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Audiophile 2496 vs USB Audio Interface

Discussion in 'Computing' started by bluetrane, Oct 22, 2013.

  1. bluetrane

    bluetrane Active Member


    Just getting started picking gear to record acoustic guitar and vocals (for starters). I would like to be able to use my laptop to record the base tracks, but sound quality is very important to me. Would really appreciate input on whether an M-Audio Audiophile 2496 is significantly better for sound quality than a USB audio interface (at a reasonable price)? If you think a USB interface is as good or so close that it is barely audible, would you please let me know how to select a good USB interface (i.e. kHz of converters) and if you have any recommendations?

    Thanks a lot
  2. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    The interfacing method (USB, FireWire etc) has very little direct effect on the sound quality of an audio interface, as the sound information is in digital form by the time it is transferred from the interface to the computer. There are secondary influences, such as reliability at large number of channels, latency problems, noise susceptibility and so on, but I would not use the connection type as a deciding factor in the choice of a middle-range interface.

    That means that your question about whether the M-Audio Audiophile 2496 is better than a USB interface cannot be answered in that form. To choose an interface, you need to decide a few parameters. These include the number of channels that you might want to record at any one time, whether you need direct monitoring (the capability of hearing on headphones the actual signal that is coming in through the microphone as well as already-recorded tracks) and whether you need stereo inputs for things like a keyboard.

    There's also the point that we have no idea what you consider to be a "reasonable price". You can get a respectable 2-channel interface for $150, but a good one would be nearer $1000. The M-Audio Audiophile 2496 that you mentioned is a PCI bus card (not PCIe) that cannot be used with a laptop, but is not considered in the top sound quality league of interfaces. However, at least being PCI it does not suffer badly from latency problems.

    Come back to us with an idea of the price bracket you are considering, the number of channels (microphone + others) that you would need, what type of microphones you would be using and whether you have any other restrictions.
  3. bluetrane

    bluetrane Active Member

    Thanks Boswell. Please see below for additional information:

    Reasonable Price: Around $250-$350
    Microphones: AKG C214/Rode NT5
    Mixer/Pre-Amp: Macke 1202 VLZ Pro
    Number of Channels to record at one time: 4
    Direct Monitoring: Nice to Have but not absolutely necessary
    Stereo Input: Yes, at least 1
    Recording Software: Cakewalk

    Please let me know if I can tell you anything else that would help.

    I would also love to know a recommendation in the $1,000 range even though right now I wouldn't be able to afford that.

    Thanks again
  4. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    You don't say if you need 4 preamp (mic input) or if 2 mic and 2 line could do,

    If 4 mic input are needed, the new Scarlett 18i8 seems like a good choice, (Usb unit)
    If 2 mic is needed, a Saffire PRO 24 DSP will get you far, the dsp effects is a great option. (firewire unit)
  5. bluetrane

    bluetrane Active Member

    Thanks pcrecord.

    To support my inputs I am wondering if I could go through the Macke, mix on the Macke and then out of the Macke into a less expensive focusrite like the
    Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 2 In/2.
    I have heard the pre-amps on the Macke are really good but maybe that info is out of date?

    Thanks again
  6. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    Yes VLZ-pro on Mackie mixers are really nice for live audio. For recording, while being respectable, they are not my first choice.
    But the real question (which I don't have the answer cause I don't have a mackie to test) is whether the scarlett preamps would be better than the Mackie's.

    See the preamp is one step in your audio chain that can make a big difference in the way mics will sound. You could easily pay 400$ to 1000$ or more per channel for hi-end quality preamps. So using a 400$ mixer with 16 preamps is bound to give lesser quality sound. And I'm not commented solely on price.

    The next step for quality is the converters.. but that another story. ;)

    I recorded for a long time with a soundcraft mixer (which is also recognise for good preamps). Since I sold it and bought a Focusrite ISA two, I rediscovered all my mics as they now sound totally different (well, may be not that much, but still very different.. )

    So yeah, two mics directly to the 2i2 and 2 direct outs of a mixer is a good way to start. But if your budget allows it, go for a 4 preamp unit. Don't forget that everytime your signal goes through a unit, the signal can be degraded or enhanced, depending on the quality.
  7. bluetrane

    bluetrane Active Member

    Awesome answer! Thanks a lot for explaining this all to me.
  8. Lotus7

    Lotus7 Active Member

    At an "intermediate" price point (more than a Saffire 2i2, but less then a Apogee Symphony) there are a few high quality small USB interfaces like the RME Babyface and the Apogee Duet-II (Mac-only). Both have quite respectable mic pres and excellent converters, and are a significant "step-up" from the $150-$250 "entry-level" boxes.
  9. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    well ya got good mics. do you have more to record 4 ch, or are you talking about something like recording a keyboard at the same time as some mic'd stuff.

    in the lower range this http://www.musiciansfriend.com/pro-audio/tascam-us-1800-usb-2.0-audio-midi-interface?source=3WWRWXGP&gclid=CI6grq38sboCFRQaOgodCGUAdA&kwid=productads-plaid^57308963467-sku^H65527000000000@ADL4MF-adType^PLA-device^c-adid^30424324467

    is the best bang for your buck interface. solid drivers, pre's/converters as good as anything in the price range. and it sounds good.

    next step up would be something like this MOTU Audio Express | Sweetwater.com the pres will be about the same maybe a little quiter, and the conversion/clocking would be the same if not a liitle better. but it's got the whole 'cue mix' dsp for your headphones mixes which is really cool and works great for what it is. so an incremental quality boost, big boos in features.

    the the high end stuff has already been mentioned.

    there's not some monumental difference in pre's at this price. your mackies would be fine, so would any of the pres that come in an interface, there all gonna be useable and slightly different, in noise floor and tonality. the cool thing about tracking through the board is you have an eq, which again is geared toward live sound, but it's going to have a far greater effect on what goes into your DAW than a preamp choice will in this price range.

    any of the interfaces mentioned will be fine, get the one that has the features you want now, and allows for growth room. unless you are a pure vocalist (one track at a time) your likely to outgrow a 2ch interface. something like the tascam, will allow you to make decent use of your mixer, and give you a decent, dependable piece of kit.

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