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AD Converter?

Discussion in 'Pro Audio Equipment' started by jordan_nalley, Aug 22, 2012.

  1. jordan_nalley

    jordan_nalley Active Member

    I'm looking to buy a new converter in the near future.
    I would like 16 channels.
    Either usb, firewire, or thunderbolt
    Preferably under $2000, but don't let the price limit your suggestions. I want to purchase quality equipment.
    DA conversion is not necessary, but two channels of it would be nice. I'm okay with buying a separate DA converter.
  2. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    I'm assuming you want 16 microphone inputs rather than line-level inputs. In terms of connection, USB is a little risky at this number of channels, although boxes like the RME UFX work without corruption problems. However, I don't know of any currently available Thunderbolt interfaces, but several manufacturers have announced TB and/or have made provision and promises to add TB connection to existing designs.

    One way of achieving what you have stated is to get a FireWire interface that has 8 built-in mic pre-amps with an ADAT expansion input and then a second box of a different make that has 8 further channels with an ADAT output. In this way, you get some variety in the sonic flavour of your channels. If you are considering tracking 16 channels at once, it could be that you are thinking of spraying mics around a drum kit, for which pre-amps that can handle the highly-transient nature of drum mic channels would give better results than some of the more general-purpose interfaces.

    An alternative is to look at FireWire boxes that will auto-expand by adding more boxes at the FireWire level. This approach usually limits you to identical or at least same-series devices, so there would be reduced possibility of broadening the sonic flavour.

    You can probably tell that I'm an advocate of having a spread of microphone and pre-amp types to give you choice at the time of tracking. Too many basement-studio releases these days have a single-mic, single pre-amp sound stamped all over them that results in an ear-tiring noise before you even consider what passes for musical content.
  3. jordan_nalley

    jordan_nalley Active Member

    Yes, I apologize for not specifying. Microphone inputs.

    And I am looking to use different preamps. I am not sure of which yet. The total budget for new equipment at the moment is around $5000-$6000, but after the remodeling I'm doing to the space, it will probably be closer to $4000. I may end up having to start with just one nice preamp, but I would like to leave room for the set up to grow. I'm hoping that I will not to have to use built in preamps, but I will if it is the best choice for me at this point.

    Most likely, I will not be using all 16 inputs at once very frequently, but I would like to have the option.
  4. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Well, that sounds like an opportunity to get a spread of sonics in your newly-remodelled space. You could start with something like the RME FireFace UFX (which has 4 surprisingly-good mic pre-amps) and add up to 8 further analog channels using the separate line inputs of the UFX. Beyond that, pre-amps that have ADAT outputs (i.e. they contain their own A-D converters) can be attached using the two ADAT input ports. If you include a pair of channels using S/PDIF, this would take you to 30 input channels at standard sampling rates (44.1/48KHz) or 22 channels at higher rates. Furthermore, this is all do-able in chunks of 2, 4 or 8 channels at a time as your budget allows.

    The UFX is not the only box in town, but at just over $2200, it's an excellent unit for the money, and gives you choice of external pre-amp boxes for the $1800 change from your $4K.
  5. jordan_nalley

    jordan_nalley Active Member

    That looks great! And I could find it cheaper on ebay, as well. I see one for a little under $1800.
    What are the big differences between that and the RME: Fireface 800?
    Is it just the lack of effects and MIDI, 56 channels instead of 60, and only one headphones out? Or are the preamps and converters different in quality?
    There is one of these on ebay right now for $1100, and bids at $900. I could get that and an API 3124+ all for under $4000, but if the quality is different, I'll want the better one and just wait a bit more until I can get the additional preamp. The ufx certainly looks prettier, and aesthetics really mean a lot more to me than it should when it comes to equipment.
  6. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    I would go for the UFX if you can get one. The pre-amps have the edge over those in the 800 (although those are good), but the main advantage is that you get 12 independent analog channels instead of 10. On the 800, two of the channels are either mic or line, whereas you get 4 mic inputs and 8 separate line inputs on the UFX. Other possible advantages of the UFX is that it has a USB as well as a FireFace interface connection, but also with the upgraded firmware you can plug in a USB memory stick or USB external drive and record independently from a computer if you need to.
  7. jordan_nalley

    jordan_nalley Active Member

    Alright, cool. I think I'm going to go for the UFX. Thanks for the help!
  8. jordan_nalley

    jordan_nalley Active Member

    Resurrecting an old thread for a minute.
    I actually have not yet purchased it because someone was selling an Apogee Symphony I/O, but then decided not to sell.

    How about the Universal Audio Apollo? It's a little more expensive, but I keep hearing great things about it.
  9. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    The UA Apollo is quite a bit more money than the RME UFX, but then it's normally placed in the next quality bracket up, and is reckoned to have the edge on conversion quality. However, it does only have 8 ADCs as opposed to 12 on the UFX, so when you connect an external 8-channel pre-amp to the Apollo, you knock out the 4 internal pre-amps.

    That said, the combination of an Apollo with its 4 internal pre-amps, an external 4-channel analog-output pre-amp (e.g. the API 3124+) and an 8-channel pre-amp with S/MUX ADAT outputs could give you 16 very high-quality mic channels at up to 96KHz. You would be laying out a fair bit more than your original $4K, though.
  10. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    If you are considering the Apollo, I would definitely consider the quad. I really like the UAD plugins, and the ability to track with those plugs at minimal latency is a very big feature and an important part of the price. If there is any way for you to try the UAD plugins I would check them out. (They require a DSP card or the Apollo, so it's not simply a trial download.)

    I assume you are running a Mac. The PC version is not out yet.
  11. jordan_nalley

    jordan_nalley Active Member

    It's not too big of a price difference. The UFX is $2200 and the Apollo is $2500. That $300 isn't earth shattering to me.
    The functions of the Apollo sound really cool, and I like that it has everything in the back. Also, I like the meters better, and looks much prettier. As insignificant as the aesthetics sound, a client won't know the difference between the two converters. They WILL know if it looks impressive, which could make them feel more satisfied with the recording. If the preamps and conversion are higher quality as well, that makes my decision easy.
    I'm okay with not having 12 channels right out of the box. 8 is enough, and get the 8 channels of ADAT later.

    I am aware I may be going a little over budget, but I will continue to make more money. I don't need everything right away.

    The more I've thought about it, the more I'm really more interested in the Apollo.
  12. jordan_nalley

    jordan_nalley Active Member

    I would go for the quad. I'm sure the plug-ins are great. If there were an easy way to try it, that would be awesome, but I'm not worried if I don't have that opportunity.

    Yes, I am running a mac.

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