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CONVERTERS boutique vs. consumer

Discussion in 'Converters / Interfaces' started by Kurt Foster, Apr 30, 2015.

  1. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    @kmetal @Ethan Winer @DonnyThompson @anyone else who wants to get in on it.

    ok you guys said you wanted to get together to do a converter shootout. what converters do you propose to use? can you do a double blind /averaging test?

    would it be ok to limit it to 96 and 192 and 8 in 8 outs? everyone already has 24/48 .... no need to go there.

    how do you propose to do this? any thoughts. i don't need to feel like i'm running this ... just want to get the ball rolling.

    other than that; any thoughts on what inexpensive converters if any sound / perform the best? also thoughts on what makes a good converter and what makes bad ones?

    it was asserted forcefully i might add, that converter shootouts /comparisons "were wrapped up 10 years ago." .... well that was when 24/48 was the zenith and most were still at 16/48.
    now at 192 or even 96k, will the difference in AUDIO PERFORMANCE narrow or does the high end still yield superior results? is clocking as critical ... is the difference between the clocking of say a Motu or PreSonus and say an Apogee or RME still audible?

  2. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Before it gets going:
    Most converters sound close enough under controlled testing. The place converters show their true benefits happens when you add the interface suited to the workflow. The driver around it is just as important, as is the software and added sections like optional ways to gain stage. :cool: Its a lot more than just the controlled test.

  3. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    that's what i was thinking. so if someone has a work load of 16 to 24 tracks on the DAW and they bring 8 out to a sum mixer and then on to an uncoupled DAW /recorder, will firewire and USB3 do the trick? i suspect there are many who are doing even more than that with no problems.
  4. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

  5. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member


    here's what i'm thinking. my i/o26 has inserts on the 8 mic pres. i take my JLM TMP8 and use it's 8 pres into the inserts on the i/o26. that puts the pres straight into the converters.

    at mix, i bring 8 out of the i/o26 into the LittleOne sum box and 2 out into 2 channels of the TMP8 or if i can score a second one, 2 ORIGIN STT-1'(s) and on to the 2 mix converters though line ins on the AG 06, so any gain made for preamping and make up is solid Class A X former balanced. this should actually sound pretty good. what do you think?
  6. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Here's where I think my train went off on a different track than the other posters on the last thread - I was referring more to a basic i/o situation, and not as much a hybrid workflow.

    I was speaking of a different situation, in that my curiosity was based on a more simple situation of getting a signal into a DAW .... Point A to Point B.

    If I have a nice pre, like say, the ADK, but which has no digital i/o at all, and hence no converters, and I come out of that preamp into a converter, what are the benefits or detriments of using something like Presonus's converters vs using a higher end conversion system, such as a card-based model, or a standalone rack mount unit? Or, as Kurt mentioned, if I have an analog console, and I'm recording a live band and I need to send 12 channels of audio at once through 12 converters to get into a DAW, what is the best way to go about doing that in a way to best preserve the integrity of the audio?

    I'm not slyly making suggestions here, nor am I making any point... these are actual questions. I'm not hinting at anything, nor am I underhandedly trying to suggest anything.
  7. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member


    don't take this a gospel. i'm as much in the dark as anyone. but i'll tell you what i think i have picked up. anyone please feel free to correct me.

    if you need to record high track counts, 16 or more tracks live in one pass, the best performance will come from a higher end converter. as track counts increase and plug counts rise with larger sessions the benefits of better implementation come into play. pci systems, MADI and ethernet are the tickets to stability with tracking live with many tracks. recording 8 tracks at a time or less it's not such a big deal unless you're already monitoring 32 tracks with plugs. i think the one thing that is a tell is what kind of latency performance your computer is yielding. it's about data through put.

    Thunderbolt promises near latency free recording at high sample rates but so far we forced into the Apple orchard for that luxury.
  8. Ethan Winer

    Ethan Winer Active Member

    There's no need to reinvent the wheel. I already did this in my Converter Comparison. The article and video explain how this is done reliably, letting you compare three sound cards / converters from a $25 SoundBlaster to a high-end Lavry model. This comparison uses five tracks, though the notion that "stacking" occurs is disproved in my AES Audio Myths video starting at 28:28.

  9. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Meanwhile, back to the subject of this thread...

    When assessing converter boxes, it's important to keep separate in your mind the conversion qualities and the interfacing qualities. The top converters excel in both. I purposely didn't contribute to the fisticuffs in the other thread, but it's my opinion that these two things were being argued over as though they were one and the same. Note that I haven't distinguished between input (ADCs) and output (DACs), as the reasoning applies to both.

    One of the points of contention was concerned with the sonic performance of the converter chips themselves. The chips do indeed limit the ultimate performance possible from a design using that chip, but there is so much else to the engineering besides the chip itself that affects the overall quality of the conversion. This list would include conditioning circuitry, clocking, power supply cleanliness, interference rejection and a host of other things that you would not believe have an effect on the result. It goes without saying that you can take a converter chip capable of the highest quality conversion and get a bad result from it by poor engineering. Unfortunately, the reverse is not achievable, that is, you can't turn an average converter chip into a star performer by throwing engineering effort and expense at it.

    All this is independent of how the converter boxes are attached to a computer for input and output data transfer. In this regard, there is an absolute measure, and that is whether the data I/O happens without error (data or timing) under all conditions.

    Boxes that have poor sonic performance can have exemplary I/O performance, but it is usual that the better quality sonics come from designs where the interfacing is above reproach as well. To achieve this, it is necessary that the sale price of the unit reflects not only the higher production costs but also the necessary development budget, so all-round quality is never cheap. I've probably told the story before of a design commission I had for an audio interface which resulted in a lovely-sounding box at the pre-production level. Then the manufacturer's purchasing department got hold of it and for the production units bought the lowest-cost "equivalent" amplifiers and other components in place of the ones I had carefully selected over many, many hours of listening tests. The result was to turn a nice-sounding design into a mediocre one. I refused to do work for that manufacturer again.
    kmetal and Kurt Foster like this.
  10. pcrecord

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

    I admit I'm a novice it term of Highend converter comparaison but my eyes went astray when I read pres in converter tests.

    May I suggest, you all take the same already recorded tracks and use them either in a round trip or unit to unit transfer and then compare with ears and reverse polarity to detect differences..
    Or just tell me to go away ;)
  11. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    i was describing my signal flow to Chris, not proposing a method of testing.

    i would rather hear the AtoD as well as DtoA .... imo, we need to record a full band .... drums bass guitars keys vox .....
    pcrecord likes this.
  12. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    It sounds like it might be cool but this is always very subjective , per what Bos pointed out. Thanks for chiming in Bos. I wish you would have the moment Ethan dropped the links but it is what it is. I had a lot to offer in that thread, had it not become Ethan's moment to shill that ...

    Kurt, group stems and keep the whole mix all together as it leaves and returns. I capture the entire mix on a second DAW or capture device because its easier to sum like that. You also have to disable your master bus completely because you don;t want your master bus bleeding into the stem channels. Do you know what I mean.

    Donny did this on his first attempt. Some guys mix OTB for years not realizing they are sending stems and the master bus out togther. It makes everything phasy.

    Best thing is to try it and start listening. Post your mixes. Some need AES interfacing others can get by on USB interfaces. Its all subjective to your workflow of each session.

    No matter what you do, I believe the entire mix needs to go OTB together , not just a few stems. Does that help?
  13. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    yes i know what you mean ... i have been doing this same thing for ten years only summing through the Mackie ... and recording to a CDr ....

    the multi track converters are firewire ... the mix 2 track will be usb3 i hope ... then again, i may just stay itb if it sounds ok ...
  14. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    It should be fine.

    I prefer capturing to another DAW for a very obvious reason which I will be happy to share once you are all familiar and ready to start detail listening. We can have fun going through some online audio comparison which might be interesting for a lot of us.
  15. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    yes i will be going to a second daw .... i said cdr because that's what i used in the past. i want to create masters at higer sample rates than 44.1
  16. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Set the capture DAW to the destination SR and you are golden.
    Kurt Foster likes this.
  17. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    regarding the 44.1 . Maybe Bos can chime in on this particular point.

    Example: A Lavry Black at 44.1 sounds better to me than example, a FF800 at 44.1. I've noticed better converters sound better at lower SR. I've noticed poor converters sound poor at all SR. So, if you are conserving DATA and have a DAW that runs better at 44.1, a better converter is a better choice.

    I track a fare amount at 44.1. Mind you, they are projects where I know they will be deleted after the show is done but they still sound great in my DAW system. But I also use Samplitude Sequoia so maybe that's part of the subjective...
    All the SR I choose on good converter sound pleasing enough.
    Good converters sound good at all SR to me. They just lack some of the luster and fuller, open sound we all hear as better. I don't disagree on a comparison done at 44.1. I just don't think its of any value doing any comparison for the sake of hearing which one is better in a round trip.

    I did round trip test years back where I took mixes and looped them a few times like Ethan. At that point I knew it was best to never repeat the same SR twice . Round trip
    In my blunt words..., a round trip is most wrong thing you could ever do to your mix, especially when you are investing thousands into gear and technology, all to loop it back to the same session like these guys do in tests and how most people capture their hybrid mix.
    That insanity started with Fletcher and Mixerman years back.

    The smart ME figured this out and have been making a living at capturing mixes on DSD or a DAW for years. Some come by it innocently because we give them our mixes and they pass it through a matrix on a second system, which is exactly what I do but all in one pass. ;) Two DAW's uncoupled. Think about that...

    In 2006 when converters finally improved and hybrid multitracking actually started becoming realistic, that's when I started thinking about capturing a big mix like the ME. Thus, stem mixing and mixing into a master.
    Once I got off Pro Tools, everything started sounding better but one thing I never do is round trip processing. To my ears... its the best way to degrade your sound. Or maybe I should say, to make a Lavry Black sound like a Behringer. Which is what Ethan is saying but not knowing how to avoid.
  18. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    I'm more interested in the tracking and monitoring part. I think the most typical way to mix these days is ITB. as you add more and more process and gear to it a comparison becomes more localized in nature.

    All I could offer is a comparison of live tracks from the studio, where the same instruments where all tracked thru a motu an ensemble and a Rosetta. I guess it'd have to be 8 or 16 tracks. I dunno if this is the kinda thing you were getting at Kurt?

    in all my subjective tests from my crappy gear to some decent pro standard stuff, the most expensive stuff almost always sounds better. Cheap stuff rarely outperforms the expensive. There are plenty of times where cheap and dirty is much more appropriate. (I've scrapped studio recordings of the same songs, for the basement reel to reel 4 tracks) .

    I've always had 'expensive taste' and most often when I'm looking at anything from shoes to technology, to whatever, I always tend to like the stuff, and then see it's the priciest. Lol needless to say, I do t have much.

    What I'm getting at really, is what are you questioning Kurt? Whether it's better, or by how much, or how much a is than b relatively.? Not being a jerk, asking a calm, non aggressive question lol
  19. Kurt Foster

    Kurt Foster Distinguished Member

    that would be killer Brian. can you do at least 96 or better 192? that's part of what i was wondering ..... if higher sample rates narrow the differences ...
    also wouldn't it would be best if they were tracked simultaneously, on the same type of daw /computer combination?

    i want to see how much difference there is between say the Rosetta and the MOTU ...

    thank you.
  20. kmetal

    kmetal Kyle P. Gushue Well-Known Member

    It's Kyle. Lol.

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