all don't hear enough of a difference, but not being able to pick the Lavry Blue's out of those is astonishing. Its so apparent to me.

    I had to research the Lucid vs Lavry and found only one reference: http://www.gearslutz.com/board/gear...443-ad-da-loops-lavry-blue-lucid-88192-a.html I never trust shootouts but still read and think about it all.

    I'm obviously shooting for that extra slice of the pie. I definitely agree quality mics and pre's show the most noticeable difference up front but cannot deny the subtle differences I hear are bigger than meets the eye.

    Curious,

    Do external clocks make an even greater improvement?
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