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Emu 1212m 1616m or Presonus Firebox

Discussion in 'Recording' started by ManicMonkey3, Aug 19, 2009.

  1. ManicMonkey3

    ManicMonkey3 Guest

    I am recording with the Presonus Firebox and it sounds decent. I am sort of coming to the conclusion that AD converters contribute more to a truly professional sound than a preamp or mic once you overcome a certain ultra budget level. Basically, the first component I might want to upgrade are my converters and then go from there. Emu coverters seem to be of a higher quality than the Firebox. Emu boasts that their converters in the 1212m and 1616m are the same as the ones used in a $1,700 Motu device. Does anyone have experience with the Firebox and Emu products and think it would be worth upgrading, or should I wait a few years and get an RME or other high end product. Essentially, is buying an Emu just trading sideways or is it an upgrade.

    Here is what I have now: Presonus Firebox, presonus tube pre, presonus headphone amp, Joe Meek VC3; Groove Tubes GT55 mic, Shure Beta 58a, PG58, SM86; Cubase SX3, Waves plugins, EZdrummer; GTR3, PODxt, Sansamp GT2- tons of guitars and real amps.
  2. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    There are differences in AD conversion circuits to be sure, but there is more difference in selection of microphone and mic position than between the Presonus and the EMU. Now if you were comparing the converters in the Alesis Multimix versus the HD24XR then that would be a different story.

    Most folks would benefit more by two things:
    1-spend a week listening to your monitors to really learn what they are about with good listening material (not necessarily music you like but well mixed and mastered). In essence learning not just to "hear" but to "listen."

    2-learn how mic position affects the entire signal chain by experimenting both with different mic's on the same instrument but also different positions or techniques.

    Just my opinion.
  3. hueseph

    hueseph Well-Known Member

    Don't believe the hype. Sure there are differences in converters. Sure the emu uses the same converters as the Motu. Line 6 also claims their $99 interface has the same converters as a $2000 Apogee. Sure. I believe that but does that mean that the $99 unit is as good as the $2000 unit? Probably not.

    IMHO the preamp and mic are more important. Not to mention mic placement as John pointed out.

    The problem I see in your chain is that the Firebox does not have true line level inputs. They are simply attenuated inputs for the preamp. So, you are doubling up in that department. Does it work? Sure it does. Is it as transparent as it could be? No.

    Never the less, a good recording is not dependent solely on gear. You ears play the most important part along with a little practice. Also as John pointed out.
  4. ManicMonkey3

    ManicMonkey3 Guest

    So, might a soundcard like the 1212m be a good solution because it has no preamps and I can get a more transparent signal direct from my Presonus Tube Pre or Joe Meek VC3? I mean, the Firebox sounds decent to my ears, but if they are giving me two preamps and converters, a headphone amp and monitor controller for $199, then they are cutting some corners on preamps.

    Incidentally, on this site, there is some mic shootout and it is surprising how good some $200 mics like the NT2a sound in a blind test. I was listening to a preamp comparison on a recording course on computer and felt the same way. I mean, I can pick out a junky MXL 990 or Behringer preamp as harsh, but a lot of the $200+ equipment seemed good to my ear. The Avalon preamps and Neumann mics seemed to have a certain character that was very warm, but it seemed like it was subjective and not inherently superior.

    I am recording rock at home as a one man band by the way. I use the 5" Yamaha monitors and the Yamaha powered sub. I can't think of the model right now- ah- hs10w .

    Another question, would recording in 24 bit be a big improvement since getting the perfect input signal can be difficult? I have been using 16 bit because I am using a 2.6ghz PIV and it gets bogged down with too many plug-ins and software and the Firewire connection has more clicks and pops when lots of things are running. I just got an Intel i7 based computer and would like to start recording in 24 bit- if it makes a significant difference. Unfortunately, my SX3 doesn't seem to want to run on Vista 64. I am a little upset at the idea of paying for Cubase 5 when SC3 suits my needs but I want to run it on a more powerful machine.

    I've heard recording with a higher bit rate is superior, but I've never actually heard for myself.

    I know it all goes to 16 bit in the mixdown but heard less is lost in the final mixdown and that if you use 24, it is not as critical to get the perfect input signal level.
  5. TheJackAttack

    TheJackAttack Distinguished Member

    If you are looking for line inputs in which to plug your external pre's then yes the EMU 1212M PCI is an adequate interface. Whether it is significantly superior to your Firebox I can't say.

    The Rodes line of microphones does get respect around here, but claiming they are equal to or better than the high end Neumann or AKG microphones is misleading. The Rodes should be judged on their own merits.

    24 bit verses 16 bit allows a greater range of dynamics but 16 bit is perfectly adequate for any music. Certainly most music not of classical nature doesn't have very much variation of dynamic range so the extra 8 bits are somewhat gratuitous. Your plugins will bog you down equally regardless of the 24 or 16 bit question unless the plugin itself is not 24 bit compatible.

    For those with great ears and a decent mix room, mixing at higher sample rates can be useful though 192k is useless unless you have a pristine room plus the great ears plus lots of experience.
  6. ManicMonkey3

    ManicMonkey3 Guest

    Well, since it is hard to tell what equipment or skills will get me to the next level, then perhaps you can tell me on what area to focus. I made a rock cd in my basement a few years ago with an Emu 0404, a Joe Meek VC3, drum loops, a Shure PG58 and a Groove Tubes GT55- no real plugins except reverb and a little eq with the free Cubase that came with the Emu 0404.

    Now I'm up to a Firebox and Yamaha monitors. I tend to use direct guitars with PODxt, GTR3 or Sansamp GT because I want low noise and live in a townhouse with only an insulated closet as an isolation booth- and I'm a little lazy about setting up amps in the closet. I sing in a closet full of coats for sound absorbtion.

    I now have good plugins and such. I am careful to minimize noise, I clip out everything that isn't being used. I use all the EQ ideas I have read on the internet to get ultimate clarity and cut out extra bass from vocals, guitar, etc. Cut a notch in bass guitar to let the bass drum come through.

    My friends all think it sounds great, but when I listen to CD like the newest Pearl Jam or Green Day there is just no comparison to the guitar tone they get and what I get. There just isn't as much headroom. While I can hear every instrument clearly in my recordings, the bass isn't as pronounced and tight, my guitars suddenly seem plastic sounding and the vocals just aren't as full.

    You can hear some stuff I've done at http://www.myspace.com/manicmonkey3 if you want an idea. I've gotten better since I did these recordings, but still not good enough.

    I think recording is an art, but I don't really think it takes a PhD and $100K to get a decent sound from a rock band. Classical maybe. I mean, what can I do to start moving in the right direction?

    I've read a lot online. I've read the "dummies" book for recording. I've been toying around for years. I am sort of in the ballpark of some of the studios on the neighborhood that bands pay, but nowhere near pro studio stuff.

    I read in the Guitar Center magazine that Motley Crue did their last CD in a living room with guitar modeling software, one nice mic and pre for Vince Neil, and I guess the typical protools software. Why does their Protools mixdown sound 5x better than my Cubase SX3, Groove Tubes Gt55, Presonus setup?

    Incidentally, Guitar Center is selling some Sterling Audio ST79 mic that usually goes for $599 for $199. Does anyone know anything about the quality of this mic? I don't know if the sale is over, but I was tempted. Still, it is not an iconic mic, so I figured it must be a poor seller to go for a discount like that and I passed. I am happy with my GT55.
  7. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    I have some insight into high end gear and the E-MU stuff so I will sharer my thoughts.

    The E-MU 1616M is a really great value. The raw specs speak for themselves. But the possible 2ms latency, 192k capable, surround mix capable, ADAT & S/PDIF ports, RIAA preamp, decent mic/instrument preamps w/ soft limiter, line inputs to skip the preamps. It all adds up to make a great little Swiss Army audio tool.

    I think you will easily find that it offers the best quality is sound, converters, signal routing flexability and sotware bundle in it's price range. The on board DSP is not at the world class level, but useable and perfect for headphone mixes and jam sessions.

    E-MU 1616M is just one of those hard to believe great value deals that don't happen much anymore. I am looking forward to their new PCie version due out any day.
  8. Kev

    Kev Well-Known Member


    I must keep my eye on these EMU products
    as Gaff says
    " a great little Swiss Army audio tool "

    I take it that the M in 1616M and 1616
    Mastering grade 24-bit/192kHz converters
    instead of
    Premium 24-bit/192kHz converters

    but is the package identical beyond that ?

    I can help but add this quote from the web site
    " with professional results- 24-bit/192kHz converters (the same A/D converters used in Digidesign®'s ProTools® HD 192 I/O interface), "
    just thought I'd stir the pot a little
  9. Spase

    Spase Active Member

    yes, the M has better converters than the non M version.
  10. ManicMonkey3

    ManicMonkey3 Guest

    Thanks for your insight. I've read the specs and it looked like the best quality in its price range, but it isn't that popular an interface for some reason, so I thought it might not live up to the company hype. There are few reviews on Musiciansfriend and they don't even carry Emu at Guitar Center any more. I have read lots of good things about the 1820m and the 1616m is basically very similar. I gather that the 1212m is basically the 1616m without any preamps?

    I was able to find a guy who bought an RME Fireface and said it was much better sounding than his Presonus interface and slightly better than his Emu 1820m.

    I think that I may pick up a 1616m when I finish this CD I'm working on now- for my own enjoyment- non commercial release- will probably have only 50 people ever hear it. At the rate I'm going it will be a year before I'm done. Maybe some other high end products will have a price drop by then.
  11. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    Only difference is that 1616M MicroDock has the Mastering Grade Converters vs the 1616 MicroDock with it's Premium Grade Converters which are still above average.
  12. AudioGaff

    AudioGaff Well-Known Member

    Hmmm, so you base your needs on gear that is popular? Ok, you can do that. You will likely end up as many, many, many other unhappy owners of audio interfaces that are popular....
  13. Codemonkey

    Codemonkey Well-Known Member

    AudioGaff you wouldn't be thinking of the letters "P" and "T" would you?
  14. hueseph

    hueseph Well-Known Member

    Hey now. Just because those interfaces have faked out line inputs don't go bashing.....well, you can bash a little. Be gentle though, I've owned a couple of those interfaces.
  15. ManicMonkey3

    ManicMonkey3 Guest

    I don't think that all things "popular" are good, but I imagine that in a niche field like recording, a popular product is often a decent product, whereas if a product doesn't sell well, it probably lacks some features or quality. I mean, Sony sells products based on a reputation and a lot of people don't read reviews, so people still buy some of their lamer products. If something like an M-audio Delta drastically outsells the EMU 1212m, I sort of start to wonder if the quality of one is better despite what the company specs are. One has lots of internet chatter and the other doesn't and people don't seem to know much about it. If one product is a mystery, I imagine that it is not the best product in its class. I am no recording expert, but I don't want to be a contrarian and buy every product people don't recommend, just to test it for myself. I'm just trying to get the most bang for my buck here.

    Basically, I record one channel at a time and I recently got a UA LA610 and I want to use that as my input. I don't care about the pres and such on the interfaces. I want to use this. If I can get a cheap card that sounds as good as an RME Firebox, that's what I want to get. I don't need many features. Maybe there is no way around spending a grand on an interface.

    Anyway, I'm a stupid asshole with no pretensions about knowing $*^t about anything recording wise or otherwise in this great universe of ours. If you could enlighten me, that would help me not the mistake of buying total crap that I won't be happy with or buying gear where the difference in quality is negligible or subjective but is much more expensive, that would be helpful. I am coming to the conclusion that a few people have favorable impressions of the 1616m by Emu while few to any know anything about the 1212m. The company seems to indicate that the 1212m is the same minus the pres, but I'm not entirely sure of that. If it is the same, I will buy it as it seems like the difference in quality AD/DA converters between it and the Fireface is negligible. I could be totally wrong here and probably am. After all, one is expensive and one is cheap. I just know that without testing $150 is not much and $1,500 is.
  16. hueseph

    hueseph Well-Known Member

    Well, if you want tried and true speaking from experience with a product. I used to own an M-Audio Delta 1010. There are no pres. The drivers are rock solid. I don't know that the A/D conversion is any worse than any of the other possibilities out there. I'm personally not a big fan of EMU. That is just my bias.
  17. Jeremy

    Jeremy Active Member

    The Delta 1010 is a great interface, just dont get it confused with the 1010le

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