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Best A/D Converter, and Why?

Discussion in 'Converters / Interfaces' started by jackmeriustacktheratrix, Jan 20, 2013.

  1. jackmeriustacktheratrix

    jackmeriustacktheratrix Active Member

    Hello everyone, I am trying to collect some thoughts on what you think about DAW Converters? Please list your top 3 Converters and if you haven't worked with that many then what are you using. Here are my top 3 in respective favorite order:

    1. SSL alpha link via Madi - This converter truly captures and converts all frequencies. The digital harshness is non existent. The low ends are true. Very easy to use with the internal matrix software. SSL has great customer service.
    2. RME Multiface via pcie - RME makes fantastic stuff. You can't beat the quality for the price. The conversions are nearly perfect. They have a matrix system software panel that requires a higher IQ than most. for this reason they go to number 2. They also have great customer support.
    3. MOTU Core PCIe - MOTU has come a long way. I have always thought highly of their converters and they have a decent price point. Their internal controler software has gotten better over the last 5 years so it's very easy to learn. Their customer support is knowledgable but you need to have thick skin and patience because they are a bit arrogant and assume you have a Doctorate degree in Audio Engineering. Once you get it the point across to them that you are calling them because you need help then they will help.

    I am looking forward to reading other opinions.

  2. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    This is a loaded question that will end up in the good, better best debate because everyone has a reason. For me, I use specific converters for a variety of reasons. What are you doing ?
  3. jackmeriustacktheratrix

    jackmeriustacktheratrix Active Member

    building a new ITB styled project Studio. Here is what I have purchased so far.

    SSL Alpha Link MADI AX
    PRO-TOOLs HD Rig

    The primary software is on the NUENDO platform but as you can see we will be running pro-tools too.

    We have a academic program that teaches Audio Recording, so we will use Pro-Tools as a part of our academic scheme. It looks good on the resume when the kids graduate. As far as the professional side of our working studio we will be using NUENDO to Mix the various projects that come through.

    Being a Loaded question is no problem for me, I want to hear what people use and why they use it.

    BTW: I am planning on posting a thread that will show this studio being built step by step. Pictures and Videos will be provided.
  4. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Solid State Logic XLogic Alpha-Link MADI AX | Sweetwater.com

    Looks nice. So you need 24 IO at 96k; looks like a a good choice to me. Don't forget about monitoring and the DA side of that. This is a big part often overlooked or not taken serious enough. I use the Dangerous Monitor ST. Anyone that owns that box learns more about mixing just by having it.

    There is a new 32 channel just arriving on the scene by Antelope called the http://recording.org/hybrid-recording-forums/53835-antelope-orion-32-multichannel-converter.html. Its 32 ADDA USB / MADI. It looks cool but no one knows much about it. I have one coming here in Feb to test.
    Since you already have the SSL Alpha Link MADI AX, what more do you need to know?

    Converters I use are

    RME ADI-8 QS
    Lavry Blacks
    Prism Orpheus

    They work good for me.
    I've read RME UFX is another great Box and Lynx Aurora's are another very popular one.

    I'm bias to using an HDSP AES PCIe interface for larger track counts and MIDI but their are people loving Avid, Apogee stuff too! I have know idea..

    I'm on PC, not Apple.
    I choose PC products over Apple dependent.

    If you aren't summing OTB you have less concerns for latency in the audio (I think), maybe not MIDI though. I use hybrid methods so my requirements are different.

    Hope that helps. Looking forward to your progress here. Its sounds very interesting!
  5. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    i have no experience w/ outboard converter boxes, but fwiw

    apogee converter card option for mackie D8B. -it sounds pretty full and clear.

    Motu pcie (2408mk2), cuz there built in, and sound nice.

    m-audio - cuz i'm stuck w/ them in my personal buget interface lol

    looking forward to the studio build thread!
  6. Blue Bear Sound

    Blue Bear Sound Active Member

    The only possible answer to this question is "what do YOUR ears tell you?"

    Otherwise it's like asking someone what the best color is.....
  7. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Bruce, nice website and great looking studio BTW!
  8. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    I use cheap run-of-the-mill converters by M-Audio, Edirol/Roland, MOTU, Avid and an ALESIS HD-24 XR. But the front end is all Neve & API and nothing has any microphone inputs on those converters except that Digi/Avid which I would only use under duress LOL. I wouldn't mind having a top shelf converter but everything sounds great anyhow already. So why bother? No one complained about first-generation 16-bit converters when that's all we had. And so even the cheap, entry-level, 24-bit/96 kHz converters of virtually any variety far outperform those early converters that still made some great sounding recordings. And that's because the front ends were all superb. That's what really establishes the texture and caliber of your sound. Better converters will always make things sound better. It all depends on how much real money you want to throw at them? I mean what good does a great converter do for you if your front end and your microphones are already a compromise? So I say go for the better microphones and preamps first. Then worry about your converters. More people will hear the difference when great microphones and preamps are utilized then they will with just great converters and less than a top shelf input arrangement. So I go for the sound first and foremost before I worry about the technical blah blah. It all depends on the color you want to invoke on your product you deliver. And I don't believe in delivering completely neutered and neutralized audio. So if you don't want colorful quality audio, go for the cheap stuff. Or go for the expensive stuff that will do the same thing as the cheap stuff? And especially if it's rock 'n roll. Symphonic and operatic recordings are something different from the average norm. And I approach those differently. Still with the same cheap converters and the same front end and microphones. And it still sounds like God is always smiling upon me. If the client wants to get technical about things, let them make the recording. People hire me because they get a quality professional product. My converters are adequate. Good equipment doesn't make you a better engineer. Though it might impress other engineers? Who's the bulk of your audience?

    It's all in the mix.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  9. jackmeriustacktheratrix

    jackmeriustacktheratrix Active Member

    Kmetal, audiokid, REMY,
    Thank you all for taking the time to respond to this post. Your input is valuable and I appreciate it.

    blue bear: your comment cracks me up... I can see you must be the great philosopher of the group. Thats cool by me, I appreciate you taking the time. However, I would disagree for this specific instance. The question was what do you think...? I think most simple minded people can gather that the question in general is subjective but I don't think that most simple minded people can answer the question. So that is why I haven't asked the simple minded for the answers... I have come to you guys :) And everyone knows that BLUE is the BEST color, no way that could be subjective.thumb

    Remy, I am with you all the way. We may make a far more out of the converters than we should and if the front end sucks and you have great sounding converters I will probably hear how much it sucks even better, right? ok, thats probably overstated, I have melodyne, I can make anything sound good. HA. Seriously though, your points are well taken.

    Please keep in mind, I am doing research for what other Audiophiles and hopefully professionals are saying. I have been doing this gig for quite a while now so I have developed some pretty hard opinions along the way. However, I am not so old I can't learn some new tricks from guys like you all. For the last blankity blank years I have been mixing records and I haven't gotten out to much. Now I am teaching this stuff to a new and hungry generation of wanna be AE's so I gotta get out and put my ear to the ground. Thanks again for the help.
  10. jackmeriustacktheratrix

    jackmeriustacktheratrix Active Member

    I just ordered the Monitor ST. Looked nice so I thought I would give it a whirl. Thanks for the tip.
  11. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Nice move!
  12. Blue Bear Sound

    Blue Bear Sound Active Member

    I agree with you on the BLUE, but here's the thing....

    No one EVER, in the history of audio recording, walked down the street humming the sound of the console, or the converters, or even the mics/pres...

    As RemyRAD pointed out, gear doesn't make the engineer - the skills do. Gear only makes the job of getting good sound easier or harder.

    One of my fave quote (by Harvey Gerst) sums it up nicely: "George Massenburg will get better results with a PortaStudio, than a monkey with a Neve."
  13. Blue Bear Sound

    Blue Bear Sound Active Member

    Thanks for the kind words, BT!
  14. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    The infamous converter debates are always a Pandora's box.

    There are more than one reason I choose converters. Generalizing them all into a pool is not how I see it at all. And even though there are only a few chip makers out there, the design around it all separates one from the other. I love my converters like children.

    I choose my converters for ease of switching between SR (ITB/OTB) and flying around between a few projects, the connections to and from, the driver stability for my OS, gain staging on both AD DA side, cascading more channels, the interface and Midi, latency, and sound too. Doesn't the clock have something to do with it all too?

    I tried -------- converters in my hybrid set-up and sold them two weeks later. They work fine for the average guy but not the best for all. I also did an A/B between a few over others. Some are more metallic and dead sounding than others.
    I have 3 brands for different tasks.

    Once we all get past the ( its the engineer that makes the difference) gear and what its being used for does make a difference.
  15. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    I absolutely agree, the gear makes a considerable difference. It's part of your planning within your preproduction and throughout the production for the sound in which you want to attain. And where I might change my engineering style to suit the production, you change your equipment to suit your workflow. We're all professionals here and no one really delivers a better professional product that another professional would. We have all risen above the students, enthusiast's and other wannabes in our careers.

    I'm really with the Blue Bear and God knows, I'm freezing in the suburbs of Northern Virginia. Canada is the furthest thing from my mind right now LOL. I'm trying to envision myself, sitting on the beach and enjoying a piña colada. Yeah... that's what I need right about now. Geez... I just don't want to give up. Not yet. Not until I get a good sunburn.

    Asian food all week so I better do a steak tonight? I can then finish off dinner with a steak knife to my wrists?
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  16. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    hehe. leave the knife on your plate.

    If I could pack up and go south, where its warm and make a living, I think I'd sell the farm and move. I hate winter so much. But, I do like a wood stove, the clean feel and look of white snow, no bugs , Ice fishing on a sunning day to come home to my wife's homemade soup, then sipping on some 18 year old single malt by a fire and a game of chess. That's how I get through winter. Too bad I have to work .
  17. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Try Tucson Arizona. You won't break a sweat. 113°F and 50 minutes away, you're in Lemon Mountain looking at Snow. And then you can hop down to NOGALES, Mexico, another hour away for a real Mexican dinner. Made with real Mexican dog! Or so I was told LOL? Those dogs make excellent tasting tacos. A taste you just can't get here in the states.

    I think I'm goin' to the outback? I need a bloomin' onion!
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  18. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    Wondering which ones your prefer to use for what? just curiosity.
  19. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    I'm guessing you are asking me?

    I'll try and say this simple. If you need more explaining, just ask. I don't have time to say this any better right now. :)

    ADI-8 QS tracking and mixing OTB
    Prism Orpheus Mastering
    Lavry DA11 reference
    Dangerous Monitor ST connects analog and the converters together like a star.

    Ultimately we should use one converter of the highest order for the entire DA chain, including monitoring CD's and your online mix. My particular setup works because I have a proficient monitoring set-up and wonderful converters that meet the requirements for a 2 computer hybrid summing system. I don't do any SRC in the same session and I listen to my session on the mastering bus right before the CD spits out or goes online so its as accurate as its going to get anyway. If my mix suck its because of me. And that part I'm working lol.

    I need 24 channels of AD DA with the lowest latency and a Midi interface for the main duties going ITB and OTB. I chose RME ADI-8 QS's and the HDSPe PCIe interface for this. The best sound quality converters I could afford with db25 I/O and on the fly gain stage settings for both sides with the most stable drivers on the market made those ones the obvious choice. They are excellent for switching sessions between 88.2 , 44.1 , 96, 44.1 whatever on the fly. In other words I can have multiple session running at different SR going on the same desktop no problem. It gets a big crazy but that's how I like it!
    The analog monitor outs on the summing system connect the the Dangerous ST here as well. This makes it possible to "on the fly" comparisons in the analog domain.

    Once I'm OTB, for all analog hybrid summing> 2-bus AD to a second computer and for this I use 2 channels of the Prism Orpheus and also monitor the entire rig from here ( which can be at any spot in the chain made possible from the Monitor ST. The Orpheus and the Monitor ST gets no better. The Orpheus also doubles as my mobile converters so that one was an easy decision. Mastering converters used for acoustic music recording.

    My playback converter for referencing CD and online music goes through a Lavry DA11 which also connects to the Monitor ST. The DA11 is USB and is a stand alone with solid stereo imaging and precise gain and monitoring which I also use for recording online material. . It gets no better.
  20. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    hey thanks for your time! i really love the concept of such versatility, and yet quality, usually it's one or the other. Seems like your really taking full advantage of the Monitor ST, i always wondered why you talked about that thing so much lol. now i see. Ya know, i have yet to hear a bad word spoken about the prism Orpheus. Cheers!

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